Welcome to the latest edition of Monday Seven — actionable ideas and frameworks for people who want more out of life and work.
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This week I’m sharing an exercise that’s helped me generate 100 ideas over the last three days, how I am thinking about making an impact vs. enjoying life, and a remarkable speech on courage and imagination that gives me goosebumps every time.
Special thanks to Julien Thomas who sent a handful of ideas for me to explore in response to the last newsletter. He’s one of the most interesting people I know and always pushes me in the right ways.
Let's get started.
No. 029 - On creative confidence, living with impact, and imagination
1 — Daily 10 is a new habit I picked up to practice creativity. Every day in the morning I write down 10 ideas. The topics and quality of ideas are less important. The point is to train my mind to easily come up with ideas and reduce the burden of perfection. So far, I’ve shared 10 ways to celebrate love, 10 ideas for building and fostering friendships, and 10 things I can write about on building startups. To help me stay accountable, I share the ideas publicly.
The exercise comes from James Altucher (@jaltucher) who uses it to build confidence for creativity on demand. If you’ve ever thought “I never have good ideas” or get stuck on solutions to life’s problems, this is a worthwhile exercise. For accountability, you could send your ideas to a trusted friend. In case you start your own #Daily10 habit let me know, I’d be curious to hear your ideas.
2 — On daily repetition. I see a lot of habit challenges; 60 days of meditation, 30 days of writing, 100 days of pushups, etc… Pick the habit you want to develop and there’s a challenge for it. But, there’s a hidden benefit no one talks about—and it’s more powerful than any habit.
When you intentionally repeat something habit over a number of months, there’s a shift in identity that happens. In the end, your sense of self shifts from someone who struggles to complete projects to someone disciplined and productive. That’s powerful and worth a few hours of your life.
3 — Thoughts on living an impactful life. There’s a quote from children’s book author E.B. White who writes, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.”
I wonder where I stand on the scale of pleasure and impact. This is a difficult question for me. I want to experience all the pleasures and live life to the fullest. I also want to make an outsized impact. How can I make the two mutually reinforcing?
I need to remember that my time here is short. I will die and soon be forgotten. But just how long before my existence is completely erased from memory?
I know about my parents' life in a good amount of detail. I know slightly less about my grandmother’s life. Beyond that, I have not gotten a clue about older generations. I assume this is true for most people. My grandmother was born in 1936. If I’m lucky, I’ll live to be 90 years old. My future kids, if I’m lucky enough to have them, will be born sometime in the 2020s. If they’re lucky enough to live a long and prosperous life, they will be around until about 2110. They may have kids of their own. My future grandkids will likely be born around 2050, and if they are equally lucky, they’ll live to be 100 and die around 2150. That’s a lot of compounding luck—but stay with me.
How much will they know of my grandmother’s life? Likely not much at all. Though they may not know it, by virtue of knowing me, my great-grandkids will be influenced by their paternal great-great-grandmother. She will live through them, however immeasurably small.
Five generations and 200 years. That’s it. In the best-case scenario, that’s as far as we can hope the dent in the universe will last. That is, of course, unless we make a more lasting impact through our work.
Technology will likely make it possible to stretch out the time we’ll be remembered. I believe within our lifetime we will have digitized versions of ourselves. Your great-great-great-great grandkids may be able to access your memories as easily as you open an app today. But with access to all of humanities information what will compel them to select yours? They will likely be more interested in tapping into the memories of Rosalind Franklin or Elon Musk. We often listen to the ideas of strangers more than the stories of our own families, so this suggestion is not far off.
Two hundred years, that’s it. I take pleasure in doing my best to make an impact worth remembering beyond this time.
4 — Debbie Millman’s commencement speech on courage and the power of imagination is fantastic. It gives me goosebumps and brings me to tears every time. The speech first appeared on the fantastic Brain Pickings eight years ago and is from Debbie’s book Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design. From Debbie:
We begin by worrying we aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get what we want, then we voluntarily live in this paralyzing mental framework, rather than confront our own role in this paralysis. Just the possibility of failing turns into a dutiful self-fulfilling prophecy. We begin to believe that these personal restrictions are, in fact, the fixed limitations of the world. We go on to live our lives, all the while wondering what we can change and how we can change it, and we calculate and re-calculate when we will be ready to do the things we want to do. And we dream. If only. If only. One day. Some day.
Every once in a while – often when we least expect it – we encounter someone more courageous, someone, who chooses to strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often, we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it. It is really about the strength of their imagination; it is about how they constructed the possibilities for their Life. In short, unlike me, they didn’t determine what was impossible before it was even possible.
If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.
5 — Tusk (thought you should know) is a super interesting product making it dead simple to give and receive anonymous feedback. I seek out direct and candid feedback. The benefit of feedback is high for the receiver but the risk can be high for the giver. That’s the reason most people don’t give honest feedback. Tusk aims to solve this. Let’s give it a shot. You can leave anonymous feedback for me here: yashar.tusk.page
A note and a disclaimer: The page automatically disappears in three days. This is an early product and I have no idea who’s behind it. I just like the idea.
6 — Music. This week I have two shares. For work, I’m listening to Be Svendsen’s live set for Mayan Warrior’s Virtual Burning Man 2020 (1 hr 8 min). To wind down, I’m putting on this Spotify playlist of the Persian Santur (2 hr 30min).
7 — Poem from Love Poems by Pablo Neruda, in celebration of love day.
Take bread away from me, if you wish.
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.
Do not take away the rose,
the lanceflower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in your joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.
My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.
My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.
Next to the seat in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.
Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
but never your laughter
for I would die.
The next time you’ll hear from me will be Monday, February 29.
I believe TUSK is by David Ng, out of Van.