What to do before 2018 ends…
Frank Abagnale: “Catch Me If You Can” is an amazing repository of lectures)
I happened to watch the first 20 minutes of this talk a few months ago but stopped despite Frank being a riveting storyteller because I knew a lot of the story from the movie. Then I saw Kapil Gupta (more on him in the next section) tweet about it being one of the best talks he’s heard, particularly starting at minute 21:30. So I watched the remaining five minutes and then watched it again. Frank has a presence about him that speaks deep truth and loyalty. He went on a wild ride around the world by stealing money and was all about deceit, which is ironically the anti-thesis of his matured nature. There is a sincerity he brings, having hit rock bottom in a French prison, repaying his debts over 30+ years, and then relaying what he learned to us. He states, “What is it truly to be a (wo)man has absolutely nothing to do with money, achievement, skills, accomplishment, degrees, professions, or positions…Steven Spielberg made a wonderful film, but I’ve done nothing greater, nothing more rewarding, nothing more worthwhile, nothing that’s brought me more peace, happiness, and joy in my life than being a good husband and a great father.”
While on the subway…
I just heard of Kapil Gupta for the first time via a list of the top podcasts of 2018, noting this podcast. Only a week later, my favorite “virtual mentor” Naval Ravikant had a conversation with him. Their clarity of thought is unrivaled and they delve into what hard work, failure, and leadership means in the deepest of ways. Kapil Gupta MD is a world renowned coach to CEOs, professional athletes, and celebrities.
They both start by breaking down hard work and Kapil criticizes it saying, “Hard work has become its own game. It’s like meditation in the way it becomes a competition. So the thing you’re really seeking, becomes replaced by the game of hard work. Hard work, like effort, becomes its own goal.” Along these lines, Naval says, “To the experts, what looks like hard work from the outside, is play from the inside. So a good area to focus on – an area that looks like work to others, but feels like play to you – That’s your superpower and where you’ll outperform everybody.“ Kapil continues, “I think a lot of times hard work is done in order to have an excuse for the mind when the mind comes asking, ‘How come you didn’t make it?’” I wish I had this mentality earlier, because I recall being an analyst and putting in hours of work just for the sake of working hard. I align with Kapil that work (and your career) is a journey or as he puts it, “Failure is ultimate failure. Not getting to where you want to go ultimately. Everything is experimentation along the way.”
Naval again impresses me with his concise truths: “Management is telling people what to do. Leadership is getting them to want to do it themselves.” He then references some great imagery on leadership from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Kapil states, “Humans do many things in order to satisfy those who are watching them.” Naval states, “Real truth is hard to speak”. Profound, but understanding tactics on how to deal with these facts would be helpful since we constantly face them. I also often grapple with telling someone the truth, if it could be damaging to their psyche. I try to do things for myself and not to impress others but that’s much harder unless you work for yourself. For example, here is Why I Run.
I run for myself. Not for a race. Not for anyone else. Not against anyone else.
Without a phone. Without a watch. With just my running shoes and me.
I depart to explore a new part of the world like the explorers did, only if it is for a half hour. I run to take in the surroundings of the outside world. I run to move forward. I run to keep my body fit. I run to take in the cold air and feel it in my lungs. I run to separate from everybody else but me. I run to lose focus on everything except my steps.
I run, most of all, because it makes me feel good.
While in bed…
The Tyranny of Convenience by Tim Wu (from the NYTimes)
This article on the convenience from Columbia University Professor Tim Wu really resonated with me. I often imagine the way we do things today will be antiquated in a few years and thus we are wasting time food shopping or even answering a simple question for a friend when Google has the answer instantly (taking away your most precious resource of time). I also have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. Its carbon footprint from individual boxes and packaging pains me yet it is so much more convenient and often significantly cheaper than retail alternatives in Manhattan.
“As Evan Williams, a co-founder of Twitter, recently put it, “Convenience decides everything.” Convenience seems to make our decisions for us, trumping what we like to imagine are our true preferences. (I prefer to brew my coffee, but Starbucks instant is so convenient I hardly ever do what I “prefer.”) Easy is better, easiest is best.”
“Convenience has the ability to make other options unthinkable. Once you have used a washing machine, laundering clothes by hand seems irrational, even if it might be cheaper. After you have experienced streaming television, waiting to see a show at a prescribed hour seems silly, even a little undignified. To resist convenience — not to own a cellphone, not to use Google — has come to require a special kind of dedication that is often taken for eccentricity, if not fanaticism.”
“Convenience has to serve something greater than itself, lest it lead only to more convenience. In her 1963 classic, “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan looked at what household technologies had done for women and concluded that they had just created more demands. “Even with all the new labor-saving appliances,” she wrote, “the modern American housewife probably spends more time on housework than her grandmother.” When things become easier, we can seek to fill our time with more “easy” tasks. At some point, life’s defining struggle becomes the tyranny of tiny chores and petty decisions.”
“Embracing inconvenience may sound odd, but we already do it without thinking of it as such. As if to mask the issue, we give other names to our inconvenient choices: We call them hobbies, avocations, callings, passions. These are the noninstrumental activities that help to define us. They reward us with character because they involve an encounter with meaningful resistance — with nature’s laws, with the limits of our own bodies — as in carving wood, melding raw ingredients, fixing a broken appliance, writing code, timing waves or facing the point when the runner’s legs and lungs begin to rebel against him. Such activities take time, but they also give us time back. They expose us to the risk of frustration and failure, but they also can teach us something about the world and our place in it.”
While on a walk…
I recently sent a short email but I realized that Gmail actually composed the majority of the message with their new “Smart Compose” feature. Is it wrong to sign my name without acknowledging that I didn’t really write most of the email? Google may soon have the ability to tailor messages to your unique style based on your prior emails or maybe mimick a famous author and write entire paragraph responses (much better than us and with no grammatcal errors). What if I could pay a premium to get access to Google’s knowledge base wherein Gmail comprises the ideal email based on the recipient’s data, which will help sway the course of say a business negotiation? The likes of Amazon and Google are already doing this directly to you, but what if they can do it for you? What this ultimately implies is machine to machine communication because eventually the other side of the negotiation would also use this AI. Oh but then we won’t be needed…
While drinking tea…
As we close the year, I leave you with three quotes.
“Every man is the builder of a temple called his body.”–Henry David Thoreau
We are all architects of a temple and what we plan/envision with compound interest, year after year, can come true with practice, persistence, and passion. This is a lifelong process of learning and improvement.
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.”–Walt Whitman
I hope you have spent time with those you love this year and if not, make it a higher priority for next year. It’s likely not too late.
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” –Claude Monet
We all have the ability to continue our work and refine it. If you haven’t completed a passion project this year or you are building out your skill-set, there is always next year but do keep in mind, time is not on your side. Yuval Harari suggests in the future we will have to refine our skills every year and jump from industry to industry as jobs get replaced. It’s not to early too practice this! Oh and did Monet abandon Water Lilies? Most ponds have frogs.