[Profiles] Steve Jobs: History’s Best CEO

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Steve Jobs with the only furniture he found fit to purchase.

Steve Jobs with the only furniture he found fit for purchase.

When I was growing up, it was popular to say that a kid destined for success would be “the next Bill Gates”. But they aren’t going to say that anymore.  The best of the rising generation will be prophesied as “the next Steve Jobs”.

From a discalced and fruititarian kid-CEO to the father and savior of the world’s most valuable company, it’s hard to say whether he will be remembered more as an uncannily intuitive businessman whose every other opinion turned into millions of dollars or as an artisan who, more than anyone, infused soul into the cold and boxy tech world.

The purpose of this blog is to spur, inspire, and assist you to do amazing things. Steve Jobs did some amazing things. I’m floored by him, and I want to convey some of this to you. If you have dreams of business greatness or using art and design to change your part of the world, this piece is especially for you. It is a collection of the strange and wonderful stories and impressions of him that have stuck with me.

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Steve Jobs was never normal, per se. Even as a teen, he was a featherweight from constant fasting– or any number of his diets where he’d eat nothing but a single vegetable for weeks on end. Read More

[How-to] Fire Poi: My Story Becoming a Fire-Spinner

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The author spinning traditional Maori fire poi

The author spinning traditional Maori fire poi

“Does anyone know what lung fire is?”, Eugene Kozlenko bellowed to the crowd surrounding him.  A few chuckles could be heard, but most people were silent.  It was 10 PM on a January night, and we were cold.

“It’s pretty much what it sounds like”, Eugene continued.  ”And it’s a good reason not to try this at home!”  A few more chuckles.  Mostly, there was anticipation.  Anticipation for what we had all come out for in the first place.

In a moment, Eugene’s friend and classmate Alex Davis would step into the center of the crowd with a lit torch, take a swig from a gas canister, and vaporize it through the torch, spewing a ten foot beam of fire into the freezing air.

That would be followed by another performer twisting, spinning, and rolling his flame-tipped staff around his body to pounding trip hop and trance.  The audience was getting a little warmer– they were forgetting about the cold, but the performers’ art could be felt from the far side of spitting distance.

For the final act, five performers came out at once.  Each one held two chains– one in their right hand, one in their left– and at the end of each two-foot chain was a monkey’s fist knot, dunked in oil, and presently lit on fire.  The music started and each one started spinning the chains around their body– loops, figure eights, weaves, and every sort of fluid motion.  Sometimes they would hit them with their feet to reverse their direction; others let the poi chains wrap around their arms– then quickly unwrapped them in the opposite direction.

“Alright”, I thought to myself as a piece of flaming wick shot off and Read More

How Slowly Can you Float?

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Original image credit: Darren Kirby (flickr: bulliver)

Last night, I heard someone talk about how he ate less than an Auschwitz prisoner for almost a month. Were we talking about eating disorders? Nope. We were talking about goals. It was his goal to lose weight, and somewhere along the way, things got carried away.

Let’s talk about a fundamental rule of goal achieving. This rule is a good thing to keep in mind as you try to accomplish any of your goals, because it completely changes the way you think about what you’re trying to do. It’s something you may already know intuitively, but if you don’t, you might never go to business school and you might never read a book every week, because you approached those in the wrong way. If things get especially bad, you might forget you’re not in a cattle car in 40s Germany. Let’s not go there.

This rule is called accomplishments vs. habits.

Here’s how it goes.

Accomplishments are one-time things. Running a marathon. Eating at the top-ranked restaurant Next. Going to business school.

Habits are things you plan to adopt and keep up forever. Lose 20 pounds. Walk 10,000 steps per day. Read a book every week. No one has the goal of losing 20 pounds once and then not caring about their weight.  The pounds come off and stay off.

Accomplishments are finish lines that can be raced towards. In fact, if you don’t race towards them, you may never finish. Habits cannot be raced towards– not normally, anyhow. You have to start with something small and only increase it a bit at a time.

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Every few months, I go to a wonderful meetup of total nerds called Quantified Self. It’s for people who are interested in tracking data about themselves– usually things like eating, sleeping, and exercising. It was at this last meetup that I heard, straight from his acutely underfed mouth, how one man could eat so little.

He described the graph he kept of his weight. Each morning he’d measure himself and the program would plot the point on the downward slope of his weight over time. A little dotted line far below represented his goal weight. How fast could he make it plummet? This was the question on his mind, and that was what drove him to the verge of anorexia.

But let me suggest a different question: how slowly could it float? Read More

Experiments in Productivity: The Action Method

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Image credit: actionmethod.com

During the months of February, March, and April 2012, I am trying out a new productivity system each month. After each months is over, I will write about how my experience with it went. In February 2012, I used Scott Belsky's "Action Method" as described in his book Making Ideas Happen. This is my review.

Before Occupy Wherever picked up the moniker, the top search results for “99%” was a the99percent.com, a well-designed website that advertised itself as “Insights on making ideas happen”. The title banner still betrays the etymology of the name– it’s from Edison’s famous quip “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.

The 99% is a website that is not about ideas; it’s about making ideas happen. The perspiration part, not the inspiration.  ”Too many ideas”, the site boldly proclaims.  ”Not enough action”.  So they made the Action Method.

The Action Method is a productivity system that I tried out for a month. First I will explain how you use it, then I will tell you whether or not I liked it.  Let’s get started.

The Action Method Explained

There are three things you keep track of for each project (a project can be any large-scale task at work or at home):

  1. Action Steps. These are specific concrete tasks. They are the bread and butter of gettin’ stuff done.  Action Steps start with a verb, and they don’t require more planning before you can start one.
  2. References. This is project-related material you may want to refer to later– links, videos, articles, books, e-mails, etc.
  3. Backburner Items. These are not actionable now, but they could be future projects or sub-projects.  They’re the brilliant ideas you have now but want to remember later.

Let’s talk about how this works for a very specific example: writing a blog.

First, potential Action Steps.

  • Brainstorm post topics
  • Write a post or two
  • Pitch a guest post to another blogger
  • Leave some comments on other related bogs

I want you to notice two things.

  1. Each Action Step starts with a verb
  2. Each Action Step requires no further planning before being able to start it

So no “Make sure blog readership continues to grow”. That’s bad. Read More