It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that this competition has changed my life. I’m not sure if I’m ever going to be able to go back to a life without copious amounts of reading, now knowing the good it does in my life. It has benefitted my business, attention span, and I just feel better. It’s been months since I’ve yelled at the TV “Yes, Netflix, believe it or not, I’m still watching!”. I still keep up with shows and movies here or there, I’m simply “micro-dosing” now. It’s sad that I count “reading” as some sort of an accomplishment, but the world is so full of distraction now that it truly feels like I’m slaying a beast when I deny myself mindless scrolling or binge-watching.
Here’s a great piece from Austin Kleon on How To Read More that I think is pivotal for me. The fact is, I quit reading because I wasn’t making time for it anymore. It’s not that I didn’t have the time, I just wasn’t looking for the time. Not having the time is an excuse I use for all kinds of stuff, and simply making time to read has begun to expose all the other things I avoid doing. Also, I’m not reading books I don’t like, which is another piece of advice from Kleon. I’ve already bailed on a book during this year because it was an intolerable experience, and it felt so freeing.
I’ve largely been reading biographies and books about accomplished people, not as a way to worship them, but rather discover a common thread between the processes of high-performing people. Examples of what I’ve read so far this year:
A Guide for the Perplexed by Werner Herzog
Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
Johnny Cash, The Life by Robert Hilburn
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
Who is Michael Ovitz by Michael Ovitz
And not shockingly, I am learning about what all these seemingly unrelated people have in common. For instance, Bourdain and Cash both have something to say, but they did not live disciplined lives. They were overtaken by addiction and depression. Their perspective overpowered their lack of discipline in a way not many people could pull off. They managed to be famous and continue making a living despite living messy lives. That’s hard to do.
The others, David Goggins, Werner Herzog, Ryan Holiday, Michael Ovitz, all ooze dedication and discipline. They are all examples of how focus, discipline, and having something to say can build a colorful and satisfying career. From all the examples named in my list, I’ve learned a lot about how to be and how not to be (the latter is quite possibly the more important of the two) in my photography/art/creative career.
Here’s a list I’ve formed from observation and learning from books and life so far that I try and apply to my life in order to work harder and make better work based on examples of famous people and people I actually know:
Wake Up Early: This is one of those things that I’ve succeeded and failed with at various times of my life. Right now, I’ve been pretty successful with it, and it’s clear the benefits of finding hours that didn’t previously exist. Without question, waking up early makes my life better (I can squeeze in reading a bit easier this way).
Exercise: Most high-performing, successful people work out daily, and I believe it’s because they’ve figured out that exercise is way a to do drugs for free and in a way that won’t kill you. It’s a natural cocaine. Recently, if I start fading out halfway through the day, I’ll go for a run or get on the exercise bike and suddenly I’m ready to tackle the day all over again.
Drink very little if at all: Fact: drinking slows performance. It’s the opposite of exercise. It’s impossible to drink and be acceptably productive. I’ve gotten to a point where I believe, for me, drinking socially is the only time that works for me. With social events being so rare, since I’m working a lot or thinking about work, this drastically lowers my drinking frequency. Waking up early and exercising are much easier to accomplish without alcohol. I don’t believe drinking is wrong (I quite enjoy drinking), but it can be a pitfall for anyone, especially anyone with big goals.
Have a billion interests: I got excited when I realized that many successful people are interested in all kinds of stuff. I’ve always viewed my interest in a thousand different things as a distraction that was slowing me down, but now I realize that if I can funnel all my interests to benefit the main things I do, it comes in handy and helps build my voice. Now, I’m starting to get more nervous when I catch myself staying in a bubble, reading the same types of books, music, movies, etc. (more on this shortly)
Don’t Stop: A day can feel long. A week can feel long. A year can feel long. 5 years can feel long. None of these measures of time are that long. When it feels like I’m not getting anywhere after a week of intense work, that simply means that I need to work intensely for another week, then another, then another. It all adds up and builds momentum. Stopping after a year just means I gave up, the thing I was doing didn’t fail, I did.
Most mistakes aren’t life ending (except the ones that are): Making a business mistake sucks, but it doesn’t mean it’s time to start digging a grave. It just means it’s time to just try again, and don’t make the same mistake twice. Doing too many drugs or drinking too much alcohol, however, that’s a mistake that can be life ending, but just short of that, I should be fine.
This list is kind of off the cuff, but I think, so far, it’s a pretty common thread I’ve found in these biographies so far. The reason for this list in particular is because this is a list of things I preach to myself about often, that if I stick generally to these things, my life tends to be a lot better and I feel less depressed and miserable. Of course, it isn’t the end all be all of success, these just help give me a boost.
Apple Has A Gun To My Head
I’m slowly switching from Apple Music to Spotify I think. Last week, which on Robert Schoolfield’s Special Delivery Trip, we were listing to his Spotify playlists. It made me keenly aware of the hermetically sealed bubble I live in under the supervision of Apple’s beautiful prison. This prison becomes less beautiful to me by the day, and my slow awareness that Apple is basically trying to turn me into a sheltered homeschooler who never leaves my polished, white home began when I switched to Android for a whole 8 hours and couldn’t get texts because Apple was holding a gun to my phone number with iMessage. Apple has kept me from music discovery and has kept me locked into the music of my iTunes library which is probably old enough to get a driver’s license at this point. I’ve been using Spotify the past couple days, and the generated playlists have been great! This could be the start to my escape of Apple’s oppressive and quite honestly, bad web services. I already use Google for contacts, calendar, and mail, Dropbox for cloud photo storage, and now Spotify for music. All hail competition! Sure, I can’t make any of these apps default on my iPhone X, which is a crime in and of itself, but maybe when our dinosaur congress decides to break these companies up (ha) I’ll be able to have a new default camera app than simply the limited iPhone camera app.
What I’ve Been Watching/Listening To:
This week, I finally got to watch the documentary Free Solo, about the rock climber who climbs El Capitan without gear or safety equipment. My wife and I had an argument on the merits of such an endeavor, and she wasn’t a fan and questioned his mental state. While yes, I question the mentality of a man willing to do something like that, it’s an incredible achievement, and his level of preparation and dedication to the task was very admirable to me.
Our argument subsided when we watched Spider Man: Into the Spiderverse, which Anna hadn’t seen yet. Tensions over our Free Solo argument disappeared because the innovative Spider Man film is just a really fun, different, and beautifully crafted movie. Highly recommend.
I’ve been binge-listening to the podcast, Design Matters with Debbie Millman. Great, polished interviews that makes me want to be a better interviewer for my podcast.