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You learn the lessons, you take them to heart. But you still don’t act.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it. - Yogi Berra
You only live once. – The Strokes
Becoming great means living in the fear of being great. – Kevin Nations
The biggest predictor of success and the most common trait among successful people is the ability to deffer gratification. - A lot of people
You think to yourself: enough quotes and looking to other people. You’ve got the inspiration. You’ve got the ideas. Now what? Get comfortable and sit on it all?
In his 32-page workbook Ship It, Seth Godin calls out the independent individual inside each of us, “It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map.”
Yet he follows that statement with something that sometimes runs contrary to individualism: un-selfishness. “Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people.”
This kind of independent yet giving being must be some kind of creative superhero. I’ll call him the Benevolent and Magnanimous Maverick.
The BMM is noble and successful, Godin preaches. The biggest obstacle inhibiting the Benevolent and Magnanimous Maverick is the BMM himself. Fear, shame, self-limiting habits, and other distractions. Ship It is a series of mental incisions for cutting away the clutter and unleashing your own Creative and Benevolent Magnanimous Maverick within via questions and a pared down technique for crafting the strategy to ship.
This is Ship It:
Step 1: Draw a line in the sand saying I will ship my product, and commit. Committing is empowering.
Step 2: Evaluate the project. Who, what, when. Who is responsible for shipping it? What is it? When does it ship?
Step 3: Evaluate your fear. What and who are you afraid of? Why? Who has veto power over this project?
Step 4: Envision success: who and what are essential to the success of the product?
Step 5: Evaluate your mental response to envisioning success: Are you thinking any of these types of things?
It’s too soon.
It’s too late.
It might fail.
There’s no room in the budget, let’s review it in a few months.
Our big competitor will steal it.
It’s never been done before.
Stop. Run through the steps again from Step 1.
Step 6: List everything that needs to be accomplished, by when, and by whom. And everything that needs to be settled, designed, or approved before you ship.
Step 7: List everything that you can give to this product or project that no one else can or that your competitors won’t or can’t. Can you add a special concern with quality? Persistence? Innovation? Special insight? What else?
Step 8: List everything you could add to the project to make it better, and everything you could strip from the product to make it better (sometimes less is more.)
Step 9: Are you willing do the inspiring work as well as the slog work?
Step 10: Are you ashamed before you even ship? What’s the worst response you could get? What’s the opposite, the best? How does it feel to start something for the first time? When was the last time you started something? How does it feel to accomplish something you really want to accomplish? Do you want to experience that again?
And that’s it. Take haste. Don’t waste your time, your mind, your ability to produce and ship.
Note: Ship It is not written in steps 1-10. This is my way of breaking down the information I absorbed and used in order to ship this blog post.
Training for the 2011 NYC marathon taught me many things. In the 20 week training program I learned about fitness training and nutrition, psychology, my body’s ability to perform, new pains I never experienced before, and many other things. Here are just 3 of an endless list of takeaways.
1. Being fit never goes out of style.
When you’re out there on a long training run, especially on a new distance that you’ve never run before, 15, 16, 18, 20 miles, you no longer care how cool your shoes look. You don’t care if your shorts match your shirt or your socks. All you care about is reducing pain and finishing as strong as you can make yourself finish. If you’re still worried about aesthetics, you can remember that there is one fashion that endures better than any others. Being fit never goes out of style.
2. Small changes in time can be attributed to training and motivation. Big changes come from lifestyle.
Psychology can’t be underestimated and a runner’s mind is an interesting landscape with grooves and crevasses, peaks and valleys, peaks and plateaus. Over the course of 4 or so months, being psychologically fit will keep you dedicated, and keep you on schedule. Positivity and optimism will help especially on long runs and days you don’t feel like running. A good mindset will cut your time down. As will a good training regimen. Choosing a proven regime with hill training and speed work will cut your time down.
But to cut down your time significantly, you must adopt the culture of a runner. Become a regular at the sporting goods shops. Read the magazines (Triathlete is best, actually). Eat the runner meals. Delve into a variety of short and long races. Talk the runner talk. Make runner friends. Put in the years.
3. Fierce, focused determination and flexibility are not mutually exclusive.
When you’re out on a 20 mile run and you take a wrong turn and you realize you’re several blocks off course, you gotta suck it up, relax, turn back and realize that training is imperfect. You’ll have aches and pains, distractions, bad days. You’ll sometimes have to rearrange your training schedule, shifting, exchanging and replacing days due to life circumstances–despite a strong desire to stay on course, stay on target, and not succumb to the slippery slope of slacking off the specificity of the training regime.
Suck it up, relax, love the big picture, keep running.
Marathon running is a combination of the big and the small. You’ll see your city in a beautiful new way that you’d never otherwise get to experience. You’ll push your body harder than you ever would otherwise. You’ll travel on foot farther and for a longer time than ever before. And you’ll do it by repeating one little action: putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.
I had a Brazilian friend who loved New York sushi but always ate it the wrong way. She was classically pretty, and pretty conservative, and not exactly a “I do things differently” kind of girl, it’s just that no one had ever shown her the “correct” way to eat sushi. I told her she was eating it wrong once or twice before I shut up and tried what she was doing. You wrap a big piece of ginger around the sushi, balance a small smidgen of wasabi on top, quick bathe in soy, and pop it in. It’s good. Just as good as any other way of eating it. In New York of all places, there shouldn’t be a “wrong way” to eat sushi.
In this spirit of minor inventiveness, or mild irreverence, I finally, after years of hearing about it, decided to take on Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek.
I’m not exactly a Book Champ. I’ve never taken a speed reading course. I just try to read fast because my personal book list is virtually infinite, yet I plan to fit it into a finite life. When I read a novel I can take 3 minutes or more per page, reading about 17 to 20 pages per hour. It feels right to me, but I guess it’s slow. So, for The 4-Hour Workweek I gave myself a time limit to try to make myself read faster (which is actually one of the principles I’d later come across in the book.) The time limit to give myself was obvious.
My plan was to use the countdown timer on my cell phone. I set it in small chunks of time because I know that I concentrate better when I take breaks every 30 to 45 minutes. Breaks are not included in the overall 4 hour time limit.
A heaping plate of nuked pinto beans, a massive pile of the most delicious leafy greens in the universe (arugula), and a few Trader Joe’s chicken meat balls. And 2/3 of a cup of coffee. High protein, high veggie, mild stimulant. Power brain food.
Then I sat down in bed with the book, a black pen, and a blue highlighter. I tore off the dust jacket ready to drive my teeth into this little orange brick, and realized my first step was not reading, but researching.
15 minutes – research. I opened up browser windows for Amazon, Wikipedia, and the book’s website fourhourworkweek.com. And Google. In each I searched for summaries of the book, main points, and reader’s experiences of reading the book.
5 minutes – finishing research. I wasn’t done with the Amazon reviews (which proved to be very helpful in a few ways) and read a few more 1-star, 3-star, and 5-star reviews.
15 minutes – pre-reading. I leafed through the entire book, surveying the table of contents, looking for charts and graphs and pictures, perusing appended sections. I sized up the main sections of the book for page length to get a feel physically for what portion of the book was devoted to each main idea. I read a couple of random paragraphs here and there to get a feel for the style and tone.
25 minutes – reading. I read the introductory sections thoroughly but quickly, highlighting the phrases that I thought revealed most about what the book was about. I also started to get a feel for how content intense each paragraph would be, and how careful I’d have to be while skimming and skipping.
Break. 2-3 minutes. Pee. Walk to kitchen and look out window.
30 minutes – reading. Fast. It’s my Book Blast technique. I read very actively engaged with pen and highlighter. I mark things I want to come back to, main ideas, compelling examples, and funny turns of phrase. I skip a lot. I let my eyes relax over paragraphs and move in a zig zag pattern, searching for what might be a key phrase in the chapter.
Break. After 55 minutes of reading I was on page 68, which is very fast for me. All that pre-reading and internet research had paid off as the book felt very familiar within the first few pages.
End of day 1. Reading time: 1.5 hours.
Day 2 schedule:
30 minutes – reading. I try my own invented technique where I put the bookmark at the end of the chapter or section and literally feel the amount of paper that it’ll take to get there and attempt to push to the bookmark as fast as I can, not getting bogged down in any one section, rather, always keeping an “eye” on the destination bookmark.
Break. At the end of this 30 minutes I was at page 87. Only about 20 pages further. Disappointed. I’d slowed down. But maybe the book had just gotten a lot thicker through that section. Regardless, I needed to push faster. Focus harder on skimming better. Skip more. I’d be sacrificing some larger passages but that just meant I’d be putting more trust in my time limit.
30 minutes – reading. I skipped more anecdotes and subsections that I thought might not be relevant to me. Page: 122. Better.
I’d read for a total of 2.5 hours, more than half of my reading time, and I’d read only about a third of the book. Bad math. Hate math. But what can I do now? Just carry on. Read harder, read faster. Grrrrrr. Aggressive Reading Technique.
45 minutes – reading. Up to page 172. Better. Only 45 minutes remained in my pre-set schedule and I ask myself, what would I do if I really had to finish this book in this time frame? One of the top 2 rules for work and time management Tim talks about is that tasks tend grow to fill the time they are allotted. So, shit, I’d have to read faster than I’d ever read, but hey, this could be the magic principle of the universe. So, go.
45 minutes – reading. Up to page 250. WAY better. The end of my 4-hour time period to read this book. But I can’t quit. I gotta finish this. And I gotta do it now. I set my clock for the longest time period yet. 1 hour. I drop in.
1 hour – reading. DONE! 377 pages in 5 hours. Extremely fast for me.
Well-marked, highlighted, pages folded, stuff underlined, circled, and checked (which is a secret reading code I use to tell myself that I should further “check” something out), and well read. Ready to be reviewed!!
(One thing I haven’t done yet is the “Dreamline” exercise; and, actually, time for doing exercises should be factored in when reading in the self-help genre. The Dreamline exercise is about specifically detailing what you want to be, do, and have in your life now, and taking steps to achieve these goals in the near term.)
Here is my quick review in 5 quick points:
1. Don’t put off living your dream. Do it now. You can. There are loopholes all around, waiting to be found. Loopholes in the system, and loopholes in traditional values and thinking.
2. The two most important productivity laws are Parkinson’s Law and Pareto’s Law. Parkinson’s Law says that tasks swell in importance and complexity to fit the time given to do it. Pareto’s Law is the ubiquitous 80/20 rule, applicable in many ways, one of which is 20% of your effort produces 80% of your results.
3. Relative income is more important than absolute income. Absolute income is the familiar dollar. $Ka-ching! But relative income is $ + time + how you are spending that time and living your life. Relative income is true wealth.
4. Automating your work is about reducing and reusing effective systems of communication and doing business. But, personal (virtual) assistants need clear, simple, specific instruction.
5. One way to be really successful is to have a dream, a niche market, a little bit of OCD, and follow the strategies in this book.
Here are a dozen of my favorite quotes from the book:
Page 30: Different is better when it is more effective or more fun.
Page 83: There should never be more than two mission-critical items to complete each day. Never.
Page 87: Increased output necessitates decreased input. Most information is time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your influence.
Page 90: Practice reading too fast for comprehension but with good technique…
Page 93: More is not better.
Page 127: Fun things happen when you earn dollars, live on pesos, and compensate in rupees, but that’s just the beginning.
Page 164: Red Bull came from a tonic in Thailand, and the Smurfs were brought from Belgium.
Page 171: Presenting the truth in the best light, but not fabricating it, is the name of the game.
Page 202: Our goal isn’t to create a business that is as large as possible, but rather a business that bothers us as little as possible.
Page 235: [...] getting what you want often depends more on when you ask for it than how you ask for it.
Page 253: [...] one of the biggest self-deceptions of our modern age: extended world travel as the domain of the ultrarich.
Page 293: I believe that life exists to be enjoyed and that the most important thing is to feel good about yourself.
Here are some of my favorite non-Tim quotes included in the book:
“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” –Niels Bohr
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” — Henry David Thoreau
“I’m an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” — Mark Twain.
“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.” — Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM
“Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgement.” — Paul Fussell
Here are 3 tangential takeaways or lessons I learned while reading the book:
+ Be a student of students, not just teachers. Learn what other students learned, and how they learned it.
+ Winners work hard, but seek shortcuts and loopholes.
+ Put a check mark next to links, phrases, and names in the text and when you go back to look at what you read you’ll know what you wanted to “check out” after.
Should you read this book? Yes. Read it and get whatever you want out of it. Mark it up, fold pages, read it in whatever order, make it yours. Take it in slowly and sleepily, or frantically with caffeinated blood-shot eyes. Follow my Brazilian friend’s sushi rule: once you buy it, it’s yours to consume how you please.
What are the elements of happiness?
Here’s my list, what’s yours?
Gratitude, peace of mind, a sense that things are or will be alright, deep forgiveness and acceptance, trust in others, appreciation and approval of oneself and one’s own life, an authentic hope based on faith in goodness and a purpose (aka optimism), a belief in or sense of good fortune, being at ease with openness and honesty, feeling connection, and….
This is kind of a long list of stuff, and I wonder if it could be shorter or simpler, or if it’s even desirable to make it shorter and simpler. What if I could reduce it to two or three things? Wouldn’t that be a) easier to keep in mind or remember throughout the day and week, and b) easier to work at specifically.
How about this 3 part formula where happiness is the sum of two things — happiness is the combination of a deep, profound sense of positive meaning in your life, plus a smile.
Profound Positive Meaning + Smile = Happiness
My plan for 2012 is to call it the year of Peace, Power, and Success.
I will focus each month on a different aspect of the mind or emotional fitness that I want to improve or learn more about. I’ll spend 1 hour each day reading, writing, researching, and practicing what I’ve chosen for the month.
Here are 12 aspects of a peaceful, powerful, successful mindset and emotional state that I’ll work on:
2. Energy and excitement (or you could call it passion)
9. Peace of mind
11. Acceptance and responsibility
12. Levity and buoyancy
I still have about three months before 2012 so my list may change a bit. However, I think a majority of it will still be the same on January 1st.
What 12 things make the mindset and emotional state that you’d like to have ideally? And why are you not pursuing them directly?
What is your food to you?
I recently spoke with a bunch of foreigners visiting the United States and asked them where they eat in Chicago. They mostly eat fast food.
I asked why. They replied that it is cheap.
So, I quickly surmised that they value saving money over quality of food. Which is fine. That’s their choice. Not mine though.
I prefer to look at the complex role food plays in my life. Food is fuel, certainly. Sometimes I stuff down a meal because I know I’ll need the energy later.
Sometimes I enjoy a big meal, slowly, and careful, experiencing all the pleasures it has to offer.
Sometimes I’m concerned about the nutritional content for a specific purpose like marathon training, or weight loss.
Sometimes food is just comfort. Which, I think, is why so many people are so fat in the world–at least, in the wealthier parts of the world where calories are abundant. And there are abundant unhealthy calories in sweet drinks and junk food in corner stores, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants.
We learned young that food is comfort. This lesson shouldn’t necessarily be unlearned completely, it should be put in its place. Food can be comfort, sometimes. But, in the long run, other things will be more comforting and less potentially destructive.
Sleep, the killer productivity app. The killer success app, as bloggers and success experts have been saying lately.
How to awake feeling refreshed? How to sleep through the night? How to stop being tired? How to power nap? How many hours should I sleep? What should and shouldn’t I eat before I sleep? What’s the best temperature for sleeping?
Sleep should be a time of regenerative power and peaceful refreshing relaxation. But is it? Do you clench your jaw? Do you furrow your brow and squeeze your eyes shut? Do you work hard to shut out the world mentally?
How do you breath as you fall asleep? What is your mind busy with? What is your self talk as you lay in bed before you sleep? And what is your self talk when you wake up in the middle of the night? And in the morning?
It may be very well worth training your self-talk to be conducive to deep, refreshing, satisfying sleep.
Wouldn’t you like deep, satisfying sleep every night?
It is worth trying meditation before you sleep. And to meditate specifically on the quality of your sleep. Put yourself in a trance of deep, healthy, peaceful sleep from which you will awake refreshed and energized, feeling satisfied and vital. In fact, use these very words from this post.
Relax your body in parts. And then focus on the three G’s. The Good in the world, all your gratitude for everything, and your goals of a rewarding, enriching, meaningful life.
That’s the sleep post. The devil is in the details. One of the details of a well-designed, and well-lived life is quality of sleep. After all, you may be sleeping about a third of your life. Isn’t the quality of that third important too?
Sleep your way to success, beauty, accomplishment, love, passion, and purpose. Sleep with a powerful peace, and a peaceful power.
Happiness is when you are moving toward an important goal and you feel you are making progress.
In other words, you feel happy when you see that you are getting closer to something you want to have, or something you want t become, or something you want to do.
Often, the things we want to do, be, and have, bring emotional payoffs. It’s that payoff we are working toward as much as anything else.
So we feel happy when we notice we are making progress toward peace of mind, or admiration, or safety and security, or love, or whatever the emotional payoff is that we seek.
Happiness is when you feel you have the power, capability, and opportunity to take meaningful action.
Being unhappy is caused by feeling like you don’t have the ability to take meaningful action. Feeling that there is no meaningful action to be taken may be where despair begins to seep in….