Here are SIX things I learned, thought were interesting, or found useful.
There Isn’t Any Rule Book
David Mamet was asked the advice he most often gives. Differentiate yourself, he said. When he auditions actors, he said, after the third person he can’t remember the first person. So he tells actors to make themselves memorable, to throw some interesting jobs on their résumé. No one takes his advice, he said. “Actors don’t want to do this. They think, ‘we have to do things by the book.’ But there isn’t any book.” He’s reminded of Dr. Dealgood’s line in Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, “I know you won’t break the rules. There aren’t any.”
Consistency, Not Intensity
In the viral video, “Leadership Explained in 5 minutes,” Simon Sinek talks about how progress/growth/compounding is like love: there’s not one day or one thing or one event that makes you go, ‘I love him/her.’ It didn’t happen because you threw him/her a big party. It’s little things adding up over time. It’s like exercising or brushing your teeth. You don’t get in shape by going to the gym for 8 hours a few times a year. You get in shape by going to the gym for 30 minutes four or five or six days a week. It’s little things adding up over time. Your teeth don’t not rot because you go to the dentist twice a year. They don’t rot because you brush them for a couple minutes every day. It’s the little things adding up over time.
The Personal Is Universal
Austin Kleon opens Show Your Work with a quote by Balzac, “The great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed.” It’s the question of how to get an audience to show up. When you’re creating, how should you think about appealing to an audience? “I think the most powerful thing,” Kleon said, “is to think about one person. If you make a sort of gift for one person, you find that there is a kind of universal strain in all of us. The personal is universal.” He referenced Stephen King, who famously writes every book thinking of just his wife reading it.
Look At The Parts, Not The Whole
In Mastery, Robert Greene talks about how the mind is like a muscle that tightens when 1) we don’t entertain new/different thoughts or 2) we’re working on a hard problem/project, our minds naturally narrow and narrow. He offers five strategies to loosen up the mind and develop the flexibility essential to creativity and a healthy psyche. The fourth is “alter your perspective”—he talks about the shorthands the mind falls into and how to break out of those patterns. The first is we tend to look at the what instead of the how. “If the book we are creating is not working out, we focus on the uninspired writing or the misguided concept behind it…Although we think we are being rational when we think this way, most often problems are more complicated and holistic; we are simplifying them based on the law that the mind always looks for shorthands. To look at the “how” instead of the “what” means focusing on the structure—how the parts relate to the whole. With the book, it may not be working out because it is organized poorly, the faulty organization a reflection of ideas that have not been thought out. Our minds are a jumble, and this is reflected in the work. Thinking in this way, we are forced to go more deeply into the parts and how they relate to the overall concept; improving the structure will improve the writing. With the company, we should look deeply at the organization itself—how well people communicate with one another, how quickly and fluidly information is passed along. If people are not communicating, if they are not on the same page, no amount of changes in the product or marketing will improve performance. Everything in nature has a structure, a way that the parts relate to one another, which is generally fluid and not so easy to conceptualize. Our minds naturally tend to separate things out, to think in terms of nouns instead of verbs. In general you want to pay greater attention to the relationships between things, because that will give you a greater feel for the picture as a whole.”
Give Yourself A Myth
During the summer after his freshman year of high school, Michael Lewis watched from the bench as his baseball team tried to hold on to a 2-1 lead. It was the bottom of the ninth inning. One out. The other team had players on first and third. Lewis’ teammate Sean Tuohy was on the pitcher’s mound, and “the first rule of New Orleans life was that, whatever game he happened to be playing, Sean Tuohy won it.” But on this night, Tuohy wouldn’t get the chance to win it. Their coach walked out to the mound to have word with Sean. Their fans went ballistic. It was the coach’s second trip the pitcher’s mound that inning. That’s illegal. Sean Tuohy could not throw another pitch. The coach told Lewis to warm up. “The sight of me,” Lewis would later write, “sent their side into spasms of delight…[Their] players danced jigs in their dugout, their coaches high-fived, their fans celebrated.” But Lewis’ coach handed Lewis the ball, then gripped his shoulded and leaned down until you could only fit a piece of loose leaf paper between their faces. “The effect,” Lewis writes, “was to say: there’s no one I’d rather have out here in this life-or-death situation. And I believed him! “[Coach] didn’t move his head and looked at third base, ‘Pick him off.’” Then coach let Lewis alone on the mound. Something stirred inside Lewis. He thought, “I am about to show the world, and myself, what I can do.” He picked off the runner on the third, struck out the batter, and won the game. Coach gave Lewis the game ball after and said he’d never seen such courage on the pitcher’s mound. The next day at school, the headmaster called Lewis into his office and said, “[Coach] thinks the world of you. You have guts and nerve.” Some things you don’t forget, Lewis said. “From that moment, I changed. [Coach] gave me a myth other than the myth I had been living.”
Leading up to running the first sub-four-minute mile, Roger Bannister said, “I had done nothing for five days. I hadn’t trained. I just rested. And so I felt very full of running.” In the first lap, Bannister signaled to his pacers—Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway—faster, faster! “In fact,” Bannister said, “they were going at exactly the right pace. It was just that I was so full of running, I didn’t feel I was running fast.”