Oldie but a Goodie

My Instapaper is ballooning with great content. Between all the newsletters, tweets, and RSS feeds, I feel like there's interesting reads everywhere. Nonetheless, below are some of my favorite links along with my some fresh tracks I discovered this week.

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F%ck Your Couch

You might want to care a little less about the trifling things and put more effort into things that actually matter. Mark Manson describes the subtle art of not giving a f*ck.

“Because when we give too many fucks, when we choose to give a fuck about everything, then we feel as though we are perpetually entitled to feel comfortable and happy at all times, that’s when life fucks us.”

Oldie but a Goodie

At 93 years old Roger Andell is still as wise as a whip. He blogs and memorizes poems to keep his mind fresh. He also heeds Walter Cronkite's advice for old men:

“Never trust a fart. Never pass up a drink. Never ignore an erection”

Hack to Happiness

Set concrete goals like making someone smile instead of focusing on making them happy. As in life, the more specific your aim the more likely you are to get it.

+ Afghans are as happy as Latin Americans and 20% more likely to smile than Cubans.

The Groggy Nap

There are three main categories for napping: the Planned Nap, the Habitual Nap, and the Emergency Nap. Then there's the nap's duration, ranging from the the 6 minute Ultra-Short Sleep Episode to the 45 minutes Groggy Nap. I just wish they had cots at work.

+ Staying awake: Check out Starbucks Japan’s Origami Pourover Kit. Does this mean Americans get their’s in a Happy Meal?

Life Coach Tony Robbins

Money plays a huge role in happiness. But so does emotion. Chances are if you're progressing and pulling motivation you're happy.

"Progress equals happiness."

Writing Intervention

When in doubt, write it out. Push on with more optimistic writing. Dabble in an autobiography for self-help.

+ Here's the Five Minute Journal to help you get started.

Enter Passcode

Adults are fascinated with what teens are doing with their phones. It turns out that not all teens are sexting 24 hours a day. They're also not sharing everything on Instagram and Snapchat. Instead, they're putting passwords on some of their images.

+ Did you know that the average person keeps 630 pictures on their phone? That number is 1,500 in Japan.

♫ Tracks of the Week

  1. Bully - Milkman
  2. Joey Bada$$ - Born Day
  3. Gebeatah - Forever My Love
  4. Romare - Prison Blues
  5. Deft - Emeralds
  6. Phreni - Faces
  7. Midnight Rhythms - Evenings

Listen here or stream below.

Thought of the Week

“The things that made you weird as a kid make you great today.” — James Victore

Quid Pro Quo

'Whatever you want to pay me' usually leads to a higher tip, especially if that person does an excellent job.

Providing a service upfront reverses psychology. It sets the stage, quid pro quo. Yet adults always advise college students never to intern for free. They encourage money before experience. Money is an evaluation of work, just as grades are in school. But does every effort deserve compensation?

No one's paying me to write this blog, nor do I have any advertising on it. I get to share my knowledge, thoughts, and inspiration with the Internet. Writing keeps my brain fresh. No one is going to pay you, whether it's with money or attention, until you offer them value first.

Bonus: If you're already passionate about the work you're doing, you're all set.

The Danger of a Single Path

The psychic tells you what you want to hear: that someday is today and that the future holds great things for you.

But the reality isn’t so glorious. Shit continues to happen. Good luck is only as promising as a fortune cookie. While prayer instills hope, it too can over promise and under deliver. The quickest route to happiness appears to be acceptance. But that attitude breeds inanition.

When in doubt, disrupt yourself. Shake shit up. Try something new. Get lost. Go the path not recommended by Google Maps. The most worthwhile path usually takes the longest.

"If you're going through hell, keep going.” - Winston Churchill

The 10%

Let’s take the 90–9–1 rule for web users but focus on the contributors and creators, the 9% and 1% respectively.

Contributors can be defined as either passive or active.

Passive Users

These users make up the bulk of the Internet. They retweet and reblog. They look for other people to share content so they can reexpress it without taking full responsibility for the original post. As they say, retweets are endorsements.

Note: A reblog on Tumblr means more than a Retweet. A tumblr page is like a journal or scrapbook. It’s more personal than a Twitter account. The Twitter feed is a non-stop barrage of noise. Unless you’re a celebrity or influencer, no one cares for your shit.

Active Users

These people curate the web and discover stuff that other people like but they don’t necessarily add any of their own value to what they share. A typical Tweet from an active user includes the title of an article with a link.

Creators

These people are the content suppliers. They not only look for interesting things and add their two cents before passing it off but they also provide their own original content. Creators can be bloggers, writers, musicians, painters, and other artists who want people to share their work.

The easiest way to participate online is to curate content to show others what inspires you or what you’re thinking about. It’s much harder and much riskier to formulate your own opinion and stake your claim. It’s also the loneliest, especially when cat photo shares get more engagement. But the payoff to sharing your work is that you own it and deserve all the credit.

The 90%

90% of Internet users do nothing else but lurk, scanning feeds like a voyeur. But the good news is that networks like Instagram and Snapchat are influencing people to make their own content. Billions more people are going to join the Internet in the next few years and they’re going to want to be heard. The users that can discover content, mash it up, and create their own will continue to stand out. Creativity always gets the credit it deserves.

“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever, make.” — Joss Whedon

Swipe Right

Below are the most interesting reads and tunes I discovered this week.

Digital Stress

Constant connectivity isn't causing more stress. People said the same thing when the telephone emerged. What's stressing us out is life because shit happens. Pro tip: If you can't get rid of it, it matters.

Analog is Heavy

Echo similar sentiment here. I question the necessity of any new social network. I even doubt the existing ones. What'll last are the books, articles, and blog posts, not the ephemeral thoughts and "pretty pictures."

MindReader

Rana el Kaliouby had one goal: "to create an algorithm that could read faces.” What she's developing is an advertiser's dream. Create emotions, sell product.

Swipe Right

I lost my place. That's the feeling I get when I log into check Twitter or Instagram. I see old content and then scroll all the way up to realize there's no more. The feed's over. There's got to be a better viewing experience.

Practice

"We're not good enough to not practice." - Kiese Laymon

There's no way around it. The ritual of practice makes you better. Come to think of it, everything is practice, even if it means going back to your roots.

Digital Nomad

It's cheaper to travel the world and work than it is to live and work in San Francisco. Such is the life for this digital nomad. New environment, fresh ideas.

Street Etiquette

From your hair to your clothes, your style tells a story without having to say a word. Check your head with the Street Etiquette duo at TED x New York.

Tunes of the Week

  1. Anthony Naples - Abrazo
  2. Petite Noir - Shadows
  3. Project Mooncircle - Paint Me Like the Sky
  4. Robot Koch - Let Me
  5. Jon Hopkins - Late Night Tales (preview)

Stick this in your ear.

Thought of the Week

“Attack life, it’s going to kill you anyway.” - Stephen Colbert

Snapstagram

There's a lot of talk these days about the shift to Snapchat from other networks: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. But where you share still comes down to three main factors:

  • When you're sharing
  • Who you're sharing with
  • What story you're trying to tell

When, Where, Why?

Context is an important factor in determining what social network you use. People, place, an Internet connection, the lighting: all these impact the content you make. For instance, you may not be able to use Snapchat because there's zero bars in the subway! In this scenario, you can use the phone's default camera to capture the moment and publish it later through a third-party app like Snaproll.

Social networks want you to use their apps to make content. But the tools are interchangeable. You may use Hyperlapse to record a video for Snapchat, Twitter, or your Tumblr. You may use Snapchat to capture a moment and decide to save that content for sharing across other networks. Content is fungible. What differentiates the content is the network you choose to publish it in.

Who's the Audience?

Whom you share content with depends primarily on the feedback you expect in return. Many people still share on Facebook first because they know that's where they'll get the most likes and comments. They may also use that same content and open it up to other channels.

Going direct is always a popular option. The likes of iMessage and WhatsApp allow people to share with their closest circle of friends. This hidden exchange is what they refer to as dark social because it can't be tracked.

But if you ask anyone at work on the street what their favorite social networks today it's Instagram. It's easier to tell a story through imagery than it is to think about a Tweet. Instagram is Twitter without the words. Instagram is the next mass media network like Facebook.

What's the Story?

There are some basic storytelling tenets to social media. For example, Snapchat is generally used to project real life and raw events while Intagram is more edited in the attempt to capture one defining moment. Meanwhile, people use Facebook and Tumblr summarize past events.

As previously mentioned, your story also depends your intended audience and the environment you're in. Constriction forces creativity. It sometime harder to decide what to share when there's free range to shoot anything.

So Where to Hang?

When you start seeing social networks as places rather than virtual networks you begin to evaluate your habits better. Perhaps you like to keep your dialogue amongst a circle of friends. Perhaps you prefer to go public with everything, especially knowing that the content expires (i.e. Snapchat Stories). Content creation can be a predetermined process based on your intended audience.

But content creation is neutral. It's actually the filters and other stuff (geotags, captions, emoji) that give the content an identity. You are what you share.

Negative Imprint

Failure is stickier than success. Bad things are easier to remember than good. Luck or preparedness, whatever you call success, is harder to come by.

But a sufficient amount of positives can nullify failure. No one remembers Abraham Lincoln's "failures" because he saved the Union. No one remembers that Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots because he won six championships and five MVPs. Radiohead made a couple mediocre albums after OK Computer but returned to glory with In Rainbows and are still considered one of the best bands of all time. Meanwhile, we can all name a one hit wonder like Ace of Base.

Consistency is king. Success is an accumulation of efforts rather than a collection of errors. People are judged as failures not because they didn't do great things but because they didn't do them consistently enough. For example, President Obama pulled America out of Iraq and won the Nobel Peace Prize but declared preemptive war against ISIS. Will his missteps outweigh his accolades? Peyton Manning just lost his 13th playoff game. Does anyone remember his one Super Bowl ring 8 years ago?

Winning changes everything. It minimizes the flaws. But people latch on to failure because they either want to be proven wrong or it validates their own personal mistakes.

The bigger question is what to make of failure. If everything went as planned, we wouldn't learn anything. The ultimate goal is to fail forward but go out on top.

Eating Chocolate with Friends

New reads. New tunes. Same Sunday delivery. Here's the first newsletter of 2015.

The State of Social Networks

There's been a lot of talk this week about the value of social networks. A 19-year-old tech head writes that Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and YikYak are the most popular networks amongst teens. He deduces Facebook to an everyday digital necessity like email and Twitter to a mysterious niche. Meanwhile, Ev Williams follows up with a piece to corroborate his negative comment about Instagram. He basically says that you have to judge a network on its importance to society, that while Twitter has less active users than Instagram it offers more quality. And what about Pinterest? This author predicts that magazines will ultimately be converted into Pinterest boards.

I plan on cutting back social activity altogether. Social networks are merely 'places' so I'm selecting where I hang out carefully.

Earworm🐛

Everyone has an implicit understanding of music. Music is intrinsic. It tugs at our emotions. If you can hear a beat and start moving or fidgeting or flip through radio stations in attempt to find a good song, you can sense music. Moreover, what we listen to defines who we are. What's your soundtrack to life?

Note: Music professionals do prefer good sound. Aphex Twin is even making his own sound software.

Life of Pi

Imagine your work described as "weird, but elegant." That's how they explained the genius of Ramanujan, who grew up poor in in India with nothing but a basic mathematics textbook. But the formulae he created went beyond what was known in his day. Ramanujan predicted the future of mathematics by twisting it with Hinduism. On a related note, I just got back from the south of India where Ramanujan grew up. Magical place, to say the least.

Liberté

This is Teju Cole at his best. He points out the contradictions in mourning for the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. Praising the cartoonists as freedom of speech fighters while vilifying Edward Snowden for exposing Big Brother is a bit of a paradox. (Dis)agree to agree?

Click Bait

Emerson Spartz is obsessed with virality. He's the kind of guy that sees patterns and rides the waves of opportunity. I personally think clickbait is sheer evil but I'm interested in what sparks memes and why people are more interested in shit content than what matters. Originally gets less clicks.

Beating Procrastination

You can beat procrastination with sheer willpower but it won't last. You need to strengthen any habit with a positive reward, like eating chocolate with friends.

Running to Where?💦

Leisure time is stressful because we think about working when we're not working. The industrial mindset ties time to wages, which is why the first person at work and the last one to leave gets all the kudos. Is there a chill pill for some proper balance? Per Seth Godin: "we don't need more time, we just need to decide."

Tracks of the week

  1. Addison Groove - allyallrecords
  2. Alex Patchwork - Untitled Keys
  3. Daedelus - Onward(Mono/Poly Remix)
  4. Arima Ederra - For the Restless
  5. Pedestrian & Jasperdrum - Kalakuta (Alix Perez Remix)
  6. Glen & Lloyd - Rudies Give Up

♫ Listen here

Thought of the week

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” - Leonard Bernstein

2015: The Year I Take Time to Make Time

Travel does more than broaden your perspective. It changes you. It's makes you reevaluate what habits are important and what needs to be forgotten or limited. That being said, I've established some 2015 tenets for myself. Not surprisingly, most of them fall under social media which I had less access to during my trip to India.

  • Tweet less. Social media is becoming more like real life. Those that talk a lot tweet a lot. I'm generally an introvert and don't like adding to the noise even it its just simple keystrokes. I plan to treat Twitter more like RSS this year and save the most interesting links to my Instapaper.
  • Instagram the good stuff only. I have posted over 3k images on Instagram, practically one daily for a few years. Time to slow down. I'd also like to do more video. since the iPhone 6 camera is so ace.
  • Use Facebook like Email. Status quo on Facebook. It's banal like email. I check it once a check for new messages with a quick scroll through the newsfeed. Not much change here.
  • Blogging 3x/week: I blog every day like brushing my teeth. The posts are usually short but I publish daily because I'm obsessed with consistency. However, this year I'd like to blog at most 4x/week. This will allow me to go deeper into some of the posts and give myself a mental break.
  • Cut back on Tumblr. I had already done this prior to 2015. Instead of posting everything to Tumblr (my interests, pictures, blog posts, and aspirations) I plan to limit it to the best stuff with max 5x posts a week.

All of the above creates time for other stuff like reading more books and writing longer blog posts. I can also use the extra time to stretch my rotator cuff or do absolutely nothing and let my brain reconnect the dots on what matters. 2015 is the year I optimize productivity by doing more with less.

India 2014

Namaste

The world isn't flat just because everyone owns a mobile phone. The world is still as round and as varied as ever. Culture and customs are still intact. Below are some of the highlights and learnings from my travels through four cities in India's largest state by area: Rajasthan.

Jaipur

Jaipur is known as the Pink City. One of its rulers thought it was a good idea to pick a color. But what you're more likely to see is a hodgepodge of vibrant colors, especially among the women wearing their saris and the men with their turbans.

One of the most memorable ways to travel up the Amber Fort is by elephant, whose pace gives you a steady, birds eye view of the beautiful landscape below. Above Amber Fort sits Jaigarh Fort, a more traditional military fort designed to be the last bastion. Nahagarth Fort sits further down the road. It too overlooks the city but it also offers an equally stunning view of its own. Visitors can walk on top of the roof and see all of intricately designed rooms below.

Walking the Jaipur bazaar is an experience in itself. As a Westerner you get heckled by everyone from shop sellers to little kids begging for change. You get good at kindly ignoring them. The best way to capture the sights and sounds of the bazaar is to pause and let traffic dance around you. Indian cities make New York look calm.


Jodhur

India is perfect for car photography. If you travel between cities, you'll drive through many small towns and may notice any one of these interesting scenes: men peeing in public, people lighting fires, people squatting and using their knees as an armrest to read or smoke, loose cows and street dogs, a whole family on a motorcycle, packed cars, and lane-hogging tractors.

Unlike most parts of the world, honking in India is compulsory. Drivers use their horns to pass other cars rather than signaling left-right. It sounds like disorder and it is. Our driver got into a bumper! But all the honking keeps one billion people moving along while traditional road rules would slow everything down.

Johdpur is similar to Jaipur in density. The bazaars are filled to the tip. Johpur also has its own fort called the Mehrangarh Fort, known for its intricate lace-like window patterns. Just down the hill from the fort is Jaswant Thada, a mini Taj Mahal. Probably one of the more spectacular buildings though is the Umaid Bhawan Palace, which also happens to be a ridiculous hotel. Stop there for coffee/tee and mind the animal decor on the wall.


Jaisalmer

Jaislamer resides in the second largest desert in the world, Thar, a stones throw from Pakistan. The city's main fort, Golden Fort, encapsulates the entire city and still serves as homes for many people and more recently, hotels. The fort's biggest threat today is all the water use pressurizing the fort's raw materials. Be sure to check out the Gadisar Lake for some calm, stunning photography.

Camel riding safari in the sand dunes of Sam makes you feel like you're in Star Wars. We went when it was extra gloomy and chillingly cold which added to the ambiance.


Udaipur

Udaipur is a city built around lakes. The central lake, Lake Pichola, comprises five star hotels like the Taj and runs by the second largest palace in India, City Palace.

City Palace is similar to the other palaces we viewed, displaying war weapons, intricate architecture, the reign of rulers, and offering some aerial views in the city. But the best place to see all of Udaipur and its lakes is the Moon Palace which sits atop the hills. Just beware of all the monkeys.

Udaipur has both an old and new city, both of which felt tame in comparison to the chaos that embedded Jodhpur and Jaipur. Maybe it's the cleaner streets, the greenery, the lakes, the cute girls, and the 70 degree weather that give Udaipur its chill vibe. I could live here.


Mumbai

I only spent one day in Mumbai and happy it came at the end of my trip, otherwise my perception of India would've been skewed. Mumbai felt like New York: Bigger cars, skyscrapers, and better road infrastructure than anything I saw in Rajasthan. The world is flat if you're sole interpretation of India is Mumbai.


Get Unfamiliar

There's a TV ad in India that says "Be the first me." Unlike the American Dream, the Indian dream seems to be yourself and see what happens.

India is an explosion of culture and contradictions. Ten feet away from the tranquility of your hotel are waves of chaos and poor people in the streets. Yet despite the extant caste system, India's poorest are some of the happiest in the world. Meanwhile, the finest homes look mediocre from the outside. Indian mannerisms like the head bobble seem to suggest disapproval when in fact it's meant as acknowledgement. To top it off, "Namaste" is meant to greet people and say goodbye at the same time.

India makes all the stuff we worry about at home feel so small and stupid. Our biggest worry is water and wifi. I went to India to be schocked, not to pursue familiarity. India is a whirlwind, spinning the world to its own beat.

Out of Office

The only time I've use a canned response is when I'm out of office:

I'll be out of the office returning xyz. Please contact xyz in the interim. Thanks.

Until that point, my email responses differ no matter how many times I've tried to establish a template. I've tried to keep emails to three sentences, to write them in succint bullets points, to use colors like red and yellow to stress importance.

No email response is ever really the same since the context and the receiver is almost always different. That goes for one-word responses as well. That still takes time.

There's no such thing as a canned response, and there shouldn't be. Unless of course, you call me and get my automated voicemail. But who does that?

PS

A Place Called Home

We rent space in an apartment like we do our Tumblr pages. We can customize the place but property management runs the pipes. Conversely, we buy houses and websites so we can manage our own domains.

We all in live in these places and go about living our lives, doing the same things, just at different times. One world is really just a mass of niches. But whether we rent or own, everyone needs a place they can call home, where they can express their own individuality.

Home is where the art is.

#GIRLBOSS

Below are some new reads and music for your inspiration. I'll be away in India for a fortnight so the newsletter will reactivate Sunday, January 11.

"Whatever you do, it mustn’t be kitsch.”

Kitsch is a 19th century art term that describes fake art, or a systematic way of doing art to sell emotional sameness. Christmas cards and barbies are kitsch. They're boring and predictable but people love them. Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons capitalize on kitsch by simply ridiculing it. What is art but to give people what they want?

"Either you belong to the avant-garde, challenging the old ways of figurative painting, or you produce kitsch."

+ Artsy lists the "Top Living Artists of 2014"

Tech This Out

As the year comes to an end, here's an excellent summary of how we got where we are today and where we may be headed in the technology space. There's been three epochs in the tech space: the PC, the Internet, and Mobile. So what's next?

Bathroom Break

Productivity is the proper balance between efficacy and efficiency. Focusing on doing the right things well is more important than doing everything, more so, all at once. Multi-tasking doesn't work. Scott Hanselman offers some seminal tips on productivity, explaining how we can even be productive during unproductive times:

"The iPhone has completely changed the way that I poop."

Yup.

Break Routines

Attention is scarce in the smartphone era. Our phone screens are just way more exciting than the real world. But here are 20 ways to start seeing the world again. Not surprisingly, many are tied to walking which is one of most effective ways to unlock creativity.

+ Citylab: If I could walk everywhere I would. It's not just the cognitive benefits walking provides but the creative inspiration that comes from the people we meet and the art we stumble across. Here's some of the evidence for 'walkability'.

+ Wired: Walking also helps you breathe which further connects you to the universe.

Traveling the World

Traveling the world for 5 years is an eye opening experience. But what you realize is that everyone has the same human desires and needs to survive in their own context. You also realize that no one gives you a shit if you're imperfect. Traveling helps us gain perspective.

+ Guardian: The SlumGods of Mumbai

+ NatGeo: The man behind all the remarkable National Geographic photographs.

Girl Boss

Grimes is a musician, entrepreneur, and boss. In this article, she talks about how she builds responsibility and listens to her gut despite the haters. To be successful, all you need is some creativity, curiosity, and grit - everything else can be googled. You also might want to hang on to what you own.

"Copyright everything. DO NOT FORGET TO DO THIS. There are so many ways you can get screwed if you don’t copyright your work."

A Medium To Be Determined

Medium is both a writing and reading platform. Many of the articles that I feature in this weekly newsletter originate on Medium. So it's interesting to hear where Ev Williams its founder, and co-founder of Twitter, thinks it's headed. He's in no rush to scale, hence why there's no way to publish within the app just yet.

Tracks of the Week

  1. James Blake - 200 Press
  2. Midland - Before We Leave
  3. Lee Bannon - Untitled
  4. Flying Lotus - Coronus, The Terminator
  5. Bok Bok - Need This

♫ Listen here

Video of the Week

"Six Photographs": René Burri

Thought of the Week

“As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come.” Ernest Hemingway

Shades of Grey

Sit back with your eyes open. In front of you is the real world, not a made-up one full of dreams and fantasies.

Sit back with your eyes closed. In front of you is a movie screen to project your imagination. The future is boundless.

Sit back and let your eyes squint. In front of you is a flickering light beam. Reality rests on the pupils. Fiction sits behind the eyelids. Vision is really just a matter of desire.

Blind Mice

Gamifying everday things makes us produce more. If we didn't have a Fitbit counting our steps, we'd probably walk less. If we didn't have people on Instagram liking our photos, we'd probably share less.

We had pedometers prior to Fitbit and Flickr before Instagram but neither of them were set up to optimize rewarding. Now, we can sync our steps to see how we're progressing this week versus last, and compete with friends. We can watch our followers respond to a photo as soon as we post it.

Mobile connectivity drives human gratification. All people want are instant rewards. A step here, a like there, we inculcate the habit by playing for the points.

More about the psychology of digital rewards in here.