Every time I think life can’t spin any faster, it does. There are some amazing things happening right now that I can’t wait to share, but the culmination of all of them happening so closely together has lead me to need this holiday weekend more than ever to find the bottom of my email inbox and more importantly time to slow down, take a breath, and unplug.
After Waze was acquired by Google in June of this year, Annie and I completely unplugged in Kiawah, SC. It was four full days of no email or social media for me and it was incredible. I found some incredibly clarity during that time and will look back on that trip as a turning point for some big things to come. The luxury of that length of time to slow down wasn’t available to me this weekend, but the choice to treat this holiday like one was. I knew I had meetings this morning, but committed to spending three hours offline and with my phone on a different floor of the apartment. I made an ask this morning for any reading that had inspired folks over the past couple months and was incredibly grateful for the amazing responses both on Facebook and on Twitter.
I intentionally didn’t offer parameters around my requests as I was hoping for things further outside my normal strike zone of nonfiction business books. From books of the Bible to cyber thriller fiction, TED Talks and Royal Society for the Arts videos, I found my mind exploring thoughts not directly related to a single thing I am working on right now, and yet applications and take aways that helped me punch through a couple mental road blocks I’d been hung up on.
I wrote about the value of slowing down to stay sharp for Forbes last year HERE and full endorse the wisdom in the story of the lumberjacks. And while most of the time it is much easier said than done, today it was done and I am even more ready for a huge month ahead.Tweet
The more I travel, the more I realize I don’t know. From my first trip involving a Passport stamp to Peru in 1998 to this past week’s 4 cities in 3 days jaunt, I learn a lot on the when I’m on the road. In 2010 and 2011, at the height of the Gowalla adventure, I did over 250,000 miles in the air (unfortunately not all on the same airline – start-up life.) In 2012, I was more grounded in NYC with my work. But already in 2013, I’ve been on the road for 15 days and hit 12 cities.
When on the road, the circumstances lend themselves to learning. The disruption in the normal schedule lead to unexpected downtime and distance from the usual default time fillers. When I leave for a trip I usually have at least two week’s worth of Economist to catch up on and a book that remains only partial consumed because I am really good at falling asleep midparagraph when I try and read in the evenings at home.
I also learn from those that I meet will traveling that I wouldn’t otherwise see in my New York bubble of interactions. Between airports and rental car counters and conference tables, life on the road puts you in close proximity to all kinds of people. And let’s not even begin to dissect the irrational closeness of sleeping on a red-eye flight from SFO to JFK next to a big burly man in 26B.
As I look forward to the rest of 2013 and beyond, my work with Waze is going to keep my frequent flyer status feed and my carry-on packing skills sharp. But hopefully, it will also continue to lend itself to being the routine busting classroom that I have come to appreciate when I’m up in the air.
Annie and I went to the Whitney Museum this afternoon and worked our way through some fascinating exhibits and permanent installments. There was one painting that, for reasons not apparent to me in the moment, really jumped out at me in the room dedicated to artist Edward Hopper.
What really caught my eye in the descriptor next to the paining was the phrase “I’m after ME.” It was buried in this sentence, “Asked once what he was trying to achieve on a painting, he answered, “I’m after ME.” His aim was not to record outward appearances but to use his observations of the external world as vehicles through which to portray his inner life.” (Learn more about the artist and this work HERE) As I read that, I wondered if the same wan’t true in the “art” that I create. Now, I don’t actually think about my writing and blogging as art, but it is the most consistent and public place that I share my thoughts and inspirations.
A friend of mine who is a reporter for a major news station shared this today on her Facebook wall: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” This quote by Joan Didion is exactly where I was going with my curiosity about Edward Hopper’s pursuit of “ME.” My writing, both in my personal notebooks and in public forums like this or Forbes, are as much about understanding what I understand about my world as it is sharing that understanding with anyone else.
So here’s to that discovery and the revelations that come along with it.Tweet
Last night I watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary featuring 85 year old Jiro Ono, arguably the world’s greatest sushi chef. The movie chronicles his life, his restaurant, and the challenge that lies ahead as he and his 50 year old son work through a succession plan that will keep the legacy of his father’s work preserved.
The opening scene, Jiro explains his life work:
“Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success… and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
He was sent out into the world at the age of nine and became an apprentice at 10. He has been making sushi for over 75 years and for 75 years he has been searching for an even better version of his work. He says in the movie that every piece of sushi he serves is better than the one before. That when he does his work, he feels victorious. Every single day, repeating the same steps to create the same excellence, and pushing just a little bit harder to make it just a little bit better. Never settling.
His persistent and consistent work to create excellence and the expectation of his staff (minimum of ten year apprenticeship before they are allowed to be in the front of the restaurant) got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule.” It would certainly seem to apply here. But that rule also always gets me thinking, what have I spent 10,000 intention hours work to become the best at?
My career has been much more dynamic than Jiro’s and anyone on Gladwell’s list. The skill set that I’ve been asked to bring to the work I do can and does change with the task at hand. My aspirations of being a renaissance man seem more realistic than an master craftsman like Jiro. And there is nothing wrong with that, but, it does beg the question, of the skills that I use today and know I will use for the rest of my life, am I obsessed with making everyday’s efforts better than the day before?