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The Black Spot in the Painting

Consider a painting by one of the European masters. Somehow you’ve discovered this painting in your grandmother’s attic. It’s worth a fortune, or so say the appraisers who come to your house to inspect it.

They’re going to take it away for auction, but before they do, you insist on keeping it on your mantle for a month. Every day you look at it with pride. This painting has been in your family for centuries! Soon it will bring you wealth, but first it brings beauty and elegance to your living room.

The painting is spectacular, with thousands of careful brush strokes and just the right blend of colors. The artist had clearly spent decades mastering his craft. Of the dozens of his paintings that were still known to exist, you sense that this was one of his favorites.

Except for one thing. Just off-center, in the midst of perfection, lies a single black spot. The spot isn’t huge, but it’s not tiny either. When you look at the painting, there’s no missing it. How did it get there? Surely, you think, it was a rare mistake. Perhaps the painter was tired at the end of a long day and accidentally splashed a dash of black in the midst of all the color. Or maybe some well-meaning apprentice came along later to retouch the painting and ended up making a mess.

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“I’m not optimistic because our problems are small…”

Why build a clock that lasts for 10,000 years? Because the future is always getting shorter and shorter.

“Everybody was doing things faster and faster. I needed to slow down, stretch out, and think on a different time scale.

Any engineer wants to build something that lasts. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to build. From the beginning I wanted to make a little model of the clock, and then make a bigger one and a bigger one. I finally realized the clock couldn’t go in a building—it had to be in a mountain.

I’m very optimistic about the future. I’m not optimistic because our problems are small … I’m optimistic because our capacity to deal with problems is great."

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My Morning Routine: Why I Do the Same Things Every Day, and How I Work from Anywhere

I’ve been a longtime fan of MyMorningRoutine.com, which regularly interviews interesting people to learn how they spend their mornings. Some of my favorite profiles include features from Steve Kamb, Lisa Congdon, and Yuki Shimuzu.

The founders recently asked to feature me on the site, and of course I was thrilled! You can read my full answers over there, or a brief selection below.

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What is your morning routine? (Please note the approx. time you wake up).

First things first: I’m on the go to at least 20 countries each year, in addition to more than 100,000 miles of domestic travel. At the moment I’m kicking off a 30-city book tour that has me waking up in a different place nearly every day for five weeks. Therefore, sometimes there’s not a routine, or at least the routine varies greatly by time zone.

I was recently in Jakarta, Indonesia and ended up working a modified night shift for most of the week. I worked on my projects through the night, woke up for “morning coffee" at 2pm in the afternoon, and then everything was pushed back from there. It felt a little disorienting because I’d show up at the hotel restaurant for “lunch” around 10pm, right before they closed for the night. Then I’d have “dinner” during normal breakfast hours before falling asleep as the sun rose.

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Letter from John Wayne Airport

Dear Ken,

It’s been nearly ten months since you went away. Still, every day I think of you, I miss you, and I wish we could get you back. I started making a list of memories we shared, and I’m trying to learn more about the parts of your life that were unfamiliar to me.

I’m thinking of you more than usual this week, because my new book is out and I’m on the road every day. You and I didn’t really travel together that much, but whenever we did, it was a lot of fun.

Looking back, I wish I’d taken you to Bangkok or Dubai. I remember one time when you were traveling in your army uniform and got upgraded on a short domestic flight. You texted me to say how excited you were. I laughed, because flying First Class on a short U.S. flight isn’t much to rejoice over. I used to send you photos of me jetting around the world on much nicer airlines, and you’d always reply with a thumbs-up or an enthusiastic comment.

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One Man’s Quest to Draw 900,000 Buildings in New York City

It’s difficult to pin down the exact number of buildings in New York City. One source estimates 860,000, another source pins the number at 1,053,713. Whatever the number, we’ll know eventually, thanks to Australian-born James Gulliver Hancock, who has made it his mission to draw every single one of them.

When I moved to New York City, I really wanted to get to know Manhattan better, beyond a traditional tourist experience. New York was my new home, and I needed a way to understand it. Drawing every building is my version of a diary of my experience in the city—and it doubles as my own personal map. When I walk by the buildings I’ve drawn, it’s like seeing old friends.
James8

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Joy, Money, and Flow: The Three Qualities of Purposeful Work

*My brand-new book, Born for This, is all about helping you find the work you were meant to do. This series explores some of these lessons.

Lesson: There’s more than one possible path. Use the Joy-Money-Flow model to find the best one.

There are plenty of things you could do with your career, but the people who are most successful have found the perfect combination of joy, money, and flow. They’ve won the career lottery by finding this combination—and they don’t have to choose between their money and their life.

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When Anxiety Becomes Overwhelming

The other day I stumbled upon a post I wrote several years ago. The post is titled How I Deal with Anxiety, and I tried to remember what I was experiencing at the time.

Whatever it was, it feels like a lifetime ago. But the advice, originally offered as a pep talk to myself and then shared with readers, still feels fairly relevant.

Over the past few months in particular I’ve been dealing with a lot of recurring anxiety. At times it feels acute (intense and sudden) and other times it feels chronic (enduring and ever-present).

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Life and Adventures on Book Tour: Part I

Greetings from Orange County, California! I started my tour earlier this week and have been to “only” four cities so far, but the pace will pick up a lot starting next Wednesday.

In this new series, I’ll share a few highlights from my stops. I'll also write some general notes about the process of touring itself. Lots of people have asked about the behind-the-scenes process of putting together a major cross-country tour, and I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned.

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New Offer: Earn 100,000 Hilton Points (Enough for 25 Hotel Nights!)

Link: Get 100,000 Hilton Points (with annual fee)

Link: Get 75,000 Hilton Points (with no annual fee)

There have been a bunch of great hotel points deals recently. First, the IHG card went up to 70,000 points before dropping back to 60,000, which is still great. Second, the Marriott card is offering 80,000 points. Those deals are solid and I have both cards.

This week another hotel points offer has just landed, this one from Hilton. To be precise, there are actually two offers, one for an increased signup bonus amount (from 40,000 points to 75,000, which is great), and an all-new card that gets you a whopping 100,000 Hilton points. Yeah, no kidding!

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To Succeed in the New, New Economy, Don’t Mail It In

Ever since I wrote about The New, New Economy, I’ve been having lots of interesting conversations with people about it. Readers have also asked that I share more specific recommendations for “what works” now that a lot of online marketing strategies feel increasingly outdated.

I still stand by the general assertion that building relationships and producing quality work are the most important predictors of success, far more than any tactic or “hack.”

As a good way to illustrate this, last week I recorded a podcast for The Art of Charm, founded and hosted by Jordan Harbinger. I’ve known of Jordan for a while and we’ve emailed a bit, but I don’t think we’d ever spoken before. The hour-long conversation covered a lot of ground, and I was especially struck by something he said in the beginning.

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“3 Encounters That Changed My Life”: How a Corporate Employee Gained a New Perspective through Travel

Clelia3 After enduring a life of “glamor and nonsense” (her words) for six years, Clelia Mattana decided to follow an inner calling and travel the world solo.

Imagine this typical scene on the London Underground: A business man reading a newspaper, a teenage boy damaging his eardrums listening to loud music on his headphones, a girl painting her nails while playing on her phone. They all regard conversation as a contagious disease.

When I was London, I was exactly like them — and I didn’t even know it until I started traveling. On the road, I learned that travel doesn’t necessarily make me a better person. We've all read touching stories on how traveling helps you find your true self, opens your mind, and changes you. This is certainly true some of the time, but I’ve learned that traveling can also bring out the worst parts of my personality.

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A New Journey Begins: “Born for This” Is Now Available!

Link: BornforThisBook.com

More than eight years ago (whoa) I started writing this blog, The Art of Non-Conformity. I wanted to chronicle my adventures around the world and support other people with big dreams.

But the journey actually begin more than ten years before that, when I first started working for myself. I wasn’t a good employee, having been fired from just about every job that I didn’t walk away from after a few weeks. My motivations at the time weren’t very high-level: I simply wanted to earn money to support my lifestyle.

As the years went by, I learned more about entrepreneurship as a way to change the world. I spent a few years living on a hospital ship deployed to West Africa. I started a quest to visit every country on the planet. And as I wrote, and then as I began hosting events and supporting offline communities, I gradually grew into the work I felt born to do. So I wrote a book about how you can find or create the same for yourself.

Born for This, just released today and available wherever books are sold, provides the answer.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Hack the job of your dreams within a company or organization by making it work for you
  • Find your ideal work and your ideal working conditions
  • Create plans that will allow you to take smarter career risks and “beat the house” every time
  • Start a profitable “side hustle” and earn extra cash on top of your primary stream of income
  • Escape the prison of working for someone else and build a mini-empire as an entrepreneur
  • Become a rock star at any creative endeavor by creating a loyal base of fans and followers

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