Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingI recently read Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking (official site). What a revealing read it was for me.

Some of you know me in person. If you do, you probably know me as someone who sits back in crowds and waits for someone to come to me to chat, who enjoys performing behind a guitar and microphone but not mingling with the crowd after, who can draft a great email but pretty much never calls, and in general would prefer to just get interaction over with.

I learned so much about myself from reading this book. It explains why I can write, gather and analyze data, read and learn new technologies for 12 or more hours at a go, but a three-hour shift taking sporadic phone calls and talking to strangers without knowing what the conversation could bring is exhausting to me.

It turns out that introverts prefer to plan, prepare and rehearse; and can be extroverted about causes they're really passionate about, but many of them don't do small talk well and can get overwhelmed in crowds.

I can relate to every little bit of that.

If you are (or suspect you might be) an introvert, or if you have an introvert in your life, I highly recommend reading this book.

Three rules for setting goals

As I was getting ready to start my week last week, I tweeted that my goal for the week was 30,000 NikeFuel points, which would have been my best week ever.

As you can see from the screenshot above, I did it.

[If you're not sure what the heck I'm talking about, read my thoughts on the Nike FuelBand here.]

This little success was not without some unintended consequences; I guess I didn't plan accordingly for that.

Thursday was a rest day, but take a look at that chart again – I earned somewhere in the 3500 fuel for the day. Men in their 30s who have the FuelBand (and thus probably skew toward the more active) average about 2200 a day. I had a rest day that beat the average by more than 50%.

My workout Friday was awful. I intended to run 4.5 miles and lift heavy. I quit running after 1.5 miles and then lifted about 30% lighter than normal on several fewer lifts than I had planned.

Sunday I just didn't feel like moving at all; the 1800 fuel I picked up came largely as a result of an outing to Chittenango Falls for some important stuff.

I set a goal. It was achievable but a stretch. I reached it, but didn't plan for the fallout of reaching it in the manner I reached it.

Here are three rules I'm going to follow with regard to goals from now on. Let me know if you have other tips!

1. Outline a plan that doesn't require vast amounts of recovery (whatever that recovery is from or for).
2. Be willing to miss your goal to keep more important stuff in play.
3. Have a plan beyond reaching the goal – if you do reach it, what's next? Hopefully not just more of the same, because that's just quantity, not growth.

How do you plan for success?

That's an honest question. I have to admit I'm scared shitless of the idea of success.

A lot of people are afraid of failure. I'm not. I know what it looks like. I know I could fail worse than I've failed in the past, but failing is not all that difficult. It's pretty easy to look around you and figure out what the basic things you need are, and then to figure out how to get them (I understand that's more difficult for some people than for others, but stay with me here).

If I need to eat and a I have a couple of dollars in my pocket, I can find some rice and beans that, when cooked, will last me the next three or four days. If I need a job, I can walk into a coffee shop or restaurant and ask. If I need housing, a vehicle, whatever, I know where to go, and if I need help I think I've built up enough good will around me that, if people were to see my desperation, they'd have my back.

But I don't know what to do with success.

Success is relative, I understand. I live in a nice house in the suburbs with a woman I love and a dog who knows how to turn around a bad day like nobody's business. If I miss a meal, it's because I was too busy to remember to eat, not because I couldn't afford food.

I read some pretty motivational blogs. These are people who have started their own companies, and a lot of them focus on "you can do it, too!" with some regularity.

I've been saving these posts for a few days now, with the intent of writing this post and sharing them here. They don't answer the question for me, but I think they're important.

As good as it gets, from Mitch Joel. It's where I got the video of Henry Rollins talking about how he got where he is. Joel summarizes it, so if you're not in a position to watch it, go read this post. The two biggest takeaways: "Write everything down twice, show up early, shut up and listen" and "When luck comes your way, take advantage of the opportunity."

Failing to succeed, by Matt Cheuvront. This is what actually got the wheels turning on this post. Cheuvront started his own business not long after college, and I like his take on doing what you want to do, mostly because it's somewhat muted by reality. A lot of "YOU CAN DO IT!" people have a late-night television infomercial vibe about their writing. He just reminds you, "hey, if you're not happy, you have a way out." In this post, he introduces the idea that failure isn't an end, it's just a miss.

Quit doing your best, by Marc Ensign. "Oh well, I did my best" is not an excuse, writes Ensign. Don't expect a pat on the back for failure. Succeed instead. If Cheuvront got the wheels turning on this post, Ensign certainly took this opportunity to remind me that if I keep wondering what the plan becomes if I succeed at whatever it is I'm doing, I'm probably never going to succeed, and I'm never going to be great. I started, but that's never going to be good enough. Onward!

There's always someone better than you, also by Cheuvront. It's a reminder to never stop growing. Even if you do get to success, even if you do keep improving, someone will always be quicker, better, stronger, or more successful than you. Again, onward!

We are nothing if not present tense: 4 steps from “I’m gonna” to “I am”

"Someday, I'm gonna..."

I just clicked the "submit" button on a creative non-fiction writing contest. I'm pretty sure the piece is fundamentally unpublishable – the voice changes frequently, the pacing is remarkably varied for such a short piece, and, let's face it, the only person who really cares about a personal travel diary is me.

But I clicked the "submit" button, and that's the part that takes me from talking about becoming a writer and actually working on becoming a writer.

Let's get something straight: I used to be a writer. I performed my own poetry and wrote both traditional journalism and opinion columns for a few years. My last writing day job, while definitely geared toward making money for somebody else, allowed a fair bit of creativity – at least until Google became my primary audience.

This here is my blog. I get to choose my topics, my words, and if you don't like it, you just plain old don't have to read it. I long ago crossed that line between trying to win you back if you stopped reading my blog or stopped following me on Twitter and just being me and if you like me and what I have to say, you'll read me.

For the past couple of years, since I stopped being driven by The Almighty Search Ranking, I've been either a former writer or an aspiring writer. I'm not sure which is more dangerous of an attitude to take. "I used to do this," or "someday I'll do this."

We are nothing if not present tense.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield introduces Resistance. It's a force that keeps you away from projects at all levels. It stops you from starting. It stops you from finishing. It stops you from perfecting. And it stops you from telling anybody about your project. Resistance takes many forms, from "I'll do it after I read the paper" to "I'll do it after I play fetch with the dog" to "Aww, Sweetie, that's cute. Come have dinner with me and your father."

Pressfield's Do the Work extends the battle against Resistance. You have a sword, Resistance is a dragon, and at every turn, it's up to you slay the dragon at each turn.

A note about Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and some other stuff: Here's a guy who was an over-the-road trucker living in a shack with a closed-up typewriter who ate dinner outdoors with a cat who refused to take food or shelter from Pressfield, only stood there and watched him before skulking off to wherever he went. Pressfield lived this life until he finally made the decision to sit down and write. And then even after that, because he wrote, and couldn't bring himself to submit his work.

And that's where he brings us in Turning Pro, and it's where I'm bringing myself with the submission.

There's a line. On one side are the people who say "I'm gonna" and "I used to" and "I wanna" and "I wish I could," and on the other side are the people who say "I am."

There are varying levels of success on the "I am" side of the line. At all those levels, there are people in danger of crossing back to the other side of the line. It's a very real danger. I'm committing to pressing the "submit" button a minimum of once a month. That gives me enough time to hone new work, but still makes me work on a tight enough deadline to not allow Resistance to fill up the room.

Call it commitment. It's more important than effort. "I tried" may be more important than "I want to," but "I did" is more important than "I tried."

You should go get this free audiobook. The novel is hysterical. And it comes with a lesson. You have to stick with it a while to get the lesson, but it's amusing enough that you'll get there.

You should also go get this free book. You'll come out of it with a broken coffee mug, but you'll also come out so much stronger.

4 steps to reaching the other side of the line

How do you get to the other side of the line?

1. Start
2. Keep going
3. Finish
4. Show people

It sounds simple, but it's really, really not. I want to hear your stories – success, failure, it doesn't matter. If you can do steps 1-3, I can be step 4 for you. Hit me up in comments.

Penn State: In defense of the NCAA

The NCAA does a lot of stupid things with regard to punishing college sports programs for rules violations. Take, for example, punishing Ohio State because some of its student athletes accepted tattoos as gifts.

In case you've been living under a rock, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 40-something counts of diddling little boys, and late (legendary) head coach Joe Paterno, the school's athletic director and presidents were implicated by an independent investigator as having covered up the crimes (as in, someone caught Sandusky molesting a child, went to his superiors, and they basically said, no we're not going to the authorities with this; it'd be bad for Penn State football).

There was a due process thing going on with Sandusky, he's never going to see the outside of a jail cell, his victims are going to continue getting whatever help they've needed and now that he's been convicted, some of them will probably sue the school.

The NCAA, which doesn't usually go after crimes – just programs violating its rules – came down really hard on Penn State. There's a $60 million fine involved (that money will be paid over five years to an independent program that works to prevent child abuse). The school is going to lose some football scholarships. They won't be eligible for post-season play for a few years. And every win they've had since 1998 is vacated (which is a weird thing the NCAA likes to do). Additionally, the players on Penn State's roster can transfer schools without penalty (typically, transferring students have to sit out a year while they get acclimated academically).

This means that Penn State's going to have a tough time recruiting top players the next few years, their current good players are going to leave, and essentially the football program is going in the toilet for the next decade or so.

There's a lot of collateral damage, too: football is a financial driver for other sports (you don't think fencing brings in enough revenue to pay for its scholarships, do you?); merchandise sales are probably going to dip if the team stinks; local businesses will suffer if people aren't going to games because the team stinks.

The NCAA claims that they want to change the culture that football is king and that the safety of the community should come first. I'm calling bullshit on the reasoning – if the NCAA stopped cashing in big on college football, they could play holier-than-thou, but that's not going to happen – but here's why I don't have a problem with the punishment:

Because of the cover-up (not Sandusky's crimes), the football program that was being presented to recruits, parents, fans and media was different from the program that really existed.

Let me say it again.

The program being sold was a lie.

If you're the parent of a four-star recruit, are you letting your 17-year old go to place where you know the assistant coach might fondly your kid in the shower? Hell no.

If you're an honors student involved as a volunteer in child welfare organizations considering Penn State, are you going to a school where the high-profile football program is destroying kids' lives and covering it up so you can make more money? Hell no.

As a football program and as a university, Penn State gained so much from the cover-up that only a forced culture change could get the community on the road to healing. And that's what the NCAA did.

No doubt Paterno did a lot of good for the university, by the way. Taking down his statue may have been cathartic, but for all the evil he did in the cover-up, he also put a lot of money back into the university, ponying up enough to put his name on the library. Time's going to heal his legacy, even if taking away 111 wins from his record moves him from first to 12th or 13th on the all-time wins list.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

I finally saw "Breakfast at Tiffany's" over the weekend.

[Go ahead, take the few minutes you need to get over the shock, do your laughing, whatever you need. I'll wait.]

I've never read Truman Capote's novella on which the film was based (I'd wait for the shock here, but I'd bet less than half of you knew the origin), but I had some thoughts I wanted to share.

The beginning of skinny? When the film was released in 1961, society was a big fan of the hourglass (yes, I'm talking female body shape here). Marilyn Monroe is the classic example, or just watch anything by Alfred Hitchcock. But Audrey Hepburn is skinny in the film. Gangly arms, shoulder blades and all. The character's estranged husband, Doc Golightly, even comments on it, but I was taken aback to see a skinny heroine in a classic film from that era.

Of course, today, skinny is the norm (though we're starting to see some fit, muscular female leads the last few years as well), but this might have been the start of that.

Fun. The party scene in Holly's apartment is far too long to make it into a film today. Which is bizarre considering how a lot of films go on and on and on, but scenes are so short today to match our short attentions. But it's so much fun. The choreography is fantastic, from the hat fire to Paul crawling for the phone and becoming a chair to Mag's passing out (and where'd they find all that space for her to fall, anyway?).

Customer service. I'm sure Tiffany's was flooded with young couples short on cash in the months after the film's release, but John McGiver's character is tactful, professional and a great example of how all customers should be treated, no matter their needs or financial status. You never know who's going to come into money or refer their wealthier friends. I know the transaction is scripted, but here's someone giving Holly and Paul a story they'll always be able to tell.

Cat. What a great addition to the film. I love that Holly doesn't feel she has the right to name the animal. I also love that at the end, it's Paul who gets out of the cab to go look for Cat. It's a great reminder of some of the important things in life.

What were your impressions of the movie?

Stuff to help you start writing. Plus: Doing the work.

You may have noticed some all-of-a-sudden increased blogging around these parts the past few weeks.

That's in no small part due to a couple of non-fiction books by Steven Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and others. Those books are Do the Work and Turning Pro. They're about getting over whatever the things are that are telling you to go do anything else but your art, and then further, finishing your project and trying to sell it, even if it's not particularly sellable.

What's a rejection letter or 20 among friends? Or enemies, for that matter? At least a rejection letter means you tried, which puts you ahead of most other people.

Pressfield, by the way, also writes a weekly column about writing called Writing Wednesdays.

Clearly, I've been doing a lot of the first part – the sitting down and writing.

And to tell you the truth, I may take more of this advice as I go forward, and even if I write five or eight or ten blog posts in a week, I'll go down to publishing two or three times a week, giving myself time to edit and even giving myself a day off here and there.

The second bit of Pressfield's advice has been on submitting your finished work.

It's easy to hit "Publish" on a blog. I paid for my own URL and for my hosting plan (it's really a nominal fee, why wouldn't I?), but you don't even have to do that. You can just set it up for free. You don't even have to tell anybody.

But I'm going to get back into submitting work. At least one piece a month, and my first piece has a submission deadline of August 1, which is a w eek from tomorrow.

Which means I'd better getting to the editing-for-awesome piece of it.

I'll be taking many of my submission ideas from some of Hope Clark's newsletters. She writes at Funds for Writers, and I highly recommend that if you need a contest (genre or literary fiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatever), you start subscribing to her newsletters.

The writing is mostly done already, so I'm down to the editing piece.

People you should be reading online

Here are some of the people in the "inspiration" folder in my Google Reader, on my "Must Catch" list on Twitter, and some other stuff that I've been checking into frequently.

Julien Smith. OK, I probably mention Smith enough on Twitter, but seriously, he's braver than you. He's probably smarter than you, too, but really, he's the one who is going to get you over your next hurdle. He's the second author on "Trust Agents" (which, while it's trite to recommend at this point, you still need to read if you haven't), and I'm probably going to wind up reading his short book "The Flinch" (ebook free from Amazon; he's working on a free audio version, too) every six months or so just to remind myself of where I really should be. Follow him on Twitter, as well. He's the kind of guy who can tweet one word, get 200 retweets, and spark you to action.

Marc Ensign. I found Marc Ensign this week, thanks to Julien Smith. I'm still picking through his blog archives, but I like what I've read because he's happy to tell you what you're doing wrong. And if you get defensive or dismissive about what he's saying, you are most definitely doing it wrong. Check out, for example, the reason he doesn't like your Facebook page. He's @marcensign on Twitter.

Shama Kabani. I linked that to Kabani's Twitter account, but her company, Marketing Zen, has some good resources on their website. I've been following her for a couple of years since I received a review copy of her book, and the thing that really put me over the top with having to share her stuff was an interview she did last week with Inc. magazine. I didn't quite agree until I slept on it a few nights.

Josh Spear. I'm not even sure what Josh Spear does (Twitter); I just know he posts about some pretty awesome stuff, including staying at amazing resorts, getting into some pretty exclusive cars and restaurants around the world, and lots of sneakers and watches (and y'all know I'm a sneaker guy). Of all the stuff that's in this post, he's definitely the guilty pleasure of the bunch.

Ashley Ambirge. Ambirge runs a copywriting company and a blog called The Middle Finger Project. "Because," her tagline goes, "entrepreneurs do it better and vulgar titles are funny." Ambirge is crass, smart and a lot of fun. I'm lurking in a copywriting class she's teaching (I can't make it to the actual class times, so I'm watching the videos after the fact; I'll probably clear my calendar to make room for the sales portion of that. Ambirge is into lifestyle design and doing what it takes so that you can live happy. Taco Bell says they can help you live más? Ambirge actually does it.

Project Gutenberg. This is a free ebook project that scans material copyright has expired on and offers it free in a variety of formats, including some mobile-friendly stuff and a format you can read on your Kindle or Kindle app. My library is growing fat because of the project, and I have a ton of reading to get to.

Go to Hullar’s

I corrected a wrong on my eat local resume last weekend by going to Hullar's.

This place has been around since the early 19th century, and it still has a neighborhood pub atmosphere.

We started by walking in, putting our names on the list and flopping down at the bar for beers next to someone we knew. Always a good sign.

It's the sort of bar that brings out the older adults; while there were some families dining, we were easily the youngest people at the bar by close to 30 years. The bartender, Neil, seemed scattered at first, but I didn't see anyone wait more than two minutes for a drink, and when tables were called, Neil was quick with a check to settle up a bar tab.

The waiter did one of the things I didn't mention in my giving great service post that I should have: He knew his products. Specifically, when he came to ask if we were ready to order, I first asked, "This is our first time here. What have we been missing?" And he had an answer for me. We'd already decided on our dinner, but there's probably going to be a lunch in our future in which we try some of his suggestions.

The food is better than passable (I won't call it amazing, but it was definitely good), the portions generous (those of you who have seen me eat will be surprised to hear I'll have an entire second meal out of it), and the cost very reasonable (drinks, appetizer and dinner for about $50).

Absolutely worth a visit. They also have an adjoining coffee shop I'll have to hit up for breakfast some day.

six months with the pup

six months ago today, we brought home rufus, a 75-pound, 2-year-old black lab. probably a mix of some sort because his body is a little shorter and wider than a thoroughbred lab would likely be.

we've learned a lot about each other, that dog and his humans. our biggest challenge is still his separation anxiety. it's gotten somewhat better, but we still have to put zip ties on his crate to keep him in when we're not home (otherwise he'll just tear the place apart – something he won't do if we are home). we can't leave him in the yard for a little while, and we can't leave him in the car while we run into the store for more than about the length of time it takes to pour a cup of coffee at a gas station.

we've yet to board him for a weekend; he's come with us on all our trips thus far. he copes ok if one of us is gone for the night; that happens very rarely, though, so it's not good practice for when both of us will be gone.

more than anything, we've learned patience, selflessness and to plan ahead (we have to make sure rufus has some time out of his crate if we're going to go out for the evening; not to mention bathroom time and food).

rufus has also grown accustomed to changing schedules, and he's picked up on various patterns (i take him for a walk in the morning, then we go to the office so that i can read and write, for example, or that we brush our teeth, go upstairs, take his collar off, and then he goes into his crate to go to sleep).

in addition, having a dog has given us a little more insight into what truly makes us happy: time with family, relaxing, reading, entertaining. if it comes down to 20 people, loud music and mediocre food and drink or time alone or with 2 or 3 friends at the house with a couple of bottles of wine and a couple of bricks of cheese and the occasional treat from for the furry one,  we'll definitely choose the latter.

what's helping you grow?