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Pandering Never Builds a Legacy

I’m as guilty as anyone else who says that to build a business, or a blog, it’s good to ask people what they want and then give it to them. It works!

But there’s another side to this thinking, and I heard the counterpoint presented beautifully last week by Paula Pant.

For years, she's published a popular blog about personal finance. But as she shared in a talk, after starting down the familiar path of "Hey everyone, what should I write for you?" she realized that maybe it was better to ask herself what she wanted to do.

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What If All Your Work Disappeared At the End of the Day?

Over the past ten years, I’ve thought a lot about building a legacy. In particular, I’ve thought about it as it relates to a body of work that you produce and share over the years. This model has kept me going for a long time.

One of the most attractive qualities of writing the blog, starting in 2008 and continuing until now (albeit in several distinct forms), was the idea that I was building a portfolio of sorts. I could write something today, and it would still be around tomorrow, next week, next year, and so on. It would, as I’ve said more than once, “go on to live a life of its own.”

But is that really true?

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“He didn’t have a death wish, he had a life wish”: The Risk-Taking Legacy of Evel Knievel

On a long flight recently I watched a fascinating documentary about Evel Knievel, the 1970s-era stuntsman who set out to jump the Grand Canyon in a motorcycle.

I was only going to watch a few minutes, but I got hooked and kept going. Without spoiling it for you, the greatest lesson I took from the film was that Evel Knievel wasn’t actually that great of a motorcycle rider. He was a decent rider who became an incredible stuntsman risk-taker.

That’s where the fame and fortune came from: he never won a lot of motorcycle races, but he took risks and attempted feats that no one else would dare. Being fearless can kill you, of course, but it also has its benefits.

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What Remains in the Quest for Literary Permanence


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From Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher:

I am always taken aback when students confide in me that beneath their desire to write lies a quest for permanence. It’s odd but touching, I think, that even during this disposable age, while consigning great mountains of refuse to landfills and to atolls of plastic in the Pacific, these young would-be novelists and poets believe that art is eternal. Au contraire: we are in the business of ephemera, the era of floating islands of trash, and most of the things we feel deeply and inscribe on the page will disappear.

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What Do People Say At the End of Their Lives?

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If given the chance, what do people choose for their last reflections and comments? A veteran hospice chaplain gives an unflinching answer:

"They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave. Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.

They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not.

This is how we talk about the meaning of our lives. That is how we talk about the big spiritual questions of human existence."

Link: What People Talk About Before They Die

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Blogging for an Audience of One

This summer we encountered some delays in building the blog’s redesigned pages. Basically, we got behind. It was stressful but then it was okay, as it usually is. The most important thing is having a great product in the end. During the delay, I spent some time working away on stuff that no one would…

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“It Was Too Ugly to Die in There”

Michael Graves, the designer who improved tea kettles for the masses thanks to his partnership with Target stores, recently took on a new challenge. The original hospital wheelchair, apparently still in widespread use, was based off a design from way back in 1933. Graves decided to update it, and also worked on other hospital equipment…

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Life In the Tower, Somaliland Edition

Many thanks to everyone who has been reading or supporting the launch of The Tower, my new manifesto. If you missed it on Tuesday, you can pick up your free copy in a range of formats. I also want to thank my long-time friend and colleague Reese Spykerman, specialist in branding and magic, for her great work on the design. Reese truly raised her game on this one as we worked on telling a story through words and images.

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Always Be Thinking About These Things

Dreams. Because it all starts with a dream or an idea. Recapture your lost dreams, create new ones, and find a way to make them real. Living. Because as Bob Dylan said, “He not busy being born is busy dying." If you're not sure what to live for, try peak moments and big adventures. Influences. Because none of us lives in a vacuum. Who has helped you become who you are now? (And have you thanked them lately?)

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