My Job

October 3, 2008 — 13 Comments

“Each time you conceive a paradoxical thought, turn it over within yourself, vary it with diverse figures and nuances, make trial of it and dress it in splendid words. ” – Fronto

There’s something very special about this quote. If there was way to train yourself to think a unique or strategic manner this would be it. Because where do you think books and ideas and new concepts come from? Do you think they fly in like epiphanies or are they more like little snags that get caught, kneaded, dressed up and engorged?

Understanding Essence vs Efficiency

September 30, 2008 — 4 Comments

When something’s been Turing Tested, it means that a computer has successfully tricked a human into thinking it was a human. In other words, the task has been fully automated and most likely, somebody’s job just got a whole lot easier.

Automation is a tempting way to think about things. You pare the important from the unimportant, locate each dependent step and distill it into a system. Whether you ultimately hand it over to a computer or not, it takes a certain kind of ingenuity cut waste and create order.

But I would argue that that is weak and ultimately very replaceable (hello outsourcing). I think you look at it from the right angle, it’s simple exploitation. A process of squeezing something dry. Important but not transcendent. What’s special is the ability to scrap the process in favor of something different entirely. Solutions not improvements.

I guess what I mean to say is that you can sit around Turning Testing yourself until you’ve got half your company tricked chatting with your computer. Or, you can really think about what it is that you have in front of you and how you can make it go away by folding it on itself.

Here are some things that have helped me do that, maybe they’ll work for you:

Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan (seriously)

Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim (incremental vs exponential)

Take that, 6 Percenters (Jeff Jarvis)

Without Walls: Interview with Leebeus Woods (Bldblog)

Be Bold (Wikipedia)

Strong Opinions, Weakly Held” (Turning Pro)

Dismounting a Dead Horse” (Mountain Runner)

The Anxiety of Influence (Wikipedia, Book)

You, Piece of Work

September 26, 2008 — 6 Comments

I forgot where I found it, but there was this conversation between a therapist and a father who was there trying to deal with something about his son. You want to get over this and get better right?, the therapist said. And the father said of course. So the therapist asked, then why do you only come here once a month?

I realized I didn’t want to be so angry. I have trouble with empathy and I use being busy as a crutch. I’ve tried to understand that some of the things I’m dealing with are just over my head. I’m closer to being able to admit that I just may be the source of some of the things I don’t like about myself and that happens to disqualify me from being able to handle them alone. So since June, I’ve had an appointment every two weeks to deal with it.

It allows you to think and talk about things until the words become works. You can make notes doing the week and say “I really don’t want to do that anymore.” My health insurance covered it at first but I’ve been paying for it myself now and it’s the best thing I could possibly spend my money on.

I’m not saying that this the only path you can take or that it’s even the right one for me. But I am saying that there isn’t a single part of your life that isn’t work – a part of you that in order to improve doesn’t take honesty, investment and effort. Only the lazy and the broken believe otherwise. And it’s not enough to understand that intellectually. Carrying around baggage isn’t proof of strength. There’s nothing admirable about being able to articulate where your weaknesses lie if you refuse to actively address them. For me, that meant identifying where my control ended and habit began and taking the steps necessary to wedge in a mediator. It meant doing something about it.

What I’m Reading

September 25, 2008 — 9 Comments

We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee (interesting)

The Gulf War Did Not Take Place by Jean Baudrillard (this book is the inspiration for Wag the Dog. ridiculous at times but an insightful dissection of the incentives faced by generals and politicians. you should read this)

Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas (doesn’t have the conclusion the book deserves but a good, easy read on addiction and (female) youth culture)

The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill by Molly Worthen (apparently Yale has a Grand Strategy class; unfortunately, the writer is not quite talented enough to pull this book or its subject off. Charlie on the other hand is fascinating.)

The Poverty of Historicism by Karl Popper (I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one if anyone can help)

Wikipedia’s philosophy on rules is a good way to think about your life

Damien Hirst cuts out the middleman of the art industry (NYT)

Manifest Destiny Bullshit

September 22, 2008 — 26 Comments

“When we renounce our dreams we find peace and enjoy a brief period of tranquility, but the dead dreams begin to rot inside us and infect the whole atmosphere in which we live.

What we hoped to avoid in the Good Fight – disappointment and defeat- become the sole legacy of our cowardice.

In love lies the seed of our growth. The more we love, the closer we are to the spiritual experience

The warrior of light

knows that intuition is God’s alphabet

and so he continues listening to the wind

and talking to the stars”. – Paulo Coelho

I liked The Achemist but there is nothing more masturbatory, more pseudo-intellectual or more disingenuous than a good Paulo Coelho quote.

What happens is that in trying to create this grand self-narrative, people ignore the reality of their senses and the life that’s right there next to them. What they end up creating is a simulacrum, an inferior, false world that only they inhabit. It’s sad too because it feels like you’re doing something special. There’s a reason all those quotes blurred together, because it’s not special. It is a joke.

Delusion doesn’t inspire me. Neither does the same recycled fortune cookie philosophy posted around by people who’ve yet to stop and think: Does sticking feathers up my butt really make me a chicken?

The reality of it all is less lofty but tangible and achievable and honest. Do what you enjoy and be a good person. It’s not that hard, most people won’t notice and that means you’re doing it right.