Mike Dariano http://sett.com/mikedariano en-us Thu, 21 Jan 2021 19:26:44 -0800 http://sett.com Sett RSS Generator My First SETT Post http://sett.com/mikedariano/my-first-sett-post Working on the formatting of these posts. My import from Wordpress was a whacky mess, like gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe.

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Wed, 19 Feb 2014 10:47:52 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/my-first-sett-post
How I Meditate Like a Cowboy http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113089 I'm working on a writing project inspired by James Altucher and his idea that we have four bodies to care for; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. This framework has made me reflect on my role as a parent and how I've changed emotionally. When I first had kids I f]]> I'm working on a writing project inspired by James Altucher and his idea that we have four bodies to care for; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. This framework has made me reflect on my role as a parent and how I've changed emotionally.

When I first had kids I felt emotionally weak. Like a scrawny thirteen year old (which I was) entering a gym full of weights (which I did) and struggling with weights too heavy (which I tried). As a parent I didn't understand what it took emotionally to raise kids and felt bad when I failed. I was an adult, didn't I know what to do? Shouldn't emotional maturity grow as your kid does? That person had no idea what to do.

Then I found my emotional alter-ego. The Cowboy.

The Cowboy sits high in his seasoned saddle, moving cattle from Tulsa to San Antonio. Over the plains he's seen a hundred times, he feels the change in air pressure as he crosses the hills. The dry breeze. His hat and spirit are both firm but not brittle as they ride along with the cattle.

Suddenly, a calf breaks away from the herd. In the past this was trouble for the young cow-hand. This made his heart race and grip tighten. He became worried and started to mentally run through the list of things that could happen to the animal. The calf could break a leg or run off a cliff. It could crash into a wolf den or impale itself on a hidden danger in the sagebrush. The young cowboy would gallop full steam to return the calf.

That was then. Now The Cowboy easily turns the bridle and horse and trots after the calf. There is no need to get excited, no need to worry. In a minute he's closed the distance and in the next has the calf turned back to the herd. The Cowboy has done this many times and now it is easy.

And that's how I felt about my emotions. When my daughters were younger I would get angry or frustrated and feel like I was always running in different emotional directions. Now I'm like The Cowboy. I can watch watch my emotions as they march through life like the cows. I can guide them back into the herd, not letting them dictate the cattle drive - or my life.

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Wed, 19 Feb 2014 05:33:28 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113089
David and Goliath (Book Review) http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113088 Full disclosure, I enjoy most of what David and Goliath author Malcolm Gladwell writes. While there have been some critiques of his newest book, this isn't one of them. Most of those reviews stem from the idea that Gladwell ]]>
Full disclosure, I enjoy most of what David and Goliath author Malcolm Gladwell writes. While there have been some critiques of his newest book, this isn't one of them. Most of those reviews stem from the idea that Gladwell plays too fast and loose with the ideas, but this is his strength. He's not an academic, though he uses their tools. Gladwell is like the architect who dreams up the grand buildings and then passes things on to the engineers to see if they can be built.

David and Goliath is the story about how inherent strengths also have inherent weaknesses. My car seats seven people (strength) but it gets poor gas mileage (weakness). Gladwell pivots from obvious examples like this to the angle of looking at the social sciences and cherry picking ideas that fit within this context, like how your school choice might affect your success.

I wrote about the idea of big fish in a little pond at People Smarter Than Me. Gladwell suggests that going to the best school may be a poor choice. For example, most economic professors at elite institutions were once students at elite institutions. John List is one now, but wasn't one as a student. Instead, he got his Ph.D. at the University of Wyoming and taught at the University of Central Florida. Gladwell's suggestion is that being a big fish and spreading your fins helps you grow more than having tasty - intellectual -food to eat. List may have done this well because he was a big fish in a little pond.

Gladwell also shares the idea that maybe 30% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. His hypothesis is, because this group had so much trouble learning to read, they adapted and built other skills like listening, summarizing, or negotiating. They developed those skills while their peers worked on becoming better readers. When I reading this, I thought about John Saddington's journey and announcement that he's an autist. If our weaknesses force us to build unique strengths, then we can say our successes are driven - in part - by those weaknesses?

There are many examples like these in the book, the personal ones about specific Hollywood executives and lawyers fit better than the larger ideas like the IRA and civil rights movements and the book tends to deflate a bit in the latter third.

My favorite Gladwell book is still The Tipping Point, which deserves a reread after this. The best part of about reading Gladwell is that he shifts my perspective to one of making connections. After reading his books I want to look and see what else might be related and why.

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Tue, 18 Feb 2014 09:00:47 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113088
"Ninety Percent of Parents Expect a Marital Decline" (book review) http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113086 My year of reading more books than ever continues to plow along unabated like the winter winds of Ohio. Neither the turning of the pages or falling of the snowflakes can be stopped by mortal forces. Except that the seasons will change and kids will vomit. Other than that my reading can not be stopped.

In all serious though, reading has become habitual this year, if I'm ready to read. That is, when I have a good book queued up on my Kindle or I sit down with a good hardback. I've also taken Stephen King's approach of reading in grocery store lines and parking lots when a spare ten minutes presents itself. My default, hey I've got a few minutes is now to read. And one of those books is about parenting

The full quote from the post title is, "Ninety percent of married couples expect a decline in marital satisfaction after the birth of their first child" and comes from All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior, a book that I drooled over when first seeing it.

This book was it. It looked like the book that would answer all my questions about parenting. It would be a page turning panacea that would help me figure out the maze of parenting. Except that it wasn't.

It turns out that parents expectations are often true. Kids rob you of your sleep, deep hair color, and peace of mind. Senior reports that 80 percent of mothers think they don't have enough friends and 67 percent say they are multitasking most of the time. I can anecdotally support both of those figures.

She also figured out that the gap in well-being due to lack of sleep is severe. Parents who sleep for more than seven hours and make $30,000 have the same well-being levels of parents who sleep less than six hours but make $90,000. More sleep and more money both make you feel better.

It hasn't always been like this though. Senior travels through history to find that "children went from giving money to the family to getting it." Children used to help with the family trades or go to work slinging newspapers or fruit, not anymore. Now kids are studying physics, participating in sports, and playing saxophone. As parents we think these things will lead the kids to happiness and success.

Preparing kids to be happy is about as easy as teaching them to play Battleship in real life. We can offer some best guesses, but we really don't know. Our best guesses are to keep them busy with lessons and classes and tutors because these are all good things for their development, but these guesses lead to a new problem:

Kids sense that they have the power to make their boredom their parents responsibility.

I see this with my own five-year-old. She comes up to me and says that she is bored and sometimes I'll dutifully trot out an art set or coloring pages or set up her doll house. Like a butler in Downton Abbey, I serve her every whim. As a culture we've been doing this too, I see it with the college students I work with. They've been raised on rubrics and standards and like mice in a maze, need to know what they are searching for and how quickly to find it.

That's the paradox that Senior brings up and addresses. As parents we want to help our kids, give them a better life. Senior makes the argument that we don't quite know how to do this though. Throughout most of history, parents helped their kids get the same jobs they had. Blacksmiths formed blacksmiths, aristocrats refined aristocrats. In America our options are so much larger than this, and we want to give our kids the world. Which of course, we can't.

Throughout the book Senior presents idea after idea that I found myself nodding my head with. Yes they do that, yes they do this - and while it was comforting to take residence with my fellow soldiers in arms, I wanted to know why I loved my kids amid all the grief they cause. My life can feel like a hurricane of negative emotions, but too often I think about being in the eye of the storm where things are calm despite the swirling winds.

Like an astronomer looking for a new star that he knows must exist, I wanted to find that shining light about why I loved my kids. It never comes. This book was like going behind the scenes at my favorite restaurant and seeing the long hours, the loads of preparation, and the high tempers but never seeing my favorite dish was made.

It turns out that the joy we feel for our kids can't be measured.

Every parent in the book gushes over their children despite everything that happens. George Vaillant shared this quote about being a parent to his autistic son.

When my son was six I had to button his buttons for him. And tie his shoes. And that was a chore, but so is, when the grass is long, pushing a lawnmower. And how else are you going to have a lawn?

Our moments of enlightenment, when our kids fill us with joy aren't things we know how to report, sort, and graph. Even the mothers covered in the book say this at the end, or rather they don't. Senior has to explain the looks, smiles, and tears of happiness they feel. And that's the truth.

I had one problem with the book, and it was a personal one. I wanted the chapter about fathers like me or even stay-at-home fathers in general. The people Senior mentioned in most of the book were mothers and that's fair because the child-rearing role is mostly done by moms. I recognize my minority roll and accept it, but in the 250+ pages I found myself identifying with the mothers. Senior uses the mother moniker but for many of the statistics and situations, that was me. I wonder how this will change in the future, if it ever will. The trend is that more women graduate college than men and that more men are staying at home with the kids.

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Thu, 13 Feb 2014 10:18:11 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113086
It's been cold this winter (photo) http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113087 ]]> This is from my morning drive, one my car thermometer said was -18.


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Wed, 12 Feb 2014 11:19:45 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113087
Using Evernote for Book Notes http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113082 I can't only read something. I need to read something and then read it again and then tie it to another idea like a boat moored to a dock. All this happens through taking notes and my notes wind up in Evernote.

Jamie Rubin had another wonderful post about taking notes without marking up books, but his method isn't for me. For one, I have a free account that I don't want to fill up with photos and secondly, I don't like the way photos look. I want a single note with all the ideas from a book in a summary view that I can read easily.

The books I read fall into two camps and I use my notes differently with each. For hard copies, most of the books I'm reading are borrowed copies. I take the Mr. Money Mustache approach of viewing the public library as one we all share and can't mark them up, and I often don't want to, so what do I do.

My method involves paper and pencil. As I read a book, I'll write down ideas and page numbers on paper and then after a bundle of pages are sticking out the end of a book like arrows from a quiver, I'll transcribe them to Evernote. This is not an easy or quick process. It takes time to do this and I'm writing the same notes twice. But this second time is important.

20140211-070349.jpgThe repetition matters because the more I play with this information, the more often I run through the words mentally, the more I remember them. If I'm reading the words, then writing the words, then typing the words I get exposed to them three times. Once They are in Evernote I also note the page I found them on.

For digital books I don't even bother with importing the notes to Evernote. When I'm reading a Kindle book, I mark it up with highlights and notes at a desner rate than paper books because it's too easy not to. The Kindle apps all allow a good set of searches for finding what I'm looking for and it's easy to copy, like say, for the quotes section of this blog.

<insert conclusion> Wait, stop the typing, what happened?!

And that's how this post was going to look. I was happy with how I was taking notes and then something changed - I got an iPhone 5s with iOS7. Wow.

The phone has been down right incredible and one of my favorite features is the dictation. Instead of handwriting an idea or typing it into Evernote, I dictate the direct quote. The accuracy of it is exemplary. It also makes taking notes nearly as easy as that on the Kindle.

Those are the ways I take notes on what I'm reading.

  1. Hand write notes and copy them into Evernote which lets me simmer on the information more.
  2. Type directly into Evernote or use the dictation feature.
  3. Directly highlight digital books and keep them out of Evernote because the Kindle services are good enough.

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Tue, 11 Feb 2014 10:04:59 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113082
Writing Tool #2: Order words for emphasis http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113073 You know what they say about real estate, location, location, location. See what I did there? Clark's suggestion is that the most powerful words should be at the beginning or end of our sentences and paragraphs. In that sentence it's the most important thing, location.

That sentence could read, The most important part of real estate is where you locate. Not the same for sure. Some of the reason is because we've lived with the first location expression for so long it's become familiar, but upon Clark's guidance, I would argue its familiar because of the structure. Clark suggests that the period acts as a stop sign, making you pause on the word before. My Disney princess daughters understand this when they say "Best. Day. Ever."


Cal Newport is another favorite writer of mine. A great example of how blogging with focus helps you develop a writing niche. In So Good They Can't Ignore You he writes.

"Follow your passion" might just be terrible advice.

Newport waits until the end of that sentence to share the idea that following our passion is - wait, what - terrible? I need to read more because Newport's written a good hook.

Stephen King is a master of many things, and he too orders words well. Clark suggests that the end of a paragraph and all that white space around it, also brings attention to the words there. This is from King's 11/22/63:

I spent August and September of that presidential election year driving the Sunliner around Dallas, apartment-hunting (even after all this time sorely missing my GPS unit and frequently stopping to ask for directions). Nothing seemed right. At first I thought that was about the apartments themselves. Then, as I began to get a better sense of the city, I realized it was about me.

King introduces the idea of the city as being full of grit and grime - especially where our hero is going - but we find that the roughness is actually in him.

Within non-fiction my favorites are A.J. Jacobs and Malcolm Gladwell. The former who can add the humorous twist at the beginning or end, like a bartender can effortlessly add a peel of orange to a fruity drink. The latter who introduces the key part at the end or beginning with a heavy thud that swings the balance of your thoughts. With Gladwell the idea is like a large man who settles into your canoe and disturbs your thoughts.

As a tool this also works for quotes. "Begin with a good quote." Clark writes on page 17, "Hide attribution in the middle. End with a good quote."

That's not very clever on my part, but serves as an example.

These writing tools are from Roy Peter Clark's wonderful Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. My examples are like Hostess cupcakes compared to Clark's professional wedding cake. I'm the $20 Gucci knockoff to Clark's Italian leather. I'm the nobody who's written nothing, he's the pro who's written it all.

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Wed, 05 Feb 2014 07:00:35 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113073
Snow Tires and Student Teachers http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113085 I was observing a lesson by one of the student teachers I mentor, and she made a very basic mistake. She was having the students work their way around the room to a number of stations, but put them in different parts of the room. Instead of the students moving clockwise around the room, the students moved like lottery balls through the room. It led to some major turbulence in her lesson but we talked it over and changing this small part of her lesson will make it better next time.

snowtireThat same night I was putting a new set of chains on our snowblower tires. It was just as rough as the student teacher's lesson. I was banging my knuckles and my hands were getting cold. I poked a hole in my jeans while working the garage and my jacket needed washed after crawling around the floor and sticking my arm around the snowblower.

We were both rookies at what were doing that day - her with teaching, mine with installing the chains.

At one point my wife stuck her head out the door to ask if I needed help. I told her I didn't. I could have used an extra set of hands to do it more quickly, but not to learn how. I had to fail on my own. Together we could have done it but I wanted to know how to pull the slack on the chain, how to clasp one side before the other, and how to orient the chains based on what wheel they were on.

In my discussion with the student teacher we mentioned much the same thing. During her lesson, I and her mentor teacher noticed that the way she was directing the students would lead to a lot of disruption, but we had to let her fail on her own so she could understand the nuances of the problem.

In getting down in the cracks, in the dirt, and in trouble we see what the problem is made of. We see the sticking points and we can adapt to them.

A nice lesson to end my day with.

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Tue, 04 Feb 2014 17:06:46 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113085
Where Else I've Been Writing http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113077 Most of the writing I do is on this blog, but I've done some writing elsewhere too this month.

First, I've started a new site, People Smarter Than Me. I realized while reading books, watching TED Talks, and listening to podcasts that there were a lot of brilliant people and I wanted to share some of the things I've learned from them. One of those smart people is Tyler Cowen, who linked to one of my first articles - Will A Computer Hire You? I also wrote about how to negotiate (or at least talk with) your kids, and what the future of education might be.

I also wrote a guest post for Jamie Rubin about my thinking behind 27GoodThings. Jamie's a great blogger. He's never writing "10 ways that you haven't read on Lifehacker to brew coffee and coca-cola" or other nonsense. His posts are clear, consistent, and carefully done. It's amazing he let me in the door for a guest post. He's my go-to guide for thoughts on writing, Evernote, and technology.

I've been regularly updating the books I've read page on this blog. I posted an overview of those yesterday, but I like the way that page looks compared to what I formerly used on Goodreads. The biggest takeaway for my reading more has been to prioritize reading. Instead of opening Twitter or Feedly when I have a few extra minutes, I'll open the Kindle App on my phone.

-- Here's 10 other reasons to buy a Kindle. --

This month I've also done a better job with writing my book on fatherhood. I'm adding content almost daily and getting into an editing process to work through the things I've already written. The excerpts for many of the essays are this blog.

I also wrote a guest post for Startup Chat about the book Manage Your Day-To-Day. The book's great and I'm really happy the way Alex helped me tweak the summary for the site.

What does all this writing look like in numbers? Thanks to Rubin's scripts, here's what my writing has looked like so far this month. I missed writing on four days this month and averaged 711 words per day. Thanks Jamie!

chart_5 (1)

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Sat, 01 Feb 2014 10:00:01 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113077
What I've Been Reading http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113075 ]]> The start of a new year always provides a bit of motivation and that's been the case about my goal to read more books. Along with an abnormally cold Ohio January, I've torn through more books this month than any other. Here's what I've ready so far.

The Circle. I read this at the same time as Average is Over (see below) and the two books blew my mind to the point that I nearly needed the singularity they both address to put me back together again. The Circle follows Mae Hollands as she joins a Google/Facebook/Apple like company in California. She goes from working in a water pump plant to being one of the most popular people in the country thanks her to constant connection using zings (like tweets), smiles, frowns, and other data that people share. I wanted the book to take a Children of Men course, going from the pristine campus Mae works on to the gritty back streets where revolution festers. It didn't. Instead, it took things in a nice and steady direction of what the future might be, small changes over time that led to big differences. Which I guess is how things would happen anyways. I agreed with the small changes in the book, but was appalled by what the culmination of them looked like.

Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation. If The circle was a focused fictional account that might be true, this is the non-fictional macro view. I enjoy reading Cowen because his logic is well deduced and this book was no different. It was my favorite book of his so far and covers many areas using mostly chess as a model for the future. Cowen's main premise is that the greatest chess teams in the world are those that combine computer and human, and someday that will be true of the greatest workers in the world too. He also suggests that income inequality will rise, but so will the standard of living and things won't be bad at all. Here are 5 things I learned.

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. I've posted my review, but I'll mention again that this book can help you do anything better. Rachel Aaron started by asking herself how she wrote best. She found the recipe included knowing what you want to do, knowing what you need to know to do it, and knowing when you can do it best. That simplified formula is something that we can apply to anything. From studying a new subject to snacking on the right foods at the right time.

In addition to this being great content, it also showed me that now is a great time for reading materials to be just the right length. This book weighs in at 64 pages and Do The Work at 109. The stories that each of these told fit nicely into those smaller page counts.

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey. Another book I've posted a review for, but I'll add this. This book was the equivalent of a great sport announcer. If you watch any sports you know that there are some commentators that are former players and they understand the game well. In football this is the guy who, during the replay, shows a key block or position of a player that led to the success by one of the teams. That's what Taylor did in writing this book, only instead of sports, it's about a brain during a stroke.

A Short History of Nearly Everything. I was listening to this audiobook and it's going to take a long longer than a short time to get to nearly everything. Bryson is funny and smart and finds details in the crevices of history that made me wonder why history in school wasn't taught this same way. Back then I would have been entertained by 12 year old girls who discovered fossilized sea monsters and feuding geologists. This book, like some of Bryson's others, is long. It's like being at a buffet and while there is delicious food, you're just too full. I stopped reading this part-way though I'm sure to return to it someday.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. If Bryson is the mammoth buffet, Gladwell is the good meal. I've read his other books and enjoyed them greatly. I've read that his book got some push-back and there is some resistance to his calling attention to the 10,000 hour rule, but so far it's enjoyable. Most notably the beginning where Gladwell suggests that Goliath was afflicted with acromegaly, a syndrome that causes excessive growth and poor vision. I'm listening to the audiobook and it's as well narrated as What the Dog Saw.

Can you comment on anything you've read lately?

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Thu, 30 Jan 2014 08:00:15 -0800 http://sett.com/mikedariano/uid/113075