"How long would it take to create a simple website?" someone asked me recently.
"Depends on the website," I replied, "but really simple would be an hour or two."
It turns out that the website the person had in mind wasn't a simple website; it was a large secure database with multiple client types repurposed for a single client.
"You wouldn't do that," I said. "You'd just buy a subscription to" the existing site. And, I didn't add, if it's not worth the money to buy into that subscription, it's certainly not worth recreating it.
There have been some improvements on the wheel throughout the ages, but most of those are just modifications for more efficient use — the incremental innovations we've built much of our world on. We've also done a fair bit of repurposing the wheel throughout the ages. I think that's a more nifty sort of innovation. "Oh! It does that, too!"
I admire true innovators — the Elon Musks and Peter Thiels of the world. Maybe I should just say Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. It's not like there are many people enough like them to put them into some box loosely labeled with their names. I admire them because I don't know anything about the stuff they do. I see what comes of it, but I don't understand what goes into it.
But the kind of idea synthesis that makes me smile and say, "Damn! I should have thought of that!" is what James Altucher calls idea sex. Take two existing good ideas and combine them to make a great idea. Think peanut butter cup ice cream. Ice cream? Great idea. Peanut butter cups? Awesome idea. But peanut butter cup ice cream?! Obviously that's a simple version, but it's a clear illustration, I think.
What if we took Wheel A and Wheel B and made a really awesome Wheel C? We don't need a new Wheel A, but people are going to love Wheel C!
This is not a hump day post. There are no camels here.
Wednesday is the last day of my workweek. It is also the only day I wake up to an alarm.
Many of you know I work 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. I do so from home (or wherever I happen to be). I typically am asleep within 15 minutes of the end of my shift. Most mornings I get out of bed about 8:30 without an alarm, take an hour or so to check my email/Facebook/Twitter, have some coffee, get my body moving and throw some workout clothes on. I go out for a run and/or lift something. I come home, eat something, grab the dog and do whatever.
Wednesdays, I wake up to an alarm a little before 8. I take the dog for a walk, and I go to 1 Million Cups. It gets the creative juices flowing, and they hand out coffee.
After that, I head over to the United Way. My synagogue participates in a Backpack Buddies program. Around 9:30 or so Wednesday mornings, a few people head over to the local food bank and load their cars with about 2,000 pounds of food. Around 10:15, we all get to the United Way at the same time. We have a little cage with shelving and a long table in the basement.
We carry the food downstairs, sort it, and we carry up bags of food volunteers the previous Thursday have put together. The bags go to local schools, where they're distributed to children who are likely to miss meals that week.
Then, I go do something for me. It might be a trip to the beach, or a jump. Then I go home, walk the dog, and take a nap. I don't turn on the computer until a half hour before I go to work. When I wake up on Thursday, I have a weekend.
Here's why I'm telling you about my Wednesdays. By far the most popular post on my blog is called 6 tips for just getting on with your miserable fucking life. Every month since I wrote it, it's accounted for between 10 and 15 percent of my website traffic. People read it for four times longer than they read other posts. They're on that page long enough to read it five times at least (I've timed it to see if I could figure out why people are staying there so long).
That post is about how you get yourself out of a rut. I wrote it in anger. I was out of my rut and sick of hearing about other people's ruts. I wanted to give people a way to get out of their ruts. Or six ways, really.
Wednesdays are how I get out of my rut and transition into actual life, rather than the work-life cycle.
But everything in moderation, right? We get into ruts because we're not doing the things we do in moderation: we do them too much.
Here are a couple of more tips for getting out of your rut.
Take your vacation time. I found out last November I had to use or lose four vacation days before the end of the year, and on top of that I was carrying 16 days into 2016, in addition to the time I would accrue this year. That's FOUR WEEKS my company would have paid me for not working, but I chose to work instead. I vowed to have no use-or-lose days in 2016. I'm on track for that, I think. I'll have to revisit in September.
And if you're self-employed and haven't accounted for any vacation time for yourself, start. Start NOW if you can. Make your quarterly budgets 12-week earnings instead of 13. Make your annual earnings goal a 46-week goal. You're not self-employed because you wanted to slave away. You wanted some freedom. Take it.
Do one thing a month you've never done before. Even if it's trying a new restaurant or reversing the route you typically walk or run, just changing up your habits a tiny bit will give you new perspective. It's OK to stick to your guns on some things: I don't care what you say, I'm not putting ketchup on my hot dogs. That's a mustard meat, even if you're adding chili. Go stand on top of something. Run into a toy store and press all the "try me" buttons, then leave. You'll only annoy people for 45 seconds. Look at the stars. Just try one slightly new thing a month.
That's it. Just mix it up, and take some time for you.
I'm among the youngest of the old-fogey community — pretty much nobody had Internet when I graduated high school. Only the well-to-do had giant phones in their cars, and nobody had them in their pockets. Kids were allowed to be kids — on Saturday morning, I could tell my mother I was going to Jay's house, and a bunch of us would gather, go to a parking lot, play street hockey, go to the market to get some lunch, go to another parking lot to play baseball, go to a convenience store and get a candy bar, then go chill in the woods and talk about things of importance to 9-year-olds. Then we'd go home.
Later, in high school, friends would go get some ice cream and French fries (I grew up in the next town over from where Friendly's was founded), and we'd talk. Nobody had phones. Sometimes we'd have a camera, but developing film was expensive, so the server would take a group photo and that was that — no taking self-portraits (that's what "selfie" is short for) until we were happy with them.
I've certainly benefitted from the advent of social media, of the Internet and of cell phones. I think technology is amazing. But I also think conversation is important. Uninterrupted, honest, face-to-face conversation. Share ideas, listen, learn. Set aside your opinions and prejudices, and enjoy.
We have a restaurant here in Savannah called Mrs. Wilkes. They have a couple of 10-seater tables. They're open from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. A line will start forming around 10:15. Everything is served family style. There are no menus. Whatever's on the table is what they have. They fill the table, everybody eats, passing the food to strangers. Sometimes you've met the strangers already — if you've stood in line for two hours, you know you're going to eat with either the people in front of you or the people behind you. Or maybe both. It's a wonderful experience.
I'm just going to leave a bunch of links here about conversation from only a few sources; really, I just want you to read or watch a couple then go out and meet someone for coffee (or tea or soda or ice cream or cake or a walk or to climb trees).
Some of you know I recently started podcast. It's a medium I was vaguely aware of until a couple of years ago, and I am now a...let's call it avid consumer of the medium.
In addition to my own, here is a list of the podcasts I'm currently enjoying (in alphabetical order). I encourage your recommendations in the comments section.
• The Art of Manliness — Brett McKay interviews experts and authors on things that make us better employees, entrepreneurs, parents and healthy adults. Usually around 40 minutes, sometimes longer, and always an interesting listen.
• Astonishing Legends — In-depth storytelling about myths, legends and secret societies. Sometimes publishes irregularly as research requires; these guys really knock it out of the park, sometimes in multi-part series.
• Bertcast — Comedian Bert Kreischer was once called the top partier in America. The movie "Van Wilder" is (loosely) based on his college "career." He's a good guy with a great laugh, and he invites other comics into his man cave for conversations. Running times are anywhere from one to three hours.
• Brew/Drink/Run — Still one of my favorites. They talk about beer, running and homebrewing. And sometimes books. Sort of.
• The Church of What's Happening Now — Before he was an actor and comedian, Joey Diaz was a felon. No, really. Drugs, kidnapping, burglary...he's also a big music fan and he enjoys taking advantage of California's medical marijuana laws. Not for everybody (language, sexuality), but I really enjoy it.
• The Creative Coast — A short (10 minutes or so) conversation with a Savannah-area entrepreneur every week. The audio quality is often poor, but I've learned a lot.
• The Drunken Metaphysical — Curt and Ginny drink and talk about stuff like ghosts and ghouls. Lots of fun.
• The Drunken Taoist — Daniele Bolleli and Rich Evirs discuss...well, everything, sometimes with a guest. Two guys talking history, politics, pop culture and martial arts. Plus, Bolleli's accent is adorable.
• Duncan Trussell Family Hour — Again, not for everybody, but Trussell is a comedian, believer in the singularity and spiritual believer in meditation, float tanks and psychedelics. Typically converses with like-minded people of all stripes, from comedians to sculptors to priests.
• History on Fire — Daniele Bolleli (of The Drunken Taoist) gives us his take on history. This is not a competitor to Hardcore History, but is a reasonable replacement for those of us who can't stick with topics for the 16 hours Dan Carlin often gives them.
• Intensely Positive — My friend Kelvin Ringold has a motivational podcast. Go check it out.
• It's All Happening — Zach Leary (son of Timothy) is a filmmaker, spiritualist and kirtan musician. He has one of the most soothing voices in the medium and converses with like-minded people. Usually comes in around an hour.
• The Joe Rogan Experience — Joe Rogan is a standup comic who was host of "Fear Factor" and before that was on "Newsradio." He is a hunter, evangelist for psychedelics, a UFC commentator and generally curious guy. He has conversations with all kinds of people, from fellow comedians to former crooked cops to geologists to Olympic marathoners. Episodes range up to three hours and are available on video as well.
• Ku and the Gang — Esther Ku is a comedian who chats with other comedians. Definitely not for everybody; in fact, I only listen to the first half. She starts pretty much every show with a discussion about bowel movements, and after the conversation ends masturbates to orgasm.
• The Masonic Roundtable — Five U.S. Freemasons discuss the Craft, sometimes with guests. The show is run live each Tuesday night via Google Hangout, and the guys take questions and comments via social media. Open to the public, but topics are typically only going to be of interest to Masons or the Masonically curious.
• The Moment — Writer and director Brian Koppelman interviews his favorite musicians, actors and writers. Episodes are usually around an hour long.
• Shotclog — Comedian Doug Stanhope and a barrage of colorful characters hang out, mostly drunk, on Stanhope's property in Bisbee, Arizona. They're a bunch of rabble-rousers and frequently the podcasts are just a bunch of people being ridiculous. It's highly entertaining.
• Snap Judgment — An independently produced public radio show, Snap is stories set to music, sometimes live and improvised, sometimes recorded and produced. Always fun. About 56 minutes, it's also broadcast on many NPR affiliates across the country.
• This Won't Hurt a Bit — A medical show featuring two actual doctors. They have fun with common questions about stuff like exercise, smoking and such.
• The Tim Ferriss Show — Tim Ferriss is an author and self-experimenter. He shoots for efficiency and fast learning/assimilation. He interviews a wide variety of people from all walks of life.
• #WeThePeople Live — A political roundtable done, most frequently, live in a bar. Host Josh Zepps used to do this for Huffington Post and took the show out on its own.
• Whence Came You? — A Masonic podcast detailing history, esoterics, famous Freemasons and Masonic anecdotes. About a half hour most weeks, closer to an hour when the conversation moves to the esoteric. Open to the public and has a wider target audience, especially if you have a wish to explore the mystical. Host Robert Johnson is one of the hosts of The Masonic Roundtable
• The Winding Stairs — A podcast by Juan Sepulveda, one of the hosts of The Masonic Roundtable. Sepulveda takes the lessons of Freemasonry and applies them to everyday life. Open to the public and probably good for anyone who wishes to be a better human.
• WTF — Marc Maron's podcast is a twice-weekly interview show that for years was the standard-bearer of the medium. He only keeps the latest 50 free, so get in there early. He's interviewed hundreds of interesting people (he's recently passed Episode #700), almost all of them in his Los Angeles-area garage, including President Obama. He also re-releases interviews when someone dies, so even though I've only been listening for a couple of years, I was treated to his interviews with Robin Williams and Garry Shandling, among others.
I thought I'd do something a little different here and move the post to early in the week, since the podcast posts at the end of the week. I'm not really sure if I can keep up a new publishing schedule like this, but there's only one way to find out, right? If need be, I'll just go back to Thursdays.
I went into that training with no time expectations, and by the time I got through the summer heat and really settled in, I decided I'd set a goal of 10-minute, 40-second miles (which from now on I'll format like 10:40 so as to not only sound like I know what I'm talking about, but save some space). I was right around that (a little behind — I finished in 2:21:12, which is a total of eight seconds behind over the course of 13.1 miles, if my math is correct).
I've kept running, which, I understand, is unusual for someone *cough cough* my age who only just started running. And like I said, I set a goal of 1,000 miles for the year.
I'm going to keep that goal, knowing that, as it gets warmer, I'm going to taper some miles. Sure, I'm still putting in some miles while it's 85 and humid, but given how early in the year the heat's hit, I expect we'll see some 100-plus weeks.
I'm also going to have a couple of weeks when I know I'm going to not run or maybe just get out for a few miles once or twice. My typical week consists of three, maybe four runs for a total of between 22 and 27 miles. This week will be more like 5 or 6 runs at a total of around 20 miles. Those weeks we have friends coming into town, we'll wind up walking 25-30 miles, and I won't run at all. I'll be out of town on vacation for a week and a half, and I'll run sporadically and enjoy myself instead.
That said, if you watch the progress on the right side of the website, you'll see I'm averaging more than the 2.75 miles a day I need to reach 1,000 on the year. I'm also well over the 85 miles per month, so I'm giving myself some breathing room.
All this time, I've been maintaining my goal of running at 10:40 a mile, and I realized on a run Monday that I need to stop that. I need to give myself the opportunity to fail as the weather gets less runner-friendly. I've been setting PRs almost every week at one or more of some of my more common distances (2, 7 and 12 miles).
I'm moving my goal up to 10:00, and I'll revisit that in September. That'll also make the math easier for me along the way (I have Runkeeper tell me where I am every quarter mile — just time and distance — and I calculate where I am compared to my goal to keep myself focused a little bit).
This is a good reminder to reevaluate your other goals, too. If you're knocking your goals out of the park, maybe it's time to set more difficult goals. And...go!