Taking a learning break…see you in the spring

Two of my favorite things to do are read and write.

While I've always found reading relaxing — thanks, primarily, to my parents, who, when I claimed boredom growing up, told me to go read a book instead of to go watch TV — I really love reading (and listening to) books for growth.

I write to make sense of things. To parse them in my mind. To explain difficult concepts to myself in a simpler form. Hopefully some of you have benefited from me doing that and sharing what I've learned.

I need a break to refresh that learning. The stuff I do here is what people often do on Sabbatical. So think of this as a reverse Sabbatical.

I also write to keep exercising my creativity muscle.

I have plenty of creativity to exercise scheduled in the next few months. I'm spending six months taking the Master Key Experience, which involves lots of reading and writing (and thinking). I want to pay more attention to the JKWD Podcast — it's really good and I think there's a lot of room for growth.

I have some thick books sitting on my shelf I want to get to, too, Antifragile and Tools of Titans (and I guess there's some new Tim Ferriss for me to track down, too).

I also want to learn some basic psychology. If you've got a recommendation, please pass it along.

And since New Year's is really an arbitrary date and you can start anything anytime, here is my annual posting of Doug MacLean's "Auld Lang Syne." Don't forget where you've been, but don't be afraid to leave it behind for where you're going.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 79: Hiatus; see you in April

Hey, y'all. Thanks so much for being here the past 18 months! It's so awesome that you've stuck with me. Josh: The Podcast is getting a major overhaul. Listen to find out what you can expect and when you can expect it. Also...who knows? It might come with a new name...

Subscribe
iTunes
Player.fm
Google Play
Stitcher
Libsyn (RSS)
Subscribe on Android

See more episodes on the podcasts page.

Support the podcast:
Get a free month when you subscribe to Barkbox
Get 30% off when you register your domain at GoDaddy
Get a free audiobook and a free month at Audible
Shop at Amazon

Creating from the middle

Some people claim they can only create when they hit a bottom.

Some people claim they can only create when they hit a top.

No doubt a lot of creativity can come from extremes. But what happens the rest of the time?

We can't all be Hunter S. Thompson, whose daily routine would kill most people on the first day.

But we can all be Stephen King, about whom I wrote recently. His advice is to show up, and keep showing up.

Steven Pressfield offers the same advice.

You can certainly do some things to make it easy to maintain some continuity in your creativity. Earnest Hemingway used to stop writing mid-sentence so that he'd have a starting point for the next day. Pablo Picasso, on the other hand, disagreed. He said you can stop if you're willing to leave the work as complete should you die before you get back to it.

Ritual is important to creating. So are habits. And routines.

Nothing's foolproof, of course. Even the greatest slip up sometimes.

But if you keep showing up, your chances of success get much better.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 78: Vegas shooting, self-love and racquetball

Lesson from this week's podcast: Just don't be an asshole, eh? Yeah, we're talking about guns again, I feel like I'm kinda talking to myself on it, but at least I make for good company...

Show our sponsors some love:
Get a free month with a subscription to BarkBox at GetBarkBox.com/josh
Get 30% off your purchase of a domain, hosting and other website services at TryGoDaddy.com/josh

Subscribe
iTunes
Player.fm
Google Play
Stitcher
Libsyn (RSS)
Subscribe on Android

See more episodes on the podcasts page.

Support the podcast:
Get a free month when you subscribe to Barkbox
Get 30% off when you register your domain at GoDaddy
Get a free audiobook and a free month at Audible
Shop at Amazon

Losing our shame and making more connections

We were at a wedding recently, and another guest asked me about dancing. "How do we learn dance moves?" he asked.

Aside: Let's assume this conversation is paraphrased. Hypothetically speaking, he and I would not have been having this conversation if we hadn't been enjoying ourselves. To wit:

#weddings

A post shared by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

"We're born with them," I said, "and we have to learn how to un-forget them."

As we get older, we start to gain more of a sense of shame. And by "get older," I mean as we age out of toddlerhood. Because really, we start getting ridiculed for nonconformity pretty early in our school careers.

By the time we're teenagers, many people are afraid to stand out, and when they do something to "stand out," usually they do it in groups. The success of Hot Topic points to this. It's a place where nonconformists can go to conform to each other.

There are, of course, social benefits of conformity. We gain a sense of community. We feel accepted, perhaps even loved. If we conform really well, we get to be very popular. You can sell stuff. If you're a true nonconformist, your creative output is too, well, weird for everyone else.

You can be different and pretty far out there — Kevin Kelley asserts that if you have 1,000 true fans who will buy whatever you do, you're free to explore various avenues that will appeal to vastly different groups — but you still have to really resonate for 1,000 people.

I'll bet if I handed you a pad of paper and a pen (and took your phone away), it would take you at least an hour to write down the names of 1,000 people you either know or have heard of (you're unlikely to actually know 1,000 people, even if you can count that many people in your network).

Back to shame, and my wedding conversation.

"You look like you've got some moves," he said.

"Nah," I countered. "I just don't care if anybody thinks I look silly." Like this lady.

It's true. I'm a goofball.

It's not that I don't care at all, just that I pick a few things about which I deeply care when it comes to people's perceptions of me, and the rest of the time, I just want to have some fun. It's the kind of thing that allows me to come up with creative solutions to some problems but not be able to see outside the box for others.

Brene Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher. She finds that people who are willing to show vulnerability have empathy and form deeper connections with others.

That's an oversimplification of her work, but if you want the 20-minute version, she does it much better than I do, so just watch her TED talk:

If you want more, listen to her discussion with Tim Ferriss or Chase Jarvis or Lewis Howes.

If you're feeling blocked, or alone, or generally bad about yourself, go be silly. Or go cry. Find some vulnerability. Do it in public. That's where we make our connections.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 77: More oomph in your day, more love in your week

We talk about stuff, because that's what we do. Yay!

Show our sponsors some love:
Get a free month with a subscription to BarkBox at GetBarkBox.com/josh
Get 30% off your purchase of a domain, hosting and other website services at TryGoDaddy.com/josh

Links
Get 30% off at GoDaddy at TryGoDaddy.com/Josh
Master Key Experience
The Miracle Morning
1 Million Cups
Pod On The Go
JKWD Podcast
We were in Hawai'i

Subscribe
iTunes
Player.fm
Google Play
Stitcher
Libsyn (RSS)
Subscribe on Android

See more episodes on the podcasts page.

Support the podcast:
Get a free month when you subscribe to Barkbox
Get 30% off when you register your domain at GoDaddy
Get a free audiobook and a free month at Audible
Shop at Amazon

Culture vs. Politics: What do you want from your leaders?

In one of his shows last week (watch/listen above), level-headed conservative commentator Ben Shapiro took on President Trump for retweeting a gif of himself hitting a golf ball that ultimately hits and knocks over Hillary Clinton.

I'm not going to dignify the tweet with a link or an embed; you know where the president's account is.

Anyway, Shapiro pointed out that the tweet's fine if you're a fan wearing a Republican jersey. But when you're the President of the United States, you need to have a higher standard for yourself.

A week later, the president was battling NBA and NFL players. On Twitter. Because he's got that kind of time and energy, but not the sort required to help write legislation.

It's the same medium he used to hand the North Korean dictator a schoolyard nickname. A Korean diplomat says there's no way Kim Jong Un laughs it off. He's going to attack the US because the president can't shut his twap (see what I did there?).

To be totally honest, I had this post written it what I thought was its entirety and scheduled and then the weekend in Trump vs. NFL happened.

It's really a continuation of the rest of the post. Is it an interesting cultural phenomenon? Perhaps. If NFL owners fired everyone who knelt or sat and went to find replacements, maybe some people would be happy, but to be frank, the quality of play would drop drastically.

If you're Walmart and you need 200 new greeters, it won't be hard to find. Finding 200 NFL-quality players who aren't already in the League (and you have to leave out the ones who would kneel or sit, I suppose), the product becomes more like a second-tier league.

If you're an NFL fan who doesn't watch the CFL or AFL, you're not going to watch an NFL full of players who didn't make the cut the first time (or second or third time) out. You certainly won't pay current ticket prices or buy subscription packages.

The league would lose more money in diminished quality than it is from people who are willing to vote with their dollars. We're too lazy as a nation to do much more than complain. When it comes to actual action, we're pretty lax. If your habit has been pizza, beer and buds on Sunday, you're not getting together to watch Netflix and chill.

I write about discourse a lot here.

Apart from that, it's simply not something that should be on the president's radar, never mind the focus of his ire. Puerto Rico is in huge trouble. Southern states are still recovering from Harvey and Irma, requiring federal intervention (I just got an email from my Congressman this evening about people available to help apply for assistance). He could be working on health care or tax reform or figuring out how to handle North Korea diplomatically instead of having a slap-your-dick-on-the-table contest with Kim Jong Un.

Donald Trump is a cultural icon, no doubt, but he's not a leader. If your boss said to you a lot of the stuff the president says to everyone, you'd be filing complaints with HR and probably taking your company to court.

Disagreement is one thing, belittling is another.

We need leaders who can lead, not who can yell. Being louder doesn't make you correct, it just makes you louder.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 76: Culture vs. politics and a new year refresh

We talk about discussion points instead of shouting matches and changing your habits.

Show our sponsors some love:
Get a free month with a subscription to BarkBox at GetBarkBox.com/josh
Get 30% off your purchase of a domain, hosting and other website services at TryGoDaddy.com/josh

Links
Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal | Flow Genome Project
Get a free audiobook at AudibleTrial.com/JKWD
The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod | Miracle Morning community
1 Million Cups
JKWD with Jon Vroman
Bull Street Labs
• Ben Shapiro's Culture Wars rant:

Subscribe
iTunes
Player.fm
Google Play
Stitcher
Libsyn (RSS)
Subscribe on Android

See more episodes on the podcasts page.

Support the podcast:
Get a free month when you subscribe to Barkbox
Get 30% off when you register your domain at GoDaddy
Get a free audiobook and a free month at Audible
Shop at Amazon

Coloring outside the lines

When Hurricane Irma was coming toward us in September, we were scheduled for a trip to Central New York for a family wedding.

We were at the car rental counter when we landed, and inquired about adding days onto our rental if that became necessary — the day we were scheduled to return to Savannah was the day Irma was expected to hit the area, making our return on that day unlikely and our ultimate return day uncertain.

The clerk at the counter wasn't confident that we'd be able to extend our reservation, especially with the same car, but she suggested that we call the agency we booked the car through to check.

"Hypothetically speaking," I asked her, "what if our flight were to get moved to, say, Wednesday, and we just didn't bring your car back until then?"

She explained that if we were able to extend the reservation, it wouldn't be a problem, but otherwise, they'd give the car to someone else.

It took several go-arounds for me to make my point. We were scheduled to bring the car back Monday, and they could therefore rent the car to someone else on Monday.

In order for her to hand someone else the keys to the car, though, we would have to bring the car back. What if we didn't?

She simply couldn't conceive of someone not following the rules.


In a coloring book, the lines constrain an image, but not a palette. An object is offered, but the scene is not. Take this gorilla with a bow tie, for instance:

The gorilla has a proud expression on its face, but outside of the animal straightening a bow tie, we have no context. Coloring inside the lines augments the subject, but still doesn't give us any context. Did the gorilla steal the bow tie from a zoo visitor? Is there a formal dance at the panda display? Is the gorilla crashing the Academy Awards?

If you want to tell a story, it's the part outside the lines that is most important.


The law of the instrument says, in its most famous iteration, if you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

It's really a story about education — one early version says:

Give a boy a hammer and chisel; show him how to use them; at once he begins to hack the doorposts, to take off the corners of shutter and window frames, until you teach him a better use for them, and how to keep his activity within bounds.

Within bounds? That will sound familiar to my Masonic brethren.

In Freemasonry, when we speak of bounds, we're talking generally about "keeping our passions within due bounds," that is to say, even in the face of anger or frustration, we are to keep a level head and treat people politely.

What it doesn't mean, though, is to treat every situation in the same way.

We have leeway to come up with reasonable solutions. So too, the child with the hammer and chisel. There are times when it is perfectly reasonable to use a hammer and chisel.


You could use the face of a hammer to break the safety glass and the claw to pull a fire alarm. You could play pool with the grip as a cue.

You could use a hammer to open a bottle or can, set a broken nose or make mashed potatoes.

You could carry a thin sheet of hot metal.

Each case would certainly be within due bounds, if unorthodox. Except the setting a broken nose bit. I'm pretty sure that's exactly how they do it. If you've ever seen my nose and noticed sort of a re-curve in the bridge, that's an over-corrected broken nose, and it looks exactly like someone took a hammer to it.


Duncker's candle problem is a cognitive exercise in which a subject is placed at a table next to a wall. On the table are a candle, a book of matches or a lighter, and a cardboard box of thumbtacks.

The charge is to light the candle and walk away, but ensure that no wax drips on the table.

The solution is to empty the box of tacks, tack the box to the wall, and place the candle in the box.

The success rate when Duncker first proposed the exercise was fairly low.

If the same items are presented but with the tacks piled on the table next to the box, the success rate is almost 100 percent.


I don't know this for sure, but I'm guessing the linear, inside-the-lines thinking that gives people trouble creating scenes around a coloring-book gorilla, makes Duncker's exercise difficult and makes it hard to understand that someone might not follow established norms is learned.

I know our education system is based on a factory model, though increasingly we have de-institutionalized ways around that, from MOOCs to on-demand boutique learning through sites like Udemy or Creative Live or The Great Courses Plus, to tutorials on YouTube on anything from changing your oil to installing a water heater to building a shed.

Without allowing creative thought and nonlinear problem solving to take a larger role in our development through schooling (and subsequently through our largely institutionalized workplaces), we're going to have fewer and fewer people to take the sorts of shots that Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil are taking, or that Astro Teller is looking for over at Google X.

Let's think differently and make the world much more amazing.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 75: Gratitude, racism and free bananas

We talk about hurricane recovery, racism in sports and where to get some free bananas in Savannah.

Show our sponsors some love:
Get a free month with a subscription to BarkBox at GetBarkBox.com/josh
Get 30% off your purchase of a domain, hosting and other website services at TryGoDaddy.com/josh

Links
Hurricane Irma
Lucky's
Savannah JEA
Racist banner at Fenway Park

Subscribe
iTunes
Player.fm
Google Play
Stitcher
Libsyn (RSS)
Subscribe on Android

See more episodes on the podcasts page.

Support the podcast:
Get a free month when you subscribe to Barkbox
Get 30% off when you register your domain at GoDaddy
Get a free audiobook and a free month at Audible
Shop at Amazon