When I sit down to meditate I imagine what would have happened if I won that argument with my old boss while soaring through the sky after having jumped off of a clip to escape a situation I didn’t want to be in because I’d rather be doing anything but this since having sex sounds great right now but I can’t do that because I’m meditating for an hour so that I can see through my bullshit excuses for getting upset at people who piss me off for what I now know is no good reason to have gotten pissed off but in that moment I had all the reason to get pissed off at them for cutting me off on the freeway or for even just talking too loudly while I’m trying to write a blog post that no more than 20 people will read because I’m not that good at writing which is why I’m meditating so that I can write at least one original sentence before I die an untimely death by distracting phone notifications trying to tell me that I have a new email I must read while I’m driving my car just a few blocks away so it’s fine I can get away with this it’s not like my whole life is dependent on the quality of my thoughts like all those self-help books try to preach at me.
If you’re learning something new, ask yourself:
How much of my life have I spent not doing this?
26 years of not speaking in Japanese.
37 years of not surfing.
81 years of not writing a memoir.
Of course it’s hard. Of course you’re forgetting steps, falling off your board, and faltering up the stairs. Of course you want to quit. But do you realize that you’ve only spent a miniscule fraction of your life trying to improve at this? And that you’ve spent the other 99.99something% doing other stuff?
The time you haven’t spent improving at this will always outnumber the time you’ve spent working hard to get better.
There’s a fight going on inside of you between an archetypal David and Goliath. In one corner of the ring we have You With Experience. And in the other corner, we have You With No Experience.
You With Experience has 4 days of Japanese grammar tutorials fresh in his head. This is you. You are David. You are naïve. Undisciplined. Untrained. Nobody expects you to win. The odds are against you.
You With No Experience has 26 years of Not-Knowing-Jack-About-Japanese Grammar Experience under his belt. This is also you. You are your own Goliath. You’ve been training your entire life in the ways of not knowing jack about the が particle.
Who do you think will win?
* Guesswork with a very rough ballpark estimate, maybe, perhaps.
If you’re reading a book while eating oatmeal, if you’re chatting with your best friend while scrolling through social media, if you’re walking your dog while chatting on the phone with Uncle Craig, what exactly are you doing?
Hard to say without getting too philosophical.
My view is that if you’re doing two things at once, you’re doing neither. That leaves us with plenty of room for interpretation.
It’s easier to catch up on all the world’s information than it is to sit still and eat a bowl of oatmeal.*
*It is for me, at least. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to wrangle myself down to a chair to do nothing else but eat my morning oatmeal. Eating my oatmeal without checking my email or reading a newsletter is like snatching a babies favorite toy out of their hand.
My buddy Cullin is at the scariest time of any writer’s life.
He’s expressing a unique point of view.
With his name on it.
He’s detaching himself from mass thinking, even if the much of the mass is partly favor of the “good guy.”
To come alive as a writer, as a creator, is to accept the fact that people will disagree with you. What’s scary about this is that most people confuse disagreeing with dismantling a friendship. “I can’t disagree with you because your standpoint is so foreign to me, so instead I’m just going to cut you out of my life.”
It’s rare to find a writer brave enough to not only challenge collective assumptions, but to challenge them in public.
Cullin is one of those writers.
Here’s his newest piece about a young man trying to find his way through today’s chaotic world.
Warning: my guest today is a very, very kind person.
Today on the podcast I’m talking with Jamie Russo (@jamierusso), creator and writer of the Goodnote newsletter. I love Goodnote! And to think of it only as a newsletter would be a mistake. Goodnote is a proxy for Jamie’s quest to spread 1 million random acts of kindness. He’s using his writing platform as a means to an extraordinarily compassionate end. Check out these little blue postcards he mailed me. If you’d like one, reach out to Jamie on Twitter by clicking here.
We talk writing (as I usually do with my guests), volunteering, why Jamie cares so much about people, working with compassionate companies, helping people at scale, the benefits of walking, how to use entrepreneurship as a force for positive change, how to find your guiding force in life, and much, much more.
I had so much fun talking with Jamie, and at the end of our talk my cheeks were sore from smiling so much. You won’t want to miss this one. Please enjoy!
This episode is brought to you by my weekly newsletter, Hey Penguin. Hey Penguin includes tips for improving yourself through creativity, plus a bunch of extra goodies like drafts of blog posts, art I’m digging, letters from my audience, and previews of podcast episodes. Sounds good? Click here to subscribe and get the next issue delivered straight to your inbox on Sunday.
That’s ‘wisdom’ – as a verb.
The old philosophers treated their bodies and brains as the object that wisdom would act upon. They treated wisdom as something transformative: something that would change the way they thought about themselves and the world.
And that’s exactly what wisdom is supposed to do. Wisdom is that which changes the way you think about yourself and the world.
Philosophy really means love of change. Love of transformation. Love of growth. Love of curiosity. Love of the person you are, and the person you could be.
But now, we’re getting dangerously close to turning wisdom into a commodity. Post a hashtag about how many books you’re reading this week, and you’re guaranteed at least ten hits of dopamine. I can’t tell if we’re rewarding people for discipline, or for taking pictures of well-known books.
It’s not hard to be wise. I can teach you how to be wise on one step.
- If everyone around you is thinking the same thing, think about something else if it’s appropriate to do so.
Correct: While everyone gets angry at the problem, you think about how to solve the problem.
Incorrect: While everyone cries at the funeral, you daydream about that Chipotle Burrito you ate for lunch yesterday.
I sat down with my buddy Pranav Mutatkar to talk about wisdom, where to find it, and why we should read old philosophers in a short (20 minute) conversation. Pranav is an excellent podcast host. He’s curious (the most important part), quick, smart, and knows how to hold a conversation no matter what format.
(*Pretend I didn’t write this in the middle of the lockdown.)
Not a loser.
The opposite of a winner is someone who doesn’t know that they’re capable of being a winner.
You could finish last, and still learn something valuable. Or you could finish last, and quit because the skill ceiling is too high. It doesn’t matter if the game is too hard. It doesn’t matter if the grammar is too complex. What you measure is your reward.
You could cheat your way to first place, and become a better cheater. You could fail your Japanese class, but still know the difference between “に” and “に.” In both cases, you’re a winner: you’re still gaining something.
The question is: what are you trying to win?
Lighting. Clothing. The speed of your voice. Are you looking at the camera, or looking down at the ground? Sit up straight, but don’t stiffen up like a skeleton. Is there anything distracting in the background?
These details matter. You might have groundbreaking ideas, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t convince anyone to put their phone in their pocket while you speak.
Performative Speaking is only just beginning. I’ve already learned much from Robbie Crabtree about why good presentation matters as much as having good stories.
Your mind, like your body, needs the nutrients and vitamins of good ideas in order to survive and thrive. But as we grow older, our ego turns our head away from good ideas like the child avoiding the choo-choo train of a spoonful of peas.
Good ideas aren’t found out there. They’re found in here, in you. Wisdom means nothing to those who don’t listen. To really read a good book, you first need to actually want to read it. Your own inclination comes from within, not from without.
Therapy is a waste of time (for the client and therapist) to the person forced to go to therapy. “I, according to so-and-so, need help.” That never works. The same is true of reading.
You need to understand your motivations for reading a book. Are you thinking of buying this book because Barnes & Noble says everyone in your town is reading it? Do you want to read because that’s what smart people do? Is the self-improvement regime court ordering you to read a book because if you don’t, then you must be a loser? Or do you want to read because there’s something you need to figure out?
There’s a mistake in assuming all answers come from the outer world. Yes, good books help, but how you approach the book – how you read the book – matters more than what the book is about. Are you reading so that you can show off to your friends? Are you reading just to confirm your barely stable mental model of the world? Or are you reading because you’ve been wearing a dunce cap your entire life, and you’d like to be less of a dunce?
Ask yourself: are my actions in the outer world strengthening, harmonizing, feeding my mind with the proper nutrients?
The outer world nourishes your inner world only when your inner world is understood, and by understood I mean that it is respected: your inner world — your psychology — is never fully understood.
To have insight is to question your reasons for doing anything other than eating, drinking, defecating, and breathing.
P.S: I turned 26 yesterday. Thanks to all who sent me birthday wishes, and big thanks especially to those who sent me some good books. I super appreciate it.
Today is my birthday. The following people made my 25th year on this planet my favorite year yet. I’ve known many of you for only 2 months, many more for only a week. And yet it feels I’ve known all of you my whole life.
Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for pursuing creative excellence.
Let’s see if I can remember all of you in one go.
Steven D. Cullin. Pranav. Alex. Chris. Audrey. Robbie. Sean. Imah. Rich. Nat. Nathan. Sebastian. Kyle. Austin. Greg. Shelby. Noxy. Andrew. April. Uri. Steven K. Rob. Jordan. Jamie. Arielle. Phil. Bjorn. Daniel. Ben. Logan. And you.
Cheers, and here’s to another good 25 years.
P.S: I tried not to rely on social media. If you don’t see your name on this list and you’ve been on my podcast or helped me with a project, thanks a million.