Do you practice? You should

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I was at the gym the other day and I saw something that, to me, was unexpected. There were two teenagers on the basketball court, practicing. Not just shooting around, but really practicing. Practicing the sort of drill that, even as a practiced basketball watcher, I had to see a couple of times before I understood it.


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One of the two stood on the foul line, while the other dribbled two balls from center court to the top of the point, passed one ball to the guy on the foul line, and stepped to one side, maintaining a final dribble, and took a three-point shot.

The shot was not the goal. The shot was the reward. If he lost the dribble, made a weak pass, or didn't set himself cleanly, he didn't even take the shot. He took the other ball back and did it again.

About 10 years ago, I spent six months or so volunteering on the East Woods Skate Plaza project. They'd already been at it for a couple of years, and it took until a couple of months ago to open a park. It was an unlikely project, I think, spearheaded by a retired couple in a nice neighborhood, in cooperation with high school and college skateboarders.

Neighborhood merchants wanted skaters off the sidewalks. Drivers wanted skaters off the streets. The art museum didn't want the skaters, which is a shame, because that patio is perfect. The one skate park in town was 10 miles away with no safe route.

For the couple, this was an important project, not because the skaters were a nuisance, but because they weren't. "Have you ever watched skateboarders on the sidewalk?" one of organizers asked me. "They practice the same tricks over and over, trying to get good at them. They're not causing trouble, they just want a place to practice."

It took a dozen years and a lowering of expectations (they wound up getting about a third of the park they set out to get, but they got a park, and when I went recently to see it, it was getting plenty of use.

As I came home from the gym thinking about practice, I arrived to an email from James Altucher, asking if I could write one page a day. That was great, because of course I can, and I was already thinking about it.

One page is about 300 words. This post is longer than that, and what does a post take to write? 45 minutes? Even if I edit the hell out of it, 2 hours? One page a day for 25 years is over 9,000 pages, 2.7 million words. That's thirty 300-page books by the time I reach retirement age (like I'm really ever going to "retire" from stuff like writing and reading and such).

Practice I shall, then. You?

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28/08/2014

End-of-summer to Thanksgiving fitness challenge: Let’s lose 20 pounds together

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OK, we're winding down the season of barbecues (read: overeating) and laying around. And for me, hopefully we're ending the season of poison ivy and wasp stings, which laid me up, collectively, for a month this summer.

There are about 13 weeks from now to Thanksgiving; to lose 20 pounds in that time, we'll need to lose an average of a pound and a half a week.

Here is the tracking table I'll use; feel free to use whichever fields work for you. I'll weigh in once a week; miles will be the number of miles I've run each week (I'll use the app RunKeeper to track outdoor runs and the pedometer on the treadmill to track indoor runs). I'm an on-and-off runner, so I don't imagine this will fluctuate a lot, and if I have more than one week at 20 miles I'll be surprised.

2-minute pushups is the number of pushups I can do in 2 minutes, measured every other week. Pullups will be the number of unassisted pullups (overhand grip) I can do in 3 sets to failure, also measured every other week. These exercises are both good measures of strength. I expect a little but not large growth in pushups (they're already a favorite exercise of mine), but hopefully substantial growth in pullups.

If you're going to join me, let me know in comments, or catch me on Twitter, and we'll link to your tracker, too, if you like.

ยป Blank tracker (PDF)

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 N/A N/A
9/8/2014
9/15/2014 N/A N/A
9/22/2014
9/29/2014 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014
25/08/2014

The return of the polymath: The best is yet to come (summer hiatus)

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Last September, I set a rule for myself: that I would blog every Wednesday, allowing me to publish on a schedule and to reserve the blogging for good stuff that inspires me, rather than putting up something every day just to get something up. And I've stuck to it, but I'm taking the summer off for bigger things (things like getting married and selling a house and other projects that make blogging a distraction and burden instead of something useful).

Before I do that, I want to share one more thing in the learning from podcasts series (I'll of course not stop learning and not stop sharing; make sure you follow me on Twitter for that sharing).

This is something that's been very important to me the past year, and Tim Ferriss and Chase Jarvis discuss it on Ferriss's podcast.

This is not a new concept, of course. But it's becoming less and less for the visionary (think Buckminster Fuller's take on General Pirates in Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and more for the everyday person. As in, you don't have to be the 1% (smartest or richest or whatever) to find a niche and do a little bit of everything in earning your place in the world (creating, revising, accounting, business plan, raising money, building, hiring, managing, etc.), and thriving while doing it.

Jarvis – a photographer, filmmaker and founder of CreativeLIVE – and Ferris, maybe best known for The 4-Hour Workweek but who also does a lot more, certainly fit those descriptions.

Take an hour and a half and learn from them. You can watch the full episode here, if you wish (I prefer to listen, since it allows me to do something else, too):

04/06/2014

Share your input

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Like last week, I'm going to share a little something I learned on one of James Altucher's podcasts. [See my favorite podcasts]

Altucher spoke with Austin Kleon, who, among other things, creates poetry by blacking out large chunks of newspaper articles, leaving only the words that form his works. It has both a written and visual element, and includes some of the built-in commentary that nothing is truly new, it's just a reorganization of something that exists.

Kleon said two things on that podcast that I found interesting.

One was that when we make something, we should record the process, because the process is also of interest to people.

This, of course, is not new. There have been "the making of..." documentaries on movies and TV shows for decades now. But it might be something a lot of solo or small-group creators don't think about. In addition to selling your finished product, you can sell a thing (book, DVD, whatever) about how you made the product.

The other thing was this. When using social media, you don't have to share your output every day, but you should share your input. That is, you may not want to tell people what you're working on that day, but tell people what you consumed – if you're learning from it, let someone else learn from it, as well.

I'm doing more listening than reading these days, most of it to the podcasts I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and I'm trying out some silence at times of the day when I normally wouldn't have silence.

I'm also re-reading The Four-Hour Workweek; it makes a lot more sense to me than it used to.

What's your input look like these days?

28/05/2014

Be willing to be laughed at occasionally

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A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the podcasts I'm listening to, and there are a couple of takeaways I want to share over the next couple of weeks.

On James Altucher's recent podcast with Stephen Dubner (of Freakonomics fame), one of the things Dubner mentions is that we're afraid to be laughed at.

The context is this. You know those meetings that start off with someone saying, "There are no stupid ideas," and then someone vocalizes an idea everybody thinks is stupid, everyone laughs uncomfortably and no one comes up with anything mildly interesting the rest of the meeting? Well, maybe if we can spit out all the ideas that people will think are stupid and laugh a lot, we'll get the crap out and get to the good stuff.

Because when the good stuff and the crap are all mixed in together, it's hard to separate them until you've said them aloud. And if you don't say them aloud because you're afraid to get laughed at, they just stay inside, where they're not doing anyone any good.

Also, laughing's good for you. It releases dopamine and works your abs. Plus, it's infectious, like yawning.

Altucher has more of a guide to coming up with ideas over on his blog. He also wrote about laughter recently.

[photo credit]

21/05/2014

Saying thanks: Wedding vendors

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It's now under three months until my wedding. We've been blessed in this process by having talented friends and family who we love and who love us. Only our flower vendor (whom I'll also mention here) was a stranger at the start of our process. As you plan your events, we recommend everybody here. Tell them we sent you!

Flowers: Backyard Garden. I really wanted no part of the flower plans. If I can't eat it, I'm not interested in learning how to grow it, and if I need an allergy pill to pin it to my lapel, I'd rather just skip it. But Nino took us through the shop and into his consultation room, which basically looks like a dining room with a big TV on the wall. He offered us coffee, asked some questions, picked up a remote and showed us some slides. He's followed up with us on colors exactly on the schedule he outlined, and we're looking forward to the final product.

Photos: Kelvin Ringold, Custom Photogenics. Kelvin is one of my oldest friends, and he's part of that group of people we were both friends with before we started dating, so he's known us and our relationship the whole time. Kelvin's a talented human, not just photographer. He writes newsletters, he's a public speaker, he's a life coach. Kelvin and I eat lunch together about twice a month, share our lives and how we're improving ourselves. Send him some business, if you would.

DJ: Geoff "Deaf Geoff" Herbert. Geoff is a friend I made on Twitter back in 2009, when Syracuse was first starting to use the paltform to build a community, before the university embraced it. He's a multi-talented pop culture observer. He's an entertainment producer, disc jockey and former on-air talent. And he's deaf. He speaks not only to students who want to be in radio, but also to groups of deaf young people to show them what's possible for them, to expand their horizons.

Favors: Simmons Ink & Stitch. Reggie and his wife Lysa are a new business. I used to play racquetball with Reggie, who has the sort of laugh you can hear for a quarter mile, and that's how I learned he was doing this for work. I was walking through a mall to see a friend at an art shop, and I thought I heard Reggie laughing, so I wandered in that direction, and there he was. They spent an hour with me showing me what was possible, and we found something that we truly loved, and, by letting us do some of our own craftwork, they helped us keep within our budget.

Venue and food: The Ridge. The Ridge is a lovely 9-hole golf course with a tavern that some of Jen's cousins bought and remodeled. The course has some great views, and the food at the tavern is fantastic, as is the atmosphere. They love bourbons and beer, always keeping a couple of special craft selections around. Make the trip out there. In fact, get in touch and we'll make plans to go play and eat.

Officiant: Frank D'Agostino. Frank is one of the funniest people we both know, another friend I made on Twitter alongside Geoff. He's a goofball, but he's a grown-up, in that he knows when to be serious. He may be a Yankees fan, but he's one of the best people in my life, and his family and ours have certainly been mutually supportive. He got a license when we asked him to marry us, so he can marry you, too.

14/05/2014

Podcasts I’m listening to

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Note: Updated 12 Aug. 2014 with Marc Maron's WTF.

One of my new favorite things is listening to podcasts. Better than listening to music for taking my mind off the pounding I give my knees on a run and requiring less attention than audiobooks, I'm picking up useful information and being entertained.

These are some of my favorites right now. Please share yours; I'm just getting into them, so I'd love some recommendations.

The Tim Ferriss Show. You know Tim Ferriss from the 4-Hour series (work week, body, chef) and maybe from his television show, which I haven't seen. His podcast is new (as of this writing, there are three episodes; there might be a fourth by the time this publishes), and very entertaining. Life-hacking, entrepreneurship, self-experimentation, meditation and more are subjects discussed in long-form entertaining interviews over copious amounts of wine (seriously, I think episode 3 is almost a constant pour over two hours). On Twitter: @tferriss

The James Altucher Show. I'm a big fan of Altucher's books (Choose Yourself! and others), his writing, and his weekly Twitter Q&A. I waited a little while to start listening to his podcast (he announced it in January), but I'm glad I did. He has some great guests, and his shows are generally a much more manageable length (35-60 minutes) than Ferriss's, if that's an issue for you. On Twitter: @jaltucher

Brew/Drink/Run. This is exactly what it sounds like. Home brewing beer, drinking craft beer, and running. They brew at all levels, from starter kits to complicated all-grain recipes. They run at all levels, from an endurance athlete to people who struggle to get a mile in some days, and they review beers that aren't your average Miller Lite. It's a very entertaining crew, and you might pick up a little something here and there. On Twitter: @BrewDrinkRun

Foundation. This is a podcast by Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg and the guy who decides which startups Google Ventures writes big checks to. He has some wildly interesting people on the podcast, talking about entrepreneurship. There aren't a lot of people giving away content who are having conversations with Elon Musk and David Copperfield. Take advantage of it. On Twitter: @KevinRose

Snap Judgment and The Moth. I put these two together because they have similar offerings. You can hear both on NPR stations across the country, and both feature storytellers, often in a performance environment. Snap does some long-form feature reporting as well. I don't know that there's much crossover in terms of people who tell stories, but I'd suggest giving them both a listen. On Twitter: @SnapJudgment and @TheMoth

Addendum: WTF with Marc Maron. Holy crap. Mark Maron is a comedian I never heard of until recently, and he's had one of the top-rated podcasts on iTunes for a few years now. He's 500-something episodes in, releases two or three a week, and has amazing guests. Like Robin Williams (2010), Claire Danes (there was mutual fandom there) and Bob Newhart. Maron was part of the crash-and-burn standup crowd, coming up with Sam Kinison and doing too many drugs and drinking too much. He has a show on IFC ("Maron"), still tours, and, in addition to his interviews, speaks to his audience about his life – his neuroses, his health, his relationships, what have you. He's incredibly relatable, and every interview is a conversation with what seems like an old friend.

07/05/2014

Sports talk: Colin Cowherd

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A lot of you know I'm a sports fan. And a lot of you have probably gathered through reading the blog, or spending time with me, that I appreciate smart people.

If you're not listening to Colin Cowherd's show The Herd, give it a go. It runs from 10am to 1pm Eastern on ESPN Radio (that's 97.7 FM if you're in CNY). You don't need to be a sports fan. Seriously.

Cowherd tackles his subject from a very honest place. He understands that he works at a large company, one owned by Disney. He also understands that he works for one of the few successful cable channels out there, the top sports channel out there, and that his company gives him three hours every weekday on national radio because he's smart and he's confident in his views.

So if he thinks his company screwed something up, he'll tell you.

And that extends elsewhere. If he thinks the NFL screwed something up, he'll tell you.

If he think you screwed something up, he'll tell you.

He doesn't take idiocy well. If you call into the show, you'd better be smart or entertaining, or prepare to be hung up on and ridiculed on air.

And he enjoys having people on the show who aren't just known for sports, like Mark Cuban (whom you might know from the TV show "Shark Tank" and other ventures outside of his ownership of the Dallas Mavericks) and on occasion someone like Malcolm Gladwell.

If you're not a sports fan, give him 10 minutes one day and 10 minutes another day here and there; his job is sports, but I think you'll learn something way beyond that industry.

30/04/2014

Focus

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I was scrolling through my blog archives a bit and noticing that you can really tell what's going on in my life by what I'm writing. I know that sounds common, but I rarely use this space to diarize. Instead, I've used the space to give myself motivation by attempting to give you motivation. Those times when I tell you to go out and create? I'm feeling creatively stifled and am really telling myself to go out and create.

So this week, I'm passing along some steps to help you get focused. To help me get focused.

I've been feeling a little...unsettled lately. For the past five weeks, we've been trying to squeeze in some naps as we get the house on the market, get a little outside time, do the work to be raised in Freemasonry, and to continue to grow. Oh yeah, and we're planning that wedding thing, too. Sheesh.

I haven't even picked up a book in almost a month.

Things are finally settling down a touch. We're able to reconnect with the people who matter to us (we even wound up having an impromptu barbecue the other night, with no stressful preparation or cleanup). We're able to get back to activities that matter to us, and to really find a little more time to focus on things like laundry and holding hands, instead of things like painting ceilings and moving beds.

23/04/2014

Seek, but also offer, opportunities for redemption

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I was out on the golf course for the first time this season with a friend. We're not good golfers. We enjoy the sun and the fresh air and the sound and feel of hitting a good shot, which, you know, comes occasionally. And sometimes that occasional good shot comes after pulling up on the ball and taking four strokes to hit the ball 10 yards. You keep your head down and knees bent and the next swing sends the ball 115 yards to the green.

"This is a great game," I said after such a stretch on the 12th fairway. "There's an opportunity for redemption with every shot."

It got me thinking about things like mistakes, and grudges. That every time we make a mistake, we shouldn't beat ourselves up over it — instead, we should take a deep breath (or two, or eight), and figure out the steps for finding redemption, and then follow them.

And we should learn a lesson from our finding redemption: Offer it to others. If they make a mistake, forgive them, reach out to offer an opportunity for redemption.

Living with others, and ourselves, is that easy.

16/04/2014