experimenting with sketchnotes

I have always enjoyed taking notes.  The act of writing things down not only helps my memory but it crystallizes information and ideas for me and helps me to make connections I would not otherwise see.  I naturally gravitate to note taking that takes advantage of the visual space on the paper and I am often drawing lines to connect thoughts and drawing boxes around things to highlight them.

So, inspired by the amazing work done by one of my blogging ‘heroes’, Sacha Chua, I have decided to start learning how to do sketchnotes as my new form of note taking.  I am fascinated by the possibilities of this combination of documentation and art – and I think I can become quite good at it.

My main elements of my motivation for doing this are:

  • I think it will be a lot of fun
  • I think it is a much more accessible way to communicate a lot of information, or a complex idea succinctly therefore it will make it easier for me to share ideas with others concisely
  • I often feel like Hedley Lamarr in the clip below from ‘Blazing Saddles’

So here is the debut of my first sketchnote (not a general purpose one as its for a class I am taking on Database Concepts):






handwriting, sketching now available in Evernote for Android

I’m very excited about this new addition to the Evernote app for Android.  Adding handwriting to the app means that now its possible to add sketches right alongside typed notes.  This will go very well with the way ideas flow for me because I often find it easier to work freeform on a piece of paper and then end up taking a picture of that piece of paper and adding the image to Evernote.

I see many possibilities for adding this to my workflow.

See for yourself in the video:

frozen in time – a piece of me that I am badly missing today


When somebody passes away, its like their image is frozen in time. They are no longer a physical presence in your life but you don’t lose that familiarity with their spirit. So you have experiences like hearing something that makes you think about them and you catch yourself before you dial their number to talk to them about it. Or you have holiday dinner and its just not the same because there is a gaping void in the room.

Or you miss the fact that they were always the first to comment on the cute pictures of your kids you posted. That they always seemed to call you just when you needed them.

Then sometimes you feel guilty about the aspects of their wonderful existence that you took for granted.

Or you chuckle about the many ways in which they annoyed you.

Even the annoyances were part of that shared experience you had with them – and it is no longer there.

I wish I could say that the memories of my sister who passed away two years ago are what make me strong and keep me going. But that is only true some of the time. There are other times when I am just angry about the unfairness of it all.

Until two years ago, I did not have any concept of life without Phina. I do not remember the day she came home from the hospital with my mother – as far as I can remember, she was always a steady presence in my life.

Now things are a little destabilized. I still have goals, but they are just a little less optimistic and grand than they used to be.

I still freak out when I hear somebody I care about has an ailment that even closely resembles the one that took her from us.

I still miss her – and I’m glad I do.

I know that the right thing to say is that ‘life goes on’ – and it does.

But just for today which would have been her birthday …

… I feel frozen in time.


I remember in my second year of high school in Botswana, we had a history teacher named Mr. Wilson who was determined to help us gain an appreciation for the importance of understanding the past and its impact on the present.  He didn’t want us to just memorize the information for the purpose of passing the tests – he wanted us to care about the content and make it our own.

One of the ways in which he achieved this goal with me was a series he took us through about three historical figures: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.  With each of the figures, he took us through their background, how they rose up in leadership of a movement, the sacrifices they had to make and ultimately, how they changed the world.

I remember reflecting on how interconnected these three historical figures experiences were with each other.  Martin Luther King Jr. was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s ‘non-violent’ approach to protest and the earlier part of Mandela’s leadership applied the same principles.  Prior to his civil rights work in India, Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa where he developed many of his political views and methods fighting injustices in Mandela’s native land.

All three challenged a ‘status quo’ that at the time seemed insurmountable and ultimately triumphed, not because of their wealth or military power – but because of their strength of conviction which caused a movement of people to rise up that eventually could not be ignored.

Nelson Mandela PosterIn 1989, when we studied these figures, two of them were already dead and the one who was living was still serving an unjust lifetime imprisonment sentence. We did not even know what Nelson Mandela looked like because all the photos released of him at the time were pre-prison.

Our visual image of him was the young man in his 40s with a part in his hair that we saw on all the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ posters.  So we studied him like a ‘past’ figure because we did not know if he would ever be released.

So I remember very vividly the following year when it was announced that he would be released.  Our school came to a standstill as everybody let it sink in – that day no class really studied – we just rejoiced.

And then on the day that he was released, we spent several hours watching a television shot of a gate as we waited for him to emerge.  There were several delays and it only built the anticipation of who he would be after all these years.

Was he a frail old man and a shadow of his former self?

Had he lost his regal stature and magnetic draw because of the unmentionable horrors of imprisonment?

Would he be bitter and seek revenge on his now vanquished tormentors?

Thankfully, the answer to those questions was no, no and absolutely not.  He emerged and lived an amazing ‘second chapter’ to his life that most people could not manage in a single life.  From uniting a country that was on the brink of civil war, to bringing Africa its first World Cup, his imprint has resonated throughout the world over the past two decades.

nelson-jacketEven within my family his impact has been tremendous.  I think this post by my sister this morning gives a very good summary of the breadth of his reach.  I love the picture that she used in her post because I am so thankful that our visual image of him today is that imprint that she used when she designed the jacket – rather than the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ posters we grew up with.



letting my model be the guide

Yesterday, one of my friends sent out a group text wishing me and several of his friends Happy Fathers Day. In the same message he asked us each to share some words of wisdom about being a father so that everyone on the text could benefit.

Here is a sample of the replies he received:

“As a father to a son I strive to be the example. As he follows, he learns to walk the right path”

“walk the talk, talk the walk” the walk is more powerful than words”

“More is caught than taught.”

“Our children will learn more from what we do than what we say.”

“The more time you spend with your kids the more influence you’ll have on them”

“Your presence as a father is magical to your kids” (my contribution)

There was an unexpected consistency about the responses. I was expecting there to be a wide range of tidbits of wisdom, but instead, as the original sender of the text summarized:

The recurring theme is show and prove

I thought about this virtual conversation this morning when I caught myself doing the opposite of “show and prove”. One of my daughters was trying to tell her sister something at the dinner table but we could hardly make out what she was saying because her mouth was so full.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full” I admonished … through my equally full mouth.

I was basically saying “Do as I say, not as I do…”

During the week leading up to Fathers Day, I often reflect on my role as a parent and how it is evolving over time.  I also think about ways in which I can become a better father to my kids and guide them as effectively as I can.  The themes I get from this introspection are often things that apply to how I behave as a leader even outside of being a parent.

Show and prove is one of those themes that resonates with me on many levels – especially with how it ties back to the theme I set for my family this year:

Be the change you want to see.

In order to effectively lead others, I need to combine sharing vision and motivating others with modelling actions.  Becoming more consistent with this blog is one of those actions that is important for me to master because I find myself talking more and more to others about creating a cadence with which they ‘ship’ – but then find myself in the situation I was in this morning with my daughter when I am not following through on my own instruction.

Its all a process though, and I can already tell that I am getting better. (Both with the parenting and the blogging).

figure out how to use Evernote by doing a trial run

Often when I am asked why I like Evernote so much I find it difficult to give a brief answer that really does the tool justice. I think this is because the usefulness of Evernote grows in direct proportion to how much you use it.

My usual approaches to explaining Evernote are not as effective as I would like

So if somebody has never used the tool before, short of telling them to just try it, there is no real way to give them a good frame of reference. Sometimes I try to answer the question by explaining the main features of the tool – only to be met with a glazed over look by the person. Other times, I try to explain by showing them examples of how I use the tool. But the problem with this approach is that my needs are most likely not the same as their needs and my examples may not resonate with the core problem that Evernote could solve for them. It can also be overwhelming to look at my set up because I use so many notebooks and tags.

From now on I am going to try a new approach

  • Encourage them to do a small experiment to see if Evernote is something they could use to solve a problem.The great thing about doing a trial is that it takes a small time investment and allows you to ‘kick around the tires’ without trying to become an advanced user right away
  • Point them to useful resources that can help them tweak their system until the tool is truly personalized to their needs
  • Offer myself as a resource to help them ‘hack’ their system even further if they want to

So if you have been wondering about Evernote and how to make it useful, try the following steps to get started:

  1. Create an Evernote account and install it on all your devices
  2. Create 2 notebooks: Inbox and Archive.  Do this by renaming the default notebook to ‘Inbox’ and creating a new one called ‘Archive’.
  3. Pick one thing that you are going to use Evernote for and commit to doing that for a week.

During you trial run of Evernote, if you think of other ways you could be using it, go ahead and do so. Some will be good ideas and others you will abandon.

Its not a big deal because the purpose is exposure and not mastery.

I found the following resources very helpful in thinking about how I could use Evernote to keep organized

As you read them, try and incorporate any of the tips that look like they would be helpful to you.   After your trial, post a comment on this post to let me know how it went – or to ask any questions when you need help. I enjoy coming up with creative ways to use Evernote so it wil be fun for me to research for you.

You can also send me a DM @komasworld.

watching my daughter grow up

From the first time I laid eyes on my first born as the doctor helped her out of the womb, I knew that I am one of those fathers who is completely ‘whipped’ by their kids.  As I watch my two year old slowly figure out the world around him, I know that these moments have to be cherished because they cannot be re-lived.

I’m slowly accepting the reality that I only have one little girl now (not two).

Earlier this year when my oldest turned eight I began feeling a sense of loss that I have not yet shaken off.  I know that she is no longer a ‘little girl’ – and the days are coming soon where there will be a whole litany of topics that she can only discuss with her mother.

And as much as I want to avoid it, the topic of ‘boys’ is right around the corner.  The comments about the Justin Beiber-obsessed friends at school pretty much assures me we are on that horizon.

So how am I helping myself deal with my emotions?

I think I have two coping mechanisms for dealing with my emotions around this.

One: Cherishing the ‘little girl’ moments I have left with my five year old.

The middle child is still very much a little girl who gets a kick out of being picked up or cuddling with her daddy. She still sees the world very simply and often cracks the whole family up with a very well timed and pithy comment about a situation.

Even the things that should annoy me more – like her inability to clean the sink properly after brushing her teeth. Or the way she completely shuts down and can’t function when she is hungry.

These things are all ‘joys’ for me to experience.

Two: Creating ‘male bonding’ moments with my son.

The second way in which I am subconsciously coping is the great satisfaction I get from hearing my son ask for the basketball game to be turned on for him to watch.

Or how much he relishes imitating Biz Markie’s beatbox with me from Biz’s Beat of the Day.

He even has the hip hop finger wagging down and I didn’t teach it to him.

While my five year old is helping me deal with my sense of losing the innocence of my older daughter, my son helps me deal with the sense of losing some portion of her experiences that her mother will relate to better with her.

There is comfort in know that there will be some exclusive experiences that I will share with him as he develops into a man.

This all leaves me with one question though:

“What will I do when the five year old turns eight?”

google hangout with Sacha Chua


On Friday I had a Google Hangout session with one of my favorite bloggers, Sacha Chua, who writes the blog “Living an Awesome Life.” This was a new experience for me in reaching out and networking with a fellow writer who I have been following (and admiring) from a distance.  Despite my nervousness prior to the Hangout, it was an awesome experience (pun intended).

A few weeks ago, I made a concious effort to engage more on the places that I have an online presence and so far I have found the experience to be quite rewarding.  Part of that experiment is to actively comment on blogs where the author is covering a topic that I care about and feel that I can contribute to the conversation.

In Sacha’s case, she blogged about some questions she was asking herself about the direction of her blog and I felt that a lot of the issues she was reflecting on were in line with the Platform theme I have this year.  So I wrote a long comment in response to the post and was quite surprised when she offered to do a Skype call or Google Hangout to discuss the topic further.

I did not know what to expect when I joined the Hangout on Friday but she immediately put me at ease with her calm and humble nature.  We covered a wide range of topics at the beginning of the call – from some of the challenges of communicating with family that lives overseas, to how much we both love learning new things.

When we moved into the meat of our conversation, there were three key areas that we covered:

One: How can Sacha reach more people while staying true to her ‘brand’?

A consistent theme that emerged while talking with Sacha (and something that I share with her) was her desire to remain authentic to her ‘true self’ through the process of building out her platform.  For her, building her platform is not about fame or increased profits.  She genuinely loves sharing with people about things she learns and helping those people ‘live an awesome life’ in whatever way that means for them.  She has a good income from her offlilne consulting work and doesn’t feel the need to focus on monetizing.

Although she is already very active on the main social networks and has a pretty good following that she shares her thoughts, ideas and help with, I recommended Michael Hyatt’s book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World as good reading for thinking about all of the aspects involved in building out a platform.  The book has a lot of focus on building a platform to mass and monetizing it – two things that I know are not focuses for Sacha right now – but I thought the framework he provides would be a good template to use.

Two: What type of things make sense for Sacha to ‘package’ from the topics she covers in her blog posts?

In addition to the book suggestion, my personal recommendation for Sacha on how to reach more people was that she looks for ways to ‘package’ some of her content into ‘bite size pieces’ that people who are not blog readers could consume and still get the ‘essense of Sacha’.  Some of the work she does with Sketchnoting is an excellent example of this and she has already had a very positive reaction to one of the topics she has started packaging in that way.

In addition to sketchnotes, I suggested she consider creating free ebooks on some of the other areas she consistently covers on her blog like ‘The Quantified Self‘ and her ‘5 Year Experiment‘.

Three: How can Sacha help people who are starting out or trying to be more consistent writers / bloggers?

The last topic we spent a lot of time on was sort of a ‘therapy session’ for me.  Sacha asked how she can help people like myself who are either starting out with blogging or desire to become more consistent in their writing.  My honest answer was that I didn’t know what would help since I was still trying to work it out for myself.

We spent a long time talking about what we both agreed was the root cause of a lot of the main struggles in becoming more consistent (The Resistance) and something Sacha said stuck with me and I think will help me going forward. I asked her how she keeps to such a prolific posting schedule and whether she ever feels a pressure that she is going to let her readers down if she doesn’t post.

Her answer was that she would be letting herself down.

In addition to a forum for sharing, Sacha really sees her blog as a holding place for her thoughts because she doesn’t ‘trust her memory’ and because she sees the blog that way, regardless of whether or not somebody reads a post she puts up, she continues to write because it helps her work through her thoughts and organize them.  This perspective on the process of blogging is very freeing because it helps me to avoid some of the second-guessing and perfectionism that makes me inconsistent.

As a practical follow-up to our discussion, Sacha is going to pilot a Google Hangout session in mid-June and I agreed to participate as one of her ‘guinea pigs’.  I am looking forward to that session and using it as motivation to get back on a consistent schedule so that I have some good questions for her during that talk.