Alex Hillman is better than me.

I met Alex last year at SXSW, almost by accident. My friend Gary Vaynerchuk wanted me to meet a friend of his, Tara Hunt. Alex was there with Tara and we ended up chatting—I had to ask him about those awesome tattoos. And then, when he announced he needed tea & honey for his ravaged vocal cords, I rudely invited myself along.

The man behind the legend!

Alex is behind the coworking movement in Philly, and more than partly responsible for the renaissance that indie tech is undergoing in that city. He made it happen and we’ve had many long discussions on how. I was there at the opening of his oeuvre, Independents Hall—and I am so damn proud of him.

I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure people told him that the Philly community wouldn’t have the number of people required to get coworking started… that he would have serious difficulty finding a location… that getting people to actually sign contracts (and not steal each others’ stuff) would be tough if not bordering on impossible.

But Alex is stubborn—a trait I am proud to say we share—and he has the humility and wisdom to seek help along the way.

Oh, the superiority!

And it’s true, Alex Hillman is better than me. At writing inspiring blog posts, at the very least:

Which brings me to my final point (for now). I’ve talked to a LOT of people in a LOT of different places all over the world about their desires to set up coworking, participate in coworking, etc. Over and over, I hear something like, “I want this here but we have this problem that’s really unique to our area”. I’ve asked many people to explain their problems that they face or fear that they will face if they were to attempt to fire up a coworking community, and I have a secret.

You all have the same problems.

Your problems are not special.


Everything offline has a barrier to entry. What sets your community or potential community apart isn’t your problems, it’s how creative you can get with your solutions.

And in conclusion…

I’m speaking specifically about coworking because its one of the things that I hold closest to my heart, but once again, I think that this construct of thinking can be overlaid on top of lots of other social problem->technical solution->social solution transactions.

This is a lucid, clear explanation of something I’ve been trying to get at in other articles… all from the wrong angle, I now see.

(It may seem at first glance like I’ve excised all the tasty bits but there’s definitely lots more good stuff over there.)

I’d really love to, but…

At some point in our lives, we all want to be able to put our hands on our respective hips and say, “Well, I looked at all the potential solutions, and it’s just not something that can be done. There’s problem x, and problem y. I’ve done all I could. You’re lucky. Your situation is different. I just wish my situation was more like yours. Sigh!”

It seems easier to throw in the proverbial towel and call it quits, and keep on doing the things we know work out for us. Predictability, perhaps, over the risks of great success (or failure).

I think it’s good for us to call a spade a spade, though. We should try to admit when our mouths say “it’s not possible because…” but our hearts know that we just aren’t into finding a solution.

For the longest time, for example, I used to tell people I couldn’t do something, sorry!, because I didn’t have enough time. Lately I’ve been trying to admit that I just don’t have the motivation or desire—maybe I just didn’t really want to do it in the first place.

These days I’d rather say, “I could have written a best-selling Rails book but it turned out I’m just not a good personality match for writing 400 page books. I hated it and so I found ways to avoid working on it.” than “I didn’t have the time.” It feels more honest.

I personally feel that I’m letting go of a psychic burden every time I do it. One that frees me up, mentally, to do the things I really do care about.


Is there something you’re claiming can’t be done, just because you just don’t want it bad enough? A project you’re trying to (unsuccessfully) brute force from the wrong direction—where the right direction requires a skill set other than the one you’re most comfortable in? Or a situation where the stumbling blocks in your way are largely of your own devising or imagination?

What do you stand to lose by admitting what’s really happening?

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  1. Alex Hillman says:

    Humbling, and brilliant. Amy and I could probably fanboy/fangirl one another all day long like this.

    Seriously though, Amy helped further illuminate the point that I hadn’t quite finished yet: stop making excuses and just give it to me straight, doc.

    Authenticity != transparency. It just means not padding your experiences with bullshit.

    Amy is guest-chaptering in my book. The end.

  2. Erik Kastner says:

    I too am not so comfortable with writing books (or blog posts apparently).

    I know I could get in shape – I’ve done it before, but I am not motivated to do it.

    Same with all that brain-crack:

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