Why we started a cookie business

Sometimes when things are terrible it’s necessary to start something delightful.

So last month my wife and I started a cookie business.

It’s an online store that sells gourmet gluten-free and vegan freshly baked cookies. They are made from incredible ingredients: organic this and organic that. And they are delicious. I’m the taste tester, so I should know.

But bragging aside, the main point of making something tasty is to spread just a little bit of joy to overcome the daily pains that seem to be mounting every day.

We get it. Kids are cooped up. The future is uncertain. The economy is struggling. News is the news, always negative. Schools are thinking about opening and we don’t know what to do. The second wave is swelling to who knows how high. And all of us are getting swept up into it and we are going for a ride to who knows where. It’s terrifying. All of it.

But taking a bite into a chocolate chip cookie floods us with memories of childhood, simpler times, summer bake sales, laughter, mom—home. It’s just love, baked.

That’s what we wanted to make, except in our fashion.

Our family has crazy dietary restrictions. We can’t eat gluten since we have major intolerances, and we have all kinds of sensitivities. My wife has been eating essentially the same limited foods every day, for every meal—literally. Our eldest can’t eat gluten and a whole host of other foods. And I find most meats make me feel badly and eat vegan most of the time, but for those rare occasions where I scarf down a ribeye. In other words, we eat crazy clean. No processed foods, refined sugar, etc. here. Don’t get me wrong. I want to eat Doritos, Krispy Kream donuts, Oreos. But I know I will feel terrible afterwards. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.

So we wanted to create something we and all of our friends and humans could feel good eating. Because, there’s enough feeling bad these days. And this is not just about feeling better emotionally, but good physically. That’s why we use the ingredients that we do. They’re great so we can feel good, in every way.

But if you want to know the truth, my wife has never even tasted our cookies. Not one. It’s because her food restrictions are so tight she can’t even try them, right now. She bakes them. She loves baking. But she can’t enjoy them. We are hoping that eventually she’ll be able to bite into the slightly-crunchy-with-a-gooey-center-packed-with-chocolate-chips beauts of a treat, someday, soon.

Nonetheless, she does take great pleasure in others enjoying her little creations. She delights in the knowledge that her joy inducing circles of chocolaty bliss brings others delight. That’s joy for her, for our family.

We started this venture at the end of May and we’ve been working out the kinks. It’s been fun. It began as an experiment, us playing around. Then orders came in. Not too many at first. But these, too, acted like waves. For the first week or so, most days were quiet with little activity. Then we’d get a sale here, a delivery there. Then one day in early June we had a large swell crash on us. Things went bonkers. And we started to wonder if we had something, something real.

Yesterday we posted on social media to our friends unsure what kind of reception we would get. And it was amazing. We had our biggest day of sales to date. We were astonished at the response and generosity. I mean, our cookies aren’t cheap. But people bought. Some kept buying. And they were gifting to this person and that person who lived on the west coast and out east and to a neighbor down the road or across the street. It was incredible.

To any of you who were a part of yesterday’s frenzy and are reading this, we love you, and we can’t wait for you to get a mouthful of this goodness.

So, friends, neighbors, and fellow humans, I’ll give more details of our journey and lessons and failures going forward, as well as other non-cookie related thoughts.

But for now, I’ll be delivering your cookies and sending them to USPS, with nothing but deliciously joyful thoughts and prayers and love that will show up at your doorstep. It’s not a hug, but it might be better.

Because, you know, when times are bitter, sometimes all you need is something sweet.

If you want to check us out, you can find us at www.cleancookieco.com and @cleancookieco on Facebook and Instagram.

Lots of love,
John and Rachel


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Things got weirder

These past few days things just got weirder.

An image of a married couple brandishing firearms and pointing them at people who were peacefully protesting shocked me.

They live in my city. They’re not far from me, which only added to the weirdness.

These people, who are basically my neighbors, looked like some strange mash up of Rambo and James Bond. And I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘What would cause someone to do something like that?’

And the only thing I could think of was this.

Fear—naked and unadulterated terror.

It distorts reality, dements our thinking, bends our minds away from facts into a terrible fiction. It makes peaceful protestors into “terrorists.” It can make something uncomfortable into a nightmarish scene that came from a movie like The Ring.

But the fact is that we all live with fear. They just lived it in public, captured on video, shared on public media.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending them. What they did was absolutely wrong. They could have killed someone. Their actions were reckless, foolish, and terrible.

But, I am trying to understand why someone in my city would do something so outrageous. What would cause someone to think, “You know what? I’m going to grab my semiautomatic rifle and take it out to the lawn and hold the line,” and then I say, “Hey, Honey! Grab your pistol and meet me out there!” I mean, you don’t do that unless you thought it’s a good idea, or felt compelled somehow.

And that’s the issue isn’t it? What made them think it was a good idea?

Any rational human would have known it would get filmed and splashed on social media. Anyone who would have taken a second and breathed in and out and asked themselves, “Is pulling out firearms in public the right move?” would have realized how idiotic it was.

Yet they didn’t. And they stood their ground, holding the line, imagining they were defending their hill to the death even though death never came for them.

St. Louis is one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve live in other parts of the country (New York City and San Diego). I’ve traveled. But St. Louis is great. It has amazing amenities, it has rolling hills, lakes and rivers, bursts with color with the autumnal foliage, and the nicest people. (They usually don’t wave their guns around.) Really.

They will smile and wave at you. That’s right. Complete strangers look at you in the eyes, acknowledge your humanity and then greet you warmly. Let me tell you something, that didn’t happen in NYC. I love that place but it isn’t known for its friendliness. But St. Louis is friendly, exceedingly so.

Now you juxtapose that with these two gun slingers. It’s strange. But in a way it’s not.

St. Louis has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation for a reason. We love our 2nd amendment here in Missouri. And it doesn’t take much to see it. When I scroll down my Facebook feed, I’ll see friends holding their AR15 or a family member talking about this new “easy conceal and carry” that they bought for the missus.

And the city’s love for guns is largely due to the fact that we are a very conservative (I’m not using the term in the political sense, although that’s true, too) city. We love safety, comfort, ease of living. I mean, there’s a reason why this is one of the most affordable cities to live in and pays some of the highest wages. We love to be fat and happy here, quietly living in our fiefdoms in fly-over country, unbothered, unmolested, eating pasta, toasted ravioli, custard, and thin crust pizza until we are rub-your-belly full.

But then you have barbarians “breaking down” the gate terrorizing a private street, invading their land, penetrating their border and ransacking their village of a city block.

That broke up the tranquility of this couple’s existence and disturbed their daily life, the safety they felt. It’s likely they’ve been feeling uneasy for months, not just from the pandemic but the “riots.” Tensions within in their home might have been high, as it has been for many of us.

And seeing strangers barging into their neighborhood was the last straw, and their frayed nerves were exposed for the world to see, witness, jeer at, and ridicule.

They are the butt end of a national joke.

And yet, they’re not. There are many in our nation who believe them right and good, righteous even. More said, “Good for them,” than I ever thought would have, as if what they were doing was their God-given right and the best idea to execute. People even seemed to envy their behavior and saw it as something to aspire to, as if waving a gun at innocent people was an act one should do.

It’s disturbing.

The most ironic part of this whole situation was that the couple said that they believed in the Black Lives Matter movement. They didn’t want people to think that they didn’t believe in it they said in an interview after the incident. That was the weirdest thing I’ve heard in a long time. And that caught me off guard the most.

And I thought, ‘How could a couple who believes in Black Lives Matter point weapons at protestors who were for Black Lives Matter?’

We humans are frail creatures. Empathy isn’t just needed for some people, but for all people. I know what these people did was completely wrong and stupid. But if I’m honest with myself, I’ve been idiotic, brash, harsh, foolish. I don’t own a firearm but I’ve thought about it.

So, in all of this weirdness, I’ll end with this weird thought.

It’s easy to point the finger and wag our heads and say what is off with those people. But I wonder if we shouldn’t be grateful that we’ve been spared from doing something like that and acknowledge that if we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, that could be us. We could be caught doing the dumbest things we’ve ever done on video.

And if we think like that, maybe, just maybe, our world could be a little kinder, and generous, and gracious, even to those who are having the worst day of their life.


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Get things done when working from home (even with kids)

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Working from home can sound fantastic, with all of that freedom and no commute, but it’s not always easy.  Sometimes it can feel impossible. But it’s not. 

Yes, you get to roll out of bed and be at your desk in a couple of steps without even needing to put a shred of clothing on to make a living, which is glorious, in theory. But getting out of bed to get to your desk across the room can be a challenge.

And there aren’t the usual social motivators and interactions that we get in an office, like other people looking busy in their cubicles, serendipitous meetings, or random water cooler conversations. Working from home can be lonely, especially if you live alone.

If you have kids, you may not have enough aloneness. No, you have constant distractions throughout the day. Not that you don’t love your children. You do. But they do have an amazing knack for yanking your attention away from your work when you’re all at home, say, during a pandemic. 

Even before the “shelter in place” order was given, I have been working from home for years and love it, even with our two lovely and very active boys. 

But I need little hacks and tricks to make it work well and help me be more productive.

Here they are. 

Abuse your calendar 

Schedule what you will be doing every day, all day. Seriously.

Use your calendar—hard. When will you be at your desk producing? For how long? When will you have that call with that client, your coworker? When will you eat lunch? Mark it all down. 

Doing this is the digital version of having social expectations except you’ve put it on your online calendar. Doing that gives you just a bit of accountability, at least to yourself. 

If you need that extra boost of fuel, share the calendar with others. It doesn’t need to be with your boss or coworkers. An outspoken friend will do. You know, the one who will call you out and FaceTime you just to make sure you’re at your desk when you said you would be. 

Set better goals 

We often set goals like “get work done,” but that’s not specific enough to be helpful, especially when you’re at home where it’s like the Wild West of working and anything goes because there’s no one watching. So setting the right kind of goals is critical to your success.  

First, you should note what task you want to accomplish or what project you want to start and how much of it, broken into smaller tasks, you want to complete during a block of time in the day. Doing that will revolutionize the way you think about how you spend your time. 

Second, don’t make big goals; make them small and bite-sized, something you can accomplish in an hour or two. Don’t make them aspirational so it’s a challenge to accomplish them. No.

Make them easily accomplishable. That way, you won’t get demoralized and you will feel and be productive.

You’ll be surprised by how much this will increase your productivity.  

Get the bed out of you

Some of us have a hard time getting out of bed. It just happens.

If that’s you, you don’t just need to get out of bed, but you need to get the bed out of you. You need create the social pressure that will break that habit and start a new one.  So do this.

Schedule early morning phone or video calls. 

If there’s a coworker or client or friend that you need to talk to, schedule a video call with them at the beginning of the day.

That will get you out of bed, because no one wants to look like a schlep buried under their duvet with bed head in a professional context. That will force you to at least look presentable from your waist up. 

Sometimes, there’s nothing like embarrassment to get our bodies out of bed. 

For a less shame-driven method, ask your partner or that outspoken friend, from earlier, to make sure you’re up. And you should consider sharing your calendar with them. 

Take breaks 

If you’re a person who loves to work, that’s great. But sometimes it can be to our detriment. 

There are times when you just need to take a minute and relax. You know, do nothing, stare out the window, listen to music, drool, call a friend. Put it in your calendar: “Drool, 2:30pm to 3:00pm.” It can be for an hour or just half that. But do it. 

It replaces the random water cooler conversations and gives our mind’s the reboot that it needs. It’s the breather that provides us the energy to attack our work with a refreshed mind, a new lens, renewed vigor. 

Noise-canceling headphones 

Good headphones are a must, especially if you have a family. Really. 

I love my children but sometimes they are loud. They like to bang on things and run up and down the halls—and SCREAM. And, with schools canceled for who knows how long, any extra tool that helps me focus and get into a flow state is gold. 

These are the headphones I use (affiliate). They are 24 karats of pure goodness. I’ve tested almost all of the other ones and these have the best sound and noise-canceling quality. 

If you’re not a listening-to-music-while-you-work type of person, that’s great. Don’t play music on them when you work. These headphones will give you the silence-is-golden-space you seek.

The noise-canceling feature is magical: They shut out all external sounds, making you feel like you’re on some serene mountaintop with Buddha doing downward dog with him next to a blossoming cherry tree. Really. 

Set your kids’ expectations

It sounds cruel to tell your kids that you need to do work and can’t be disturbed, but it’s actually good for them. 

Our eldest is in kindergarten and he’s insatiably curious and extremely social. We cherish him for it. 

But when I need to work, those characteristics we appreciate aren’t very conducive for me working. He wants to ask me questions about what I’m doing. He wants my attention. He wants to hang out, even when I have my golden noise-canceling headphones on (which don’t block out his tapping on my shoulder, by the way).

So I talk to him about work and let him know that when I have my headphones on, Daddy is trying to focus on something. It’s not a one-time conversation, but it happens far less now. 

We also gave him his own work, which includes writing and reading and math lessons that he does while mommy and daddy tend to their tasks. 

Closing thoughts about working from home

Many of you may be working from home for the first time. And it’s not easy to get into it in the beginning. But after you use some of these tools and figure out others that work well for you, it is one of the best ways to maximize your time and gain unparalleled freedom. 

Yes, these are extraordinary times. But they are also an opportunity to learn new skills and expand your ways of working. 

For more information about working from home, check out Remote: Office Not Required, a book about working remotely (affiliate). The founders of Basecamp, the project management tool, wrote it. They allow their entire team to live and work wherever they want. 

But no matter where you’re working, whether in cubical or in your undies at home, I hope you grow every day. 

And most importantly, stay safe and well. 

Lots of love,

John


 

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You can win at life by doing this

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Sometimes life is hard and feels impossible. But that’s when you should stop thinking about your life and focus on today.

Don’t try to tackle life, that’s too much to take on all at once. That’s how you get overwhelmed, depressed, worried.

Instead, just attack what you need to do at this moment: the tasks, the mico-goals, the wins (and loses). Do what you can do with what you know, right now.

Not tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade, don’t concentrate on those. That can kill you.

Don’t worry about the future unless you’re planning, dreaming, hoping. Set your big goals and big dreams.

But then, spend your time doing what needs to be done, now, to accomplish those goals.

To win in life, you need to fight today’s battles, win today’s fights.

And you’ll have a greater chance at winning in life.

Your world is changing: Dealing with Coronavirus

Quarantine, pandemic, respiratory droplets, contagious, viral (in a bad way), and death are words swirling around the media, and we shouldn’t ignore them. 

My family basically hasn’t left our NYC apartment for a week. My last venture out to a destination where people congregated, like a restaurant, was with a friend at a ramen shop in the neighborhood, and we talked about Coronavirus

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Photo by NASA on Unsplash

In that conversation, I told him my serious concerns about it. He brushed them off. 

The family and I did take some short walks outside this weekend, avoiding large knots of people (we wanted to get outside a little bit), and what I saw was disturbing. 

Everything looks…well…normal. 

People were still everywhere. No one was wearing face masks, except this one Asian girl. Singles, large groups, couples were littered throughout the city, strolling, enjoying the sunny winter day. 

My other friends are also keen on meeting up and grabbing coffee, lunch, etc. Nothing has changed. And our neighbors seem calm. No one is alarmed.

And that’s what’s so concerning: No one seems concerned. 

But we should be. 

This is a serious issue. Death is serious. People are dying. Yes, most of them are elderly, but some are young, young adults, healthy, until they weren’t. This matters; they matter; you matter. 

And if we don’t take precautions and greater concern, we will likely create a worse outcome, spreading the disease more than it would have gone if we were more vigilant. 

See, anyone can get Coronavirus. You can. I can. My kid can. Your kid can. This is about everyone. And yes, you can die from this, too. We all can. 

This virus doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t have compassion. It doesn’t care if you’re famous, powerful, poor, beautiful, crippled. It infects. It inflicts. It kills. 

What can you do? Wash your hands. Stop traveling. Limit meetings or eliminate them, no matter how much you were looking forward to them. Stop hanging out. Stop going to the bar. Stay home. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash them well. With soap! 

That’s not just for yourself but for your family, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, your country, your world. Let us be good global citizens, people, humans. 

I get it. Behavioral change isn’t easy. Not seeing people sucks. 

This morning I canceled a lunch meeting with a friend that I was excited about seeing today. And we were supposed to eat at this incredible Indian restaurant, in Long Island City, Queens, that serves up dishes that Indians eat at home. I had been waiting to go to this place for weeks. Now, thanks to Coronavirus, I’m eating at home, which is great. But, not the same. 

That’s what it takes to fight something like this virus: Behavioral change. We need to change how we do our days, where we go, how we move, how many times we wash our hands. It needs to be top of mind. 

Ok, so you may not work from home like me. You don’t have that freedom. But you can talk to your boss, manager, CEO, Supreme Ruler, and tell them that you’re concerned and want to discuss the idea of letting you and others work from home. Make your case. You can do that. Why not? It’s worth it. And when you talk to them, make sure you’re at least six feet away from them so you don’t get any respiratory droplets on each other. Seriously. 

That’s what we need these days when we’re facing a possible pandemic. Fight. Grit. Scrappiness. Conversations with your boss, about working from home, had six feet away from each other.

Changing the way we think is a great place to start. Especially you who live in urban centers need to remember that things have changed. Anyone can be a threat. Of course not the person, but the virus that they might be carrying. We are fighting an invisible enemy that can come from anywhere and anyone. And this isn’t for other people. It’s for you, me, our loved ones—us. 

That means you need to change your schedule, your routine, your mind—you. 

US citizens have died. Thousands of humans have lost their lives. Washington state reported two deaths from this. California, Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, Texas, and more have reported cases. New York City just found its first. And it looks like this is just getting started. 

But it can be curbed. It can be stopped. We all need to work together. We all need to be concerned.

Yes, I’m freaking out. But that’s not why I’m writing. 

The point isn’t to be afraid. 

It’s about being cautious, taking this seriously, changing ourselves as our world changes. 

Don’t panic. 

Prepare.