Superachievers

When I write a book, it is going to have a short title, like ‘On Raising Polar Bears in Saudi Arabia’. Well, see, even that is too long, and way too interesting (they were very gracious backgammon players).

If you’re Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield, you would write a book entitled The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do And How They Do It So Well, which is, well, yes, quite long, and also quite interesting, at least as per what little I read and saw of the interview on Business Insider.

It sounds a little like my favorite song lyric and second favorite contender for tombstone epitaph. Ladies and gentlemen, Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band:

It’s not what you look like,
When you’re doin’ what you’re doin’.
It’s what you’re doin’ when you’re doin’,
What you look like you’re doin’.
Express yourself.

Dubbed ‘the most successful and productive people’, here are the highlights:

  • Grow from failure. They meet it not with blame, but with self-awareness and introspection, which lead to reinventing themselves.
  • Commit to dreams. They wrap their lives around their inspiration, with everything in the service of this end.
  • Channel negative emotions. They might get knocked back, but they keep their eye on the prize.
  • Go for broke. They forgo fearing failure.

What I take away from that is a two-part Art of Doing:

  1. Have a vision and a burning desire to wholly lead your life per your personal inspiration.
  2. Know that life will give you lemons and that they won’t stop you.

Tying back to the ScrumOfOne system I hold so dearly, #1 relates to the Product Owner and #2 relates to the ScrumMaster. The Product Owner sets the direction: vision and strategy. The ScrumMaster guides the team through the Scrum process, which includes the Retrospective, which in itself covers that first ‘Grow from failure’ highlight above. At the end of your Sprint, you take a look at anything that may not have gone as planned, ultimately adapting – reinventing yourself.

To me, that last highlight is tricky, ‘Go for broke’. When you’ve got your eye on the prize because you are unabashedly immersed in living your dream, I’m guessing ‘failure’, or fear of it, doesn’t register / exist in that frame. If you run into a wall, you pause, regroup, pivot, and continue trail blazing. That sounds like a major change in mindset for most folks who fear failure in pursuing their dream. Now I want to see if the book has more on this topic.

Take a page from the Internet’s favorite OTT bad-ass. When life gives Chuck Norris lemons, he makes orange juice.

Life In Your Years

Until I typed out my Blogging Break post, I didn’t really realize what this blog was about. It hasn’t been about applying Scrum principles to personal development, and then documenting my journey living this philosophy. Although that is how this started, it has moved into publicly scratching an itch.

I am convinced that all the advice we hear about how to live a better, more fulfilling, more ‘successful’, higher functioning life are all facets of the same gem. This is what I’m trying to understand. And then apply. And then share.

So every time a sparkle of this gem catches my eye, I can’t help but share. This past Sunday’s New York Times business section, in the Corner Office column by Adam Bryant, he interviewed Kon Leong, head of ZL Technologies, which archives emails and files. Leong gives advice to those graduating college.

If you experiment in different jobs and functions in those two or three years out of school, you will have a much better shot at finding your sweet spot. And the sweet spot is the intersection between what you’re really good at and what you love to do. If you can find that intersection, you are set. A lot of people would kill for that because, at 65, they’re retiring and never found it.

So don’t put so much emphasis on initial compensation. Don’t listen to all the harping from the family. Try to find your sweet spot and, once you find it, invest in that. You don’t want to get degrees just to do work you don’t really like. If you’re miserable, even if you make a lot of money, that’s still 40 years of your life.

Booyah! That’s powerful stuff, and I don’t think I’ve heard it phrased like that: you can’t get back that time. I like how Abraham Lincoln said it.

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

You Have Good Taste

I ran across a quote from Ira Glass while reading Signal vs. Noise, the blog by the guys at 37signals (two of the guys from that crew wrote Rework). Of course, the quote was in posterized form – I’m guessing this guy was inspired. Enjoy.

Ira Glass Quote

Just in case you can’t get the above pic, I’ve written it out for ya. Enjoy. Again.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners – I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Top of Your Todo List

Paul Graham is an expert in the Lisp programming language, co-founder of the tech incubator Y Combinator, and writes at paulgraham.com on entrepreneurship, hackers, and, in his last post, life: The Top of My Todo List.

It’s short and intersects with the spirit of my last three blog posts. Here is the punch line:

Don’t ignore your dreams; don’t work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.

I have heard that one of the big goals of life is essentially to die well: to lie on your death bed and know you’ve given your greatest gift. Paul sums this up: don’t be a cog. I like how Chris Guillebeau phrases it in ‘The $100 Startup’, which is actually from Steve Jobs: Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Read Paul’s essay here.