Holy crap, we’re an amazing species


The photo at the top of this post was taken with a cell phone on a plane while I was listening to Tchaikovsky on Sirius XM through headphones.

Can we break all of this down for a minute?

First off, I'm sitting in a chair in a metal tube in the sky with 150 other people. We're going 1,000 miles in under two hours. What a giant fuck you to gravity — and pretty much everything else we thought we knew 125 years ago.

125 years. Seriously. Your grandfather's grandfather was an adult already. That's a blink ago.

While sitting on this plane, I've got headphones in. There's sound coming through these little wired pods in my ears that only I can hear. Specifically, it is an orchestral recording that has been committed to some digital medium and sent from earth to space and then bounced back to me moving 500 mph through the sky in a metal tube.

An orchestral recording? That's 100 different people sending sound through instruments we built and shaped to make sounds. All the sounds are coordinated because we came up with this language drawn in symbols we could all agree on that say, "On this instrument, play this sound for this long." And one person put all those instructions down on paper and someone else is standing up and reading it and leading a whole bunch of other people who are reading it to make sure everyone's in the same place.

At the same time, the sound is traveling into some sort of device that captures that sound and can reproduce it in a format that is readable by other devices, including the one that can send it into space for me to hear.


Now, can we look at the stuff in the photo?

I don't even know where to start. Maybe with the book? It's full of words. Printed words. We not only agreed on sounds that mean something, we drew symbols to represent those sounds. Then we figured out how to pulp wood to make paper, have some ink and a press to permanently impress the symbols onto the paper, bind them together, and reproduce that a whole bunch of times.

We then took that ink, created a container that can leak just a little bit, in a controlled manner when in contact with a solid surface, and put the ink inside.

Now look a little to the left. We got more ink to stay on that napkin, which is a different version of the reconstituted pulped wood. The cup is yet another version of reconstituted pulped wood, also with some ink, and it's full of hot coffee — a drink that is amazing in itself. We took this berry, got the seed out, roasted the seed and steeped it in hot water. And we managed to get it hot in a metal tube in the sky.

If you can look at everything around you and not be AMAZED at our ingenuity, you might need a perception adjustment.

Unity of vision


The rabbis tell the story of a student of the seer of Lublin, a wise and religious man.

The student decided that in order to be closer to God, he would fast (no food or water) from the end of one Sabbath (Saturday at sundown) to the beginning of the next (Friday at sundown).

As the next Sabbath approached, the student was very thirsty, and, as he walked to his teacher's house to welcome the Sabbath, he passed a well. He stopped at the well, and then told himself, "If I have a drink of water now, I will have wasted the rest of the week." He walked away without a drink.

As he continued his journey, the student felt proud of himself, and recognizing the sin of pride, rushed back to the well, saying, "better I should fail in my fast than to feel pride." When he got back to the well, however, he was no longer thirsty, and continued on to his teacher's house without taking a drink.

When he arrived, the seer admonished him for his patchwork approach to getting closer to God. "You should go into your fast with unity of soul."

This translates so well into our want-to-do-everything world. Beyond #FOMO ("fear of missing out"), we have a problem wherein we want to be seen as so many different things — indeed to do so many different things.

It's fine to do a lot, but do it with unity of vision. Do it with a sense of purpose. Do everything with an eye toward being your best you. And if something is leading you away from that path, stop doing it. Now.

Want to know if you're on the right track here? Open your calendar. What did you do last week? The week before? What's there for the next week? How about the week after? Ask why about everything that's on there. Can you come up with an answer that makes sense to you? If not, maybe consider reconfiguring your calendar a little.

Start saying no to stuff that you feel like you have to do but that don't suit your purpose. Be one with you.

Oh, and have a great day.

Lessons in working hard and reining it in from Bert Kreischer and Robert Kelly

Sometimes I listen to a podcast with the expectation that it's going to be really fun, and instead of laughing a lot, I find myself saying, oh no, now I need to listen to this again with pen and paper nearby.

Comedian Robert Kelly was on Bertcast — the podcast of comic and Travel Channel personality Bert Kreischer — and it really turned into something you need to hear.

Here are my takeaways from the episode:
• Help your friends out, but also hold them accountable
• Know the things you want and need to be your best — and demand them
• Learn how to cut off the fat
• Learn how to say no
• Don't say anything you can't take back (Kelly is sometimes on Comedy Central's "Roast Battle," a show on which the point is to make fun of other comics; the lesson here is some things are off-limits — know how you can tease people, but know what's too far)
• Spontaneity isn't always good
• Don't put in the work if the payoff isn't there
Hard work is hard
• We are in a period of excellence and variety
• Don't let emotion get the better of you
• What is your peak? Are you willing to keep going on the other side of it?
Sometimes it's worth the risk
• It's worth doing exactly what you want, but do it for you, and do it your way
• You don't know where it's going, but it's definitely not going anywhere if you don't do it to your expectations
• Not everybody is going to be a rock star
• Have measured expectations
• Be realistic about where you are
Try to be better
• Do what you do; you ever where it's going to get you
• Don't let expectations weigh you down
• In a saturated market, how do you stand out?
• You're worth what you're worth. If you get $X and someone's only offering $y, you can still love them honestly but say no
• Don't jump in a big pond just to be a small fish. Kelly's actual quote: "Why do I want to be the pepper in your chop suet? People want chop suet; they don't care what's in it."
• It's up to you if you stay or go – not the audience, not your mother, not anyone else
• Bring people with you


Small decisions are the difference between good enough and great


I was running south down Drayton Street, along Forsyth Park, on yet another high-heat, high-humidity day in Savannah.

It seems like every time I've looked down at my phone's weather application the past two months, it says something on the order of "92°, feels like 109°."

I'd been frustrated by my inability — really, lack of true desire — to push past two or three miles (I'd been running two or three times a day sometimes to get some time in on the pavement).

That particular day, I had set out to run five miles, and here I was, about 2.25 miles in, drenched, sagging and miserable. Up ahead about a quarter mile — well within my view — was a corner.

I could turn left, and get home in about a mile, or I could turn right and keep going. I could go home, get comfortable and tell myself I was going back out later, or I could push myself through.

Let me note here that in general, five miles is not a stretch for me. I'll run my second half marathon this fall, and I've set a running goal of 1,000 miles this year.

At 10 minutes per mile, a quarter mile is two minutes, 30 seconds. That's not a long time if, say, you're driving to Baltimore. But just sit there and count off two and a half minutes. Go ahead. Bet you last about 15 seconds and say, "OK, I get the point."

Two and a half minutes of norepinephrine nudging me to the left, saying, "hey, three-plus miles on a really hot day isn't all that bad!" And a piece of my brain, feebly frying in the July heat, meekly responding, "no...I'm...running...five...today."

Kelvin and I did a podcast on this yesterday.

It's these bouts of internal arguments that make the difference between settling for good enough and going for great.

It's these little corners — turn left or turn right — that make the difference between the comfortable status quo the uncomfortable moments required for growth.

It's these decisions you make — be good enough or turn toward greatness — that define who you become.

I ran a touch over 5.6 miles that day. Which way would you turn?

Seth Godin on decommoditizing yourself, dropping your entitlement, and the loss of head starts

I've been working my way through the 30 Days of Genius interviews on CreativeLive, and, surprise, Seth Godin's stood out to me.

If you're not familiar with Seth Godin, please go spend two days watching and reading some of his stuff. This all right here is not important; it's just talking points from this interview.

Godin's altMBA »

Chase Jarvis, photographer and founder of CreativeLive, interviews Godin. Here are some of the points I think are important.

• There is no secret; there is no right answer.
• Genius is an ancient term for the voice in your head. No one's a genius, we all have a genius.
• Fear is hard-wired into us, but sometimes it's just wrong — a presentation at work is nothing like the Spanish Inquisition, even though we have the same reaction to it.
• Most people are talented. If you're doing banal work, you're afraid to use your talent.
• Overwhelm a platform with generosity. If you stay off the ship because you're worried about a wreck, you're still off the ship when it's successful.
• We live in a world right now where we don't need to be picked — by an employer, by a publisher, etc.

Jarvis: I love that your prescriptions are so simple.
Seth: But hard to do.

• Are you just doing something to get more famous? If so, why? If you couldn't see your numbers, would you still do it? For example, are you only trying to grow your Twitter followers because you can see the number of Twitter followers you have?
• We're living in the most crowded creative time ever. You're not entitled to attention or leverage, but you can earn it.
• Build art that doesn't work unless you share it. The first guy who had a fax machine couldn't do anything with it until someone else had a fax machine.
• Anything worth doing is worth doing because you changed someone else. If we don't make a change happen, what did we do? Sharing will happen naturally when you change someone. "The Laramie Project" was a play about gay rights, and you and I have heard of it because it changed the people who saw it and they wanted to share it.
• Our public education system isn't designed to create innovation. It was started by industrialists to grow a workforce with similar education who is trained to sit at a desk all day, and hasn't changed since. We have summers off because we needed time to pick crops.
• [To work around the problems of public education]: Parents need to tell kids that straight A's aren't the point. Ask, "What problem have you solved today?" Kids have to answer that before they're allowed to do their homework.
• If you can't buy into "it might not work," you have to trick yourself into it.
• Have a practice. If you go in for surgery, you want the surgeon to do things the same way every time. Similarly, when it comes to daily practices, there's no one practice that's demonstrably better than another, but having a practice is important.
• Now that the world has changed, don't get frustrated. If you want to be treated like a non-commodity, don't act like a commodity.
• Take responsibility for what you do. It's not your boss's fault, not your parents' fault.
• Don't do great things tomorrow, do them today.

Reminder: Own your job, and you’re entitled to work hard

"Hard work is just preparation for a lucky day," Sir Mix-a-Lot tells Chase Jarvis

I was supposed to be unemployed today.

Long story, but I went over it in the bonus material of Episode 11 of the podcast (bonus material available with a donation at Patreon).

Short version: I had the opportunity to mail it in, but I didn't. I remembered something I wrote some 4.5 years ago. Someone was paying me money, and they deserved my best.

I'm going to leave this bit right here about how you're entitled to work hard, but not to much else in this life. Deal with it.

The ongoing fear of success

I was pretty smart four years ago when I asked, "how do you plan for success?"

I'm dumber now, I guess, because I just read that piece and learned something from it.

Maybe I'm not dumber. Maybe I just needed a reminder. Clearly I haven't spent the four years learning the entire lesson.

I was reminded of problem of fearing success when Joey Diaz had Matt Baker on his podcast last week.

Diaz, the actor and comedian, and Baker, a second-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, are on the mic with producer Lee Syatt. They're talking about Diaz getting into comedy, and about his fear of getting onstage.

Scroll ahead to 34:19 if you want to hear this exchange; go before that if you want context.

Syatt: Were you worried you were going to bomb? Is that what you were most worried about? Or were you worried that you were going to do well?

Diaz: I was worried I was going to find the answer to all my problems.

"I was worried I was going to find the answer to all my problems."

What are you not doing because you're worried it will eliminate your ability to complain about anything?

Know when to reevaluate your goals (running update)

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.

Anyway, onward.

Some of you might be aware that I set a goal to run 1,000 miles this year.

It's been almost 11 months since I started training for a half marathon, which I ran last November.

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!




It occurs to me that you can't have good days without bad days.

Running is front of mind for me, because I do it so often.

Saturday, I ran what Runkeeper tells me was my 99th fastest 3-mile run. Ugh. It was crap. I knew it was going to be crap, of course. Thursday had been St. Patrick's Day, and I partied it up with the best of the Savannahians. OK, let's be honest, I was definitely second tier. That morning, I was out for a run and by 6:30 a.m., people were already well into their second round of brats and second cases of beers.

By Monday, I ran my fastest seven-miler and then Tuesday was my third fastest 3-mile run. Good days, rebounding from the bad ones.

This happens everywhere, though. In sales, at work, whatever. Take the bad days as lessons if you want, but whatever you do, don't use them as fodder for quitting. Use them as motivation to not only have, but also enjoy, the good days.

Get uncomfortable: Stop the mediocritization of America

I know we did a bunch on Joe Rogan's podcast with Mike Baker in the problem with US politics post last week, but there was another thing they touched on a for a while that I wanted to discuss.

Around 56 minutes, Baker transitions the conversation to changes coming to Monopoly, then the two move into a discussion of youth sports — the first few years of organized sports, they don't keep score. The kids all kept score in their heads, but the adults wouldn't want them to experience losing.

"We're getting to a weird point," Rogan says, "where we're trying to coddle people, to not let them feel defeat." Those people are now in college, and, adds Baker, "they think that being contradicted means they're being persecuted."

Losing, feeling uncomfortable, Rogan points out, is how we grow.

And he's right, I think. If you're never uncomfortable as a child, you won't deal with it well as an adult — and there are plenty of opportunities to feel uncomfortable as an adult, whether you want to or not.

This goes way beyond being politically correct, but let's start there.

I think I'm part of the generation somewhat at fault for political correctness. In high school, we demanded recognition for everybody. We changed language. In the religious services we performed, we either took out masculine language or anywhere Biblical men were listed in prayers, we added their female counterparts. We rebelled against our parents' feminism, which we found to be a search for female privilege, favoring instead "equalism."

Sometime after the mid-1990s, though, things went off the rails, and today, it seems that if people disagree with you, you think you're being bullied. And if someone doesn't learn 30 new pronouns and ask you each day which one applies to you, you're being marginalized.

Colleges and universities are offering "safe zones" and telling professors to watch themselves under threat of firings and lawsuits. It used to be you'd learn activism via liberalism or conservatism from professors. Now if an educator holds an opinion that's contrary to anyone, the biggest worry is being labeled a bully.

It seems mental or emotional discomfort is equated with a feeling of being unsafe.

Look, if you're always comfortable, you're never going to grow.

And while you should certainly spend as many years of your life as possible living in such a way that allows you to feel physically safe, we need to understand that not getting your way all the time is not a physical threat. Remember hearing, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Now actually take a look at what those words mean.

I'm totally good with the notion that new words crop up and that words that didn't used to be offensive become that way. But in the same way you don't want to learn the names of 30 types of trees that are new to you, I don't want to learn 30 new words that each describe two dozen people in the world. I'd rather just not have those 600 people in my life. And if that's the sort of thing you want your educators worrying about, you're contributing to the fact that more college grads than ever are finding themselves unemployed.

But let's move on from political correctness.

Let's talk about discomfort.

Let's start with "moving outside your comfort zone." This is entirely valid. It's a great way to start to grow. It's being critical of others with your real name on your social media accounts and comment profiles. It's running your first mile. It's quitting the Propecia and shaving your head.

After you've had a taste of the growth that comes from stepping outside your comfort zone, you can actually start getting uncomfortable. Lift some weights. Run your first 5k. Or your first half-marathon — take the chance of getting hurt, or actually get hurt. See that it's not that bad.

Are you doing pretty well on your side gig? Maybe it's time to take that jump and go off on your own. What's the worst that can happen? You need to find another day job?

Eliminating competition as a child and taking out emotional discomfort as a young adult makes for adults who are scared to play with fire, scared of failure, afraid to lose.

You can't win if no one loses, and winning never feels good if you don't know what losing feels like. Success might feel good, but it feels so much better if you have previously failed.

And if you have previously failed, or lost, or been hurt, the corresponding success or victory or survival is leaps and bounds stronger than it would be without having first been down.

Remember your U.S. history? America was started by people who were so uncomfortable they got up, left, then fought with guns against their oppressors. They could be killed for practicing their religion. They were subject to high taxes without having a say in their government. They were locked up for being who they are. Now, we just want the people who want us to think to be fired and bankrupt.

Let's all raise our bars. Let's all get uncomfortable, then let's all grow and conquer. Don't let's all meet in the middle. Let's meet at the top or not at all.

Take a little motivation from Amelia Boone (@arboone11 on Instagram)