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.

Break the Rules

Every week I share 7 of my favorite recent articles highlighting matters of creativity, technology, and productivity.

Break the Rules

The cycle of creativity restarts when someone intentionally breaks the rules. For instance, abstract art once fought the accurate representation of reality in images. Apple decided to fit all music into an iPod. Instagram decided to deduce the status update to one picture at a time. Deviation is wrongness going right.

+ Inc: Malcolm Gladwell denotes the one character trait that makes people disruptive: be disagreeable.

White Space

Less is more. Less design, less marketing, and less meetings leave more time and space for the imagination. Magic thrives in these empty spaces. Here's why you shouldn't give everything away.

News Diet

Too much of anything is bad for you, especially the news. It's the body's version of sugar. People who watch the news are more anxious, less focused, and less creative. That beind said, you could argue that social media is the most pernicious form of news.

News Diet For What!

Millennials read the news, just not the news published by traditional newspapers like The New York Times. Instead, millennials get their news from the mobile-social friendly sites likes Vice and Buzzfeed. But there's no reason legacy companies can't make a comeback, especially with hip shows like CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

"Personal Video Industrial Complex"

Every sports game and school play is a content opportunity for the mobile-obsessed. With a Go-Pro, one could live in the moment and still record it. Meanwhile, teenagers want to record everything as well except they want their shares to disappear.

+ Inc: if you own an iPhone, you're never going to give it up according to investor Carl Icahn.

Journaling the Ordinary

Everyone remembers the extraordinary days. Those don't need to be written down. But you'd be surprised that chronicling the ‘ordinary days’ is actually more interesting to look back at.

+ Stevie Nicks: "You want your journals written by hand in a book."

FYI - if you're into journaling and have a smartphone the best app is Day One.

Blogging Lessons

I've been blogging consistently for about 5 years. Dave Winer, the blogging pioneer, has been blogging for 20. Naturally, he's got a few lessons for bloggers out there, most notably that you blog because "you enjoy being creative." Indeed, the blog is simply a palette for working out ideas.

+ My Blog Posts

Choice

Choice rattles decision-making.  People don't like choice.  They want you to choose for them.  

Templates help streamline choice.  College is a template for starting a career.  For doctors, medical school is no choice.  Some parents pre-arrange marriage for their kids.  Outsourcing choice reduces uncertainty.  

Life seeks a secure design.  When choices are abundant, we tend to make the safest decision.  

 

Next Steps

Never satisfied. Never complete. Never at peace. Never is the anxiety of the future. But all satisfaction is short-term.

They say acceptance is the key to happiness, yet it leads to the doldrums of mediocrity. Progress protects against both boredom and perfectionism. 10% better is still better.

The road is better than the end. Boredom lies at the dead-end.

Never stop.

MisConstrued

It’s painfully obvious the types of images that’ll get the most engagement on Instagram: oceans, aerial shots, pets, and selfies. 

Likeable content is too predictable. It’s amazing how many people post images from the same perspective. What’s unique about your Eiffel Tower shot from anyone else’s? Same shit, different angle.

People seek validation through their photos. They project a filtered life and discard the minutiae in between. What if instead of an edited life, quality was best expressed in its imperfections and rawness, the often unnoticed and unseen. 

Indeed, the social sharing aspect is what makes Instagram fun. Ever delete a photo after a few likes? It’s not surprising that our favorite photos are often the least liked. No one gets it but you and maybe your small coterie of friends and followers with similar tastes. 

It’s easy to reproduce an image and call it your own. But then you might as well just download a similar image from the Internet and share that. You can’t tell an interesting story through a myopic lens. 

Look around. What are the obvious, everyday things that you’re overlooking? Capture that and recast it to tell an everyday story. Art lives in the mundane. It’s everywhere if you’re willing to notice it. 

Group Brainstorms

Brainstorming is a social event but the best ideas come from the solitary thinking before meeting up with the group.

Team brainstorms can easily be dictated by the person that merely talks the most which often leads to groupthink. People are willing to support any idea that requires them to think no further. But you can keep the team responsible and open-minded with just a few ideas of your own.

Brainstorms are really about combining a plurality of ideas and then playing a little devil’s advocate to make the group justify their idea. The brainstorm is just as much an ideation session as it is an open debate. But if there aren’t any ideas to begin with, they’ll be nothing to talk about. So come prepared by bringing your own first.