If you asked me what I do, I'd probably give you a nondescript answer and get on to more interesting topics. Fact is, I "do" a lot of different things. This whole "What do you do?" question is a relic from an earlier era, before it was possible to "do" 30 different things. I am not salaried, so I work on my professional, personal, family, and global objectives each day. A little business, a little reading, a little history, a little art, a little self-discipline, a little philosophy, a little technology, a lot of different things.
But if you had to nail me down to three words, I'd say, "I'm a strategist." Nine words? "I'm a strategist. I figure out how to win." 15 words? “I’m a strategist. I figure out what is winning, and then how to get there.”
The first part of strategy is answering the question, "What is winning? What are even working towards? What are our highest level objectives, and why do we have them?" This is typically known as grand strategy.
Grand strategy is figuring out what the goals of an organization or a solo person ought to be. Arguably, this is the hardest part of strategy, because there is no right or wrong answer. It's subjective. And if you work on the wrong stuff, it doesn't matter how good of a job you do at it.
That's worth saying again. It doesn't matter how good of a job you do bringing your vision to reality if your vision was poorly chosen.
Has it only been a few months since we started? It feels like much longer, there's already a strong and vibrant and insightful group of people communicating here at SebastianMarshall.com - I'm really pleased and happy to have a good crew reading, commenting, emailing me, getting into good discussions and thinking.
A tricky thing for most people building a website is to nail down these questions - "Who is this website for? What do I want to do with this?"
It's easy for me. The site is for people like me who wish to do a lot of important things, to communicate, to think more clearly, to become prolific, to grow in strength and virtue. I create on the topics that are important to doing important things.
The people who this resonates with are always welcome to come visit and gain in strength and knowledge here, to build, to hopefully be inspired, to communicate, to do good things. The people who the site appeals to are its audience, and I won't be trying to persuade anyone to join us who these topics do not appeal to at the current stage in their life.
I've got a number of good comments I'd like to share. This was the second half of a comment from yesterday's post, me wondering about technology.
I've got a spreadsheet and a web browser open and I'm doing some research. I keep having to click back and forth. It'd be a lot better if I could take notes right on top of the web page, maybe have the spreadsheet transparent on top of the site I'm looking at.
1. Does anything like this currently exist? 2. If not, how hard would it be to do technologically?
I'd use it. A lot, actually.
My mind has been scrambled the last couple days. I don't know why, it came on very suddenly. I've made massive strides over the two weeks before - I accomplished about six months worth of work over two weeks. I felt on top of the world. I wasn't even very tired afterwards, I felt good, ready to go.
Then yesterday, just bzzt - nothing. Foggy, almost like confusion. Couldn't focus at all. Strange. I said, y'know what? I haven't had a day off in a while, I'm just going to take the day off. Went and sat at a cafe and listened to some audio for about four hours, walked around and saw the city, went and had a massage, and then sat and ate fruit. Spend like 10 hours in a row just thinking and relaxing, which is good, I don't take full days off very often. I had some good ideas when I was out at the cafe and took some extensive notes, so I got some production out of it too without even trying to.
Now, I wish I could say, "And then I was recharged, and today I was awesome!" But no, I woke up in a fog again. Damn this. I track my time and have some routines to keep me running well, but I was foggy despite it, unable to focus really. Suck, what is this?
I was working, but it was half-working. Now, half-working is a big problem in my opinion. Half-working tires you out as much or more than real full working, but you get about 5% as much stuff done. Yes, 5%. Good work requires something like focus. It doesn't necessarily require the highest levels of focus and flow (though that stuff is very good), but it requires working through the mentally difficult parts when they come up. The worst part about half-work is you cruise through the easy enough stuff, then stumble on a difficult part.
This is doubly bad, because when you come back to your work, you're staring the hardest part in the face. This sucks, you need to kind of regroup and double down to get re-started while staring a difficult or complex part of work in the face. But again, I was in that mental fog and so I start half-working on it, and then I wander off again. And I try to come back to the work, but then - bam, there's this hard problem staring me right in the face, that I already failed to conquer twice.
A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to a good friend of mine - "I Think Greatness is Something You Are, Not Something You Do" - I said to him, I'm not a great man, just a normal man working on great things. Greatness is something you do, not something you are.
To give you some background, my friend Brendon is just one of the most amazingly good people in the world. He takes care of everyone around him, his mind, body, and spirit are sharp. He's a black belt, an excellent programmer, a philosopher, a Shodan in Go (actually, even stronger than that - he's a Shodan under the Asian rankings, so probably even higher in America), a hard worker, extremely loyal, a clear and free thinker, widely read and knowledgeable, and again - an amazingly good guy. I've learned a lot from him (notably, he taught me how to play Go, sysadmin Linux, understand basketball at a very high level, improve at martial arts, improve my fitness, and other good stuff - we'd usually go drink green tea and play Go at Samurai Restaurant in Boston, go fight in the park, talk philosophy out at nightclubs, do stuff like that).
He wrote back to me about greatness and humility. I think this is a really beautiful piece, so I asked him if I could gently edit it and put it up. He graciously agreed. It's long, but go ahead and just start it and give it whatever time you have - there's a lot of amazing insight in here.
A Quick Favor Request - if you learn from this or it helps you, please send Brendon a quick email to email@example.com - he was actually a little gun-shy about having such a personal piece put up with such raw power in it. He only agreed when I told him how many people it could help - so please, drop him a short line to say thanks if this teaches you as much as it did me.
Without further ado...
One of the general life goals I've got is to be more grateful. I knew I wanted to do this for a while, but had an opportunity a couple weeks ago. On 17 August I had my phone and some dead time, and I remembered I wanted to start tracking gratitude better. So I started making a list of things I'm grateful for.
I was just cleaning my iPhone notes, and found the list:
Gratittude - grateful for good friends. Chris having me as a guest. Chase and I working on creativity. Talking biz with Anthony. Coffee. Miu Ne. Beach. Swimming. Working muscles. Good juice. Bread, rice, eating healthy. Smart people. Hacker News. Self discipline. Technology. Jailbreaking my iPhone. Massage. Learning how civilization emerges by walking through the slums. Walking by the canal. The motorbike ride back that passed by the train, watching the train pass. Walking in the park with the cool animal garden sculptures. Learning how to negotiate here. Commander Marshall's circus. Working on critical thinking, meditations, SDS. Pho. Rice. Fish. The really good seafood. Playing Risk with Chase and Anthony. Talking philosophy with David. Paul Graham wrote back to me after I said thanks to him and that I think he goes down as greatest philosopher of this era. Yifei is awesome to do business with. Swapping ideas with Bren. Working for CDefine, first client. Learning. Reading ultimate sales machine. Live music at habana. Heading out to a nightclub first time in a long while. Not sleeping too much. Chris's cleaning lady washing my clothing. I feel strong. Habits improving. people reading my blog. First guestpost. The meteor shower at 3AM
It was fun doing that - was sitting and waiting to eat Korean food, had nothing to read, and didn't have my headphones to listen to audio. So I started clicking around and listing down some things that went well the week before. It's amazing how much there is - I'd like to do this more often going forwards. It's really nice.
Today I wanted to follow the instructions on "How to Make a Video Blog and Screencast" to learn to make a quick video blog or screencast. Only one problem - the guide there describes how to do it on a Mac, not on Windows.
Odio describes and demonstrates his basic process:
1 .PhotoBooth to record video, comes standard on any Mac 2. iShowU by ShinyWhiteBox for screencast capture 3. Vimeo (similar to YouTube) for uploading videos. Especially useful is their desktop uploader tool.
Unfortunately, PhotoBooth and iShowU aren't available on Windows. It took me a couple hours of research, but eventually I found a program that does both: Cyberlink Youcam. It's quite a good program, it's minimalistic and stays out of your way, but has enough power. Fast learning curve. Elegant. Auto-saves when you've hit stop, so you're already ready to go.
Today I announced I'm getting DROdio-ized - technology entrepreneur Daniel Odio has written a number of articles with a great mix of strategy and tactics. His instructions are clear and straightforward, but how often do people look at good and clear advice and do nothing?
I didn't really get Twitter when I signed up. I'm @sebastmarsh over there, but as of this writing nothing is happening so interestingly on my account. The issue is a bit of a chicken and the egg problem - I'm not connected with like-minded people on Twitter, therefore I'm not having interesting conversations, therefore my Twitter feed isn't interesting for like-minded people to sign up for, therefore I'm not connected with like-minded people. How to break this cycle?
Well, this is where Mr. Odio's counsel comes in - he wrote a very clear and straightforward piece: "Massive Twitter Secret: Get 2000+ Followers"
He recommends two services:
Twollo which lets you auto-follow people of shared interests, and Twitter Karma which lets you unfollow people who haven't decided to follow you back.
I'm a big believer in the "Four Birds" philosophy of life - whenever possible, I want to kill four birds with one stone. I want to produce, consume, learn, and connect - all at the same time if possible. And the more I layer on top of that, the better. Can I enjoy, relax, recharge, adventure? Five birds? Six birds? Why not?
While other people are watching a movie passively, can I make a couple interesting notes from the dialog and research what it's inspired by? Can I show the link between a new movie and an old Kurosawa Akira movie? Can I publish that, creating a cool way for people who like cinema to learn, and to connect with people who like great cinema? Can I consume the movie, produce an insightful review and research, learn more about cinema and art, and connect with good people all at the same time? Can I enjoy the process, relax even while working, recharge and feel invigorated, and perhaps it'll lead to an adventure? Seven birds with one stone? Why not? We all get 24 hours per day, if I want to be doing massively important things, I can't be taking it one bird at a time.
I've been working on this lately. When I start consuming something great, how can I also produce something for my friends and colleagues, learn more in the process, and connect with great people?
I've been looking for these opportunities for a while, and I'm starting to see them everywhere. Today, I'm pleased to announce DROdio-izing Day 1.
I came across Daniel Odio a little more than a week ago on Hacker News. He comes across pretty brilliant to me - a rare mix of strategist/tactician/teacher. He's a technology entrepreneur who built high technology into an established business - real estate - before moving into development. When I found Odio's site, I was really impressed. But the article that really pushed me over the top was - "Why Henry Ford Would Love Blogs." I felt like - wow, this guy gets it. A grasp of history, high level strategy, an understanding of how and why to make decisions, and how to turn high level strategy into solid tactics. And he can communicate it clearly and teaches how to think that way. Wow.
Patrick McKenzie writes in "The Hardest Adjustment to Self Employment"
I wanted to have AR in beta six weeks ago. Between consulting, vacation, and BCC, I haven’t made almost any forward progress on engineering.
I know that to be true for AR because code isn’t getting written, but I always think it to be true for BCC. It turns out that I am smoking something: I ran a shell script to compare my productivity (commits, A/B tests, etc) prior and post quitting. I thought it would show me spinning my wheels. Turns out I am getting more done than ever. ... Sales are up, too. Why doesn’t it feel this way?
I've been thinking about this since I read it this morning. Could it be that work you dislike and are being mandated to do feels more productive? I did about six hours of great work today, but most of it was talking to people I enjoy talking to and learn a lot from and playing around in Google analytics. I felt like I got nothing done until I looked at my list at the end of the day - tons of good stuff checked off.
One of the greatest things about working for yourself is that you can focus on what you want to do, and often that's work-that-feels-like-play-but-also-pays-you. Isn't that magnificent? Work that doesn't feel like working that's highly productive? Just, it's easy not to feel productive afterwards, since it felt like playing all day... what do you think?