President Obama talked with historian Kearns Goodwin at the White House for one of his last open-ended interviews before leaving office. The two discussed the president’s legacy, Lincoln, the importance of long-term thinking and Obama’s ‘writer’s sensibility.’ But the discussion over FDR’s ambitions and his struggle with polio is particularly interesting.
GOODWIN: For example, young F.D.R. seemed a pretty ordinary guy. At 28 he’s a clerk in a law firm. He hasn’t done anything particularly great in college or law school. He gets his first chance to run for the state legislature, and somehow, when he’s out there on the campaign trail, something clicks in. William James said, “At such moments, there is a voice inside which speaks and says, ‘This is the real me.’ ” And F.D.R. knew then that’s what he wanted to be.
OBAMA: I think F.D.R. is a great example of what I mean. If you look at his early life, it is ambition for ambition’s sake …
At some point in life, meaning trumps ambition. You still want to be successful but you want to do it with more authenticity, i.e. true passion. In FDR’s case, enduring life with polio only strengthened his resolve, an attitude he echoed in his first inaugural address: “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”
As Steve Jobs would later say during his fight his cancer:
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Of course, death is not a pre-requisite for chasing meaning. Your fearlessness may depend on well you love yourself. Perhaps Bill Murray said it best:
So what’s it like to be me? You can ask yourself, What’s it like to be me? You know, the only way we’ll ever know what it’s like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can, and keep reminding yourself: That’s where home is.”
In short, we all know what we’re born to do. It just takes time getting comfortable with ourselves while we figure out what our role is.
Covering everything from art, music, and technology. Here are the articles and jams inspiring me this week.
Rock the House
I usually ignore the articles that get talked about a million times over but .html”>this one is too good. Chris Rock talks the latest on comedy, race, and politics. Here’s an excerpt of the interview on Bush/Obama:
“People thinking you’re dumb is an advantage. Obama started as a genius…So it’s not that Obama’s disappointing. It’s just his best album might have been his first album.”
Analog Xmas Cards
Christmas cards take time to write. They show more care than a mere email, text, and Facebook message. It also turns out that the average number of people reached via Christmas Cards is 150, which is also the Dunbar Number.
Normalizing the iPhone 6 Plus
The iPhone 6 Plus is “like holding a waffle iron to your face,” writes Steve Chaney. Yet people love it for than any other of the previous devices. The iPhone 6 Plus is by true definition the world’s first phablet. People can get used to anything.
When Art Meets Curation
What is like to organize all the world’s art? The New Yorkertalks to curator Hans Ulrich Obrist about organizing all the world’s art. Here’s what he said when he discovered Instagram: “Maybe the iPhone is the new nanomuseum.” To which he adds: “Do you know any poets who use Snapchat?”
Bringing Back Sweet Memories
Instagram inspires you to see the world around you but it also distorts memories. Om Malik sits down with Cole Rise of Pi.Co to talk the impact of mobile photography.
“I think we confuse photos on our smartphone as memories…” – Om Malik
NPR sits down to interview Storm Thorgerson, the designer behind Pink Floyd album covers including Dark Side of the Moon. A lot of thought and meaning when into those album covers, but some of it was remixed: “Nothing’s new, everything is plagiarized but it’s how you plagiarize and how you use it.”
Make a Ruckus
“This might not work.” Seth Godin provokes people into making a ruckus, again and again, despite success. Watch it.
There’s no good in being just an introvert or an extrovert. You have to be both in order to be successful.
An ambivert is someone who can think in silence and express themselves when needed. The ability to toggle between two different states of mind is like being able to dribble and shoot with both left and right hands. These skills make you more versatile.
You’re always going to lean one way more than the other. President Obama is an introvert in an extrovert’s position. He’s more inclined to sit and think in silence than talk on stage. But he knows that being social and establishing relationships is why he’s the President.
We’re all born with innate behaviors that lead to common misperceptions. The introvert may be shy but have the strongest will in the room. The extrovert may be loud and expressive but hiding many things inside. Both traits are nonetheless essential.
This isn’t just a computer term. It’s also a way you can interact daily with your surroundings.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert of extrovert; you’ve got to be able to speak when necessary and shut your mouth when it’s unnecessary. Great leaders show both patience and eloquence depending on the moment’s needs. Obama toggles well although he’s more of an introvert.
People generally prefer someone that talks a lot over someone that’s silent. Noise assumes control whereas the resistance to open up assumes passivity.
You can avoid being bucketed altogether if you just play up when one is needed most. So, you can be the blabberer, and be the mute.
How often do you break the rules? How often are you the person to stand up against something everyone knows is absurd?
People are standing up to fight wrongdoing:
Birkan Isin saved an Istanbul park from destruction and sparked Turkey’s mass protests
Snowden gut checked the NSA and lit a worldwide discussion on the future of Internet privacy
Ai Wewei continues to expose the flaws of “Chinese democracy” through his art
All it takes is one person to stand up and point out obvious injustices. A practical cause quickly creates awareness and widespread advocacy.
Everyone knows what’s right but is afraid to speak up or act. Racial segregtation would’ve persisted if Rosa Parks simply gave up her seat.
Rebellion is sometimes pragmatic, not a threat against the rules but a chance to question them and clean them up. But it takes balls to be the one to rise and light that fire. Risk can be life-threatening. So is inaction.
Facebook is really just another syndication channel for me. I’d rather not spend the time toggling between public and private shares. What you see is what everyone gets, like Twitter.
In fact, Twitter taught us all to get comfortable with the practice of sharing publicly. Eye balls raise if you’re account is private. The same rules apply to Instagram. Why join if you don’t want to participate in the larger social community? Be seen.
Privacy is old school thinking on social networks. But don’t share everything. Keep a private journal too. Use Day One, Days, or Vesper to collect personal thoughts and images. Those are the posts that you come back to to get life’s perspective. Those are also the stories the government nor any other family should see; they’re for you only.
Sharing is an extension of the world we see. Sharing should be honest. It also allows us to connect with like-minded people a world away and step in their shoes. But by all means, only share what you’re willing to be held accountable for. Everything goes on record.
Twitter shouldn’t have to make sure everything crossing its servers is factual or true, but it is in Twitter’s interest to themselves to give us the tools to clean things up. Otherwise it risks becoming a cesspool of untruths and rumors. Twitter needs a way to reel bad information back in. It needs a way to let us flag things that we’ve said that turn out to be wrong. Twitter needs an edit button, a correction process.
In the wake of premature reporting surrounding the Boston bombings and spurious tweets from news agencies and retailers, the edit button is becoming a necessity.