“It is almost a miracle that modern teaching methods have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiousity of inquiry; for what this delicate little plant needs more than anything, besides stimulation, is freedom.”
“This is a standard pattern in the history of science: when tools for measuring increase in their precision by orders of magnitude, new paradigms often emerge, because the newfound accuracy reveals anomalies that had gone undetected.”
“What problem have you solved, ever–that was worth solving–where you knew all of the given information in advance? Where you didn’t have a surplus of information and you had to filter it out; or you didn’t have insufficient information and you had to go find some.”
“The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table. Pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about the money, they’re thinking about the work.”
“Fuck the exposition, just be. The exposition can come later. If I can make you curious enough, there’s this thing called Google. If you’re curious about the New Orleans Indians, or ‘second-line’ musicians–you can look it up.”
I don’t like it, and I don’t do it. Even if it just feels like busy work (i.e. treadmill-style exercise) I can’t bring myself to devote time to it. Why spend all that time and energy to accomplish (effectively) nothing?! As you can imagine, this has left my physicality in slow but steady decline since colllege.
Why college? Because when I wasn’t walking up to 1.5 miles across the UW Madison campus to get to class a few times a day, I worked summers as a residential construction carpenter, and physical exertion (especially in the framing stages) was par for the course. I was in the best shape of my life, and I never even looked at a gym or an elliptical machine.
And now I’m a designer/programmer. I work inside, at a desk, typing and clicking. I exercise my mind like crazy (which is why I continue to be challenged by and enjoy my work), but that doesn’t do much for the love handles.
So I changed the game on myself. Instead of driving or getting a ride into work, I ride my bike (either 4.25 or 9 miles, depending on route chosen). There’s no motivational question of “Why am I doing this?” once you get started; you need to get to work, and this is the means of transportation available.
Also nice is the fact that I live on the eastern shore of the Fox River, and I work a few miles upstream on the west side. Once you start on the trek and decide your path for the day (see map image), there are NO shortcuts… you just keep your head down, keep pedaling, and you work toward the bridge that’ll get you across to where you need to be.
It offers all the “mental looseness” of free time, while still using that time to accomplish something (both getting to work and “working out”). It’s work and it’s busy, but it’s not busy work… and that makes all the difference.
Throughout my life, and increasingly since starting The Image Distillery in 2006, I’ve been intrigued with the concept of continuous incremental improvement. It was only yesterday I learned that the Japanese have a word for this: “kaizen“.
Continuous improvement has two immediately-apparent side effects: 1) it frees us from the paralysis of having to achieve perfection all at once, and 2) it breaks the decisions we make into manageable chunks.
Kaizen is reflected in the web development maxim: “Release early and release often.” That is, don’t let fussing over details keep you from building and launching something. As “living” (constantly evolving) documents, websites can be continuously refined and improved… all the while gaining traffic and spreading your message (instead of sitting on a development server for months awaiting tweaks that will unlock the mysteries of the universe).
This idea is also readily applied to anyone thinking about starting a new venture… instead of waiting for the timing to be perfect and your skills/product to be honed to perfection, start working toward that venture today. Take a conscious step–any step–that gets you closer to your goal, and continue to improve yourself throughout the process by actively seeking experience, knowledge (read!) and mentorship.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from the owner of a commercial printing shop that I ran jobs through back when I was more involved with print. He’d opened a small printing business right out of college, and he was now in his late 40′s with a much larger, more comprehensive operation with highly-capable machinery and the clientele to match. He told me (I paraphrase):
“Do one thing every day that improves your business. Maybe it’s getting a new client, maybe it’s investing in new machinery, maybe it’s having a conversation with someone you can learn something from… but always be conscious that you’re taking steps forward.”
“Even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15% of one’s financial success is due one’s technical knowledge and about 85% is due to skill in human engineering, to personality and the ability to lead people.”
Living in the information age, our access to options is effectively limitless. If I want to subscribe to a design blog, for example, there are far more options available to me than I could possibly hope to read even once, let alone read repeatedly to make an informed “subscription” decision.
Given that, my practice (and what I recommend you practice) is to establish limits for myself when it comes to web consumption. In the case of blog subscriptions, I keep the number at or below the number I can squeeze into my browser’s bookmarks toolbar (usually between 10 and 15, depending on how succinctly I can label them).
The most important commodity in my day (and, I assume, in anyone else’s) is time. Browsing hundreds of blog subscriptions every couple of days would cost me a LOT of time, with very little return (how many blog posts actually affect decisions you make in life).
Limiting the time spent browsing by capping the number of entry points into the blog world (knowing, as Frost said, “how way leads onto way”) gives me a view into what’s going on in the areas I care about, without the constant lingering anxiety of having unread items in my feed reader.
When you’re reading a good post, there will be references to other interesting sites and blogs which that author found valuable (it’s the nature of the web). What’s important from a bang-for-your-buck standpoint is that you don’t hesitate to axe one of the subscriptions in favor of a better subscription. The evolution of your bookmarks toolbar should be constant, ensuring that you’re getting the best value for the time invested (while the list might not change, it should at least be put to decision).
Deciding whether an up-and-comer is worthy of a spot in the 10-item lineup is much less anxiety-inducing than deciding which of a hundred new feed entries is worth your time. And focusing on the quality of what you read instead of drifting through filler-post after filler-post will get you more valuable (and usable) insight per unit of time spent.
In the end, indecision is itself a decision, and a statement (in this case) of how we value our time and attention. Setting limits forces us to focus on value and prioritize the spending of resources (time, attention, space) over which we have some control.