Daily Blog

“There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”

James P. Carse

Much of what I write and think about revolves around how we can think about the finite games we like to play in infinite ways.

How can we program ourselves to relish opportunities for growth, even when they look like failures?

How do we play to win while also play simply to keep playing?

And how do we play finite games alongside those who can’t see the infinite possibility within all games?

There are three blogs which I return to more than any others.

Today I thought I’d share them.

1. Seth’s Blog

The blog of Seth Godin was the inspiration for this one. He’s published work every day for over a decade and in the process has become the best distiller of information I’ve encountered.

2. Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings is a curation of deep dives into the work of great thinkers (often writers, poets or philosophers) by Maria Popova. Maria writes with a distinctive style which I admire greatly, and creates intricate networks throughout her blog by meticulously linking articles and topics to one another.

3. The Blog of Tim Ferris

Tim Ferris is a well known author, entrepreneur and self described ‘human guinea pig’. His blog is the home to his widely successful podcast, The Tim Ferris Show, where he seeks to unpack the successful habits of world class performers. I regularly listen to his podcasts, and find his cataloguing of show notes on the blog to be an invaluable resource.

Seth Godin makes a hugely insightful point in his riff on Theodore Levitt’s famous quarter-inch drill bit quote.

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.

Theodore Levitt, Harvard Marketing Professor

Godin argues that it’s not even the hole that people want.

It’s not the shelf they plan on installing on the brackets they’re going to drill into the hole.

What people want are the feelings they’re able to access now that they have the drill bit; the feeling of pride when they install the shelf by themselves, the gratification of pleasing their spouse, or the safety and security they might experience when then can put all their things on the shelf, and keep their space tidy and organised.

This is important for marketers to understand, but equally important for us to understand as consumers.

When we spend (be it our money or our time), what are the feelings we’re trading for?

Are we being capitalised upon?

Are we making decisions which will serve us over time?

That next Big Mac might feel incredible at the time, but it won’t an hour later. And if that feeling you purchased diminished so quickly, what will it’s value be in twenty years when your health catches up with you?

People are plagued by the fact that we always want, but don’t always know what we want.

Learning to want less, and more specifically is the trick.

Nobody wants a quarter-inch drill bit – but we all want to feel safe, healthy, respected and loved.

People naturally gravitate towards happy and motivated people. This includes employers, friends, partners and teammates.

When people gravitate towards you, the opportunities available to you increase.

People aren’t happy and motivated because they’re successful, it’s the other way around.

The reason lottery winners wind up depressed is that our happiness depends not on what we have, but what we have in relation to what we’re accustomed to.

It’s why a getting a NutriBullet is so exciting… for about three weeks.

Once having a nice blender is something you’re accustomed to though, you’re far less likely to actually enjoy using it.

Image result for nutri bullet
Photo: Michael Hession

The shine on 20 million dollars lasts a little longer, but the novelty of driving an Mercedes wears off just like the novelty of blending spinach seamlessly into smoothies.

This isn’t the same at the bottom end of the financial scale.

Not having enough to get by is horrendously taxing on one’s happiness.

Once your basic needs are met, satisfaction lives in the process.

Setting big goals is less about achieving them than it is about the happiness we enjoy taking strides toward them.

Lean the instrument, write the book, make the ruckus, or play the sport because the pursuit itself delights you.

Just a couple of generations ago the dream life involved working your ass off for an ever increasing salary until you were 60.

If you were successful, you would have been investing portions of all those pay-checks into assets, which would increase in value over time – hopefully just enough to let you retire comfortably and leave something for your kids.

That’s lovely, but here’s the thing; robots are getting pretty good at doing the stuff we currently pay people to do.

There won’t be many honest livings made in driving a truck, taxi or Uber come 2030, and the law graduates aren’t safe either.

This puts young people in a pickle.

As unemployment rates rise and entry level jobs get automated into the abyss, how is anyone meant to make enough money to do all that smart long term investing we’ve been encouraged to do?

We need to learn to thrive in the gig economy by honing our enterprise skills.

By investing our time into brand.

By creating things which have the potential to generate value that exceeds our own input until something sticks.

By making a ruckus.

We have to invest in ourselves, and we need to start now.

Our attention is even more valuable than our time, and we trade it every day.

We live in an attention economy.

Businesses bid for it constantly. On billboards, backs of busses, and through buzzes in your pocket.

How frugal we are with our attention influences every aspect of our lives.

Where can you see your attention seeping through the gaps of things which don’t matter?

Good time management means nothing without good attention management.

Fail to focus your attention, and all that time you saved is waste.

Now’s the time to stocktake and trim the fat.

Are you a writer?

How would you know?

Writers tend to write, right?

But how often, who for and how well?

This line of questioning is ambiguously annoying for a reason; there are no hard and fast metrics which dictate what a writer is or isn’t.

If you write anything at all, you have a case to state.

Whether or not you’re a writer depends entirely on whether or not you think you’re a writer.

The same goes for dancers, photographers, fighters, models, philosophers and nearly everything in between.

You become a writer (and cease being an ‘aspiring-writer’) the second you decide to mold your definition of what a writer is to include yourself.

I believe you should do this with everything you’re passionate about.

The ‘aspiring’ part of ‘aspiring writer’ is a safety net. It shields your work from scrutiny and justify mistakes.

Unfortunately, the shield perpetuates itself.

There’s not much use in considering yourself an ‘aspiring’ anything. Making mistakes and processing critique are both essential to growth.

‘Aspiring’ implies that the goal is to get good enough to shed the preface. It implies a destination which is an absolutely arbitrary definition.

It’s better to be a bad writer than an aspiring one.

Nobody is going to respect your work or hold it to a professional standard until you do so yourself.

Being bad at stuff is great. The worse you are, the more you have to learn.

Those who identify as ‘aspiring’ tend to be the most fearful of failure.

Become petrified enough of failing, and you might just scare yourself out of ever getting the practice you need to reach your destination.

Stop aspiring, start doing.

Find what you love.

Show up.

Do the work.

Embrace the failure.

Grow.

The act of being you is something you’ll never quite perfect. But you’ll continue needing to do it until you die.

It’s the invisible item at the top of all of our to-do lists.

Doing the work of being yourself is a unique task in that there is no risk of failure. The only risk is that the quality of your work, and the life it produces, can vary greatly.

“No man is free who is not the master of himself.”

Epictetus

Master yourself and you’ll become a master of curating your own experience.

You’ve got all the time in the world to practice.

Pursuits are meaningful when they allow you to grow towards serving those you care about.

You could spend all your days and nights becoming the world’s best potato peeler, but unless you’re peeling potatoes to feed people you love, what’s the point?