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Teaching

Doing something different should be very hard at first

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. today.

I usually wake up at 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. but I’m trying to train myself to work backwards on my wake-up time until I get to about 4:30 a.m.

It was insanely hard. I felt like I’d been wrestled by a bear in the middle of the night. This is how bad it was: I craved water (and not coffee) when I woke up.

But this is the case when we do anything new that’s outside of our routine, what we’re used to, isn’t it? It’s going to be very difficult at first.

When I first started blogging four years ago I thought writing three blog posts in a day was insane. Yesterday, I wrote 18 and was done before 5 p.m.

It’s the pushing through the dip that gets you where you want to be. And for me it’s about not getting discouraged that I was poor at something the first time I tried it (in this case, waking up super early).

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Teaching

Monetizing charisma

https://twitter.com/cklosterman/status/483638896958242817

I know he said this with his tongue so far in his cheek that he was probably ripping out a tooth but there’s so much truth in the sarcasm.

What is modern media if not trying to monetize your charisma?

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Teaching

Make a Good Shoe

This story is fairly representative of what I desire in an ideology.

Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” As if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist. A monk, perhaps.

Luther asked him, “What is your work now?”

“I’m a shoe maker.”

Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.”

It’s so…simple.

And yet I always find myself making a poor shoe or selling it for too high a price. Or sometimes even a perfect shoe and selling it for too low a price.

Nope, just a good shoe and a fair price.

Don’t discount that idea.

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Teaching

The difference between group think and confirmation bias

Pay attention to this when you’re wading through information and trying to figure out how you feel about something…

What many consider “groupthink” is confirmation bias. We love to believe in a marketplace of ideas. It’s a founding tenant of journalism and liberal democracy. But, in practice, we seek out ideas, opinions and sources that confirm rather than challenge our ingrained opinions.

It’s rare we read or seek out material that changes how we feel about an issue, especially if it’s an emotional one.

That last part is important…and wildly difficult.

Or F. Scott Fitzgerald thought it was.

h/t Big Lead on social media and sports

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Teaching

Using one quote as a gateway

I’m currently writing about the 2014 US Open for CBS Sports. It’s fun. It’s too much fun.

But as I’m writing this week I’m trying to cull essentially all golf news on the Internet into what I think folks who read CBS Sports want to read. That’s difficult. You read a lot more than you write.

There are gateways, though. And I think this cuts into the heart of blogging. You want to take a bunch of information that’s uniquely similar and connect it and then present it to folks.

So for me I’m trying to show folks how the course they’re playing the US Open at this week has changed over time.

That can be sort of boring so I have to look for a gateway quote. I found it here.

Okay, now that’s an interesting quote. And I use it to lead to the two redesigners talking about why they did what they did and end with another funny quote that doesn’t do much on its own. Here’s a look at the end result.

All of this is intuitive if you’ve been blogging for a while. I rarely even realize I’m doing it. I file away a bunch of information then unload it when I have the opportunity.

Sometimes I never get the chance but when I do, it’s music to me. It’s blogging at its best. Not because of me but because there’s so much information in our world to connect.

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Teaching

Don’t let the world dictate your efficiency

There are a book’s worth of things I like better about writing and blogging at home for a living than I did about going to an office job and working for a nice, smart company for a living.

Chief among those might be the efficiency with which I get paid.

Before, at my office job, I got paid for hours. I was physically in a certain place for a certain number of hours and in exchange for that my bank account was padded every two weeks or twice a month or whatever it was.

Now, I get paid for work. I dictate the terms. I make less money but I also am required to physically be in a specific location for a lot fewer hours than I used to be.

To me, that tradeoff is priceless.

Don’t confuse how much money is worth with how much time is worth.

And don’t let the world dictate your work rules.

Categories
Quotes Teaching

Diversity in the absorption of ideology

I might not subscribe to a diverse array of ideals but I agree with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s viewpoint that one should at least be open.

Here’s what he said:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and retain the ability to function.”

My high school baseball coach used to tell us “don’t copy the way one person swings or throws — take bits and pieces that you like from everyone and apply it to your own self.”

I think the same thing applies here.

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Teaching

What are your candy-store hours?

In Daily Rituals Mason Currey writes about a man names Isaac Asimov and his candy-story hours. His dad owned candy stores in Brooklyn and they were open from 6 AM to 1 AM every day (and night).

The quote from the book is tremendous.

“I must have liked the long hours, for in later life I never took the attitude of ‘I’ve worked hard all my childhood and youth and now I’m going to take it easy and sleep till noon.’

“Quite the contrary. I have kept the candy-store hours all my life.”

I think Asimov is what the kids call “a grinder.” And what a grind it was. According to this New York Times article from 1969 he had already produced over 7.5 million words worth of books at age 50.

He went on to live 22 more year so there’s little doubt he touched 10 million.

Also, this from that article is just awesome:

When he was 16, his father dipped into the somewhat lean till of the candy store to buy him a secondhand typewriter, and young Isaac was, in effect, off to the races.

My candy-store hours are not as excessive but they’re still structured. Arise by six and (try to get in) bed by 11. Every day if I can. I write and exercise in the mornings, lunch with my family, and write and read and think in the afternoons. I shut it all off at night.

It’s important to have a structure you can stick yourself in, otherwise you’re all willy-nilly when it comes to grind time and that is no place for a writer or thinker or reader to be.

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Teaching

Long Runways

Here’s something that’s important when you’re building or creating or drawing: Give yourself a long runway.

What I mean by that is that I think folks try to put their work into buckets which is a fine thing but it’s not a fine thing when those buckets are only 15 minutes big.

Give yourself a runway of time away from the world, away from Twitter, away from the noise, and just start building.

The good stuff exists but it’s deeper than you’re originally willing to go. Warm up with some reading and go from there. Do some writing, walk around a little bit, think.

Really think.

Don’t go away until you’ve exhausted yourself, either. Keep digging and you’ll find what you’re looking for but you can’t fragment your day and expect to deliver what your followers want.

I give myself four hours in the morning and two in the afternoon locked away from the noise, just my own little world of creating. I have a buddy who’s a terrific graphic designer and he told me the other day he seeks solitude because he can’t find the goods unless he’s been underwater for a while.

That’s how this thing works. Everyone has something inside of them and you’ll be rewarded for putting in the time, and mostly lots of it at once.

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Teaching

Collect friends not avatars

One thing I’ve always tried to do — this is a thing I read along the way somewhere — is pick out one person when I’m writing (or filming or podcasting) and write as if I’m writing to that person.

Write jokes that would make that person laugh and write things that would make that person think. Unless your person is the most obscure human on the planet, there are likely a ton of other people like her that will enjoy your work as well.

Two places I read this recently:

1. John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars) in Fast Company on a YouTube channel he started in 2007: “It grew very slowly. When we’d made 120 videos, we had fewer than 200 subscribers. If our goal was to have a wildly successful career on the Internet, we would have quit. But we really liked the people who were watching. That was enough.”

2. Austin Kleon in Show Your Work in a chapter dubbed You Want Hearts Not Eyeballs: “Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you. Don’t talk to people you don’t want to talk to, and don’t talk about stuff you don’t want to talk about…”Follow me back?” is the saddest question on the Internet.[1. This is so, so true.]

They’re both right, of course, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the girl you’re chasing has 10x more followers than you.

Try to remember, though, collect friends, not avatars.