“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
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
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):
- 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.
- References. This is project-related material you may want to refer to later– links, videos, articles, books, e-mails, etc.
- 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.
- Each Action Step starts with a verb
- 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
On the back of your list of life goals, write what you No.
One side has the great stuff you’re going to do with your life, and the other has what you will stop doing.
See, this is all about focus, and focus is about saying no. Think about that for a second. It’s true, isn’t it?
And if you look on your life and the things you want to do and you ask yourself “Self, why haven’t I done any of these yet?”, the answer will come back, at least in part, “I don’t have time”. BullllllshI don’t believe in “I don’t have time”. IDHT means IDC, I don’t care. You have plenty of time, and unless it’s all being taken up by far more pressing matters than you or I ever deal with on a daily basis, the time is there and it’s your job to take it. You don’t find it; you manhandle it.
So where do you get all this time from? That’s where the list of No comes in. Choose things you will stop doing. Cut out the fat from your life. If you don’t, your dreams will fade like the muscle tone of a middle-aged cubicle tenant.
When Seth Godin– who runs the number one business blog in the world, has written more bestsellers than I have fingers, and responds to every e-mail he gets– is asked how he does it all, he says he doesn’t watch TV and he doesn’t go to meetings, so that’s already four to five hours more than most people have.
That’s some serious No right there! It gives me the warm fuzzies to see someone so boldly cast from his life the trappings of the non-producer lifestyle.
I think you need to say No, and say it hard. Don’t be– to borrow a term from Noah Kagan— a wantrepreneur. You know– one of those two-beer bards waxing poetic about lost opportunities. He is the sad, sad result of a lifetime of Yes. Yes to every distraction, yes to every addiction, yes to every fashion.
Therefore, No. Write down your rules. We’ll start with Seth’s rules.
No TV. No meetings.
You’re about to bust out complaining about how you have to go to meetings aren’t you? If so, you’re missing the point. Let’s go on. Read More
Years ago, Jim Collins, a business professor and consultant, sat down and drew up a schedule for how he’d like to spend his workdays in the future.
Half his time would go to endeavors like research, writing books, and authoring papers; a third to teaching-related activities; and the final chunk to all the other things he needs to do.
In order to make sure he was meeting his goals, he made the incredibly obvious and incredibly bold move of timing everything. For the rest of his life.
He literally took three stopwatches, labeled them, and put them in his pocket.
He still uses them.
Jim Collins is a serial bestselling author, and I’d place money that he will continue to lay golden egg after aurous, shining egg. Part of the reason for this is because he has made it his main goal in his business life to create an influential and lasting body of creative work, then scheduled his time– all of his time— accordingly.
In 2009, the New York Times profiled Collins, and they asked him about his time management experiment. He only had to point to the upper-right corner of his whiteboard on the far side of his conference room. Scribbled in marker was the lifetime tally: