Kid President: Letter to a person on their first day here.

There is something awesome about hearing wise life advice from a cute little kid.

FYI: If you would like more writing, please bear with me a moment. I don’t want to spam email followers with more than one email a day, but am experimenting with what it feels like to share great content on different platforms (specifically, comparing this to remixing this content on Soulmix).

Arnold’s 6 rules of success

I’ve recently stumbled across a really inspirational rendition of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech on his 6 rules to success. I’m a sucker for these kinds of things so thought I’d share.

  1. Trust yourself.
  2. Break some rules.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail.
  4. Ignore the naysers.
  5. Work like hell.
  6. Give something back.

I could watch this over and over, and get pumped up every single time.

Moar thanks

RandyPausch-TimeManagement-Thanks-mod

This is a screen capture from a talk by the late Randy Pausch on time management. If you haven’t seen the talk, it is a great talk. Highly recommended.

During the slide, he mentions the importance of focus and organization in your working environment, and uses his desk as an example. He only has a few his desk:

  • An outbox that acts as an interface for physical things between him and his secretary.
  • A box of tissues. A class he teaches is particularly tough, and offering tissues is useful to comfort students who cry.
  • A wall calendar.
  • Work order forms.
  • Envelopes.
  • Post-it notes.
  • Thank you cards.

The last one stuck out at me. How many people have thank you cards on their desk?

Randy goes on to explain the importance of ‘thank you’s. People don’t say thanks enough, and it can make a huge difference. We tend to focus on the bad stuff in life, and forget the good. ‘Thank you’s help remind people the good that they have done. Even if nothing has gone wrong, that in and of itself can be a good thing. Randy mentions often thanking is secretary when things have gone smoothly: “a few weeks have gone by, and nothing has gone wrong. Thanks!”. There are even benefits to saying ‘thank you’. Once Randy thanked an attendee at a conference, who turned around and offered him a lucrative contracting job. So saying ‘thank you’ may even be a great strategy for advancing your career. Even so, the reason to give thanks is because it is the right thing to do.

This particular part of the talk greatly inspired me.

My desk is cluttered with much more than seven things on it, and none of them include thank you notes.

Perhaps it is time to get some, and spend some time actively giving thanks.

It also makes me think. Written letters are great because they feel very personal, but they require time, as well as a known mailing address. Email is more convenient, but feels less personal.

Is there a better way to send thanks? Hmmm.. perhaps there’s an app for that. If there isn’t, there should be 🙂

To feel alive

RUSH

I recently watched the movie Rush, a movie on the 70’s rivalry between Formula 1 drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt. In a voice-over early on in the movie, James Hunt talks about women, driving, and feeling alive:

I have a theory why women like racing drivers. It’s not because they respect what we do, driving round and round in circles. Mostly they think that’s pathetic, and they’re probably right. It’s our closeness to death. You see, the closer you are to death, the more alive you feel, the more alive you are. And they can see that in you, they feel that in you.

This quote immediately rang true, and stuck with me: not the part about women (I’m sure it may be true), but the part about feeling alive.

The closer you get to death, the more you feel alive.

The thing is, this is pretty extreme. I’ve never had a real brush with death, and most of the people I know haven’t either.

For us, there may be another less-extreme way to put it:

You closer you get to failure, the more alive you feel.

This feels very true to me, although I admit I have only learned it recently.

For most of my academic/working life, I wouldn’t say that I did much which made me feel particularly alive.

In school, many things didn’t matter. Sure, an ‘A’ was tough to get. But for the most part, passing (i.e., getting a D- or better) was pretty easy. Grad school was similar. Getting a specific paper published was difficult, but with time, most PhD students figured out how to graduate with a paper or more. With so many PhDs graduating, failure didn’t feel like a huge concern.

Since I quit my job, things have drastically changed. Failure is a real option. I have already worked on several projects that have not panned out. These failures have cost me time and money, both of which are valuable. I make no money at the moment. I am spending from my savings, and each month without some sort of success eats into these savings. Each month brings me closer to going broke, which would feel like a real failure.

In short, I’m trying to say that my ass is on the line. I feel it every day, and it can be pretty stressful.

But you know what?

After nearly two years of this, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I feel alive. I feel that my work matters. There is real upside, and there is real downside. I am pushing myself, and I am trying to creating something meaningful in the world. Honestly, I can’t think of a better job.

Mastering art and craft

David-Hockney-Woldgate-Wo-001

I had never really been one for museums. I’ve visited a few, but have always gotten bored after ~20 minutes.

Last weekend, I took a trip up to the de Young Museum in San Francisco to see the David Hockney exhibit and something great happened. I had an awesome time!

What made the difference?

Museums usually cover vast areas of art, time, styles, etc. As I walk through, I appreciate that the art is good, but you get a few pieces per artist and then you move on to the next artist. And then the next time period. Something about this approach to art just doesn’t excite me.

This exhibit was different. We spent all of the time on a single artist in one single, large, multi-room exhibit. It wasn’t just a few rooms; it was many. The exhibition was called ‘David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition‘, and damn did it live up to its name (as far as I can tell, but I’m no museum buff).

The exhibit showed David Hockney’s work throughout a good chunk of his career, and it was mesmerizing. It showed many of his sketches. It showed his oil paintings he is well known for. It showed the work from his two years experimenting with watercolor painting. It showed is large works of art, using several canvases to create a single piece (such as the image at the beginning of this article). It showed art that he created on the iPhone and the iPad. It covered everything, and it was amazing.

Most importantly, you could feel David Hockney’s passion. You would see an oil painting of a random person sitting in a chair. And then another with a different random person. And another with someone else. You see a painting of a landscape. And then the same landscape in a different season. Or under different lighting. Or in an abstract art style. Towards the end of the exhibit, I noticed the exact dates on his iPhone and iPad drawings. David Hockney is 76 years old now, and is drawing every day!

I realized that museums don’t excite me. But, artists do.

This was a story of a man who loves his craft. It wasn’t about a few pieces. It was about creating.. every.. single.. day. It was about repeating scenes, and making sure to appreciate the difference in lighting or seasons. It was about exploring a single medium (oil painting), and then another (watercolor), and even the more modern mediums (iPhone).

I left the de Young museum incredibly inspired.

David Hockney has painted for 50+ years. Over the years, he has created an amazing amount of great art. And he is still at it.

It has made me think a whole lot about how I approach work and career. If I chose something I was passionate about, and then worked at it everyday for 50+ years, what could I learn? What could I accomplish?

Maybe that is the trick to mastering a craft. It isn’t complicated. It just requires passion, and continued effort over time.

(For those in SF Bay Area, this weekend turns out to be the last weekend of this exhibit. If you have the chance to see it, I would highly recommend it.)

Helping people be who they want to be

The-Me-I-want-to-Be

I’m an idealistic person by nature.  I’m also really into personal development, life hacking, etc. As a result, I often think about different ways to change my mindset, behaviors, and habits.

Thinking about change is all good when it comes to myself. At any given moment, I know what I want to be, and anything I can do to change into a better version of myself should be a good thing.

Things get much tricker when applied to others. It isn’t always all good. Other people have different mindsets. They are motivated in different ways, and want different things. Thinking about changing someone else can be a very dangerous thing. Go about this the wrong way, and you could lose some friends. At the worst, you could be viewed as manipulative and it could destroy relationships.

Still, I care about myself, and I care about others. I can change (I think?), and so should others right? If I could do something great for the world, I would like to help others change.

However, as I grow older, a lesson repeats itself, and it is starting to be clear to me.

And the lesson is this:

You can’t just change people, or tell them what to do. You can only help people be who they want to be.

If you believe this, there are a few ways to go about genuinely helping people.

  1. Help them define who they want to be. Some people don’t quite know what they want to be. If you can help someone begin thinking about what they want to be, that is huge. Others have an idea of who they want to be, but are still figuring it out. I’d say most people are in this camp. For these people, whatever you can do to get people to refine their vision of themselves is a win.
  2. Inspire them to be who they want to be. Real change can take courage, and inspiration is always good. Sometimes you do this by kicking them in the ass. Other times you are their cheerleader. Or, in the right circumstances, it can be as simple as just being yourself.
  3. Actively help people be who they want to be. There are several ways to do this. You could be a supportive shoulder to lean on. You could help make it socially OK to be who they want to be. You could lower or remove barriers in their way. Or you could help them leap forward: it could be monetary (such as investment money), social (making an intro to someone important), whatever.

As far as I can tell, any time spent doing these three things is time well spent.