People as a Proper Occupation

September 1, 2008 — 12 Comments

What would happen if you started being effusively pleasant to other people. You smiled. Said hello without provocation. Introduced yourself. Apologized or said excuse me. What if you tried to really empathize. Used explanation instead of authority. If you met the world more than halfway.

Ask this guy. He’s a totally different person. I don’t mean it condescendingly, it is profoundly inspiring.

Being a malcontent is like a disease. It eats at you. You stew and rage and bitch and whine and yell. It’s awful. Not that it doesn’t have it’s place, but it’s generally awful. And being the opposite – not just tolerating people but actively accepting and enjoying them – it’s like an injection into your life.

When psychologists force patients to contact facial muscles to emulate, say, happiness or anger, subjects report increased feelings of that actual emotion. In other words, your externalities can become your reality.

I’m not very good at it. But when I do it, it’s transformative.

What I’m Reading

August 31, 2008 — 6 Comments

His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S. by Geraldo Rivera (actually a very intelligent book)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (again. might be my favorite book and i think perhaps, the greatest work of fiction)

‘Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (does anyone know if McCourts of New York is worth seeing?)

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler (design with intent is a fascinating topic. Architectures of Control is one of my favorite blogs)

The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges (metafiction like this is very creative. also, it’s about weird animals)

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (rereading with a clean copy)

What Could Make Someone Want to Leave New York and Move to Buffalo? — New York Magazine (great piece)

LA’s Hidden Homeless — LA Times

Seth Robert’s thoroughly dismantles a NY Time’s reporter who has no idea what he’s talking about

My buddy made this site, and I want to know where you get a blanket like that

List of unusual animal anecdotes

August 28, 2008 — 8 Comments

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I’ve been working on that for the last month or so with the help of my wonderful intern. And I think there might just be an awesome book there. Almost every single one of those sources in the article comes from books in my library or articles I tracked down.

I’m not sure it’s even possible to comprehend the spectacle that is 260 fighting lions, or a dying elephant flinging legionaries into the air like rag dolls and watching their shields fall in perfect symmetry. Or, what it would feel like to repel into Harlem apartment and find yourself face to face with a 400 pound Bengal tiger and an alligator the size of a 4th grader. My little puppy regularly shocks me with her cuteness and creativity, so I can only begin to imagine a private white elephants, baby tigers and okapis. We talk about violent breeds of dogs, but just a century and a half ago, kings had lions as house pets. The Romans, despite their violence, seem to have understood this much better than us. There is something there that is very surreal, deeply biological and awe-inspiring that has never quite been captured in text aside from rare glimpses and passages.

If it’s something that interests you, it’s there for you to edit or add to. It still has a long way to go but hopefully it sticks around. And if you get a chance, read Pliny’s Natural History – it’s stunning.

Idealism

August 24, 2008 — 9 Comments

TheExecutive has this thing about not meeting your idols. If that doesn’t make sense to you yet, it’s just something to think about.

It’s really easy to let people embody the ideas you believe in and I think it might be because it sets you up with escape clause you can always invoke. It’s much harder to accept that the responsibility, and even the belief, exists entirely within yourself.

It’s easy to let another person’s passion for an idea embody the strength of it itself and become hopelessly disillusioned if the two ever get muddled. It’s even easier to let the attention of others be the barometer of how you feel about yourself, forgetting that you’re staying the same, only the notice fluctuates.

The only thing that will never let you down are ideas and yourself. Just something to keep in mind.

Stop Planning, Start Doing

August 20, 2008 — 15 Comments

In the last two days, I saw one of the companies I work for cede the chance to pioneer legal precedent to a third-rate competitor and lose every bit of their leverage that had been designed to take a stake in a decently well-known startup. Their lawyers and staff spent too much time worrying and planning and holding meetings and then back to back headlines made it all irrelevant.

My attitude the whole time had pretty much been “I think you should just say fuck it, do it and see what happens.”

The fundamental rule of the internet is essentially this: Just doing it is cheaper than deciding about doing it. Or, it’s better to try stuff and get it wrong, then talk about it first and get it 100% right.

What good internet theorists are realizing (I like Shirky and Robb) is that web economics don’t necessarily change how businesses succeed but have more impact in how they fail. A site that allows groups to form is revolutionary in the sense that it drastically lowers the costs of attempting to start and group and failing. In decentralized terrorism, it’s that executing an attack and missing most of the time is actually more efficient than planning them thoroughly and always getting it right. In other words, the way people have grown up thinking about things is wrong – it’s just way too slow and it inflates the costs of mistakes.

It’s all very interesting, right? but I think there is an even bigger picture. If you apply this life as a whole, it means to stop deliberating and start making decisions.

When you’re looking for a parking space for example, take the first one you see instead of driving around for a closer one. By the time one opens up, you could have walked most of the way there. The cost of being wrong is very low, the benefits of ending up with a better spot aren’t very high. My assistant (who is great) drives me insane because he asks these extra questions to find out exactly what I want instead of trying and getting it wrong. Instincts, as he’s thankfully starting to realize, don’t come from explanations. They come from positive and negative reinforcement. And that, comes from doing.

Think about the resources you’d free up for solutions if you didn’t plan your actions under the cloud of knowing you’d always have to justify your decisions after the fact. I’m guessing you’d make gutsier decisions. You can give that freedom to yourself. I’m lucky because people have given me that luxury. Now, the economics are starting to pull that weight too.