Articles on Being Good, on Being Great

Flow is the Opiate of the Mediocre: Advice on Getting Better from an Accomplished Piano Player

Strategy #4: Create Beauty, Don’t Avoid Ugliness.
“Weak pianists make music a reactive task, not a creative task. They start, and react to their performance, fixing problems as they go along. Strong pianists, on the other hand, have an image of what a perfect performance should be like that includes all of the relevant senses. Before we sit down, we know what the piece needs to feel, sound, and even look like in excruciating detail. In performance, weak pianists try to reactively move away from mistakes, while strong pianists move towards a perfect mental image.”

How to Be Great? Just Be Good, Repeatably

There is a famous saying from Napolean Hill which says, “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way”. I would actually argue the quote should be, “If you cannot do great things, do small things a great number of times”.

If you don’t have the opportunity to “do great things”, focus on consistently achieving small wins. These small things in fact do not need to be done in a great way, but a good way, repeatably. In fact, I would advise not to focus on perfection, as it is often the enemy of the successful.

Work Habits at Apple – Ole Begemann

Melton: Oh, Christ! Yeah, exactly, I couldn’t do that. I had to do something right away. I said in the article that I wrote for The Loop magazine, when Steve asked you a question you didn’t ramble and whatever you did, you didn’t make up an answer. And if you didn’t know, you said that you didn’t know. And more importantly, you told him when you would have an answer.

So sometimes, when you would get these emails, you’d had to be blunt and say: “I don’t know. Here’s what I’m doing to get you that answer and when I expect it”, you said as your kids were begging you to go out and see this nice sight in France or wherever the hell you were at. I mean, that’s just what you did.

And I have sometimes have young people come up to me today and ask me about being successful in this business. And part of it is just dumb luck, being in the right place at the right time. Thank God I listened to my wife when I took that job at Apple.

But the other thing is, you have to realize to really be successful to a sin, it’s kind of a Faustian bargain you make. If you’re not willing to pay that price, it’s not gonna come to you. I hate to say that. And so you have to ask yourself, is that really the way you wanna live your life? ’Cause it’s not like I recommend it, either. You have to think long and hard about that.

And I know I’ve read a lot of studies how this is a stupid way for the tech industry to function. And that’s certainly true. But this happens all over, and it’s not just the tech industry, it’s just I think in the tech industry it’s on steroids […]. But damn, there is no way you can cruise through a job at Apple, Inc. That just does not happen for anybody I’ve ever seen.

via Work Habits at Apple – Ole Begemann.

Defensive Pessimism

I often describe myself as an optimistic pessimist; I guess it’s really defensive pessimism at work.

But still, I like the ring of optimistic pessimist better.  When you plan for the worst, things will almost never go that badly—there’s no shortage of potential upside.  What better source for optimism?  And if things do go south at least you’re well prepared—and that’s very good news, too.

 

The Great Discontent: Merlin Mann

The fact is that most of us are wandering around, scared shitless, wondering what the fuck’s going to happen next. That’s as true when you’re 11 as it is when you’re in your 40s. It’s one reason that people feel very discouraged or disinclined to try new things—they feel like it’s not for them.

I understand that you’re asking me this because you’re trying to get the narrative, but my narrative is that I’ve never known what’s coming next—I still don’t. I fell down the right set of stairs and have been surrounded by people who have picked me up and said, “Let’s try this again.” It’s been one anxious block of uncertainty after another.

via The Great Discontent: Merlin Mann.

The 40-Year Slump

What has vanished over the past 40 years isn’t just Americans’ rising incomes. It’s their sense of control over their lives. The young college graduates working in jobs requiring no more than a high-school degree, the middle-aged unemployed who have permanently opted out of a labor market that has no place for them, the 45- to 60-year-olds who say they will have to delay their retirement because they have insufficient savings—all these and more are leading lives that have diverged from the aspirations that Americans until recently believed they could fulfill. This May, a Pew poll asked respondents if they thought that today’s children would be better or worse off than their parents. Sixty-two percent said worse off, while 33 percent said better. Studies that document the decline of intergenerational mobility suggest that this newfound pessimism is well grounded.

via The 40-Year Slump.

The magic of Madison County | Iowa Now – The University of Iowa

With its friendly people, rolling scenery, and covered bridges etched with history, I can’t help but recommend a day trip to Winterset and Madison County. Not because you can get away from it all and experience life like it used to be in a simpler time as a lot of the marketing might suggest, but rather because you can experience life as it exists in this moment.

Along with most of my city-mates, I’ll say it’s good to call Madison County home.  Via The magic of Madison County | Iowa Now – The University of Iowa.

Money, Happiness and the New Science of Smarter Spending | New Republic

Experiences can have a much bigger impact on people’s happiness than things, and a big part of that happiness lies in looking forward to the experience that you are going to have.

via Money, Happiness and the New Science of Smarter Spending | New Republic.

Unwelcome tasks and burdens

…Town notables, as town autonomy vanished, found they had become subordinate implements of the imperial bureaucracy, and the life went out of their public functions, which grew every decade more disagreeable, more profitless and more oppressive. They had to be driven to their unwelcome tasks and burdens, which brought no real honor and gratified no ambition. Like beasts at the water-wheel, they plodded a dreary round to haul up the taxes needed by their rulers….

Previté-Orton, C. W.. The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978. Print