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Hey! 👋

You're probably looking for a Flexbox cheat sheet, tutorial, or perhaps the landing page of Sketching with CSS. After over 10 years I've decided to redirect that domain to this page.

If you're looking for a flexbox cheat sheet, this one is good

If you still want Sketching with CSS you can download the complete package, for free, here.

The rest of this page is a memorial, a way for me to close this important chapter of my life and focus on what I'm working on.

Illustration by Dennis Salvatier

7 years of corporate grind

Sketching with CSS is the first product I created that sold for a profit. It was not for lack of trying.

I spent the first seven years of my career in corporate jobs, two years at Accenture then five years at McMaster-Carr. But that was never the plan. While in college, I'd completely digested everything written by Paul Graham and Seth Godin and knew I wanted to start my own company so when I completed the Eller College Entrepreneurship program and graduated with a major in Computer Science I thought I was fully prepared. I was not.

For the last two years of college, I had been paying my bills by grinding online poker and I thought that's what I was going to keep doing but then Senator Harry Reid pushed through the UIGEA in 2006 and made online poker in the US effectively illegal just before I was set to graduate. With no real backup plan, I interviewed at Accenture and thus was sucked into the corporate grind.

I was immature and unprepared for adult life, even more than the typical 20-something.

At the end of my first year at Accenture I was ranked number two out of all of the analysts at the company, (they stack ranked everybody each year and managed out the bottom 10%). But that was not sustainable for me at all and in my second year there I was completely burned out and needed something different.

I landed a job at McMaster-Carr and my work-life balance significantly improved. I quit smoking and with the extra time, I improved my health and for the next five years invested my spare time into side projects. I took each of these projects seriously. I ran the Chicago Lean Startup meetup. I worked on projects on the train, at lunch and when I got home. For one of these projects, I shared an apartment with my wife and co-founder for a year.

None of them worked.

🪄 30 X 500 🦄

Around 2012 I discovered Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman and their course 30 X 500.

I read everything they had available for free, put in my notice at work and signed up for the first available cohort.

Given my previous track record, this was dumb.

McMaster paid well, had interesting problems to work on and was a super stable employer. I tossed it to the side to pay some internet strangers $1500 for a course in one of the scammiest of the scammy sectors of internet courses.

It turns out this was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The course Amy and Alex put together sent me on a path of unlearning that is still unfolding for me to this day. Everything that I know about making products started with their lessons which helped me create Sketching with CSS.

I wrote about the business side of this journey here, which I wrote just after getting Sketching with CSS out the door.

I wrote about the human experience side of this journey here.

Your first startup, you learn about yourself

I wish I could say that Sketching with CSS is the product that broke the dam for me and unlocked the entrepreneurial career I'd always dreamed of. Instead, I created a moderately successful small business, broke myself into a million pieces and barely survived. I wish I'd done it sooner.

Matt Wensing, (also a McMaster alum!), once said something in a Slack community I'm a part of that was approximately this: "When you start your first business you're learning about yourself and how to get out of your own way." Most people, most of the time, (whether they realize it or not), want to start their first startup because they need to learn something about themselves. They're trying to fill some hole in their psyche that they don't even realize is there yet. But oh boy are they gonna figure that out quickly.

I don't think there was any other path for me, I was either going to avoid exposing my weaknesses and run away from my emotional limits for the rest of my life or demolish my ego and find the real me. Something in me knew there was only one choice.

I don't mean this in the "Rah rah, startups are hard and epic and you have to sweat blood to win and you'll probably get a divorce but if you don't do this you're a coward and you just aren't hustling enough" kind of way. That's a bunch of nonsense with a bit of truth in it — startups are challenging. For most folks starting a new business is the first time paying their bills is directly linked to their output not just getting a gold star from a teacher ...ah, oops **ahem** I meant to say a good performance review from a manager. It's sink or swim and I will always respect people that give it a shot even if it doesn't work out. But what was it about Sketching with CSS and starting my own business that was particularly hard? The answer is me. I was the hard part.

Today that 20-year-old with no boundaries and no self-knowledge has grown up. I suspect all 40-somethings feel this way to some extent, but I kinda think that because of the choice I made over ten years ago now, I learned a lot more about myself than a normal person. I feel transformed.

And so that's it, Sketching with CSS is no more. I'll be forever grateful to all of my readers and the wonderful emails I received over the years of their successes as they made their way through the book and learned how to rapidly prototype their designs...though I'm sure you're all just using Figma now 😉

— Sean

Published: 3/24/2024