Pressure Drop

The brain is a prohibitive motor. One of the ways to quiet the lizard brain is by listening to music.

Music helps people get out of their own heads. When listening to music, people are more willing to take risks. Music provides just enough stimuli to get into an unconscious zone of action.

Athletes listen to music to drown out distractions so they can mentally focus on the game. I listen to music when taking pictures in the City to remove self-consciousness. Music makes me unafraid to get up close.

Music helps remove hesitancy and fear by turning off the resistance to our surroundings. Everything is mental until music turns off the brain.

Erase/Rewind

She was searching for the answer to work and life balance. What she ended up doing is traveling the world, to 10 different countries to be exact.

Why is it that when we get frustrated we leave home to go an adventure into unknown territories? Why don't we just go for a drive or walk to a local place we've never been before?

The urge to get away and see something completely new arises from stuckness and boredom. We believe that we need to have our mind blown if we want to start fresh and plan for a new future.

Traveling resets the clock and helps gain perspective. But it doesn't supplant old habits with new lifestyles. Traveling is a short-term solution to the extant problem of our own displeasure. Self-acceptance is also a temporary shortcut.

It's not about where we go or who we are, but that we keep asking questions so we can progress.

New York...

  • It makes you good at ignoring people, especially the haters and the trolls.
  • It helps you think once rather than twice, riding the wave of instinct.
  • It hardens passion and love for the grind, strengthening perseverance.

Of course, you're not aware of these attributes until you exit the City and realize that most of the world operates with more rigidity and stillness. What's normal in New York is considered chaos elsewhere.

"People are animals, and the city is full of people in strange plumage.” — E.B. White

New York is not the world. It's oddly parochial despite being a polyglot city. Yet it still projects itself as the paragon of exceptionalism, a concrete jungle that befits the American Dream.

If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Just don't expect the same stimulation beyond the island of Manhattan.

Process

Everyone has one. It's the motor that prepares life for action, even automation. When you wake up, you brush your teeth. When you get to work, you may dabble in email and Twitter and then take on the weekly reports.

There's little process when we're younger. We don't need to structure our lives around work since our parents are providing for us. Children just act. Their main focus is having fun and enjoying the freedom to explore and learn new things.

Process is a means of survival. As adults, we have to be responsible. We have to contribute or we'll be left out, jobless and unable to eat. We make endless lists to remind us of the things that need to get done, lest we regret.

Mondays remind us of the importance of process, for without it we're a lost ship at sea.

Oliver Sacks, The Anti-Instagram, Asshole Nations, Sir Jony Ive, and Typewriters

Below are my top recommended links for the week. You can get this newsletter delivered to your inbox every Sunday by subscribing right here.

Life Is Short

When we're only guaranteed so much life left, we focus on what's truly important and ignore the rest. For reknowned neurologist/author Oliver Sacks who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, that means focusing on “on myself, my work and my friends.” In his last New York Times op-ed, Sacks spills out his gratitude for life and his "intercourse" with the world.

VSCO: The Anti-Instagram

When we care more about likes and comments and less about the art, the art suffers. VSCO is trying to recreate the museum of the digital age, using its editing tools, sharp filters, and VSCO Grid (here's mine) to tie together "art and technology." VSCO actually reminds me of early Instagram, when it was dominated by photographers and artists. Except, VSCO is deliberately sticking to the niche.

+ Seth Godin explains why you should only produce and market for the niche/micro market anyway.

Asshole Nation

Russia is a belligerent asshole. So too is insouciant North Korea. Britain is half-asshole only because it can't be the asshole it once was. Japan is a little asshole because it still permits whale killing. Of course, excluded from this article is the United States, which may be the most complicated asshole nation of all-time: a kind, exceptional asshole.

+ Why America keeps losing wars. Hint: because it doesn't really need to win them.

Click Click Boom

The life of a computer is 3-5 years. The life of a typewriter is a century. The typewriter once made writing faster and louder. Today, the typewriter's nostalgic noise may be the only reason people want to use them again.

“If you want to concentrate, if you want to write in your own mind, write with a typewriter. You see the words hit the paper. There’s no distractions.””

+ Making copies. Here's how Xerox's copy machine led to a lot of paper wasting. 3-d printing is expected to do the same.

Sir Jony Ive

Unless you were living in a cave this week, you probably heard about the awesome 9,000 word piece in the New Yorker on Jony Ive. Apple's future lies within his hands, or wrists.

+ Jony Ive's motivational poster: "Believe in your fucking self." I bought the expletive version for my office as well.

♫ Tunes of the Week

  1. Watusi High - Thank U Jay
  2. Romare - Work Song
  3. Suff Daddy - Suff Gucci (Mane Remix)
  4. Ivy Lab - Two By Two
  5. Malaky & Velocity - MIdnight
  6. Beatslappaz - Them Girlz

Listen HERE.

Thought of the Week

“Different is attractive.” Bansky

Continuous Experience

  • Work is continuous. As soon as people stop doing, they lose their flow.
  • Work is habit. People work on vacation just so they can keep up.
  • Work is place. People spend more time at the office than they do at home.

Work is also blind. Like love, it can obfuscate emotion. People get so deep in the trenches of doing that they forget why they started working in the first place. Steven Pressfield would call quitting the resistance. However, taking a break from work reprograms your thinking.

A teacher takes sabbatical not to stop working but to do something else like research or writing a book. The door to new ideas and fresh thinking opens with a good break. Like a lotus flower, one can open up every once in a while to gain fresh perspective. Change is the rhythm of life.

What's Your UBI?

My high school English teacher had another word for thesis. He called it UBI, for Unifying Big Idea.

Anytime I get confused or frustrated because I can't explain something, thinking about that acronym helps me simplify my thoughts. What's the point? What am I trying to say, in a nutshell?

One of the challenges of making statements is that they're not proven yet. They're merely guesses about what feels right. We need to think and talk about them more deeply to develop them further.

Jony Ive alludes to the UBI conundrum in the most recent New Yorker interview:

“My intuition’s good, but my ability to articulate what I feel was not very good—and remains not very good, frustratingly. And that’s what’s hard, with Steve not being here now.”

Jony Ive worked out his ideas with Steve Jobs the same way my English teacher helped me corroborate my thinking.

Ideas are democratic. They need to be launched, discussed, and tested about. We need other people to rebut and poke at our theories to make us clarify and justify them.

Direct to Fan

The audience already exists. The hard part is getting them to pay attention to your story.

How do you attract a fan base? You pick a specific audience or one person and write for them. You produce in anonymity until you get feedback on expectations. Most importantly, you show up and do the work.

The question is not whether you're good enough but whether you're dedicated to the cause. The audience is already there. They're just waiting for you to show some consistency in shipping something different.

"Different is attractive." - Banksy

Just Do It?

Doing for the sake of doing becomes a paradox when it creates extra work. Why take on more than you can handle?

Overworking is an addiction. You don't just do it. You do it for a practical reason: a paycheck, curiosity, helping others. On the other hand, people do less when the work sucks. They cut corners and half-ass it. People lose hope when they don't see the point in their shift.

Everything is practice. When the work sucks, the process matters even more. Whether it's interning or playing water boy, the skills you learn will help you elsewhere. Doing is learning to connect the dots so you can get the job you actually want.

But if you do enjoy the work, avoid taking on more than you can chew unless it really matters. Doing just to do hurts more than it helps.

Balance of Power

Dogs mark their territory with a simple gesture of urination. But so do humans. We just use social contracts to reserve our spot.

The gentlemen who puts his jacket on the chair of an open table signals ownership. The order in which we stand in line delineates priority. So when we annex the table or cut the line we're obviating any sense of prerogative.

Ownership is a right but it gets disrupted again and again because it's equally arbitrary and temporary. Needless to say, we all can be assholes.

There's a Formula

  • Pop songs with 120 BPM plus auto-tune
  • Selfies and pets in costumes on Instagram

The Billboard charts and social media trends advise what's popular. But what's popular is often the least creative. The formula for feeding the masses is paved in predictability and banality. Prepare to engineer the future.

"The best way to predict the future is to create it." - Abraham Lincoln

Happy Presidents' Day.

Use It or Lose It

Below are my favorite pieces of the week. Note that I didn't say my "favorite reads" this time around. I'm now including podcasts and videos as part of my favorite 7 links. There's also some new Electronica and Hip-hop tunes after the jump.

If you're enjoying this newsletter, please do me a favor and share it with a friend.

Use It or Lose It

Our brains aren't machines. They're plastic, but only if we exercise them. Walking and learning a new language birth new neurons and secure old ones. While it's true that brains deteriorate over time like computers, they also keep feeding off consistent daily activity.

Rewind Selecta

The cassette tape is resurging like vinyl. Some music fans still want to own something physical, mainly because of the hipness but also because of the nostalgia. Mixtapes can also be displayed as little pieces of art.

Analog is Heavy

As Clive Thompson explains in this video, knowing what we want to do, whether it's big picture thinking or note-taking or delivering a paper or speech, can impact the decision on which tools (pen/paper or keyboard) we use to maximize productivity.

Instagram's Napster?

It's amazing how far some Instagrammers go to capture a photo. Some break the law because they fail to pay a permit; others may stupidly risk their lives in provoking a wild animal. But the lawsuits remind me of the early days of music piracy, when the labels didn't actively seek out freeloaders but would sue them once they were identified. Who owns what in the Smartphone/Internet age?

Port to Port

I glaze at the ships and containers every time I drive on the New Jersey turnpike. Everything we buy (cars, iPhones, clothing) are in there. Here's a fascinating read on global shipping networks plus beautiful pics of container yards.

Wordpress

An astonishing 23% of the Internet operates on Wordpress. In this podcast episode, Tim Ferriss interviews Wordpress CEO/founder Matt Mullenweg. They discuss productivity apps like Simplenote and Momentum, why it's best to work to familiar playlists (not Internet radio) and why everyone has an opinion on the most trivial shit. Take notes because they're so much to learn here.

Footnotes

The best part about the web is that instead of listing your sources at the end of the post you can simply hyperlink to it. But the web thrives on today, not yesterday. Links rot and break. Maybe this is why college professors still enforce footnotes.

+ Perhaps instead of hyperlinking we should consider the screenshort and tweet the image of the source. Just don't delete the tweet.

"Kind of counterintuitively, Screenshorts demonstrate why the 140 character limit is vital.”

♫ Tracks of the Week

  1. The Maghreban - Green Apple
  2. Tirzah - I'm Not Dancing
  3. Jam City - Unhappy
  4. Dez - Ocarina
  5. A1 I.N.T. - Choices
  6. Knx.[ノレッジ] - Plaiurprt

Listen HERE.

Thought of the Week

“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.” - Noam Chomsky

The Keys Are Still Analog

Faster is better for production. Slower is better for thinking.

Take writing by hand for example. We synthesize and think bigger picture when we write with a pen and pencil rather than with a keyboard. However, we catch all our ideas and hit a flow state when we get into a good rhythm of typing.

To take it a step further, I find that the writing on the mobile device is just the right pace of cognitive thinking and doing. Because we have to type with our thumbs, the writing is slower than a keyboard but also much faster than writing by hand. My thoughts collide with the mobile keyboard and even speed up at intervals because of the predictive text.

As Clive Thompson explains in the video below, knowing what you want to do, whether it's big picture thinking or note taking or delivering a paper or speech by the end of the day can impact the decision on which tools we use to maximize productivity.

Half Man Half Amazing, _________

When in doubt, write it down. When in doubt, go with your gut. When in doubt, act confident. When in doubt, run with what you got. When in doubt, do it anyway.

When in doubt, whittle doubt down to what it is: anxiety and fear. Never fight doubt. The only way to face doubt is to accept it while going toward it with courage.

Undoubtedly, doubt an impediment in disguise. It's really a trigger for experiences. All believing is betting in the game of doubt. Embrace it.

“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” — Yann Martel

More on doubt:

The Other Side

The other side isn't as as green nor busy as the main side. It's also less convenient to get to as you have to cross the road.

While the other side is a bit more dangerous and rugged, it's exactly where you need to be.

Discomfort expands your perspective. By taking the path less taken, you literally and figuratively, see the other side. Go the opposite direction if you really want to grow.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost

King Kong Power

Take the low road if you want to find easy obstacles. Take the high road if you want to endure embarrassment and failure.

When's the last time anything worthwhile came with a walk in the park? Courage takes vulnerability. It takes practice to be uncomfortable. It takes audacity to show up and to err with confidence.

Success is the accumulation of the mistakes you make. No one gets it right the first time. So give it a shot, and then do the same thing again tomorrow.

Pro tip: No one truly cares about you other than your family and friends. Even they have their own problems to deal with. Be your own judge, keep the patience, and stay committed.

Batter Up

I used to play baseball every day when I was younger. I even won a couple golden gloves. I wasn't the strongest hitter so I used my small strike zone to walk a lot. But I quit baseball in the 8th grade. I had the same complaint about the sport then as many have now: it's too damn slow.

Baseball doesn't have a time clock. That's why games average 3 hours long and are only getting longer. Forget watching a baseball game on TV. Attending one is more about the ambiance and food then it is the game itself. I don't know how any Millennial can sit through a game without Snapchatting a selfie. Generation Z would rather watch others play baseball on Twitch.

Baseball is America's pastime. If it's going to stay relevant in the culture of screens it's got to speed up its games to match the mobile era or it'll continue to lose fans to other sports. Yes, even soccer. Baseball needs a constrictive clock badly, much like the NFL and NBA do to keep the games rolling along.