Friday Four 09/23/16

Every week I write a newsletter. Here is today’s.

This week we talk about working hard, doing chores, the power of running, and staying dry.


Talent isn’t rare.

Each one of us has something inside that would be a gift to the world if it was cultivated. But, unfortunately for most, it’s not.

It’s why there is the old saying: “Many people die with the music still inside them.” Now I’m thinking about it, that probably should have been the quote today.

Hard work transforms interior talent into external success. For example:

Uber is so obvious now, but it wasn’t the behemoth it is now until Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp took their idea and actually built a shared taxi network from scratch.

By the way, if you think that they came up with the first on-demand taxi, you’d be wrong.

Check this out…


I’m willing to bet Google, despite their massive size, just didn’t put in the effort like a couple of scrappy guys with a dream. They worked HARD executing their idea.

Or the Beatles. They spent a couple of years in Germany each making £2.50 a day. They played four sets between 8PM and 2AM on weeknights, five sets from 7PM to 3AM on Saturdays, and six setsfrom 5PM to 1:30AM on Sundays. Adjusted for inflation, that is $20 each per day.

But they had once-in-a-generation talent plus the drive to work HARD. The rest is history.

Book: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

I love reading books that let me peek into someone’s habits.

Most of the time I unearth little nuggets of wisdom that set me off on these idea veins. They can literally change the way I look at my life. That’s the power of a great memoir.

So why does the great Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami, run 6 miles a day, every day and why does it allow his creativity to flourish?

As the book answered that question, I unearthed some powerful takeaways:

A) You need 3 things to succeed: Talent, Focus, and Endurance.

i) Talent — whether you’re in business or the arts, you need to start with some level of respectable talent. You can put a ton of energy into a project, but if you have zero natural aptitude — and I’m not talking about lack of experience — then you’re running uphill forever. 0 x 1,000,000 = 0.

ii) Focus — “the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment.” The good news is that this is a practice — a muscle that you can build through discipline and desire. Sitting down and staring at a blank piece of paper until inspiration decides to show up is tough. Getting your team together and spending two full days in a strategy session is a grind. But it’s the focus that separates the amateurs from the pros. They can sit there and get the task done.

iii) Endurance — it’s the ability to sustain the focus. Focus is good, but having endurance makes it great. It’s why thousands start, but only dozens finish. It’s what Randy Pausch meant when he said: “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” If you want it badly enough, you stay in the race.

B) Know why you are doing what you are doing — Haruki runs mile after mile to silence his own inner critic. He seeks solitude from his thoughts. “All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.”

There is no judgment here. We all get lonely. Some more than others. He feels loneliness intensely and running is his medicine. He knows he needs it.

C) Fully commit — Haruki owned a successful bar in Japan. He decided to write a novel. His friends begged him to not close the business but he intuitively knew that he couldn’t become a writer unless he went all in. “I’m the kind of person who has to toally commit to whatever I do. I just couldn’t do something clever like writing a novel while someone else ran the business. I had to give it everything I had. If I failed, I could accept that. But I knew that if I did things halfheartedly and they didn’t work out, I’d always have regrets.”

Think about how hard that is. He had success. He had a young family. Bills to pay. And he shut it all down to fully commit to his art. Inspiring.

D) Being creative is hard work — “I have to pound the rock with a chisel and dig out a deep hole before I can locate the source of creativity. To write a novel I have to drive myself hard physically and use a lot of time and effort.” Doing creative projects, whether it’s writing a good book, composing a song, or launching a business, is hard work.

E) Have a routine — Haruki has had the same routine for 24 years. He wakes up early at 5am, focuses first on his most important work (writing) for several hours, then runs errands and such that require little concentration. He finishes the day with some reading and listening to music before going to bed by 10pm. Somewhere in there he also runs 6 miles. What’s your routine?

This book reminds me of (Nike’s) Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog memoir. It’s almost ethereal in parts — zen like. I’m not sure whether it’s his writing style (I haven’t read his novels) or it’s the Japanese to English translation. Either way, it’s beautiful in sections. If I’m honest, I wasn’t blown away by the book right away, but the longer the book lingered in my mind, the more I enjoyed it’s simple nature. It has stuck with me over several days.

App: Dark Sky

You want to take a run.

You step outside but the clouds look iffy so you check a weather site. It says 90% chance of precipitation so you stay inside. Two hours pass and no rain. So you head out, and a mile from your house the heavens open up and you get soaked. You’re now standing under a tree (not safe) in a thunderstorm cursing the weather business. What a scam!

What the site neglected to tell you was that there’s a 90% chance of rain at SOME POINT during the day. Nice.

Dark Sky is a hyperlocal rain forecaster. It’ll provide all the usual hourly predictions, but where it really shines is during the “next 60 minutes” forecast, for your exact location.

I’ve found it to be eerily accurate — like when it says it will start drizzling in 8 minutes, and it happens. I now check the app religiously before heading out on a run or bike ride, even on a cloudless day. Why? Because the last time I didn’t, I ended up a mile from my house, standing under a tree.

Article: What a Stanford Dean Says Parents are Doing That’s Ruining Their Kids by Elisha

She couldn’t believe their behavior.

Julie Lythcott-Haims was the Dean of Freshman at Stanford. She and her colleagues noticed that every year the incoming students’ GPA scores were higher than the year before. They had taken more AP classes, more extra curricular activities, and “every batch of freshman was more accomplished than the last.”

But it wasn’t just the behavior of the students that caught her attention. It was also the parents.

These parents were “helicopter parents” — helicopter defined as “a parent’s will to engineer a particular outcome in their child.”

These parents had molded their kids into exactly what they and the colleges expected to see. They had finished their kid’s homework (because they needed an “A”), and only let them participate in activities that would show up on the transcript. There was no time for kids to be kids — like hanging out at the mall, or letting their children fail at something so they could taste defeat once in a while.

The side effect of “helicopter parenting” is that kids never develop self-awareness and confidence. Julie noticed her students could hardly look her in the eye when she spoke. When they got in trouble, they called mom who, in turn, called the school. Yes, parents calling Stanford…the college!

Give this short article a read. It provides two simple steps that remedy most of these issues. One of which is giving your children chores. The other is teaching them something so obvious and simple…

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