Very good question. Here we go -
I saw your post offering advice help, so I thought I'd take you up on that. I'm young, pre college, so time is on my side. I'd like to create a web startup at some point in the future, at least that's the dream. Should I focus on homing in on my technical skills, or business skills? Right now, I know much less of the latter, but I recognize its importance in entrepreneurship.
Also, do you think college credentials are as important as real world opportunities? And any reading recommendations would be much obliged. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks so much,
Modafinil isn't the biggest gain I've made towards peak experiences -- that'd be just basic exercise. It's not the largest gain towards general well-being, which is just a cleaner diet and very good hydration. It's not even the biggest no-brainer of a nootropic, the honor of which probably goes to Piracetam.
But with that said -- wow. It's some pretty amazing stuff.
In this post, we'll cover: 1. The effects and subjective experience, negative and postive, of Modafinil. 2. The routine I built around taking it, through trial and error, for best performance. 3. Some jumping-off points for further research.
AJ Kessler is an extremely talented guy with lots of great insights on art, business, philosophy, and life. He's an excellent photographer, and he was kind enough to write a post on creativity for us. I'm pleased to bring it you. Here's AJ -
"I'm just not a creative person."
I hear that all the time. It's complete bullshit.
If you've never created something, or done something you'd describe as creative, you may lack awareness or curiosity (two conditions which are easily fixed with minimal effort), but that doesn't mean you're not creative.
Anyone can be creative. Even kids are creative, and kids don't know anything. That's the secret though: they're creative because they don't know anything. They don't know how things work and they don't know what the outcome is supposed to be. So they ask questions, they try things, they experiment, they break things. If the end result looks good to them, they're done.
Jason Shen graciously contributed a new guestpost to the site -- his have always been popular here. He's running an online class on "The Science of Willpower, Habits, And Behavior Change" in January. Here's Jason --
Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is one of my favorite films and the best comic book to film translation ever done. Nolan's take on Batman is gritty, heroic, fresh, and even somewhat plausible. One of my favorite scenes from the first film, Batman Begins, is when he is being trained by Ra's al Ghul on the art of ninjutsu. The key conversation I want to point out here:
George St. Pierre pummeling your untrained face
Kind of a speculative entry today, I don't have a complete answer. I've been trying to crack this nut for a while -
What's the difference between a generalist and a dabbler?
Rather, what separates a generalist from a dabbler?
They're very similar. Both dive into a wide variety of things and affairs. Both pick up new skills regularly, sometimes at the expense of the highest level of mastery in a specialized field.
But we all know people who dabble in this, do a little of that, and never make any contributions. And then, on the other hand, you've got people like Thomas Jefferson and Leonardo da Vinci, who did excellent work in a variety of fields.
I had a really fascinating conversation with Francesca McCaffrey, the Director of Development for the Children's Lifesaving Foundation.
Francesca and I swapped some notes on when the best work happens -- in addition to her role at Children's Lifesaving, she's an avid writer and really immerses herself into the historical era she's writing about to truly flesh out the characters and the environment.
Like everyone else, Francesca looks at those periods of time when things are clicking incredibly well, and wonders how to make them happen more frequently. Here's some observations we came up with:
*The most common time that massively great work happens is when there's a Big Opportunity + A Hard External Deadline
*The Big Opportunity means there's Large Motivation.
"What gets measured, gets managed." - Peter Drucker
There is so much power in this quote. If you've never tracked yourself, you don't even know how much power there is in tracking. I couldn't even explain it adequately. You wouldn't believe me. You'd think I was exaggerating. The simple act of paying attention to something will cause you to make connections you never did before, and you'll improve the those areas - almost without any extra effort.
I'm not a believer in "free lunch" and I don't think the universe vibrates things to you just by thinking about them. But the closest thing to a free lunch getting vibrated to you by the universe is writing things down as they happen.
Before I go any further, I need to give you one piece of advice - start small and build up, so you don't overwhelm yourself. This is just being pragmatic. You want to scale up gradually, as I wrote up in "The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking." You want to build small wins, lock them so they become automatic, and then expand.
I'd have a hard time convincing you of the power of tracking, so I'll just show you. I fill this out every single day.
I hear people talk about luck a lot. Straightup - luck doesn't exist.
If you believe in luck, then you believe either: (1) some people consistently defy probability, or, (2) some things aren't a result of cause and effect.
Life is a series of probability. Every day, there's a chance that a given set of things will happen. If you want to have a successful life, expose yourself to as much high-upside low-downside probability as you can. Any given thing you do might not work out, but if you expose yourself to high-upside low-downside, good things will happen. Read books, reach out to people, try to get projects working, keep trying to write and build things, keep learning new skills, keep treating people well.
If you want to fail at life, expose yourself to high-downside no-upside probability. This is short term gain at long term expense type stuff. Cigarettes. Unsecured debt for consumption. Most TV.
You'll keep getting "lucky" if you keep exposing yourself to things with upside and limited downside. If you get an amazing job or contract that you had a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting, were you lucky? No, especially not if you applied and pitched 1,000 other places. If you say, "Ok, I'm going to keep trying to get what I want until I do" you'll get it, as long as it's a positive sum game you're playing.
Still one of the finest videos on Youtube about getting things done. If you're in a hurry, watch the last five minutes. But really, watch the whole thing. Even if the conservatism isn't your thing, just tough through it. It's worth it. Really, truly, it is --
If you haven't been following the saga, I wrote an Open Letter to Simon and Schuster CEO Carolyn Ready saying that they fundamentally mistreat their authors and editors, and their industry sucks.
They first tell me to delete this immediately, then ignore it, and then I get a very politely worded threat delivered via my agent, Jim Levine.
So I made the video, "The End of the Publishing Cartel - Jim Levine, Are You With The Artists Or The Cartel?"
I made a lot of important points, but I wasn't wearing a shirt.
Now, why do that? Am I just crazy?