On Gifting, Growing and Being Social

I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.
– Falstaff from Henry IV – Shakespeare

It takes 2 to tango, as they say. We humans are social animals and we need the presence of others to create better, more fun versions of ourselves.  

Like the swordsman Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride bringing shy smiles and humor from the giant Fezzik by offering simple rhyming prompts, Falstaff claimed his doctor’s humorous and mocking message about Falstaff’s urine sample was evidence he could not only make others laugh, but his approach to it brought that gift out in others as well. I don’t know the play Henry IV well enough to say if Falstaff could do that or not, but that’s a pretty cool gift to give! 

We need interactions with other people to feel connected. But, the love of laughter aside, we also need interactions with other people to have opportunities to become better versions of ourselves. This is why so many business gurus encourage their readers to find a mentor, and why great teachers like my wife Jill, my mom and my dad’s mom have such a beloved place in others’ lives. 

While we can’t all be an infectious wit or a great teacher or a business mentor, giving of ourselves to others is always a possibility. Whether it’s your time, a simple kindness, an artistic endeavor, or working to create a product that solves problems for other people, giving of ourselves is a gift we all possess and can pass on to others (“pay it forward,” anyone?).

— a related aside —

Along the theme of giving of ourselves to others, my first writing prompt this morning was, “Are you an organ donor? Why?” 

In addition to our need to interact with others for both giving and receiving gifts of time, humor, love and personal growth, through being an organ donor, we literally have the ability to offer the gift of life – or at least a much better life.

If I’m only alive because I’m on life support, organ donation is a gift that I can give and want to give. People naturally fear the unknown: death, the dark, and leaps of faith of all kinds.  Like our need to give and receive gifts when we interact with others, facing one’s fears is another way we may all grow. 

Personally, I want to live to a ripe old age that makes organ donation a non-issue. Who wants a 90-year-old liver? But if I do go before my time, it gives me some comfort to think that a part of me could live on in someone else, and possibly help them to live  their own life to a ripe old age.  

With that PSA done, I’ll wrap it up. 

We grow through interactions with each other and the receiving and giving of gifts. Gifts aren’t just bought items wrapped with a bow and given for special occasions, and they are literally meaningless without someone to receive them. Give of yourself to someone, and you’ve enriched both of your lives. 

What can you give to enrich your life and the lives of others?

New Beginnings

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Whether you’re for or against the new President of the United States, we can all agree that new beginnings have tremendous power in our lives.

They have such power because the nature of human existence is such that we constantly run into unexpected obstacles and dead ends. Each time that happens, we have a choice: do we persist in our current direction, re-think our path and begin again with new ideas and insights, or do we give up in defeat?

As 2021 continues a contentious new decade that has led to unprecedented modern era difficulties in our lives and democratic governance, which of the above decisions will we make as individuals, an industry, country and global community?

Today, I encourage myself, my co-workers and my fellow Americans to embrace our opportunity to stay the course of democracy, accept our problems and differences, and the courage to strike out in new directions to find solutions to the problems that have plagued us.

As my inaugural first step towards both perseverance and new beginnings, I would like to suggest we all flip Zuck the bird for deliberately profiteering from our struggles because it was easier than figuring out another way to make his billions, and look for new ways to stay connected to our friends, family and community!

What will your inaugural first steps be?

Peace, love, prosperity, perseverance and happiness,


I gave a homeless man a hundred dollar bill

Yesterday as I was driving home from an errand, I saw a man standing in the median between lanes at a stoplight. The light turned red as I approached, and I wound up just a little bit past his position.

It was cold out for where I live, about 40 degrees, drizzly, and this fellow looked *rough*.

I’d been carrying a $100 bill around in my wallet for nearly a year. My stepson paid me that $100 from his 2019 Christmas money to buy a game credit for him online.

I thought about the fact that I’d been carrying this bill around with me for nearly a year. I hadn’t missed it or needed to spend it. It was just there, having little to no impact on my life.

I put my car in park, got my wallet out, and dug out the folded hundred. Without thinking further, I put on my mask, got out of my car and handed him the bill, with a nod and a “Merry Christmas, brother.”

The man just nodded back and said “thank you,” not looking at the bill at first. I walked quickly back to my car so I wouldn’t hold up traffic. About the time I got to my car, I heard him talking to me. His voice wasn’t loud, so I couldn’t really understand him. All I caught was a Merry Christmas in return. He looked a little emotional, but mostly, he just looked worn down.

As I drove away when the light turned green, part of me wanted to go back and get my hundred. Another part of me felt a tiny bit warm and fuzzy. Mostly, I felt uncertain.

I’m not rich. Pretty firmly middle class, actually, and I’d just given a complete stranger $100 of my money, which could have gone for Christmas presents, gas, groceries – any of dozens of things my family needs or buys this time of year.

I conjured up thoughts of “pay if forward”, “random acts of kindness” and all the other pop culture examples of what I’d just done. I tried to focus on the slight warm and fuzzy feeling I’d had, but it was illusive. I thought again about my urge to go back, but that wasn’t a strong impulse either. So I just drove home. By the time I pulled into my garage, I’d nearly forgotten about it.

We all make choices. The man who I gave the hundred to made millions of choices that led him to that moment, as had I. We both had problems that influenced our choices throughout our lives, though mine have likely been considerably fewer and less burdensome than his.

Was my decision in that moment good or bad? I’m sure people have differing opinions on that question.

The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I did something that felt in the moment like a truly generous gesture to someone much less fortunate than myself. Whether it was the right decision or not is a moot point. I hope that it made a positive difference in his day. I know it’s too minute and impersonal to make a difference in his life.

Maybe taking time to think, write and share about my experience will lead to some “a-ha” moment for me in the middle of the night. Maybe it will inspire you to do something nice for someone else. Let me know how that goes if you do. Maybe it will inspire you to be glad you still have the good sense God (or the Universe, or whatever is your thing) gave you, as opposed to me.

Have you ever done something like this, or had an unexpected gift from a stranger? I’d love to hear your experiences.

My 7 Favorite Apps for Staying Sane in Batshit Crazy 2020

2020, it isn’t your fault, but you really do suck. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

I’ve missed friends and family, traveling, normal nights out for dinner and a movie, and a gazillion other little things, and with these times being unprecedented, my primary answers to the first 6 months of the 2020 craziness were work, more TV than usual, and too much screen time on my phone. Not too inspired.

A couple months ago, I decided I needed some new technology to help me get out of my reading-too-much-news, sitting-on-my-ass-too-much, not-being-with-other-people-enough funk, and I’m happy to report that my new “sanity apps” are helping.

TLDR folks: the apps are linked below. This article is a little long, but it’s written with enthusiasm and love for anyone wanting to make their lives a little better in this crazy ass year. So…here we go.

When I was looking for new apps, there were 2 things I wanted them to do:

  1. Help me form good habits
  2. Help me quit bad habits

I was also hopeful that I might have the good sense to try to form good habits that would actually, well, be good for me; and perhaps enough self awareness to choose a couple bad habits that I actually had a prayer of cutting out of my life for the better. This is a long-term play, but I’ve enjoyed the process and results so far, so I thought it was worth sharing.

My 2020 Sanity Apps

Without further ado, here are my 7 2020 Sanity Apps.

The first 6 are actually part of a group of 6 apps called the Growth Bundle. Reviews of the bundle of apps haven’t been stellar – the main complaint being some of the apps are very similar. While there’s some truth to that, I’ve found using the different apps for different purposes to be very helpful.

Incidentally, “Jenny”, whose company Treebetty created the Growth Bundle, seems pretty cool and her company was selected by Apple to participate in an event for women entrepreneurs. She also built several adorable apps for kids 5 and under.

The Growth Bundle Apps

App 1: Done “is a simple habit tracker. It helps you create healthy routines by setting goals, tracking your progress, and motivating you with streaks/chains, all in a simple, clean, package.”

I actually found Done before the Growth Bundle because I was looking for an app to help me to track micro resolutions, or small changes to daily habits. I read the book I linked above years ago, and have tried off and on since to implement it in my life.

A few of my daily Done habits include doing chair poses, pushups, walking up and down all our stairs, starting on my new habits before picking up my phone…little stuff that I can easily do every day. I’ve also added in habits for playing music and making art at least a little bit every day. There are also weekly habits (write for work) and monthly habits (write on my blog), which helps to keep those less urgent but still important recurring to-dos in your routine.

RESULTS: My exercise habits have helped me to shed a couple inches around my middle (no weight loss), and I might have a touch more definition in some muscles, plus my good cholesterol has gone up a bit.

My creative outlet habits have helped to keep me energized for everything else in my life.

I’ve been using the Tally app to track food and water intake. Specifically, I track how many heart-healthy foods I consume in a day (I count both my algae omega 3 supplement and a glass of red wine as 1 each) with a goal of consuming at least 7 servings a day of heart healthiness, and at least 7 16-oz glasses of filtered water a day.

App 2: Tally: “Whether you’re trying to track how many times you ate vegetables this week, how many cups of coffee you drank, or whether or not you took your vitamins today, TALLY can help you get where you want to go.”

RESULTS: Obviously, I make no claims as to the applicability of my results to others, but my cholesterol count has gone down by 30 points over 2 months by pursuing this habit.

TIP: If you’re looking for heart healthy food that’s easy to include in your diet, try oatmeal in the morning with fresh fruit (I like bananas and blueberries), flax meal and chia seeds. We buy organic versions of these items when available. I also occasionally put in a spoonful of maple syrup. Based on recommended servings, I count this breakfast as 4 heart-healthy servings in one meal.

App 3: Do is a really simple to-do list keeper. You can create either single item lists or project lists. I put the important things I’m likely to lose track of in there, and it helps me to have those items separate from my daily deluge of emails and meetings. I like it because it’s REALLY simple, but has a couple useful bells and whistles.

RESULTS: There isn’t a lot to say here, but I’ve completed a couple dozen important things that I probably would have otherwise forgotten about or not done in as timely a fashion.

TIP: Do is where I’ve begun to see the benefit of the Growth Bundle. I’ve tried a gazillion different “getting things done” tools. Do is the first one I’ve stuck to, because it’s in a folder with the Done and Tally apps, which I use multiple times a day. I recommend you keep your bundle in the same app folder, too. If you aren’t familiar with app folders, you can create them by dragging one app over another. This works in both Apple and Adroid phones.

App 4: Last is very like Tally, but instead of helping you track how many times a day you’ve done something, you track how long it’s been since you’ve done something. You can also enter the cost of the bad habit to you in terms of either time or money.

For example, I’m trying to quit eating after 8 PM. So every time I cave in and eat something after 8 PM, I go to Last and click my “Eating After 8” icon. My “last time” clock resets at that moment. I hate opening Last to make an entry, but I like opening it to see how much time or money I’ve saved by not doing something for X days in a row.

Here’s an “I wish” for Last: I wish it offered more “cost” categories, or better yet, the ability to create your own cost category and cost units (X dollars, hours, etc.) for each bad habit.

RESULTS: The longer my “last time” is for anything I’m trying to stop doing, the motivational it is for me to see it in the Last app!

Grateful app screenshot

App 5: Grateful is a gratitude journaling app. You can add pictures, and there are a few different prompts you can use to get you started.

As I shared in my first post, my first wife died in 2009, which led to me taking a Positive Psychology course from the University of Pennsylvania to help me get myself back on track.

Gratitude journaling was one of the top 10 proven methods from that course for increasing resiliency and happiness with one’s life. I enjoy the Gratitude app because it makes it easy to get the journaling process done, and again, it’s grouped with all the other apps, so it’s in front of me multiple times a day, reminding me to be grateful for what I have.

NOTE: If you’re aren’t familiar with positive psychology, it’s the science of what works to help people to thrive and live well, and how to help others to adopt what works for others so they can also thrive in life. Think of it as the polar opposite of traditional psychology, where the object is the science of treating psychological illnesses.

App 6: Moody: “Log a mood in seconds. Optionally log a note, photo, activities and the weather as well.” There’s also good reporting tied into the Moody app.

Logging a mood is actually very in line with the “Labeling” meditation method, which is typically used in conjunction with another style, like focusing on your breath. For example, if a thought distracts you during breath meditation and you become aware of the distraction, you label that distraction as “thinking” and ‘gently’ return your focus to your breath. This method is intended to accept and move on from your mind’s distractions with no judgement as to the distraction itself.

Along the same lines, if I’m feeling…well…moody, I log it in Moody, and return my attention to my work, or play, or whatever. In essence, this app reinforces my work in App 7.

Balance app

App 7: Balance: This is the last app in my 2020 Sanity app folder, and the only one not created by Treebetty. Balance is by far the best meditation app I’ve ever tried. The guided meditations are both intended to help you to learn how to meditate, and also there are some great meditations for specific purposes, some of which you can see in the screenshot to the left of this paragraph.

RESULTS: In short, Balance is helping me to let the stressful moments of 2020 go. Focusing on my breath for a few moments when I’m experiencing an angst-filled moment does wonders for both taking me out of that stressful spiral before it gets in a groove, and also getting me back on track with whatever is more important than the stress of the day moment that was about to set me off.

TIP: One of my Done daily tasks is meditation on Balance. This interweaving of the different apps helps it all to be a single practice, as opposed to 7 different apps in a folder on my iPhone dashboard.

Well, I should probably wrap this up. I’ve already gone longer than most people will care to read. I hope my story gives you some inspiration for ways you can get a little more out of this incredibly unusual and difficult year.

Hit me up on LinkedIn or Twitter if you have any questions or want to share how you’re getting through 2020.



Mostly Bootstrapped Startups in The Great Lockdown

topsy-turvyLife during The Great Lockdown is topsy turvy. I don’t have to explain that to you any more than I have to check GoDaddy to know thegreatlockdown.com was snapped up long before I became aware some clever person coined that term for the COVID 19 pandemic.

Speaking of feeling topsy turvy, I’m confused by never being in the office somehow morphing into a feeling that I’m always at work because suddenly, my home is the only place where I can work. And I can’t compute wanting to hug someone who I haven’t seen in a long time, while also feeling repulsed by the idea of being close enough to hug that person.

One thing I can easily understand: I’m more fortunate than millions of people across the US and around the world. Some of the things I have to be thankful for:

  • my friends and family remain healthy and safe
  • I have a comfortable home and enough to eat
  • I can wear a mask to the grocery store without someone fearing I’m a criminal
  • no one from my company has been laid off
  • essential workers bravely continue to go into work every day
  • and so many more blessings in this time of great hardship for many.

Please forgive me for going on; there’s one more thing I want to share from my gratitude list, and it’s a little specific. Bear with me. I promise I’m going somewhere with this.

In essence, I’m grateful because I work in a mostly bootstrapped startup.

It’s been hard – occasionally very hard – to succeed as a lightly-funded startup competing with companies that have raised more than $10mm in outside capital. But that “lightly funded” part was often the difference-maker for us. We had to be thrifty, we had to sacrifice, but someone – literally an Angel in many cases – always had our backs when we really needed help.

There have certainly been moments when I’ve wished we were located in one of the major startup hubs, where capital seemingly has flowed to growing startups like the mighty Mississippi flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. Smart people have said human beings are lazy by nature — we prefer easy over hard. True to human form, I would have preferred “easier” and “more,” where fundraising is concerned.

However, I’ve come to realize there is a big silver lining to being a mostly bootstrapped startup during The Great Lockdown: we are used to doing more with less. These may well be times when being used to Struggling can be a gift, and being used to Easy can be a curse.

Mostly bootstrapped startups seek out inexpensive office space, use plastic folding tables for desks, and decorate our breakrooms with hand-me-down furniture. We’re careful about every decision we make, because we know we have less cushion for costly mistakes. We have to hire slowly because we have no other choice. We have pot luck Christmas parties instead of extravagant ski trips. We keep our focus on doing the right little things for long-term growth because we don’t have the cash to blitz the market about everything we’re doing right.

And, mostly-bootstrapped startups have people who have our backs when we most need them to.

Suffering and death are happening all over the world as I write this, and this is an article about being grateful for experiences that can best be described as a white man’s observation of limited First World problems. Hence, it’s time for me to wrap this up.

I’m genuinely sorry for startups that have gone bankrupt because their funding has dried up. I ache for people who have been laid off or lost someone to COVID 19. I’m a little sad for a future in which startups don’t have as easy access to capital, and Unicorns with crazy ideas will become rare once more.

But I’m oh-so-grateful that mostly bootstrapped life has prepared my startup to survive, and perhaps even to thrive, in these difficult times.

I hope there might be something about The Great Lockdown, some aspect of life that is incredibly difficult for people today, that will make us all stronger when we’re on the other side of this crisis.

In the meantime, may we all be fortunate enough to have the strength and find the resources to be someone else’s Angel, to help them be mostly bootstrapped. Maybe topsy turvy will work for us, and while we’re more separated from each other than we’ve been in any other moment of history, now will be when we realize how much we need to come together.

On Life and Startups

What do you say to re-introduce a website that hasn’t been active in nearly 10 years? The basics, I suppose.

My name is Mac Bartine, and I’m a high growth startup CEO living in Knoxville, TN with my wife and twin step-sons. I like lots of different things – including growing businesses, and I enjoy thinking, talking and writing about my passions.

Primarily, in this blog I’ll be writing about my experiences in entrepreneurship and my intention to live well in the time that I have. And, I’ll share resources I find that help me in those pursuits.


As I mentioned before, it’s been a while since I used this domain for anything. Beginning in 2007, I used bartine.com to inform friends and family regarding the progress of my then wife April’s struggle to survive breast cancer.

After 2 years of being an inspiration to everyone around her, working full time until she went into the hospital for the final time, and going out with a party instead of under a physician’s care, April passed away in August of 2009 at the much-too-young age of 35, and I stopped writing here shortly thereafter.

I share this part of my life so you know I’ve seen the valleys of life, just like you and everyone else. We can all agree: those periods suck. I can also attest that the valleys – whether personal or professional – still have their moments and are worthy of our attention, so I won’t be skipping over them here.

Fast forward to today: I’m very happily re-married to an amazing woman, have twin stepsons who I adore, and we’re a successfully “blended” family – the boys’ biological dad and I even coached their basketball team together a few years back! Life is good.

Noah, Jill and Owen

It’s taken me 10 years to return to writing about what’s important to me, and I have to say: I’m excited to be back!

I credit the fact that I’m generally happy these days to very good fortune and to my study of psychological research.

Specifically, I’ve studied and am interested in peer reviewed research on what has been proven to help people to thrive and live well, which is also known as the “Positive Psychology” field of study.

You can count on me bringing in research and facts to my posts here, and I’ll welcome good resources you suggest as well.

A few years ago I combined some of my favorite life lessons and positive psych research into a response to a question on Quora, “What are the top 10 things I should experience in life?”, which got picked up as an article by Inc.com. I wouldn’t say that article encapsulates everything I believe is truly important, but it’s a good list if I do say so myself, and I expect to occasionally expand on some of the article’s 10 subjects here.

Summing up, I want to write here about life and all its facets. I may also occasionally share a personal creative project that I’m particularly excited about at a given moment in time.


My first real job out of grad school in 1996 was at a startup that made statistical process control software. The company had a creative solution that customers liked, was filled with talent, and was battling to win against bigger companies with worse technology. You could say it was a classic startup experience.

While that company didn’t “make it”, the time I spent there gave me the startup bug, and I’ve stoked the fires of that passion ever since.

Over the last 23 years, I started multiple solopreneur businesses, had a lot failures and a few successes, learned a little about business management, more about working with people, and a lot about promoting products and ideas online.

In 2010, I became a partner in a great digital marketing agency called VIEO Design. There, I learned a lot more about business and the importance of having a great team. Nearly 10 years later, I’m very proud to remain a silent partner at VIEO. They’re better than ever with a variety of clients ranging from advanced aircraft manufacturers to thought leadership in the psychology of influence.

In October of 2015, I became CEO of SmartRIA, a SaaS (software as a service) startup that simplifies compliance for the wealth management industry.

I was fortunate to take over leadership of SmartRIA after our founder spent considerable time and money to build a solid beta version of the software and get dozens of trial accounts in use.

Nearly a year later, we officially launched in August of 2016 and had 39 paying users by the end of that year. 2 1/2 years later, we have grown to thousands of paying users and our reputation within our industry is growing rapidly.

I’ve learned several very interesting lessons at SmartRIA, had some great victories and plenty of failures too, and I expect to discuss some of the best moments that are appropriate for sharing here. More frequently though, I’ll be talking about the high growth startup experience in general, and sharing what I observe to work well to solve problems in the startup environment.

Combine the Two: Life and Startups

What I really want to think about and write about here is where the subjects of living well and working in a high growth startup environment intersect. Sometimes, they mix like oil and water. Sometimes, they come together like the best birthday party guest list ever.

I’ll also write about regulatory compliance, the arts, and other topics that are important to me and my business.

Here’s to living well and starting up new adventures!