Friday Links Issue 07a: Write themselves

Somewhere inside, I partially expected these posts to write themselves. Save a link. Grab an excerpt. Write a paragraph on the train. Repeat throughout the week. The key to that system is following that system. I guess that’s the key to any system.

Guide to mindfulness and meditation — meditationSHIFT

I found this on reddit while reading comments about Headspace. Some people think apps or even guided meditation itself isn’t the way to start. (I’ll leave a rant about people that are vehemently against Headspace in the footnotes1.)

If you are an athlete, you practice so you can perform well in the game. “Practice” is meditation. “Performing” is mindfulness. “The game” is daily life.

I’ve told a few friends that I’m trying out meditation. I told my brother I’m beginning my journey and I’ll see him when he re-joins the mana stream with me.

I’m overcoming the idea that meditation is sitting in a room doing nothing. Slowly. I’m not sure I believed myself the first couple sessions. But then I noticed how focused I was in the following hours. It’s practice.

One of the better analogies I read related it to exercise. You don’t just say you’ll start exercising regularly then quit after three sessions and say it isn’t for you.

Ok plenty of people do that. Couch to n/m I’m OK.

Still, most people that quit exercising understand there would be benefits if they kept it up. It takes more than a few sessions to get used to and then more than a few to see the benefits.

How to Think About Your Career — Julie Zhuo

I was particularly interested in Julie describing her affirmations:

Many years ago, when I was frustrated by all the things I struggled with and felt unequipped or scared to do in my job, I started a list of what I wished a future me would one day be able to waltz in and easily accomplish. This list is titled One Day, I will…

She’s kept her list updated through the years. Earlier ones, like being comfortable speaking in bigger meetings, are complete. These are some incomplete items she has:

Succinctly and clearly be able to make the point I want to make in 3 bullets.

Regularly be able to weave compelling stories and analogies into verbal explanations.

Host large events where people have fun and I am not really stressed out.

Julie’s better able to explain her goals than me. I’d like to be succinct and clear but it’d take me a page to explain that. And I’d also like to be a better storyteller. I’ll try to do that by following her advice in her post “Write in 2016”.

Set a writing goal that is purely about the mechanical act of doing. Maybe, like me, it’s Hit the publish button every third Tuesday, Maybe it’s Write 3 journal entries a week. Or maybe it’s Write 500 words a day. (In case you wonder how all your favorite authors complete their novels, I have it on good information that pretty much all of them do it via daily word-count/time-spent-writing goals.)

One post each day.

List of Tips from The Pragmatic Programmer

It’s a giant list of directives for programmers to follow. I’m interested in how some of them can apply to the crafts I’m pursuing: design (at work) and writing (here).

Prototype to Learn: Prototyping is a learning experience. Its value lies not in the code you produce, but in the lessons you learn.

Prototyping is pretty embedded in design culture. As for writing, I’d like to write longer pieces and tell better stories. Each of these daily posts acts as a prototype to learn from. I’ll see what I find the most value writing about and then I can go deeper on that.

It’s Both What You Say and the Way You Say It: There’s no point in having great ideas if you don’t communicate them effectively.

I’m working on communicating effectively, but how do I start thinking about those great ideas? Reading more and writing more seem like good steps to get there. We’ll see.

Don’t Live with Broken Windows: Fix bad designs, wrong decisions, and poor code when you see them.

On the blog side, there are some things I still need to fix. Typography is a mess right now. On the writing side, I’ve done a pretty good job of fixing my blog workflow so I can focus on writing.

Finish What You Start: Where possible, the routine or object that allocates a resource should be responsible for deallocating it.

One major form of a broken window with writing is the unfinished draft. Or the collection of them. Really tracking things in a spreadsheet made a big difference. I have a good sense of which unfinished drafts will actually be finished. Then I can jump in and finish them up if I have extra time in a day.

Happiness Formula (2007) — Scott Adams

Scott Adams talks about writing a book about happiness:

On page one would be this top formula.

Happiness = health + money + social life + meaning

The rest of the book would be nested formulas that further explain each component of happiness. For example…

Health = sleep + diet + exercise

And then down another level…

Sleep = schedule + technique

And down another level until it starts getting practical…

Sleep Technique = consistent bedtime and waking time + no reading or TV in bed + no booze or caffeine…

And so on.

He ended up pretty much writing that book and releasing How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big in 20132. His formula didn’t change much — here it is in a New York Post article:

To get to where you want to be, try this sequence: Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Imagine an incredible future (even if you don’t believe it). Work toward a flexible schedule. Do things you can steadily improve at. Help others (if you’ve already helped yourself). And reduce daily decisions to routine.

Take care of yourself, practice affirmations, continually learn things, help others, and use systems where you can to do all of these things.

  1. Headspace appears to be polarizing. Some people disagree with people making money (?) creating a product that teaches meditation principles. And the odd thing in those cases is one of their points is that Andy Puddicombe, Headspace’s founder, is already rich so he shouldn’t “cash-in” on meditation. It’s a great product. I’m actually meditating. There’s a part of the app that shows how many people are currently using Headspace. I’ve usually seen it around 27,000. It’s a great onboarding to meditation.

  2. I’ll write notes on this before my 100 posts are complete. It was one of the first books I read where I really actively applied learnings from.