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It’s never too late.

Think Young Entrepreneurs Are a VC’s Best Bet? Harvard Says You Should Think Again:

This is true in Atlanta, where I live and our business is based, but it is also true when I visit incubators and other entrepreneur environments in cities as diverse as Boston, San Francisco and Bordeaux, France. Certainly these communities include a healthy representation of colleagues in their twenties and early thirties, but they are outnumbered by those of us in our later thirties, forties and fifties.

A new study sheds some light on why this is true. It also puts some teeth to the argument that successful startups are only the domain of the young.

The study, published in Harvard Business Review by Pierre Azoulay, Benjamin Jones, J. Daniel Kim and Javier Miranda, found that although younger founders aren’t uncommon in software startups, the average age for successful founders across industries skews significantly older, from the early forties to closer to 47.

I’m 41 and this is a thought that pops in my head a lot. Am I too old to be launching my own brand?

The truth is, I couldn’t have started Stay Vigilant any sooner in my life because if I rewind 10 or 20 years, I was busy screwing up and learning. I had to go through enough experiences to condition me for what I’m doing now.

So just remember, it’s never too late.

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Always Be Learning

When most people think about being vigilant, it’s related to external dangers. The wolf hiding in the bushes.

The truth is, in order to protect yourself in the world, you need to prepare yourself and preparation in the first world doesn’t require a sharp spear, it requires a sharp mind, a mind always learning and adapting to what’s going on around it.

On that note, The Mission has a great post on the importance of ongoing learning by way of reading.

5-Hour Rule: If you’re not spending 5 hours per week learning, you’re being irresponsible:

People at the bottom of the economic ladder are being squeezed more and compensated less, while those at the top have more opportunities and are paid more than ever before. The irony is that the problem isn’t a lack of jobs. Rather, it’s a lack of people with the right skills and knowledge to fill the jobs.

An Atlantic article captures the paradox: “Employers across industries and regions have complained for years about a lack of skilled workers, and their complaints are borne out in U.S. employment data. In July [2015], the number of job postings reached its highest level ever, at 5.8 million, and the unemployment rate was comfortably below the post-World War II average. But, at the same time, over 17 million Americans are either unemployed, not working but interested in finding work, or doing part-time work but aspiring to full-time work.”

Last year I set a goal on Goodreads to read 24 books. I read 26 books. This year I upped my goal to 32 books and so far I’m 4 books ahead of schedule at 24 books read.

Know the Ledge.

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Shipping Costs Suck

Over the weekend I tweaked the settings on my WooCommerce installation so customers in the U.S. get free shipping. You should see a fat, blue banner at the bottom of your browser window.

Why did I do this?

It gets back to why I started Stay Vigilant in the first place: I’m making the shirts I want to wear. I know I have pretty good taste as a designer, artist who lived in New York for 12 years. OK, I’m also married to an amazing woman who schooled my dirty Jersey ass and whipping me into fashion shape over the last 18 years we’ve been together.

But I digress. Back to the shipping. Like the shirts I’m making by hand, I want an e-commerce experience that has as few annoyances in it as possible. If I’m shopping on my own site, would I dig it? I’m not Amazon so I don’t have the means to create my own Prime benefits, but I can do other things.

So removing the shipping fees is the easy part. You just, well, remove them. Boom. Now I have a problem though. Now when someone in the U.S. makes a purchase a chunk of the money I made off the sale goes to shipping fees. Ok, fine, I’ll raise the price of the shirts, but just enough to offset the shipping costs. This works for a sale of one item, but if someone buys 5 or 10 shirts, I’ve overcompensated and overcharged U.S. customers.

My current solution to this overcharging is the WooCommerce Bulk Discount plugin. I’ve set discount count tiers for 2, 5, and 10 shirts. It’s not micro-precision but I think it’s fair.

If I end up with the problem of someone ordering more than 10 shirts at once, I’ll add more discount tiers. For now I think these 3 tiers will suffice.

Down the road I’d love to extend free shipping to Canada and Europe, but I just don’t have the means yet to do this, but when I reach the point where I can do this I will.

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Don’t Tax My Ass

Supreme Court Clears Way to Collect Sales Tax From Online Retailers:

WASHINGTON — Internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Brick-and-mortar businesses have long complained that they are disadvantaged by having to charge sales taxes while many of their online competitors do not. States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping.

On Thursday, the court overruled that ruling, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, which had said that the Constitution bars states from requiring businesses to collect sales taxes unless they have a substantial connection to the state.

My knee-jerk reaction to this ruling is that it’s bullshit and sucks, but I’m going to continue to read up on it and see if there are valid arguments from perspective of the states.

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“The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.”

The title of this post comes from the preface to one of my favorite books, The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. I chose it because it relates to the collection of designs I chose for the launch of this clothing brand.

This quote popped in my head when my wife looked at my designs and asked if I thought about including some interesting text or quotes with the illustrations. I hadn’t. I told her I didn’t want context or ideas attached to these designs.

I might very well design shirts with ideas on or behind them in the future, but for this collection I want anyone who looks at these to make their decision to buy them or not buy them based on what they see in from of them and how it makes them feel.

I’ve gone decades loving songs I didn’t understand the lyrics to (the Buena Vista Social Club comes to mind) or thought I knew what the singers were saying but looked up the lyrics and realized I was completely wrong. What about jazz or classical music? I have no idea what Miles Davis was thinking or feeling when he created Kind of Blue (Spotify) but it’s one of my Top 5 favorite albums of all time. Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of the Bach’s Goldberg Variations is in my Top 5 too. You don’t have to understand a work of art to admire it.

So whether it’s a Judo flip, a woman’s head, or a phonograph, there’s no message, only the one you bring to it. Do you like it? Do you dislike it?

Sometimes background and context enhances art and sometimes it ruins it, and in the case of these tees, there’s no context to be had.

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Wulfmonath

Wulfmonath is the Saxon word for ‘January,’ and it means exactly what it looks like. wolf month. As legend has it, this was the time of year when wolves were so hungry they entered villages like it was an all-you-can-eat buffet in Vegas.

Well, it’s May, not January, but ‘wulfmonath’ conveys how I feel about my career as a graphic designer. I’ve become so starved for rewarding work I’ve decided to enter a territory I’m not very familiar with. A realm I don’t know if I’ll find food in. After years of Stay Vigilant sitting on the back burner I’ve decided to launch it not merely as a side project but something that will become much more than that: a way to support my family and myself through things I create.

I’ve always been good at the creating part. It’s running a business I still have to figure out, and I will. One of the guiding ideas of Stay Vigilant comes from a quote I found years ago by Steve Jobs (source):

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

He’s right.

I’m 41-years-old and I’ve worked for enough companies, and seen enough of them mismanaged, fold, and go bankrupt to know I can do better. I’ve reported to managers who don’t know how to manage anything, let alone their own calendars. I’ve worked with creative directors who don’t know how to creative direct. Art directors who think art directing is just designing things themselves on their computer. Etcetera, etcetera.

Fuck all that noise. It’s my turn. I have an idea. The thing is, everyone has an idea. Every Über driver has an idea for a new app. I cannot tell you idea, but nothing like it, very amazing, this idea. The money, literally, is in the execution. Talking the talk is cake. Walk the walk is the hard part. Most people never do it.

I’ve already dipped my toes in the entrepreneurial waters with two successful Kickstarter projects. One was a poster series on Steve Jobs in 2012 and the other was a children’s book about collective animal names in 2014. I should also mention I’ve also launched three failed Kickstarter projects.

Like Bob Wiley, I’m starting out with baby steps. This vigilant wolf is still a cub. There’s a lot more to write about, and a lot more things for me to make and sell.

In addition to long-form posts on this site, you can follow Stay Vigilant on Twitter and on Instagram.