What I’m Reading

November 9, 2008 — 19 Comments

In the last few weeks I read biographies or memoirs of: Fidel Castro, Toussaint Louverture, PT Barnum, Martin Luther, Langston Hughes, Arnold Rothstein, Wyatt Earp , George Washington, Seneca, Sammy Davis Jr, Jesus, Saul Alinsky, Richard Feynman, the Stoics, Da Vinci, Samuel Bronfman, Cato the Younger, Olaudah Equiano, and Joe Biden.

Those are just the ones I can remember. For most, I used two or three different books. I do know that I have to buy more bookshelves because I’ve resorted to piling them on the floor and in the trunk of my car. If anyone can think of people like these, iconic figures that might have a side to them that has gone unnoticed, it’d be amazing if you could email me your ideas.

Here’s a list of 30 books you’re supposed to read before you’re thirty if you plan to be plain, uninspired and be an English teacher at a local junior college.

-Or here’s some advice on making money from writing by someone who isn’t actually a writer or happen to know anyone who is one.

This is a chubby weirdo who thinks you have to confront your boss to get vacation.

-Lastly, we have a ‘brand manager’ who can casually reference the 2 truths, 1 lie icebreaker along with some logical fallacies, unnecessary acronyms and plenty of Arbitrary Capitalization of ordinary Phrases For Emphasis.

If you’re a piddly fucking loser who spends their time reading employee handbooks and going to mixers then that’s a way to think about life. If at any time during your day or education the concepts of Good Boss, Bad Boss, social media, Gen Y, Gen X, Seven Highly Effective Habits, ‘Bulletproofing’, Blogging, liveblogging are in anyway significant, you’ve saddled yourself with the wrong set of priorities. God forbid, if you actually use those words in seriousness, I don’t it’s possible to truly quantify how far you’ve removed yourself from the sphere in which people get things done.

The funny thing is that the people who spend time obsessing over these workplace laws are always the absolute worst at following the rules that matter: meeting deadlines, delivering expectations, communicating what they want, being informed, common courtesy. You know, the stuff that makes society work.

So here’s what you do when you read things like that: keep your head down and keep thinking. The problems that they pretend to have figured out are far more complex than the 23 year old working at a non-profit in Minnesota will ever be able to articulate via bulletpoints. In almost all cases, the people who put together tip sheets and career advice give it away for one reason – they couldn’t manage to make use of it themselves. Let them have the low-hanging fruit they pass off as profound observation and dedicate yourself to chipping away at the actual reality in front of you. You know, turning words into works.

The final irony: the world is indeed a profoundly different place than it was a generation ago, the Brazen Careerist writers though, they are the same small-minded, pontificating idiots that’ve plagued every recorded age. You don’t have to let your ego pull you down that hole. You can pass up attention, the temptation to boil big things down to headlines and giving yourself comically pompous titles and experiences you’ve yet to earn. It just takes discipline and some goddamn perspective.

Note: I keep reading that Penelope Trunk and Brazen Careerist need venture funding, so if you have a few dollars laying around, maybe they’ll make give you an honorary chair in the field of Coachology.

The Joys of Craigslist

November 1, 2008 — 12 Comments


This is the newest addition to my apartment. I put it in the window so the neighbors would see.

Thinking About Incentives

October 30, 2008 — 8 Comments

It’s counterproductive to threaten someone until you determine their incentives to refuse compliance.

In other words, what do I gain by refusing to remove them? Nothing. In fact, it’s in my readers’ best interest to make it accurate or remove it. Threatening me with Darth Vader-speak like “compel compliance with [our] demand” just pisses people off, and I could have still been a strong proponent of theirs. Too bad –

How Not to Use a Lawyer, by Tim Ferriss

Tim is really a genius at boiling complicated things down to their core and then leveraging that knowledge to do something he wants. What he’s saying here about incentives though, I think, is really important. I’ve been very lucky in that for a long time people have let me shadow them without having the responsibility of having doing what they do.

They’d go Ryan, why is ____ doing that? What makes him act like _____ in meetings? What do you think about _____? And then usually I’d answer incorrectly and they’d explain it from some point of view that I hadn’t thought of. Very slowly, I realized they were giving me an eye for incentives. Tim’s example is exactly the reason why that’s so important.

Cesar Millan does this very well with dogs. First, he wants you to realize that there is no such thing as a dog having a barking problem – dogs bark, you just don’t want them to. So then you figure out why the dog is doing it and then decide what you’d rather them do instead and what you have to motivate them to do that. What he does, basically, is take the energy that’s causing the first problem and turn it into the means for accomplishing an alternative.

Recently, I’ve been working on solving a Google Image Search problem – a search for the company/person negatively affects the company’s image which in turn trickles down into all aspects of the business profile. Because of problems in the past, the results show bad, outdated photos or worse, ones that are inaccurate. How do you change that?

First, you figure out what’s causing the problem. Why are people linking and using bad photos and why does Google favor them? Then, you decide which ones you’d rather show up. Shooting new photos and replacements and a new protocol. Lastly, you create a convincing reason for that new direction. How do you make it easier than using the old photos? And in this case you also have to decide how to get people to change out the old ones, so you start the cycle over again. Why did they choose the photo they did? How can it disappear? How can I make that want to do that?

Yesterday for the first time, a news reporter wrote a negative hack piece about the company, not even knowing that they were using the exact new photo I’d baited them into to taking. Energy, used against itself.

Not understanding incentives is to be worse than Sisyphus. It is a constant steam of failure, of turning blue in the in the face, of extra, unnecessary work. Then you die. When you’re trying to accomplish something that is dependent on other people’s actions, the only solution is to examine their incentives. Step back and examine what makes them act the way they do. Figure out their self-interest and many times, you won’t even need to do anything but explain how what you want is exactly that.

So think about incentives. Always. Your own. Theirs. Ours.

Tucker has this unique ability to reflect on things that haven’t happened yet. It’s pretty subtle normally, but when you start to look for it, it sort of feels like that TV show where the guy gets tomorrow’s newspaper today and Tucker has already seen the article about himself.

At first, I would get so sucked in that I’d just take for granted that they already happened and be right there alongside him in that hypothetical world. Then, I started to notice it more and got angry, like it was dishonest or maybe delusional. Now, I’ve realized that it’s almost identical to something that I do which is to get a taste of an experience, extrapolate it to its end and then move on to the next lesson. I think that’s why I’ve been able to cram so much inside the last two years. I’m not so upset or judgmental about it anymore because, well now I think I get why I reacted that way.

This is the main tenet of stoicism, ultimately. That if you’re going to spend any time thinking about people’s actions, maybe you should start with your own.