Inspire Your Creativity By Listening To Podcasts

Courtesy flattop341. cc.

Courtesy flattop341. cc.

Looking to jump start your creativity? One classic piece of advice is to consume media. Read books or articles. Watch videos. Listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. The more information you shove into your brain, the more likely something will spark your creative energy.

A small, but important, personal example

This phenomenon happened to me recently, on my way to work, when I listened to Tim Ferriss interview Amanda Palmer on his podcast. At one point in the show, Amanda mentions how everything is a tradeoff. She used the example of book publishing, specifically going with a traditional publisher versus going independently.

Zooming out from book publishing, her broader message was clear. Some routes are better for some people in some instances. But no route is perfect. You’ll inevitably make sacrifices. It’s helpful when the sacrifices are deliberate, when you know exactly what you’re giving up, and what you’re getting in return.

Continue reading

Watching the Big Bets Made in Disrupted Oil and Gas Markets

Courtesy Beatnik Photos. cc

Courtesy Beatnik Photos. cc

I just published a new post on LinkedIn. You can find it here.

Oil and gas markets have faced choppy waters for the past nine months or so. Oil prices have fallen over 50%, as have the number of oil rigs performing new work across the United States. Oil and gas companies, and their employees, are feeling the effects.

In this market, big companies are placing big bets on the future of the industry. If you pay enough attention to these bets, and any corresponding patterns, you’ll get a sense of how the most important players expect the oil and gas game to change.

If you’re interested in that, please check out my LinkedIn post. Thanks.

Taking a Few Minutes to Appreciate Fantastic Writing

With everything I read, I pay attention to the writing style. It’s the main way I learn to write better. Jason Smith’s article, Confessions of a Drug-Addicted High School Teacher, is some of the best writing I’ve seen.

If you haven’t read the article yet, go read it. You won’t be disappointed. And it’ll keep me from spoiling the story as I share my notes about it below.

Strong introduction

The introduction to the article is top notch:

“One year may not sound like enough time for a life to come apart at the seams, but a year in the life of a drug addict can be counted by drama, bullshit and tragedies in the same way rings can be counted on a tree.”

It’s going to be a good story. You know it won’t drag, because the whole thing only lasts a year. The description is visceral, given the part about life coming apart at the seams. Such a strong opening is a welcome change from the weak, boring introductions you often see.

Continue reading

3 Success Lessons from David Blaine’s Incredible Life Story

Courtesy Eric McGregor. cc

Courtesy Eric McGregor. cc

I just published a post at LinkedIn, detailing three lessons about success you can learn from David Blaine, the world famous magician. Blaine was on a recent episode of Alec Baldwin’s podcast, Here’s The Thing. I loved listening to that episode.

Blaine tells an abbreviated version of his life story. With some nice insight from Alec Baldwin, you can pretty quickly distill important lessons about what ultimately made David Blaine the huge success he is. In short, the lessons are (1) don’t give up, (2) find your strength, and (3) change the rules.

For more details, see my LinkedIn post. Feel free to comment there, here, or in both places. I’d love to know what you think.

Thanks.

Being a Dad Is the Best Job I’ve Ever Had

Reid's crib.

Reid’s crib.

My son, Reid, turned eight months old today. These past eight months have been a blast. They haven’t been easy. Nor have they been inexpensive. But they have been equal parts fulfilling and surprising.

Less change than I expected

My biggest surprise over the past eight months is how little I’ve changed. Not only am I fundamentally the same guy. I’m the same guy in just about every way imaginable. Having a child just means everything about me is a little more cohesive. For almost everything I do, I at least consider the impact on my role as a dad.

Here’s a quick example. My dad and I went to the Shell Houston Open golf tournament last weekend. We’ve done the same thing in the past. This time, I kept thinking about when in the future Reid might enjoy watching golf. And when he might enjoy playing it. And how I should introduce him to the game. Those are new thoughts I have now, being a dad, that I didn’t have before.

Staying on the theme of how little things have changed, I haven’t grown much wiser. My parental instincts are about what you or I would have guessed, given who I was before becoming a dad. Fortunately I make the right calls most of the time. Sometimes, not so much, like when Reid fell off the couch because I got distracted watching a basketball game. We’re good now, but that was a rough few minutes for both him and me. Not my best effort.

How my son surprises me

Another surprise for me is how interested I am in watching Reid play. Sometimes, his play is random. Other times, it seems deliberate. It’s crazy to watch him move toward a basket of toys, pick out one specific toy he had his eye on, then manipulate it purposefully. He performs experiments, first confirming what he already knows about the toy, then trying to do new things with it. It’s really fun to watch.

Yet another surprise is how big a kick I get out of him smiling at me. Some smiles are predictable, like when I walk in the door after getting home from work. Other smiles are totally unpredictable, like when he takes a short break while eating just to smile at me. Or when he’s deep in play, stops everything, looks up and smiles. Each smile has its own effect on me, but they’re all remarkable. Before having a kid, I couldn’t imagine responding so strongly to something as simple as a half-smile.

Sources of fulfillment

The fulfillment comes mostly from having such a clearly defined purpose outside of myself. Before having a kid, if I thought of helping others, I thought of charity. Should I donate money? Should I donate time? Should I seek out a trusted, established institution to work through? Should I reach out in new, more personal ways? Having a kid takes all the guess work out of serving someone else. It’s clear what he needs. It’s clear what his (and my) goals are. Now it’s just making sure my actions take us both closer to those goals.

Another, related source of fulfillment comes from the growth of my marriage. That relationship changed when the little guy arrived. Our marriage is strictly a bond between the two of us, but now we have this third party who has as much stake in the quality of our relationship as anyone can have. Frankly, he probably has a bigger stake in our relationship than either of us does. That’s crazy. But it helps justify, and motivate, doing all the little things necessary to build and maintain a healthy marriage. The added fulfillment is an incredible byproduct of that effort.

Looking forward to the future

I’m only eight months into being a dad. I know this gig is going to change dramatically as time unfolds. The first eight months have been a blast. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. While it isn’t easy, and while there are times I probably don’t perform as well as I could, I’m really, really looking forward to the next eight months, and the eight months after that, and the eight months after that…

Taylor Swift Is One of The Greatest Living Musicians. Why?

Eva Rinaldi. cc

Courtesy Eva Rinaldi. cc

I love getting into debates about the “greatness” of musicians. Really fun arguments ensue. The arguments ultimately fall into one of two buckets: taste or semantics. I like some music that you don’t (taste). I define “great” differently than you do (semantics). Fun times.

I don’t want to have those debates here. For the purposes of this post, I define “great” strictly in terms of commercial success. That’s controversial, I know. I could write a whole post on this argument, which I started to do here but edited it out. We’ll get to that another time.

Taylor Swift’s greatness

By my definition, Taylor Swift is unequivocally great. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s list of top artists, Taylor Swift has sold more digital singles than any other artist. Katy Perry is second. Rihanna is third. All great artists.

Continue reading

The Data Will Never Be Good Enough. And That’s OK.

ruler_20150405

Courtesy lisasolonynko.

You have a bunch of sales data, or marketing data, or engineering data. And you have an open question. What customers are most likely to buy my new product? What market segment will grow the quickest? What material will be strong enough and light enough for my design? Alas, the data is just too murky to answer the question.

Life has given you lemons. You have two options:

1. Throw the lemons out. Ditch the data and do what people have always done (go with intuition, seek counsel from experts, make a pure guess, etc.)

2. Make lemonade. Adjust your expectations. Embrace the uncertainty. Find the scenarios where the data informs you about your question, even without a complete answer.

Both options are useful

In some cases, the first option is best. The pendulum has swung too far in support of data-driven decision-making, which is strange coming from someone (me) who has built a whole career in in this area. The data-driven approach is great. But it’s only a hammer, and we know all problems aren’t nails.

Continue reading

Your Day Job Gives You Much More Than Money

Courtesy Flying Pete.

Courtesy Flying Pete.

While your paycheck is critical, your day job gives you something even more important: an audience. That’s what makes a job so attractive. People are literally paid to consume what you create, whether these people are other employees, customers, or competitors. Some of these people, beyond consuming what you create, will offer feedback or commentary. Some will help you chart your path forward. But you have an engaged audience from the get go, which can be difficult to create outside the confines of the “traditional” workplace.

The challenge of building an audience

The easy way to build an audience is to take a traditional day job. The nature of a job, the fact that you’re getting paid to do something, means it’s almost impossible for you not to have an audience. If you perform well in that role, and if your audience appreciates and communicates your performance, you will make progress. Even at small scales, progress is incredibly rewarding.

Continue reading

Why You Get Advice To Follow Your Passion

Courtesy William Warby. cc.

Courtesy William Warby. cc.

If you seek advice about changing your career trajectory, you’ll inevitably hear “follow your passion”. If you listen to any entrepreneurship podcast, or read any self-development book, you’ll hear the same thing. Find your passion. Follow it. Great.

Why this advice is helpful

The value you get from following your passion is a second order effect. I mean that, the immediate (or first order) effect of following your passion is you become happier. You’re happier doing things you’re passionate about than you are doing other things. But your happiness isn’t the real reason this advice is helpful.

The real reason the “follow your passion” advice is helpful is, when you’re passionate about something, you’re more likely to push past the obstacles that will inevitably appear. And if I can distill one central piece of wisdom from the body of success thinking, it would be the importance of getting back up after you’ve been knocked down.

Continue reading

Houston Public School Research – Meyerland

My wife and I are currently searching for a home to buy here in Houston, Texas. We’ve done tons of research, a significant portion of which has been focused on schools. I decided to publish my notes about schools in the Meyerland area here, just in case it’s helpful to others.

The Meyerland area is in southwest Houston, just outside of the 610 loop. It has great proximity to the best known parts of Houston, from downtown, to the sports stadiums, to the Galleria, to you name it. From what I’ve seen, the real estate is expensive, certainly compared to the suburbs, but it’s not as pricey as the premier parts of town (River Oaks, West University, Memorial, etc.).

Continue reading