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This time, right now, is probably one of the biggest opportunities you will ever have in your whole life.
This isn’t just hyperbole or cliche (though it’s also both). In reality, huge things are emerging today that you have access to at almost no cost. If you get your hands on them, they’ll let you transform your world in a way that’s unprecedented.
This can happen, if you want it to happen. Just a fact.
I got an email the other day from a guy who I’ve been talking with for a while. He told me his blog wasn’t going well, and he needed traction and wanted to know how to build his “permission asset,” etc. To gather email addresses. To develop an audience.
And I looked at my mailing list on Breather and thought “There is no blog so good that it can gather this many emails so fast. No blog is even half as interesting as a real fucking thing that you are actually making. Something you invent. Nothing.”
Another way of saying this is: There is no social media expert even half as interesting as an actual entrepreneur. Even a failing one.
It’s true. It’s about skin in the game. It’s about the story. And the story of “this huge thing happened, and then… I talked about it!!!” — is just not that exciting.
So I got a comment on my blog from someone a few months back. I don’t remember where it came from but it said: “Julien, you’re just a talker. You haven’t actually done any of this stuff before, ever. Why should we trust you? How do we know you’re steering us right?” Etc.
This guy was right.
It’s not that I was a phoney, exactly. But I was a talker– a very good one, actually. I was one for a very long time. As time went on (and I wrote the post linked above three years ago), I became conscious of it. Though, in fact, I have made millions of dollars for clients, and though I never really talked about it, I had never really made something big myself.
So when I had this idea, I thought, “My God, I could really put myself into this. This is something.” This is one year ago.
And this is a time where you realize, and you encounter, potential failure — not just private failure, but public failure. And it’s daunting. You can’t always stand up to it. It hurts– even in the abstract. So you don’t want to do it.
I was lucky though. I had written a short book about it– a book that actually called my future self out, saying: “Listen, you fucking wuss. Take the hard path. Do it. To do anything else would be to make a choice unworthy of you. Do the right thing.” So I did.
And the hard road, indeed, is hard. It just is. But I had to go, and I went, and here I am, mid-way through.
In a way it reminds me of walking the Camino de Santiago a few years ago with Helen. When you start, ok, there’s no problem, but when you’re on the path, you’re like holy shit! - and that’s when you get tested. The testing is, in fact, impossible to predict or understand while you are on the sidelines. And that is a good thing.
It’s a good thing because it divides people, actually. Of course, there is always the “we are all good people and everyone deserves respect” thing. So in that way, people are not divided. But they are in the “I have willingly sought out potential embarrassment and downside for myself in exchange for…” something. Glory, self-respect, whatever it is. The ability to go out and assume risk is important. It’s vital, actually.
A friend of mine, Chris Guillebeau, was talking at Le Web as well on the day after I launched Breather there. He said to the audience to “seek out a quest.” By that, I think he means, “go get something bigger than yourself.”
Chris is right, but the problem is that we feel so minuscule in the world today, because it is so large and ineffable. Julian Assange expressed this in an essay several years ago on this blog, saying prophetically, “I believe I have found a way to have an impact on the whole world– but just because you haven’t yet, it doesn’t mean you should quit. Keep going.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
Meanwhile, the easiest thing is still to lay back and not do much. But it is an error to do so unless it’s deliberately intended for recuperation. In Paris last week I got run over by a rollerblader (yes, really), and fucked up my elbow. So I don’t plan on going rock climbing any time soon, but if you are anything else but injured, you probably need to be doing more.
But what are you going to do more of? Well, exactly. It’s hard to know. But this is what I mean about opportunity.
Things are unfolding now. 3D printing. Drones. Internet of Things technology. Things people do in their spare time. The social media subway is gone, and you probably didn’t catch it, and that’s ok. There is something else coming. So what you need is just to stay on the edge.
And this is the thing about the edge. It’s hard to imagine from far away. You can’t guess about it unless you’ve seen it. It’s hard to imagine from Omaha– you have to be damn good to do it.
I was in San Francisco a few months back, mid-way through raising the $1.5mm we got for our company, and I met this dude from Montreal. And I start saying something like “oh you know how Uber lets you reserve a black car with your phone,” and he’s like, “uh,” and it’s clear he has no idea what I’m talking about.
So I tell him. No big deal. But the next thing out of my mouth, because this guy has an agency he’s trying to start, is “how can you try and make things for clients if you don’t even know what the present looks like?” You can’t! The future is not accessible to those that don’t understand the present. Not technology-wise, anyway. (Feel free to prove me wrong.)
Anyway, a long time ago Ryan Holiday and I realized we got confused for each other a lot. But I don’t think that’s going to happen much anymore, which is just as well, because I think he’s probably better than me. I am no longer “in marketing,” although I know about marketing. I can tell you about Twitter, if you really want, but I am not a Twitter guy, nor a social media guy, just the way, a few years ago, I became “no longer a podcasting guy.” I still have lots of friends in that business, and they are doing great work.
But I, personally, have moved on. I am rebuilding myself in another image.
When was the last time you did so? Do you remember when you last shed your skin?
Anyway, I wish you luck with what you are working on. Let’s keep fighting the good fight. I’m rooting for you.
Today my new book, The Flinch, is launched on Seth Godin’s Domino Project.
It’s about how to push your own barriers and how to do things that scare you.
Writing the book was hardest thing I’ve ever done, and as an experiment, it’s available for free.
With the help of Seth, Chris Brogan, and many others, I made something so far beyond my usual capacities that it actually shocks me.
Godin called it: “a surprise, a confrontation, a book that will push you, scare you and possibly stick with you for years to come.”
If it’s even that good, the question then becomes, how can you, the reader, make something so great that even you are unsure of how it was made?
1. Burn your bridges. I was conscious of the fact that I would never get a chance to publish under Godin’s Domino Project again. I knew that if I screwed it up, I was done. You do your best work with your back against the wall, when you are uncomfortable and you put yourself in freefall, on purpose.
2. Grow an eye in the back of your head. Your blind spots, whether they are laziness or settling for anything sub-par, will kill you. I had people the entire way telling me to make it better, over and over again, until I practically cried and didn’t know how.
3. Be willing to suffer. Forget about the “starving artist” myth. Starving is easy– deprogramming is hard. Because you are a human being, you are programmed to settle in one way or another, and breaking that programming will hurt. Get used to it– it’s the only way to make something exceptional.
4. Be comfortable making something that people will hate. No one will love your work unless it has an opinion– and with an opinion come those that disagree. The first person outside of our little circle that saw the work did not like it at all, perhaps even hated it. This is also how I knew that I had something that some people would fight for.
5. Consider the future. In the future, books either cost $50 or $0. They are frictionless and those that travel the fastest and spread the widest, win. Make your work as close to the future as possible– but only 6 months, not 18 months. If you’re too far in the future, it’s possible no one will get it.
6. Sharpen your idea. This part is damn hard. Only when the idea became “the flinch” did I know that I had an idea that was sharp enough to travel. Every other idea had too much friction, too much difficulty to be expressed. When the idea marketplace is saturated (and it is now, more than ever), your idea needs to be more graspable than ever before, because you only get one chance.
7. All content must be spreadable. Quotes in 140 characters. Links in the text. New phrases that stick in people’s minds. Everything must be a part of your “marketing campaign”– even in a book that’s basically unsellable. The best quote from Godin on this was, “make it a poem that doesn’t rhyme.” There is so much information out there now that your work can no longer simply be commerce– it must also be art.
As of today, you can download the Flinch for free. I hope it you like it– if you liked this post, you will definitely enjoy it.
There are some lessons you can learn from the comfort of your couch– maybe watching a great video on Youtube or chatting with friends.
But there are other lessons that come hard. Here is one of them. But first, some background.
My girlfriend and I just walked 800 kilometers (500 miles) along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a 1000-year-old pilgrimage route. We did it in Vibram Fivefinger shoes– basically barefoot– on gravel, dirt road, and pavement. 35 days is what it took to complete.
In case you’re wondering, walking 6-8 hours a day across gravel, pavement, and dirt roads for a month hurts– sometimes, it hurts a fucking lot.
Some people were on beaches for their vacations, but we started Day 1 with a 4,500 foot climb up the Pyrenees. Other days involved walking 20 miles in the cold, rain and mud. Yet others were on blistering plateaus with no shade for up to 6 hours at a time. A casual stroll, this was not.
Why would someone choose to do this? Maybe, like John F. Kennedy famously said, we want to do them “because they are hard.” Maybe we are trying to prove to ourselves that we can do it, or to have an amazing experience. We all have our reasons. Some are more insane than others.
There are also some paths that you can get off of. Others, you can’t. You’re midway through and you want to finish, at all cost. You’re hurt and cynical and part of you wants to quit, but the other part of you wants it more than ever.
Why are we doing these things, anyway? Is it for approval? Do you want to be famous? Do you think that if you just get a little bigger or do something cooler, everything will be great and everyone will love you? Then you’re going to get extremely disappointed by life.
Consider the simple finish line.
Chris and I were talking the other day about marathons. Finishing means excited fans throwing Gatorade on your head or whatever. They’re excited and they cheer you on and hand you protein bars. They give you a little medal. Maybe you stand on a pedestal or something. You feel briefly invincible.
Most finish lines are not like this at all. Not a single person is waiting there to cheer you to the end. No one will change their vision of who you are. No one will love you more– in fact, if they do, run away, because that’s probably not a great person.
Midway through our 800km trip, we had this realization. Doing hard things for the approval or love of others is stupid. No one can understand, much less relate, to these kinds of things.
Only those that do it have a way of understanding. We heard this from our fellow walkers who had done it before. You would get back, people would listen, but no one could truly get it. The more marginal the experience, the more normal this is.
To fight this, they say, you get together with those that have done the same. Only then can you relate. Other people just nod their heads and say “cool,” then move on to talking about the Royal Couple or something.
It’s like being in a time warp. You get back home and, for them, nothing happened.
At first, this is depressing. “I did this epic thing and no one really cares.” But it isn’t that they don’t care at all– it’s that there’s no way for them to understand the epicness of the experience. The experience is unique and spans a week, a month, a year, or whatever, and it can’t be distilled into one sentence. It’s like a joke. You had to be there.
You should be grateful for this.
We are in a mass media culture where everything is broadcast for everyone to see. Often, we actually advocate doing so– but there are other things we can’t relate to at all, that can never be presented in a mass media fashion.
This means there’s a chance the experience may be truly different.
But if no one can relate, what does that mean? Well, to others it means that it doesn’t matter whether you’ve done it at all. It also doesn’t matter to them if you succeed or not. They won’t think of you differently.
Basically, you should stop doing stuff to impress people.
There’s no point in doing anything except for the value of the experience itself.
I’ve seen the same with regards to accolades, such as the phrase New York Times bestseller being attached to your name. People nod, there’s sometimes a brief acknowledgement, and then nothing. It might advance your career or something, but not much else. It’s not like people will like you for it if you’re an asshole. On a personal level, it changes nothing.
Yet people continue to search for professional success, or epic experiences, in order to extinguish their crushing inferiority complexes. But this is stupid and it doesn’t work.
True respect doesn’t come from accolades, so don’t try to get it there. Try being awesome to each other instead. (I swear to God that should be a blog post. Maybe I’ll do it.)
Look, we don’t need any more drones. There is no need for yet another person with a useless degree or another miserable doctor or lawyer who’s in it for the money or the prestige. We don’t need any more people hedging their bets or being safe.
We don’t need followers. We need leaders who will bring us where we need to go. In other words…
I was hanging out with a couple from France yesterday who just moved to Montreal. They were seriously bewildered at how easy it is to change careers in Canada/America. In France, you don’t have that. when you choose what you’re going to study, that’s what you do for the rest of your life.
Imagine an 18 year old deciding for you, at your age, what you’re going to do. It’s insane. I’m about to turn 32, so let me tell you, I’d like to change my mind from time to time. But these French people can’t do that– their education defines their career path.
Some things cannot be reversed. If you’re lost in the woods, as I was one day last month (long story), there really is no choice. The only way out is to go through, and that’s a very bad thing. No exit strategy, no way to quit. You have to continue forward until you’re done. This is very depressing.
All of us are on quests in one form or another. Some can be quit, while others cannot.
If you’re on the path to something you’re pretty sure you don’t want to be doing, may I suggest you fucking stop immediately? Because you are wasting your life.
You will die, no one will care, or even know, about all the suffering you went through. The money you’ve accumulated will go to ungrateful descendants who never suffered and it’ll all have been for nothing.
So you have two options. Double down or get the fuck out.
Welcome to the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure section of the post!
Option 1. Due to my infinite wisdom, you have now gratefully decided you need to get the hell out of your current situation. You’ve decided it’s pointless and that you’re going to die anyway, so you might as well make a difference in this world or at least be happy on your current path.
Congratulations. It’s time to double down.
A personal anecdote here might help. I recently realized (more like “accepted”) that it is possible that I have “a voice.” People have been telling me this for a long time, but I never really took it seriously before. Now I accept it, and I’m happy about it. Naturally, it also means I have to work way the hell harder than I did before since I’ve decided it’s something I actually want to do. I’ve decided to double down. How?
Well, in order to practice painting, many artists copy Old Masters drawings to help them understand what these great painters did. (It’s actually quite common practice.) So, my first act of insanity is inspired by Hunter S. Thompson. As he once did once a long time ago, I will open up Moby Dick for the first time, go to the first page, and procede to copy the entire book word for word.
This, of course, is totally ridiculous, perhaps pointless or insane. I agree. But like a month of walking 800km, there is no way to understand the experience but to walk it. And I am willing to waste a month doing this, if that’s what it takes. Even if it’s pointless.
You will need a personal act of insanity. If you’re going to continue and become the best in the world, you must have one. You must prove yourself to the mountain with a sacrifice. And this is the time.
Choose now. Make the sacrifice. See what happens.
Option 2. Congratulations on quitting the useless shit in your life. As Seth Godin once said in The Dip, if you’re not going to be the best in the world, get the hell out. Glad we agree. It’s time to admit you are wrong and quit.
Most of the problem with cutting your ties lies in loss aversion, and nothing more. We have so much trouble because we think that if we break up our long-term relationship, or quit our shit job, we’ll never find anyone again. This is totally nuts, but we believe it anyway.
We’re afraid of never getting anywhere again.
We think we’re lucky, not smart.
We have a feeling that this is as good as it gets.
You know, one day I’m going to tell the story about this trek and I’m going to say it’s for fucking pussies. I’m going to say it’s the easiest thing in the world. I will be that strong, and I know this.
I think that’s the difference. That’s something you need to believe in order to quit and still have your self-esteem with you. You need to realize that it’s a quest, and that quitting the things that don’t matter will give you vision and a better sense of context.
But for now, it was hard. Really hard. There’s absolutely no way for me to explain that to people– and I’m fine with that.
The same should be true with you. Do epic shit. Quit the mundane. Do it for yourself, and let people be confused. Who cares.
Prove yourself to the world, and eventually, the rest will fall into place.
Life is a series of decisions, one after another. When put together, they make you who you are.
Each decision is a bet. Some are made consciously; others not. Each bet you win shows you what you’re capable of, and what your next bet should be. As you win more bets, you get more ambitious. This is a good thing.
Here is an ambitious bet I just made that I think will interest you: in May, for 30 days, I will be quitting the internet.
Instead, during this time, I will be walking an 800 kilometer, thousand-year-old pilgrimage route in Spain– one that many people have walked or dreamed to, from Paulo Coelho to American President John Adams.
It’s something we’ve been planning for almost six months. It’s pretty cool to be on the cusp of a big trip like this.
But this post isn’t about my personal quest. It’s about yours.
Do you have something to quit the internet for?
Our brains are not wired to be made happy by the internet. Our emotions, like fear and joy, are based in a primal understanding of the world. This is something we can’t escape.
Saying the web is important to your life is like saying that television is important. It might be social, sure, but it’s still media. It can help connect but it also divides in a very fundamental way.
Touching a screen isn’t the same as touching a person.
The best stuff happens outside the web. Outside is new and frightening, not comfortable. Encountering pain helps transform your vision of yourself and forces you to grow.
And there is very little that is new and frightening on the web. The biggest realizations happen when you are in free-fall, not when you have a safety net.
Happiness is not related to Twitter feeds, blog posts, or even books– although books do get closer. What happiness is connected with is unique human experience, often untranslatable into any other medium. Much like Jacques Derrida’s ash or Zen, the quiet and the sacred have no way of speaking for themselves other than personal experience.
So, personal experience is what we must seek out. It’s personal and rare, so unlike what’s easily accessible (the web), it’s valuable.
But your life needs one. Your existence needs a purpose. For now, I have one. It helps me think about the future and will give me time to think and consider what’s important.
You should have a quest for the same reason. You should feel like you’re a part of something bigger, and that you’re going somewhere. You should feel like you have challenges to overcome, things that might even feel insurmountable.
It may interest you to do something like what I’m doing– or you may find it boring. You may have some inkling of what your quest should be, or you might have no idea. It might be crazy and amazing to others, or it might be entirely mundane to them. No matter, because it’s your quest, not theirs.
It doesn’t need to impress anyone but you.
Paul Nicklen goes to the coldest, most miserable parts of the world to photograph and document the animals that live there.
Brett Rogers makes documentaries about rivers by traveling down them in non-motorized craft.
The examples above are just from TED conferences I’ve attended this year, they weren’t hard to find or anything.
But isn’t it interesting how the examples I mentioned all came from people going to tough natural environments? If you’ve been here a while, you probably already know this about me. I love nature, earthworks and endurance. It’s all right up my alley.
You probably have stuff that’s similar. Do you remember what it is? Often, ideas like these are so buried that you have no idea what you actually care about anymore. Or, you do remember, but don’t realize how long it’s been since you thought about it.
So how do you find something you care about so much you’re willing to take a break from your regular life? In the end, that’s what this is about– finding something that’s so great, you want to take a break from your regular life to do it. Work, the web, your neighbourhood, whatever it is, if you feel like you’d love it more (or as much), you’re on the right track.
You can do this by performing certain exercises– removing boundaries like money, dependents, or the amount of possessions you have. Some people say you should write ideas down until you cry.
But this isn’t about finding your one great idea. It’s only about taking one single step forward, which is much easier.
Quests in movies always go the same way. The hero is seeking enlightenment, or vengeance, or peace. He has to find someone to teach him. He seeks out this person on the top of a mountain or desert– that is to say, a hard place to find. This is a metaphor for how we find clarity and learn new things. It’s hard.
I’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. The stories in our lives inspire us because they are foundational to who we are. And we learn from them what steps we should take in own quests, and where we should go next from where we are.
Joseph Campbell listed a these steps in the Hero’s Journey. Have you ever seen them?
Where are you in here? Do you recognize yourself? Most people get stuck around number 3. Some are later, but not many. Are you one of them? If so, why are you refusing?
Are you stuck at number 7? This is your darkest hour, when you feel that you should give up and quit. It’s another major departure point from the quest, but in order to complete it, you have to go forward. It’s also what Seth Godin calls The Dip, but it’s universal. Have you been tested? Did you succeed?
Some people are at number 1 and have never considered anything outside the corridor they have lived in. Do you know any of them? Well, here’s a secret– most people who seem this way are in fact not here at all. Almost everyone is actually on a quest; they’ve just refused it, or have forgotten it. A temporary sidetrack.
Oops, it’s backwards. Ha, the message actually works better that way.
Look, your life has patterns, or corridors, that you need to know in order to become better. You feel pain when you leave the corridor because it is the unknown. In fact, pain might even be a signal that you are on the right track. But in order to see, you need to know what your patterns are– both good and bad.
If you have nothing better to do than spend time on Facebook or hang out at the old bar, your life may need some serious adjustment. If you don’t care about what you’re doing from day to day, or if every day seems like the last, then your whole life will be like this. You have refused the quest. You are done.
With growth and flexibility comes life; with rigidity comes death. This is a truth that expands to all living things. Your body knows this, so you should too.
The easy is not worth doing; only the hard is. It is your exposure to the new should become the norm, and your return to the old should be comfortable, but brief.
Seth Godin recently told me by email that the most important time in any project is the point at which you decide, unequivocally, that it will ship. Before that, it’s just an idea you toy around with.
Think of a relationship. Things are beautiful and perfect when they are new or aren’t real yet– but that’s precisely because they don’t exist. Once they become real, they get messy. That’s what happens when something goes from the imagination to actual existence.
Ideas, in fact, aren’t worth much. Everyone has them, even geniuses, but only those who deliver have an impact, and only those who know themselves are able to deliver.
Act as if you are stupid. Read in order to learn something, then act as if you’re stupid again and read more to make see if you’re right. Then go out into the world. Assume you will fail, but accept it, because it will make you less stupid.
Think this paragraph is funny? Well, it is, but it’s also true. What we know is vastly dwarfed by what we do not, but we act as if the patterns we recognize are all that life is or can be. This is wrong– this is actual stupidity.
If you want to be smart, you have to begin by being stupid. The hard part is staying that way.
A few months ago, a friend pointed me to this essay from Julian Assange’s old website. I remember thinking a lot about it. He had a quest, and in a way, it doesn’t matter what it was. It only mattered that, when he really looked at himself, he was doing what he thought was best for the world.
Good for the world, but not the way that people think Reaganomics is good for the world. The way that children think it.
Because, if you have a quest, then all of the suffering makes much more sense.
If you have a goal, then a lot of the actions you need to take become much clearer.
Even if your goal isn’t perfect, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s better– even 5% better.
You feel like you are a part of something. You feel like you will come back and be transfigured, and that people will see you differently.
But in fact, you will be more yourself than you ever were.
This is my 1000th post on this blog. I’m pretty proud of it.
I remember when I started in 2003, I didn’t think I was a writer at all. I did podcasts because I considered myself a verbal person. Well, I’ve changed.
When I began, I wrote bullshit, self-interested posts that were based on people thinking that my life and myself were interesting. On my show, I played a bunch of hip-hop music. It turned out that what people wanted to hear were my opinions. So I talked more.
The result, I guess, is where I am now.
This blog is now about growth. I’ve said I’d like to be unrecognizable in five years. I’d also like the same for you.
So I’d like you to subscribe. Why? Because quests are important. Top 10 and Twitter posts are not, but they are loud, so they seem that way. Often, the stuff that’s important is quiet. It isn’t obvious.
Your quest is quiet but important. So is mine. Hopefully, we’ll learn something, chat about it, and help each other along.
So unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably heard at least one success story some idiot journalist wrote about how Twitter can do amazing things for some moron’s business or whatever.
Well it’s all true, and even better, if you follow these instructions, this moron could be YOU.
Now I know this stuff may not be easy to believe– after all, Twitter just looks like a totally useless piece of crap from where you’re standing, but trust me, when you see the power of it you’re going to shit yourself. Anyone– and I mean anyone– anyone can get their bullshit popular on this stupid thing. You gotta see it with your own two eyes.
Basically all these people think you’re their internet friends or whatever, even though you’re just a company, and then after a while they’ll just send out your shit because they think y’all are friends… with a COMPANY. lol.
I know, It’s unbelievable. I think it’s crazy too.
So anyway stop sitting on the sidelines watching douchebags promote their crap on this new thing… it’s time you got your self-promoting asses on there and started ruining this new technology for everyone too.
You can basically pay to get a bunch of followers, and then everyone on Twitter think you’re all popular and follow you too. And these are REAL people. It’s some seriously amazing shit because, in real life, you would need actual customers to convince others. But here, you can just get a bunch of numbers and then you’ve got this great thing going from the comfort of your own couch.
Even better is that all these tools will totally just retweet your stuff– basically sell all your shit to their friends, for free! That’s why this piece of crap is even better than Amway– on Twitter, you don’t have to pay anyone!
Anyway, I want you to go to twitter.com, create an account right now, and then put in an avatar, but not your company name or anything– put a smiling face in there! Everybody loves smiling faces, plus according to some good books about manipulating people, they really draw the eye and shit. Then you can totally get people believing that you care! I know, crazy right?
So after that you’re going to get on there and be all “let’s be friends” and shit. You do this by talking to all these idiots– get this, you’re going to lose it when you hear this– by talking to them about OTHER SHIT. Not even your own bullshit products, but by butting into their stupid conversations and adding your own opinion… I’m serious, you can totally do this and they’re all like “oh, thanks” and they totally don’t know you’re marketing to them. And then, BAM!
It’s up to you from here! Remember, create compelling content and you’ll entice people to… ahhh, you know what, fuck this, I’m outta here.
If we humans learned from our mistakes, we’d be geniuses by now.
Learning to ride a bike is easy, and your muscles never let you forget it. So why is figuring life out so hard? Jane McGonigal talked about this in a session I saw once about the difference between games and life, and if I remember correctly, it all comes down to feedback.
When we work on a puzzle, we know when we’ve won and when a piece fits. It’s obvious. When we exercise, we know we’re getting stronger because we can lift more weight or go longer without rest. This isn’t as obvious, but you can still tell you’re making progress over time.
Most of us can learn to win at Monopoly but these very same people can’t stop making the same mistakes in life. I can’t help but ask why. It’s crazy. It has to stop.
We have an open-source model for computers (Linux, etc).
We have an open-source model for fitness (Crossfit).
We need an open-source model for happiness. It seems obvious, doesn’t it?
The Tetrapharmakos is the closest thing I came up with so far. Epicurus came up with it in the 3rd century BC.
Seems simple, right? Let’s start there.
Can you improve on what’s above? Do you have anything to add or append? You don’t have to do it in an elegant way, you just have to contribute a little, and then someone else will contribute below you. Ok?
I’m trying to think of a real way for something like this to be real. I can’t believe it’s not possible. It doesn’t make sense.
We have access to more information, and better collaboration tools, than we ever have in the entire history of mankind. Let’s use them.
I just spent 10 days straight writing 1000 words a day for a little project I thought up.
No one told me to do it. I just started because I realized it was important.
The most important things you’ll work on in your life will be things that no one tells you to do. They’ll be yours alone, and you will own that success, or that failure. Because it’s yours, you will value it.
If someone tells you to do it, if you’re getting paid, or there’s any other kind of incentive other than the one that comes from inside you, it won’t be the same.
If it comes from inside, there is a chance that it will be perfect. But no one will guide you there or force your hand.
It’s interesting that as soon as someone wants to make you do something, you instantly resist it, like you’re a little kid again. But if it’s about you, no one can stop you.
On some days I was writing at 3am to complete my daily quota. No one had a gun to my head. I just did it.
What do you work on that you can just keep doing– that you see value in and care about?
Find that. Work on it. No one will make you. No one will care if you do. But that shouldn’t matter, should it?
I used to name my years.
It started maybe 5 years ago. I have this vivid memory of the exact moment when I was explaining it to my friend Jean– we were in the train station heading towards our office when I told him about how I started naming my years. I’m thinking this was 2005.
I said I was choosing a theme for the year– “Year of the Adventure” or whatever, and then living your life according to that principle.
So 2010 is Year of the List. Allow me to explain.
I’ve been using Mark Hurst’s Gootodo task list system for about 3 years. It’s the best system I’ve ever worked with and, as a result, everything I ever think to do goes into the list, no matter how big or small. So after all this time I’ve built up a bunch of stuff in there that I want to do. For example, last week after reading Jason Kottke’s blog I decided I wanted to learn to juggle a bit (here’s why). So I put it on the list. I have small projects on there, like packing for my upcoming move, and huge things, like “book a flight to Brazil.”
Anyway, remember when I wrote Give in to the Machine a few months back? I was thinking the other day that the big problem with people’s task lists is their inability to just do what the list says– no matter their feelings on it. We change our minds too much, and don’t trust in the list, which our younger selves wrote. We think “my priorities are different now” or “I’ll get to that later” when we should be saying “I wanted this for myself. I’m going to do it now,” regardless of how we feel about it at the moment.
Anyway, back to the idea.
My life is a lot different than it was a few years back. I can work wherever I like, have a fair amount of free time, etc. So my thinking is that since I have the liberty to do so, I should now submit to the list 100%.
Anytime I think of something I want to do, I put it on the list.
Anytime something is on the top of the list, I do it (or take a step towards it).
Result: Cycling through all the stuff I want to do, find out if it’s for me (by trying it instead of guessing), and continuously adding new things into it that I’m curious about.
So on the day I come to the juggling, I’ll spend a day practicing the stuff in this video. On the day it tells me to book my flight to Brazil, I choose a date, grab the flight online, and start planning the details.
You can join me if you want. Your list can be as big or small as you like it to be, with stuff as grandiose or as detail-oriented as you feel comfortable with. But the point is to submit 100%, go to it every day, and do exactly what it says.
What do you think?
Heh, I’m pretty sure this post is directed at me. Which is fine, I deserve it. :)
Things have been busy around here. The book with Brogan is really happening, so I’m learning to write a bunch. It’s actually pretty interesting– if any of you have problems with writing, just consider starting something, even if just a paragraph, to see where it goes. Usually it ends up just fine, and starting always seems to be the hardest part.
Another thing I’m noticing is that reading a book leaves me much more patient than reading on the web. I allow for periods of boredom to get to the good stuff when words are printed, but not when they’re on a page.
Not sure what that means for how I should be writing, though, there’s still a bit of trial and error that’s happening there.
Either way, I’m still alive, I have a tiny podcast project (one I cooked up with Bob at PAB2008), and I still read all your blogs and listen to your podcasts. :)
And things are happening. Thanks for coming by. :)
So I’m on this CBC show Test the Nation on January 20th. I’m really not sure what it’s about, but it’s with a ton of other bloggers including Amber Mac, Andy Nulman, and tons of others (there is, in fact, a whole blogger ‘team’). I imagine I’ll basically annihilate any chance of my team winning.
Anyway, it’s being filmed live, so I won’t get a chance to see it. If someone from Montreal could TiVo it or whatever, it would be awesome.
Update: Hugh McGuire would also like to inform you that he is also on the show. So there we go. So is Craig Silverman, for that matter, and we’ll probably get wasted while we’re there if he has anything to do with it. :)