A few days ago, I got six pieces of news ranging from good to exceptional, and one piece of bad news. Of the good news were well wishes, opportunities, advice, and connections from people I care about. The bad news was almost trivial and there isn't much I could do about it.
Today I was out for a run in the park when it started raining hard. It's rainy season in Vietnam, and it came down pouring. After a minute, I gave up trying to stay dry, and enjoyed my run in the rain. I was enjoying it, mostly having my mind turned off and enjoying the audio I was listening to - a really wonderful story called "The Greatest Salesman in the World" by a guy named Og Mandino. Really a beautiful piece to listen to, read by its author 30 years after he wrote the book.
And yet, that damn bad news comes back to mind! What is this? I have so many opportunities I could think of, jump upon. I could create, produce, serve, connect, relax, enjoy, train - the whole world is open before me, and I think of trivial shit that I can't change.
I'm going to willpower this off of my mind. Being human is a strange thing.
The way I see it, if you were born into one of the Socialist Soviet Republics in 1960, you had five basic options:
1. Be a member of the proletariat, work in the Soviet machine, take what the social controllers give you.
2. Join the Party, become a social controller yourself.
3. Try to fight/overthrow the Party. You'd probably lose and get executed.
4. Mildly subvert the Party - be a black marketer or capitalist. I met a woman in Los Angeles whose family black marketed goods from West Germany into Poland, amazing woman and amazing family. Apparently they'd take defective West German products like women's pantyhose with runs in them and sell them to little kiosks for money... they were one of the wealthier families in Poland.
Kashif Razzaqui just emailed a copy of the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley:
Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
Sometimes I get an idea and think "My life should be like that" - I try write it down right away.
I just leave this little things to work on in a file and look at it occasionally. Every now and then I'll make one of them active in my Time and Life Tracking and start paying attention to it every day.
Here's what's in the list right now:
In my opinion, one of the worst and most destructive trends in Western society is that entrepreneurship has become a lionized mysterious pursuit.
There's nothing magical about it. You get some inputs (your time, knowledge, resources, goods, whatever), you add some value to it by improving or rearranging the inputs, and you sell them for more than it cost you to get them. Profit.
"Oh, but it's so hard! And I have no money! What will I do?"
Okay. Here's a can of Club Soda (actually, two cans of club soda, to be precise):
Section 4.9: Don't get praised by the whole empire.
"It is not the height of excellence to fight and win, and have the whole Empire say, "Well done!" and praise you... what the ancient fighters called a thoughtful warrior is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage."
-Sun Tzu, Art of War, Chapter IV: Tactical Dispositions
Version of the Art of War I listened to on audio:
It's particularly challenging with tasks that require intense bursts of time and energy. Coding, writing, inteking strange new behaviors and worldviews. These are things that require intense focus, energy, and enthusiasm and just the right mental state. That can be very hard to maintain, and in fact, is often not even beneficial to maintain in other areas of your life that you have a higher degree of mastery and require less arousal to reach your optimal performance. So I think it's natural to fall into and out of this "high-energy" mode, which many of us associate with exponential productivity.
But there are some easy traps to fall into here.
One of the biggest is ignoring the skill of putting yourself in this mode at will. There is not actually a magic genie in your walls. You need to be able to say, tomorrow morning I have time to write, and I will write, and a part of that is getting yourself into "the zone." If you are failing to get yourself into "the zone," then you need to step back and work on that skill independently. Maybe that means re-awakening your original inspiration (thinking about all the people you will help with this book) or maybe it is preparing your vessel (low-fat, high fiber diet the day before, 6 hours of sleep, wake up, run, then get right to work... or whatever ritual ends up working). But these are factors that need to be evaluated.
I think another big one is denial. Thinking that you can maintain this state longer than you can, physio/psychologically or just within the constraints of the rest of your life. It's important to "pump yourself up" to the very high levels necessary to achieve your goals. It's also important to deal with the realities and interruptions and diversions of life as they come, then be able to return to that state.
Anyway, with regard to myself and my major goals, this week was largely a wash.
I never really understood good marketing until I started to respect my own time more. These days, I'm trying to really live 24 hours per day the way I want to be living them. Do you know how much time there is in 24 hours? It's a lot.
Before I respected my own time, I didn't really respect other people's time as much. Don't get me wrong - I was always cool enough, I didn't waste people's time, but I never realized what a magnificent thing people choosing to spend their time with you is. There's so many good places to spend your time - getting entertainment, learning, connecting with good people, building things, inventing, relaxing, thinking, working. When someone spends their time with me, whatever the medium, that's a tremendous honor.
When someone comes to join me at my blog, reads something I write, listens to me speak, meets me for a coffee or we go on an adventure together - there's a hell of a lot of other places they could be, and a hell of a lot of other great things they could be doing with their time.
I think good marketing respects that. Good marketing goes, "This person could be anywhere else - let's make it worth their while." Kathy Sierra, Seth Godin, and Chet Holmes all talk about this - educating people, teaching them, making them want to spend time with you. Being entertaining, or informative, building a place people feel welcome, or strong, or get smarter at.
I think that's most of good marketing - having people want to spend time in and around you, your company, wanting to be associated with what you've got. The rest of good marketing is offering people something worth many, many times more than what you're charging. My current target is 10x - if I'm working to help someone build their revenues, I'm aiming to get them 10 times my fees in net profit, for a 1000% ROI. To be honest with you, I'll settle for 4x and 400%, but I'm aiming for 10.
Why isn't my book done?
I started thinking about the idea sometime last year, started organizing my notes and outlines in August 2009, and started writing a little in November or December before shelving it.
I was on fire in Taipei, Taiwan in January. Everything was just right, I wrote 4,000 words on a bad day, and my best day was 17,000 words. Book was complete in rough shortly afterwards.
I was in Northern Thailand in February, in Chiang Mai. I was going to edit, but I didn't really. I was kind of flat. I played a lot of Conquer Club online, surfed around, didn't really get anything done. Then I was traveling around and I wasn't really working on the book.
In fact, I never sent anyone a copy until maybe three weeks ago, when I gave it to one of my friends who was asking. He's a great guy, amazing guy, but I was even gunshy about sending it to him. Lord knows why. If you do creative works, maybe you understand this. If you haven't done anything creative and this doesn't make sense to you, I can't explain it. I think creative people will understand a little.
Had a great conversation last night with a friend of mine who is a trained philosopher. I was telling him all I'm building - working on science, entrepreneurship, writing, building a family, and so on. He asked, "Why do all that?"
And I think the best answer is because I like humanity. Humans are cool. Oh, there's some knuckleheads, heck maybe there's even more knuckleheads than there are really cool people.
I'm really, really grateful to the scientists and engineers and inventors and builders and artists that came before us. We'd be living in forests and jungles and caves if it weren't for them. And I'm grateful for the long line of my ancestors that survived and thrived to lead to me. I figure some of them must have lived under really desperate circumstances, gone through all sorts of struggle and strife and misery, but they still were able to have and raise their children that eventually became my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, and so on. If one link in that chain isn't there, I'm not here. So, wow, I'm so grateful for my ancestors doing that.
So I'd like to pay it forwards. I'll build some stuff that will be used in our lifetimes, and then will help all generations henceforth. I'll have some children and help build the next line of humanity, and all lines after that.
I like building. I like humanity. I'd like to see us grow and thrive and expand. I can't really think of anything else I'd rather do with my time.