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Christopher Ming’s Blog

There’s one type of email that I loathe above all others.

Can you guess what it is?

I bet it’s not what you’re thinking.

I hate ‘em. Seriously, I’d rather read hate mail. I’d rather read Tea Party literature hand-curated by Ted Cruz, or ad-copy from AT&T explaining how bundling my cable, phone and Internet could save me $300.

The interesting part?

About 75% of the time, what’s inside these emails…

Is glowing. Overwhelming positive. Even raving

Yet the anxiety still seizes me like talons around testicles the moment I see the number (1) in the sub-category I keep for these emails, like a raised middle-finger, reminding me it isn’t going anywhere until I click.

Do you experience this kind of anxiety around your e-mail inbox?

[click to continue…]

Trade Up Problems

in frameworks, listening, relationships

Below is the transcription of the best three-minute segment of an interview I’ve heard in a long time. And I listen to a lot of interviews.

[01:37:53] It’s not like you read one book and do one thing, and it’s figured out, and you’re done. it’s a constant course correction. You need to have those rituals to go back to.

[01:38:29] People don’t get it. It’s messy. Life is messy.

[01:38:45] It’s messy. Life is always going to be messy. It’s in figuring out how to manage that mess, and planning, “what am I going to do with this?”

[01:39:30] Life is suffering. If you expect to your life to miraculously dissolve all your problems with a new car, a new wife, a new husband, a new “fill in the blank” you are mistaken. When you conquer your current set of problems, you trade up. You just get a new set of problems, and those challenges are set out by the universe, by whatever force you believe in, to challenge you.

[01:40:37] It’s like, okay, you think Brad Pitt has a perfect life? I tell you, he has crazy stalkers, he has frivolous law suits, he has, “fill in the blank.” You trade up. You just have a different set of problems. The reason I bring it up is not to be depressing at all, it’s to underscore the importance of expecting adversity in a sense of looking forward to adversities as a growth opportunity. If you want to be a higher performer in high stress environments, you need to get to the point where you relish the opportunity to prove yourself in the face of challenges.

This was from a webcast between Ramit Sethi and Tim Ferriss in November 2012, right before the launch of The Four-Hour Chef. I don’t remember where I found the link to the audio, unfortunately.

When I listen to my own self-talk about the important aspects of life (love, family, career, money, etc.) I “hear” that it revolves around the following framework:

“If I just got ‘this,’ then I could be happy.”

Or…

“If I just solve this problem, I’ll be satisfied.”

For example:

  • Love – “If Amy just moved from Ireland to Los Angeles, our relationship will be perfect.”
  • Career – “If I just get out of the agency business, my career will be on track.”
  • Money – “If I can just put X amount of dollars away in the bank, I’ll feel secure.”

This Is Not True

And everyday, I’m coming to terms with that.

Regardless of…

  • How successful your online business is
  • How many Emmy’s or Oscars you win
  • How many books you write
  • How many restaurants you own

We are all constantly trading up problems. We’re encountering new challenges.

So happiness isn’t something lying just past, the mirage beyond our grasp.

Happiness is facing the challenge, not conquering it.

It’s the journey, not the destination.

What Makes Me Valuable

in career

To others?

If I did this task better, how will it affect my career five years from now?

How will it make me more valuable five years from now?

I think it’s important to step back and ask ourselves that on occasion.

  1. If I schedule all these lunches today, will it make more valuable to others?
  2. If I send out all these rejection letters?
  3. If I mail out all these check letters?
  4. If I connect every call that comes through?
  5. If I indiscriminately do drinks five nights a week?
  6. If I book this travel?
  7. If I move widget A into the arms of mechanical turk B?

If you’re asked to do these things, you can’t not do them, of course.

The widgets still need to move. It’s one of the reasons why you were hired.

But it’s not the only reason, right?

Recognize the difference between creating value and pushing (electronic) paper.

Which one builds a skill?

Which one makes you more valuable to others?

Then, prioritize accordingly. By what creates value…

Not what comes easier. Nor by what you do more effectively.

What I’m Reading: 3/30/2014

in weekly roundup

These are the highlights of what I read, watched, and listened to this past week:

For Pleasure

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard (book)

60% of the way through

Can You Hack Charisma? by Teresa Chin (article)

When she was working on a story for Forbes and felt she had a reason for introducing herself to people, for example, she noticed she would hold an upright stance—more so than when she approached someone at a party. Her personality didn’t change, just her internal sense of comfort, and the way her actions appeared to others.

change the exterior first, which will affect the interior. 
also, reframe the interior, and let that affect the exterior.

“If you look at all the notable technology in the last one or two years, they all incorporate social elements,” said Joe Cheung, a longtime Silicon Valley recruiter who has worked for companies such as Netflix and Salesforce. (Cheung currently works for Medium, Matter’s parent company.) “Nowadays, we expect executives to be on Twitter and Facebook engaging with customers. We want programmers who understand that all apps have a social layer. Everyone in the tech world needs to be expanding their social sensibility.”

John McAfee Fled to Belize, But He Couldn’t Escape Himself by Joshua Davis on Wired (article)

He keeps his eyes fixed on me and pulls the trigger a fifth time. Still nothing. With the gun still to his head, he starts pulling the trigger incessantly. “I can do this all day long,” he says to the sound of the hammer clicking. “I can do this a thousand times. Ten thousand times. Nothing will ever happen. Why? Because you have missed something. You are operating on an assumption about reality that is wrong.”

Hollywood/Entertainment

1, 2, 7, 14 – Go Into The Story by Scott Myers (blog)

Read 1 screenplay per week

Watch 2 movies per week

Write 7 pages per week

Work 14 hours per week prepping a story

Entitlement Issues by Neil Gaiman (blog)

George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.

This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now.

People are not machines. Writers and artists aren’t machines.

You’re complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.

No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.

Mad Men’s Creator: Don Draper Represents American Society by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic (article)

Read 1 Script This Week

Blogging/Online Business

Behind the Scenes: How the New Rainmaker Strategy Evolves in Plain Sight by Brian Clark

Always be repurposing – most valuable segment in this long (53 min) podcast is from 10:00 to 17:00

3 essential systems for starting an online business | I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi (blog)

System 1 – Get People’s Attention

System 2 – Get people on your list and develop that list

System 3 – System to Sell Your Product

Self-Dev

Win The Crowd by Steve Cohen (book)

pg. 14 – How to practice

Silence
Motionless
Darkness
People practice

pg. 15 – Practice your outs

pg. 16 – Prepare with your knowledge of the audience

pg. 17 – Prepare with your knowledge of the environment – make the environment your own. Shape it to your will.

pg. 25 – think that your work is important

pg. 32 – Rapport can take time. Don’t give up. Face the rejection, be mindful of it, and keep going. Be aware that it takes even the best 3x’s to build rapport. What seems instant, isn’t.

pg. 35 – Shift the compliment — good technique.

pg. 45 – Master or slave? Magician August Roterberg wrote, “The performer’s manner should be suave, but not over polite, a mistake made by most beginners…”

Ritz-Carlton chain is renowned for its exceptional service. When employees join the company , part of their extensive training includes learning the cop orate motto: “We are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.”

pg. 53 – Preparation tactics – “Prepare your body and mind for the big moment.”

pg. 87 – More tactics – how to move through a room, how to use a series of three, peaks and valleys, be an ambassador, etc.

pg. 117 – Chap. 9 – Reading People – more tactics, on reading others

Derek Halpern interviews Adam Braun (audio)

Asking for permission is asking to be denied. Don’t ask. Do something.

Getting in line vs skipping the line. You still need to get experience.

What his friend Dennis said: nows the time to take a chance. Get the experience.

Look at the people above you and aim for that not what your peers are doing. Balance this with do what they were doing at that level. Protecting is not the same as growing.

We lose the idea of doing extra curriculars. We’re just focused on work and money. What are your extracurriculars?

$20 event crowd funding

If your dreams don’t scare you then they are not big enough.
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking (Ted Talk)

This didn’t hook me until 4 minutes in, on the second listen. Definitely worth the time. Amanda asked for $100K to continue making music via crowd-funding, and make $1.2mm.

Give it away for free but ask for help. And connect with people. Connect with people and they’ll want to help you.

“Don’t ask: how we make people pay. Ask, how do we let people pay.” What she means is: payment doesn’t have to be monetary. It could be a couch to sleep on. A bed. A hot meal. A connection. A share.

Multiply Strengths vs. Improve Weaknesses

in learning

The school of thought goes like this:

“Focus on your strengths to see exponential growth. At best, improving your weaknesses leads to marginal growth.”

The idea’s touted all over the internet. Here’s one or two places. Check your Google for others.

In theory this sounds fine.

By sticking to your strengths, you’ll “produce” (in the broadest definition of the word) more for the world, at a higher quality, with greater satisfaction.

Versus struggling through tasks which require a disposition you don’t have, or skill sets you haven’t acquired.

For example, in all likelihood I will never become a terrific programmer or designer. I’ve tried. I struggle through tiny modules of CSS and continue flailing when I have to conjure what words like “float: right” or “padding: 3 em” do to the Internets.

So if I have to bring skill sets to the table, I’d rather leave these in the car.

My problem with the “multiply strengths versus improve weaknesses” argument…

Is how easy it is to confuse:

“That’s not one of my strengths”

with…

“That’s really hard.”

In this hyper-connected world that’s both uber-competitive and saturated with distractions, it’s easy to let ourselves off the hook the second we run into a barrier. This stymies our development: professionally, emotionally, inter-personally.

And if we constantly let ourselves off the hook when things get difficult, how will we produce anything worthwhile?

Take my own example above: is it that I’m not a good programmer or designer by natural disposition? Or is it just hard… and it’s a skill that requires work?

Which brings to mind a lyric from a song in today’s modern-pop lexicon, Ten Thousand Hours by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis:

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint/
The greats were great cause they paint a lot.

I’m not saying that school of thought is entirely wrong.

I’m saying, there’s a balance: yes, find the opportunities to multiply your strengths.

But don’t use “weakness” as a crutch to avoid “difficult.”