Assume the Hand is Empty

Sometimes life seems very much like the “Which Hand Is It In?” game that we play with children.

We ball our hands into fists and children get excited trying to guess which hand the prize is in.

And when the hand is finally open, it’s empty. We realize the game was not to choose the correct hand. The game was the act of playing and choosing any hand.

This idea was initially presented to me by Alan Watts. But the idea resonates more as I apply it to the things I desire in life.

We chase after money. We chase after fame, admiration, and respect. We go to the gym to make perfect bodies.

But when we finally get the things we want, we get very much the same feeling we do in a game of “Which Hand Is It In?”

We realize more joy came from playing the game than opening the hand. And in some cases, we hated the game so much that we’re left with only an emptiness and regret that we even played the game at all.

Take part in the game. But be sure it’s a game you want to play.

Assume the hand is empty.

Persuasion Bureau

I received a package in the mail from my friend Scott Banks of Persuasion Bureau a few months back.

A stereoscopic slide that goes into the custom stereoscopic image viewer designed by Persuasion Bureau.

I was blown away by the attention to detail of this packaging. Here’s some of the cool stuff that was included in this pack:

  • Beautiful Persuasion Bureau stereoscopic image viewer box (including foam in box to hold everything in place when you open the box).
  • Two stereoscopic viewer slides with gorgeous retro art both on the slides and the case.
  • A black stereoscopic viewer that looks better than the ones I remember as a kid.
  • What looks like an instruction booklet but is actually information about their work. Even the booklet looks so good you don’t notice it’s a sales tool at first.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your design, business, or art it’s worth checking out their blog here

If you choose to do everything, you choose to do nothing.

I currently have a lot of opportunities, ideas, and random things on my plate.

Here are a few of the things I’ve got going on.

  • Releasing a mid-century brush pack for Procreate with Brad Woodard on RetroSupply.
  • Working on a better email series for RetroSupply.
  • Putting the finishing touches on a Passive Income for Designers course.
  • Debating going to Adobe Max.
  • Practicing drawing.
  • Trying to create special fall moments with all my kids.
  • Using The Five-Minute Journal every day and night.

I can’t see what’s happening on your side of the screen. But I suspect you have a similar amount of things you’re trying to balance.

The problem is that when I try to execute all these ideas at once, I end up either:

  1. Doing a lousy job on the project.
  2. Being miserable while doing the project.
  3. Neglecting one of the projects and feeling guilty.

It took a long time before this occurred to me but the entire situation makes no sense.

I do this stuff to be happy, but it ends up making me miserable.

So how do we become more productive without feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and unhappy?

The answer is simple and self-evident.

“If you choose to do everything, you choose to do nothing.”

When we condense our creativity into one compact package of energy we see magic happen:

  • Work becomes almost effortless.
  • Our stress level drops (and dopamine goes through the roof).
  • Projects get done fast. People wonder how we do it.
  • So how do we choose what to work on first? Here’s the three-step system I’ve been experimenting with lately.

Step One. Choose two projects each week.

One that requires high amounts of creative energy. One that takes lower amounts of creative energy.

This week I’ve chosen to focus on the Passive Income for Designers premium course. That’s my high creative energy project.

My second project is releasing the mid-century Procreate brush pack. This is low creative energy. I’ve already made the brushes, and my friend Brad Woodard is doing the illustrations.

Step Two. Focus on your high creative energy task first and low creative energy task second.

High creativity tasks require a lot of energy, so work on them at strategic times.

For me, that’s the first thing in the morning. I wake up around 7:30 am and find I have approximately two hours of creative time. That means I can write copy, create videos, and come up with high leverage exercises for my students.

Later in the day, when my energy is lower, I focus on the low creative energy task. For the Procreate pack, that means basic stuff like:
Making social images.
Editing promotional videos.
Packaging the product.
Chatting with partners and affiliates.
Updating my website.

Step Three. Cut your to-do list in half and end on a positive note.

Human beings are horrible at estimating how much we can get done.

Whenever I write a todo list, I only get half of the tasks done. So instead, I’ve been writing my to-do list like I always. But at the end of the day, I am happy if I finish half of it.

It’s a little trick I play on my brain, and it works wonders. Finally, I always end my work for the day when I’m feeling optimistic. The result is a positive open loop that makes me excited to do more work the next day.


We can do all the things we want, but we can’t do them all at once. I can’t remember who coined that quote. But I find myself reminded how accurate it is every day.

What do you do to maximize your productivity? Share it in the comments and let’s create a list of productivity tips.

What Creative Business Can I Start for Under $100

Imagine starting a side hustle with your creative skills that generates cash every single month.

Even better, imagine building a side hustle that costs you $100 a less to start.

The reality is that there are tons of side hustles that you can start today, and honestly, they won’t cost even close to $100. Many of them can be started for free!

In this article, I’m going to share with you seven side hustles you can start for next to nothing that can make you money every month.

Sell Products on a Marketplace

Designers, illustrators, and business owners are regularly on the lookout for creative resources that will save them time and money.

For example, my friend Lisa Glanz sells hand drawn fonts and portrait and character creators.

By purchasing one of Lisa’s fonts and a character creator and Etsy seller can create a line of products quickly that are unlike anyone else’s. Lisa sells fonts for around $19 and her character creator for $29-$49.

That means for less than $100 a new Etsy seller can be up and running with some great looking art on their products.

Lisa makes some fast money with minimal effort (after the product she’s selling has been created) and her customers get a solution to their problem at a great price.

Here’s some marketplaces you can get started selling your products:

Creative Market


The Hungry JPEG

Price to Start Business

Only time and a copy of Adobe Illustrator which can be purchased via subscription which can currently be purchased for as little as $20.99.

Teach a Course

Creating a course can be extremely profitable and costs little money to do.

Make Garbage

“The safest way of not being very miserable is not to expect to be very happy.”

Arthur Shopenhauer – German philosopher

We’re all familiar with beginner’s luck.

You play Backgammon for the first time and beat the pants off your opponent – even though you have no clue what you’re doing.

You play Street Fighter II for the first time and demolish your brother despite the fact he’s been working on his special moves for weeks.

You paint your first landscape in a Oil Painting 101 and it’s a masterpiece. Then you paint like a six year old for the rest of the semester.

The Secret Behind Beginner’s Luck

What’s going on here? How can we excel at a skilled activity on our first attempt and then fail right after?

I choose to believe it has something to do with Arthur Shopenhauer’s quote.

When we make a first attempt at something we often expect to fail. Or at least are relatively indifferent to the outcome.

When you play that first game of Backgammon you don’t understand it, you could care less if you win, and you probably expect to lose.

You’re probably starting to imagine how liberating that can be.

Whether you’re starting a business, a 100 day challenge, or writing a novel – one of the most empowering ways to approach the task is to assume you’re about to make garbage.

Of course, when you make garbage the pressure is off.

Tell your friend you’re finally writing an album of original acoustic folk ballads and it’s going to be serious garbage.

You’re free to write, experiment, fail, push boundaries, sing horribly, and not play in steady time.

The funny thing is you’ll probably create something pretty good.

At the least, it will be better than the garbage you thought you were going to make.