“The first step is you have to say that you can.” — Will Smith
It’s been quite a week so I figured you could use a story.
Here’s one about a boy and a Zen master:
“On his 14th birthday a boy gets a horse as a present. All the people in his village say, Oh, how wonderful'”
The Zen master says, “We’ll see.”
One day, the boy gets thrown off his horse and hurts his leg. He’s no longer able to walk so the villagers say, “How terrible!”
The Zen master says, “We’ll see.”
Time passes and the village goes to war. All the young men get sent off to fight, but the boy can’t go because of his leg. The villagers say, “How wonderful!”
The Zen master says, “We’ll see.”
Just something to keep in mind as we head into another week and whatever it may bring.
Now, on to this week’s ideas…
“No matter how unique your work or approach may be, there are others on a similar journey. Seek them out, learn from them, and be inspired by them.”
We all want to be better, but sometimes the path to improvement isn’t clear.
In this post I share 10 simple ways to improve your work including to know what’s come before you, why some things work and others don’t, what happened today, and more.
“Storytelling isn’t a fashion accessory that leaders can decide to wear or not. Very literally, leadership is storytelling and leaders are storytellers.”
Great storytellers have a competitive advantage — they’re able to recruit better talent, attract more attention, secure better partnerships, and build stronger cultures.
For all those reasons, Andy Raskin helps leaders become better storytellers and in this post he explains how the stories leaders tell differ from traditional stories.
The most notable difference? In a leader’s story, the “happily ever after” hasn’t happened yet.
“Putting in certain phrases like ‘not yet’ or ‘yet’ can really boost students’ motivation. If a student says ‘I’m not a math person — yet,’ or ‘I can’t do this — yet’…it puts their fixed mindset into a growth mindset.”
If your New Years resolution has already gone off the rails, you might want to give this a read.
It’s a New York magazine article that details five small things you can do to change your life for the better, based on behavioral science.
They include to adopt a reasonable amount of pessimism, to use the word “yet,” to take advantage of the weirdly powerful effect of writing, and more.
“There’s a redemptive power that making a choice has, rather than feeling like you’re an effect to all the things that are happening. Make a choice. You just decide what it’s going to be, who you’re going to be, how you’re going to do it. Just decide. And then from that point, the universe is going to get out of your way.”
Several years ago, Tavis Smiley asked Will Smith a question about how it feels to become an icon.
Smith explained he doesn’t want to be an icon, he wants to be an idea, and went on to share some inspiring thoughts about how to approach your life in a way that you make things happen instead of allowing them to happen to you.
“Usually, when we want to establish a good habit, we tend to procrastinate. We postpone the positive behavior. However, what if we use that for the negative behavior?”
You probably want to procrastinate on reading this one and figure you’ll get to it later, but fight that urge and read it now.
Zdravko Cvijetic has compiled a good list of seven strategies to eliminate procrastination including to think only in terms of a 24-hour time frame, to postpone negative behavior, to seek out positive feedback, and more.
“Most often, the urge to add an explanation comes from a basic social impulse to ease experiences by talking.”
It would be weird for me to use a lot of words to explain why you should read this article about how to use fewer words. So I’ll keep this brief.
Torrey Podmajersky writes the words you see in Microsoft products and explains in this post why you should use fewer words and how to do so.
If you like it, you also might dig my post about how to improve your writing forever.
“Are large numbers of millennials really so enamored with city living that they will age and raise families inside the urban core, or will many of them, like earlier generations, eventually head to the suburbs in search of bigger homes and better school districts?”
The recent boom in cities is largely due to the rise of millennials who have flocked to them, leading to soaring apartment rents and growing businesses.
However, the New York Times points to research that suggests we’ve reached “Peak Millennial” and wonders if they will flock to the suburbs like previous generations have.
If so, it could have serious economic repercussions on cities across the country.
“The shift of both escapism and story-telling away from traditional TV are noteworthy in their own rights; equally important, though, is that they are happening at the same time.”
If you have any interest in the business of media — everything from TV, to music, to streaming, to Facebook — this Stratechery piece is a must-read.
It offers an analysis of “The Great Unbundling,” explores how we got to our current complicated media landscape, and suggests where we may be headed next.
“In one experiment, they gave participants 10 minutes to come up with as many creative ideas as they could. Then, they surprised the participants with an extra 10 minutes to finish completing the task. People underestimated how many new ideas they would come up with during the extra 10 minutes…by 66%.”
We all claim to understand the importance of persistence, but it’s likely we still undervalue it.
Nathan Kontny shares a couple interesting stories about the value of persistence in this post, including the revelation that the extra ideas people generated in the experiment explained above also turned out to be consistently better than their initial ideas.
That’s an observation I also found true in my own idea experiment.
“In short order he will completely and irrevocably alienate all the growing political constituencies of the 21st century: the Millennial generation, people of color, educated professionals, women. He’ll eventually do the same for a significant number of more moderate Republicans. I think the backlash will be fast and furious.”
In a piece written around the time of Trump’s inauguration, Peter Leydenoffers up an interesting theory about what we will witness with Trump’s presidency.
He suggests it’s not the beginning of a new era, but rather marks the end of one and predicts Trump’s likely to take conservative Republicans down with him.
He explains: “The next four to eight years are going to see a serious sea change in politics — to the left, not the right. The analogy is closer to what happened to the Republicans coming out of the 1930s — they were out of power for the next 50 years.”
A RECOMMENDED READ
Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future is a great read that will inspire you and give you simple, actionable advice on how to start a business or project.
And even if you’re not looking to start a business, it’s worth a read to better learn how to frame your life in a way to get what makes you happy.