Hannah ran in first. She would have done it regardless, but there’s something about the full moon or the beginning of the new school year that makes the students here feel more adventurous — because if not now, then when? I don’t think I would have jumped into the ocean at midnight on a regular day.
If you’re going to jump into the salt water with your clothes on though, do be ready for all the chafing on your legs as you go back up the hill. As you bear that soggy underwear and start to shiver from the cold, you may ask yourself: “Was it all worth it?”
I think it was.
(And it was definitely worth the cough I got soon afterward).
I applied (and am still applying) for summer internships, but nothing is biting so far. The boat’s sailing away, and I’m disappointed that I’m not on it — not because I feel entitled to ride on that boat, but because I feel like I could have run a little faster to the harbor to catch it.
But that’s how it goes sometimes. That boat’s gone, but I can get on the next one.
The last thing I want to do over the summer is just sit on my ass, and I told Tavish I wouldn’t mind scooping ice cream or something like that. Anything, really. My friend Kenny had done it a couple years ago, and he said it’s more tiring than one would imagine. Scooping ice cram is good for character, and it’s good for the forearms.
Tavish: “Don’t forget to switch arms. You wouldn’t want one to be bigger than the other.”
A daydream: an attractive woman walks up and squeezes my right arm. You working out? Nah, I tell her. Just scooping ice cream.
In one of my favorite videos of all time, Ira Glass talks about what it means to have your own work disappoint you, and how the only way to respond is to keep churning out more work. He talks about how even his own work stunk when he started.
For every creative matter there will be tension between what you aspire to do, and what you just made in front of you. Keep pushing on and churning out those ideas anyway. Close that gap by returning to your work.
This blog is one way I am trying to do that. Thanks for reading.
[Here is the first post I wrote back in the summer of 2013 when I was eighteen. Much has changed since then.]
“When I first started teaching, I made a mistake that a lot of young teachers make. I would ask the class for a question and after 17 milliseconds when nobody had answered, I would jump in and offer the answer myself.
I trained the students that they didn’t need to be part of the class, that I would always answer every question. There was no reason to participate.
One of my colleagues [Jim Hollan] taught me to wait a little longer, and it’s amazing. Even in a quiet classroom before students are used to interacting — let a few seconds of silence happen, and people will start to chime in. The same is true in interviews. You may get a quick answer at first. Let some silence happen. After a few seconds, you’ll hear the second story.
And the second story is often a lot more interesting.”
The same is true for conversations with an old friend. Let there be a bit of silence, especially when the question you are asking requires that the other person be vulnerable (and that is a lot to ask for). And when there is silence, don’t use it as an opportunity to think of things for yourself to say — that is the opposite of listening and understanding the other person. Give the other person a chance to think and say what she wants to say before butting in with your own story.
Every once in a while I’ll bump into a new couple who’s obviously super into each other. They’re easy to spot — constantly giggling in each other’s company, and sharing inside jokes that nobody else in the room understands (and worse, they won’t bother to explain them! “Long story” they say). The more irritating ones may even say, “we finish each other’s sentences!” to show how cute they are together.
But why would you want to do that? I thought making assumptions breaks relationships!
One important caveat: there is an emphasis on alittle bit of silence. Too much and the conversation thread will end. Too little and the conversation can devolve into a bout of verbal diarrhea.
Comfortable silences rise when both people trust that the other is just as invested in the relationship as they are. That doesn’t always happen, so I try to cherish it when it does.
Source: Lecture 2.2. "Interviewing". You can find the excerpt at the 10:50 mark in Klemmer's / UCSD's "Intro to Human-Computer Interaction Design" course on Coursera.org.
You’re at a job interview — no, you’re at a coffee date — and you’re asking the other person to tell a little bit about themselves. What motivates them? What drives them? What are the things that keep them up at night, or dreaming during the day? They’ve got an answer, and you’re listening.
“I want to make the world a better place!”
Urrrghh — you cringe a bit. They probably mean well, but their cheery do-gooder intentions have been lost upon you.
Why is that?
Because that statement doesn’t actually mean anything. You’ll never hear anyone say: “I want to make the world worse.” You won’t hear Miss America saying she wants more wars, more hunger, and more suffering for humanity.
In a casual conversation you can follow-up with questions like how will you make the world a better place? — anything to invite the speaker to share or clarify what they think.
But you don’t have that opportunity to cover your tracks if you’re doing a presentation, holding a speech, or writing a letter.
A similar situation happens in the realm of dating. Many single men will say that they’re a “nice guy.” Okay, cool. That’s the bare minimum. What else can you offer? Nobody is going to say they’re an asshole straight off the bat. (And if they do, you can believe them).
In whatever you choose to say or write, ask yourself: “would anyone say the opposite?”. It’s an effective way to cut down on the fluff that comes out of your head.
Words are powerful. Make them count.
Idea from a portfolio review night with Don Norman.
Every night before you head off to bed, write down with pen and paper:
Three good experiences you had during the day, and
why those good experiences happened, or
why you think these were good experiences.
You will soon find that:
This habit is easily maintained. It takes about fifteen minutes, and you can quickly get back into practice if you miss a day.
It becomes an effective way to remind yourself of all the wonderful things that happen in your life regularly. We all need reminders from time to time.
But what happens if I struggle to find even three good things today?
Some days are harder than others, definitely. If that is a genuine statement, then I won’t resort to a platitude (e,g, there’s always a silver lining! as the Americans like to say)or tell you to get over it. Few people actively wish for a shitty day.
But if you’ve done this exercise for a while, you can take a look back at your previous entries when you’re in a slump. Perhaps a brief visit to a past memory is all you need to keep on going.
Rotten days are rotten for a reason, and remembering three good things that happened during the day won’t change that. But over time, those rotten days become less suffocating and dominating — especially in comparison to everything else that has gone well in your life.
I like this exercise because it’s a good way to stay sane and in good spirits.
My good neighbors Brian and Maja have been making this a daily conversation topic at night, and I do enjoy hearing what they have to say. I got the idea from them.
I’m noticing a bit of resistance from myself while writing online. It’s as though I’m filtering myself before even typing a single word. When writing in a journal, I can blabber on for pages at a time. Thirty minutes on an average day and I am greeted with filled pages on whatever I chose to dump that day. Nobody’s there to look over and judge me, to say that I’m using too many adverbs. But writing online, it feels as if all of the world’s eyes are on me — which is silly, because I can count the number of readers in one hand, half of which includes my mom. And yet, I still feel paralyzed by that thought.
Writing posts online (even if the fingers on one hand surpasses the number of visitors to this blog) forces me to hold myself accountable for my writing. If I write a steaming pile of shit, that’s my name attached to it. The opposite is also true — if I write some literary gold, my credit will be attached to it, too — but human insecurity is making it tougher to consider that possibility. Or rather, that’s just the reality of doing any sort of work: I’m going to suck at it for a long time before I get any better.
Ira Glass talks about this in his video, “Storytelling”, and how when starting any creative endeavor, there will always be a painful gap between what you know is objectively “good” and valuable (your taste, your ideals), and what you are actually creating at the time (your work). And that the only way to close that gap is to keep creating.
Glass speaks of this through the perspective of storytelling in his radio show, but the same principle applies to any sort of creative work.
The key then, would be to push through despite the desire for perfectionism. To continue to write — even if the work comes out bland and wilted at first — out of nothing else but the desire to become better. Better at presenting ideas that can change the world, and better at connecting with other people, on and off the computer screen.
The sketch above was created Doug Neill, teacher and illustrator. You can check out his other work on thegraphicrecorder.com.
I thought writing for a public audience, or at least opening up to criticism would help with improving my writing skills. Writing can open the eyes, tickle the brain, and break hearts just as soon as it can mend them (or even faster). Words are powerful, and it’s time I learn how to use them.
I’m not sure what will come out of this (Romantic dates? Job opportunities? A sense of accountability and personal fulfillment?), but I won’t find out unless I take the first step. The worst that can happen is that I end up talking to myself and feeding my own ego for years, but that’s not an outcome restricted to blogging.
Starting a project is one thing; coming back to it on a regular basis is another.