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Thirty-Four

A man in San Francisco jumps or falls on the subway tracks. As the train approaches, the passengers all around him unite to warn the train's conductor, who’s able to slow down and prevent disaster.

The man’s life is saved—maybe not forever, but at least for a day.

I recently saw this video of CCTV footage from the incident being passed around, showing exactly what happened. There's no audio, but you can perceive the commotion and urgency of passengers frantically waving for the train to stop.


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Going Back to a Hard Place

Imagine revisiting a place you’d been long ago during a hard time in your life. Maybe that time was long, long ago, and the place far, far away. Or maybe it was last week, and the place is the coffee shop down the street.

Whatever the story, you walk in and experience an unpleasant flashback. You remember what happened when you received bad news, that thing that someone said, or whatever the hard time was about. But it’s not just about the memories. You can feel it. The anxiety tightens, and maybe you’re short of breath.

There's no doubt about it: that thing was hard! Not just a little hard, but hard in a life-changing way. Back then, during the time of the hard thing, you had no idea how you'd recover. You couldn't fathom ever being "okay" or normal again.

But maybe there’s also something good about this experience, the one that feels so unpleasant at first.

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Evening Rituals

I have one or two drinks with dinner, rarely any more.

Before bed I make a cup of herbal tea and take magnesium. Sometimes I have a square of dark chocolate.

I sit with my thoughts and my calendar. I look at my tasks. I do this in digital and analogue form. There is pen and paper and phone and MacBook Air.

I determine the priorities for the next day, with the knowledge that there can only be so many. There may be thirty things to do, but only two to three are truly critical.

In fact, it’s hard to do three. Often it’s just a maximum of two. Choosing more is a recipe for procrastination, if not outright failure.

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The Movie of Your Life, Part II

A while back I wrote about the idea of your life as a movie, with you as the director. When you go through your archives in post-production, you might stumble on a scene that feels particularly surreal.

In those times, you may want to ask yourself, “Why did I put this scene in my movie?"

With the benefit of perspective, I realize that some of the scenes in my movie are a little surreal. Looking back on those scenes, it's easy to wonder, “Did that really happen?”

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The Myth of the Self-Made Man

Arnold Schwarzenegger on being a self-made man:

“I always tell people that you can call me anything that you want, but don’t ever, ever call me a self-made man. It gives the wrong impression, that we can do it alone. None of us can. The whole concept of the self-made man or woman is a myth. I would have never made it in my life without the help.

I want you to understand this because as soon as you know you are here because of a lot of help, then you also understand that now it’s time to help others. That’s what this is all about.”

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”If You Can Invest in Someone Else’s Company, You Can Invest in Yourself”

On an upcoming episode of Side Hustle School, I tell the story of someone who obtained a patent for a special kind of mittens for runners. Unlike a $100 Startup, getting a patent is not an easy or cheap process. It look several years and more than $5,000.

Still, she stuck with it because she believed in the idea and was convinced of its value. When she asked one friend where she was going to get the money, he said, “Do you own any stocks?” She said yes.

“If you can invest in someone else’s company,” he told her, "you can invest in yourself. Sell the stocks!”

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“We Run Away from Desperation:” Thoughts on Pursuing a Creative Idea

I recently recorded a Side Hustle School episode about Michelle D’Avella, a designer who spent several years building a blog before turning it into a full-time income.

The first year she started her blog, she made $0. Last year, after experimenting with a series of virtual workshops and mentoring sessions, she made $50,000. The success isn’t just about making money, it’s also (maybe even more importantly) about finding work she believes in.

Her advice to others is to create from a place of joy.

"Don’t put so much pressure on figuring it all out, but make sure what you’re doing is something you can feel good about. When we create from joy, people feel it. When we create from lack, people feel it too. We run away from desperation."

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It’s Not My Birthday

Despite what Google or Wikipedia tells you, today (April 4th) is not my birthday. Last year on this day I got a flurry of messages from people all wishing me a joyous celebration.

“Thanks,” I’d reply, “but it’s not my birthday."

I finally developed a working theory of what happened. I’m not positive it’s true, but it’s something that feels comforting, so I’m going with it.

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“Everything Is Figoureoutable:” Notes from Paris to Doha

On a recent trip, I had to get back to Doha from Paris, a 5 1/2 hour flight. I was transferring via an initial connection from Zurich, and I booked the Zurich flight to arrive less than an hour before the Qatar Airways flight departed.

You might think that’s cutting it close, and it was. In the worst of times, Charles de Gaulle airport can be an absolute nightmare to navigate for transit. It’s not unreasonable to walk more than a kilometer between terminals, and some terminals are reachable only by an extended bus ride. Add long security lines (no PreCheck!) to that equation, and it’s not unreasonable to allow 2-3 hours for a connection.

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Even When You Aren’t Sure What to Say, Don’t Be Silent

I recently had the honor of introducing Emily McDowell and facilitating a Q&A session with her at Powell’s for her new book, There Is No Good Card for This.

You probably know Emily’s work even if you don’t know her yourself. She’s the creator, designer, and entrepreneur behind a line of greeting cards and related products, all with the goal of serving “the relationships we really have.”

Here are a few of her popular cards (order yours online or from one of 2,000 stores around the world):

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Afternoon Rituals

If I’ve done my job well and managed my time properly, most of the crunch time work has happened in the morning. I work every morning, afternoon, and most evenings, but in different ways.

The afternoon is a slower form of work. I have at least 40 minutes for lunch, which I usually read with the New Yorker or Economist or (when in my hometown) the Willamette Week. Afterwards, if the weather’s nice, I might walk for a while. I run an errand or two. Eventually, I end up at a coffee shop, or I pick up a pastry and head home.

The 2pm-4pm work period is nice and easy. I might have deadlines but I usually avoid calls or interviews. I plan ahead and do some editing, a bit of writing, maybe some business work. But it’s thoughtful. I’ve already read all the news in the morning, but I might read more analysis or an article on Longreads with my coffee.

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Morning Rituals

When I’m not jet lagged from flying around the world, I have a clear routine that I follow as much as possible. This routine allows me to stay relatively sane while also working as much as possible on things I believe in.

I love living on the west coast, but working on Pacific time can be a challenge. Even when I get up early, I’m three hours behind the other side of the country. My 6am is their 9am—most people have been awake and starting their days for a while. Their idea of an early call is extremely early for me.

When I have a book out, I do my best to accommodate anyone else’s schedule. Drive time radio for a major show on the east coast? That usually means even if I’m in the later portion of the show, I’ll be calling in at 5am or earlier. It’s okay; I do what needs to be done.

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2016 Annual Review: Let’s Look Forward to Big New Things!

In this (very abbreviated) Annual Review series…

I’ve never really had writer’s block. I think it was Seth Godin who said something about how writing is the only profession where it’s acceptable to stop working because you can’t be “creative.” There’s no such thing as nurse's block.

But … for much longer than usual, I didn’t know what to say about my review! I really didn’t.

One thing I know is that it’s important to pay attention to how things make you feel. If you look forward to something, that tells you something. If you dread something, or even if you just don’t feel that excited about it, that gives you other information.

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Looking Back on 2016 (All in One Post!)

I mentioned that I felt some resistance to this year’s review, so I ended up doing it differently. Not surprisingly, some things will be different about my recap process as well.

The biggest difference is that I’m pretty much entirely focused on the future at this point. I call it the review, but it’s much more of a forward-looking, goal-setting practice. I typically spend one day looking back and the rest planning ahead.

This time I didn’t even look back at all. It wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realized I had spent the time only looking forward and working on my new project (more on that in a bit).

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Why I’ve Resisted My Annual Review for the First Time in 10 Years

I can trace whatever success I’ve had to instituting and diligently following the practice of completing an Annual Review. It’s helped me write books, travel to every country in the world, start various businesses, produce events for thousands of people, and so on. After feeling that my life wasn't well-aligned, I recently added more categories focused on wellness and relationships—that decision helped a lot too.

But for some reason, as this year’s review time rolled around, I felt some resistance to it. I didn’t look forward to it the way I always have in the past.

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