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.
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.
In 1992, riding a skateboard up and down a half-pipe wasn’t cool. The world turned its attention to street skating. Something with more edge, more rebelliousness, less polished and less about sponsorships and money.
But that didn’t stop a scrappy kid in Carlsbad from riding his skateboard everyday. Because Tony Hawk knew that if the world decided that vert skating was cool again, he would be ready.
In 1999, Tony Hawk landed the world’s first 900.
What will you do when things get slow? Will you wait for the world to tell you what’s cool and what’s not? Or will you tighten your bearings, wax the rails, and drop in?
Uri and I had never spoken before we recorded this episode. And neither had I heard of The Browser prior to two weeks before this post. The morning I discovered their work was the morning I became brighter, smarter, more entertaining, or at the very least, half as much as the folks working hard to produce the world’s favorite curation newsletter.
I kept scrolling through their site.
I was floored.
Their website is topnotch. The giraffe mascot is cute as all hell.
Most important, they collect only the finest, most entertaining and thought provoking articles on the Internet. I’m incredibly impressed at their high bar for quality. I promise that any article chosen by their hard working team is worth the read. This isn’t your typical buzzfeed bullshit. And nor is it as high brow as The New Yorker. The content they collect is fun, interesting, hilarious, and full of humanity. Reading articles from The Browser is now a part of my evening reading routine. It’s making me less stupid, and it’ll make you less stupid, too.
In this conversation, we discuss Uri’s writing process at length. Uri’s a much more experienced writer than I am. And I learned so much about how difficult it is to organize hundreds, if not thousands of ideas in a book. We also discuss content curation (not creation), and why The Browser is world-class at it, game design, meditation, getting unstuck, going for walks and getting out in nature, how regular people can benefit from learning statistics, and much more.
So grab your favorite coffee and please enjoy our talk!
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.
Trying to escape communication is like trying to escape oxygen.
Everywhere you go, even when you’re alone, you’re communicating something. You’re always talking to yourself. In the Freudian sense, you’re always in a conversation with your culture and the ideal version of you. Other people expect you to behave a certain way (that’s culture). And that image of your ideal self (that’s ego), the “you” with an outstanding portfolio of work and an impressive collection of achievements, expects you to behave in a way that allows you to fulfill that portfolio of work and to collect all those achievements.
But you can’t do any of that unless you change the way you communicate with yourself and the people around you. Because the world reflects how you act. And how you act reflects how you communicate with yourself.
Communication is a superpower. History has seen phenomenal speakers use the power of words to manipulate entire countries into committing atrocities against innocent people. It’s because of this complicated history that people often see communication as manipulative. And they’re right. Communication is manipulative. But everything has a dark side and a bright side.
The bright side of communication is that we can use it as a force for good. Used with good intentions, communication is a powerful tool. It helps us do the risky work of telling others what we’re up to. It helps clear our muddy thoughts. It helps other people trust us, see us where we are, and enroll in the changes we’d like to make.
I write to figure out what I know. What I know informs what I intend to do each day. But if all I do is write, then nobody can understand me. Speaking is an extension of writing, and writing is an extension of thinking. All forms and methods of communication (writing, posture, speed, vocabulary, subject, intent, medium) are extensions of thinking.
I speak to figure out how I should share what I know with other people. I can’t enlighten and entertain people if I’m speaking like a walking corporate PowerPoint presentation. And so I’m pleased to tell you that I’ll be taking Performative Speaking, a public speaking course created by my friend Robbie Crabtree and his team.
Robbie’s a powerhouse. His command of the English language is inspiring. His understanding of story and narrative is at the level of mastery. He could have kept all his knowledge to himself. Instead, he’s sharing his 10 years of experience as a trial lawyer with those brave enough to enroll and put themselves on the hook.
This course is going to change my life. Not because I’ll be walking across hot coals, but because I’ll be doing something much scarier: talking about myself and my work in front of people I’ve never met.
If you’d like to know more about the course, and how it’ll change your life, click here.
And if you’d like to know more about Robbie, you can listen to my conversation with him by clicking here.
“Man, this You guy could do anything he wants,” I thought as I flipped through the pages of self-help book number 45.
The message flew over my head.
If a self-help author starts talking about you, they mean you — not some other guy named You.
“What? Me? Oh, no — there must be a mistake. I couldn’t –“
Yes. Really. I mean you. You could start a business. You could learn to roller-skate. You could memorize 2,000 Kanji in less than a year. You could start a podcast and interview your favorite writers.
But only if you want.
How far you lean in when someone starts talking about your potential correlates to how much faith you have in yourself*. When you ignore them, stuff your head up in the clouds instead of paying attention, it means you’re not ready. Not ready to face the harsh reality of having a 1 in 8 billion gift. The gift of your perspective, drive, passion, and care.
How do you feel when you talk about your goals? Do you stumble over your words? Do you hunch over to defend yourself from an attack? That means you’re not committed. There’s still a part of you that’s stuck in the past. A part of you that thinks you’re still not capable.
You are capable.
Go make stuff.
(*I don’t have any statisticians to back me up on this, so I need you to go accomplish your life’s mission.)
Titles tell us who does what. But they don’t tell us how we do what we do.
Unless we love our job, there will always be a missing piece on our nametag. That missing piece is what we wish we could do if we had the courage to do it. What we wish we could do if our boss would let us.
But our boss won’t let us until we ask. And when we ask, they might say no. Then what? Will we keep managing people the way we’re expected to? Or will we manage people the way we’ve always dreamed of: with more care and push than the employee manual expects?
A company expects you to conform to the way things are done within the company. And that’s good. Conformity creates unity in the organization. Conformity makes sure that we’re all on the right page.
But there’s no need to conform so hard that you extinguish the fire of your personality.
Warning:what follows is a highly caffeinated conversation.
Today I’m speaking with the mighty and magnificent Greg Frontiero (@Sfwgreg on Twitter). As his twitter handle foreshadows, this is not a safe for work episode. So put your kids to bed, grab your best headphones, and buckle in. This is a wild one.
Greg Frontiero is the founder of Noowave, a company that creates products for optimal mental health and function. His companies first product, Flow State Coffee, is designed to help you write your next 15,000 word Essay while interviewing Barrack Obama at the same time. In layman’s terms, it’s a coffee made with L-Theanine and Raw Cacao. In layman’s layman’s terms, it’s a coffee that’ll give you enough energy to present your dissertation without the anxiety of being on your first date.
How can I be sure this episode isn’t just a 2 and a half hour commercial?
Listeners of my podcast know that I’d never plug a product this hard unless I’ve tried it and loved it. This episode is an exception. While I haven’t had a sip of Greg’s coffee, him and I are planning a future episode. The next time we record together, I’ll take my first sip of his coffee. I’ll either love it or hate it. And because I’m such a powerful influencer, it’ll be a moment that’ll either make or break his companies launch. Keep an eye out around the end of October for that episode!
Anyways, this is a two and a half hour conversation. And you can be rest assured knowing we spent only around half an hour talking about his coffee. The rest of our talk reached into the depths and heights of life, creativity, soulless sales jobs, fear and loathing in New York City, meaningful work, Greg’s career as a professional wrestler, favorite books, writing, creating a product you’re proud to sell, and everything else you’d expect from the podcast.
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.
Everyone knows how to run (it’s like walking, but faster). Everyone can look at a book. Everyone can pick up some weights. If you can talk, you can host a podcast. And if you know how to type, you know how to start a blog.
These things are hard:
Choosing what to work on
Homework is easy. You sit down with a book and a piece of paper, and you do the homework.
Discipline is hard. By ‘doing’ discipline, you fight back against your primal desires to watch television instead of practicing long division. And fair enough; there’s no such thing as a long division problem more exciting than an episode of Breaking Bad.
We can choose to embody these qualities. We can be the kind of person who says no to a night out at the bar when they’ve got a newsletter to ship the next morning. We can be the kind of person who has the discipline to do their homework. But instead, we choose not to. We choose to say yes to stuff we don’t want to do, to please people we don’t like. And we do that because it’s easier than running laps around the park.
Someone with all the above qualities is a rare sight to behold. But when we see someone embodying these qualities, we take their hard work for granted. We become like the guy at the museum, staring at a Mondrian, saying, “I could have painted this.”
Well, you didn’t paint this. Pier Mondrian painted this. And if it looks so easy, so simple, so rudimentary that you could have done it in your sleep, then why didn’t you paint this?
They had the discipline to get better everyday. They had the resilience to deal with rejection. They had the patience to deal with setbacks. ‘No’ became their favorite word. They had the humility to improve. And they had the perseverance to show up everyday despite how nice it would feel to stay in bed.
In some cultures, Sunday is the beginning of the week. The foundation of the day, grounded in rest and recovery.
No matter what culture you’re a part of, you’re guaranteed one Sunday a week. Of course, not everyone gets to dedicate a whole day to resting. You might be the busy mom who uses Sunday to prep for your kid’s meal plan for the week. Or you might be the busy teacher grading all your student’s midterms.
If you can’t find your rest on Sunday, I hope you can find some pockets of rest throughout the week. You deserve it.