Never Eat Alone – What’s Your Mission?

One of my favorite chapters within Keith Ferrazzi’s book.

I have been thinking about the concept of goals and mission statements a good deal lately, going on a tirade about how I have grown sick of them and see them as rather limiting. But perhaps that’s because goals need to come from a much grander place than they often do:

“’A goal is a dream with a deadline.’ That marvelous definition drives home a very important point. Before you start writing down your own goals, you’d better know what your dream is. Otherwise, you might find yourself headed for a destination you never wanted to get to in the first place.”

The problem with many goals is that you’re always in a pre-failure state until you achieve it. However, if you understand that the goal is a stepping-stone towards your dream, then everything changes.

To find your dream and begin to set healthy goals, first look within yourself to determine your loftiest mission:

“There are many ways to conduct a self-assessment of your goals and dreams. Some people pray. Others meditate and read. Some exercise. A few seek long periods of solitude. The important thing when conducting an internal review is to do it without the constraints, without the doubts, fears, and expectations of what you ‘should’ be doing. You have to be able to set aside the obstacles of time, money, and obligation.”

Once you have looked inside of yourself, then it’s time to look outward and figure out what you can begin to do and who you can surround yourself. The author reminds the reader that this is the way towards growth:

“Human ambitions are like Japanese carp; they grow proportional to the size of their environment. Our achievements grow according to the size of our dreams and the degree to which we are in touch with our mission.”

If you find yourself thinking that being a ‘dreamer’ isn’t enough, you’re right. Yet you shouldn’t disparage the act of dreaming itself. Instead, strike a balance:

“Disciplined dreamers all have one thing in common: a mission. The mission is often risky, unconventional, and most likely tough as hell to achieve. But it IS possible. The kind of discipline that turns a dream into a mission, and a mission into a reality, really just comes down to a process of setting goals.”

To create the path forward for your life, create dreams with deadlines and grow.

Akimbo – Game Theory and the Infinite Game

Perhaps the most accessible look into James Carse’s excellent but challenging read.

Seth Godin makes a case for looking at the world or an industry or a business through the lens of a game, and then considering what that games rules are. There are many cases where major shifts have occurred when someone has applied this line of thinking:

“One of the ways to think about the future is to look at a game in the world today based on scarcity, and imagine what happens if one of the rules is changed. What happens if a computer costs $1,000 instead of $100,000? What if the world is pretty much the same except everyone has a supercomputer in her pocket that knows where she’s standing and where her friends are?”

So, when you want to try and make a change, do this:

“Relax one rule, and play a new game.”

This makes a lot of sense, and I think many people will find this line or thinking fairly commonplace. Yet where it gets more complex is when you consider the fact that everyone else is also playing a game, and they might all be relaxing different rules than you are.

So how do you play the game better than everyone else? You try and consider what the infinite game is, while everyone else is focused on a finite goal. I have always been a big fan of playing ‘the long game’, considering a ten or twenty or even a hundred year plan while everyone else is thinking of the short-term.

Seth Godin backs this up, and says that not only is this the best way of thinking, it’s also the most ethical. This is because when you’re thinking about a finite system, you’re often thinking about only yourself:

“The shorter your short run, the less you’re thinking about the world we have to live in. It’s the long run as we get closer and closer to infinity where the smartest game players are playing.”

I want to play the long game, in every area of my life.

Life is Good – Marshall Goldsmith

An interview in the ‘Zen and Business Newsletter’ with the author of ‘Triggers’.

Marshall Goldsmith was called one of the ‘top ten executive educators’ by The Wall Street Journal, and holds a list of accolades alongside a list of businesses who credit him for his major success. Remarkably, interviews with him are relatively hard to come by. I found this one, hidden away as a word doc(!), on his website. It’s not hard to see why his approach is more readily helpful than the advice of many of his contemporaries.

“The great Western disease is ‘I’ll be happy when…’ This is fueled by our prevailing art form – the commercial. The commercial says, ‘You are unhappy. You spend money. You become happy!’ I don’t believe that anyone can become happy by having more. I also don’t believe that anyone can become happy by having less. We can only find happiness and satisfaction with what we have. Life is good when we make it good.”

It is a mistake to believe that there is something waiting ahead of us that will fix our problems. There are no external solutions, only internal ones. There is also no fixed internal state:

“I believe that we have no ‘fixed identity’ but instead we are ever changing. My coaching approach involves helping people let go of the past and focus on becoming what they want to become.”

It’s a strange truth that we are constantly looking toward the future for fixes and into the past for rationalizations for our failures. It would be better to look at our present selves, and decide what it is we are supposed to do in the now.

All of these truths make Goldsmith a very different type of coach, in my opinion. The article closes with this quote:

“We all have a ‘blind side’ – that is behavior that others can see in us, but we can’t see in ourselves. By being open to feedback we admit this is a reality. We are able to learn from others and change – instead of ‘prove they are wrong’ and stay the same. The perspective of others is the only thing that can enable us to do this.”

Look inward. Be open to our blind side. Be present-minded. And remember: Life is good.

Akimbo – No Such Thing (As Writer’s Block)

Seth Godin’s podcast continues to wage war on resistance.

Here’s the crux of this episode’s argument: Writer’s block is a myth. Well, sort of. There’s no doubt that if you’re not writing it’s because your struck. But, if you’re stuck, you’re stuck for a reason. Find the reason. If you can’t find the reason? Find a reason to write anyways. Here’s one:

“As long as we’ve got to type, we might as well type something worth reading. The idea that we are able to create more and more bad work on the way to good work is one way to get past the stuck-ness.”

If you don’t write because you’re afraid it’s bad, write anyways and make sure you write enough that there’s some good in all the bad stuff. The goal isn’t to perfect every word, it’s to stop feeling trapped. The problem is that we fall victim to our own fears, and waste our time with distractions. As Godin says:

“We want the reassurance of knowing how Stephen King does his writing.”

“What kind of pencil does my favorite author use?”, we ask. That is a cop out. It’s easier to find the answer to this question than it is to confront our fears.

A side-effect of never confronting those fears: Our work is often middling, because we were too scared to make what we were compelled to create in the first place. Yet this is just another path to failure:

“As we can see from those who make mediocre restaurants for the people on the middle and don’t make a profit, going for the middle rarely works. The successes all start at the edges, for the weird people who didn’t show up in a focus group. Catering to the obscure extremes that we end up with something that becomes a surprise best-seller. If you can become important to a few people, the cash flow will begin to support your move to serve more people.”

Confront your fears. Cater to the extreme you’re passionate about. Do the work you were created to do. That’s all there is to it.

The Ezra Klein Show – Tristan Harris

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How technology is bringing out the worst in us.

“I think that social media’s deterioration in 2016 (and becoming addictive in the process) is amplifying the addiction that’s already in there, and people think they’re losing agency and realizing how much time they’re spending on their phones.”

Tristan Harris, a former Google employee, has been making the rounds talking about the need for ‘humane technology’ and ‘time well spent’ on our social media platforms. He sees the current state-of-things-online as an example of people waking up to some serious realities, and I couldn’t agree more.

“If you’re a teenager, the first thing that you see in the morning is your friends having fun without you. Just imagine 100-million human animals waking up and first thing they see is this. That would do something. It’s very powerful and persuasive.”

Certainly, features like Snapchat’s ‘streaks’ are systems meant to not only keep you as a user, but addict you in a very serious way. While I don’t think this is particularly shocking (did anyone not think this?), it’s worth considering when you think about what kind of impact this is having on society at large.

He uses an interesting analogy (magicians) to detail what kind of systems are being created to prey on human behavior:

“In magic, you can change people’s choices by rapidly pushing them to make an immediate choice because the impulsive choices are the ones you can predict most accurately.”

So much of what makes a technology addictive is indistinguishable from a magician’s push.

“I brought Thích Nhất Hạnh to Google, and he came because he was worried. This thing in our pocket, it’s never been easier to run away from ourselves. The moment you have anxiety, you can run away instantly.”

There are some instances where it’s easier to break a bad habit by recognizing why you picked it up isn’t he first place. Perhaps it would be good of us all to recognize these moments as what they are — moments of fear. Perhaps we’d be less inclined to enter into escapism if we knew exactly what we were doing.

“Win-lose games (where I win when you lose) combined with exponential tech becomes lose-lose. This is true for nuclear weapons, and it’s true with social media. This is why you need some kind of arbiter to protect it.”

Tristan Harris argues that regulation should be that arbiter. I’m not sure—but I believe that the lose-lose game we’re playing is definitely in need of an end.

Tribe of Mentors – Steven Pressfield

One of the first chapters of ‘Tribe of Mentors’ is one of my favorites, advice from the author of ‘The War of Art’.

For anyone worrying about growing old and not making an impact, Pressfield advises not worrying at all:

“Be a cowboy. Drive a truck. Join the Marine Corps. Get out of the hyper-competitive ‘life hack’ frame of mind. I’m 74. Believe me, you’ve got all the time in the world. You’ve got ten lifetimes ahead of you.”

What matters more than making all of the right decisions and seeking success at all costs, is betting on yourself again and again, and doing the work:

“I’ve never invested in the stock market or taken a risk on anything outside myself. I decided a long time ago that I would only bet on myself. I believe investing in your heart.”

‘Investing in your heart’ is so much better than ‘investing in success’, and honestly, investing in success is a fake ideal to begin with. On unwise recommendations he hears:

“Bad advice is everywhere. Build a following. Establish a platform. Learn how to scam the system. In other words, do all the surface stuff and none of the real work it takes to actually produce something of value. The disease of our times is that we live on the surface.”

He concludes with some words that struck me as deeply true:

“I always say, ‘If you want to become a billionaire, invent something that will allow people to indulge their own Resistance.’ Somebody did invent it. It’s called the Internet. Social media. Real work and real satisfaction comes from the opposite of what the web provides.”

Ouch.

Reminds me of: ‘The Grand Opening’, ‘The Quiet Dangers of Complacency’, and (obviously) ‘The War of Art’.