Why is Paris one of the most beloved cities in the world? One of the most romantic?

Jan Gehl would say: we love Paris, because it is one of the most walkable cities in the world.

In his seminal book, Life Between Buildings, he studies pedestrian traffic. He shows us that what makes a place “livable” is whether people can linger in the spaces in between buildings.

In an ideal world, human existence isn’t confined to nodes, navigating life in a linear fashion, from A to B. Home to work, work to grocery, grocery to home. That’s the suburban model…


I love the Calm app. I’ve tried Headspace a few times, but Calm is actually more my cup of tea. Why?

Calm has actually helped me build a habit of meditating. Each day, I look forward to meditating. I now consider myself a student of meditation, rather than a dabbler.

It’s not all because of the app. Other changes in life have shaped my current interests. But you can say that I am now relying on Calm to complement my practice — more so than any other tool.

I wanted to understand why I like this tool so much, from…


You might be familiar with the Eisenhower Matrix:

It’s a framework for deciding what to prioritize.

  1. You think about whether something is important or not important.
  2. Then you think about whether it’s urgent or not urgent.

Here’s an observation: the tiny habits that help you to achieve a goal live in the Not Urgent + Important corner. Yet, the ambition of that overarching goal lives in the Urgent + Important corner.

For example, you’re looking to lose 20 pounds to fit into your wedding dress over the next 12 months. When you envision yourself at your wedding, taking photos, dancing…


I learned a new idea called “emotional granularity.” I was listening to The Knowledge Project, a podcast by Shane Parrish of the Farnam Street Blog.

Lisa Feldman Barrett is the researcher behind the idea. Emotional granularity is when people describe their emotions with specificity. For example, rather than say a situation is good or bad, they might say it’s enlivening or deflating. They might say a certain person makes them feel exuberant and anxious at the same time. There’s a spectrum. They perceive things beyond the black and white.

I thought about the connection between emotional granularity and nonviolent communication…


I spent everyday of high school working at my parents’ Chinese takeout joint. In Miami, this meant American style Chinese takeout with a Cuban flavor.

I’m standing behind a counter. The phone rings.

“Ah-lo, gimme the five dollar special with, uh, the wings and a side of frijoles.”

“Will that be all?”

“That’s all.”

“Ok, 10 minutes. Gracias.”

I hang up the phone. I walk through the pink shower curtains that block the kitchen, I pin the receipt to the clothesline, and shout out the order to my parents.

They walk into a freezer, and come back into the kitchen…


If you’re reading this, you know the struggle.

Google Jamboard

You get to use sticky notes, pen tool, text tool, and others. If you want to brainstorm around a topic, you can simply write your prompt at the top. Then you ask people to write sticky notes. Set a timer for, say, three minutes. This way, you allow people to think independently, and you avoid groupthink. After a few minutes you think out loud. You observe patterns. There are usually a few topics that pop up more than once. Those present an excellent opportunity to set aside a few…


Photo: Charles Deluvio, Unsplash

It’s been about half a year since I’ve been working from home. Meetings are even more frequent now. Yet, have they become better meetings? More efficient? More useful? More… enjoyable?

It depends on how you define a “better” meeting. For me, “better” is not so much about the tool, as it is about the ways we talk to one another. It’s about how we structure our conversations — if there is structure in the first place.

The problem with a lot of meetings is that people don’t feel like they have a say. Perhaps there are power dynamics at play…


What does it mean to be curious? It means paying attention to moments.

Credit: Thomas Renaud, Unsplash

There are a few lines from a book that keep popping up:

“Each event spoke with a cryptic tongue. And the moments of living slowly revealed their coded meanings…

There was the delight I caught in seeing long straight rows of red and green vegetables stretching away in the sun to the bright horizon…

There was the yearning for identification loosed in me by the sight of a solitary ant carrying a burden upon a mysterious journey…”
— Richard Wright, in his novel Black Boy

What stands…


What is tinkering? Trying things out. Not knowing what will happen. Not knowing you’ll arrive at the “solution” today, if ever.

Recently I bought an AeroPress so that I can make a less sucky cup of coffee. Watching the documentary, AeroPress Movie, I paused at this one moment. This frame shows various prototypes for the coffeemaker, designed by Alan Adler. In total, he made 35 prototypes before producing the final design.

Source: AeroPress Movie, 2018

The final product looks like this:


Imagine there’s a way you could toast bread without firing up the stove, flipping the bread in a pan, and burning your fingers along the way. Lottie is the equivalent of this tool.

Once in a while, a tool like Lottie comes along that changes the game. I hear often that tools are simply tools. They will evolve, they will vanish. What matters is what you’ll build with those tools. I agree. But when someone spends time and energy to craft a tool, and when thousands of people say that the tool is making their lives a whole Lottie easier…

Tan Chan

Senior Motion Graphic Designer at Planned Parenthood; I write about coding for animation + mental models for living well. 🔅 bytanchan.com

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