Monthly Archives: April 2007

Jimmy V: Life is About Laughter, Thought, and Crying

Legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano delivered a nine minute speech (YouTube) at the ESPN sports awards in 1993 just two months before dying of cancer. It’s very inspirational. He says:

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. No. 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. No. 2 is think. You should spend some time in thought. And No. 3 is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

When the producers say he has only 30 seconds left, he says, "Like I care about that screen. I got tumors all over my body and I’m supposed to be worried about some screen flashing 30 seconds."

Well worth a watch.

Are You an Ambitious Person Who Isn’t Big on Goals?

80% of ambitious people are goal oriented, 20% of ambitious people are not goal oriented. This ratio came from a friend. It strikes me as about right.

I’m not a goal person. I set a few short and medium term goals, but no long term goals.

I think long term goals are dangerous. When you are singularly focused on a long term goal or plan you become blind to the opportunities which exist on the periphery of everyday life. In other words, you blind yourself from the random events which can change your life.

But I’m still ambitious. I’m in the 20% minority.

So what drives me, if not goals? I’m not exactly sure. I want to have impact. That drives me. I want to change the world and make it better. That drives me. What drives me more than anything is an internal beating drum which I can’t verbalize.

I’m curious to hear from driven, ambitious people who don’t follow the textbook approach of elaborate goal-setting, new year’s resolutions, and life plans. From where do you derive your ambition? Is it just the way you are or can you point to explanatory factors?

An Obsession with the Amazon Number

Author Kevin Sessums‘ has been blogging about his book tour. He writes:

I am exhausted and frustrated and close to tears. I sold three books tonight at the store. I paid for this trip myself. My Amazon number is for shit. I feel like I’ve sort of reached my limit in sales – I pray I’m wrong about that – and I’m just treading marketing water now. I hate to sound so down but that’s the way I’m feeling. I live a pretty solitary life but this life-on-the-road has taken the loneliness I often feel and encased it with a meta-loneliness that is becoming increasingly difficult to cope with on a night like this.

My book‘s not even out but I still feel for him. The obsession within the publishing industry on the Amazon rank of your book is unbelievable (and stupid, since it’s only one very opaque metric).

With the pub date of my book a few weeks away, I’m beginning to feel the full range of emotions: genuine excitement for the platform my ideas will now have and for the people I will likely meet, and intense nervousness about whether people will like and buy the book.

(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Upping Your Cultural Institutions Per Capita

Driving through Iowa and Nebraska I’ve seen many weird museum signs off the freeway. “The African-American Museum” or the “Dutch Immigrant Museum”. Dozens like these — totally random and general.

I have no idea what these museums are like but I suspect they are attempts by the state to increase the museums-per-capita ranking.

Wisconsin Cheese

Having seen many TV ads for “Real California Cheese” growing up, being in Wisconsin and seeing signs for cheese is making me a little uncomfortable.

Is Ram Charan Happy?

David Whitford spends quality time with powerhouse management guru Ram Charan and discovers, in this interesting Fortune article, that the man has absolutely zero personal life. Every night of the year in a hotel room. Every conversation with anyone is about business. No “personal” friends, no intimate physical relationships (supposedly), no physical home.

He says he’s happy.

I think there are many people like Charan at the top tiers of business who aren’t as honest about these issues.

I worry that, when we see incredible professional success so tightly correlated with the sacrificing of everything else, people think there’s no other way.

New Orleans Two Years Later

I spent last weekend in New Orleans where I participated in an amazing few days of intense (and off-the-record) conversations with thinkers from around the world. Humbling, to say the least.

It was all positive except for a FEMA-led tour of the re-construction effort. We drove and walked through some of the affected areas. Acres of abandoned, shrub-filled land. Loads of wreckage and empty houses. Most upright houses still have markings like the photo here, the numbers referring to the dead bodies found inside. Yellow water lines still mark the sides of houses.

My big question during the tour was, "Where is the re-construction effort?" Where are the people? Trucks? Hammers? Shovels? Where has all the money gone? I expected to hear and see stuff. Instead entire neighborhoods have simply been abandoned.

During the tour someone asked, "Will FEMA have its act together next time around?" Answer: Not really. Louisiana’s emergency preparedness plans are still in disarray. If another big hurricane were to hit New Orleans, we could bet that chaos would ensue.

It’s hard to point fingers. After all, there are a gazillion agencies and people involved — FEMA, local officials, state officials, insurers, volunteer groups, churches, civic activists, professors. True leadership seems lacking.

I don’t know much about the situation in New Orleans. But from my weekend visit I’m not optimistic. If you want to go to the French Quarter and be a tourist, life’s good. If you venture outside a few core areas, New Orleans doesn’t look much different from the photos you saw a year or two ago. And that’s really scary.

The Importance of Weak Ties

A weak tie for me is an email-only or phone-only relationship with someone. The weak ties in your network are important (and underrated).  Virginia Postrel, in this Forbes article on networks, reminds us that people usually find jobs not through their close friends but through their weak ties. Excerpt:

To social scientists, a network (self-help or otherwise) usually implies a system that includes both subgroups in which everyone knows everyone else and "bridging ties," where an individual is connected to others outside those smaller circles. In an influential 1973 article, "The Strength of Weak Ties," sociologist Mark Granovetter, now a professor at Stanford, demonstrated that while job hunters use social connections to find work, they don’t use close friends. Rather, survey respondents said they found jobs through acquaintances–old college friends, former colleagues, people they saw only occasionally or just happened to run into at the right moment. New information, about jobs or anything else, rarely comes from your close friends because they tend to know the same things and people you do. One reason online forums are so valuable to participants like Franks is that they connect lots of people who wouldn’t otherwise know one another.

National Constitution Center in Philly

I enjoyed visiting the most historic square mile in America in Philadelphia. National Constitutional Center really fired me up. First photo below is me with a bust of Ben Franklin.


Simile of the Day

“Finishing these 274 pages proved a chore on the order of eating a supermarket aisle’s worth of Wonder Bread.” – Eric Alterman’s negative review of Chuck Schumer’s new book