Dialing In

October 14, 2008 — 3 Comments

When I first started running again, I think the only way to describe it was angry. I can see myself (the funny thing people take for granted about being self-conscious is that you can picture yourself from angles you’ve never actually seen, like an image of yourself swimming taken from a helicopter hover behind or head) – taking corners at full stride, grinding and heaving. It was about pushing myself so hard that I’d hurt afterward and if I didn’t I’d feel restless and lazy. I’d think about as much as I could and come home and drip sweat all over a legal pad trying to get it down before I lost it.

But now it’s transitioned to something different. I often do the same courses as before but they’re relaxing, steady and peaceful. A rhythm. I can still do 3 miles in 21 minutes (8, 7, 6mm) but it’s not some perversely enjoyed punishment any longer. When I don’t bring an ipod, I’ll return to realize that I spent 40 minutes without a thought. If I do it in the morning, around midnight, I’ll feel like going again. Or I’ll head down and jump rope until I get back into the flow.

The thing, I think, about running like that, or doing anything manically for that matter is that it’s a mask for a search for purpose. As you start to get closer to finding a reason, things slow down. I didn’t find what I was looking for hacking and beating away at the air. It was when I dialed that things started to shift. Instead of trying to get ‘back to where it used to be’ – an allure that is so tempting because it feels right – the idea is to move on to the next thing. To find where you’re flailing wildly elsewhere and approach it with maturity and dispassion.

Here and There

October 9, 2008 — 11 Comments

The dirty secret that you learn when get to leave stop writing and start doing is that the difference between the daily existence of an amateur and professional is mainly illusion.

The biggest property owner in Los Angeles looks for tenets for six story buildings with For Lease signs. Just like I’d sublet my apartment. A company with 5,000 employees still has uses Craigslist to find employees. If you’re going to do a $40,000 ad spend online, you email the site and ask how much it’s going to cost. This one is a stretch but the notion of greenlighting movies with A-listers, I think, is less about some misguided economic theory and fundamentally about the comfort of having heard of the person you’re trusting millions of dollars to.

The things that seem so foreign at the highest levels are subject to the biases and tendencies and limitations that everyone deals with on a daily basis.* I think it’s really easy to get impressed by a 40 foot banner advertising a building for rent, so much so that you forget it has exactly the same purpose as a taped flyer. Or you think, ‘man, if only I had their resources’ when they’re constrained by virtually all of the human restrictions that you are. The difference is mostly about one group needing other people to believe that they’ve got it all figured out. Reality though is that it’s scary how limited the capabilities of most things are.

There’s not some larger, earth shattering point here. In fact, all I’m saying is that you don’t need to wait to learn these things when you get the big leagues because you can intuitively understand them right now. They’re simple and basic. They are right there in front of you. But are you cynical enough to notice?

*A great illustration and nice way to feel better about yourself is to look at the photos from events like a expensive charity ball or a political fundraiser. The people you’ve heard lionized as tyrants or ‘shrewd, cunning strategists’ look like your fatter versions of your parents. Personally, the photos in Variety of Hollywood executives are my favorite.


October 7, 2008 — 10 Comments

I had to drop off a load of twenty or so books in the lobby of my building just now because I couldn’t carry them all in from my car. The Twelve Caesars, Socrates, Black Boy, The Age of the Moguls, Plutarch, Washington Irving, Nat Turner. The doorman asked are these for your school. Nope, they’re for work. And then I realized that I do this for a living. For money. The next time I (you, Ryan) complain about something, try and remember this and what you’d even hoped for two years ago.

My Job

October 3, 2008 — 13 Comments

“Each time you conceive a paradoxical thought, turn it over within yourself, vary it with diverse figures and nuances, make trial of it and dress it in splendid words. ” – Fronto

There’s something very special about this quote. If there was way to train yourself to think a unique or strategic manner this would be it. Because where do you think books and ideas and new concepts come from? Do you think they fly in like epiphanies or are they more like little snags that get caught, kneaded, dressed up and engorged?

Understanding Essence vs Efficiency

September 30, 2008 — 4 Comments

When something’s been Turing Tested, it means that a computer has successfully tricked a human into thinking it was a human. In other words, the task has been fully automated and most likely, somebody’s job just got a whole lot easier.

Automation is a tempting way to think about things. You pare the important from the unimportant, locate each dependent step and distill it into a system. Whether you ultimately hand it over to a computer or not, it takes a certain kind of ingenuity cut waste and create order.

But I would argue that that is weak and ultimately very replaceable (hello outsourcing). I think you look at it from the right angle, it’s simple exploitation. A process of squeezing something dry. Important but not transcendent. What’s special is the ability to scrap the process in favor of something different entirely. Solutions not improvements.

I guess what I mean to say is that you can sit around Turning Testing yourself until you’ve got half your company tricked chatting with your computer. Or, you can really think about what it is that you have in front of you and how you can make it go away by folding it on itself.

Here are some things that have helped me do that, maybe they’ll work for you:

Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan (seriously)

Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim (incremental vs exponential)

Take that, 6 Percenters (Jeff Jarvis)

Without Walls: Interview with Leebeus Woods (Bldblog)

Be Bold (Wikipedia)

Strong Opinions, Weakly Held” (Turning Pro)

Dismounting a Dead Horse” (Mountain Runner)

The Anxiety of Influence (Wikipedia, Book)