13 Feb 2009

3 Life Lessons

Yesterday I found a link to the text version of Steve Jobs’ commencement address to the Stanford class of 2005. I highly recommend reading the full address, it has some really great insights to life and why we live it. I thought I’d share some of the more notable pieces from the address.

1. Connecting the Dots

Jobs describes the process of dropping-out of college, then dropping-in to take the classes he was interested in. He took a Calligraphy class on a whim, which taught him all about the beauty of Typography, which he later used to incorporate into the world’s first PC, the Macintosh.

But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

I find Steve’s advice brilliant here. This is a style of living that I have tried very hard to follow for the majority of my life, especially over the last 4 or 5 years. Do your homework, trust in God, and ultimately, follow your heart. I have been amazed time and again how the dots connect in a phenomenal way as I look back on the decisions I have made throughout my life.

2. Love and Loss

After building Apple into a successful $2 Billion company, Jobs was forced to leave due to conflicts within the company. At first he was stricken with the loss of completing his dreams, but soon came to realize that he still was passionate about the computer industry. During this time he met and married the love of his life, went on to found NeXT and Pixar, and was eventually brought back to run Apple when they acquired NeXT. Since then, he has been regarded as a business and technology icon to look toward for inspiration.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

3. Death

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

[…] Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Brother Steve, Amen.

15 Jan 2009

Turning Off the Corporate Cruise-Control

Readers Caveat: This post will likely seem like a heretical rant to most readers, as the content is mainly focused on showing the flaws inherent in the corporate 8-5 model. That’s okay, it is meant to make you feel uncomfortable. It also is 100% my beliefs, and you don’t really have to agree with me if you don’t want to. All the same, give it a read and let me know what you think at the bottom.

I’ve never really felt like I fit into the corporate mold of an 8-to-5er. I just don’t like being told what I’m going to do all day long. I feel like I have more things that I can do with my life than be subservient to the whims of a boss or CEO. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked under some good (but some bad also) boss’s and CEO’s. For me, the problem isn’t the people, it’s the system. I loathe the system. I know that there are things to learn and gain from being an 8-2-5er, such as task responsibility, depending on others, learning to work closely with others for potentially greater gains, etc. In spite of that, I feel like it’s such a hindrance that people (read: me, myself, or I) use as a way to coast through life. Wake up (usually later than you’re supposed to), normal morning routine, drive the commute, punch-in a few minutes late, check emails, check youtube, do your best to get into the flow*, have a melt-down or two based on current project, check emails, punch-out, drive commute, etc. Due to this routine, family members generally do not get to see or interact with each other until around 5:38 pm. But what if my daughter is having her pre-school graduation today at 1? Or what if I need to be there when the internet guy comes to set stuff up at the house?

One thing I’ve realized over and over for the past 4 years: Corporate Cruise-Control (aka Coasting) is so easy, but it’s also brain numbing, and it robs you of your family and/or dreams.

I don’t want to be a Coaster.

You don’t either? GREAT! Now that you know you’re a sheep of a different color (like me), what are you supposed to do about it? How do we turn off the cruise-control? I have a secret formula that I’m not supposed to tell you: A Burning desire + Committed Action = Success. Step 1 is knowing that you don’t want to play by their rules, and also that you have to forge your own way. The Desire you create is to know that you can create a successful income for yourself (and family) without having to fit the corporate mold. There are other alternatives. This is the land of the free, the home of the brave. The committed action you take is to become a Learning Entrepreneur. I emphasize the word learning because you have got to be able to take your “failures” and learn from them. In speaking to my friend Tyler about this last night, he said something that I’ll never forget. In life (not just business), the word “Failure” and other derivatives is simply a synonym for “Learning Experience”. Failure isn’t the end of the road, it’s simply another bend in the S-curve of life. It can only ever be another step towards success, or simply termed “Incremental Success”, if you learn from the experience. If you choose to ignore the learning experience, 1) I feel sorry for you, 2) you will likely develop mental or emotional walls to convince yourself that you don’t have what it takes. So what’s the best part about breaking free, you ask? IT’S EASY. Oh ya, and it’s fun. Now don’t get all twisted up on this one. You’ve made it this far with me, just go a bit further. The National Wage Index reports that in 2007, the Average annual household wage in the US was $40,405.48. I’ll round that off to a nice even $40,400. So, you being the average Joe/Jane, it seems natural to suppose that in order to break free you would need to replace your annual income of $40,400 in order to break the mold. So, let’s break that down.

$40,400 yearly =

  • $20,200 bi-annually
  • $10,100 quarterly
  • $3,366.67 monthly
  • $1683.33 bi-monthly
  • $776.92 weekly

So far, that’s pretty impressive, but it’s also generic. As an employee or an entrepreneur, I know I need to accumulate appx. $777 a week in order to maintain an income of $40,400. Not bad when you break it down, but let’s get even more granular. Suppose that you are currently an employee of a large corporation that pays holidays and allows PTO and Sick Days. So, taking out weekends, but leaving all the holidays as paid, and assuming that you work an 8 hour shift, we arrive at income generating days per year = 261 (365 -2(52)), or 2088 hours of work. Given these numbers, working at an 8-5 job, in order to sustain $40,400 per year you need to make:

  • $154.79 daily
  • $19.35 hourly
  • $0.32 minute

Wow. Every minute you sit at your desk you are generating 32 cents. Which means that you probably made around $1.00 simply reading this article. Good Job! Okay but seriously, those numbers are pretty neat when you break them down. But what happened to the other 3752 waking hours in that year (an average 8-hour per night sleeper sleeps 2920 hours in a year)? It was likely spent with friends or family, doing what you would rather be doing when you’re at work. You’re forming new relationships, growing existing relationships, and learning a lot about life and yourself. Unfortunately, over half of the hours in a given year you are either working or asleep (57.2%). What’s worse, of all the amount of time that’s available each year including sleep hours (8760 hours), 76% of your time is spent during non-income generating hours. So you work a quarter of the year in order to live for the rest of it.

This model is very inefficient in my opinion. Why not create an automated business model that allows you to generate money at all times. No matter what hour of the day, people can give you their money through this new-fangled thing we call the interwebs. Let’s crunch those number one more time, but let’s assume that every hour, nay, every minute of the day is an income-generating moment in time. All of a sudden our granular numbers drop significantly:

  • $110.68 daily
  • $4.61 hourly
  • $0.08 / minute

Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that I cut my income per minute by 400%? No silly, I was telling YOU that. Anyways, it’s true. In order to generate the same income of $40,400 in a year through a normal 8-5 job, you need to make an average of 4 times more per minute than an entrepreneur who wants the same salary. The hourly and daily numbers aren’t at such a high factor simply because the amount of time you have to work with is different. An even crazier number is this: if the Entrepreneur in our example makes the same per-minute wage as the salary worker (32 cents per minute), his/her annual salary would be $168,192! If by the same token the Salary worker only earned the Entrepreneur’s per-minute wage, their annual salary would be $10,022.40! Time = Money.

Now most detractors at this point will say how hard it is to setup a business to deliver a consistent flow of income. “It takes some companies months or even years to get a positive cash flow, and some never even achieve that!”, or, “4 out of 5 startups fail within the first year”, etc. etc. (ad nauseam). I don’t really know what makes these people tick, that they feel it is their sworn duty to make sure no sane person enters the world of entrepreneurialism. By all means, use your brain, be smart with your decisions (and startup capital if any), learn how to adapt. But please, don’t lose sight of the pursuit of a path that excites you because you’re afraid of what may (or more likely, may not) happen to you if you do. You never know, you might end up getting it right the first time.

I plan to follow this post in a day or two with another on ways to form business ideas, how to get a website going, and the #1 rule of Business. Stay tuned.

I’ve heard of studies that say most employees waste 60-80% of their work day performing trivial or non-work related tasks, such as checking email, surfing the internet, making phone calls, taking long breaks, etc. Not you? I applaud you then. But take a look at most of your co-workers: I’d bet a nickel that most have found ways to appear fairly productive while accomplishing virtually nothing at all in an 8-hour span. The best part is that most of them don’t even realize it, which is another byproduct of the Corporate Cruise-Control.

08 Jan 2009

Imaginative Careers

Driving to work this morning I saw the above image displayed prominently on the back of the van ahead of me. The image is blurry, so I’ll translate:


Satellite TV Installers

A career where the only limit is your imagination.


Apparently, imagination solves all problems, including the fact that your career might be a dead end and boring as all-get-out. If the above is true, I wonder what it is that Satellite TV Installers do think about while at work to increase their job satisfaction. I suppose I may never know.

29 Dec 2008

The Art of Decision Making

A while back I was googling around for some ideas on how to form better sleeping habits and I came across Steve Pavlina. He’s a self-help guru who runs a Blog that generates him a cool 40k/month just off of donations. The content of the blog is all related to self mastery and such, things that are very interesting to me because I’m always looking for ways to better myself. Most of you reading this article who know me are probably rolling your eyes because you’ve seen my many many flaws, but just know that I’m aware of the faults and am actively changing many of them. But I digress, back to Steve…

This afternoon his latest blog post, Overcoming Indecision, came across my RSS reader. I was very impressed by the content of the post, so I thought I’d mirror some of this thoughts here. At the beginning of the article he defines two ways that we grow: Linear Growth and Growth Forks. I wont’ go into detail, because I don’t want to plagiarize his content; Needless to say, I agree with him on both of these concepts. The most prominent part of the article (for me) is in the section entitled An Alternative Decision-Making Process, where he talks about the concept of the present moment, and how we make decisions based on consequences that are only felt in the present moment. An excerpt is as follows:

Instead of trying to predict the future to determine the long-term implications of each possible path, drop the whole branching timeline model. Instead of regarding time as a line, consider time as a single fixed point. In other words, assume that only the present moment is real, and nothing beyond that exists.

Your decision point no longer involves the selection of a long-term path. Now it’s merely a state change to your present moment.

As you consider the alternative choices you might make, ask yourself this question: “If I were to commit to this choice, how would it affect me right now? What immediate changes would I experience?”

Imagine each possible choice as real, as if you’ve already made it. Pay attention to how the choice makes you feel. Does it feel good, or does it feel wrong somehow?

This concept was a breath of fresh air for me. As most of you know I am in the process of closing on our first home purchase. Through the past 12 months there have been so many ups and downs, but I feel that through it all we’ve been able to make some pretty tough decisions with relative ease because we used the principles Pavlina talks about above. Whenever we are confronted with a decision to choose either A or B, the future consequences don’t really matter all that much. We just focus on what it means for us in the hear and now, in the present moment.

You may gasp in horror at this, but truly, I cannot even think of one instance where we have felt like the future consequences even mattered. Just take each challenge as it comes. Learn from the difficulties and move on. If they keep coming up, learn from them again, and move on. Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters most.

Note: Ironically, I wrote a song on my mission entitled “Indecision” that violates a lot of what I just wrote about. So either I was “right” then or “right” now, either way I am progressing (the direction of progression is determined by which “right” I was.) Come to think of it, pretty much every song I wrote back then violates the above stuff. …Internal thought processing… Awkward…