Scott Belsky, Co-founder of Behance
Scott Belsky, Co-founder of Behance
— Donna Bowman, A.V. Club on the Journey of Ted Mosby
— Seth Godin
Entering the Arena
Last week I hit a wall.
Afraid of hearing the word “no” from a potential business partner, I preemptively shut down conversations by hiding behind the need to develop a perfect pitch. Of course, this only resulted in me sitting in front of my keyboard feeling deservedly frustrated and unaccomplished.
What I should have done is entered the metaphorical arena by couragously committing to my ideas and drafting a proposal thereby opening up the conversation, knowing full well that the only way to find the perfect pitch is by asking more question and allowing a co-created solution to emerge.
This realization hit me while listening to the TED Radio Hour Podcast on Making Mistakes, where Brene Brown explores if we can gain strength from recognizing shame and embracing vulnerability:
I know it’s seductive to stand outside the arena, because I think I did it my whole life, and think to myself, I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive. But the truth is that never happens. And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that’s not what we want to see. We want you to go in. We want to be with you and across from you. And we just want, for ourselves and the people we care about and the people we work with, to dare greatly.
Ultimately, the proposal that I sent today was no better than the proposal I would have sent last week. In fact, the delay probably did not help my case much. Moving forward, I guess I’ll just have to take a page out of Guetta’s book, don some titanium armor and join the fight.
I’m criticized, but all your bullets ricochet
You shoot me down, but I get up
I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Watch the full TED talk here:
Want to seem more interesting this year? Start by being interested. Focus on making others feel intelligent, impressive and fascinating. Instead of focusing on yourself, shine the spotlight light back on them by asking better questions:
Social jiu-jitsu is easy. Just ask the right questions. Stay open-ended and allow room for description and introspection. Ask how, or why, or who.
As soon as you learn a little about someone, ask how they did it. Or why they did it. Or what they liked about it, or what they learned from it, or what you should do if you’re in a similar situation.
By asking for advice, you are demonstrating that you respect their opinion and in a way, are inviting them to be part of your future success.
Here is to a more charismatic 2013. Cheers!
It’s New Year’s Day.
Today, we wake up armed with a handful of fresh resolutions and a little resolve borrowed from the promise of a new year.
We head to the gym, take to the kitchen, curl up with a book and hunker down in front of a keyboard. We swear off the junk food, power down the TV and dream of a better, happier, healthier, more productive life. Waiting for that all important day when we walk out of the room as people whisper behind us:
Do you think she just woke up one morning and said, ‘I think I’ll go to law school today’?
That day however, is not today. Because achieving our resolutions are never quite as easy as waking up and making a grand proclamation. A better life requires life long changes. It’s about showing up to each battle, win, lose or draw, while not losing site of the overall war. Jeff Goins helps us to understand why most resolutions fail:
A resolution is something you make. Resolve is something you have. Call it semantics, but this is important. A lot of people will make resolutions this new year and immediately break them. Why? Because they’re not really resolving to do anything. They’re just wishing.
So where do we find resolve? Or better yet, how do you build resolve? Lifehacker recommends a scaffolding approach to structure your goals that involve the following steps:
Choose a concrete goal
Determine the next action
Make your resolution open ended
Seek out a support network
Be realistic and kind
At the end of the day, we all have 24 hours. Changing your life requires that you to rethink how to prioritize the time that we are all given.
2012 Score Card
Raw Score: 23/28 = 82%
with bonus points 43/28 = 154%
WHEN YOU EAT, APPRECIATE EVERY LAST BITE
OPEN YOUR MIND, ARMS, AND HEART TO NEW THINGS
LIFE IS ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU MEET, AND THE THINGS YOU CREATE WITH THEM
GETTING LOST WILL HELP YOU FIND YOURSELF
Any suggestions for 2013?
Leslie Knope. ”The Debate” - Parks and Recreation | Season 4, Episode 20
Battle cry. Let’s go.
Revisiting the White Desert Forest
You know it’s close so you keep pedaling.
Shrouded in swirling clouds of playa dust, the shadowed masses of deserted bikes come into focus. A white walled sanctuary stands strong in the distance, a welcome shelter from the sand, sun and sweat that coats every inch of exposed skin.
Bike parked. Lock secured. You slip between the walls and enter the white desert forest.
Behind you the bass filled beats of Robot Heart silently fade into the background and the soft rustling of a thousand plastic strips beckon you closer.
Remove your shoes first, then your socks. The rough sun warmed wood beneath your feet guides you along the perimeter of this plush furry wonderland.
A sudden breeze sends the delicate white leaves into flurried dance revealing a cuddled mass of people lying on the forest floor. The winds calm, the strips settle, and once again everything is shielded behind a shimmering wall of white.
With your first step, you sink into the padded foam floor. Soft white fur provides a welcome relief from the grainy layer of dust that covers your shoes, tent and just about every other surface that comes in contact with your feet. Careful to dodge the scattered assortment of limbs, you step over an arm here, a leg there until you discover a wide open spot to call your own.
Collapsing onto the ground, you slowly stretch out as the fine sea of white fibers gently tickles your bare back and neck as you begin borough deeper.
Staring up at the blue sky above you smile.
With their tips cut to barely graze the top of your skin, the strips scatter, caught in the rhythmic breath of the playa.
Here you lay.
You are happy. You are warm. You are loved.
Writing a blog post is often a paralyzing proposition.
Your breath grows shallow as you are transported back to school. Memories of all nighters and minimum page requirement leave your hands frozen on top of your keyboard as the clock in the back of your head continues to count down till class the next day. Scrambling for sources to weave together into a tight insightful masterpiece worthy of an A, your fingers finally fall into a rhythmic flow only to be broken by a single long silent press of the delete key. Sigh….
Even though I have left school behind, I have not been able to shake my rocky relationship with writing. Overwhelmed and exhausted before I even begin, I have failed to keep up with my resolution to blog more this year.
With only a month left, I have determined that a new medium requires a new mindset. Instead of approaching each post as a research paper, I want my blog to instead serve as a collection of notes. Martin Varsavsky, CEO of Fon, provides an enlightening insight into how he handles social media:
Sometimes people say: how do you get work done if you spend so much time on social media? But I use social media to take notes, like I have an idea for a business and I blog it, I share it, and I work collectively with people.
Here is hoping that a shift in mindset leads to an increase in consistency for my blogging. I guess we will all know in a month.
The Playa Will Provide
Since first writing down Black Rock Desert on my list of places to visit in 2012, Burning Man and I have been playing an eight month game of chicken.
Well that game is about to come to a head as we drive off to the playa today taking everything that we’ll need to survive for a week of 100 degree plus days, 60 degree nights and 100 mph plus dust storms in between.
At this point many of you may be asking both “why?” and “you?”.
Why - To test my limits and remind myself of what I actually need in order to survive. Without television, iPhones and laptop to keep me connected to the outside world, I’ll be forced to embrace my surrounding and really focus on the brilliantly bizarre social experiment that is Burning Man.
You - Well, me with the gentle encouragement of my playa pod (Jeff, Chris and Skot) and utterly wonderful and chaotic energy coming from our 40 person strong Camp Polygraph.
So this is me, refusing to blink. Staring Burning Man in the face. See you all on the other side.
Ginger Banana Bread with Cardamom Crunch Topping
Greeted by a bunch of bananas that were downright Warhol-ian, I knew that it was banana bread time.
Feeling a little adventurous, I turned to Gojee and found a recipe from 5 and Spice that featured both cardamom and ginger. After a quick trip down to a local Indian spice shop, I was ready to get baking.
Ginger Banana Bread with Cardamom Crunch Topping (makes one loaf)
- 2 cups all purpose flour (replace up to a cup with the equivalent amount of whole wheat flour, if you wish)
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup chopped crystallized ginger
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 Tbs. creme fraiche or sour cream
- ½ cup vegetable oil (preferably peanut oil or canola oil, you can even use a nice olive oil if you wish. I’ve done it. It’s great.)
- 1 ½ Tbs. coarse sugar (raw, demerrera, or muscavado. Regular sugar will work too if you don’t have any of those, though), for the topping
- 1 tsp. cardamom and a pinch of nutmeg, for the topping
- Grease a standard loaf pan well, and preheat your oven to 350F. In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and crystallized ginger.
- In another mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and lightened in color, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the mashed banana, the vanilla, the creme fraiche, and finally the oil, until well combined.
- Gently fold in the dry ingredients, just until everything is combined and there are no dry streaks left. DO NOT overmix! Seriously, don’t. There’s a delicate banana bread ecosystem going on here, and you don’t want to upset the balance because it will make the finished bread tough.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Mix together the 1 ½ Tbs. sugar with the cardamom and nutmeg. Sprinkle this evenly over the batter. Bake for 45-60 minutes (the actual time will depend totally on your oven), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen it, take the bread out of the pan, and put on a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way. The flavor is actually the best when the bread is fully cooled, but I know I can’t stop myself nabbing a thin slice while it’s still warm and eating it spread with butter, so I won’t blame you for doing so either.
Light and fluffy on the inside with satisfying crunch of the sugar and cardamom on top, I’ll definitely be adding this recipe to my repertoire. The only thing I would add for next time is an extra mashed banana to reinforce that fruity flavor.
CAREERS ARE NOT A LADDER – THEY’RE A JUNGLE GYM
What do you get when you knock the traditional career ladder on it’s side?
That piece of career advice came straight from Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg in a speech to Harvard Business School’s latest graduates.
Laurie has a great metaphor for careers. She says they’re not a ladder; they’re a jungle gym. As you start your post-HBS career, look for opportunities, look for growth, look for impact, look for mission. Move sideways, move down, move on, move off. Build your skills, not your resume. Evaluate what you can do, not the title they’re going to give you. Do real work. Take a sales quota, a line role, an ops job, don’t plan too much, and don’t expect a direct climb. If I had mapped out my career when I was sitting where you are, I would have missed my career.
Among my favorites gems
You can find the rest of Sheryl’s commencement speech here.
You Win This Round Minneapolis
Minneapolis always seemed like an all too familiar joke in my mind, an offhanded comment often exchanged between friends living in distant cities. “You should come and visit me,” one friend offers while the other replies “that sounds great,” both knowing full well that the chance of it happening is about as likely as you attending another high school prom.
After participating in this all too familiar ritual exchange of pleasantries this past winter break in Hawaii, I finally received a text about a day before Coachella asking if I was still planning on visiting Minnesota, which is my mind was probably the furthest thing from the raging desert oasis. However, after coming back from a mind blowing, body thumping, fist pumping Swedish House Mafia performance, I decided to book my tickets for the following month in a haze of euphoric delirium and worry about the consequences of what I had just committed myself to another night.
Leading up to Minneapolis, I didn’t really know what to expect. The first things that popped into my mind were visions of farmlands and generic scenes from That 70’s Show. What I found however far exceeded my expectations even pushing me to the point of saying I could see myself living here (with the qualification that it remain spring all year round).
Minneapolis and St. Paul, otherwise known as the Twin Cities, left me feeling more like I had stepped off a plane due west in the city of Portland instead of in the Midwest. My gracious tour guide, host and prom date Lauren informed me that similar to New York or LA, Minneapolis has become a hub for populations of Somali, Mung and Hispanic immigrants. The result of this diverse combination of cultures could be felt in my belly as I dined on spice filled Somali sambusas, savory corn pancakes and good ole deep fried cheese curds with a not so traditional blueberry ketchup.
Driving through Minneapolis, you can’t help but notice the lush green trees and clear blue waters that gently frame and shape the city. With public parkways surrounding many of their 10,000 lakes (don’t trust me? take it up with their license plate department), perhaps the best way to see the city is through their extensive citywide bike share program aptly titled Nice Bikes.
Walking will also suit you well, especially while exploring their wonderfully well-balanced and quirky modern art museum the Walker. In a place where nothing is quite right (literally zero 90 degree angles to be found in the entire structure of the joint), the Walker features an intriguing mix of contemporary art that included a magical box made of mirrors, really tiny working elevators, an utterly explicit 3D painting as well as an amusing digital display of a man scrubbing the White House directly off the dollar bill. You can also have a very cherry time walking around the sculpture garden while enjoying the flowers.
If you want less modern and more mill, flour mill to be exact, then the Stone Arch Bridge and the Mill City museum provide some of the greatest views of the city, in addition to the mighty Mississippi which used to power Minneapolis’s once thriving wheat processing industry.
Really when it comes down to it Minneapolis just feels down right cozy. With its Drinkin’ Spelling Bees and late night trips for macaroni and cheese pizza there was very little I found myself wanting for at the end of the week. I mean their mall, well America’s mall I suppose, has a roller coaster running through the middle of it, can your city boast that? Hell, I even found an authentic Nepali restaurant serving up momos and samsoa chat, right before buying a used bowling pin from the Ax-Man.
As I get ready to board my flight, I can’t help but wonder if the joke has been me this entire time for not visiting Minneapolis sooner. I will leave Minneapolis with new friends and fond memories, plans for a return trip that include camel burgers and a SPAM factory, and finally sans one bowling pin because the TSA agent said it could be used as a club and I didn’t want to pay $25 to check a $5 souvenir. Well played Minneapolis, well played indeed.
Five months ago, I never thought that I would find myself suiting up for a high school prom. However, this Friday I will be doing just that when I jet off to Minneapolis, Minnesota to visit, coincidentally enough, my original senior prom date Lauren.
This year has been full of serendipitous surprises. Approaching life with a healthy dose of amusement, I’ve tried to fully embrace a jump first ask questions later attitude. Whether this meant pressing play and slogging through two straight months of Insanity workouts or frantically hunting down a mystical Coachella Zone 5 shuttle pass from 2,462 miles away with only four days left before the concert, I’ve emerged slimmer in build, 20 lbs to be exact, yet full of life in addition to a little bit of secondhand weed after standing 20 feet away from the stage in a permanent cloud of smoke while rocking out to Snoop and Dre.
Before I leave the country for the second time in my life and get my first taste of Europe, I thought now would be a good time to reflect back on where I’ve been on this year long quest for travel.
In addition to an extended 3 week food fueled rampage through New York, I’ve ventured to the majestic farmlands of Modesto, licked the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, toured the monuments and museums in Washington D.C. and lived young wild and free in the Polo Grounds of Indio at Coachella.
Up next are the aforementioned prom in Minneapolis and a month long trek through Spain, Italy and Paris culminating in a visit to the red clay of Roland Garros. After that is hopefully a road trip up north to the Shakespeare festival in Oregon and the lush forests of Seattle.
From there, I am still taking suggestions. On my short list are Joshua Tree, Miami, Vancouver or Toronto and possibly somewhere in South America. Let me know if you need a travel companion otherwise I’ll see you on the road.
About a month ago, I started planning for a multi-destination ’round the world...