He Gets It!

"We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect." Barack Obama, 2d inaugural address, January 21, 2013 … [Read more...]

Three Great Success Tips from Ted Behr

My friend Ted Behr went to a success workshop and came back with three great tips. Click to read his article. … [Read more...]

Seth Godin’s Icarus Sessions A Great Idea – and Coming to Your Town

It's so important that you be able to stand up and say, "This is who I am and this is what is important to me, and here's why it is important." If you don't you remain ashamed and isolated, which feeds procrastination. Uber marketing guru Seth Godin knows all this and is organizing a global series of Icarus Sessions, where you do just that. ("Icarus" because often we do fall, but that's okay and part of the process--and survivable.) Learn more. … [Read more...]

David Foster Wallace on Time Management

From a graduation speech he gave at Kenyon College in 2005: Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that..."Learning how to think" really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed... By way of example, let's say it's an average day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging job, and you work hard for nine or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired, and you're stressed out, and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for a couple of hours and then hit the rack early because you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home -- you haven't had time to shop this week, because of your challenging job -- and so now after work … [Read more...]

If No One Falls Over, We’re Having a Great Class!

One of my recent newsletters discussed a misguided essay (and now, regrettably, book) by a prominent philosophy professor on his notion of "constructive procrastination. I'm happy now to refer you to this essay, I'm With Stupid, by a writer who is not, to my knowledge, a prominent professor, but who nevertheless has figured out a lot of the whole procrastination/perfectionism thing. Robin Marantz Henig started taking tap dancing lessons in her forties and reports: "Amazingly, considering how ambitious I was in the rest of my life, I didn’t really care about getting any better at tap. As long as I didn’t mess up or fall over, I considered that afternoon’s class a success. That’s what was so great about learning tap as an adult. For kids, every new skill might be the one they really shine in, the one that defines them, which makes piano lessons, ski instruction or tap-dance classes especially fraught. For adults, there’s not that kind of pressure. I was in my 40s. I already knew dancing wasn’t going to be my … [Read more...]

All Your Work Should Be Sand Castles

The wonderful and much-missed writer and writing teacher John Gardner wrote in On Becoming A Novelist: “If children can build sand castles without getting sand-castle block, and if ministers can pray over the sick without getting holiness block, the writer who enjoys his work and takes measured pride in it should never be troubled by writer’s block. But alas, nothing’s simple. The very qualities that make one a writer in the first place contribute to block: hypersensitivity, stubbornness, insatiability, and so on.” However, if you work on your perfectionism and other barriers to productivity, all your work CAN be sand castles! Those other barriers, as outlined in my book The 7 Secrets of the Prolific, include: resource deficiencies, unmanaged time, ineffective work processes, ambivalence, unhealed traumatic rejections, and an exploitative/unliberated career path. Yes, your work might be intellectually or emotionally challenging— but the act of sitting down to do it should be little harder than sitting … [Read more...]

"Why am I so hateful and a perfectionist?"

In a big rush this morning due to heavy teaching load, but had to post about this. Like most blogsters, I regularly check my stats to see how much traffic I have, where it's coming from, etc. Among other things, I see the search terms people use to wind up on my site. Last night, in the midst of all the usual terms - "perfectionism," "procrastination," "writer's block," "Hillary Retik", etc. - I found this: "Why am I so hateful and a perfectionist." And it kind of broke my heart. Whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you read this: You're perfectionist because you grew up in a perfectionist culture - as did your parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, etc. Very few of us get out unscathed. Perfectionism is rampant in the media, because perfectionist tropes such as *rags-to-riches *overnight success *lone genius succeeding *bullying coach leads "loser kids" to victory make good drama. Most advertising is also perfectionist. If I can convince you that you are ill-groomed, a bad housekeeper, a bad … [Read more...]

Interview with Richard Stallman

My friend Richard Stallman is the founder of the free software movement . His ideas have spawned not only the GNU/Linux operating system , but Wikipedia , Creative Commons the anti-DRM Defective by Design campaign, and other important social movements. He is a MacArthur "genius," and arguably the world's most successful activist, and I was honored to have the opportunity to interview him. Q: What is free software? A: Free software means that the user has the four essential freedoms: 0. The freedom to run the program as you wish. 1. The freedom to study the program's source code, and then change it so that the program does what you wish. 2. The freedom to distribute exact copies of the program to others. (This is also known as the freedom to help your neighbor.) 3. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions. (This is also known as the freedom to contribute to your community.) Q: You have been working on the free software cause for more than 20 years. How do you keep your momentum going … [Read more...]