Aug 21

This is a cross-post of a guest post I just did on my Dad’s blog for his b-day. Cheesy perhaps but a formative moment from my youth…

This is an unsolicited guest post from son #1, Sean Tierney. Dad, sorry to hijack your blog like this but having created it I still have the login credentials. I figured given the circumstances of it being your birthday this is a valid birthday surprise. I’m writing this from London, UK on the morning of 8/19/16 but technically it’s still your bday in Phoenix, AZ…  

I wanted to share a quick story of a formative moment from my younger years that shows what makes my Dad, my Dad. The motivation here is partly that I forgot to send a b-day present this year and this is the only thing I could think of that would arrive in time from across the pond. But also I’m hoping this may motivate the big guy to resume his blogging effort again after more than a year’s hiatus.

Lego trauma and learning to color outside the lines

When you’re a five-year-old aspiring engineer obsessed with building space legos, it’s important that you get it right. Millions of lives depend on your legos having flawless structural integrity, built to spec and that they match the model shown in the instructions precisely… or at least that’s the way it feels ;-) Growing up I had no less than 16sqft of my room devoted to lego bases. That was my thing. I’d get a new kit from the toy store at Colonnade Mall, go home and spend the entire afternoon assembling it to perfection and then proudly add it to my space empire colonizing the corner of my room.

One day I came home with a set called “The Galaxy Explorer” – it was the biggest and most complex lego set I had worked with at that point and it was to be the linchpin of my space colony for the obvious reason that it had to get me around the galaxy.


When I arrived home from the toy store I set about the most important mission of my life up to that point assembling this thing. As you might imagine the instructions for putting this together were intense. There was this 3×5″ glossy color pamphlet that unfolded into a sprawling blueprint that was too big for the dining room table and looked like one of those language-less instruction sheets for Danish furniture- just a huge set of pictures with arrows and numbers. I dutifully began my mission.

Some four hours later nearing completion of this beast I came to an impasse. The plastic lego pieces that were left simply did not match up with the ones in the pictures. Occasionally you make errors as a 5yr-old engineer so I checked and rechecked my work thus far but it became gradually clear that this was an unsolvable engineering project given the materials at hand.  3-D printers were still 30 years in the future and they didn’t sell the pieces I needed a la carte at Kay-Be Toys. Was it just pieces in this box that were missing or were the blueprints for the entire design of the Galaxy Explorer just fundamentally broken? If the latter, how many other space travelers were impacted by this omission??  I wrestled with the biggest crisis of my life to date. This was the first time I had followed instructions to a T only to hit an insurmountable wall and fail at something. All my honed lego-building skills were useless in the face of missing the key pieces necessary to complete the ship.

At some point my Dad walked in to find me at the dining room table sobbing over the nearly completed model. I was emotionally knotted and wrapped around the axle with my first experience of failure and the impossibility of making something work.  LEGO was teasing me with a picture of what it should be but an impossible task of actuating it.

The next thing my Dad did fundamentally changed my worldview not just with lego-building but everything. It was one of those epiphany cross-roads moments that evolves you as a human and opens your head to a new way of thinking. He said, “My man, these instructions aren’t the only way to build this. It’s just one suggestion for how THEY think it should be put together but you’re a smart guy. You can build an even better version of your own.” In that moment he installed a license to “color outside the lines” in my 5yr-old operating system.  But not just that- he installed also the encouragement to question and challenge instructions when they were clearly flawed along with the confidence that indeed I had it in me to come up with a better approach.

The notion that I might be able to invent a better version than LEGO and that “the authoritative instructions” were merely a suggestion for one potential way to do it blew my mind.  I immediately began cannibalizing my other space legos, pooling pieces and building out my own designs. In place of a sometimes-unworkable spec to follow, I saw ways to improve and freedom to create. Probably to the dismay of many subsequent grade school teachers I challenged instructions when they didn’t make sense. And years later this seed of thinking would eventually lead to me co-founding JumpBox, a company that fundamentally rethought the way in which software could be distributed as a virtual machine and not an installer. We used that to democratize a whole class of software known as “open source” and make it accessible to non-techies. The now-ingrained personality trait of questioning instructions and recognizing true vs. false boundaries has taken me places I would have never gone otherwise.

This is what makes my Dad, my Dad. He’s the guy who risked his life in the 60’s smuggling voter training materials to would-be black voters in Mississippi to help them gain voting status- working, not just talking, to fix a system when he recognized the instructions were simply wrong. And by his actions, showing others that it could and should be done.

Dad, happiest of birthdays to you. Thanks for this and other lessons you and mom gave Connor and I growing up.  Now please get back to blogging again so we can all hear what happened after the Peace Corps ;-)


Aug 17

“What would it take for us to become the most effective tribe on the planet?” That was the question I posed to our group at the Junction event last night for Remote Year. Below is the full 30min talk in which I propose the two most high-leverage activities I believe we can perform and the six topics I would love for our group to cover via in-person seminars during the remaining travels abroad.

And here are the slides from the talk:

Thanks Aline for the opportunity to speak and Tyler for livestreaming it on FB. Blown away that had 3000+ views in the first night.

Jul 29

We’ve been living in Belgrade, Serbia for the past month. Tomorrow we leave for London so I took the morning off and threw this video walking tour to share a look at our living and working accommodations here:

Here is the previous writing I mentioned about the concept of parallax as it relates to travel. This is the wikipedia page that has info on the bombed out Radio TV Serbia building right near where I live. Lastly, here is a map of the 96 locations that serve ice cream in the city. We walked by nine of them in this video. Solid ice cream game – well played Belgrade.

Will miss you Belgrade. It’s been a good past month and I’m sorry myself and many others pre-judged you before getting here. We couldn’t have been more wrong about you.

UPDATE 8/18/16: Eddie nails it again with an incredible vlog episode showcasing highlights of our time in Belgrade. Subscribe to Eddie’s YouTube channel here.

Jul 26

On July 16th, 2016 eight bro’s chartered a 55-foot yacht and set off on a week-long sailing voyage under the guidance of a skipper named Bruno. One by one they liberated each of the Croatian Islands and brought a new era of peace and broific-ness to their people.

This is their story told in photographs.


Jul 07

We said farewell to Prague on Saturday and made our way to Belgrade, Serbia where we’ll be living in for the next month. A handful of us chose to go rogue and do a short stopover in Budapest to explore the city. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to see and we drove right through it on our bus to Belgrade so it made sense to take advantage of being there and see the town. Check out some pics from our one day in Budapest below:

I spent most of the time there with Alicia and Ee – we did a total of 28,000+ steps that day and covered a ton of ground. Lots of pointy, old buildings and famous statues. I never realized the town is actually Buda and Pest split by the Danube River… learn something new every day…

Prague post-game commentary

So bottomline: Prague is amazing in every way and I could easily see myself living there. I already did a video walkthrough and a detailed writeup on all the positive attributes so I figured the more challenging task would be to come up with a list of the negatives. Here is the short list of those:

  • This guy sawing concrete outside of our apartment every morning at 7am was my least favorite person in Prague.
  • Czechs are a bit cold and standoffish when you first meet them.
  • Bring your own leafy greens when you visit. As Andrew from our group eloquently said “Prague is the city vegetables forgot.”
  • We saw a bunch of random fireworks displays but the fireworks all seem to explode at roughly eye-level. Curious how that goes for spectators near the launch site.
  • Czechs have an interesting escalator protocol coming out of the subways. They all form single-file line one at a time standing on the right but maybe only 1 in 100 walks up the left side. They effectively halve their throughput and create a massive traffic jam for the outlier use case where someone passes on the left. Not sure how you change a societal habit like this but it would go way faster for everyone if people just got on two-by-two.
  • BO in the subways is very real. If Pagely has a massive exit at some point I’d like to take some of my proceeds and install deodorant dispensers in the subways as a public service.
  • I think Czech drivers may have more regard for ducks than pedestrians. You have to be on your A-game while walking through crosswalks.

Other than those nitpicky points, what a fantastic city…

Thoughts on Remote Year travel thus far

aircraft-carrier-remote-yearThe best analogy I can think of is sailing the Pacific- sure you could probably figure out how to accomplish it on your own solo. But why? Remote Year is like sailing the Pacific with an aircraft carrier as your home base. You can still island hop, do side adventures in a skiff to get sailing fix but then you always have a stable/secure platform to work from and a community of fellow travelers to share the experience with. As I’ve written before, I had explored the notion prior to being on Remote Year of doing a working US road trip that would allow me to connect with folks I hadn’t seen in a long time while performing my role for Pagely. Unfortunately when I got down to brass tacks, the logistical overhead associated with planning accommodations and travel were ultimately preclusive. RY solves the logistical overhead issue and provides the community base to make the travel more social and enjoyable.

I setup to make an easy method for us to follow each other’s writing with the intent that it might lead to even deeper conversations amongst the people we’re traveling with. We have some extremely talented writers in our group and my hope was that by taking friction out of the task of monitoring each other’s long-form journal-style writing (vs the usual bite-sized tweets & instagrams), we’d all get to know each other on a deeper level. I’ve already had conversations that emerged from having read blog posts so it’s working in this capacity so far (at least for me). This should also have the beneficial byproduct of a being a really neat artifact for preserving a bunch of unique angles on the same experience when this is all over. After only 3wks of running so far that site has already collected 782 posts from people across the various RY cohorts. With the frequency of cohorts they’re sending increasing, I think this blog aggregator site could become a pretty substantial blog post “photo book” by the end of this year.
Here is a smattering of some of the posts from folks in our group that resonated most with me:

Nick Fico – Dear Mom
Nancy Levenson – What is Home
Jessica Schlauderaff – Being Homeless
Angela Rose – On Letting It All Be
Molly Falco – I’m not crying, you’re crying
Kelly Tappel – I’m just trying to live a great life
Chris Peloquin – One month down, eleven to go…
David Baaker – video trailer for an unnamed documentary
Lily Linquata – Landlocked
Update 7/9/16: Eddie Contento’s 1st vlog episode… holy cow. This is the best recap of our first month in Prague and gives you a flavor for the journey thus far:

First impressions of Belgrade

We’ve only been here a few days so far but my sense is this is a place we’re catching at a critical inflection point as it’s waking up. It has its rough edges but that’s also the rawness. The staff of Remote Year did a lot of expectation setting prior to our transition to lower the bar of expectations but IMO that was unnecessary. This place is great so far. Sure, user experience for a lot of random things here is just… off in many ways but it also feels like a city at a really interesting juncture with a bustle and yearning to it that you see only in developing, promising places. I’m looking forward to integrating here over the next month and continuing the adventure. This is the only photo I’ve taken here so far coming out our workspace on the main promenade area downtown.

Quick update on Pagely progress

Q3 just started… unbelievable we’re already half-way through this year. One year ago today I had a phone call via my laptop over crappy wifi while kite surfing in San Quintin, MX with my friend and Pagely CEO Josh Strebel about the idea of coming to work for Pagely. Fast forward a year today and we’ve doubled our annual revenue. My goal over the next year while on Remote Year is to then double that again. We just hired our first sales person under me on Friday last week and I’m getting the much needed support on handling day-to-day prospect interaction that is freeing me up to shift my emphasis from tactical to strategic efforts in scaling our leadgen and ultimately growing out our sales organization. Super exciting times as I implement a bunch of funnel secret sauce that should allow us to take our foot off the brake and start driving faster. I’ll talk more about what specifically we’re doing on this front in my half-time commentary video walk through for Belgrade. If you want to get that update from me add your email below:

Jun 20

Here are a handful of panoramas I’ve taken while here in the Czech Republic:

This one in Karlovy Vary this past weekend crossing the river:

Another one from Karlovy Vary in eastern Czech Republic:

I took this on one of our first mornings in Prague running the Charles bridge- it’s got some wacky artifacts in it because there are so many people coming and going (the app doesn’t deal with a lot of movement well):

And this one from the first town hall meeting in the garden area of the K10 workspace:

The app I used to take these is called Photosynth and makes it super easy to capture these on an iPhone. You can see other panos I’ve taken here.

A few regular pics from Karlovy Vary:

The other thing I threw together this weekend is– an aggregator site of all the people in our Remote Year group who are blogging. It gives a river of the latest blog posts from all these folks in one place to make an easy way to follow along with what’s happening with our peeps. Pagely agreed to host it so I slapped a logo on there to give us some advertising. This is the plugin I used to construct the site. We have some fantastic writers in our group – check out a sampling of their writing via that site.

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