October 8, 2019
Truths about Productivity
We only have to be “productive” on those things we feel obligated to do.
But even those things we want to do can benefit from systems that keep us from slipping into complacency.
Pure actions create results. Forced actions repel them.
Doing work without personally identifying with it creates focus and ability.
Nudging a step beyond expectation and going the extra mile out of care, art and attention… gives you an edge.
It's better to understand why a system or tool is used that to learn thatyou should use it.
(I have more thoughts to share here later).
Everyone is a teacher.
If you formalize your teaching too much, you no longer become a teacher.
All teaching is metaphor and abstraction.
Learning is spontaneous.
Problem solving is inefficient. Transcending a problem is stronger than solving it.
Most things aren't that important.
There is actual progress when you identify the things that are.
October 6, 2019
Work: What We Really Want.
To do our job in a constant state of satisfaction.
To feel excited and have urgency to grow, rather than impatience to perform.
To gain mastery over the truth of the subject.
To share it with others.
To avoid drama or personification.
To see others, while others see us through our work.
To commit to a group, a team, or a customer.
To take responsibilty, feel duty, fulfill our promise.
To grow by working through new problems and ideas (the ones that aren’t garunteed to work).
A great culture and team can help provide the above to you, but ultimately it’s on you to create these for yourself, and maybe for others, too.
Money, perks, vacation, office space – these are all easy to follow, track and talk about.
Passion, inspiration, artistry – these are all effects of the above, not causes.
Work should get you paid.
But everything beyond that is the human part.
And that’s up to us.
October 6, 2019
Travel Skills - Spain
Every time I travel I get a bit better at it. Perhaps it's a skill, like skiing or math.
Mostly this happens by making tourist-like mistakes; being the person who's caught doing something that's not culturally correct, or getting stuck heading the wrong direction on the Subway.
I like to update these skills or ideas when I go somewhere new, which I'll list out some ideas for you below. At the bottom are some photos and locations worth noting in case you make it to Spain.
The Purpose of Travel
When I travel I have two key interests outside of leisure:
First, to notice what Tyler Cowen calls "Cultural Codes."
What are the scripts that other people live by, or use to see the world that are different than my own?
The second, is seeing how Technology or Artistry is experienced locally.
How has technology impacted or changed this location?
What are the artists discussing or creating?
Lists of "Rules" I'm picking up for travel. Lists of differences. Lists of cultural codes. Lists of words that are unique to a location. Lists help me organize and chunk what makes a place unique and memorable.
Here's one from my last trip.
"Rules for Travel"
- Schedule places, stays, travel in advance (having a schedule = freedom).
- Just go in - if you see something that catches your eye go in and purchase/interact. Don’t hesitate, it might be closed later.
- Book a guided tour anywhere possible.
- Don’t 100% trust Airbnb photos.
- Don't tell people when you're leaving/arriving. Be vague about timelines.
- Walk 10 miles a day.
- Drink (at least some, a sip) of the local water (where not entirely a bad idea). Drink from fountains/streams if others are doing so.
- Get a hair cut during the trip, not before. Buy a clothing item from a local brand.
- If you love a cafe or restaurant go more than once.
Notice something small.
AirPods are making the “double cheek kiss” more difficult as people who have them fear them falling out. Most people seem to just quickly remove them before greeting someone (more polite anyways).
Routine. I just can't break from some simple parts of my routine. Every time I think I can get away with I just can't, and in fact I don't even want to. So keeping some habits in check, especially diet/exercise will continue. There's no right way to travel, and the consistency improves my experiences (everyone will tell you the opposite).
October 3, 2019
Jet Lag – Barcelona
“If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?”― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
After my Bangkok trip I decided to get more serious about preparations.
Not that I had nausea, but I did have this weird feeling like my legs were heavy and my eyes couldn't keep open. Like you were sleeping while you were awake. So now I'm on the defensive.
This trip is Barcelona, which is only 9 hours off my time zone to Bangkok's 14, but some say 7-9 is harder than 12+ and It's probably something to do with your eating/sleeping schedule.
I'm sort of obsessive about all things related to health and sleep. But on the plane you don’t control the variables, except of course the overthead light and the tiny bit of deoxenigized air that blows right at your face.
On my Apple Notes I had a list of a few things that I thought would help me out:
- Fasting during the flight.
- Full cover sleep mask / travel pillow.
- Pro version of the SleepStream 2 App.
- Order only seltzer water / use bathroom breaks for stretching.
Then, I'm at Whole Food's before the trip picking up protein bars for the trip and I come across No-Jet-Lag Homeopathic from Miser Labs. At $14.99 so I was right on the fence but I decided the cost was worth it if it worked.
Which it didn't.
The tablets taste sort of like mints and you take them every 2 hours and upon take off and landing.
Tech is making travel easier, too. My Bose Quiet Comfort headphones block out much of the plane sound, and quiet helps your body in the jarring experience that is long distance travel.
And the booking itself was through Scott’s Cheap Flights. Trust me when I say you should sign up. I'm in Spain for less than the cost of flying home for Christmas.
And there’s no Uber in Barcelona but Google Maps offline mode let’s you set your destinations in advance. Recommendations were compiled there and stored for later...
Which brings me back to my travel. Eating, I've come to understand is a form of entertainment. And with the lack of sleep and long travel it's a respite of sorts. So I didn’t make it through the trip without eating the salted pretzels and the dinner tray that was passed out a few hours into the trip, which was right after I finished watching “The Favourite” on the back of the head rest.
I noted a few of the other shows for the way back, like “Chernobyl” and thought about how streaming has yet to hit airplane television. The dinner was a microwaved tray of noodles in marinara and vacuum sealed bread. This was a mistake but as I said, it was entertaining. Speaking of, why is it that I can’t watch Netflix mid flight?
And why is it that we can’t use our cellphones, because the plane wants to charge for wifi or is their truly some reason related to safety…?
So now I’m looking that up…looks like it was banned all the way back in 1991, hasn’t technology improved since then?
They cite “ground interference” but another article says there has never been evidence of this, so this is just a law because...well someone decided it was so. Just like the shoe ban - which they don’t have in Europe. Not to mention there are no body scanners.
Like most things, in the U.S. we comply and don’t ask questions. It’s actually amazing when you think about the order that is our traffic and travel systems. People follow signs. Even if these laws are outdated we still follow them as there is not enough pressure or care to change. Like anything it just takes a small minority to really care and be vocal to make a difference. And I'm not about to lose hours of my life fighting taking off my shoes. So we go along.
Now I don’t know if it was the breaking of the fast or if the pills were useless, either way I’m slightly off-kilter still and up at 2am.
And last night I slept for 12 hours.
But this morning I'll get up and go for a long walk in the sun.
And if there's time, I'll write more with some espresso in my system.
October 3, 2019
The Age of Variety
Sharing a piece from my other column Art $ Attention. Curious if anyone is interested in a private channel where I share what I'm reading/consuming each week...
The Age of Variety
We live in a consumer society. And information abundance greatly empowers this consumerism. So today all people dig before they buy, and they're more aware than ever.
And they’re more social in how they shop, too.
We look to each other for what to purchase, and influencers broadcast recommendations en masse. Information sites like Zillow empower consumers to have more knowledge than yesterdays experts.
So, watch for a new crop of social product review tools and communities. Companies like Your Stacks, among others.
Because consumers have, and love to have… choices. And now there’s so many choices that the friction to purchase is our collective overwhelm.
This is why curators that reduce friction from purchase will be, in part, the new gatekeepers. Because businesses today, marketplaces, brands, are all about reducing the friction to purchase. Sometimes that's increasing information, other times that's creating a brand, which is a shortcut for trust.
So loyalty is the last frontier, and it starts with specificity.
That's the 1,000 true fans model in action. You've got to start with a core of believers, which means you can't speak to everyone.
And now, thanks to the majors (Google/FB) targeting to the micro-niche is not just possible but profitable. Which means that you can create a product for a specific group and you can find them. If you're in a major product category your margins get eaten, but on the edges...
And brand not easy to maintain. The function of a Brand is to get a specific message to a specific demographic. Nail that and you’ve won half the battle.
But the other half is continuing to deliver on that promise, and expand it through product leadership, which is difficult.
Patagonia knows this well, Apple pioneered it, Forever 21 on the other hand…
Purchasing is about reducing risk.
It always has been. You're parting with your dearly earned cash. Ever go to a movie you thought would be great and it turned out a dud?
It's just today it feels worse in the age of Netflix, where if something isn’t sitting right you just flip the channel.
Consumers today want a garuntee. It's a Reverse FOMO. It's a Fear of Wasting Time. Fear of Wasting Social Capital
The influencers don't want to be repping a bad product. Again they're world is built on trust.
So having the option to easily return a product is a must. And the social validation is also there to help us get over the hump, among other guarantees, like reviews.
We expect great out of the box.
And we expect it with no set up time. Sure, Ikea continues to thrive, but try that with your latest hardware.
Apple proved this point, you have it charged and ready to go immediately, with your account set up and all of your numbers, too.
Returns and fast shipping are table stakes.
If someone has a problem with your product, you refund them. Customer Service is about doing the right thing.
You do what’s expedient for the customer, and you play the long game
If people are constantly retruning your product it’s likely your fault and not theirs.
Give people a taste.
We want to try and taste before we buy.
Peloton does this well with their show rooms. They make the sample a premium experience, too. This is what they mean by "Brand Activation."
So that’s the buying experience today. You try, and validate via your network. You weigh your choices, going to several sources for truth.
You do what you can to make sure you’re not missing out on buying something better.
You’re loyal to a few, but the bar for that loyalty is high…
Long live the Long Tail.
September 20, 2019
Writing Today (In 8 Rules)
I don’t try and I don’t sell.
Sometimes it comes and goes on inspiration. A post is baking in the background and is written in minutes, often no more than twenty.
Other time’s I lean on structure.
I feed myself enough of the time with new information that it’s like digestion.
When you consume so much you...
Is anyone still writing on Medium? The truth is writing is changing. Short-form reigns, to match our short attention. Sure we’ll buy books but rarely will we finish them. Because it's harder than ever to find genuinely new ideas.
If you’ve accelerated your learning rapidly you likely have traversed most of what’s out there in plain sight. These aren’t names that anyone on the street would know, but you’ve read Taleb, Krishnamurti… you’ve gone deep and wide and now you’re looking for a different perspective. But most of it is the same. Which makes sense, because information alone can’t change you. The right idea needs to hit you in just the right way such that it throws you off-kilter.
But everywhere is an affirmation. Good ideas put you in a spot where you can’t help but see something different. They change how you see the world, and therefore change how you act within it.
So Information on its face is overrated. And most writing doesn’t make the emotional transfer necessary to make change.
This is what people mean when they say you should “tell stories.”
It means you should connect with someone, the reader, and pierce through the veil of their distracted mind into somewhere deeper where they can feel the movement of the writing inside them such that they can’t help but keep reading. It’s like reeling in a fish. If you can get them on the hook you can pull them through and they don’t get the resolution they need until the end. Which is important.
Didn’t they teach us we forget everything in the middle?
So the ending matters, not only to bring home and close the loop in the reader's mind but so that there is a resolution to the dissonance you’ve created with your writing.
And what’s popular isn’t what’s important. The Beverly Hillbillies got the views, but Star Trek lasted longest in people’s hearts and minds.
Do I focus on drafts? Rewrites?
No point – either you struck something good or you didn’t.
Most of what I write doesn’t get published.
Most of what get’s published isn’t great.
Maybe there are sparks there but no fire. So it’s a game of numbers. Write enough and you’ll hit on some new ideas that get you excited, or your translate some fuzzy ideas into something more concrete.
I’m connecting dots for myself right in front of you. You notice and then try and reveal deeper structures. But this is more art than science, and so often even language can distort the truth – we just can’t get precise enough. Expression, it turns out is difficult.
Spoken word, aka podcasting and youtube, is making massive inroads. So speaking, being on video, recording are growing in priority for me, or at least it needs to be in this process of synthesis.
The problem is, unless it’s a film, you’re watching youtube and everything else is one click away. When you’re locked into good writing it activates your mind in a way that audio may not. You’ve got less raw materials, so your brain has to do more work, which is better for you because it gets the gears turning. Hence the jolt of inspiration.
So writing is the same as it ever was – but with a twist.
First/ it’s getting shorter, you’ve got to get to the point. I’ve already lost half of you.
Second/ is people forgive grammar mistakes and perfection. I can say LOL or I can make up words…. and it doesn’t matter if the piece has some meat to it, some stimulation, a mutual bond we’re creating, you and me.
Third/ is information alone is irrelevant. If it’s not a story, if there’s nothing deeper there people will flick their thumbs.
Fourth/ is people love to read about the stories of others. So the more personal your writing, the better. The more the reader can see themselves in your shoes… they more they care, because they want to see the outcome – not because they care about you but because it’s more information for them. Isn’t that the whole point of the Bible? Of Stories? To teach us lessons through characters and narrative?
Fifth/ you’ve got to get out of the way. If you’re trying to create something, be it a spark, a persona, etc. you probably will fail. Talk directly. As Paul Graham says, type as you speak.
Sixth/ is you’re writing all the time, you just don’t know it. Once you see how much you type maybe you will start to think about how you communicate.
Is it effective or is it falling flat?
Seventh/ is the secret to communication, which I’ll need to explain another day. But here’s the point: what you feel can’t help but be communicated.
So, the work is to change how you feel/see/perceive the world. They won’t tell you that in writing school, they’ll try and teach you to write.
But if there’s no there-there, good grammar won’t matter. And if there’s something there, you can speak however you want and you’ll move people.
Prince used his own verbiage. He used to write the word “eye” instead of using the word “I”.
8/ is break rules.
Like how I’m still writing to you long-form. Like switching between "I" and "you."
So there's my non-template.
It's about feeling.
September 19, 2019
A Heuristic for Great Brands
It’s not about scale (You start small before you get big).
It’s not about press (It’s irrelevant if there's no substance).
It’s not about getting praise from everyone (you speak to the right people, not everybody).
Great brands all have one thing in common…
“The People Who Need to Know, Know.”
If you’ve figured that out, you’ve done the brave work of making something great for people who care.
September 18, 2019
Relies on their own motivation to build structure, and then relies on structure to build motivation.
Metabolizes pain into communication.
Creates order out of chaos.
Fails regularly by pushing up against boundaries.
Creates a colony of supporters outside the status quo.
Holds onto roots, or loses themselves in their ego.
Changes based on intuition and interest, always leading ahead of the market.
Treasures inspiration from history and other artists.
Disappears into their work at their at their best.
Attempts to prove their worth at their worst.
But remains open to the world...