Highlights from the Internet: Part 1
Below you'll find part 1 of my collection of highlights from the internet. I read and highlighted most of it in the Pocket app.
Shameless, Fearless, Guiltless
Congruent desires are shameless, fearless, and guiltless. If you attach any shame, fear, or guilt to your desires, you’re simply pushing them away.
A good way to test if your desires are congruent is to consider posting them publicly, where everyone in your life can see them. Whatever desires you can’t post publicly, you’re repelling.
If you get some critical feedback, use the subjective lens to interpret it. See the feedback as coming from a part of you, and know that all resistance is internal resistance. Dialog with the critics if you like, and try to understand their point of view. See if you actually believe their arguments, or if you find their reasoning hollow and meaningless.
Fear, shame, guilt, and worrying about what other people might think are all forms of resistance.
Is It Time for You to Stop Dabbling and Get Serious
When it comes to building any sort of business, either online or offline, this dabbling approach is a bit ridiculous because the real payoff from business comes from consistency over a period of years. It takes time to build a following, attract customers, develop products and services, gain links and search engine placement, generate referrals, develop good business sense, acquire expertise, and figure out how to generate income from your work in ways that feel congruent to you.
The truth is that you can generate serious income from just about any form of creative work — writing, audio, video, art, music, programming, design, etc. Others who came before you have already made millions from these paths. But most of them didn’t get very far in their first 6-12 months. It’s the ones who stuck with it for 5+ years that are reaping the biggest benefits. They’re builders, not dabblers.
Don’t overplay today’s fleeting interests when you think about making a serious commitment to a career path. Look instead to the interests you had 5 years ago that you’re still seriously interested in today. Chances are you’ll still be maintaining those interests 5 years from now. If you’re going to have these interests anyway, why not bet bigger on them and commit yourself to mastery?
A Step by Step Process to Teach Yourself Anything (in a Fraction of the Time)
If you’re short on reading time, I’ll summarize the steps for you:
- Take your learning goal, and craft it into a compelling, obsession-worthy mission.
- Find material to learn from, structure it into a flexible curriculum.
- Define feedback mechanisms to constantly direct your future learning efforts and ensure high-intensity, active recall.
- Test and enforce a schedule that is sustainable over the entire lifetime of the project.
- Develop a long-term retention strategy (formal or informal).
Your missions don’t need to be as ambitious or all-consuming, however. Even a project that only takes a couple hours a week can still be compelling.
Here are a few ingredients I’ve found helpful for taking a vague goal and crafting a mission you can get excited about:
- Give it a name. Naming your project helps you define it. A name helps you identify the boundaries of what you’re trying to accomplish with this particular mission, and which you aren’t. Having a name also helps you think about the project as a unified whole instead of a random collection of loosely related learning tasks.
- Pick a specific objective. Narrow your ambitions onto something concrete. Instead of just trying to learn a language, have a goal of speaking only in the target language for an entire day, for example.
- Constrain the scope. Instead of just defining what you’d like to accomplish, also define which things are outside of the scope. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid learning anything outside of those constraints, but it helps you prioritize the vague desire many autodidacts have to “learn everything” onto something attainable in a project.
- Hit the challenge sweet spot. The ideal amount of challenge is that it should be hard enough that you aren’t sure whether you’ll be successful, but not so hard that you give up. If you’ve put off learning something because it scares you, try lowering the challenge. If you’ve given up because you’ve been bored before, try increasing the challenge.
Add the Best, Drop the Worst
Here’s a simple heuristic that will help you identify which habits to change first:
Add the best. Drop the worst.
Let’s start with the first part.
Can you identify some of the absolute best habits you could add to your life, such that if you maintained these habits every day for the next 20 years, it would make a huge difference in your results?
Go ahead and brainstorm a few ideas. Jot them down. You don’t need a lot — a small handful of ideas is fine.
Now is there a certain idea that pops out at you? It may be on your short list, or you may come up with a new idea.
This is probably an idea that you fear, at least a little, but it will also be the idea that excites you the most when you think about the long-term results. If you added this one habit to your life and truly mastered it, it would trump all the others. If you could only install one new permanent habit, this would be it.
What is it?
Next, use a similar process to identify your single worst habit.
What is that one nasty habit, that if you could somehow drop it from your life permanently, it would make a huge difference in your results over the next 20 years?
What one problem behavior keeps biting you again and again?
Is drinking soda making you fat, foggy, and anxious? Does checking email more than once a day kill your productivity? Are you wasting way too much time watching TV?
What habit seems to be slowing you down more than any other? Which one would you be overjoyed to finally be rid of?
Do what it takes to handle the early game, middle game, and endgame as you transition from the old behaviors to the new ones.
Don’t look back. Once you’ve locked in these habits, repeat the process. Seek out your new worst habit and your new potential best habit. Then recondition those as a pair too.
Woody Allen and the Art of Value Productivity
“If you work only three to five hours a day you become very productive. It’s the steadiness of it that counts. Getting to the typewriter every day is what makes productivity.”
The flip side of this commitment is that he feels no guilt relaxing once he hits his daily quota.
Seinfeld calls this the “don’t break the chain” strategy — and it has a large following. In the past, I’ve been skeptical of such rigidity. Allen, however, might be converting me to this point of view; at least, for certain types of work, namely non-urgent, high value projects.
Idea #2: Be Bold in Conception, But Pragmatic in Execution
Allen is often bold in conceiving a project. Once he starts executing, however, his focus turns to doing whatever it takes to ship a finished product on budget and on time.
Idea #3: Focus on High Return Activities, Not Twitter
Early in his career, Allen identified what activities generated the highest returns, and then focused relentlessly on these behaviors to the exclusion of most other distractions.
A litmus test for your idea
When people tell me about their idea today, I generally start with just a few questions: Are you teaching anyone who looks like someone who would buy what you intend on selling? If not, why not? Why don’t you start a blog today targeting a typical customer and start posting 500 words every three days?
If you don’t have the fuel to simply write 500 words, you sure as hell won’t have the fuel to keep running your business when the excitement wears off.
If you want to know if your idea is any good, first check if you even have any interest in persevering. Try teaching before you try selling.
Fuck “Innovation” 2: Time is a Line, You Guys!
Time is a line.
Time is a fucking line, guys. It marches inexorably towards the future. And yet, it is different times simultaneously in other places.
And: Events run late. Always.
And yet the most basic of tools for these most basic principles of the universe either suck horrendously, or don’t exist at all.
Time is a line. It’s a motherfucking line. Please for fuck’s sake don’t make me draw it by hand. Please stop forcing me to break out the software equivalent of rounded kindergarten scissors and Elmer’s Glue to do something the fucking computer should do for me.
Fuck innovation. No, seriously, fuck it.
And please, pretty please will somebody, for the love of god, make me a dead simple event scheduling tool so I don’t have to design and develop it myself.
How to get business ideas - remove steps
I see so many aspiring entrepreneurs stressed out hoping to find some spark of a business idea, but the common complaint is:
Everything good has already been done.
I used to feel like that too, but it doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as simple as:
- Find a job people have.
- List out every step people take to complete that job.
- Remove as many steps as you can.
Want a good place to start looking for jobs to simplify? One of my favorite overlooked resources for business ideas is For Dummies books.
Make everything easier in your life with step-by-step instruction.
For Dummies website description
For Dummies has already done a ton of the work laying out job after job and the steps involved. Grab a Dummies book and use it as a starting point to find steps to try and remove.
Do Goals Prevent Success?
Sarasvathy identifies four main principles to approaching your work in this manner:
- Start with what you already know how to do well.
- Filter your efforts to avoid big downsides not to select for big upsides.
- Work with other people who bring new abilities to the table.
- Take advantage of the unexpected.
Write every day
Let me quote one passage from Getting Real that says it best:
Effective, concise writing and editing leads to effective, concise code, design, emails, instant messages, and more.
That’s because being a good writer is about more than words. Good writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. They think clearly. And those are the qualities you need.
You Have One Life - Set Bigger Goals
Wipe the slate clean: What do you want to do? Forget the money. Forget your payment. Name a figure—name whatever amount of money you want, and let’s assume it’s deposited into your account automatically. It’s done. Now: What do you wake up wanting to do? What are you passionate about? What is going to fulfill you?
The Cretan Method
I've observed a fairly typical, almost ideal cycle in our thinking process: learn from others, test the new knowledge (play), apply it to real problems (work), then teach this to others. I call this learn-play-work-teach (LPWT) for short.
This brings us to lesson six: society is saturated with magical theories. That nagging voice in the back of your mind that much of your life is profoundly wrong is spot on. Modern technology and cost gravity compensate somewhat, yet life could be so much better.
LPWT is very alive, outside the formal education and employment systems. It is how we learn on-line, it is how mass web forums work. Since everyone can contribute at full speed, it is an extremely powerful collective learning approach. When people use it in anger, as Anonymous did, they become a political force and a serious threat to the established power structures.
You Can’t Dig Upwards
Python is convenient, and in many ways, a great advance over the C programming language. However, just as teaching teenagers to drive automatic transmission is a practical guarantee that they’ll never learn stick, advising neophytes to learn Python is creating programmers who will never bother to learn how to code in C. And that, I believe, is a bad thing.
130 Days Off Per Year
Imagine being compelled to invest 35% of your days and 35% of your income on life-enhancing activities and experiences. Your time off can’t just be a break from work. Your personal expenses can’t be only for distractions.
Where would you invest this time and money?
Perhaps if you come up blank here, that may explain why time and money seem to slip through your fingers. Maybe abundance avoids you because you haven’t come up with a compelling reason to pursue it. As Anais Nin wrote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
What does it mean to invest your time and money wisely? What are your true necessities?
Were your investments consciously chosen? Are they aligned with your values now? Or have you been saddled with inherited priorities that don’t inspire you?
Don’t start from scratch
Redesign vs. Realign.
Years ago I heard Cameron Moll talk about how good designers redesign, but great designers realign. Meaning great designers take what’s already good and add the last bit of polish to take it to the next level. Rather than starting from scratch and spending all their time trying to get back to 80%.