Love Your Work podkast

Love Your Work

David Kadavy

Love Your Work is the intellectual playground of David Kadavy, bestselling author of three books – including Mind Management, Not Time Management – and former design advisor to Timeful – a Google-acquired productivity app. Love Your Work is where David shows you how to be productive when creativity matters, and make big breakthroughs happen in your career as a creator. Dig into the archives for insightful conversations with Dan Ariely, David Allen, Seth Godin, James Altucher, and many more. "David is an underrated writer and thinker. In an age of instant publication, he puts time, effort and great thought into the content and work he shares with the world." —Jeff Goins, bestselling author of Real Artists Don’t Starve

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  • Love Your Work podkast

    266. The Foundation Effect


    On October 10th, 1901 – 120 years ago, almost to the day – the grandstand was full at the horse track in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. But not to see horses. There was a parade of more than 100 of these new things called automobiles, and several other events, including races of automobiles with electric engines and with steam engines. But the main event was a race of gasoline automobiles. By the time the event took place, it didn’t look like it would be much of a race. There had originally been twenty-five contestants. Only three made it to the starting post, then just before the race, one broke down and had to withdraw. So there were just two cars, driven by the men who had built them. One was the country’s most famous car manufacturer. The other, was a local. A failed car manufacturer, named Henry Ford. At the time of this race, the most famous car-maker in America was Alexander Winton. He had made and sold hundreds of cars. He had gotten tons of press driving from Cleveland to New York. At the time of this race, Henry Ford was a failed car-maker. He had made and sold a handful of automobiles, but his first car company had failed. It was clear who was going to win this race: Moments prior, Alexander Winton had set the world record for the fastest mile traveled in an automobile, going around the dirt track in a little more than a minute and twelve seconds. Winton’s car was seventy horsepower. Ford’s was twenty-six. He had never taken it on a turn, and it didn’t have brakes. The race was supposed to be twenty-five laps, but just before the event, the organizers shortened it to ten. According to Richard Snow, author of I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford, they probably didn’t want to see the local loser lapped over and over. This race was more of a sprint. The Foundation Effect Has this ever happened to you? You pass by a construction site for months, and there’s nothing going on. There’s just a wall with a project logo, peppered with graffiti. Then one day, there’s a six-story building frame there. Now, each time you pass, it’s gotten taller. There was no visible progress for months, then there was rapid progress. You saw what I call “The Foundation Effect.” The Foundation Effect is the delay in your progress, as you build your foundation. You have false starts and failures, and it looks as if you’re going nowhere. But once you have your foundation built, you progress rapidly. Back to the races Henry Ford, the failed carmaker, won the sprint. But it wasn’t until much later he also won the marathon. Eight years after that race, Henry’s Ford Motor Company released a car that changed everything. It was durable enough to make it over rough country roads, lined with horse-drawn-wagon tracks. It was versatile enough farmers could use the engine to run a wheat thresher or move hay bales down a conveyer belt. It was twice as good as any car out there, at half the price. The first year, they sold 10,000. The second year, 20,000. A few years after that, they sold almost 200,000. By the time the “Model T” went out of production nearly twenty years after introduction, the Ford Motor Company had sold nearly 15 million. More than half of all cars in the world were Fords. Meanwhile, Alexander Winton’s company kept building custom cars, made-to-order. He just couldn’t compete with Ford’s Model T, and had to shut down. Despite having over 100 patents on automobile technology, few today have ever heard of Alexander Winton. You need a foundation How did Henry Ford create such an incredible car, that sold in such incredible quantities? He built a rock-solid foundation. Over and over, he rejected the mere illusion of progress to scrap everything and start over. As a creator, you may feel as if you’re getting nowhere. You’re starting projects, but not finishing them. The ones you do finish are failing. You’re throwing iterations in the fire, like Radclyffe Hall. From recent episodes, you know creative waste is part of the process. You’re building the underwater part of your iceberg, so some future masterpiece will be that much better. But you’re also building your foundation. The foundation of a building holds it in place. Even when the building sways in the wind or shakes in an earthquake, the foundation is there to bare the stress. Architects and engineers can design a foundation using knowledge about the laws of physics. Many buildings have been built before, so there’s a lot of collective experience to draw from. You, as a creator, need to build your foundation from scratch. It’s what makes your work unique. As a creator, your foundation is made of the change you want your work to make, the medium through which you’ll make that change, and the process you’ll follow to make your product. These things take time to develop. It will look as if you’re getting nowhere, but once they’re in place – like a skyscraper once the foundation is laid – your progress will be rapid. How to build your foundation To build your foundation, you need to clarify your vision and master your execution, so you won’t topple over. Here are some ways to do that. 1. Keep shipping This seems counterintuitive, because when a skyscraper goes up, they only build one building. They aren’t putting up a few stories, scrapping it, and starting over. The reason they can build a foundation to support the skyscraper is, millions of other buildings have been built before that skyscraper. Architects and engineers can design a strong foundation because they have tons of data. You need to collect tons of data about your unique way of doing things. How do you get it done? How do people react? Does it express your unique point of view? What is that point of view? Overall, how do you make what only you can make? Henry Ford’s hit car was the Model “T.” Why was it called the Model T? Because he had already built the Model S, the Model R, Q, P, O – you get the idea. He started with Model A. It took until Model T to build the foundation for stratospheric success. The way you build your foundation as a creator is to keep shipping. Remember, shipping is a skill. And each time you ship, you make your foundation stronger. 2. Don’t just build. Experiment. It’s funny that when most people think of Henry Ford, they think of the assembly line. A bunch of guys on a line, each doing one tiny job, such as placing a nut on a bolt, or merely turning the nut on the bolt. But for Ford to create those tasks, he first had to design the product that could be broken down into those tasks. Ford treated each car he designed and built as an experiment. He made them as good as he could, but knew they couldn’t be perfect. They were going to break down, or have annoying maintenance requirements that needed to be improved. We can design buildings that don’t collapse because other buildings have failed. Ford made new and better cars because his cars failed. That’s how he improved the transmission, lubrication, and spark plugs. That’s how he found a steel alloy that would be lightweight and strong – and countless other improvements to the design and manufacture of his cars. And that’s how, even as he improved the Model T, he kept making it cheaper. When he introduced it in 1909, it was $825. Sixteen years later, inflation be dammed, it was only $260. 3. Walk away from failures (guilt-free) Henry Ford wasn’t afraid to quit. Yes, he went from Model A to Model T, but that was in his third car company. He had one failed company before the race, and after he won that race, he gained enough notoriety to attract investors for a second car company. But he walked away from that company, too – only four months later. By the way, Ford went from A to T, and not all those cars were introduced to the public. Many were internal experiments that he walked away from – or, if you will, iterations thrown in the fire, like Radclyffe Hall’s drafts. 4. Have a vision You can’t walk away from failures for no reason. You can’t learn from experiments if you don’t know what you’re looking for. You need a vision. You don’t have a crystal-clear vision from the start. That’s why you’re doing all that shipping and experimenting and quitting in the first place. Why did Henry Ford walk away from the car company he started after the race? It wasn’t going to help him carry out his vision. Ford had a vision to create an affordable automobile for the masses. His investors, on the other hand, wanted to build high-end cars for the wealthy. The company wasn’t a foundation that was going to help Ford achieve his vision, so he stepped back, to build a foundation that would. Keep building your foundation If you’re frustrated with your progress as a creator, maybe it’s because you’re still working on your foundation. If you’re scrapping iterations and walking away from half-finished, and failed, projects, make sure it’s in the pursuit of a vision. If it is, keep learning, until you get it right. Once your foundation is in place, the sky is the limit. Image: Monument by Paul Klee About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative. Follow David on: Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:
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    265. Shipping is a Skill


    Leonardo da Vinci is easily the most-accomplished procrastinator who ever lived. He finished hardly any projects at all. He was great at many things, but he wasn’t great at shipping. The world would have been better off if Leonardo da Vinci had treated shipping as a skill. Far be it for me to criticize anything Leonardo da Vinci did. Despite his repeated failure to ship, he lives on today as one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived – enough so that I’m talking about him in a podcast 500 years after his death. What Leonardo da Vinci procrastinated on He foreshadowed the first law of motion, saying two-hundred years before Newton that, “Every movement tends to maintain itself.” He made a number of discoveries about the circulatory system: He was the first to notice the heart was the center of the blood system – not the liver. He described how an area of the aorta functioned, but since he never published his observations, it’s named after a different scientist, who re-discovered this area two-hundred years later. He correctly described how blood flow affects the opening and closing of heart valves – findings that were proven correct only recently – 450 years later. He wrote or planned to write treatises on topics including painting, anatomy, human flight, geology, and astronomy. Much of what he wrote would have broken new ground in these fields, and set them ahead a couple centuries – if only he had published it. Even his greatest masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, Leonardo never finished. His patron never got their painting, and Leonardo never got paid. It was still in his studio when he died, more than fifteen years after he had begun the painting. Okay, so some of Leonardo’s procrastination was iceberg-building Much of Leonardo’s failure to ship was a part of his creative process. It was the creative waste that made the underwater part of his iceberg – as I talked about in the past couple episodes. There could have been practical reasons he didn’t ship. Remember, once Leonardo delivered one of his paintings, it was gone forever. He couldn’t snap a photo of it for safe-keeping on the cloud. One reason he clung onto mostly-finished paintings was so he could refer to them, borrowing a trick he did painting a smile from one painting, and a trick he did to make it feel like the eyes are following you around the room from another painting. But it’s hard to say Leonardo couldn’t have been better at shipping, when you look at all he could have contributed if only he were. And if you want to be a great creator, it makes sense to ship. Most of us would rather have our genius recognized in our lifetime, rather than marveled at hundreds of years later for what it would have contributed. Shipping is a skill Shipping is a skill. The act of having a vision, planning to achieve that vision, and executing on that vision is a skill you should cultivate, just as you would practice a programming language, writing, or macramé. Treat shipping as a skill, and you’ll finish more projects. Shipped projects have a better chance of having an impact on the world. The sub-skills of shipping Shipping is a sub-skill of creative work. But the act of shipping itself has its own sub-skills. It’s hard to see what you’re missing out on by not treating shipping as a skill, unless you look closely at the sub-skills of shipping. Here are the sub-skills of shipping: Vision: Can you visualize the outcome you’d like to have? Planning: Can you imagine the steps you need to follow to make this vision a reality? Resourcefulness: Can you assess what resources you have that can help you achieve this vision, find what resources you don’t have, and use all those resources wisely? Adaptability: Can you adapt your plan when some part, inevitably, doesn’t go as planned? Overcoming Perfectionism: Your final product won’t be a perfect execution of your vision. Can you overcome perfectionism and ship anyway? Fear of Shipping: Once you ship your project, there will be a void in your mind where that project once lived. Can you “let go” of the project and overcome the fear of that void? Facing Failure: Once you ship your project, you give it a chance to succeed or fail. Can you face potential criticism or failure? Reflection: How well can you reflect on the project, and process what you’ve learned, so you can apply it to the next project? Project-independent shipping skills Many shipping skills are project-independent. You can practice shipping, and many sub-skills of shipping, with any kind of project. Any time you have a vision, execute on that vision, and bring it into the world, you are practicing the skill of shipping. Some examples of small projects on which you can practice the skill of shipping: Cooking a recipe: Can you figure out how to get all the ingredients? Can you execute the plan? Did it turn out how you expected? What can you do differently next time? Planning a party: What kind of vibe do you want this party to have? Should it have a theme? Who should you invite? What do you need to tell them in the invitation to set the tone? What will you do differently for the next party? Planning a trip: Do you want to relax, or have an adventure? What’s your budget? How much time do you have? How long will it take to get there? What do you need to pack? What should you do first and second and last to make it the trip you imagined? How I built my shipping skills When I first started on my own, I had almost no shipping skills. So, I started treating shipping as a skill. Any chance I had to have a vision, try to execute that vision, and ask myself what I could have done differently was a chance to practice the skill of shipping. The simplest way to practice shipping is trying to cook a recipe. I can tell you, it’s quite hard if you’re terrible at shipping. Fortunately I lived two blocks from a grocery store, because I had to make lots of trips back. Planning parties was one of the more fun ways to practice shipping. I experimented with different themes. I learned who to invite first, and who to get involved in the planning, to get people interested in coming. One of the biggest hits was the “Inexplicably Overdressed Bar Crawl.” We’d go to various dive bars wearing suits and evening gowns. It was fun to imagine what would happen if a bunch of overdressed people went to dive bars – and it was fun to see what actually did happen. I eventually worked up to planning my mini-lives, which I talked about on episode 5. If you’re going to try living in the city you dream about a couple months, how do you want it to go? How do you make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Any project is an opportunity to work on the project-independent shipping skills and sub-skills. Project-specific shipping skills On August 7, 1974, as groggy New Yorkers were on their way to work in the morning, they couldn’t believe what they saw in the sky. It was a man – Philippe Petit – on a tightrope. For nearly an hour, Petit performed on a cable strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Petit didn’t just show up and do a performance a quarter-mile in the air. What became known as “the artistic crime of the century” took a lot of planning. Yes, Petit had project-independent shipping skills he was practicing. He had the vision to tightrope walk between the towers when he saw them in a magazine in a dentist’s office in France six years prior. But, performing a tightrope-walk way up in the sky has lots of project-specific shipping skills, too. Besides the obvious challenge of balancing on a wire without falling, Petit had to figure out how to gain access to the twin towers, what materials to use to handle the wind and the weight of his body, and how to build buzz about his performance so more people would see it. So, leading up to his performance at the World Trade Center, Petit did performances on other landmarks around the world. He did a tightrope walk on the Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris, and between pylons of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, in Australia. Practice the shipping skills for your project type If you have a big vision you want to execute, take on smaller projects that will help you practice not only general shipping skills, but also skills specific to shipping that kind of project. This is why Seth Godin told me on that if I wanted to publish a successful book, I had better start cranking out “a book a week” on Kindle. I didn’t publish a book a week, but I did publish – and continue to publish – “short reads.” They’re great shipping practice specific to book-publishing projects. This is why I encourage people who want to self publish to upload to KDP a really short Kindle book – even if they do it under a pen name. It teaches you lots of shipping skills specific to self-publishing books. How do you format the book? How do you get a cover design? What keywords do you want to put in the back-end? What categories will your book be in? These are all questions you have to answer whether you’re publishing a book that’s five pages long, or five-hundred pages long. Practice shipping, and shipping will be easier Publishing a book that’s five-hundred pages long will always require some skills you don’t get to practice when publishing a book that’s five pages long. Tightrope walking a quarter mile in the air will always require skills you don’t practice when tightrope walking a hundred feet in the air. But the more skills you master before your grand performance, the easier it is to handle the new skills you’re testing for your current project. Practice shipping, and shipping will get easier. Shipping is a skill. Image: Revolving House by Paul Klee About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative. Follow David on: Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:
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    264. Creative Waste


    When Vincent van Gogh began his career as an artist, he had already failed at everything else. He even got fired from his own family’s business in the process. Not seeing any alternative, he completely immersed himself in art. In one two-week period, he created 120 drawings. But exactly none of those drawings are famous today. What feels like waste is not waste Last week, I talked about the Iceberg Principle – the idea that any masterpiece you see is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s far more knowledge and experience beneath the surface, giving that masterpiece confidence and grace. But as you’re adding layer after layer to your iceberg, it doesn’t feel like that’s what you’re doing. It feels like you’re wasting your energy. But you’re not. After Van Gogh’s frenzied first couple weeks seriously pursuing art, he settled in to a more conservative pace. Instead of 120 drawings in two weeks, he was instead shooting to make just twenty a week. He figured that’s how many he’d have to make to end up with one good piece each week. “Waste” takes many forms What feels like “waste” can take many forms: Failed projects: You made something, and nobody likes it. Off on timing: Nobody like it yet, but some day someone will. Unfinished projects: You started, got a little ways, and maybe Shiny Object Syndrome took over. For whatever reason, you didn’t finish. Research and Preparation: You don’t always know what you’re trying to learn, but all sorts of tinkering may seem like a waste. Creative waste is part of the creative game Sometimes what feels like “waste,” makes it directly into a current or future project, thus making it clearly not waste. But even the stuff that never becomes a part of your body of work is part of the creative game. I talked in episode 256 about the Barbell Strategy. To succeed in creative work, put most of your efforts toward “sure bets” that protect your downside and keep you in the game. With the rest of your time and energy, play “wildcards,” that have a chance of big upside. Creative work happens in Extremistan, not Mediocristan. Success won’t be a steady climb up-and-to-the-right. Instead, it will look more like a poorly-shaved porcupine. Long periods of time where it doesn’t seem like much is happening, punctuated by big spikes that level up your career one at a time. Yes, you’re showing up every day and putting in the work, but all that is a series of small bets. You hope for one or two or a few to turn into positive Black Swans. Projects that take off, and take on a life of their own. In the course of playing this strategy, you can’t tell what will be wasted, and what will not. You have to trust that “waste” is part of the process. Projects will fail, projects will go unfinished, and iterations will burn in the fire. That doesn’t make you a procrastinator or a dilettante – that makes you a creator. Waste in Van Gogh’s first masterpiece Vincent van Gogh’s first masterpiece was full of waste. He did not just a sketch, but a small study, a medium study, and a print he could give out to test his idea. This was all before working on the final canvas. And that had many iterations, and four coats of varnish. He left it in his friend’s studio to prevent himself from “spoiling it.” Then he still came back and worked on it some more. All that waste was on top of the years of work he did leading up to the project. The painting was about peasants, and he wandered around living like a peasant himself, begging people to model for him. And, there was the twenty drawings a week he had done. And those 120 drawings he did in a two-week period? We don’t even know what they look like, because he destroyed them. Once this first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters, was done, it must have felt like a waste to Vincent. Everyone hated it. He got in a fight with his brother about it, and he completely cut off a friend who attacked it, viciously. Vincent van Gogh’s first masterpiece was the result of a lot of waste. Each of those drawings was a failed project, surely many were left unfinished. He did a massive amount of research and preparation, and he was certainly off on timing. The Potato Eaters is regarded as a masterpiece today. Creative waste adds to the iceberg You already heard last week about how any masterpiece is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s far more below the surface. So what new do you learn from creative waste? Sometimes, you can’t see the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes it all just feels like waste. Your projects are failing, and your preparation and planning isn’t getting you anywhere, causing you to leave projects unfinished. Just remember that other creators have embraced creative waste. I told you last week about how Margaret Mitchell re-wrote nearly every chapter of Gone With the Wind at least twenty times, Jerry Seinfeld says joke-writing is “ninety-five percent re-write,” Meredith Monk’s charts and graphs go to waste and don’t end up in the final performance, and Stephen King reminds you to “kill your darlings.” Those are all fine when you’re deep in a project and you can see where it’s going, but what do you do when entire projects get scrapped? Great creators embrace waste That’s when you need to remind yourself of the approach Picasso took to his paintings. He did one after another. He saw them as like “pages in [his] journal.” He understood that not all his works would be successful. Even once he had a finished piece, he didn’t know its true fate. “The future will chose the pages it prefers,” he said. “It’s not up to me to make the choice.” Embrace creative waste. No waste, no wins. Image: Tale of Hoffmann by Paul Klee About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative. Follow David on: Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:
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    263. The Iceberg Principle


    1920s, London. Radclyffe Hall was pacing around her study. She wore close-cropped hair, a tweed skirt, and a man’s silk smoking jacket and tie. Her partner, Uma Troubridge, sat in a nearby chair, reading the writing of Radclyffe – or “John,” as she preferred to be called. But just as Uma’s voice wavered a bit, John grabbed the papers from her hand, and threw them in the fire. In the 1920s, throwing writing in the fire meant it was gone forever. These weren’t print-outs of digital files, safely backed up to the cloud. But Radclyffe still often threw her writing into the fire, if she didn’t like the sound of what Uma was reading. Radclyffe Hall, like many great creators, understood the Iceberg Principle Any masterpiece is just the tip of the iceberg What I call the Iceberg Principle is this: What you see of any masterpiece is just the tip of the iceberg. There is far more knowledge and work beneath the surface, giving the piece confidence and grace. The Iceberg Principle is inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who said, “The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.” He explained further: I’ve seen the marlin mate and know about that. So I leave that out. I’ve seen a school (or pod) of more than fifty sperm whales in that same stretch of water once and harpooned one nearly sixty feet in length and lost him. So I left that out. All the stories I know from the fishing village I leave out. But the knowledge is what makes the underwater part of the iceberg. In other words, when Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, he didn’t need to include every story and every detail about the life of a fisherman. He had already lived it. His experiences fishing were the underwater part of the iceberg. The stories and details he did include were only the tip of the iceberg. They were more powerful because they were held in place by everything beneath the surface. What isn’t revealed gives power to what is revealed If I say, “I’m David. I grew up in Nebraska. I now live in Colombia,” I’ve only said three statements, but each of those statements is held in place by a massive amount of knowledge and experience. When I say, “I grew up in Nebraska,” eighteen years of open skies and snow drifts and cornfields flash in my mind. When I say, “I’m David,” more than forty years of being called David are behind that. I’ve never had a different name. When you read a book by Daniel Kahneman, and he tells you something about human behavior, there’s a lot of authority behind everything he says. Each statement he makes is backed up by mountains of data, and decades of running experiments and seeing it with his own eyes. While he maintains the humble uncertainty of a real scientist, there’s confidence and grace behind each statement. Just think of how much work, experience, and knowledge went behind Einstein writing the simple equation: e = mc². This is something Radclyffe Hall seemed to understand. It didn’t matter if she threw her writing into the fire and started over. When she heard Uma’s voice waver, that signaled to her that her stories or her characters weren’t flowing on the page confidently. The same way snow and ice layers onto an iceberg, making it bigger over time, pushing more of it underwater over time, it took many iterations for Hall to write classics such as The Well of Loneliness – the first great novel of lesbian literature. Each time she threw writing into the fire, the paper burned, but the iceberg didn’t melt – it only gained mass. Keep the Iceberg Principle in mind Why should you keep the Iceberg Principle in mind? The Iceberg Principle helps you manage expectations about your work. It also takes some of the mystery out of great masterpieces you see. The product is not the process That last part, first: When we see a masterpiece, we can’t help but marvel at how it must have been made. What we see is deceiving, because we tend to mistake the product for the process. This is because the way we consume the product is very different from the process through which that product is produced. When we read a novel, we read one word after another. When we see a painting, it hits our eyes all at once. When we watch a movie, the images flash on the screen in order. But that’s not how any of it is made. The novel wasn’t written one word after another. The painting wasn’t laid down in orderly brushstrokes. The events in the movie weren’t shot, much less conceived, one after another. And no, Michelangelo did not “simply remove everything that wasn’t David.” As I talked about in Mind Management, Not Time Management, an enormous amount of “Preparation” went into carving the David. So when you see a great masterpiece, and marvel at how it must have been created, know that the product is not the process. What you see is only the tip of the iceberg. Manage your expectations It might feel intimidating to know that what you see of any masterpiece is only a small amount of the work and experience it took to create it. But it can be empowering, too. Don’t get frustrated when you sit down to write and it doesn’t make sense. Don’t lose hope when you strum a guitar and the strings rattle on the frets. Things don’t come out perfectly the first time around. I’ve talked a little on this podcast and in The Heart to Start about the Fortress Fallacy: that we tend to have visions that outpace our current abilities. One reason we fall for the Fortress Fallacy is that when we envision building a fortress, we only think of the act of building the actual fortress. We don’t think about the other seven-eighths of the work that goes into the knowledge and planning and materials sourcing of building the fortress. The iceberg takes many forms The underwater part of the iceberg can take many forms. For Hemingway, it was his life experiences, fishing. For Hall, it was the many failed iterations of her writing. The underwater part of the iceberg can be other projects you’ve done, other projects you never finished, or even time your ideas have spent incubating, between projects. Any of these can be the underwater part of the iceberg. They hold up the visible parts with confidence and grace. Great creators follow the Iceberg Principle We rarely get to see the underwater part of icebergs in creators’ work. But if you look hard, you can find it. There are few art forms where the process is more unlike the product than movies. If you had asked me when I was a kid how movies were made, I would have guessed actors and camera operators just made something up. That’s how the movies I made on our home video camera were done, after all. But in fact an incredible amount of work goes into making a movie well before camera operators are hired and actors are cast. I know now that a writer writes a screenplay first. Thanks to screenwriting instructor Robert McKee’s book, Story, we can see the underwater part of the iceberg. McKee warns screenwriters that if every idea they come up with makes it into their final screenplay, they’ve got a problem. “If you’ve never thrown an idea away,” he says, “your work will almost certainly fail.” The Iceberg Principle is why Stephen King tells writers, “Kill your darlings.” (Don’t dare try to keep your whole iceberg above water. Even your favorite parts.) It’s why when Meredith Monk is composing an interdisciplinary performance, she draws charts and graphs about how the various elements – music and dance and space on the stage – will interact with one another. None of those sketches make it to the final performance, but that work is there to add grace to the piece. It’s why Jerry Seinfeld has described the joke-writing process as an experiment that gathers data. In other words, you don’t just get up on stage and tell a great joke. You have to go from writing desk to stage and back again many times. He said of his joke-writing process, “It’s ninety-five percent re-write.” It’s why, when Margaret Mitchell was writing Gone With the Wind, she re-wrote nearly every chapter at least twenty times. Start building your iceberg When we see masterpieces we admire, and try to replicate that work, we’re bound to fail. What we create is so far from our vision, it seems pointless to even try. But thanks to the Iceberg Principle, you now know that what you see of any masterpiece is just the tip of the iceberg. To build your masterpiece, start building your iceberg. The more you add to the underwater part of your iceberg, the more solid and beautiful your masterpiece will be. Image: Crystal Gradation by Paul Klee Thank you for having me on your podcasts! Thank you for having me on your podcast! Thank you to Kjell Vandevyvere of Coffee and Pens. As always, you can find all podcast interviews of me at About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative. Follow David on: Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:
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    262. Aim Left


    It’s 1997, and Tiger Woods is in a sudden death playoff, against Tom Lehman. Lehman shoots first, on a par three, and hits his ball into the water. Now Tiger’s up, and this is Tiger’s tournament to lose. All he has to do is hit a safe shot, far away from the hole, and far away from the water. But that’s not what he does. An aggressive and dangerous play The hole is way on the left side of the green, near the water. There’s water short, and there’s water left – where Tom Lehman’s shot went. The smart play is just hit the ball onto the green, way right of the hole, so there’s no chance it goes in the water. Then Tiger can putt twice, for par, and win the tournament. Tiger hits his shot, watches with anticipation as it flies through the air – and almost goes directly into the hole. It’s eight inches away. He just won the tournament. The crowd goes wild, meanwhile, the announcers are trying to figure out why Tiger would make a play like that. Why shoot directly at the hole, when there’s water all around? If he had made the slightest error, Tiger would have tied Lehman, and extended the playoff to the next hole. The announcers say, Well he’s 21 years old. He’s aggressive. Some of you are no doubt thinking, Why would he make a play like that? Because he’s Tiger Woods, that’s why. Perfection comes from imperfection I recently showed my partner a career highlights video of Tiger Woods. She had never heard of him, and had never seen golf (remember, she’s Colombian). By the end of the video, she was convinced Tiger Woods was a witch, who could magically conjure a ball into a hole from 200 yards away. Because that’s what she saw. Over and over, this guy swinging, then a tiny ball flying through the air for several seconds, and jumping and spinning and rolling into a tiny hole. When we see an expert in any field, we marvel at what they’re able to accomplish. When we compare our own skills, we can’t help but feel insignificant. But sometimes, what seems like perfection is someone not striving for perfection, but instead working cleverly with their imperfections. Several years after this playoff, where Tiger Woods made this bold play. He re-lived it in his book. He explained that he was very much aware all he had to do was hit the green – to play safely away from the water. In fact, that’s exactly what he did. When you’re missing right, aim left Yes, Tiger’s ball almost went in the hole, but that’s not where he was aiming. Besides knowing the smart strategy in this playoff situation, Tiger had noticed something during his warm-up before the playoff: His shots tended to go left. Like Tom Lehman, Tiger had pulled his ball to the left, but because Tiger was aiming to the right, he almost had a hole-in-one. This is hard to process for many who don’t play golf – indeed many who do play golf. How can the greatest golfer who ever lived be missing to the left? And why would the greatest golfer who ever lived aim away from the hole? When we see greatness, this is often what’s happening. Tiger was missing to the left, so he aimed right. I call it “aim left,” because it’s just less confusing than “aim right.” Aiming left is simply accepting you’re not perfect, and shooting your shot according to your tendencies. You can use this in your creative work, in your habits, and yes – in golf. When you’re missing to the right, aim left. Michelangelo aimed left When Michelangelo was hired to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, he faced an impossible task. As if it weren’t hard enough to paint 12,000 square feet of ceiling, Michelangelo wasn’t a painter! He was a sculptor. He had hardly painted anything to that point. Add to that, this was fresco – which is incredibly unforgiving. You get a patch of wet plaster to paint on each day, and once it’s dry, it’s literally set in stone. So what did Michelangelo do? As Ross King – who I talked to on episode 99 explained, Michelangelo aimed left. He started with an inconspicuous part of the ceiling – one of the last places someone would look when entering the chapel – and one of the last places the pope would look while sitting on his throne. By starting with an inconspicuous part of the ceiling, Michelangelo was free to let his fresco-painting skills develop throughout the project. By the end of the project, he wasn’t even transferring drawings to the ceiling, and was instead painting directly onto the plaster. Other greats aimed left Accomplished creators are always aiming left. They’re always compensating for the weaknesses they know they have. Ernest Hemingway knew starting a writing session was always the hardest part. So, he aimed left. He made sure to end writing sessions knowing what he was going to write next. That way when he returned to his writing the next day, he’d have no trouble writing his first few words. Kingsley Amis did this, and Todd Henry, who I talked to on episode 109 has said he stops in the middle of a sentence. Edna Ferber built her dream house, complete with a writing study that had a beautiful view. After all that trouble, she decided that view was too distracting. So, she aimed left. She pushed her desk against the only blank wall in her study, so the view couldn’t distract her. Somerset Maugham also faced a blank wall, and I did it a while myself. Benjamin Franklin wanted to improve his character, but couldn’t focus on everything he wanted to work on at once. So, he aimed left. He kept a schedule of his “thirteen virtues.” Each week, he tried to improve at only one of those virtues – things like cleanliness, frugality, and humility. By focusing on only one virtue at a time – and forgetting the rest – Franklin improved his character in all thirteen virtues. Ways of aiming left To aim left, take anything where you consistently miss, and compensate for that miss. In The Heart to Start, I talked about “The Fortress Fallacy.” We tend to have visions that outsize our current skill level. Over and over, we start ambitious projects, but fail to follow through once we realize how daunting they are. To aim left, go ahead and dream of the fortress, but first, build a cottage – a smaller project that builds the same skills you’ll use in the larger project. I also talked about “Motivational Judo,” which is a form of aiming left. If you struggle to get motivated, create conditions that use your own action-avoidance tactics against themselves. Pavlok founder Maneesh Sethi built a wristband to shock himself. Sociologist Harriet Martineau knew she only needed to suffer through the first fifteen minutes of writing, and she’d have the momentum to keep going. This is similar to the Ten-Minute Hack I also talked about in The Heart to Start. In the previous episode, I talked about a way to cure Shiny Object Syndrome by aiming left. If you know you jump from unfinished project to unfinished project, treat shipping as a skill. Turn everyday things like meals and day-trips into “projects.” Make plans and execute – ship the projects. Many opportunities to aim left Look around, and you’ll find many opportunities to aim left. Anywhere you aren’t achieving what you want, you can find a way to direct your imperfection toward perfection. Or, at least, near-perfection – eight inches away, to be exact. About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative. Follow David on: Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:
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    261. Shiny Object Syndrome


    Shiny Object Syndrome is an affliction that causes you to be attracted to “shiny objects.” Shiny objects can be whatever is new and trendy in your field. But oftentimes, the shiny objects are simply new ideas you have – other projects you’d rather be working on. In this form, Shiny Object Syndrome will ruin any chance you have of finishing your current project – unless you do something about it. Two sources of Shiny Object Syndrome How do you overcome Shiny Object Syndrome? What you need to do is simple: Commit to your current project, ignore the new projects, suck it up, and follow-through. The reality isn’t so simple. Shiny Object Syndrome causes mental distortions that will have you 100% convinced you’re doing the right thing: This old project is a dud. This new project is sure to be a success. To cure Shiny Object Syndrome, we need to know its true sources. That way, we can nip them in the bud, keep Shiny Object Syndrome at bay, and finish projects. There are two main causes of Shiny Object Syndrome: Naïveté of the novel Frustration with the existing We don’t know much about the new project, so we view it with rose-colored glasses. We know a little too much about our current project, so it looks terrible in comparison. This creates a “grass is greener” effect. Now how do we get in this position in the first place? 1. Naïveté of the novel As humans, we’re naturally attracted to the novel. That’s how we’ve become such an innovative species. We were not satisfied with the old way of doing things – eating our meat raw and sleeping in the elements – so we’re curious about our neighbor who’s cooking with fire and has built a straw hut. That explains why we’re attracted to the “shiny objects” in the first place, but there’s more happening in our minds that makes us not only attracted to the shiny object, but that makes us abandon what we have to pursue the unknown. The Dunning-Kruger effect A powerful force that makes us hop from one shiny object to another is the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect is named after it’s originators, psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, who found that when we know a good deal about a field, we underestimate our knowledge, but when we little about a field, we overestimate our knowledge. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a favorite of internet “gotcha” culture. People love to point out the Dunning-Kruger effect at work in others, but it does a lot of good to recognize it in ourselves. When we get a great idea for a new project in a field we know little about, we often think that project will be easier than it actually will be. It seems like a good idea to drop what we’re doing, and move on. 2. Frustration with the existing This naïveté of the novel colludes with frustration with the existing. In fact, it adds fuel to that frustration. If we start a new project, thinking it’s going to be easy, we’re even more disillusioned when we realize it’s actually hard. We’ve run up against all the challenges we didn’t think about. We’ve seen the hidden complexity in the current project. As former guest, Tynan has pointed out, when we’re in the middle of a project, we’ve experienced all of the downsides, but none of the upsides, such as revenue or respect from our peers. Meanwhile, we know very little about the new project. It seems fun and easy. When we started the current project, we said to ourselves, This will be easy. We’ve realized it’s not so easy, but the Dunning-Kruger effect takes over again. We tell ourselves of the new project, Now THIS will be easy! Just knowing how the naïveté of the novel and frustration with the existing work together to cause Shiny Object Syndrome isn’t enough to cure it. When you’re in this situation, it seems rational. You can come up with good-sounding reasons why the current project isn’t worth the trouble and the new project has a better chance of succeeding. And we won’t admit we might be fooling ourselves. Shipping is a skill I have some good news: Your tendency to come up with new ideas is a good thing. Instead of trying to fight it, Shiny Object Syndrome is much easier to manage if you instead accept it. Accept it will tempt you to switch projects, then change the way you approach projects accordingly. Remind yourself that shipping is a skill. The mere act of finishing a project, no matter how small, is a skill you should cultivate. If you’ve never picked up a golf club, you would know better than to expect to play like Tiger Woods your first time out. So if you’ve never finished a project, why would you think you could take on a giant one the first time around? When I started on my own, I had almost zero shipping skills. I had piles of unfinished projects, and nothing to show for them. Fortunately one day, as I contemplated a giant shiny object I was about to take on, I realized I didn’t have what it took to make my vision a reality. I had had enough of my Shiny Object Syndrome, and was ready to put it to an end. So, I treated even the smallest things as practice in the skill of shipping. I looked up a recipe online, and planned my trip to the grocery store to get the ingredients. It sounds simple, but can you believe I had to go back several times? I planned parties and dates and trips. I treated everything as an opportunity to have a vision, plan how to execute that vision, and ship the project. The Fortress Fallacy In The Heart to Start, I introduced The Fortress Fallacy. We tend to have big visions, but those visions outpace our skills. We dream of building a fortress, when we haven’t built a cottage, much less a lean-to. This isn’t about “breaking your project down” into parts. This is about doing small projects that build skills you can later use in a larger project. Breaking your project down doesn’t build the skill of shipping. Doing small projects does. Make predictions A source of fuel for our frustration with the existing is our lack of foresight. We fall for the planning fallacy. The planning fallacy is why the Sydney Opera House took ten extra years and fifteen times the budget – you can see the same in countless construction projects. It’s why the Greeks thought the Trojan War would take four weeks, when it ended up taking ten years – you can see the same in countless military campaigns. It’s demoralizing to expect something to work out one way, and have it end up another. One way to fix that would be to have things work out the way we expect – but that’s not going to happen. The world is too complex and unpredictable. The solution is to make predictions. How do you predict the unpredictable? You don’t, really. But there’s a lot of wiggle room between This will definitely happen, and This will definitely not happen. In episode 245, I introduced the Avocado Challenge. Before you open an avocado, are you 100% sure it’s going to be perfectly ripe? No. In the Avocado Challenge, you make percentage-confidence predictions, such as “I’m 60% confident this avocado is ripe.” You then rate those predictions based upon the outcome. As you start projects, make predictions. Accept that you’re never 100% sure about anything, so make percentage-confidence predictions. For example, “I am 70% confident I will set up my blog and publish my first post by next Sunday.” After Sunday comes, review your prediction. You can even use a handy free service called Prediction Book to keep track. This does a couple things. One: It holds you accountable. We tend to approach all projects as if we’re sure we’re going to finish them – and that just ain’t so. Two: It keeps you from beating yourself up. You can’t be certain about the future, but when we don’t finish projects, we feel bad about it. If we feel bad, we learn to associate working on projects with feeling bad. So we’ll start fewer projects. As Roam Research founder Conor White-Sullivan said, "I can not speak highly enough for the practice of starting things before you know you’re going to finish them." Don’t fight shiny object syndrome, work with it In conclusion, the way to cure Shiny Object Syndrome isn’t so much to cure it – it’s to accept that you’re going to have new ideas, and you’re going to fail to finish some projects. If you pick small projects, make predictions about your ability to finish them, and treat shipping as a skill, you can reduce Shiny Object Syndrome, and work with it. Thank you for having me on your podcasts! Thank you for having me on your podcast! Thank you to Dolores at Attitudeable for having me on the show. As always, you can find all podcast interviews of me at About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative. Follow David on: Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:
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    260. How I Produce My Weekly Newsletter


    If you want to grow an audience online, it’s great to have a consistent newsletter. It keeps you in touch with your subscribers, and it gives you a place to test out small ideas you can later grow into big ideas. I’ve been delivering my Love Mondays newsletter every week for more than 100 weeks (and you can sign up at Here’s how I streamline and automate the process, so I never miss a week. Small bites of information Newsletters work great as small bites of information. Your subscribers get your newsletter right in their inboxes, so they’re in a hurry. If they know they can get a quick hit or two from your newsletter, they won’t put off opening it. You can see this with newsletters such as Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday, or James Clear’s 3-2-1 Thursday. The fact that these newsletters are full of quick hits is right there in the titles. Keeping the bites organized I design Love Mondays to have a few tiny bites of interesting things, as well as a light main dish. Each Love Mondays newsletter has a quick thought – maybe 150–300 words, about navigating the Extremistan world of making it as a creator. Plus, I have what I call “ABCs” – Aphorisms (or Quotes), Books, and Cool tools. Additionally, I may make a short announcement in the postscript. Each newsletter has the main quick thought, two ABCs, and sometimes there’s a P.S., sometimes there’s even an P.P.S. That’s a lot of different things to think up each week, so I’ve designed my system so I don’t have to do it all at once. Using a spreadsheet I built from a service called Airtable, I’m able to organize the ideas I’d like to share in Love Mondays, as well as Aphorisms, Books, Cool tools, and other announcements. I combine them to create each week’s newsletter. My system keeps me from switching mental states trying to think up each item. The spreadsheet also allows me to track the performance of things like subject lines and clicks on items I share, so I can keep making my newsletter better. Collecting ideas Each newsletter idea starts as an even smaller idea. There’s a sheet in my database that’s full of some of my best-performing tweets. Using Zapier, I have an automation set up so that anytime I “like” one of my own tweets, it gets saved to this sheet in Airtable. It saves the body of the tweet, the number of favorites it has, a link to the tweet, and the date of the tweet. I “batch” my Love Mondays newsletters on a monthly basis, using the “creative system” I talked about in my book, Mind Management, Not Time Management. To begin a batch of newsletters, I start looking for ideas in this sheet of high-performing tweets. I sort them by date, then make sure the number of likes is updated on all the newest tweets. Then, I sort them by number of likes. I don’t always grow the most popular tweets into newsletter ideas, but seeing the number of likes does help me get a feel for what ideas resonate with my readers better than others. Collecting Aphorisms, Books, and Cool tools I also have individual sheets in my database for Aphorisms, Books, and Cool tools. My Aphorism sheet also gets populated with a Zapier zap. If I like one of my own tweets, and it has an em dash in it (“—“), that filters the tweet into the quotes sheet, instead of my sheet of ideas. Again, I can sort quotes I’ve shared according to how many likes they got, to get a better feel for which ones my readers will enjoy. Other than that, I manage the sheets for Books and Cool tools manually. Reviewing the data Each week, I enter the stats from the previous week’s Love Mondays newsletter. I plug in the number of subscribers it was sent to, and how many opened, to get the open rate. For Books and Cool tools, I enter how many clicks the links got, so I can see each item’s click through rate.   As I consider new Books and Cool tools to share, I check the performance of the past Books and Cool tools I’ve shared, to get an idea of what people will like. The data has been really surprising sometimes, as things I thought people would love got little interest, and things that didn’t seem like a big deal got a lot. Again, the numbers aren’t the only thing that decides what I share. I share a lot of things I just like, even if I don’t think the highest percentage of readers will be into it. Identifying finalists I keep a big backlog on all these sheets, so I never feel pressure to think up new ideas, or new ABCs to share. I just capture things as they come. But as each new month approaches, I comb through these sheets to identify finalists I’d like to share. I just change a field in each record in Airtable, so my top candidates for tweet ideas and ABCs are at the top of each sheet, where I can later narrow them down further. Writing the drafts Once I’ve collected some of my favorite ideas, I write the idea section of the emails. I usually get the month’s emails – four or five, depending – written in two sessions. In the first session, I write really awkward drafts. In the second session, I re-write those, and they usually come out much less awkward. I space the two sessions a week apart, so my subconscious does most of the work for me. Every once in a while, I just have a good first session and don’t have to re-write – just edit a little. I do this writing in Ulysses, one newsletter after another, in one document. Before the first session, I set up the document with a simple list of dates, the body text of the tweet that serves as inspiration, and whatever other things I might want to announce in that week’s newsletter. I consult the schedule of my podcast, so I can share any recent episodes, I check my other spreadsheet of podcasts that have interviewed me to make sure I’ve thanked them, and I check my calendar to see if there are any promotions I want to announce. Wrapping it all together Now here comes the cool part. Airtable helps me wrap my main newsletter body together with my ABCs, my announcements, and my greeting and salutation. The result is a field with all the Markdown text for the newsletter. To do this, I copy and paste the Markdown text of the main idea of the newsletter into a field. From other fields, I can select the Aphorism and/or Book and/or Cool thing I want to include in that week’s newsletter. Each record for Books or Cool things already has fields for my comments and the links for the items. Once I select any ABCs, all this is added to the main body, in Markdown text. Each newsletter also has a P.S. and P.P.S. field, and if they’re populated with anything, they get added onto that text, too. Scheduling Now all I have to do is copy and paste the Markdown into a translator. I then copy and paste the rich text into my email marketing platform, ActiveCampaign. Once I have the main content of all the month’s newsletters written, it takes about fifteen minutes to integrate the ABCs, the announcements, and to have the newsletters scheduled and ready to go. Sign up for Love Mondays and see for yourself! There you have it. This system really helps me save creative energy, so that I’m using it to think of good ideas, instead of trying to fumble around with all the things I want to put in my newsletter. Obviously, all this could be automated even further. I’m actually surprised I haven’t seen an email marketing platform that already has Airtable-like database elements for managing all the tidbits one shares in their newsletter. Maybe something for someone to build. If you want to see all this in action, be sure to sign up for Love Mondays. My readers really love them, I consistently get replies saying how much each week’s idea has shifted someone’s perspective. New Book: Digital Zettelkasten: Principles, Methods & Examples Learn how to think through building a database of the most interesting things you've ever read, or thought. Available direct from me, on Amazon, and everywhere else. Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:
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    259. My Nighttime Routine


    You hear a lot about morning routines, but nighttime routines are every bit as important. Your parents probably had a bedtime routine for you, and if you have kids you probably have bedtime routines for them. But we need bedtime routines as adults, too. I follow a specific nighttime routine, and it helps me get to sleep faster, and wake up better-rested. Wind down, and don’t try to force sleep My nighttime routine follows two overarching principles: Wind down Don’t try to force sleep 1. Wind down: Before I started my nighttime routine, I didn’t think about what I was doing before bed. I just went to bed when I was tired. I was treating all hours of the day as equal – following time management instead of mind management. Once I started my nighttime routine, I realized “going to bed” starts well before you’re tired. It’s like the difference between crashing a plane and a smooth landing. 2. Don’t try to force sleep: I recently did a sleep study at a lab, and started doing my nighttime routine. But the study was supposed to start before my usual bedtime, and the nurses at the lab wouldn’t let me follow my routine. I didn’t sleep the whole night and the study was a waste. The problem for me was trying to force sleep. I had insomnia as a kid and trying to get to sleep always made me more anxious and less able to sleep. So now I’m careful not to force sleep. Two phases: wind-down and sleep-time In the spirit of not trying to force sleep, my nighttime routine follows two phases: wind-down and sleep-time. Wind-down phase: During the wind-down phase, I want to signal to my body that it can get ready for sleep. Again, I’m not trying to force sleep, just giving my body permission to get sleepy. I’ll get more into how I do that in a bit. Sleep-time phase: In the sleep-time phase, I’m again careful to not force sleep. But I have specific steps I follow that help me transition from the wind-down phase to actually getting to sleep. Five rules for my nighttime routine Your parents probably had bedtime rules for you. In your bedtime routine as an adult, you need rules for yourself. Here are five rules I follow: No social media after 9 p.m. No bright screens after 10 p.m. Blue-blocking glasses after 10 p.m. Reading only after 10 p.m. In bed by midnight. Here’s some more detail about each of those: 1. No social media after 9 p.m. I have a theory that associating with anyone you’re not close to before bedtime disrupts your sleep quality. The only proof I have of this is I’ve experienced it myself. Though it would make sense from an evolutionary perspective: You and the tribe might find it hard to sleep if strangers from another tribe were lurking around your campfire. I don’t want to think about a news story in the world at-large, witness a petty argument amongst strangers, or read a hostile Twitter reply too close to bedtime. I sense that it sets my brain on alarm, making it hard to sleep. Twitter is my social media of choice, and it’s valuable enough to outweigh the above negatives, generally, but not after 9 p.m. When I say no social media, that doesn’t mean that I won’t chat with a close friend on WhatsApp or Messenger. I would guess associating with people you’re close to before bedtime makes it easier to get to sleep, if anything. I often make a FaceTime call to my father after 9 p.m., but no Twitter. 2. No bright screens after 10 p.m. By now it’s well-established that blue light exposure late at night disrupts sleep and is even associated with higher cancer risk. Yes, our devices have nighttime modes that reduce this light, but I don’t trust that to eliminate blue light completely. So I avoid bright screens, wholesale, after 10 p.m. I stow my phone and tablet in a charging station in my living room, and ignore them until the next morning. This also makes it easier to follow my rule of no social media. The brightest thing I look at after 10 p.m. is my Kindle. It’s not great to be on an electronic device, but I set it in dark mode, so it’s actually less light exposure than I would get reading a paper book under lamplight. As part of this rule, I also switch off my internet and WiFi at 10 p.m. This is a good way to keep yourself off the internet, but it also may be better for your health. Studies have shown that EMF exposure before bed alters your brain activity during sleep. Scientists haven’t found any ill health effects from this (yet), but why not turn off your WiFi? We didn’t evolve to have our brain activity altered while we sleep, and you’re not using it anyway. 3. Blue-blocking glasses after 10 p.m. Even if the nighttime modes on my devices did eliminate all blue light, there’s still blue light in the lights in my house, or from street lights outside. So, I nip that in the bud with blue-blocking glasses. The blue-blocking glasses I wear are not fashionable. They are orange, and large enough to wrap around most of my face, as well as cover my glasses. Very little blue light gets past these, and I get sleepy easier and wake up more refreshed when I wear these glasses, starting two hours before my target bedtime. I even take them with me when I travel, and they help out when I need to push my bedtime earlier to get up for early flights. 4. Reading only after 10 p.m. Back when I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing before bedtime, I would often work until I could hardly keep my eyes open. I’ve since tried different activities before sleep, and found that nothing works better to get me sleepy than reading. So, the only activity I allow myself to do after 10 p.m. is read. This means there are a lot of activities I avoid before bed. Aside from bright screens, I’ve found that certain activities get my brain too active, and make it hard for me to fall asleep. If I play a video game on my VR headset, write in my journal, or even do something creative such as drawing, it’s not as easy for me to get to sleep, and I wake up less-rested. I also select the type of reading I do in a specific way that helps me get sleepy. For the first hour, I can read pretty much whatever I want. This hour helps me get through a lot of science, history, or biography books, the highlights of which I store in the digital Zettelkasten I talked about on episode 250. I use much of this reading as raw material for ideas for newsletters, articles, and books. As I’m reading, I’m looking out for specific signals help to me decide when I’m ready for bed. The first thing I’m looking out for is how well I understand what I’m reading. About this time of night, I can lose my reading comprehension very rapidly. One minute I’m engrossed in a complex neuroscience book, the next minute I realize I’ve read the same sentence several times over. This happens before I’m consciously aware that I’m tired, but it signals to me it’s time to change my reading material. When that happens, I switch from non-fiction to fiction. If 11 p.m. rolls around and I’m still comprehending non-fiction well, I make the switch anyway. Now I’m looking for the final signals that I’m ready for bed. At some point, I will realize I’ve just “come to.” I will have just started to doze off – my eyelids have gotten so heavy they’ve started to close, and I may have even lost control over the arm that holds up my Kindle. I’m not the type to fall asleep accidentally, but as soon as one of these things happens, I close my Kindle and go to bed. If by 11:30 p.m. my eyelids haven’t started closing involuntarily, I bring out the big guns. This is the reading that’s most likely to make me sleepy. I read some poetry by Robert Frost, or a play by Shakespeare. If I really want to go back in time, I’ll pull out The Iliad. Sometimes I’ll read some Emerson. The Robert Frost poetry is folksy and he and Emerson talk a lot about nature, which is very relaxing. The rhythms of Frost and Shakespeare lull me to sleep. And The Iliad is just hard to read. 5. In bed by midnight By following this progression of reading, I almost always get sleepy by midnight. My rule is “in bed by midnight,” but really if I don’t get sleepy by then, I find it does me no good to go to bed anyway. So I try to be in bed by midnight, but if I’m not sleepy, I’ll just keep reading the big guns. I have found that having a set bedtime helps me get to sleep more easily, and wake up more rested. There’s not a big difference between whether I go to bed at 10:30 p.m. or midnight, but once it gets past midnight, there’s suddenly a big difference. If I can’t get to bed until 12:15 a.m. one night, I’ll feel it the next day, and will take a couple nights more before I can get my sleep back on schedule. By the way, I make sure to have already brushed my teeth by the time I’m going to bed. I do that at some point during the wind-down phase. I hate the feeling of being sleepy and still needing to brush my teeth, so I try to do it before. And this helps prevent any late-night snacking. Going to bed: the sleep-time phase Once I’m in bed, I’m still following the principle of not trying to force sleep. I take off my glasses, but leave on the orange goggles. I get a couple of other valuable sleep tools ready: I position my sleep mask on my forehead for quick deployment, and I put in earplugs. Now, I lay on my back stare off into space, and let my thoughts flow. I do not close my eyes and try to go to sleep until I feel my eyelids get heavy again. You might wonder: My eyelids were just heavy, now I’ve gone to bed and am waiting again for my eyelids to get heavy. Why didn’t I just read in bed? I’m a big advocate of the philosophy that you should only do two things in bed, one of them should be sleeping, and the other should not be reading. If you do other activities such as reading or surfing the web in bed, you’re just programming yourself to not be sleepy when in bed. So, I make the small compromise of having to get myself to bed once sleepy, then needing to again wait to get sleepy. It usually only takes a minute or two before my eyelids are falling closed. At that point, I take off the orange goggles, lower my sleep mask, and fall asleep. There’s my nighttime routine There’s my nighttime routine. After that, I sleep until I wake up. I don’t use an alarm. I try to stay in bed until at least 8 a.m., even if I do wake up earlier. (I find if I’m patient, I do fall asleep again.) I hope this gives you some ideas for your own nighttime routine. Pay attention to what activities do or don’t help you get to sleep, wind down gradually, and keep a regular bedtime. You may, like me, get to sleep easier and wake up better-rested. Image: Gauze by Paul Klee New Book: Digital Zettelkasten: Principles, Methods & Examples Learn how to think through building a database of the most interesting things you've ever read, or thought. Available direct from me, on Amazon, and everywhere else. About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative. Follow David on: Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:
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    258. 8 Harsh Truths About Dating (from a former professional dater)


    I once was a professional dater. I was good at getting dates. I was terrible at finding a partner – which I really wanted. I went on so many dates, I made $150,000 on an online-dating-advice blog (which I recently shut down). I’ve now been in a relationship for several years. Here are the harsh truths I wish my single self had known. Dating is noise. There’s nothing about dating that has anything to do with being in a relationship. Dating provides false signals. If someone is exciting on a date, that’s often a sign they’ll be a nightmare in a relationship. If someone is boring on a date, they may be great in a relationship. I don’t know how to fix that, other than be very careful how you judge whether or not a date went well. You’ll never be “ready” for a relationship. Self-help books will tell you, “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else,” as if you’ll never be ready until you’ve achieved the platonic ideal of a fully-formed human. At that point, you and another fully-formed human will fit together like puzzle pieces – forever. More likely you’ll meet someone who’s screwed up in the perfect way to complement your own screwed-up-ness. You’ll change one another, and your best hope is the people you change into will also be compatible. You’ll never be “ready.” You’ll always be changing. Yes, you need someone. Once in a while you might decide you’re fine being alone. A self-help book will tell you it’s okay to be single and you’ll be happy in life with hobbies, personal achievements, and pets. This is just fuel for the hedonic treadmill that keeps capitalism running. New products and services are always being invented with the purpose of replacing some form of love – whether that’s a meal delivered to your door, or a ride home from the airport. Love is free, but priceless. Love is bad for GDP. If dating is miserable, you’re miserable. Many people’s stated dating preferences are emotional judo to justify their own unhappiness. If you say to yourself, “I cannot be happy until I meet someone with [insert impossible set of criteria],” you have a great scapegoat for your unhappiness, besides its true source. Don’t blame your misery on not finding what you want. Perfectionism is a refusal to start the journey before you’ve reached the destination. Beware the ferris wheel. There’s a self-selection bias in the dating pool. It’s full of miserable people who blame their dating life on why they’re miserable. If you want proof, look at dating profiles. I don’t know how men feel about this question, but when I was dating I remember seeing many a woman’s profile demanding men have something better to say than “How are you?” The problem is, there is literally no question more central to existence than “How are you?” Every action every person takes their entire day is in pursuit of affecting the answer to the question, “How are you?” A truthful answer to “How are you?” is guaranteed to lead to a conversation relevant to your well-being. And isn’t that what dating is supposed to be about? So why would someone not want to answer the question, “How are you?” Because they’re miserable. They don’t want a real conversation – they want a source of entertainment. What does this have to do with a ferris wheel? Dating apps are especially full of these miserable people. Dating apps are like ferris wheels: Some people would like to see the lay of the land, but the seats are taken up by people addicted to the ups and downs. People are not e-commerce items. Dating apps give the illusion of customization. There is no magic algorithm, there is not an unlimited supply from which to deliver your perfect match, and you would be shocked with whom you can be happy. The lines of code are designed to play into your narcissism. Like Narcissus, you’ll think you’re looking at someone else, when you’re only seeing yourself. It’s a person, not a made-to-order blazer. You do not need to be “challenged.” You hear it all the time: “I want someone who challenges me.” This is usually code for them having an impressive job or education. I get it, you want to be successful and achieve things in life. You’ll do a lot more of that from a foundation of caring and support than from partnering up with a drill sergeant. If you want to be challenged, look for someone so attentive and considerate they challenge your own self-centeredness. So what if they like Nickelback? Oh, the energy you’d save if you realized similar taste in books, movies, and music is the last thing to look for in a partner. There you have it – eight harsh truths about dating from me, a former professional dater. I have to admit, dating is mysterious and it’s possible I know little more about what sequence of actions cause love to land in one’s life than does a cargo cult. But since I’m delivering these truths from my privileged position in a happy long-term relationship, I think I have a clear head about it. Think of me as your designated driver: More sober than you single people, but still capable of crashing us into a light pole. I’ll close with this quote from Roxanne Gay, “I didn’t really learn that I deserved to be loved well until I was loved well.” I hope you find the love you deserve – it may not be what you expect. Image Credit: Senecio by Paul Klee The Mind Management, Not Time Management audiobook is here! Listen to the Mind Management, Not Time Management audiobook free with an Audible trial, or search for the audiobook on your favorite platform. Thank you for having me on your podcasts! Thank you for having me on your podcast! Thank you Chris Sparks at The Forcing Function, Dan Pierce at Mentally Fit, and Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn. As always, you can see a full list of podcasts I’ve been here. About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative. Follow David on: Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:
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    257. The Image by Daniel J. Boorstin Book Summary


    Does image-based media make us think less about our principles and ideals, and more about pursuing mere appearances? Daniel J. Boorstin thought so. In his book, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Boorstin breaks down why “The Graphic Revolution,” has built a world where our fantasies are more real than our reality. In this book summary, I’ll explain why Boorstin says, “By sharpening our images we have blurred all our experience.” Pseudo-events The thirtieth anniversary of a hotel is coming up. They reach out to leaders in the community to form a committee: A banker, a society matron, a lawyer, a preacher. The committee plans a banquet to celebrate the thirty years of service the hotel has given the community. They invite journalists to the banquet to take photos and report it in the newspapers. This hotel’s anniversary banquet is what Boorstin calls a “pseudo-event.” Pseudo-events have these four qualities: Pseudo-events are planned, not spontaneous. Pseudo-events are created so they can be reported. Pseudo-events are only ambiguously related to reality. Pseudo-events are self-fulfilling. The event is evidence of the thing the event was planned to illustrate. The thirtieth anniversary banquet didn’t happen spontaneously: The hotel created a committee for it. The main reason to have the banquet was to generate press. If the hotel was so valuable, would they have to task members of the community with planning the banquet? It was hardly real. But since this contrived banquet happened, it served as evidence that the hotel was, in fact, valuable to the community. The Graphic Revolution Boorstin blames the proliferation of pseudo-events on what he calls “The Graphic Revolution,” or our rapidly-growing ability create and disseminate imagery. The Graphic Revolution was cited, by the way – as a trigger to our departure from long-form text – in Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, which I summarized on episode 252. The foundation of The Graphic Revolution was built when the telegraph was first applied to news reporting in the 1830s and 40s. The first American newspaper was monthly, but when information could suddenly be transferred around the world in seconds, news became a product to be manufactured. The Associated Press was founded in 1848, making news a salable commodity. As printing technology became more sophisticated – such as the New York Tribune’s press, which in the 1870s could print 18,000 papers per hour – the capital required to run a newspaper meant it made good business sense to find more and more news to report. The American Civil and Spanish-American Wars, while newsworthy events, made the news machine bigger and more hungry, leaving more space to fill with pseudo-events once the real events subsided. As the term “Graphic Revolution” implies, graphics were a part of the proliferation of news. The first photograph that appeared in a newspaper was published in 1880. But also, audio is a part of the Graphic Revolution. The phonograph was invented in 1877, followed by radio broadcasts in 1900. The copy is more real than the original In 1922, De Witt and Lila Acheson Wallace used scissors and paste to put together the first issue of their magazine, in a one-room basement office in Greenwich Village. They carried the magazine copies to the post office and mailed them. It was an instant success. The Wallaces were able to start Reader’s Digest with almost no money, because they didn’t need editors or writers. De Witt simply went to the New York Public Library, and wrote summaries of articles in the magazines there. Reader’s Digest became more popular than the magazines it was summarizing. In fact, it was nearly twice as popular as America’s second-most popular magazine. Reader’s Digest became so popular, that – according to the company’s official historian – they had to help the magazines they were summarizing stay in business. To do this, they would write a short summary of an article. They would then write the article and place it in another magazine. At one point, more than half of summaries published in Reader’s Digest were of articles they had placed in other magazines. The copy is more real than the original As Boorstin says, ”The image, more interesting than its original, has itself become the original.” The runaway success of Reader’s Digest was a symptom that reading had become not about reading – it had instead become about creating the perception of being “well-informed.” People wanted to browse the summaries to feel that they were aware of what information was out there, not to learn anything from the information itself. As the Graphic Revolution and our ability to reproduce images has strengthened, copies have become more real to us than originals. We go to an art exhibit to see the original of the painting we’ve seen copies of – visitors to a Gauguin exhibit once complained that colors in the original paintings were less-brilliant than the reproductions they were used to. Movies became important in about 1910, often reproducing stories found in novels – by 1917, Publishers’ Weekly was writing about “cinema novels.” In the 1880s, you could only enjoy music if you or someone near you was playing an instrument. By the 1930s, Muzak was mashing together 24-hour mixes of sound to be played in businesses as “background music.” At one point, streaming their “muzak” made them the largest user of telephone networks. And yes, bloggers like myself gain traffic by attracting readers to summaries of books, such as The Image, by Daniel J. Boorstin. Images beget images The proliferation of imagery creates demand for that imagery, which drives demand for pseudo-events. This shapes our culture, driving us away from our principles. Pseudo-events are in higher demand than actual spontaneous events for several reasons: Pseudo-events can be planned to be more dramatic. Pseudo-events are easier to spread (you can have the news release ready to go before the pseudo-event happens – Boorstin points out it should be called a news “holdback”). Pseudo-events are easily repeated. Pseudo-events cost money to produce, so there’s more incentive to spread them (the publicist wants to show results, the client wants those results, the journalists need something to write about). Pseudo-events make more sense (they are planned, after all). Pseudo-events are more memetic. They have elements people want to spread. Pseudo-events are social currency. Knowing about pseudo-events happening in the world becomes a test of being “informed” – something that’s encouraged on the societal level. Pseudo-events spawn other pseudo-events. The effects of pseudo-events As pseudo-events spread in our image-based media, they change what we value in our culture. Pseudo-events affect who we look up to in society, how we travel, and what art we value. Pseudo-events and heroes Pseudo-events shape whom we choose as heroes. We used to choose heroes based upon their accomplishments, and how those accomplishments represented our ideals. Now we choose our heroes based upon how they appear in media – are they in the news a lot, and do they project an image in which we see ourselves? I shared in my Amusing Ourselves to Death summary that early U.S. Presidents wouldn’t have been recognized on the street. We didn’t know them by their images – we knew them by the words they wrote or said. Demagogues such as Mussolini, Stalin, or Hitler show what we get when we seek someone who fits our image of a “Great Leader.” Today, our heroes are our celebrities. We don’t make them famous because they are great – we think they are great because they are famous. Celebrities know that to be celebrities they need to get in the news and stay there. They create pseudo-events of themselves, including intensifying their images by publicizing relationships between one another. Meanwhile, dead people who deserve to be heroes fall into the background – they won’t hire a publicist, and journalists get nothing out of writing about them. Pseudo-events and travel Pseudo-events have shaped the way we travel. The word “travel” used to mean the same as “travail.” In other words, travel meant trouble, work, and torment. We love that we can easily get directly to our destination, and bypass any places that might be along the way. We calculate distance not in miles, but in hours. We don’t move through space, we move through time. We expect the faraway to be familiar, and we expect the nearby to be exotic. But travel used to be travailing. It meant spending time with strangers and strange cultures. It meant getting lost and being disoriented. But the capital required to build railroads and then highways meant we needed more people traveling. And to get more people to travel, we had to make travel less travailing. Travel has become a tautology. At the time Boorstin wrote The Image, in 1962, that meant traveling to Mount Sinai to see where they filmed the movie The Ten Commandments – or traveling to Rome to see if the Trevi Fountain really looks like it did in the movie Three Coins in the Fountain. Today, we go to see the places we’ve seen on Instagram, then take a selfie to…post to Instagram. Pseudo-events and movies I already mentioned how novels were made into movies, which then spawned novels written to become movies. The mass-distribution of actors in movies spawned the star system. Movie-goers wanted to see stars with a distinctive look, such as Mary Pickford’s golden curls or Charlie Chaplin’s bowed legs and cane. By being put on film, actors no longer get direct feedback from their audiences. Actors aren’t tested by how well they interpret the story – the story is tested by how well it displays the actor. The “bestselling” book is a pseudo-event The publishing industry became driven by what Boorstin calls best-sellerism. The Bookman was a literary journal that turned the idea of the best-seller into an institution, around the turn of the century. Printing books costs money, so publishers started planning “reprints” before they even released the originals. A paperback publisher wouldn’t plan their paperback until they had a contract to print the hardback. The hardback publishers wouldn’t print a hardback until they had a contract to print the paperback. Either contract served as evidence the book was popular, which would drive sales. Booksellers only wanted to order new books they were sure would be bestsellers. Yet the public became so obsessed with purchasing bestsellers, bookstores couldn’t carry the really big bestsellers. Retail stores like Macy’s would sell them below cost to attract customers, thus making bookstores unable to compete. We want to be deceived Pseudo-events are so ubiquitous in every part of our life, we’ve come to expect them. We actually want to be deceived. We expect the advertising we encounter to be hyperbolic and non-sensical. Maybe we want to see the originals of the photoshopped model not to change our unrealistic expectations, but rather to marvel at the work that goes into deceiving us? Consider that Schlitz advertised their beer bottles were steam-sterilized, which boosted their sales, or that Lucky Strike advertised the tobacco in their cigarettes was toasted. Nevermind that all beer bottles were already steam sterilized, and all cigarettes toasted. The claim by Ivory soap that their soap is 99.4% pure is just a little modest, so as to be believable nonsense. Are we pursuing images, or are we living life? Boorstin may sound like he wants people to get off his lawn – and he does write with a shrill tone much of the time. But much like Marshall McLuhan would say two years later in Understanding Media, which I summarized on episode 248, Boorstin is mostly trying to make us aware of our own illusions. Boorstin’s concern is mostly that, “We fill our lives not with experience, but with the images of experience.” Neil Postman later built on Boorstin’s ideas to warn in Amusing Ourselves to Death, that image-based media was devolving our discourse into nonsense. A final quote from Boorstin: Chewing gum is the television of the mouth. There is no danger so long as we do not think that by chewing gum we are getting nourishment. But the Graphic Revolution has offered us the means of making all experience a form of mental chewing gum. There’s your The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America summary I hope you enjoyed this summary of The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America, and lest your reading experience consist only of summaries, check out the full book. I personally found it to be a great history of media and publishing. It’s one of the major classics of media theory – a must-read for anyone who creates media. The Mind Management, Not Time Management audiobook is here! Listen to the Mind Management, Not Time Management audiobook free with an Audible trial, or search for the audiobook on your favorite platform. About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative. Follow David on: Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »     Show notes:

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