A book is a souvenir of an idea.Seth Godin – on The Good Life Project
You come in here, and you see something, and you go “Oh yeah!” and then you can go do something.
Whereas who knows where it is on my harddrive?
They’re like old friends.
I think that the magic [of a book] is sort of like how people used to talk about radio, as “Theatre of the Mind.” You would hear things but you’d have to put the pictures on in your head.
Books are even more than that because you don’t even hear it, you have to add the voice, the noise in your head.
What is magic about books… is that it’s the only form of media that can be reliably produced by mostly one person, but that stands the taste of time.
A tweet goes away, a Facebook update goes away, a movie you need like a hundred people.
So this is like that sweet spot inbetween where I can say “Every word in this book I wrote, I thought about it for a year, it’s what I was thinking about at the time. Here.”
And twenty years from now and fifty years from now, you can still read it.
… isn’t the push to meet a tight deadline, or what you do under pressure.
Crunch time is when you have a bit of time, space and discretion about what to do, and you don’t really feel like showing up.
- It’s paying attention to people and processes when they’re doing well, long before they break down
- It’s committing a bit of time every week to work on the important, non-urgent tasks that will bear fruit (or suddenly overwhelm you) down the road
- It’s going to the gym and doing something when you feel a bit off-colour
- It’s about being a pro – about showing up and shipping the work – rather than being ‘authentic‘ or following your feelings in the moment
Crunch time about is what you commit to, under what conditions, and how you set things up and get the work done long before the crisis, so that crunch time in traditional sense rarely happens.
If you can keep your momentum when you’re not feeling great, when your motivation wanes, when there’s an interesting distraction… then you’ve done most of the hard work. The easy days will take care of themselves.
… there was a great Dilbert strip where the pony-haired boss says, “You know, I have a great idea for a startup. All I need is for, you know, somebody to actually, like, write the code and do all the work.” And Dilbert says, “The technical term for what you have is, ‘nothing’” … right? Right? [see it here]
… in my world, you actually see this a lot. You’ll see people say, like, “I have an idea, but it’s such a good idea, I can’t tell anybody about it, because they’ll steal my idea”. And at least in our world, like, literally it is, therefore, what you now have is nothing… There’s another great — I forget who said it, there’s another great line somebody said that — “If you have a really, really great idea, like, you can shout it to the rafters and like, still nobody’s gonna take it seriously.”
Like, the world is filled with ideas. Like, there is actually no idea shortage. And in fact, by the way, many people actually have the same ideas. And by the way, many of the ideas are actually reasonably obvious. Like, you know, the iPhone. We’re all carrying around these… Like, what a genius idea was the iPhone. Well, hey, how about a computer you can hold in your hand. Like, how about a computer that you don’t have to carry in a briefcase, you can hold in your hand. …“Star Trek,” freakin “Star Trek”! They had them on “Star Trek” in 1966. Like, yeah, I want a computer I can hold in my hand. Like, the idea alone didn’t get Steve Jobs anywhere. It was everything else that he did to make the idea a reality — and actually get it into people’s hands — that mattered.Marc Andreessen on The Moment with Brian Koppelman
How do tools – ideas and understandings, practices, and real physical tools – get to the people who need them?
Some tools may only need to be seen to by copied and spread. A tool will spread if it is:
- Visible – people need to see it (or hear, or read about it)
- Beneficial – people need to see that the tool brings benefits too
- Acceptable – isn’t in some way taboo*
- Doable – simple enough to understand and apply
- Accessible – people can get hold of what they need to start using it
- Affordable – in terms of the physical, mental and emotional resources** and time needed to learn or use the tool
- Unleashing the Ideavirus*** – Seth Godin
- The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
*Taboos may prevent one or both of the first two from happening
**”Can I afford the social or emotional costs of using this tool? Is it worth it?”
***The copyright section of which reads as follows:
You have permission to post this, email this, print this and pass it along for free to anyone you like, as long as you make no changes or edits to its contents or digital format. In fact, I’d love it if you’d make lots and lots of copies. The right to bind this and sell it as a book, however, is strictly reserved.
… is a fact of life.
- It means if you’re not alert, you’ll miss out.
- It doesn’t mean that it’s okay to snatch something out of someone’s hand just because they’re not looking, or that we shouldn’t set something aside for someone who’s running late.
- It means that if you’re not in the game, you can’t score.
- It doesn’t mean that we all have to play the same game, or keep score in the same way (or at all), or that other people’s score should be important to you.
You snooze, you lose…
Except, of course, when a nap’s just what you need.
… producing books with ease on Gutenberg’s press did not fully unleash text. Real literacy also required a long list of innovations and techniques that permitted ordinary readers and writers to manipulate text in ways that made it useful. For instance, quotation symbols make it simple to indicate where one has borrowed text from another writer. We don’t have a parallel notation in film yet, but we need one.
Once you have a large text document, you need a table of contents to find your way through it. That requires page numbers. Somebody invented them in the 13th century. Where is the equivalent in video?
Longer texts require an alphabetic index, devised by the Greeks and later developed for libraries of books. Someday soon with AI we’ll have a way to index the full content of a film.
Footnotes, invented in about the 12th century, allow tangential information to be displayed outside the linear argument of the main text. And that would be useful in video as well.
And bibliographic citations (invented in the 13th century) enable scholars and skeptics to systematically consult sources that influence or clarify the content. Imagine a video with citations. These days, of courses we have hyperlinks, which connect one piece of text to another, and tags, which categorise using a selected word or phrase for later viewing.
All these inventions (and more) permit any literate person to cut and paste ideas, annotate them with her own thoughts, link them to related ideas, search through vast libraries of work, browse subjects quickly, resequence texts, refind material, remix ideas, quote experts, and sample bits of beloved artists.
These tools, more than reading, are the foundations of literacy.
This is work that creates possibilities. It’s open ended, and while it might close some avenues down it generates even more new options, opportunities, connections and combinations.
Generative work includes:
- Reading widely and omnivorously
- Meeting new people
- Bringing groups of people together
- Taking the next step to make an idea real: write it down, scope it out, say the words, find (or make) the scene… **
- Going to a new place
- Doing a new thing – or an old thing in a new way
- Allowing space for thought, renewal, unexpected connections
- Anything that starts with a ‘what happens if I…’ (contact that author, try that app, say yes to that invitation, ask them if they can they can do something different, introduce a sense of play, deliberately model generosity, say these words, ask this question…)
We need to build generative activity into our lives and work – it enriches the ecosystem and expands the hinterland of everything else we do.
**This might end up in shutting the idea down of course… which creates space for a new generation.
We know him for Spiderman, the X-men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther… for being the driving force behind Marvel Comics, now a multi-billion dollar, multi-media juggernaut.
It’s less well known that he started in the comics industry in 1939, aged seventeen, as a general dogsbody, lunch-fetcher and inkwell filler at Timely Comics (which would eventually become Marvel).
Lee must have had something about him – he became editor at 19 – but here’s the thing: he slogged it out writing comics – westerns, crime stories, horror and superhero work – for twenty two years without really hitting the big time. They say he chose Stan Lee as a pen name because he was worried he’d be embarrassed by his work in comics if he ever wrote the Great American Novel.
By the early 60s Lee was fed up, and ready to quit. The Fantastic Four was a last throw of the dice on his wife’s suggestion that he try writing the comics he wanted to write. There was nothing to lose.
He was forty-one years old.
The rest is history.
What if Stan Lee had never written the fantastic four?
Boy: “Are we going to give something to help the people in Palu*?”
Me: “Good idea – how much do you want to give from your pocket money?”
Me: “You choose an amount, and we’ll add ten times that amount.”**
Boy: Names an amount a little over one week’s allowance
And so at 6.30 this morning my eldest son went to school with his own donation, and 10x his own donation in an envelope to send to Palu.
If he hadn’t said anything, nothing would have happened. If I hadn’t said yes, and told him what I’d give if he went first, he might have found it harder to give. We made it easy for each other, and everyone won.
If you’re with the right people – people who share your values, people who are ready to be led – sometimes all it takes to make a change is to say the words.
Even if people might not share your values, and might not be ready, it’s often worth saying the words anyway, because they might come with you, or at least be more likely to come with you next time.
Do you want to lead? Say the words.
Want to see change happen? Be listening for the right words, and be ready to say yes.
* (see this article if you’re not sure what he was talking about)
** I knew roughly how much he had in his piggy bank
Here’s a great case study in doing it now and starting small from Fast Company founder Alan Webber. It’s about how Muhammad Yunus founded Grameen Bank, and ended up helping millions of families to a more prosperous future. Weber Concludes:
Start small. Do what you can with something you care about so deeply that you simply can’t not do it. Stay focused, close to the ground, rooted in everyday reality. Trust your instincts and your eyes: do what needs doing any way you can, whether the experts agree or not. Put practice ahead of theory and results ahead of conventional wisdom.
Start small. If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t work, change what you’re doing until you find something that does work. Start small, start with whatever is close at hand, start with something you care deeply about. But as Muhammad Yunus told the KaosPilots, start.
Alan Webber, Rule #38 from his Rules of Thumb
Read the whole piece at TimFerris.com.