White cinder block cells
No free association
School is not learning
White cinder block cells
No free association
School is not learning
Stop reading about productivity hacks and do some shit.
Sports fandom is one area where I consciously choose to engage in irrational bias and allow events completely out of my control and irrelevant to my daily life affect my mood. It’s part of the game and what makes sports fun. If you felt no joy or anger the game would lose its value. The ability to be transported by immersion in the sport is the beauty of it.
I occasionally get weird looks when I root for various teams or players because not all of my teams are based on geography or something simple to identify.
I’m from Michigan, so the fact that all the major pro sports teams from Michigan are my favorites makes sense. I love the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, and when I occasionally pay attention to hockey, the Red Wings. But I’m a fan of several other teams too.
As for college, I’m a Michigan State guy. Best basketball and football programs in the state (Yep. I said it.), and one of the best in the nation. I don’t care about the institution, but I love their sports. Dantonio and Izzo are amazing and embody the attitude proper to great sports in the Great Lakes state. I didn’t go to MSU, but if you grow up in Michigan you will be a fan of U of M or MSU. I chose correctly as a boy. My brother likes U of M. Go figure.
I love the Chicago Cubs. I grew up equidistant from Detroit and Chicago and spent far more time in the latter. I went to Wrigley several times in my baseball loving childhood and Ryne Sandberg was my favorite player. The Cubs are almost as much of a home team to me as the Tigers.
I love the Pittsburgh Steelers. This one doesn’t have much reason. Since I was a kid I just kind of liked them. I loved Bill Cower and I thought maybe when he left I wouldn’t care as much. Nope. Still love them. There’s something about the franchise that is just right. They’re what I imagine the Lions could be if they were good….in other words, if everything about every bit of the Lions history and culture were completely different than it is.
I love the New England Patriots. Check that. I love Bill Belichick. If he left, I wouldn’t care about the Pats. Belichick is the greatest coach in the history of pro sports by a mile. What he’s done in this age or parity is three times better than the next best coach. Every year – even every week – they are a new team, built specifically to win that game. And it works. Everything that’s not supposed to work in the NFL Bill makes work. It’s unreal. The more others hate him, the more I love him.
I loved the 1990’s Chicago Bulls. Because I love Michael Jordan. Greatest athlete in the history of pro sports. Those Bulls teams were amazing, and their reign coincided with when I became interested in basketball more than baseball, plus the Pistons were on the decline so the Bulls were a natural team for me to love. I don’t care much about the Bulls either way now, but those old teams were the best.
I love the current Golden State Warriors. Certainly because of Steph Curry, who is the greatest present day player and the only one since Jordan who is truly changing everything about the game of basketball. But it’s not just that. Draymond Green has an explosive play style built on grit and the attitude to match. He’s from MSU. Of course he does. It’s definitely not the franchise I love, but the current mix of personnel. This team has a legit shot to come close to the ’90’s Bulls team. Take in greatness when you can.
That’s about it for teams I love. I like some individual players a lot too. Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, and Drew Brees come to mind.
As any good sports fan, I’m also often motivated by irrational hatred. Of course I hate my team’s traditional rivals. The Michigan Wolverines, the Bears and Packers (but especially the Bears), etc. But I also hate some other teams for various reasons and sometimes no reason at all. I hate the St. Louis Cardinals. I hate Pretty much all New York teams except the Yankees. I hate the Boston Red Sox. I hate the Dallas Cowboys.
There you have the lay of the land in my world of sports fandom. Now we can irrationally pretend to like or dislike each other during big games. Just remember, all of my teams are better than all of yours.
Laziness leads to boredom, and boredom is the greatest crime against oneself.
Laziness is not about physical labor. You can be bored to tears doing manual labor all day long and you can be engaged and fulfilled while lounging in a hammock.
It’s hard work to live an unboring life, but it’s the work of the mind and heart. It takes relentless self-discovery. You can’t stay interested on a diet of quick hits of easy excitement. You need to unearth the self at the core of your being and live in accordance with what you find. You have to relentlessly purge the things that deaden your soul, bore you, and make you unhappy.
It’s far easier to just go along. It’s easier to do things that appear to be work but require little mental focus, discovery, or honesty.
But it’s not worth the cheap sense of leisure. Living an interesting life requires the deliberate act of being interested in everything within and around you and exploring it.
Boredom is death. Laziness is terminal illness.
The Foundation for Economic Education published a video of one of the talks I gave at a seminar last summer.
I hate the term “Millennial”. For some reason, it makes me want to vomit. Still, it’s a widely used label for people in the 20-30 ish age range and I must admit that there is enough cohesion to some of the traits of this generation to warrant a unique label.
I’ve written before about some of the characteristics of this generation compared to others.
I was just asked a few questions about Millennials and entrepreneurship yesterday. Here are the questions and my thoughts.
What challenges do they face?
The single biggest challenge is in the mind and habits. This is the most schooled generation in the history of the world. Nearly every second of their lives has been planned, structured, poked, and prodded by external authorities. Intrinsic motivation has been all but suffocated by positive re-enforcement and praise. Learned helplessness is the norm.
This is a tremendous struggle for this generation. They have never created their own structure or built things without preset guidelines and lots of “good jobs”. It’s sad, and it’s not their fault, but they’ve got to unlearn a whole lot of garbage before they can unleash the entrepreneurial spirit they were born with.
What special concerns do they have?
This generation is very concerned with doing work that they find meaningful and enjoyable. That is a huge plus. They also have a big concern for doing things that are popularly viewed as “good for society”, which is a huge negative. It results in a lot of signaling and posturing to be “sustainable”, “social”, with little understanding of what the terms mean or the causal relationships involved. But the underlying thrust is still a legitimate, positive concern, and that’s to gain more than just survival, but meaning and self-actualization.
What do you think?
Do you think I got it wrong? I’d love to hear thoughts, objections, and questions. Submit them via the Ask Isaac form and I’ll try to respond on the blog or in the podcast.
“Nobody has the right to tell you you’re selling out”
Tim LeVan Miller is an accountant by day, composer and musician by…everything else. We talked about his beginnings in music, how he took a different turn in college, and his choice to separate what he does for a living from what he loves.
Check out his music on timlevanmiller.com
It’s not that important to know things.
Two things are far more important than what you know. What you can learn, and what you know you don’t need to know. Maybe I’ll write a bit more about the importance of being able to learn another time, but today’s post is about knowing what you don’t need to know.
We’re surrounded by information. Every new environment is jam-packed with people, assumptions, objects, ideas, processes, rules (written and unwritten), and data. The vast majority of it is not necessary for you to achieve what you want to achieve in that environment. But a handful of things are absolutely indispensable. That is why the most valuable skill for success in diverse circumstances might be the ability to quickly identify what doesn’t matter. Discern what is not of fundamental importance and ignore it.
Nearly everything taught in schools can be ignored. So can nearly everything in a government or HR training video. These are the easy ones. Most people can intuitively gather from a young age that these things are unnecessary to successfully navigating the world (though harsh punishments may induce them to pay just enough attention to avoid manufactured pain). It gets harder when you enter a social scene, family party, or workplace. It’s harder still if you want to be an entrepreneur and enter the vast market with no blueprint.
The most successful and contented people I know are brilliant at being ignorant. They are not stupid people nor are they unable to learn almost anything of interest or value to them. But they are conscious of their chosen ignorance of the vast majority of facts and subjects and skills. They know what they don’t need to know and they don’t waste effort trying to learn it.
This typically requires genuine humility and self-confidence. Most people feel pressure to know a lot of useless stuff because it will save them the embarrassment of ever appearing to not know something. This is ridiculous and sad. Someone without broad swaths of conscious ignorance in many areas is usually wasting a lot of time and stressing over people-pleasing without ever gaining much self-knowledge.
There is no inherent value in knowledge of a fact. When you enter a new situation the limiting factor to getting the most value out of it is not how much you can learn, but how much you can identify that you don’t need to learn.
This is the other side of the 80/20 rule. Sometimes figuring out your 20% – what activities you will get the vast majority of your return on – is too hard. It’s sometimes easier and no less important to identify the 80% of things not bringing you sufficient value and stop learning and doing them.
My Amazon review of this excellent book by my good friend, radical, entrepreneur, blogger, podcaster, and fellow unschooler Jeff Till.
This book is worth every dime for the “58 arguments for home education” alone. A list so powerful, simple, and clear it’s hard to imagine ever seeing school the same or wanting to send your kids there after reading.
But Rise Above School is much more than that. The author presents an incredibly honest and accessible story of his own process of moving from unthinking adherent to the educational status quo to a parent embarking on a radical unschooling lifestyle. The core insight is one of empathy. What your kids suffer through – bus stops, early alarms, homework, single-file and cinder block cells, lunchrooms, bullies, age-segregation, boredom – is something you would not want to put yourself through, or your spouse, or employees. How then can you do it to your kids?
Jeff is not romantic in his portrayal of home education, nor bitter in his exploration of schooling. He’s refreshingly down to earth. Though moral and practical arguments underpin his advocacy of home education, he shares plainly some of the more compelling reasons in simple things like daily life being more fun and less boring. No need to construct elaborate curricula. Just enjoy your kids. Let them sleep in. Play video games with them.
Rise Above School is an ideal intro to the concept and arguments surrounding education for someone a little disillusioned with mass schooling, but unsure what to do. Start with this book. If you like where it takes you, Jeff includes a list of additional books and resources for those who want to go deeper.
In one city it seems the innovation never ceases. Bright and talented dreamers from across the globe flock there to build amazing things. They create solutions to problems both commonplace and incomprehensible. You can find entrepreneurs and investors working round the clock on everything from entertaining apps to asteroid mining to life extension. In the past few decades alone the denizens of this city have revolutionized the planet, put massive computing power in everyone’s pocket and all the libraries of the world at the fingertips of the majority of earth’s population.
This city is always looking forward, upward, onward. It is relentlessly focused on solving problems and improving quality of life. It is driven by curiosity, new frontiers, and prosperity. From this city have come simple yet revolutionary technologies that unlock billions in dormant assets like extra bedrooms, apartments, and cars. Customers love them. Investors love them. And the city can be proud of the world-changing impact made by the companies headquartered there.
There is another city much different. This city puts up barriers and blockades to keep bright and talented people out. It proposes solutions to problems that don’t exist. You can find demagogues and petty tyrants working 9-5 on everything from grocery bag taxes to restrictions on tree branches. In the past few decades alone the figureheads of this city have managed to take record amounts of money from citizens and demand record levels of compliance with confusing rules and regulations. They’ve taken untold creative power out of every citizen’s efforts and resources out of their pockets.
This city is always looking backward and downward. It is relentlessly focused on creating new conflicts and categorizing everyone’s relative quality of life. It is driven by fear, doubt, and preservation of the past. From this city have come complex and confounding ordinances that strangle active assets and reduce quality of life. Customers have no choice. Investors can’t divest. And the city can take credit for world-changing companies that have relocated to other cities to escape the Leviathan.
Both cities are the same place. In this case, San Francisco. But many cities share the same fate. The citizens are the same. Yet they live in two spheres simultaneously and the institutions and incentives in those spheres are so drastically different you can barely recognize the actors in each as the same people.
Make no mistake, they are the same people. It’s not that some people are peaceful, productive producers and consumers and some people are meddling petty tyrants. It’s that the same person behaves in both ways, depending upon the incentives and institutions. The political man (as in mankind) is a barbarous, tribalistic busybody. The market man is an inventive, curious soul.
I’ll be sharing a specific recent example of this split-personality disorder and what leads to the contrasting behaviors in the two spheres in an upcoming piece for The Freeman. Stay tuned.
“I’ll go get an advanced degree because it might open up the possibility of working in X industry that I might end up enjoying.”
I understood the sentiment, but I had to laugh. I asked my friend why he couldn’t save himself two years and untold thousands and instead go ask a business in X industry if he could come in and work at intern wages for a period of months while he studied his butt off on the side to gain the necessary knowledge? This approach has so many advantages it’s not even funny. In less than a year he would know for sure whether he even wanted to work there. He’d accumulate no debt. He’d only learn the things relevant to success in that business. He’d already have an in if he was good and ended up liking it.
Ask any entrepreneur or business owner or customer or client. They’ll agree, “Show me, don’t tell me!” But we’re all obsessed with things that tell people about our abilities and attributes. We’re stuck on getting a list of reasons someone should give us a job. It’s the same mindset that was beaten into us in an education system based on getting permission for everything, even using the bathroom.
“You can’t do that unless you have the proper qualifications!”
I call it the bullet-point mindest.
It’s the idea that the most valuable thing you can attain for your life and career is a bullet-point list of external accolades, certifications, and validations from others. It’s the resume, the degree, the honor roll, and on and on. It’s also mostly bullshit.
External validation is only valuable when something more tangible is lacking. The person with little in the way of confidence, evidence of value creation, network, or experience will gain the most from formal accolades. The person who’s done a lot, seen a lot, built many relationships, and created a lot of value will have something that far exceeds the value of a static list of traits on a resume.
Rubber meets the road and a huge set of opportunities
It will come as no surprise that this is exactly why we created Praxis. We want to help top young people get started right now instead of waiting until they’ve accumulated a list of officially verified accomplishments.
It’s amazing how hungry startups and growing businesses are for the kind of talent willing to take action and build their dreams instead of making lists and planning for them under institutional authorization.
Here are three of the opportunities we have right now to work for a year with entrepreneurs in the real world and discover what makes you come alive, gain confidence, experience, skills, knowledge, and a network. No gold stars or grades can touch the value of this kind of lived experience.
Ceterus is awesome. They’re growing. They need someone with drive, communication skills, sales interest, and an ability to navigate a wide variety of diverse tasks and activities every day. It’s in lovely Charleston, SC.
Opportunity 2: Develop an international brand with a chef entrepreneur.
Smart people know to make it you have to see yourself as your own brand. This chef was not content to produce culinary creations in the confines of a restaurant. She’s built a business that inspired and educates others on the fine art of quality cooking. She needs someone to help build and manage her brand online and in person. It’s in awesome Austin, TX and includes international travel to Latin America.
Opportunity 3: Learn marketing from a growing consumer tech company.
ADS Security is at that perfect stage. Large enough to offer high-quality business experience and small enough to have an actively engaged CEO that you’ll get a chance to meet and shadow. They need sharp young people with marketing interest and writing and social media savvy. If you want to know how marketing departments function and add value to one right now, this is for you. It’s in stylish Nashville, TN.
Not just anyone…
These companies came to Praxis for a reason. They don’t just want clock-in, clock-out run of the mill credential chasers. They want eager, entrepreneurial young mold-breakers.
If that’s you, apply now. If it’s someone you know, tell them about it. They’ll thank you.
Thanks to everyone who has backed this book project on KickStarter so far!
I want to share a section from the book today that I find particularly delightful.
Antony Davies is an economist, policy researcher, writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. But his contribution to this book is about none of those things. It’s about being a dad.
Ant has six children and asks, “Why haven’t you had a bunch of kids?”
The chapter answers many practical questions about large families, from budget issues to travel and health. Today I’m going to share a section about a dilemma I never really thought about.
When you have a lot of kids, how do you name them for the right mix of beauty and efficiency?
What do you call them?
Names are a problem. We spent months selecting a name for our first child, Erika. We thought about how it sounded, what it meant, whether it had a long-enough shelf-life so it wouldn’t make her sound like some old lady just as she was hitting her college years. Ladies named Mavis, Opal, Inez, and Violet weren’t born 80-years-old. They just lost the shelf-life lottery. We were better at naming our second child, largely because I am a science-fiction freak and my hero, Isaac Asimov, had died just before our son was born. So Isaac it was. Our church friends thought it touching that we named him after the one of the biblical patriarchs. We didn’t have the heart to admit that we named him after a lecherous chemistry professor who wrote wicked sci-fi.
After the first two, naming becomes easy. You already have a list of potentials in your head from previous research. You also have recyclable first-picks that you couldn’t use because of gender issues. We knew that one of ours was going to be named Ivanka. Which one depended entirely on who showed up first with the appropriate plumbing. By the time you get to #4 the months of researching and trying out different names and spelling variations gives way to grabbing the first name that doesn’t rhyme with something crass so you can sign the paperwork and get out of the hospital. I figure that’s why hospital employees all wear name tags. It’s to give parents ideas. “OK, the baby gets the next name that comes down the hall. Wilbur.
Crap. Well, that’s the luck of the draw. Now sign those papers and let’s get out of here before they find something else to charge us for.” Of course, with names come nicknames. At first, you’re proud to tell people your baby’s name. “She’s Ivanka, after my wife’s mother. Actually, there’s been one Ivanka in each generation in my wife’s family going back five generations. Our little Ivanka is the sixth of that name.” But that doesn’t last. Where names are concerned, poetry takes a backseat to practicality. As soon as a kid acquires locomotion, she’s gone. She doesn’t need to be able to walk on two legs. Heck, she doesn’t even need to be able to crawl. As soon as your kid figures out that flailing arms and legs aren’t merely for expressing displeasure but can be harnessed for migration, she’s out of there. Nature has given young children the triple advantage of being quick, quiet, and small enough to fit into tiny spaces.
When you want to sleep, they’re louder than a frat house on homecoming night. But when they’re getting into things they shouldn’t, they’re like incontinent ninjas. Sometimes the only way you can find them is by following the smell. So, with locomotion comes the need to summon the little tykes. And this is where practicality comes in. When you finally put that name to work, you’ll regret not having picked an industrial-strength name like Bob. You can keep saying “Bob” until the cows come home. “Bob, where are you?” “Bob, come here!” “Bob, don’t bite the cat!” But if you picked a poetic name, now is when you’ll regret it. Try repeating “Beatrix” or “Jacinda” ad infinitum. This is why God invented nicknames. The nickname is the name you should have given your kid but were too embarrassed to pick. It takes a while to whittle a flowery name down to something that can be used easily on a day-to-day basis. And you can tell how much trouble a kid gets into by how quickly the parents adopt an industrial-strength nickname. Over the course of about three days, our lovely Ivanka became “Vonky,” then “Schpanky,” then “Schpank,” then “Spank,” then “Hank.” Hank is an industrial-strength name. You can shout it all the livelong day, and the last use will be as potent as the first. It’s one of those names that lends itself to yelling. You can put some serious air pressure behind that opening consonant, and the hard “k” at the end cuts off the sound to an immediate and ominous silence.
“Hank” is the air horn of the naming world. “Beatrix” is the kazoo. But nicknames bring their own baggage. At even at one syllable apiece, with a lot of children, nicknames can quickly add up to a lot of words to remember. Our last two kids, Alexander and Benjamin, were born just a year apart. Since we both abhor the nickname Alex, we announced his nickname before we left the hospital. “He shall be known as Xander.” We also abhor “Ben,” but since “Jamin” sounded like a reggae stoner, #6 was straight-up “Benjamin.” As they tend to be inseparable, my wife has taken to calling Xander and Benjamin (as a conglomerate), “Xanjamin.” Kind of like Branjelina meets the Brady Bunch. “Xanjamin” exhibits a bit of creative flair, but at three syllables it’s not industrial-strength. Plus, if you want to summon just one of them, you have to go back to either “Xander” or “Benjamin,” which means that you now have three names to deal with instead of merely two. The efficient solution we evolved is to give each of them the same nickname: kid. Alexander is “kid.” And so is Benjamin. If we need to refer to one of them, we say, “the kid.” As in, “Tell the kid to take out the trash.”
And if the wrong one shows up, the other one is, by definition, “the other kid.” As in, “Kid, come here. No, the other kid.” Last in the telling, though not the lineup, is Simon. Simon is the middle child. You hear about middle-child syndrome, where the poor middle child is ignored because he’s not needy like the teenagers or cute like the babies. Middle children, the story goes, grow up to be meek and unsure of themselves. Middle children stay in the shadows of their more-outgoing siblings. Simon does not have middle-child syndrome. If there is an opposite of middle-child syndrome, that’s what Simon has. Picture George S. Patton as a teenager. On a battlefield. In a tank. That’s Simon. When told that their older brother would be staying at college over the summer, the other children were sad. Simon’s response was: “Excellent. That means we all move up in rank.” Simon brings our total to six and, since six is divisible by two and three, we have developed a shorthand way of describing subsets of the children. The elder two are “The Majors.” The middle two are “The Minors.” And the kids are “The Minis.” In order, they are girl-boy-boy-girl-boy-boy. That makes it natural to refer to the first three as “Round One” and the second three as “Round Two.” With six kids, one can construct 63 unique subsets.
Given that it would be quicker to identify them individually than to remember all 63 possible combinations, any further subsets aren’t worth more than a “Am I looking at you? I mean you!” The entire set is known as “The Babies,” a cute and cuddly name that, to their unending chagrin, we regularly use even though two are in college and one in graduate school.
Originally posted here.
“By their fruits you will recognize them.”
Not what you say, or who you like, or how you vote, or what Facebook groups you belong to. Your fruit. The tangible outcomes your life creates. What you build.
It’s easy to place the locus of control with external forces. It’s easy to feel like the government is in control, hampering you, reducing the prosperity and progress of society. It’s easy to enter reaction/response mode and spend time complaining about or trying to reform these flawed institutions. I think there’s a better way.
We can be co-creators. We can build alternatives.
There are two ways to do things in society: Peacefully or by force. Crime and government operate by force and threat. Businesses, churches, social groups, and all other institutions operate by peace (unless corrupted or coopted).
Those of us who realize this can quickly and easily describe what’s wrong with the use of force. We can decry it and protest it. But even criticism of the status quo is a backward looking act. It is playing within the rules of the game. What if instead we directed that energy outward, creatively, not to tearing down what we dislike but building what we do?
The tools of violence are immoral and inefficient. They are less desirable and less effective. Instead of trying to convince more people of this, why not show them? Why not create a better alternative and let it win out?
It took me a while, but I decided to do just that. For me it was education.
Though not as completely coopted as other areas, higher education is by no means a free-market. It’s a yucky web of subsidies, grants, regulations, and laws that make degrees artificially valuable. The system cajoles young people into four years and six figures of a process many dislike and don’t gain value from, walking away with debt, a sweatshirt, and no clue what to do next. I saw it bringing more and more young people down. I took a leap and decided not to merely criticize but to create.
I launched my company Praxis two years ago to provide an alternative path for entrepreneurial young people who want more than college. We’re still new, we’re still small, but we’re growing and the lives that have changed through the program already are enough to tell me this was the right move – the best move I could have made.
I don’t want to fight with people about my views on higher ed, government, or society. I want to offer people something that is attractive to them, something valuable. That’s what markets do best – reward endeavors that create value and let die out those that don’t. I wanted to show, not tell, the world about a better way to approach education, career, and life.
When freedom expands it tends to do so in the realm of lived experience prior to conscious argument. Once people have tasted freedom in a tangible way – the fruit – they embrace it and reject the status quo.
Rather than looking for political solutions or arguments, can you build and demonstrate a better way? Can you show the fruit of your ideas?
It’s a challenging and powerful question. Let’s ask it more often.
Thanks to Lav Kozakijevic for the editing and show notes!
Taylor Foreman, current Praxis participant and aspiring entrepreneur, joins me to discuss subjectivity of value, short and long term gratification and how self-interest can translate into good consequence. We also talk about art and the relation with audience, as well as his experience with psychedelics.
There was a small tree, not more than a seedling, which sprouted up in a lovely meadow. It was an unlikely place for the tree to grow, as its progenitors and siblings were all growing in the wood around it. Yet somehow, perhaps on strange winds, a seed nestled into this meadowed soil and took root.
The tree was a bit smaller than average, but it didn’t mind. Its roots kept growing deeper, and happily taking in the pure ground water below and bright sunshine above. Some say this lucky little tree grew over a special aquifer, separate from the less predictable water table that fed the wood. Whether true or not, it is undeniable that this tree, small though it was, had a kind of radiance that drew all manner of creatures to it, even before it produced fruit or large branches in which to nest.
Though the solitary position in the meadow gave some advantages to the little tree, it also came at a cost. One harsh winter in particular, which seemed to last well into spring, the little tree was exposed to the constant ravages of a bitter frost. The tree was yet so young and tender that it hadn’t developed the bark to protect it from such conditions. It lost just a little of its former brightness, and some of its smaller branches died before they were able to produce buds and leaves. The little tree looked weathered and withered.
But spring did come, by and by. It turned out to be a particularly long, gentle spring. And that well which fed the little roots seemed to refresh it even more than before. And the little tree grew.
That little tree, though still smaller than average, seemed to gently tower above the meadow. It, more than any other tree, attracted birds and bees and creatures of all kinds, perfect and imperfect, under its branches and sheltered in its shade. Sometimes they scratched its bark a bit too hard, or ate its fruit a bit too eagerly, but the little tree didn’t mind. Its roots grew deeper.
That long dark winter now a distant memory, the little tree seemed in constant sunshine, constant happiness, and, over-eager creatures and all, constant companionship. Then came the night.
A fierce, unrelenting lightning storm, the likes of which neither wood nor meadow had ever seen, rained down upon the little tree. Bolt after bolt struck it in rapid succession. Razorlike rain and pellets of hail battered the leaves and violent wind shook the very trunk. Then darkness.
The sun did come up. It seemed to the little tree it might never rise again, but it did. In the light of day the damage of the great storm was visible. The little tree was split in two, right down the middle. The lightening had made quick, merciless work of it.
I suppose you have heard, or read in books on botany and arbor tricks, of extraordinary trees so damaged that were mended and yet survived. This little tree is one of them. Half the branches the lesser, half the trunk an idle weight stretched across the meadow floor, nearly detached in full, yet the little tree grew. Its roots were unharmed. They dug deeper. Some say such storms, if insufficient to destroy the tree, will so strain its fibers as to make it thereafter impervious to catastrophe.
The tree grew. It produced fruit. Its fallen half even began to come to life once more. The little tree channeled some of its water and sunlight to the downed branches still connected, and they, too produced fruit. The tree produced so much fruit it was the wonder of the wood. All was right again.
But the thing about fruit is that it needs time to grow before it can leap from the branch or be plucked. On the whole, the fruit ripened and fell, or was happily carried off by thankful creatures. Except one beautiful, shiny little fruit. It was still green. In the broadest of day, when trouble seemed something only of the past to the little tree, this small fruit broke from the branch and fell to the ground. Trees do not feel at peace if even one unripe fruit falls before its time. The days were again dark.
Yet, as always before, the little tree started again to grow. More slowly, more deliberately, and yet more beautifully than ever. And something else happened. That little fruit so early fallen shed its seeds into the soil and they took root. Beneath the little tree, which was by now a very great tree, grew a small sapling, the memory of that beautiful lost fruit.
As you may have guessed, the meadow is by now famous as the tree that made it so. The little tree that found its own place, drank deep of pure waters, absorbed unfiltered light, and grew and grew. The little tree that provided shade and shelter, fruit and branch, beauty and peace. The little tree that withstood the coldest winter, the fiercest storm, and the saddest loss.
The wood progressed through its predictable patterns, but the little tree in the meadow took the most unlikely course. That little tree, some say, will be the source of a great forest, bigger and greener than any before. I am inclined to believe them.
Written in honor of my mother, Karen Morehouse. Painting by Heather Morehouse.
I’m totally distracted today. I’m busy with a lot of Praxis activities and participants and alumni in town. I don’t have my laptop. I got a late start. I’m hungry. I have a headache. I don’t have time to really write something good. I don’t have much to say.
That’s why I’m excited.
I have a commitment to myself to blog every day. So I’m doing it. The content isn’t great. But I know from experience that forcing myself to show up and deliver on days like this is what makes me a better creator. It’s when you ship something crappy instead of nothing that you let creativity know who’s boss.
It’s days like this and posts like this that make the good ones possible.
We’ve had 98 wonderful individuals back this book project on KickStarter so far, and we’re just under $1,000 away from our goal to get the editing, layout, design, and publication done.
Thanks to everyone who’s been a part of it so far. I’m excited to send you your beautiful finished copy of, “Why Haven’t You Read This Book?”
If you haven’t yet, join the campaign and back the project.
I just returned from a work+family road trip full of mini mishaps and adventures. I’m behind on tasks, my inbox isn’t empty (which is like hell for me), I’ve come down with a cold, and I’m kind of grumpy.
But I have to write. I have five writing projects now on my plate, plus my daily blog post. I’m out of ideas. And I love it.
I love it because I have learned what it means. I know what it will do for me. It will sharpen my mind, speed up my work, enhance my productivity, and overall make me feel like a badass who can do anything. That’s what writing does for me and why I do it every day. I know I can overcome this because I’ve done it before.
A little trick that helps me and came to my rescue today is the interview. Ask other people to ask you questions and write in response to those. It works wonders.
In fact, I was just asked to write a piece for a publication this morning (project #5) and I thought, “This is the worst time to be asked. I’ve already got four other things to write and I’m not feeling it.” I half punted. I said if they really need me to give me some ideas. I got an email response with three article ideas. It worked. Each one immediately filled my imagination to the point where the new challenge was writing just one article.
That also led indirectly to getting today’s blog post done. Why not blog about this very process which has worked so many times to help me overcome creative blockage?
We all have tons of ideas floating around our brains. The thing is, we’re not always the best equipped to extract them. Sometimes we need someone else to tell us where to look.
If you get good enough you might eventually be able to pose good questions to yourself and not even need to reach out to a friend.
Courtney and H.J. had an itch they’d wanted to scratch for many years, but both were stuck in the 9-5 grind with jobs too good to give up. The timing was never right. Instead of waiting and hoping and delaying, or demanding a perfect list of justifications to go chase their traveling dream, they said, “Why not just do it now?”
So they did.
They saved up their money, quit their jobs, and set out to explore parts unknown. Courtney’s a great writer and there’s no way to do justice to the narrative she shares in the chapter. The ups, downs, twists, and turns are entertaining and inspiring. But the thing that most sticks out about the chapter is this: They didn’t enjoy probably the majority of their trip.
They ended it sooner than planned and had plenty of bad weather, motorcycle and emotional breakdowns, and all the other downsides experienced by anyone on a long road trip multiplied many times. Rudeness, safety concerns, language barriers, food sickness, and many more travails.
This chapter was a really important one to include in the book because this is not a book about rose colored glasses and berainbowed cat poster motivation. It’s about taking charge of your life. One of the things that happens when you choose to “do you” instead of succumb to status quo pressure is that you reap the rewards. One of the other things that happens is that you own the downsides too.
Despite the less than glamorous aspects of the story, Courtney and her husband do not regret their decision. Part of self-exploration is realizing that you’re different than you assumed. Your tastes, preferences, pain and risk tolerance may not be fully found out. The thing is, you can’t really know yourself by reflection alone. You’ve got to act on your desires, dreams, and hunches.
Had they not journeyed out into the wild they would have enjoyed life less back home. They would always have a fallback to play the blame game and claim their struggles or unhappiness were because they were never able to travel like they wanted. They would always wonder if they were missing something big.
Now they have a bunch of memories, some great, and some tough (though the tough ones begin to turn great over time too), and the clear knowledge of what the traveling experience is like and to what extent it can and cannot give them the life they desire.
You can’t trade that.
Check out the chapter, “Why Haven’t You Traveled the World” by supporting the campaign and claiming your copy of the book.
You won’t know until you try!
You can also learn more at their great website, www.wanderrlust.com