Yinyang

Everything can be negative. Everything can be positive. Everything can just be ok too.

Outlooks ride the roller coaster of life. Sometimes giving the finger is the exact release of tension you need. Smiling, even when faked, lightens the mood. Indifference can create a peaceful pause.

All emotions complement of each other. You just can't get stuck too deep in one or the other. Perhaps Marcus Aurelius said it best:

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts."

Even if those thoughts are negative or neutral.

Surface Level

...is what people see when they look ahead. They'd rather generalize and assume that's how things typically work. It's easier for them to see the big picture than think about all the subtleties in between.

The world may be flat but what about the differences found underneath, inside, over, and above? Sometimes it's the things that people don't see that matter the most, such as the guts of a computer.

Generalizing works to understand things at a macro-level. It fails, however, in uncovering the minutiae. No two things or people are exactly the same. Exploration challenges popular assumptions.

Things are best understood looking from the different angles rather than at surface level.

Turtling

Turtles move ahead at their own leisure. They carry their homes on their back. They poke their heads out when they're curious. Turtles choose when to explore and when to stay put.

Turtles accept their handicap of slowness and learn to coexist with creatures that are more versatile. Turtles are born with patience.

What race? The tortoise beats the hare not because it doesn't care but because it's only competing against itself. The finish line is just a milestone of many more ahead.

Work-in-regress

No matter how hard we work we don't go anywhere.  Instead of going forward, we go backward.

Perhaps we're working the wrong way or working on the things that nobody else cares about.  Perhaps we need to take our work more seriously and do the most important thing in the morning instead of the last thing at night when we're running on fumes.

Or, perhaps we need to toss the work altogether and start fresh, or put it on the backburner and move on with the business of living.  There's always other stuff to do, a new gig or side project to start.

But what if what we're working on keeps us fired up and persistent.  All we need is the opportunity to prove ourselves.  Keep the patience.  Good things take time.    

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Knock-on Effects

...are things that happen now and have a deleterious impact later on.

The simplest example is a train delay. Because all trains run on the same tracks, a delay in one trains delays the next few.

A more personal example may be any one of your bad habits. Perhaps you smoke. One cigarette won't kill you now but the accumulation increases all likeliness of getting cancer.

There's nothing positive within a knock-on effect other than what it predictably teaches, that bad things can be prevented with careful planning.

You're unable to prevent a train delay but you can save your health. You're current investment is always one for the future.

Google for Brains

“The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.” - Anton Chekhov

Below are 7 handpicked articles highlighting everything from art, culture, and technology. If you haven't subscribed to the newsletter yet, you should. Stay curious.

Google for brains

Google obviates the need to put in the effort to think. The same answers that kill questioning inhibit memory: “The easier it is for us to acquire information…the less likely it is to stick.” Google makes us dumber.

How to think positive

The law of attraction intends to turn positive thinking into positive results. But recent studies show though that positive thinking may discourage you from achieving your goals beacuse expectations are set too high. "Mental constrasting" is a recommended method for dreaming more realistically.

Back to the future

Einstein taught us that time is all relative. Time is just a coincidence of collision. But what if time was fiction altogether? This article explains why we're all still bewildered by time.

Just do it

Anything forced immediately loses meaning, from work to sport. Kids have passion because they pursue genuine excitement. Meanwhile, adults tend to obey and suck it up. Finding passion means returning to your “child brain.”

Paris catacombs

The underground has always been a homage for artists, a place to to create and share work with each other. The Paris catacombs are no exception. These artists are using Paris catacombs as their canvass, and as a place to throw some of pretty rad parties.

+ NY Times: Museums are starting to adopt digital technologies to augment the viewing experience.

Train dreaming

Trains fill the void between work and home. For this author riding Côte d’Azur, trains are a “rolling writer's studio.” Trains are an inspiring place to work and see the world. Perhaps that's why they're also a place where big ideas come to mind.

+ Medium: I write every day on my train commute. I even wrote a series about it a couple years ago called The Train Diaries.

Waying options

Indecision is still a decision. People become Satisficers rather than Maximizers as they age because good enough becomes better than perfect. Make haste and move on.

+ My Blog Posts

Get it done

...is what most leaders command. They care less about the thought behind the work than shipping the work itself.

But getting it done is an assembly line philosophy. The less skilled person with a little bit of grit is just as efficient as the smartest person in the room.

Most workers prefer to be busy bees and lemmings rather than innovators and unique thinkers. They rather focus on being productive than creative.

Conversely, some thinkers spend too much time debating possibilities and never ship anything. They get caught in beta.

Knowing what and when to work on something is the maker's dilemma. The end-product ultimately speaks for itself.

Talking Heads

People learn through experience and clear examples. That's why classrooms and meetings are full of images, maps, and graphs.

But the teaching only starts there. It's the teacher's responsibility to give context to the material. A good teacher communicates effectively and provokes different trains of thought amongst students.

Meanwhile, it's the student's responsibility to be curious and ask questions. A good student thinks alone but bounces off ideas within the classroom.

Teaching and learning are reciprocal relationships that lean on an open forum. So while visual examples explain everything, they don't make sense until the material in them gets talked about or written down.

Into the Jungle

Goals create focus. But those same goals can also crimp the pursuit.

Instead of focusing on the goal, focus on the process.

Instead of relentlessly pursuing positivity, happily chase failure.

A real goal is one that's doom to fail. It probably is impossible. But no one succeeds in their first try. Life is a game of increments.

Summary

Skip progress and perfection and embrace process and uncertainty. Show up everyday, do the work, and ship it if it's good enough. Keep the practice of patience and success will meet you on the other side.

Olana House

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting the Olana House by American painter Frederich Church.  

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He designed the house himself in the 1860s, inspired by his trips to the Middle East.  

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Sticking to Hudson School aesthetic, he built the home with views that mimicked his paintings.  Yes, this is a reflection selfie off the house into the backyard. 

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Two things stood out to me on the tour:  

1.  Frederich Church was a devout Protestant.  However, he prioritized his interests and curiosities over religion.  Since he was an artist, he may have also used his house to market/differentiate himself from the others. 

2.  The museum had a couple offices inside.  I would say that seeing those rooms tainted the illusion.  When you're recreating stories, you should probably close the door on modernity.  

Story short, you have to admire Church for doing something different in a more parochial era of American culture.  But you have to do what no one else is doing if you want to stand out.  Uniqueness is timeless.  
 

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You Idiot

Below are 7 articles that got me thinking differently about the world this week. Enjoy.

Obits

Margalit Fox writes obituaries for the New York Times. Instead of writing with melancholy her objective is to celebrate the life of the recently desist. Obituaries are the "jolliest department in the paper."

+ Side note: Write your own obituary. It's a good way to get your shit straight.

Leave Me a Message at the Beep

If you're like me, you get a little irritated when someone leaves you a voicemail. Why don't they just send you a text or an email instead? But Leslie Horn is making me reconsider. She explains why she keeps certain voicemails and even shares them on SoundCloud.

Moan-a-Lisa

We pass by pieces of art like they're books at the library. But “you can’t really see a painting as you’re walking by it.” This article suggests that we slow down and spend upwards of 30 minutes in front of painting. 30 minutes is 3 hours in the Instagram era.

You Idiot

If you're going to self-talk, do it in the third-person to gain some extra perspective. Using "I" is way too critical. Amazing how a little shift in focus can make you feel more positive.

+ Brainpickings: Frustrated? Be like water. Water is the embodiment of letting go and being one with the power of nature. Bruce Lee discovered this detachment by merely punching water, which didn't fight back. Echoing Lao Tzu, "what is soft is strong."

Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop breaks down the current music industry, railing the birth of piracy against his quest to make music for free: “So we are exchanging the corporate rip off for the public one. Aided by power nerds. Kind of computer Putins.” This in turn forces musicians to jack up ticket prices, which is unfair to fans. The conundrum between art, the Internet, and commerce goes on.

Walking and Talking

““The Queen of England once said, ‘There’s nothing that can’t be figured out on a good walk.’”” This walking and talking couple came up with the idea of Bluemercury on one of their nightly walks. Apparently walking every night is date night, a chance to catch up and let go of steam. And maybe even talk some business.

The City That Never Sleeps

“Find your beach in the middle of the city. Find your beach no matter what else is happening.” Zadie Smith explains why New Yorkers are obsessed with finding solitary happiness in a sea (city) of limitless opportunity and people. Maybe a little constriction of the countryside isn't too bad after all.

+ My Blog Posts

 

 

 

Control-Alt-Delete

Cut and paste is more than a computer shortcut.  It's the paradox of our times. 

Cut and paste can save you time and make you more productive. Why rewrite the same formula in excel 100 times over?  Why attribute the source when you can embed a photo and make it look like your own? The Internet is the world's largest cut and paste machine.

However, reducing the brain to automata poses serious consequences.  It undermines thinking into desultory action.  It turns man into a machine.

Machines reproduce.  They don't think and create new things, yet.  God gave humans brain to release them from the prison of biology. 

Everything is practice. Repetition is not an excuse to skip steps.  The power of habit compels the human to start all over again.

Passion Detector

There's really only one way to make a decision: you either say "hell yeah" or no. There's no in between, no fence-sitting.

People that say yes to everything sacrifice time. Time is the currency of happiness.

Of course, saying no implies that you have choice in the first choice. If you've got nothing going for you, you might as well say yes because you've got nothing to lose.

Decision-making is a gut choice. People know immediately when a new opportunity excites them. "Hell yes" is therefore your best passion detector.

Camera+

It's what you look for and what you see.  If it was just what you see you'd go blind to your surroundings.  If it was just what you looked for you'd miss the subtle differences you see by focusing.  

Observation is the practice of zooming in and zooming out.  Your eyes write stories and etch memories with every sight.  No person's vision is exactly the same.  Perspective is a singular experience in which everyone sees different things.

What's obtuse for you may appear obvious and normal to other people.  And vice versa.  But vision is ultimately social.  People have to agree on the same things.  So we drive on the right side of the road and define cats versus dogs.  What you see is what you get, but that doesn't mean you always have to agree.

Self-Competition

Competition convinces people to work hard for the wrong things. This is especially true in school.

Students compete for superiority because they have no other task at hand. School is their job. The SAT's sole purpose is to further segregate the competition.

Corporate jobs emphasize similar desultory competition; instead of competing for grades employees compete for title and more money.

Why compete at all for anything that falls outside the personal mission? A word of advice: Don't compete. Create.

Creativity emerges from the innate desire to make new things or make existing ones better. Creativity focuses on benefitting the social good rather than elbowing for extra credit.

Animals compete to survive. Humans already have plenty of food. Competition lies only within self, to fulfill one's innate desire to do greater good.

To Be a Generalist

Generalists know a little bit of something about everything. They are curious and use their vast references to combine ideas. Generalists make good cratediggers.

But when it comes to goal-setting, generalists tend to be depressed. They struggle to specify exactly what they want and instead opt for the abstract.

Meanwhile, specialists excel at doing one thing. They tend to be confident yet defined. They only know what they know right now and can only see something as it long it connects back to their area of expertise. This is why accountants are matter-of-fact thinkers and creators can't justify formulas.

The reality is that one has to be both expert and liberal arts student. The world admires interesting people with just enough flair for a good conversation.

Writer's Desk

There is no such thing as homefield-advantage for a writer. A writer should be able to write from anywhere: from the bed, on the road, in their head.

All the writer needs is a blank canvass, an idea or prompt, and a writing tool to get started, whether that be in the form of a keyboard, pen, or aerosol spray can.

The notion that every writer needs a desk is bunk. J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter in the coffee shop. Ambient noise aids creativity. Winston Churchill wrote from bed. I enjoy writing on the train. A moving place is a moving mind.

Writing never stops because thinking never stops. In fact, some of the best ideas emerge when writers retreat from their work.

"Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The only difference is that writers keep taking notes. They chronicle everyday moments. Everything they see, hear, touch, and smell seems to be writing prompt.

"I'm not writing it down to remember it later. I'm writing it down to remember it now. " - Field Notes

It doesn't matter where or when writers do the work, just that they do it often, even when they're not feeling inspired. The more writers write, the more they have to play with.

For more on writing habits, I suggest subscribing to The Cramped.