Ten thousand pebbles is a boulder

Would you rather have a boulder dropped on your head or be pelleted by ten thousand pebbles?

One would most certainly terminate your life, the other would be scratchy and uncomfortable, but you’d live to see another day.

To live in a way that subjects you to ten thousand small pebbles of inconvenience serves the dual purpose of strengthening you and breaking the boulder of life’s difficulties into ten thousand smaller, more manageable parts.

To live in a way of fear and overprotection is to avoid the ten thousand pebbles while the boulder rolls ominously in your direction.

Fill your life with lots of small risks and challenges and you will both strengthen yourself against, and avoid altogether, the big boulders in your life(and business!)

Perfection doesn’t exist

Sure, you can chase perfection and convince yourself that it’s a noble cause.

But perfection is impossible to attain this side of heaven.

What is better is doing things to the best of your ability.

We should focus on the process of doing our work or our mission and not the outcome.

Five jobs complete at 80% perfection is far more valuable than doing one of those jobs at 95% perfection.

You got five jobs done while "Mr. Perfection" struggled with one job (and still isn’t happy because it’s only at 95%).

So give it your best effort, make your best effort better, and have no worries about the results. Perfection doesn’t exist, but hard work does.

Thoughts on modern colleges and education (falsely so called)

My friends know how much I generally loathe the modern college “education” system. To put it simply, I think at least 65% of the people who attended college after 2005 would be just as well off if not better off had they never attended.

The college degree is the Louis Vuitton handbag to the parent and little regard is placed in the fact that student loans will now ensure that their child is in debt until age 60+

The climate seems to be that you need a degree of some sort to get ahead, but these universities do little overall to contribute advancements to modern society.

The doers go out and do. They build and break things. They make discoveries–almost all of them.

The university takes the information and chops it up and mashes it into a textbook that most students will ignore anyway.

I think college is useful for those entering a variety of the STEM fields (but not all of them), for medicine, and maybe law.

If you have the time, money, and means to go after a more traditional classical education, a degree can be worthwhile, just don’t expect jobs to be coming at you like hotcakes. Do it for the love and passion of learning and sharpening your mind.

Like any scam, the college bubble will pop. The “education” that most students receive isn’t worth a quarter of what it costs. Only time will tell how long the education institution can continue to stand as she does.

Time is the great eraser. It rubs away the weak stuff. Modern “education” is weak stuff as currently constructed and operated.

We don’t always need to know why

While riding a bicycle I couldn’t give you the theory behind what makes a bicycle work in any type of scientific detail. I’d crash. Doing and thinking are separate things.

Doers do. Thinkers think. You can do both if you try, just not at the same time.

When you do something because human nature tells you to do, it or culture dictates that you do it, or habit compels you to do it, just do it and think about why you do it later.

If the mother must understand the science behind her maternal instinct before springing into action, her baby would be dead. Do, do, do and examine why later.

Active and passive conversation

Most of us like some form of conversation in our life. I’ve long held that to make yourself more interesting (and more creative) you should (among other things) read books.

Not watch movies, TV, or YouTube. Reading is a type of active conversation.

Having good “intelligent” discussion (where we talk about ideas, not other people or other things that happened), this is also a form of the active conversation.

The difference between these active forms and a passive form (like watching TV, movies, etc…) is that in an active form of conversation your mind is forced to participate or risk missing out on the conversation altogether.

You must listen when somebody speaks and be able to form a sentence and throw it back at the person with whom you’re speaking. When we read, we’re forced to conceptualize ideas in our head or–in the case of a novel, historical account, etc…–we actively build the image of what we’re reading about in our mind.

In TV and movies and motion picture, in general, all of that information is fed to you. You don’t imagine what the warm summer day is, you’re told what it is as you passively sit and consume the content fed to you via the screen.

I like audiobooks, too. I just don’t yet think there is any comparison to the participation you make when you sit and read. You can drive a car and be half-distracted while listening to an audiobook, but you must turn the pages to get anywhere in a book.

Create things, don’t just consume things. Looking for more active conversation will make creating things and thinking clearly much, much easier.

Remembering what we learn

Much of what people know isn’t worth knowing.

How much of tenth-grade mathematics do you remember?

But for things you’re interested in, you remember it all.

The books you chose to read you remember. The books you were forced to read (or avoid) by the school are forgotten.

When boredom with a topic strikes, move to another topic and keep learning.

Don’t confuse boredom with the topic at hand as a sign that you’re just bored of learning altogether.

When you learn what you like, you remember what you learn.

Don't do it for everybody

When you make stuff nobody hates, nobody loves it either.

You also don't need the masses to unanimously love you to be successful and/or make a good living.

It's good to fully commit to what you think is right and build that. Even in the face of doubters. Be the doer.

If we water down everything we do in an attempt to appease all people, we make dispassionate art with no soul.

Don't let the critical ones dictate your decisions.

Respect to the doers

We can all talk about how it should work, but are we really putting in the work?

We're told that knowledge is discovered and dispersed to the people by way of the university and lecture hall sharing theories of why things work this way.

How often do you hear people refer to going to college as "getting an education"? It's exactly the way the charlatans want you to think of college. Go get your knowledge from the "educated" class and elevate yourself above the fellow man.

Why are those who don't attend a university degraded as "uneducated"? Are the universities alone the holders and dispensers of knowledge?

Do discovery and innovation and knowledge begin in the college lecture hall (or even college laboratory)?

Or is it the doers that make things, break things, innovate things and contribute far more than the “educators” are willing to acknowledge?

After the trial and error has been finished and the doers have taken the risk of failure (indeed he has failed along the way) then the academic can scoop up what he has done, write papers and deliver lectures on the theories behind why what he did worked and we all assume that the innovation was made because the academic has made these discoveries.

But the doer did and that’s where the seed germinated and flourished.

This isn't to say that no innovation or valuable thought has arisen from and within the university structure, however, most innovation has occurred outside of the structure of the college.

So here’s to the unpolished, brash, “uneducated” people working, building, breaking, experimenting, and DOing. You’ve contributed far more than we all ever acknowledge. Power to the people.

Having a plan for the day and the week (productivity)

If I don’t have a plan I am half as productive as I could be.

I don’t mean a schedule that breaks down your day into 15-minute blocks (I’ve tried that. It was miserable.) but rather a plan for the week.

Having a list of what you wish to accomplish that week gives you direction and helps you get to work.

After establishing what needs to be done that week, you build a loose daily schedule of the tasks you need to complete to stay on course and complete the week of work.

Productive weeks turn into productive months turn into productive years.

Lots of small risks, not the one big risk

If you try lots of small things and make tons of little experiments, you’ll gain valuable insight across the board. You’ll learn how to better optimize yourself, your company, etc… but you will also potentially run into a number of big wins when that small risk carried massive upside.

However, if you cling to the status quo and refuse to deviate except every now and then to take a big risk, you put yourself in a position where you potentially lose very much which will cause you to be more tentative for the next big risk.

More important than that is that some risks fail so you need to take lots of risks to get the big wins. By only taking the occasional big risk you severely reduce your likelihood of getting that big win by having less proverbial pots on the stove.

Make risk taking a way of life. Small risks with limited downside and a big upside. Just doing that has a big upside.

Think of it as a songwriter. You write hundreds of songs (each with the risk of flopping, but nobody talks about the songs that never get popular anyway), you write those hundreds of songs to get a few huge hits. A few huge hits later you’re the Beatles (or Rolling Stones, or Bruce Springsteen, or Whitney Houston, or Dr. Dre, or Usher, or Coldplay, or Adele, or Taylor Swift, etc...)

Taking a break

Not taking a break from the blog posts, just today's post.

Sometimes you just need a short break. I only work six days a week, but still, sometimes work overruns my life. That’s happening right now so I’m mailing in this blog post.

Think of it as the equivalent to showing up at the gym because that’s what you promised you’d do every day, but only walking around, looking at the lights, and then going home.

That’s this blog post. Showing up, but not really contributing. I need to be better about honoring my commitments even when it’s tough and I don’t think I’m offering much.

Moving forward without a destination

Without a destination does not mean without a direction. "Forward" is the direction.

When you’re exploring ideas and living a portion of your life in the “open mode” where creativity is bountiful and things are relaxed and free-flowing, you want to do many things just for the sake of doing them.

Doing a thing just for the sake of doing it fosters creativity, builds knowledge, helps you to be more agile in your day-to-day decision making, and also fortifies your mind into one that is calm and cool when things break down or change. Creative problem solving is abundant in a person who can spend much time in the open mode.

You can’t be in the exploratory open mode when things need to get done. You need to drink your coffee, shut off social media, put away your toys and pick up the hammer and get to work. Close-mindedness is good for getting stuff done.

But at the moment you’re not working try doing things, going places, reading books, and just generally ignoring what the end reason is for doing that thing you do. Do things simply to do them. Move forward but without a destination.

If Steve Jobs had focused on building the best pocket CD player ever, he would have missed the iPod. That idea came from somebody who was not constrained by the utilitarianism of most of us. The idea struck and he was open enough to receive it and now everyone has an iPod + iPhone combo in their hand these days. Game-changer.

Try moving forward just for the sake of moving forward. Ignore if the masses will love it or if it will make you loads of money or any possible ending. Focus on the act of doing. Do for the sake of doing.

Stupidity and wisdom

We like to assume that if we do the same thing the same way it will have the same outcome each time. Most things do work in this straightforward manner, but not all things work in a predictable manner and not all things work the same forward and backward.

“I would rather add wisdom to my stupidity than add stupidity to my wisdom.”

That saying is a perfect example of how things don’t always work in straight lines. Perspective, order, and context matter quite a bit. Just because something seems to work and be predictable in one direction doesn’t mean it always will.

But it’s easy to fall into the trap of spotting a few parameters and leaping to a conclusion. It’s something that I still catch myself falling into, but as I grow a little older (not necessarily wiser) maybe I’ll learn to control this impulse better.

I don’t even know if this makes sense, but I have a commitment to write every day and I’m running out of time today. (see the straight-line assumptions I make in that sentence?)

May I have the persistence of a vulture?

I’m sitting here at my desk and from my window, I’ve been watching a vulture that has landed on the road and is picking at a dead squirrel. He’s been there for almost an hour now and every 30 seconds a car drives by and he bounces off the road and then heads back to the squirrel carcass after the car passes.

That’s persistence. In this heat and humidity. With a force pushing you away every minute. Yet he’s still there.

If only we all would muster the drive this vulture has to eat in the work and relationships of our lives. How much better would we be at persisting?

So persistence is easy to think about, but it’s a bit harder to actually persist. It reminds me of that famous quote by Yogi Berra “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

Yogi had a way with words.

Pushing into the future or dwelling on the past?

To build the future you must have opportunity (presented to, or created by, you) and also optionality (think: open-mindedness to every available(or hidden) parameter, opportunity, decision, etc…)

I'm not here to impugn, shun, or forget history and the thousands of lessons she has given to us. History must not be forgotten or belittled.

But what about developing new technology, new business models, new ideas for the way we do things, and more?

If you adopt what is already being done and you do it really well, you will have a horizontal growth outward and may indeed have a very nice business.

But, if you do things differently and risk everything in the face of the status quo glaring down on you unapprovingly, you stand to gain the most.

Sure, you may crash and burn. So what. The payoff is that you could experience vertical growth. This is growth off of the baseline of the way things have always been done.

Think of Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and more. Modern companies who have created services and products that we never would have thought about. They didn’t expand on what we had, they created something brand new and changed us all.

This leads me to the thought I had this morning about college and structured job training (this is how most people treat college, anyway.)

College stymies open-mindedness (the good kind that leaves you open to adapt and grow when unforeseen events present themselves), closes in opportunity (your degree is for that job type), and generally encapsulates good young minds in a box that ends up limiting both opportunity and optionality.

Opportunities are scary because they might fail and embarrass me or not be financially viable(at least we tell ourselves that).

Options are scary because I never want to be the one who does something first. School has taught me that group approval is paramount.

I'm here to say: Take some risk. Seize the opportunity. Be open to all options (even the ones you don’t see). Don’t worry about what the crowds say you should be doing.

Not speaking the obvious (or learning to trust others)

Have you ever been going through something tough or doing something not-as-well-as-you-could-be only to have a friend suggest something painfully obvious that you should do?

If a sketch artist isn’t getting the depth of his portraits quite right while he works out the details of his new pencil set, he doesn’t want a friend standing over his shoulder pointing out that he should be shading deeper shadows. He knows that. He just hasn’t done it, but he’s trying to figure it out.

Or maybe you work in an office and you’re not quite as productive as you want to be. Having a friendly co-worker telling you that you just need to focus more probably does more to damage your ability to focus on work because it’s maddening to hear the obvious thing you know you should be doing, but are currently struggling with being suggested by somebody who is not in the process of battling the situation you’re in.

All of this to say, it is exceedingly tempting to tell those around us the plain and obvious things that we’re sure would make things better for them, but I’ve found that it can be far more valuable and effective to trust that they can figure it out.

If they can’t figure it out, let them ask for help or wait until the situation breaks them enough that your suggestion will have value.

Most of all, empathize with the person struggling. An “obviously-you-should-do-it-this-way” kind of verbal affront is a big turn off and usually betrays the fact that you don’t quite understand what the person is struggling with.

Empathy. It’s a key.

Do we learn by learning or by doing?

Do the lectures of the university hall make all that much of a difference in the practical discoveries of our age?

How often does the teacher get the credit (or take the credit) for the brilliant student?

Would the student be less brilliant if he/she had not attended university?

I’ve often wondered if the commonly accepted chain of events (Research->University Teaching->Innovation) is actually how this thing works.

Maybe people (some of whom went to school, some of whom did not) make fantastic discoveries and implementations of technology, medicine, philosophy, etc… and the universities then take that as a case example of how wonderful society is with them as the society of knowledge that dispells valuable information into the world.

Is it possible that research makes incredible discoveries that have no use until some renegade decides to put them into practice-not by theorizing the best way-but by getting out and doing and failing and doing and failing until it works?

After the research and implementation, then the university can swoop in and teach to another generation who (hopefully) will focus more on doing than theorizing so their valuable discoveries can be taught to those who come after them.

How to get big tasks done faster

Make them little tasks. Break them into 10-minute tasks. Bite-sized pieces and easy wins generate momentum.

Take your goal of losing 30lbs and lose 1lb a week for 30 weeks. You’ll actually do it.

Break it down, break it down, break it down.

One step in front of the other, playing the long game. It’s the best game.

Having short tasks that are all part of a much larger task/goal will also give you a gameplan you can follow every day which gives you a solid reason to wake up earlier and get to work with more enthusiasm.

You can’t eat an elephant in one bite.

Differences between risk-taking and gambling

Risk taking is not gambling. Taking a risk involves an unknown (maybe unlimited) upside. Gambling has its ceiling. You could lose it all, but you can only win so much.

When Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook, nobody predicted it would grow as massive as it did. Same with Google, Apple, the invention of the internet, the car, and electricity.

Up front risk, reputation and money on the line, but an upside so great it was never predicted by the wise men of the time.

Risk taking is not gambling, it’s much more useful and way more fun.

Airport yoga

I had just disembarked from my flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco(first time visiting) and as I walked down the airport corridor I saw a sign for a meditation/yoga room at the airport.

I took a picture with my phone and laughed to myself that this city of the summer of love “hippies” would, of course, have a room dedicated to yoga and meditation. I laughed.

Then I saw a group of cyclists and chuckled again to myself while thinking “who would ever get into that?” You know, wearing those tight shorts, while riding skinny-0wheeled bikes around town. I laughed some more.

A little while later, my Uber driver drove us past a golf course and I had similar thoughts and reactions to playing “such a boring game” again, who would waste their time on something that seems so mundane? I had another chuckle.

Now, a couple of short years later, I meditate each morning, I really enjoy cycling and am aiming at my first 100-mile ride, and I’ve just picked up golf and hope to get better at playing and enjoy some time on beautiful courses around the world.

I took from this experience a few things:

1.) Those who don’t understand you will laugh at you. Until you persist and they join you.

2.) Perspective is very real. Meditation, cycling, and golf previously held no value to me and I was un-empathetic to the idea that they could hold value to others and therefore I laughed off all three things and never considered any value they offered.

So don’t be afraid of the critic or the one who laughs from afar. He probably doesn’t understand, doesn’t value, and doesn’t care enough to offer critique or opinion that would be valuable to your process anyway. Never let the critic stop you.