For best results
daily advice for my son (and others)
by Dennis Best
5 days ago
Become a paid volunteer
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do. — Bob Dylan
Most mornings, I get up and try to make things that were creative and useful. My weapon of choice is a laptop. But, I think I could have just as easily ended up making furniture or painting murals. It's all the same. For me, a good job is about having a mix of utility, opportunities for creative license, social engagement, and unlimited room for improvement. If I win the lottery no longer need to earn a regular paycheck, I'd still do this sort of work. OK. Actually, I'd lay around for few days or travel, but then I'd get bored and try to find something creative and useful to do. Retire early and become a paid volunteer.
7 days ago
resolutions
There's a tradition that roughly half of all Americans make a resolution or two every year on January 1. According to statistics, most of these resolutions are abandoned a few weeks later. The other half of Americans avoid this trap entirely by avoiding resolutions altogether. I'm a huge fan of resolutions. Specifically, I'm a fan of attainable resolutions. This may come from my days of goal setting and behavior management with people with disabilities. I gained insight into what worked and didn't. Small, specific, and quantifiable goals — "Bob will help do the dishes five times a week" — worked and usually resulted in lasting changes. Broad goals — "Bob will keep his apartment clean" — didn't do much. This is all common sense, I know. And yet, we do this very thing every year. Like drinking on St. Patrick's Day or being romantic on Valentine's Day, making resolutions on New Year's Day is for amateurs. First off, it's wildly inefficient. Accounting for life expectancy, at one resolution per year, the average adult will only be able to make fifty or sixty resolutions in a lifetime. And when you factor in the probable failure rate, you only get about a couple of dozen meaningful behavioral adjustments in your life. I wanted better odds, so I adopted a new strategy a couple of years ago. I make exactly one meta resolution on my birthday every year: I will make and keep one resolution every month for the next year. This gives me twelve resolutions a year. Much better odds if you ask me. It's like asking a genie for more wishes. And, yes, it's totally allowed. Without any extra effort, the monthly time-frame also helps me make attainable goals. I can't become a world-class chess player in a month, but I can try to find a teacher and take a lesson in a month's time. The most common New Year's resolution people make is to lose weight. This is a pretty tough one to keep on annual basis. It's way too broad. On the other hand, the monthly version of this goal might be to lose 8 lbs. in July. That's much more attainable. Even better is to exercise x number of times or run x number of miles, and so on. A handy trick is to avoid planning every month's resolution too far in advance. It's possible that some goals, like the weight-loss goal, may take multiple months. Research shows that it can take somewhere between 18 to 254 days for a behavior to become a habit. So repeating variations of resolutions can lead to lasting behavior. Making and, hopefully, keeping a commitment to myself each month has in itself been a good practice for me. Its given me a greater sense of control and focus.
7 days ago
ship it anyway
If you want to succeed, double your failure rate. — Thomas Watson
Not done? Know it can be better? Afraid it will be judged harshly? Ship it anyway. Some would view this mindset as an excuse to produce shoddy work. Maybe it is. There's a calibration that must occur between producing nothing (perfectionism) and producing quality work. For me, and I guess most humans, the setting is closer to the perfectionism end of the scale. Most innovators, have their internal controls tuned toward the quantity end of spectrum with a seemingly unshakeable confidence that quality will come. Thomas Edison said, "If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward." So, let's say you shift towards quantity over quality? How do you know you aren't simply producing junk? Loads and loads of junk. Here are some questions to ask. Am I trying to produce good work? Is my productivity increasing? Am I learning? Is the quality improving? Am I having fun? If you can answer "yes" to two or three of those questions, keep going.
9 days ago
Forward
What is this?
You are reading the very first installment of a year-long writing project. The plan is simple. Each day I'll write a few hundred words containing a practical idea or bit of wisdom. The project starts today and will end around the same time next year, coinciding with a birthday. I'm no writer. With some luck, my writing will improve over the next year and the final piece will be well-written and satisfying to both reader and author. I've crafted a few ad hoc rules governing this project, subject to modification. Rule one. I have to write something everyday. Rule two. No videos, few pictures. The maxim "a picture is worth a thousand words" is a loophole too easily exploited. This is about thoughts, ideas, and advice. Rule three. No schmaltz. The aim is to provide practical, useful advice that will help for a considerable time to come. Rule four. Names will be withheld to protect the innocent, except mine. This is not a biography (or an autobiography.) Rule five. No rewriting — minus the occasional edit for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. "Perfection is the enemy of good," we're told. So. Here goes. I hope you enjoy it.