Future You

Posted on January 8, 2017

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My best personal planning occurs when I consider the context of my situation – past, present, future – and act in the best interest of my future self. In its simplest form it’s asking, will I tomorrow be pleased with the decisions I make today? Especially as New Year’s resolutions start to fade into post-holiday realities, I encourage you to plan – and progress – the optimal future you.

The Past

Recognize the connection of past decisions to present situations. Personal histories in health, in education, in career, in relationships, etc. are too frequently rationalized in hindsight, rather than fully related to the present. In financial hardships, for example, the real villain is often the victim’s past self. The point is not to beat yourself up over past decisions, it’s to recognize how your decisions impact your situation. As one of my colleagues likes to say, life is not a series of independent events.

“These are but shadows of the things that have been.” –Ghost of Christmas Past

The Future

Your future is a chance to begin again. The future you will have a personal history that includes where you are today plus the decisions you make up until the next point you look back. Even with a debilitating illness, you can embrace a version of yourself that you positively influence. Take ownership of your future self.

“You are what you choose to be tomorrow.” –James Altucher

The Present

This is where the work happens to create your future. Take one step at a time if dramatic transformation is difficult. As long as steps are in the desired direction, you’re making progress. Make mindful trade-offs between what you do and what you don’t do, between the present you and the future you.

“You have to participate in your own recovery.” –Gregg Popovich


Ask yourself – Where do I want to be in the future? How will I get there on an acceptable timeline? Are my decisions helping or hindering my future self? – and align your actions this year. The future you will appreciate it.

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Seamless Change

Posted on April 6, 2018

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Seamless change must be enabled change:

Whether with physical moves, job rotations, system upgrades, financial changes, or any other transitions that come to mind, we often expect change to come with a flip of a switch or through a series of basic handoffs. Out with the old, in with the new. And have it done by the end of the day. For complex change, transitions require more thought and attention to be seamless. Consider motivation, capacity, capabilities, relationships, interdependencies, scope, sequence, timing, measurement, etc. Paraphrasing David Chase: we can all sit around and decide we want a new normal, but eventually somebody has to do the changing.

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Paradigms

Posted on March 23, 2018

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From Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee:

MR: I used to play chess. When I was in the army I played. I was unbeatable. I was very, very good at it. With chess there’s ratings, and chess master is about 2100, and I was playing a computer on a 2100 level.
JS: Really?!
MR: Yeah, so I’d been playing that machine for weeks, and then I happened to be out on Hollywood Boulevard standing on the corner. And I saw this man – tattered, dirty – it was a street person. He had a chess set there to play, and I said, “Do you play chess?” And he said, “Yeah, I do, I do.”
JS: But it was a homeless guy?
MR: It was a homeless guy. I said, “Yeah you do. I’ll tell you what, I’ll play you a game.” He said, “I’ll play you two games. I beat you two times, you can’t play me no more.” Puts out his hands, you know, see who’s going to go first – black, white.
JS: Right, right.
MR: I pick, I’m white. That means I have the first move. I already have the advantage.
JS: Now are you sitting on the sidewalk?
MR: I’m sitting on the sidewalk with him! I’m down here like this [sits on the floor].
JS: Right.
MR: So, I move my piece out, he moves his piece out very quickly. I said, “Oh, he stops that move.” So I move out another knight, he moves out a pawn, he moves another bishop, dadada, two minutes he’s moving in, got me on the defense, BOOM checkmate. I’m like, “Whoa!” He checkmated me in two minutes! NOBODY has EVER checkmated me in two minutes! Nobody, not even the MACHINE can checkmate me in two minutes!
JS: Ha!
MR: But this time I said, “Ok, let’s play. Let’s play chess.” Makes me pick, I go first again. Ok, I lean in. He moves out his knight, I move out my bishop, bumpabum, checkmate! Faster than the first time!
JS: Ha-ha!
MR: So now, he’s putting his stuff away, and I’m going, “Come on, come on, let’s play again, let’s play again.” And he’s, “No, no, no, I beat you two times, you can’t play me no more.” And I’m walking, following the guy down the street going, “Come on let’s play.” And he’s, “No, no, leave me alone, I don’t want to play, I don’t want to play.” I went, “Come on, let’s just play another game, come on, come on.” He wouldn’t play me. I went home, I called a friend who’s a professional chess player. I called him up. I said, “Leon, I played a guy on the street who beat me twice.” He goes, “Yeah, you played a savant. When I’m in a tournament in a city I look for those guys to play those guys.” I said, “You beat them?” He goes, “Never.”
JS: Really?
MR: Really. I always thought, “God can you get one of those guys in a tournament? Imagine!” He says, “You can’t hold them in place, they’re crazy…but they’re unbeatable.”
JS: So, he could really be the greatest chess player in the world?
MR: Possibly…most likely. He told me in the beginning, “I beat you two times, that’s it, we don’t play anymore, you can’t play me anymore.”
JS: Why would he set a rule like that?
MR: Because he’s done it over and over and over again, and he doesn’t have a lot of time to be fooling around with somebody he can beat so easily. That’s probably why.
JS: What was it that he was able to do so well…that he could win so fast?
MR: He saw the moves before they took place. This is where it gets a bit metaphysical. Perhaps you have to be ultimately crazy or…
JS: You think there’s a little clairvoyance involved?
MR: …dislodged from the kind of reality that we are all adjusting to. There are other kinds of realities, other kinds of zones to inhabit.
JS: Right, right.
MR: Great artists have inhabited zones, and then it becomes a new paradigm. People go, “Wow, we haven’t thought about going there.”

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Think Week (Change Week)

Posted on February 23, 2018

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I recently completed my version of a think week, taking some time for reflection in New York and West Texas during a natural work transition. My think week was apparently less stringent than the isolated-cabin-in-the-woods version of the think week, but I also oriented more toward actionable changing in addition to just thinking. Here are five questions to consider when structuring a think (change) week:

Confirm Commitment

Do you really just want a vacation? If you’re primarily looking for a break from work, consider taking a nice vacation. You can step away from usual routines, visit different places, and socialize with friends and family. You can physically and mentally refresh. A vacation is not the same as an intentional, structured, immersive thinking experience. In my case, I knew I wanted a solo week with more intellectual stimulation than a typical vacation.

Set Objectives

What do you want to accomplish from your think week? As you develop contextual goals for your think week (and you definitely should have goals of some sort), consider the active mind’s continuous cycle of saturation-incubation-illumination. Saturate with new information, incubate to form your understanding, and illuminate to actionable ideas. Many think weeks are focused on saturation (read 100 articles, etc.), which is great, but it’s worthwhile to take things further in the cycle. I personally had objectives related to saturation (art immersion), incubation (idea engagement), and illumination (mindset shifts).

“Time allows us to saturate our mind with context, so we can incubate and spark the eureka moments of illumination that connect the dots, snap together patterns, and discover the options that allow us to find our paths.” –Pete Blaber

Work a Plan

What is the optimal ecosystem for your think week? Intentionally select an environment suited to your objectives. Consider your preferred levels of seclusion, stimulation, convenience, etc. as well as timing and location. Determine what to bring with you and what to set aside. Set a simple schedule for each day going into the week to help provide structure and minimize random activities. My week had an art theme and an intentional urban-rural contrast, hence New York and West Texas.

Leave Space

How will you adapt your schedule during your think week? Build enough flexibility into your week to incorporate positive distractions. Rather than overloading your week with expectations and to-do lists, focus on a few key items each day and maintain a more natural cycle. Lingering on an activity of interest? Fine. Dinner runs long? Fine. Topics pivot into more exploration? Fine. Have the space to chase ideas and evolve the week as you go. I wouldn’t have stumbled upon Aki Onda if I had kept a super tight schedule, for example.

Make Change

What will you do differently after your think week? Develop your thinking into tangible actions to realize change. Identify things you can do (or stop doing) immediately as you complete the think week. Having brought Russell Brand’s Recovery book on my think week, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about addictions, and more precisely how to either bolster or break routines and habits to better align my life. Thinking has to get to action to be meaningful, even if the action is stripping away other action.


Summary think week (change week) checklist:

  • Confirm Commitment – Do you really just want a vacation?
  • Set Objectives – What do you want to accomplish?
  • Work a Plan – What is the optimal ecosystem?
  • Leave Space – How will you adapt your schedule?
  • Make Change – What will you do differently?

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Grand Strategy

Posted on February 9, 2018

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When you hear the term grand strategy relative to a state or government, it usually refers to the overarching strategy that 1) considers the long-term consequences of using all instruments of national power – military, economic, diplomatic, informational, etc. – to advance national interests, and 2) governs all underlying objectives, tactics, and decisions. To be most effective, a state sets policies connected and consistent with its overarching grand strategy and acts accordingly. It’s simple enough in theory. I thought about grand strategy recently while I heard the artist Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez) mention his annual goals:

2009: freedom. 2010: invasion. 2011: build empire. 2012: grow wealth. 2013: put the puzzle together. 2014: buckle up. 2015: make history. 2016 disruption. 2017: gingerbread man, catch me if you can. 2018: legacy.

Ten years of explicit goals, a show in Las Vegas, and more to come in the years ahead (clear vision, generational wealth, etc.). It’s a guide to focus objectives, an anchor against competing priorities, and a framework to allocate resources. What could we accomplish with a grand strategy?

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(Unnatural) Naturalness

Posted on January 26, 2018

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“Here is the natural instinct. And here is control. You are to combine the two in harmony. If you have one to the extreme, you’ll be very unscientific. If you have another to the extreme, you become all of a sudden a mechanical man. No longer a human being. So it is a successful combination of both. So therefore, it is not pure naturalness or unnaturalness. The ideal is unnatural naturalness or natural unnaturalness.” –Bruce Lee

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