Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever

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Talent is overrated. Hard work, discipline, grit, and consistency are attributes that increase your chances of getting what you want.

Luck is a matter of being specific about your goals and two, putting yourself in a position for good things to happen. It is the accumulation of small and steady risks that make the biggest difference and change your life.

For Henry Rollins, that meant taking a bus from DC up to New York to see his favorite band, only to go on stage and sing with them. To his surprise, they called him back later for an audition and became the band’s lead singer. In other words, he caught his lucky break and escaped a life of minimum wage jobs.

Some people get lucky by default. Their network leads them into opportunities because of the sheer dazzle of their last name. For others, hitting the jackpot it is the result of striving to achieve a very specific effort and finding those luck circles that help you make it happen.

Luck draws on the law of magnetism

Luck may be a random phenomenon but it works like a magnet, gravitating toward those hungry enough to take chances.

Success is an accumulation of little efforts that build on top of a grateful perspective, a practice of modesty that keeps you doing what you’re doing. Says Rollins:

“I don’t have talent. I have tenacity. I have discipline. I have Focus. I know, without any delusion, where I come from & where I can go back to.”

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We are ‘brilliant only in tiny bursts’

linchpin“The law of linchpin leverage: The more value you create in your job, the fewer clock minutes of labor you actually spend creating that value. In other words, most of the time, you’re not being brilliant. Most of the time, you do stuff that ordinary people could do.

A brilliant author or businesswoman or senator or software engineer is brilliant only in tiny bursts. The rest of the time, they’re doing work that most any trained person could do.

It might take a lot of tinkering or low-level work or domain knowledge for that brilliance to be evoked, but from the outside, it appears that the art is created in a moment, not in tiny increments.”

— Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

It often appears that discoveries come out of the blue when in fact, they are the result of consistently doing the work. In other words, big results are the upshot of small things with focus and with care. There is no such thing as overnight success.

Keep dripping.

‘Men have become the tools of their tools’

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Technology is not neutral. FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) not only want to make all decisions for us, they want us to dissolve into all-consuming bots while the machines do all the thinking and making.

Humans are meant to work, not to be hedonistic jobless throwaways. We seek meaning and identify ourselves through our labor. But our biggest misconception is presuming that the job we don’t like also defines us.

The only benefit to people becoming tools is that they open up the opportunity to do what they’re really meant to do.

‘Try not to get a job.’

The artist Brian Eno advises us to ‘Try not to get a job.’ By not working for cash, we can follow our deepest passions, thereby subverting the Sex and Cash theory that says that we must toil in our office cubicles so we can do what we’re meant to do on the side.

“Men have become the tools of their tools,” quipped Thoreau, who was able to leave his job for Walden’s pond because he enjoyed the relief of a big bank account. As Frank Chimeo tweeted, “Thoreau had enough money to go to Walden Pond because he revolutionized production methods at his father’s pencil factory.”

Undoubtedly, there will also be a concurrent emergence of cyborgs, man blended into machines. The amalgam makes not only a brain without a body, but a machine without a soul. What will doing anything mean a world of automatons, a premonition of programmatic and unthinking disaster?

Read more: Our struggle with Big Tech to protect trust and truth

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Scientifically optimized music to help you focus

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Music is a performance-enhancement drug. But it goes beyond pumping up athletes like Michael Phelps.

Music is also known to increase your productivity by sharpening your focus and putting your brain into a flow state.

But not just any music, nor any playlist, is guaranteed to help you get down to business.

Focus@Will has over 20 channels and thousands of hours of music that are scientifically optimized to help you focus and get stuff done.

I use the Uptempo channel at work when I need to filter out distractions and get in the zone. However, I turn on Ambient on medium intensity when I want to get into a contemplative state to journal or blog. I’m listening to the app now as I type this post!

Music = neurological focus power

“Music is part of being human,” Oliver Sacks wrote in Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. And the right music can make a huge difference in your workday!

Give Focus@Will a try on the computer or app. You can use this referral link to get a free 14-day trial with a credit of $20 applied to your account to use towards the subscription plan of your choice. I recommend the annual subscription, but you can also select month to month.

Get shit done. Be more creative. Sign up to Focus@Will and give your mind the boost it needs.

Disclosure: I’ll receive a $20 Visa Gift Card once your credit has been applied.

Brian Eno: ‘Try not to get a job’

What would the world look like if everyone was guaranteed a basic income?

For musician Brian Eno, that society would put a lot more emphasis on time well spent.

“Try not to get a job. Try to leave yourself in a position where you do the things you want to do with your time and where you take maximum advantage of wherever your possibilities are.”

Of course, not everyone can afford to remain jobless; the harsh reality is that work pays the bills and keeps us alive. But as more jobs get outsourced to robots and artificial intelligence, humans will need new ways to think about their responsibility.

What will we do when there’s no work to be done?

Work defines who we are. It forms the nucleus of our identity. However, a jobless world may encourage more innovative thinking about ourselves and our role in a secular, globalized world.  Perhaps it’ll compel some people to pursue more passionate work, the type of vocations that choose them instead of the other way around.

In such a world, we’ll be makers instead of cogs, thinkers instead of algorithmic lemmings. Writes Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote: “There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life.”

To work on something we actually enjoy is to live.

The gateway to light is the eye

A short-term realist, a long-term optimist.

Can one hedge against fear and doubt while simultaneously pushing for a better and brighter future?

Most of us struggle in bear markets, when confidence ebbs into despair. We can only permit pertinacity.

What keeps one going is the light at the end of the tunnel, connecting the slightest ideas to extend the road through all perceived hurdles.

The obstacle is the way, they say.

Necessity is the mother of invention. If we can’t tolerate ambiguity along the way, we’ll most certainly give up.

If the gateway to light is the eye, persistence lies in the guts.

The emotional journey of creating anything great

via Bill Gross

Why is it that every new idea begins with excitement but ends in the ‘dark swamp of despair?’

Writes Angela Duckworth in her book Grit: “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

The key to achieving anything is not necessarily maintaining that excitement but pushing through all the CRAP (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure) and maintaining a beginner’s mindset.

Of course, you’re likely to lose interest, energy, and emotional support from family and friends along the way. That’s why it’s equally important to have a vision of where you want to go and what you’d like to accomplish. Developing habits, a daily practice, also help fight the resistance.

Good things are supposed to take time. Progress ebbs and flows. It’s beneficial, almost necessary, to step away from the work and plan unscheduled time. Even when you’re not thinking, you’re thinking; the brain never turns off.

If innovation were easy, anybody would do it.

Faith can move mountains

Photo by Kristopher Roller

“There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life,” writes Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote.

Futuring is a tough business. We toggle between our present number of choices along with desires and goals that reinforce the prioritization of time.

Knowing that we can’t do it all, most people reach for what’s most immediately accessible and end up regretting about what could be. They stifle themselves in exchange for feeling ‘safe.’

For others, death compels action. Their gut instinct refuses to accept standing still and succumb to mediocrity. Yet, their expedition may incorrectly rest in jealousy, a fear of missing out, rather than chasing a purpose.

Faith in the unseen

Our vocation chooses us. We grade our impact by how much we cling to that sense of priority rather than chasing other people’s dreams.

In reality, there is nothing out there that will make us fulfilled forever. But the attempt to cultivate happiness by pursuing what’s meaningful remains a noble attempt to maximize our time on Earth.

Take a break and debug yourself

The work isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it just keeps coming. Your productivity will ebb and flow to the whims of the daily grind.

But there is one thing you can do to bring back your focus: take a break.

“Taking regular short breaks, of even just one minute, gets you out of habitual thinking and behavior. It provides you space for awareness to arise and to see things clearer.”

A simple break may also release you from the prison of traditional thinking. Our dominant thoughts aren’t always the best ones.

As Umberto Eco reminds us: “We like lists because we don’t want to die.” But in order to stay alive, we also need to destress and unthink.

There will always be another chance to ride the wave of opportunity. A clear mind may increase your chances of surfing the right one.

There is a time for everything

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gif by John Corsi 

The time you spend away from your task still qualifies as work. That includes doing the dishes, running errands, and taking care of the kids—whatever responsibilities you think to impede your central occupation contribute to its success.

British novelist Jon McGregor gives a good example of how he manages his writing despite making time for everything from Tweeting to taking care of his children.

“I rarely manage a whole unbroken day at the desk. And it can be frustrating, sometimes. Once or twice a year I manage to get away somewhere and live like a hermit for a week, eating and sleeping next to a desk and talking to no one and getting a lot of work done. Imagine if I could work like that all the time, I think, then. Think how productive I’d be! But if my life was always like that, I suspect I’d have very little to write about.”

Locking yourself away in isolation is a forlorn attempt to escape all that matters. Patterns can backfire, especially when it comes to creativity which thrives on observation and sudden randomness.

There is a time for everything

While productivity can be messy, time away from work is not squandered time. Instead, it is spent accumulating experiences and visualizing how the ideas you’re chewing on will all come to focus when you sit down in and commit to the day ahead.

The discipline of work is just as necessary as the chaotic daily tasks of life. In fact, the best things in life often disrupt it, forcing you to rethink priorities and see how it all connects.

Contrary to popular opinion, busyness is not a badge of honor. Life seeds all the ideas.

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Goal setting 2018 where all believing is betting

Photo by Wells Baum

Offbeat, except in normal life.

Shaken, not in rage to be stirred.

A contrarian, narrowed into a consensus view.

Constant surprises, a search for settlement.

Ludicrous ambition, tolerable mediocrity.

Finally a new year, with more conviction this time.

Writes Gary Lachlan in The Caretakers of the Cosmos: “Without goals, without some purposeful anticipation, we live, Frankl said, only a ‘provisional existence’, a kind of marking time which is really a death in life.”

In the game of goal setting, all beliefs are gambles.

There is no formula

Photo by Wells Baum

If you knew how your life would end up, would you want to know?

Some of us want to skip to the finish line, fast-forward to the end of our own movie. Some of want to follow the herd and loop around the racetrack in predictable mediocrity because it feels safe. Others prefer to embrace life’s uncertainty with healthy doses of optimism and doubt.

We already know what calls us. Vocation chooses us; we must follow that instinct and see it where it leads.

Patience is a means to progress. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor should we skip it to run to Paris. Life ebbs and flows, like a sine wave.

Fragility and ignorance are strengths; they ensure we don’t skip any steps along the way. As John Berger wrote, “You can plan events, but if they go according to your plan they are not events.”

Like a planted seed, we are stuck in the roots of imagination with everywhere to go. The maze, frustratingly fascinating, goads a search for meaning. Lost and found is precisely the point.

What’s your Everest?

Photo by Theodor Lundqvist

What’s your Everest? What is the one event you’ve been training for that would justify all your hard work?

Everyone’s got their Everest — that one far-reaching goal that takes everything out of them to get it.

Of course, there’s no guarantee of success but you have to be willing to go forward anyway.

Both failure and success share the same result: they take you places you wouldn’t have achieved through idleness. Even false starts produce traces of data and contain lessons in disguise.

Remember to be kind to yourself and others along the way. As Neale Donald Walsch observes, “The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.”

Anything worth fighting for disrupts your life. With the right attitude, it also improves it.


My Inventions: Nikola Tesla

“My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get a new idea, I start at once building it up in my imagination, and make improvements and operate the device in my mind. When I have gone so far as to embody everything in my invention, every possible improvement I can think of, and when I see no fault anywhere, I put into concrete form the final product of my brain.”

My Inventions by Nikola Tesla