The Great American Eclipse: A Review and a Lesson on Remarkability

Photo of the eclipse
This is a great photo by my friend Alan Neves, but it doesn’t come close to capturing what the eclipse actually looked like.

tl;dr — Two minutes and seventeen seconds of jaw-dropping beauty followed by a seven and a half hour traffic jam; totally worth it.

The eclipse glasses are in the trash with the empty Sunny-D bottles and Moon Pie wrappers. It got students out of class and workers out of work from coast to coast, but just four days later the Great American Eclipse is just the latest example of media hype without substance.

Except it wasn’t. There is a small group of people in America who can’t stop talking about the eclipse.  (more…)

Should You Be an Employee or a Boss? Yes.

Picture of an employee

So much of the online career/success/coaching literature hates on the idea of being an employee. Choosing to be an employee is for those who are unmotivated, lazy, and unimaginative. Be an employee—the story goes—and you have doomed yourself to a life of subservience, mediocrity, and poverty.

The arguments against being an employee are compelling and often true:

  • “Your boss is going to fire you as soon as he can replace you with a computer/college intern/Indian subcontractor.”
  • “You are at the mercy of the boss/owner/market and are in a very insecure position.”
  • “You will always be poor because the owner/boss/boss’ boss takes a cut of the value you create.”
  • “The owner/boss/boss’ boss is no smarter than you—in fact, he’s probably a dope.”

The arguments in favor of being an owner are also beguiling:

  • “Set your own rules and work from the beach—like me (check out my Instagram feed).”
  • “Keep all of the value you create.”
  • “Get the respect and admiration of everyone who wishes they owned a business.”
  • “Be more secure by calling the shots instead of relying on others.”
  • “The internet has made starting, owning, and running your own business a piece of cake.”

The message is clear: employees are short-sighted fools, while owners are smart and cool. So which would you rather be? (more…)

Another Way the Internet Makes Art Possible

By now, we are all familiar with Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans and how the internet allows us to find financial support for our art. But there is another benefit to having fans: recruiting people to you help you create that work in the first place.

Check out this art project by Chris Martin and Larkin Poynton.

Many, if not all of us, have created something with a group for the sheer joy of creating and spending time with friends. But these projects, while memorable and fun, rarely rise to the level of art. That’s because art requires the harnessing of talent, it requires editing and rehearsal and dedication. Those are really hard to do without the potential payoff of an audience to appreciate our work.

Some individuals can pull off art for art’s sake—Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickenson, for instance—but group projects are almost never done in a vacuum. To create this video above, Martin and Poynton had to enlist dancers, video people, sound people, lighting people, and others.

Artist: come work on my project, it is going to be really cool and take hours of rehearsal.
Potential collaborator: Who’s going to see it?
Artist: I’m gonna send a copy to my mom.
Potential collaborator: I already made plans that day.
Artist: Um…I didn’t tell you the day.

And this is another way the internet allows art to happen. It’s not just the finances, it’s the enthusiasm.

Artist: come work on my project, it is going to be really cool and take hours of rehearsal.
Potential collaborator: Who’s going to see it?
Artist: 313,000 from all over the world.
Potential collaborator: I’m in.

Rules are Bad

“Cool is a rule, but sometimes bad is bad.” — Huey Lewis

In my junior high days of desperately trying to figure out this language thing, the word “bad” started being by many tastemakers (I’m talking to you Michael Jackson) to mean “not bad.” I had no idea why this was happening, but it was a cause of consternation. So Huey Lewis’ rule provided great relief: I could use “cool” for good things and “sucks” for not good things.

Have you ever watched a toddler testing limits, constantly turning back to mom to see where the rule begins? We want rules, but rules are bad (see what I did there?).

Rules are bad (in the sense of not bad) because they give us structure and certainty. When a rule is in place, we can count on others to act a certain way and to understand our intent. Rules give us security. They also take some of the cognitive burden, allowing us to make decisions once and use categories to apply rules to similar decisions.

Rules are bad (in the sense of actually bad) when they are based on whim, or vengeance, or fear, or don’t reflect reality—all desks must be empty at the end of the workday; 10% of employees must be annually judged as incompetent, etc.

Bureaucrats and HR departments and MBAs love rules because they make the world predictable and manageable. When rules are in place, you can make decisions based on a flowchart, machinelike. But the day is fast coming when anything that can be done in a machinelike way will be done by a machine.

The next time you decide to make a rule remember, being replaced by a machine is bad.

Batching and Bingeing

Doing a certain thing exclusively for a set period of time or until a certain point is reached is called batching.

Or it’s called bingeing.

Batching has a positive connotations:

  • We batch our email to increase productivity.
  • We batch certain tasks to off peak hours to better utilize computing resources.
  • Grandma’s cookies come in batches.

Bingeing has negative connotations:

  • College students binge drink.
  • Cheat days turn into carb binges.
  • We shyly admit to co-workers that we spent the weekend binge watching The Great British Baking Show.

There’s a reason for these connotations. Batching takes self-control—requiring focus, and (it sometimes seems) superhuman willpower to keep going. Bingeing is all about self-indulgence, and once you start a binge it doesn’t end until the package of Oreos is gone.

Success requires that we batch more than we binge and that we recognize the difference between the two.

The Opposite is True: Mortgages

I was riding home the other day, thinking the deep thoughts of a bicycle commuter (pothole…car…squirrel) when I had a realization that almost made me fall off my bike: my understanding of my biggest financial decision was exactly backwards.

The opposite is true
With home-buying, the opposite is true.

In 2001, we moved into our home and started painting, planning a remodel, buying appliances, and worrying about the water heater—all the stuff that that goes with home ownership. I knew how home buying worked. We all do: You find a house, the bank finances it, you buy and own the house and pay the bank every month for 30 years.

But as Derek Sivers says, the opposite is also true. In fact, the opposite is more true. (more…)

Marketing Your Law Practice Starts With Your Profile

In recent weeks, I have been talking with attorneys and practice administrators to find pain points and difficulties. One concern I have heard repeatedly relates to marketing, which lawyers are not generally comfortable with. I’ve noticed that some attorneys don’t even have LinkedIn accounts and others have profiles that clearly suffer from neglect.

LawBooksBackground

This post provides some advice and hints about the low-hanging fruit that is your LinkedIn profile, and includes two free resources: a profile guide and a professional background image.

It used to be that finding clients for a law practice was simple: Go to a few networking events, give and receive referrals, do great work, and the clients showed up. But times are changing.

In the course of talking to attorneys over the past few weeks, I have heard a fair amount of angst over the need to now go out and “market” the practice. It’s distasteful, it’s distracting, but it is absolutely necessary in the internet age.

For an attorney, the first step in marketing your services is making sure your LinkedIn profile is in good shape. (more…)

Why You Need a Shot Clock For Life

Weber State University’s March Madness game today has brought back memories from my childhood of attending every game and going with my father to the post season tournament. It has also reminded me of just how much the game has changed because of the shot clock.

A man who dares to waste of hour of his time has not discovered the value of life.
What is true for one hour is true for 35 seconds. Embrace the shot clock!

My memory of the Wildcats’ style of play in the late 70s and early 80s is dominated by the “four corners” offense, which the coach seemed to use anytime he got up a few points in the fourth quarter. The idea was to run out the clock and force your opponent to foul in order to get the ball back. It was boring and the fans hated it, but it worked…sometimes.

It could give a coach a winning record, but could not create a truly excellent team of basketball players—champions who could break out of the opening rounds of the big dance.

The four corners offense wasted a lot of great talent and squandered incredible potential until it was finally banished  by the shot clock in 1985.

As in basketball, so in life: if you are just trying to run out the clock, you will ultimately lose. (more…)

How Fear Kills the Dream You Want to Protect

What are you afraid of?

If you live and breathe and think and strive, this is a question you have asked yourself…and it’s a good thing, too. Until we identify our fear, we can’t address it or move on from it.

What are you afraid of?

I’ve been working on the answer to this question for months, and I’ve finally found a shocking answer.

Picture of sliced onions
Peeling an onion, like peeling back layers of fear, can produce tears. Photo by Xiaojung Deng.

Today is my birthday, and in reviewing the year, I find significant accomplishments, heartbreaking setbacks, and bouts of anger, depression, chronic procrastination, and compulsive screwing up—all things that (I have learned) are signs of fear.

But fear of what?

In peeling back the onion of fear, I’ve found the usual suspects: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change, fear of being unworthy or selfish or ridiculous. Each time I pulled back a layer, I got closer to my real fear. Several times I was sure I had reached the core, only to find another fear taking over. Now, I think I’ve finally figured it out.

What am I afraid of? I’m deathly afraid of damaging my dream.

My dream is my escape, my imaginary future—the place I can live an ideal life. I won’t go into the details—my dream is probably a lot like yours. (more…)