Start Stuff!

Seth Godin is funny, bright and gets to the point.  I learned today that human beings have an attention span of about seven seconds.  And that puts us bipeds behind goldfish who can pay attention for eight seconds. (Kudos, Michael Levin, for that insight.)  So for this reason, among others, you should read Seth or watch his TED talks.

Back to Seth.  In his book, Poke the Box, Seth talks about initiative.  In answer to the workplace question “what do you do here?” Seth points out that “almost no one says ‘I start stuff.’”

How do you start stuff?

Seth says you “poke the box.”  You try something out.  Sit at a piano and start hitting keys and listen to what comes out.  Initiative is something we take; it isn’t handed to us.  Failing to take initiative will tend to make us reactive rather than proactive.

I’ve learned the hard way that if I wait around for  inspiration to drop by my apartment for a cup of coffee, I will never write anything.  Inspiration usually shows up after I just start.

Okay.  What kind of stuff can you start?  Remember feeling and inspiration aren’t the most important variables in actually getting something rolling.  A decision is.  Try these and add your own:

  • A regular exercise program—weights, walking, cardio. Start small.
  • A blog. Write enough to fill one screen’s worth of space, about 200-400 words.  Or like me, start writing again in the blog you already have.
  • A well-crafted, eye-catching résumé. Put it together and post it on LinkedIn and Indeed. Or update the one you’ve already posted.
  • A regular, undistracted reading program.  “Regular” = every day. Start small—maybe all you can manage is ten minutes.  Start there and build it up.  And unhook your connections to the outside world so you can focus.
  • Teach yourself to write code and try it out (Seth’s suggestion, this). The reward center in your brain will light up when it works.

Go!

Suggested Resources:

Poke the Box: When Was the Last Time You Did Something For the First Time? (Seth Godin)

17 Anti-Procrastination Hacks: How to Stop Being Lazy, Overcome Procrastination, and Finally Get Stuff Done (Dominic Mann)

 

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Learn A Language Fast (It Can Be Done)

LanguageI studied the French language for six years.  Four years in high school; two in college.  I’ve always been fascinated by language, symbols essentially for concepts.  The sounds of different tongues are color and music to my ears.

In my senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to meet and interact every day with two foreign-exchange students from Europe who were fellow classmates in my French IV class.  Joachim hailed from West Germany (this, of course, before the Berlin Wall fell) and Bo from Sweden.

Given the close proximity of one country to another, most Europeans are, out of necessity, polyglots.  Both of my classmates could speak numerous languages.  It was inspiring, to say the least.

There are benefits to learning languages other than your native tongue.  You can communicate with those from another country and you can read classics, newspapers and other works that are not English.  Someone once said that reading Tolstoy in translation is like kissing through a veil.  You get the picture.

I read somewhere, once upon a time, how Near Eastern scholar Cyrus Gordon learned a number of foreign languages during the course of a summer.  He said–and he learned over twenty languages throughout his life–that if you took any book in a language other than your own, read the first twenty pages of the same and took the time to up the meaning and grammar of every word, you could have a reading knowledge of that particular language in short order.  During one summer, he mastered six languages by simply giving an hour a day to each following this study pattern.  Among them, he learned Portugese and Danish.

How about adding new language skills to your tool chest?  My eldest daughter Anna–who studied French for two years in high school–is now living in the south of France and has immersed herself in the language of Voltaire and Émile Zola.  She’s become quite conversant in it and can interact with people in places like Paris and Lyons.

You may follow Gordon’s study program.  Or you may benefit from the TED talk in the video I’ve attached.  Try it!

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