The Design of Sources of Insight


The Design of Sources of Insight

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” — Epictetus

Sources of Insight is really driven by one thing – to help you make the most of work and life.  One of the things that surprised me about Sources of Insight is how many people have asked me about the design of it.  It’s a work in progress, but there is certainly an element of design about it.

Why Sources of Insight
Before we talk about the design, let’s talk about the inspiration for it.  My inspiration for the site was a few things:

  • A lot of the skills you need for work and life, you don’t learn in school.
  • Know-how is a way to help level the playing field.
  • What you don’t know, can hurt you.
  • A lot of the information we know is hard to turn into simple action.
  • There are many proven practices that are incredibly effective for a variety of situations and problems, but you have to know they exist and how to perform them.
  • There is a wealth of wisdom in books, people, and quotes that is spread across time and space.
  • The world is changing at a faster pace than we can keep up and we need the skills to go the distance.

You get the idea.  Basically, I saw a big gap between the skills that are available versus what we tend to carry around with us.   With that in mind, I made it a point to start building and sharing a catalog of insight and action for work and life.

Presenting the Design of Sources of Insight
I put together a brief presentation (~20 slides) that shows the what, the why, and the how behind Sources of Insight.  It also shows you how to find your way around more effectively.  Enjoy!


The Design in a Nutshell
The  design of Sources of Insight really comes down to just a few key things:

  • Simplicity – I’m a fan of keeping things simple and simplicity is a key driver for me.   At the same time, I try to avoid just scratching the surface of important topics.  Instead, I try to dive deep, but then turn the depth into a set of simple actions or a simple model that’s easy to remember.  One way I do this is by giving things sticky names or titles that are easy to remember.  I also make it a point to use simple language, and focus on the goal of helping you get the point as easily as possible.
  • Actionable – I make it a point to turn insight into action where I can.   Sometimes this means turning something into a set of steps.  Other times, this means turning something into a set of questions you can use to drive your thinking.  At the end of the day, the three main things we’ve got to work with are thinking, feeling, and doing.  The beauty of questions is that they can shape your thinking, feeling, and doing.  Asking better questions is the key to getting better results.
  • Patterns and Practices – I tend to focus on the patterns and the practices.  I find this helps make a topic more actionable and more useful and more memorable.  When something is a named pattern, it’s easier to identify it as well as store it in your mind for later use.
  • Hot Spots – To help scope my focus, I tend to share insight and action around a key set of categories: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun.  I find these areas have a synergy and really make a difference in people’s lives.  They are also key for work-life balance.

That’s really the backbone of the design.  From there, I simply build on this core foundation and I try to stay flexible, while keeping a theme of patterns and practices and a focus on Hot Spots.  My tribe helps me continuously reshape the focus as well as tune and prune the language.

Books, People, and Quotes
While I share a lot of the lessons I learn from my day to day in the trenches, I also make it a point to share the best of what I learn from books, people, and quotes.  I like to “Stand on the shoulders of giants!” and I think there is a wealth of wisdom all around us.  I try to turn this wisdom into insight and action in the form of principles, patterns, and practices.  I’ve studied patterns and practices for more than ten years in a deliberate practice sort of way.  This makes it easy for me to recognize patterns and themes, as well as share them in a simpler way.

My Microsoft Tribe and Then Some …
On a practical level, I mentor a lot of people so Sources of Insight is a way that I can scale myself, as well as reach those that might benefit from what I share, even though we might never actually meet in person.  At this stage, I tend to reach 40,000 unique visitors a month, and many of them are my Microsoft colleagues.  It works out well because, as a tribe, it tends to be a tribe of self-starters who want more from life.  My blog is still growing and I know it’s early.  I’m closing in on two-years come this September.  I heard year three is the magic year, where things really take off.

I’m always open for feedback and suggestions on the path forward.    Feel free to leave a comment or if you prefer, you can email me using the contact form.

Photo by cliff1066.


  1. Awesome JD, awesome..
    You begin by explaining the inspiration for the site, then explain the design of the site.. exactly why this site will bring to you all that you dream for it..unlimited potential, and you’ve laid an excellent foundation for that…Thank you for sharing!
    I love your quote….“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” — Epictetus. May we all apply that to not only the paths we choose, but the way we choose to personally grown/embrace/experience…

  2. I like how in the Design PDF your page on Hot Topics On The Home features the post about your dad, nice touch. It seems that love always leads the way with insight, patterns and pratices.

    Year three’s the charm for blogging, eh? I had not heard that. I better upgrde my BlueHost to Pro in anticipation. 🙂


  3. Hi J.D – It’s great that folk from work also read your blog. What I like about your site is that you explains ideas and break them down into something I can actually put into practice. Sometimes I will read books and find something that sounds great but I’m left wondering how it could apply to me. You should write a book.

    I like the books you recommend, so I try to buy most of them. Instead of giving some glowing empty review, you actually make me see how I could benefit from reading the book, which is useful.

  4. @ Joy — Thank you. I think the foundation is the key. While each post is a nugget, I want the whole to be more than the sum of the parts.

    @ Jannie — Three might be the charm, but first I’ll have to make it through the terrible twos 🙂

    @ Cath — Thank you. One of my favorite things to do is turn a book into a set of actionable nuggets. Some books make it way easier than others.

  5. Wow a powerful design and action plan – JD at his best…I come here to be inspired and am not sure if I will ever have so many visitors to my blog – third year or not….but it is fun to think about and celebrate with you…

    I do not know what I would do without JD and Sources of Insight…wandering your archives is such a education in itself.

    Thank you for all your energies and good works…you share good information and folks come back for more…that seems like how it is supposed to work.

  6. @ Karl — Thank you. I plan to dive deeper and get into some more hard-core skills. I want to seriously equip and empower people to deal with whatever life throws their way. I suspect I’ll also create a catalog of information products from freemium to premium.

    @ Patricia — Thank you. It’s all about the tribe. I serve the tribe with insight and action and that’s really the foundation. The tribe connects at values. I think what grew my tribe the most was my You 2.0 eBook. I met a lot of new folks inside and outside Microsoft from that one, and I presented it at some key events.

    @ Jannie — I like that. Maybe even the Furious Fives, as in Kung-Fu Panda style. Whether Fannie or Jannie, you’re still the one and only Funster.

  7. Hi JD .. I’ve downloaded it .. but I need time for an indepth look and proper read .. and that’s not for now – so in a few weeks .. I’ll be back for a proper look.

    It’s great to be a part of your tribe ..and learn so much – and am always grateful for the valuable insights you give us ..

    I will be back .. have a great rest of the week .. Hilary

  8. J.D., this post is so effective!

    My takeaways: (I can tell I’ve grown on this path or I certainly would not have chosen these ones before)
    *What you don’t know, can hurt you.
    *The world is changing at a faster pace than we can keep up and we need the skills to go the distance.

    I saw a big gap between the skills that are available versus what we tend to carry around with us. With that in mind, I made it a point to start building and sharing a catalog of insight and action for work and life.

    (I found this so interesting because we each have “this unique gap” in us that only we can truly fill in an impactful way! I find it neat to read of what this gap is for others.)

    “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” — Epictetus
    what a great quote to ponder!

    I watched the presentation and this is what most stayed with me, and how I have found your site helpful!

    Sources of Insight is a place to empower you:
    ?I wanted a place of strength, inspiration, and proven practices to help you lead a better life.
    I wanted a place for the timeless advice that helps us deal with whatever curve balls life throws our way.
    ?I wanted a place where some of the world’s best-selling authors and experts can directly share their insights and lessons learned.

    expand your tribe.
    know thyself.

    lessons learned from a particular person or hero.
    (& movies lesson takeaways or reviews), I love quotes.

    Keep up the great work here! 😉 It is so much appreciated!

  9. @ Hilary — Sounds good. I think you’ll enjoy the model and the behind the scenes look.
    You’re insight and perspective are always valued contributions to the tribe.

    @ Jenn — I think the “empowering YOU” with skills for work and life really captures the heart of it. Thank you.

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