Creative Failure

via @BryceLongton alla Ira Glass

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

5 Questions to Make a Decision

another one from bryce:

What am I waiting for?
What would I do if I weren’t scared?
What steps would make things easier?
What would I do if I had all the time and money in the world?
What is the worst, and the best, that could happen?

Love is a punch in the throat

Thanks to my girlfriend @brycelongton for digging this up.

reposted from http://queserasera.org/archives/000790.html

Love

I think there are two kinds of love. Well, maybe three if you count Kill Bill Vol. 2, which was just an excuse for Quentin Tarantino to gaze at Uma Thurman through a camera lens and then lay claim to her with a giant cinematic facial at the end by shooting his name across her face in huge letters that might as well have been dripping down the screen. Anyway, I think there are two kinds of love. One is the kind of love where a person already has decided the things they want to happen to them, the things they desperately want and need and associate with love, they’ve mapped them out on their own heart beforehand, and they’re just trying to find someone to do them with. They’ve already decided that love = zany photobooth pictures and sharing their favorite movie on the couch once a week and saying this one pet name and them both liking the same band and going to the same coffeeshop and looking up and smiling over a book. So every person they date, they take them on the same walk to the same place and take the same pictures and pose the same pose and try the same lean-in and give the same mix tape, just giving the routine they want a test drive over and over again until it sticks, and then they get all the comforts that come with the routine of loving someone who holds the same things dear, or is at least game for holding your things dear with you.

And then there’s the other kind of love, that kind that sneaks up on you and punches you in the throat, and every part of it seems crazy and foreign at first, from the person and how they make you feel to the new things you find yourself doing, and you’re almost weirded out by how strange it is, and how you’re simultaneously repelled and attracted to it, and you might roll your eyes at it all and say, whatever, I’m not in love, I’m just doing this for awhile, but then one day you realize you want that strange new routine and person and it’s more love than anything else has ever been ever in your whole entire life, ever.

Interchangeable photobooth people, I wish you well, but I’ll take my punch in the throat.

(REPOST) This is the title of a typical incendiary blog post

By Chris Clarke via Orce

Originally posted on Chris’s Blogfire here.

This sentence contains a provocative statement that attracts the readers’ attention, but really only has very little to do with the topic of the blog post. This sentence claims to follow logically from the first sentence, though the connection is actually rather tenuous. This sentence claims that very few people are willing to admit the obvious inference of the last two sentences, with an implication that the reader is not one of those very few people. This sentence expresses the unwillingness of the writer to be silenced despite going against the popular wisdom. This sentence is a sort of drum roll, preparing the reader for the shocking truth to be contained in the next sentence.

This sentence contains the thesis of the blog post, a trite and obvious statement cast as a dazzling and controversial insight.

This sentence claims that there are many people who do not agree with the thesis of the blog post as expressed in the previous sentence. This sentence speculates as to the mental and ethical character of the people mentioned in the previous sentence. This sentence contains a link to the most egregiously ill-argued, intemperate, hateful and ridiculous example of such people the author could find. This sentence is a three-word refutation of the post linked in the previous sentence, the first of which three words is “Um.” This sentence implies that the linked post is in fact typical of those who disagree with the thesis of the blog post. This sentence contains expressions of outrage and disbelief largely expressed in Internet acronyms. This sentence contains a link to an Internet video featuring a cat playing a piano.

This sentence implies that everyone reading has certainly seen the folly of those who disagree with the thesis of the blog post. This sentence reminds the reader that there are a few others who agree. This sentence contains one-word links to other blogs with whom the author seeks to curry favor, offered as examples of those others.

This sentence returns to the people who disagree with the thesis of the blog post. This sentence makes an improbably tenuous connection between those people and a current or former major political figure. This sentence links those people and that political figure to a broad, ill-defined sociodemographic class sharing allegedly similar belief systems. This sentence contains a reference to the teachings of Jesus; its intent may be either ironic or sincere.

This sentence refers to a different historic period, and implies that conditions relevant to the thesis of the blog post were either different or the same. This sentence states that the implications of the previous sentence are a damned shame. This sentence says that the next sentence will explain the previous sentence. This sentence contains a slight rewording of the thesis of the blog post, a trite and obvious statement cast as a dazzling and controversial insight.

This sentence contains an apparent non-sequitur phrased as if it follows logically from the reworded thesis of the blog post. This sentence is a wildly overgeneralized condemnation of one or more entire classes of people phrased in as incendiary a fashion as possible which claims to be an obvious corollary to the thesis and non-sequitur.

This sentence proposes that anyone who might disagree with the wildly overgeneralized condemnation is, by so disagreeing, actually proving the author’s point. This sentence explains that such people disagree primarily because of the author’s courageous and iconoclastic approach. This sentence mentions the additional possibilities that readers who express disagreement with the wildly overgeneralized condemnation are merely following political fashion or trying to ingratiate themselves with interest groups. This sentence is a somewhat-related assertion based in thoughtless privilege and stated as dispassionate objective truth. This sentence explains that if the scales would merely fall from those dissenting readers’ eyes, they would see the wisdom and necessity of the author’s statements.

This sentence invites readers to respond freely and without constraint as long as those responses fall within certain parameters. This sentence consists of an Internet in-joke that doesn’t quite fit the topic.

[This parenthetical sentence was appended some time after posting as an expression of gratitude for the post’s many visitors and an apology that server overload has prompted the owner’s closing of comments, at least for the time being.]

The Umpire Whispers “Please Play” (David Foster Wallace)

Yesterday while sitting on top of the snowy cliffs of the Hudson river valley, my buddy Eric, one of the wiser people I know, related the following passage from David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest”. The protagonist is relating “a really unpleasant dream that had been recurring nightly and waking me up in medias for weeks and was beginning to grind me down and to cause some slight deterioration in performance and rank. . . .

if only life were this simple

if only...

In this dream, which every now and then still recurs, I am standing publicly at the baseline of a gargantuan tennis court. I’m in a competitive match, clearly: there are spectators, offiials. The court is about the size of a football field, though, maybe, it seems. It’s hard to tell. But mainly the court’s complex. The lines that bound and define play are on this court as complex and convolved as a sculpture of string. There are lines going every which way, and they run oblique or meet and form relationships and boxes and rivers and tributaries and systems inside systems: lines, corners, alleys, and angles deliquesce into a blur at the horizon of the distant net. I stand there tentatively. The whole thing is almost too involved to try to take in all at once. It’s simply huge. And it’s public. A silent crowd resolves itself at what may be the court’s periphery, dressed in summer’s citrus colors, motionless and highly attentive. A battalion of linesmen stand blandly alert in their blazers and safari hats, hands folded over their slacks’ flies. High overhead, near what might be a net-post, the umpire, blue-blazered, wired for amplification in his tall high-chair, whispers “Play.” The crowd is a tableau, motionless and attentive. I twirl my stick in my hand and bounce a fresh yellow ball and try to figure out where in all that mess of lines I’m supposed to direct service. I can make out in the stands stage-left the white sun-umbrella of the Moms; her height raises the white umbrella above her neighbors; she sits in her small circle of shadow, hair white and legs crossed and a delicate fist upraised and tight in total unconditional support.

The umpire whispers “Please Play.”

We sort of play. But it’s all hypothetical, somehow. Even the ‘we’ is theory: I never get quite to see the distant opponent, for all the apparatus of the game.”

How to win a Fulbright Scholarship (A.K.A How to score a fully funded, employer approved adventure to study whatever you want where ever you choose.)

The world is your oyster

The world is your oyster

Most people think that you need to be a 4.0 student to get a Fulbright. Not true.  You don’t even have to be a student!  (I was neither.)  You just need to be passionate enough about 1) researching your cause and 2) being an ambassador for America to convince the Fulbright committee that 1) you are worth funding and 2) will make good use of your time abroad. In hopes of encouraging a more diverse group of people to apply, I offer up my top 10 tips for potential applicants. I only have a sample size of one, so take them with a grain of salt.

1) Pick a topic of great interest to both the US and Host governments.

-Grant writing 101: You are asking these governments for money. Pick something that they care about.

-I chose “The effect of Globalization on the Italian Textile and Fashion Industries.” Italy’s family textile businesses are getting decimated by low-cost, Asian imports. The Italian government wants to know how to make those businesses more competitive. Guess who else is worried about low-cost, Asian imports? You got it, Uncle Sam.

2) Pick a relevant and timely topic.

-It’s better work on something new and exciting than to pick a topic that’s been beaten to death.

-“Globalization” was about as hot as it gets in 2006. Another girl in my class studied “the Slow Food Movement.” The Italian Fulbright committee was basically asking for her autograph.

3) Pick a topic that is personally relevant.

-You need to convince the admissions committee that you are PASSIONATE about whatever it is you propose to study, be it textiles or sea snails. Since there are no deliverables attached to the funding, the committee needs to know that you are going to follow through on your work.

-I talked about seeing Italian textiles manufactured first hand by a family business while I studied abroad in Siena back in college. I also showed my commitment to the garment industry by working an internship at Dolce & Gabbana.

4) Pick a topic that leverages your unique skills.

-Are the skills you have particularly relevant for the task on which you propose to work? They should be.

-I studied industrial and competitive dynamics 80hrs a week for two years straight on Wall Street.

5) Bring skills that aren’t available in the host country.

-Similar to #4, except that not only are you qualified for the job at hand, no one else in the host country can tackle the problem.

-Italy doesn’t have a crazy culture of excessive work, so there are very few people there that have spent 80hrs a week trying to understand why some companies succeed and others fail.

6) Bring back unique skills that benefit the US.

-Uncle Sam is footing at least half the bill for you trip, so make sure he is getting something out of the deal (in addition to all of the good will you are going to create!)

-As mentioned in #1, I brought back a better understanding of how small and medium sized businesses can compete with low cost foreign competition. I’m putting it into practice right now by starting my own business.

7) Secure as many solid affiliations as possible.

-Nine months is NOT a lot of time to produce anything meaningful, especially when you are air dropped into a foreign culture/language you may know nothing about and may not function “efficiently” in the first place. Fulbright wants to know what you are going to hit the ground running. To do so you are going to need some support/infrastructure.

-Most people have some connections from their current university or with their professors from study abroad. I didn’t have either so I just cold emailed over 75 professors at business schools all over Italy. I included examples of my work and offered to work on their projects for free. I ended up with my own office (and wonderful secretary) in the best business school in the country.

8) Use every possible question, no matter how small, to convey the value you will bring. Every word counts.

-This is obvious.

-I think I wrote entire paragraphs in one line spaces.

9) Read everything on the website and talk to past grantees.

-You can learn a lot by looking at who has gotten grants for what in the past. Talking to past grantees will give you an idea of what to expect.

-I definitely got help from my buddy who was a Fulbright.

10) Stick it out.

-The application process can be boring and tedious and easy to blow off. Don’t blow it off. It’s worth it. You’ll thank me later. I promise.

I’m published by Harvard Business! “Are you the bottleneck in your organization?”

Hi all!  It took a while but (a small sliver) of my Fulbright research on entrepreneurial decision will see the light of day courtesy of Harvard Business Online.  Here’s a snipCelebration baby!pet:

“You may be the reason your company isn’t growing. You are micromanaging — and it’s stifling the organization you are trying to build.  Our research tells us that the very management style that enables a founder to get a company off the ground — a zealous focus on tactical execution — often derails growth down the line. Lost in the heat of battle, many entrepreneurs fail to adapt their management style to the evolving needs of their growing organizations…”

Check out the article over at HBR to see what the 100+ seasoned venture capitalists and serial entrepreneurs we interviewed said about how to balance growth and control.  Or check it out because you want to know what the heck I was doing in Italy for nearly a year!  Either way, let me know what you think and thanks for clicking!

Be well!

Brett

PS.  If anyone is interested in seeing the rest of my research, I would be happy to send it to them!