The 2:00 a.m. “Stuck in Portland” Redesign Launch Story


I mentioned in the comments about the redesign that there was a back story to this week’s launch, and I thought I’d share the whole story here for those who are interested. According to the new publication schedule (Mondays and Thursdays for main content), you can also check back tomorrow for a more typical article.

First, the Trip to Portland

Following the recommendation of a couple of you, I’ve been reading the great book Flow recently. I’m only a third of the way through, but I’ve already found a number of excellent quotes that I fully identify with. For example:

Contrary to what we usually believe, the best moments in life usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.
–Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I went down to Portland, Oregon for some meetings on Tuesday, and ended up feeling stretched in an unexpected way. The trip was supposed to be 24-hours only – head down in the morning on Amtrak, stay the night and next morning, and head back up the same way the next afternoon. I’m going overseas again in a few days, and didn’t want to be away for long on a domestic trip.

The meetings were great – I saw Tim Clark from Soul Shelter, Carolynn Duncan from Hundred Dollar Business, Havi Brooks (and family) from the Fluent Self, and J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly.

Havi and co. were kind enough to have me over for an excellent vegetarian dinner, and then J.D. bought blueberry pancakes for our breakfast on the morning of my planned departure. This is the second time J.D. has bought a meal for me, and even when I say he’s not going to get rich slowly by picking up the check all the time, he keeps doing it.

I thought that was the end of J.D.’s kind hospitality during this trip, but apparently it wasn’t meant to end there. When I returned to Union Station for my 2:50 p.m. train, I learned it was canceled due to inclement weather. Too bad. The good news, however, was that another train would take me at 6:00 p.m.

“Just come back at 5:30 and we’ll cram everyone on board,” the agent told me.

That didn’t sound very good (three trains of passengers were supposedly going into one), but at least it was a way home. I went back up to Powell’s books and worked there for the rest of the afternoon.

You can probably guess the rest of the story. I dutifully showed up at Union Station well before 5:30. This time I heard that the second train was also canceled, but a series of buses would provide service for all of us going back up to Seattle. I was not optimistic at this point, and at 6:00 they announced that all northbound service (train or bus) was canceled.

There wasn’t a whole lot that could be done. I stood at the station doors and thought about what to do. I don’t usually like to ask for help, but I was definitely stuck. Earlier that day, J.D. and I had a great conversation about life, business, and blogging. He had also mentioned that his wife Kris was out of town this week, so I didn’t feel as bad about calling him up again.

I dialed the number and explained my predicament. “Hey man,” I said. “Feel free to say no, but…”

Instead of saying no, J.D. said yes without hesitation — and even came to pick me up at the train station. We went back to his house, which is known variously as Rosings Park, GRS HQ, or the Roth Hotel. It was indeed a fine lodging establishment, offering free wifi and several cats to play with at no charge. We stayed up talking and typing on our respective computers until about 10:30 p.m. when J.D. went to bed.

“Stay up as long as you need,” he told me, and I took him at his word.

10pm – 2am

For the past few weeks, Reese Spykerman in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has been working hard on the new AONC design. I hate to ask her how much time she has spent on it, but I know it’s been a lot. Reese’s internet connection has been flaky over the past week or two, preventing the data uploading and making it difficult to make even small changes.

While I was hanging out at the Roth Hotel, Reese and I got on Instant Message about 10pm to finish up a few big challenges. For about four hours (off and on), we worked through the final updates together. Thus the IM session: because her internet connection wasn’t good, in some cases she would tell me what to do, and I’d go and make the changes.

The Apartment Situation

While this was going on, Jolie called me from Seattle close to 11pm to report that our apartment had no water. I should mention that our apartment is only half an apartment at the moment, having been flooded over the Christmas holidays due to a burst pipe. It is as lovely as it sounds, although at least until the other night, we still had water.

We agreed it was ironic that the apartment was a) first flooded and b) then had no water. How does that work, exactly? Jolie called our landlord, who called me, and then I called Jolie back – and so on. In the end we all agreed to sort it out in the morning, but of course I was worried about her and frustrated that I couldn’t do anything else from a distance.

The Point of It All

At 2am, I was still awake (barely) when Reese and I came to a stopping point with the updates. We flipped the switch to turn on the new WordPress theme that makes the site work – and it did in fact work. I went to bed and Reese went to dinner with her in-laws.

As tired as I was that night (not to mention the next morning), I also had a feeling of accomplishment. The launch was a stretching experience with a good outcome – we now have a new Art of Nonconformity design that will help the site grow and improve usability for everyone who visits. I’m tremendously grateful to Reese for her ideas and hard work, and I’m also really glad that so many of you like it.

During the process, though, it wasn’t easy. I usually go to bed about 10:30, preferably in my own bed at home or at least in my own room somewhere when I’m traveling. This time I was stranded in Portland with an uncertain apartment situation at home, and I had to stay up until the middle of the night to work on uploading the design.

It’s good to think about this: where are you being stretched? If there’s no stress whatsoever in your life, are you really being challenged? Remember the quote from Flow:

…the best moments in life usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile.

I’m now back in Seattle, at least until I travel overseas next week. The apartment is still a wreck, but the water is back on. J.D. has a house instead of a hotel again, and Reese will be moving to a new home with a better internet connection. All of you have an AONC you can visit (when you want to) that is greatly improved over the initial template-based design. In short, life is good. But sometimes the stress and stretching is also good.

Coming Tomorrow: The 5 Million Frequent Flyer Mile Challenge

Tomorrow I’ll kick off something I’ve been saving for the redesign: the story of how I recently earned 300,000 new Frequent Flyer Miles in one month using creative credit card applications.

Earning the miles for myself is cool, but I’m also going to help at least 100 readers earn at least 50,000 miles for themselves with a similar method.

It’s going to be fun, and I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. See you then!



Against the Flow Image by Colinica

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  • Robyn says:

    WOW! nice layout – I like it!

  • Richard Gay says:

    Nice new design, visually, but for some reason it’s slow to scroll and jumpy.

  • Kathy says:

    Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is such a great resource. It’s one of the driving forces behind my blog. All of my defining moments in life have come from the place where I was stretched to my limit. It’s not an all-the-time experience though as we still need some life balance to maintain the yin-yang.

  • Anthony StClair says:

    Similar happened to me and Jodie, just before the holidays. Jodie and I took the train from Eugene on a Saturday, intending to stay with friends for a day and night, then fly to Colorado on Sunday for the holidays. About 2 hours after we got in, our flight was cancelled, and the earliest we could rebook was for Tuesday morning. Luckily our friends were gracious enough to let us continue floor-crashing with them, so we spent a couple of days catching up, baking, and watching movies. Worked our pretty well, really – they’re friends we never get to spend enough time with. I don’t know about you, but for us we kept looking outside and saying, “When did we get teleported to the northeast?”

    Glad you got home all right. We made our Tuesday flight ok, and had a great trip. Good luck with the apartment!

  • says:

    Great to see that your adversity had a greater benefit! I’ve been following JD’s GRS nearly as long as I’ve been following your travels and I bet the two of you together would provide some insightful conversation.

  • Andrew says:

    I like the new deisgn but I think you should change your article font. It’s something that’s always bothered me about your site.

  • Nathan Hangen says:

    Dang Chris, I know how you feel about the water situation. Seems like every house I move to ends up with a busted pipe in the yard and no water for days. I finally figured out how to save myself the $1,000 and fix it myself.

    With regard to the site, at first I wasn’t sure what to think – it was so different. However, each time I come back I like it more and more. I really like the map in the background and the earthy feel of the site. It ties the brand together perfectly!

    Lastly, your article here provides a lot of insight. I think you and I are alike in a lot of ways, and the more I read your thoughts the more it re-affirms that belief. I tend to put too much stress on myself, which can lead to becoming burned out…but I find that if I am not stressing myself, I do not feel like I am moving forward. Maybe it is a character flaw 🙂

  • David says:

    Nice design! These travel woes can be a drag, especially if there are kids involved. My wife and I got stuck trying to get to Denver too. Check out a new service called They offer notifications for things like flight delays and cancellations and show you replacement flights. It does text messages. Pretty cool! I’ll try to post one from the last trip I took…

  • says:

    When I returned to Union Station for my 2:50 p.m. train, I learned it was canceled due to inclement weather. …..

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  • Wefbee Apk says:

    That’s a trip well spent with lots of beautiful things did.
    Congrats, Wefbee

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