I had a dream where I was talking to this super-genius bad guy who just explained and rationalized his super-genius evil plot, the scene for which ended with the following exchange.

Hell, it all comes down to some of the most ancient advice there is! You gotta ganstah yo strengths and soutata the rest!


Yeah. S-O-U-T-A-T-A. Look it up.

This stuck with me for the rest of my dream, since I’ve never heard of that (and I wanted to look it up), such that when I woke up, I struggled to extract from my unconscious this particular portion of the night. With nothing significant from a subsequent Googling, I submitted this transitive verb’s definition to Urban Dictionary. Still waiting.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a few words on some of the most ancient advice there is. Let’s gloss over ‘gangstah yo strengths’, since Tom Rath neatly covers how it feels good to be a-ganstah-ing yo natural talents and skills in his StrengthsFinder 2.0 book. From an economic perspective, leveraging your natural inclination is efficient. Businessy folks would talk about core competencies. Taoist folks might call this active expression of your Tao, your Te. I folks say, “Yep, got it, makes sense, move on, dot org.”

I happen to think the “soutata the rest” part is where we might be trippin’… over ourselves; and just like literally tripping over ourselves, the struggle lies in how we get in our own way. We take a job for the sweet six-figure salary, while enduring the sour 80-hour weeks away from family and friends and self. You want to come out of the closet, but social pressure instead dictates starting a heterosexual family: 2.5 kids, a dog, a Volvo, suburbia. You are indoors all day, sitting in front of a glowing rectangle at a desk, secretly a slave to the glowing rectangle in your pocket/purse, and are too tired at the end of the day to do anything other than crash in front of another glowing rectangle on the wall; yet, you wish you had the time and energy to restore vintage motorcycles outdoors, jam with the band, and craft interior design for dollhouses. And yes, I know somebody who does all this.

Getting in our way isn’t just doing stuff we don’t like instead of what we do like, but stuff we don’t like as well as stuff we do. This is the going out even though you’re exhausted. This is schmoozing and endless small talk with strangers even though it feels fake. This is the uphill battle of learning a new thing you hate, don’t see yourself ever using, and are just doing it ’cause somebody told you to. These are not strengths, but we do them anyway ’cause we feel we have to.

Do you have to? (And don’t you love that question?) Do you absolutely have to? Have you considered the life and death ramifications of simply… not? The opportunity cost is doing something else more fun, exciting, and internally fulfilling, most likely in line with yo strengths. Are you willing to trade your strengths for ‘the rest’? Or do you want to be “the best in the world” (‘world’ meaning some niche market) via strategic quitting as per ‘The Dip‘ by Seth Godin? In light of the gifts unique to you, quitting ‘the rest’ might be the best thing for you.

You gotta ganstah yo strengths and soutata the rest.

C’mon, Urban Dictionary. Accept my submission.

Supposing It Didn’t

I’m reading ‘The Te of Piglet’ by Benjamin Hoff, after thoroughly enjoying his ‘The Tao of Pooh’. Hoff is effectively teaching Taoism via Pooh and the gang, and though I found the first half of this book to be rather preachy, I’m getting to some really good stuff now. He starts his ‘The Upright Heart’ chapter with the following, taken from one of the Winnie the Pooh stories by A. A. Milne:

The wind was against them now, and Piglet’s ears streamed behind him like banners as he fought his way along, and it seemed hours before he got them into the shelter of the Hundred Acre Wood and they stood up straight again, to listen, a little nervously, to the roaring of the gale among the treetops.

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”

“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.

Piglet was comforted by this, and in a little while they were knocking and ringing very cheerfully at Owl’s door.

Piglet is a worrier extraordinaire. Sure, he is a Very Small Animal, and he seems to use this as a crutch, but I’m not going to address that. I read the emboldened (so yes, emphasis mine) exchange above and was blown away at the simplicity of Pooh’s response.

Yes, fear is wired deep in our brains, but as a species, we’re no longer under the threat of lions and tigers and bears (oh my). For the majority of us in the first world, we’re doing alright in the food-clothing-shelter department. If we follow Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, fear is now from other things… beyond physiological survival and security (job included) to social ideas like belonging. How social are these fears? Seth Godin in ‘Tribes’ argues that we are less afraid of actual failure than we are of consequent criticism! A stern talking to? This is hardly an imminent threat to the squishy ball of cells that is you.

Because the things we fear are in the future, we can choose to be afraid of them. Or not.

Supposing those mostly social fears weren’t to happen? How would you walk around then? What doors would you knock on?


Remember the old Facebook? I mean, the old Facebook. I mean, the OLD Facebook. Back when you had to log in to with a .EDU email address. Back when the homepage had the list of schools that were coveted members of the walled blue garden with that face in the upper-left corner. Back when you didn’t have zombie wars or mafia wars, just poke wars. Back when your favorite quote of some inside joke from your dorm floor was right on your profile page and not hidden five clicks under your secondary yet larger profile pic. Here is mine, by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

If a man is to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Essentially, be the best at whatever you do. Sounds trite, yes no? It’s just not that exciting. Doesn’t have that special somethin’ somethin’. Being some generic ‘most good’ at some activity comes off as very… impersonal. So let’s inject a tonne (1000 kilograms, which is more than the more familiar ‘ton’, which is 2000 pounds, which is 907.19 kilograms) (you’re welcome) of personality in.

Let’s thus talk about a Cadenza!

…a piece of furniture that became very fashionable during the second half of the 19th century. Often made of a burnished and polished wood decorated with marquetry, a central cupboard would be flanked by symmetrical quadrant glass display cabinets. The top would often be made of marble, or another decorative stone, or of inlaid wood.

Crap, that was a Credenza. Not the type of ‘personality’ I was going for. Let’s try again.

…an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a “free” rhythmic style, and often allowing for virtuosic display.

That’s a Cadenza. Much better. You hear the personality in that? Soloist! Virtuoso! It’s not just showing off, though; it is an opportunity to pour your heart into your art. It is your heart, so it is in a unique style that is distinctly yours, and nobody else’s. It is your heart, so it is your essence and undeniably associated with your core.

…and doesn’t all that sound better than ‘best’?

In brief, I’ll unflourishingly channel my inner Forrest Gump and end this by submitting another shade of ‘find your life path’: Life is like a cadenza. Find an art into which you can pour your heart.


Alright you music geeks, I’m talking to you. We know cadenzas are indicated by a fermata over a ‘rest’. Thus, this held space represents… potential. The way we’re told the sky is the limit and we’re free to go nuts, shedding shame to share our virtuosity, is via a vacuum explicitly laden with possibility. A cadenza is both (visually) empty and (audibly) full.

The notes that are played are unwritten… cadenzas are indicated by an ‘uncarved block’… I’d call this pure potential the closest musical equivalent to Pu. Sounds deep, yes no?

(Too close for missiles. Switching to guns.)

Good Enough

Hello, artist. You creator, you. Don’t consider yourself an artist? Well, are you making something? Then yep, that means you’re an artist! (Congratulations.) You are translating this THING in your head, this idea, into something you can see/hear/taste/smell/feel, and then you’re most likely getting others to see/hear/taste/smell/feel it, too: Creating and Connecting.

Don’t mind me. I don’t mean to interrupt. I just want to see/hear/taste/smell/feel this thing you’re up to. Wait, you WANT to show me? Awesome! Gee, thanks! So, to share this with me, you’ll have to stop creating. Not forever, I know, and you might not even be DONE, but in the continuum of its creation process, you are showing me one state.

This is a challenge to artists of all types: Is this thing done enough for me to share?

If we had infinite time, money, focus, and other resources, we’d want to make it perfect. PERFECT. So with that ideal in our heads, we keep going. We keep refining. We keep tweaking. We keep… going. We keep… not stopping so that we can ship. And this is bad. Hey, don’t look at me that way. Listen to Voltaire:

Dans ses écrits, un sàge Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

Essentially (from an Italian, yet in French): perfect is the enemy of the good.

Let me ask you a simple question. Do you know the future? Don’t lie, now. No? I didn’t think so. That’s OK, neither do I, and that’s the point. How do you know if this plan you have for this thing you’re making will really matter or create real value? How do you know if this thing in your head is really the best form for it to take?

People stink at planning. (What percentage of projects that you’ve been a part of have ended on time and on budget without continually updating the plan along the way to better match reality?) Scrum recognizes this poignantly human weakness and embraces it by espousing that we ship and ship often; at the end of each sprint, we have a potentially ‘shippable’ product.

At the end of each sprint, you have created a version you can share. For my earlier ScrumOfOne stories, they were ones I would share with… me: personal utility, whether it was more frequent use or a deeper use.

I started ScrumOfOne (talk about incrementally evolving THIS idea…) when I first moved into my current place. The floors were a mess, the bathroom sink was disgustingly clogged, and everything I owned was suddenly piled into my kitchen. Now what. You prioritize. The kitchen sink became a safe zone – I would shave there for a while, overlooking Mass. Ave. The toilet became lickably sterilized – my butt is high maintenance. The shower was scrubbed, but not gleaming white – baby, but solid steps for survival before living with some luxuries. The fridge doesn’t have to be wiped before populated with sustenance.

What type of artist was I then? I was desperate. I was crafting a livable space – for me – which was good enough (great for a time). And now, she and I are crafting this space for us – which is great (awesome going on awesomer).

First strive for Good Enough. Get to Great later.

You might find Good Enough IS Great, but that’s a Taoist revelation for another time…

Profitability of Profit

Again, from ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss, I found this gem:

Profit is only profitable to the extent that you can use it. For that you need time.

Much later in the book, we have:

Stuff lingering on the brain from work ruin free time with preoccupation; time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time.

This last quote stresses the necessity of being in the now. You are not really free if your body is on the beach and your head is at the office. So to get the most out of your ‘Out of the Office’ experience, you’ve got to reattach your head to wherever you’ve decided to put your body. You’ve escaped for a week – you might as well enjoy yourself! This leads me to a couple of rather mathematical scenarios… bear with me. If we had a finite amount of attention and a variable amount of time, we have:

  • Scenario 1 – You take a lot of time off, but your attention is rarely there. (Low density of enjoyment per time)
  • Scenario 2 – You take a little time off, and your attention is completely there. (High density of enjoyment per time)

It would seem way more efficient to figure out a way to fully ‘be in your body’ to be fully free during your time off, whether it is an extra long weekend… or 5 minutes. Thus, if you’ve got time to play, and you’re a-gonna play, y’might as well play hard: profit from your… profit.

Ha – who would have thought that, “Work hard. Play hard,” can take on a very Taoist “be in the now” meaning.