Static is the Worst Place to Be

Static

I’ve been diving into quite a pile of personal growth books over the past few weeks. The goal was to help answer the question “How can I excel professionally?”

I’m planning on compiling a master list of everything I’ve read thus far, but one commonality I’ve noticed is the emphasis on remaining fluid. I discussed my thoughts on this briefly in describing how I think about my career, but I feel it’s so darn important that I want to expound on those thoughts even further becuase of three specific reasons.

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What I Mean When I Say “I Don’t Have Time”

What I Mean When I Say I Don't Have Time

I have three habits I’m focused on right now – reading, meditating, and stretching.

I’ve been knocking it out of the park on the first two (roughly 85% or higher completion rate). The stretching? Well, I’ve done that once in 24 days for an abysmal 4% completion rate.

The actual habit isn’t that difficult. Every night I want to spend five minutes total stretching my hip flexors and upper back. I can do it while watching TV and even drink wine in between (or during!). Still, I fail every single night. If you were to ask me about it, I would probably create some excuse centered around not having enough time and being so busy with chores, which would be a lie.

“I don’t have time” is never the real reason.

If I think a bit deeper, I’m normally saying one of the following.

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Deep Work in Practice – Applying Cal’s Concepts

How I'm Putting Deep Work Into Practice

One of my goals in 2016 was to work less while, somewhat paradoxically, accomplishing more. I knew I could squeak more out of my day if I just put some better systems in place. As part of that process, I recently finished reading Deep Work by Cal Newport. Cal is a fantastic writer (I’m a huge fan of his blog Study Hacks), and he thinks deeply about the benefits and how-to’s behind working deeply, which he defines as follows:

Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push you cognitive capacities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

Applying the principles that Cal lays out in the book is a perfect first step towards my goal.

I’ve been applying those principles for three weeks now (admittedly a short timeframe), and it’s been working really well. I finish my day by 4:30pm every night. I enjoy an hour of reading time every day. I haven’t touched my computer on the weekends. Success.

Here’s exactly what I’m doing and what those principles look like in practice.
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Edison, Light Bulbs, and Idea Collision

ideas

Quick note: I started sharing a quick email every two weeks with interesting articles, videos, and books I stumble across. It’s quickly becoming my favorite thing to write. You can check it out here!

Who invented the light bulb?

I would say Thomas Edison. You probably would to.

In history books, Edison often gets the attribution when the dust settles, but a bit of digging reveals that he was far from the sole inventor. Edison’s main contribution was the use of a bamboo filament that lasted longer and cost less than competitors.

History includes thousands of these types of inventors – solopreneurs that took an idea from start to market without help from anyone else. When you take a closer look, you find that, like Edison, that’s only part of the story.

Monthly Review: December 2015

holly

I publish a monthly review of habits, work, etc. You’ll be able to find them all here.

December was a really amazing month. I wrapped up a freelance project that I was working on for quite awhile. I was able to spend some time offline with my wife and friends. We went skiing for the first time this year. And, of course, we celebrated Christmas (although not really on Christmas Day). It was an amazing finish to an unbelievable year. I’ll be posting a reflection on that in a few days, but for right now, here is my December review.

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How I Think About My Career

A person welding some metal

In a time when so much of what we know is subject to revision or obsolescence, the comfortable expert must go back to being a restless learner.

I plucked that line from A More Beautiful Question, which was one of the best books I read in 2015. The book was centered around using questions as tools to solve problems, generate new ideas, and become better experimenters.

That last item – better experimenters – is a critical point. The author Warren Berger continued with some thoughts on a careers:

…we’ll be expected to quickly adapt to using new and unfamiliar tools, as we try to construct new businesses, new markets, new careers, new life plans – using ever-changing technology, without clear instructions, and with the clock ticking.

In the past, a career was a rigid thing written in ink and followed like a set map to a destination in the future. Now, it’s a fluid idea written in pencil with erase marks all over the page. Careers are no longer a fixed path to follow. They’re constantly evolving as Berger comments.

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“No, because…” – The Benefits of Rehearsing Objections

Picture with the quote "You can rehearse a negative outcome to almost avoid it entirely."

When I first started freelance writing, I received a lot of rejection emails in my inbox. I mean a lot. I was pitching anyone and everyone that had a submission box on their site. I would estimate that 70% were either rejected or ignored.

After a short time, I started to realize the objections started to look similar. Here are a few paraphrased.

“That topic doesn’t fit with our target audience.”

“We recently published a piece just like that.”

“We only work with experienced writers.”

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Help Me Ship in 2016

A boat cruising through the water

Justin Jackson is quite possibly a mad man.

This week, I noticed he made a bold claim – he was going to launch 100 things in 2016.

Justin is no stranger to launching projects. He ran a podcast this year called Build and Launch, which detailed a new project he was working on and launching every week.

The best part about Justin’s new challenge – he invited everyone to join him in launching stuff in the new year. The result, the MegaMaker Challenge, already has over 120 participants.

I am one of those participants.

I’ll be doing a full recap of 2015 in a few days, but I would label it “The Year of Growth.” Specifically, I learned an immense amount about web development, leadership, and the nonprofit sector.

2016 will be my year to ship projects.

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