Miguel Hernandez of Grumo Media and I have swapped some really good communications recently. Super sharp guy, he sent this observation and question to me -
Here is a suggestion for a future post for you. Today I met with a friend who has been friends with the [recently very successful movie director] for many years. He noticed I got some attention from Ashton Kutcher and is convinced that my career is going to skyrocket too (he is dreaming of course) and I am going to become yet another of his friends that "makes it" and he doesn't.
He is a hilarious dude and very talented movie editor and wants to succeed and make a difference on this world, like all of us really. Today he took me out for lunch to pick my brain a little and get some advice. He had a great point which I totally agree with. Here it is:
So I keep saying that to succeed you have to welcome failure and keep trying continuously. But that really works if you actually have an idea of what your passions are. The problem, the big problem most of the world have is that most people don't have a clue of what is that passion for them.
I have had that problem myself, well, my problem is that I always had too many passions and wanted to do everything which is fun but also dilutes your chances to be very good at something specifically.
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.
A rant? Absolutely not - it's a principled stand against the corruption and malaise in publishing. Guaranteed to be interesting and engaging, please share with everyone relevant that you know -
1. People don't set firm plans with people who own telephones.
"Okay, I'll call you around 3, and maybe we'll meet at like 7, or I don't know, I'll let you know at 5 if..."
"Sorry dude, I don't have a phone. Are we on for 7 or not?"
I love that.
A common question, indeed - "I don't know what I'm doing with my life, can you advise something?"
Well, perhaps I can. I got a nice email from a reader, and I wrote a long reply. If you're in a hurry, skim down to "Okay. So here’s my thoughts" which is where the pragmatic guidelines start - I'll bold it so you can start there, if you like.
First, I'd like to say that I've really enjoyed reading your blog. It has so much insightful and enlightening material that I've gone back to reread and try to really absorb some of the ideas you have. I've been meaning to contact you but I felt a bit intimidated, to be honest. I'd really like to hear your advice.
I'm about a year removed from high school, attending community college and I've just been floating around, doing general education courses and I've yet to really decide on a major. I don't really have any particular talents or strong interests in one field or another.
A while back, I had the good fortune to connect with Simon Payne who is one of the oustandingly cool and interesting guy. I know a lot of people want to do meaningful thins with their lives, but are scared to take risks. Simon saved a small amount of money and just jumped off into the void... and it worked. I hope his story inspires you like it does me, here's Simon -
My story begins when I decided to quit my job, sell most of my things and move to Philippines to study original martial art called Kali (also known as Escrima or Arnis). For those who doesn’t know it, it’s a kind of fencing but with rattan sticks. It’s an offensive, fast and extremely effective martial art. The training includes even fighting with steel blades, knives and many different weapons including bare hands. I’ve been studying the modern version of Escrima in Czech Republic for last 8 years and before that historical and sport fencing.
I've always had rich imagination and before arriving in the Philippines I assumed that everyone would know where to find where to find some Escrima schools. I dreamed about finding some old skilled grandmaster that would teach me.
I decided to travel to Davao City which is in the south of Philippines. I knew that my friend John will be there at the same time. I didn’t know him in person but that was my only contact. He was just starting a company there. Looking back at my decisions I obviously didn’t use my brain as much as other people would. If I did, I’d choose bigger city like Manila or Cebu which are well known for martial art schools.
I searched using pieces of information from web but it wasn’t helpful, most information were outdated or useless. I wandered the streets and asked people for any leads. Sometimes at night searching trough dark corners and shady streets where I felt uncomfortably insecure. Sometimes I’d find an abandoned gym where someone used to practice but they must have moved somewhere else.
Ah, you there, my Type-A friend. I'm glad you came today. Come in. What would you like? We've got coffees, teas, or clear still water perhaps? No juices at the moment, I'm afraid, I'm not having carbohydrates and it'd be fiddling with the devil to buy juice and then attempt not to drink it. The coffee is good, though, yes?
One moment. I'd like to light the fireplace. Maybe it's technically Spring, but this "Spring" in West Germany is chilly and cold and damp and grey, right down into the bones. But pardon me, I'm near veering into complaint, which is the exact opposite of the place I want to go. I'd much rather pull up by the warm fire's glow with non-carbohydrate beverage-of-choice and muse a little about philosophy and psychology with you -- and maybe it'll even be productive for us?
Ah, the warmth is nice.
I have a lot of correspondences with interesting people. This thread I was on was a discussion between a few guys I know in technology. One shared the article "It isn't lying if you believe it" by one of the co-founders of Netflix -
As software began to be sold to people who would never consider themselves technical, it suddenly became clear that you needed people who spoke their language. It became fashionable to hire product managers from places like Proctor and Gamble. Or Clorox.
It drove the engineers crazy. It was best when you had iron-clad test data demonstrating something purely ridiculous; like that software in the blue box sold twice as well as the exact same product in the red box. It made their head explode. On the one hand, they knew with absolute conviction that there was absolutely no reason why the color of the box should make the least bit of difference. But, on the other hand, they also knew with absolute conviction that data didn't lie. After puzzling over this paradox for a few hours they had no choice but to conclude that maybe us marketing people had some value. Or practiced a kind of black magic. Or both.
These days, the soft bigotry of anti-hucksterism can be seen every day on HackerNews. And there are still plenty of hustlers not quite getting how important their technical co-founder actually is to their success. The truth of the matter is that both sides need each other. We always have and we always will.
A reply from a friend of mine who worked at a few of the top Silicon Valley companies in 1990's to 2000's, and now is CEO of a a company doing a few million dollars in revenues per year replied with this (he's graciously given me permission to repost his thoughts, but wants to stay anonymous for obvious reasons) -
Haruki Murakami, the excellent Japanese novelist, wrote about the sign inside his Japanese gym. It was something like,
"Fat is easy to get and hard to lose. Muscle is hard to get and easy to lose. Such is life."
It's similar to another Japanese expression about money --
"Getting money is like digging in sand with a needle, spending it is like water soaking into sand."
I remember where I read the first quote -- it was reading "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" in 2008, when I was in Barcelona and living near Placa Espania. At the time, I happened to be on a fantastic routine of waking up at 4:30AM, reading and eating in a little Spanish shop that served a fantastic Spanish egg/potato/vegetable omlette until my gym opened, spending a couple hours in the gym, and then working until dinner before sleeping early.
What do you want to eat?
"I don't know, I don't care, anything is fine." --> NOT COURTEOUS.
When do you want to schedule that lunch meeting? I can do Wednesday, Friday, or the following Monday.
"I don't care, any day is good." --> NOT COURTEOUS.
They seem courteous, but you're really offloading the decisionmaking back to the other person. And the thing is, maybe you don't do this, but a lot of people will say they're totally flexible but then dislike the first option suggested and only then do their thinking and propose something.