Monthly Archives: June 2011

Chris Rock on Job vs. Career

Chris Rock, in his unique blend of wisdom, riffs on the difference between having a job and having a career:

He seems to define a job as something you hate and a career as something you love. I'm not sure that's the most useful distinction and definition. But, I love Rock's point that loving what you do causes you to always think there's not enough hours in the day. And his story about dropping out of the tenth grade and how he should have just dropped out of the second grade, while exaggerated, is perversely true. 

(hat tip: Marci Alboher)

Assorted Paragraphs and Links

Things I would blog about were I blogging more regularly (normal pace will return in August):

Peter Beinart on Rep. Anthony Weiner:

Truth be told, I don’t think the real reason pundits are baying for Weiner’s head has anything to do with his ability to be a good congressman. It’s more primal than that. We live in a kick-them-while-they're-down culture. We love to see the powerful humiliated because it proves that they were no better than us to begin with. Yet we simultaneously imagine that because they're powerful and famous, they don't need the empathy that we'd desire were we in their stead. Instead of being moved by their suffering, we revel in it.

How many of the pundits mocking Weiner have marriages that could survive the kind of scrutiny they have been giving his? The realization that everyone’s private life is messy and flawed should produce humility and compassion. Instead, pundits enter the public arena as disembodied Olympian figures, entitled to render the harshest of verdicts, secure in the knowledge that no one will ever investigate their most intimate of domains.

The kick-them-while-they're-down culture was also on display after the Mavs beat the Heat and LeBron hate escalated to epic levels. Speaking of LeBron, here's Bill Simmons on LeBron, which may be relevant to anyone born with multiple natural talents:

Is it possible that he's so talented that he never ended up concentrating on one great thing? He never developed a go-to gimmick like Dirk's high-post game, Wade's one-on-one game, Kobe's one-on-one game, Duncan's low-post game … he's like one of those fancy diners that has a six-page menu loaded with options, only when you ask the waitress what's good, she says, "I don't know, everything!" But wait … I asked you what's good.

Simmons recently launched Grantland. From his excellent opening post, on why he's running a collaborative site instead of penning solo columns:

Writing is a fundamentally lonely thing. It's just you and a blank Microsoft Word document. The process can drive people crazy. (And has.) It's much more fun to create something with other people. It just is.

The Last Psychiararist on Julian Assange:

Assange believes that truth needs no intent, which is obviously false. Without a context, the truth can mislead.  Excluding the context on purpose, when you know that it will be misunderstood, is often as good as lying.  This has always been my/everyone's concern about Wikileaks.

Robin Hanson quotes the following, in a post about wearing helmets while biking:

Ordinary cycling is not demonstrably more dangerous than walking or driving, yet no country promotes helmets for either of these modes.

An interesting account of how someone went to therapy to deal with severe social anxiety. He gives a nerveracking presentation in front of others, and then:

But then [the therapist] played back the video of my presentation, and I was even more surprised. The thoughts rushing through my head really were not apparent at all in the video. I seemed a little nervous, but nothing compared to how I actually felt.

Here are the 20 Thiel Fellows under age 20 who won the $100k grant. They look great.

The Risk of Working Hard

Seth Godin writes:

If you're going to work…

work hard.

That way, you'll have something to show for it.

The biggest waste is to do that thing you call work, but to interrupt it, compromise it, cheat it and still call it work.

In the same amount of time you can expend twice the effort and get far more in exchange.

Agreed, so why don't people work hard? Here's a non-obvious reason: working hard is risky. If you work hard and fail, you don't enjoy the self-protection that less than 100% effort affords. If you get a C on a test in school, and you didn't study much, then it's no big deal — you just didn't study enough. If you get a C on a test in school, and you studied really hard for it, then you must just be dumb.

In other words, if you work hard and fail, there's the presumption that you're innately not very talented. If you don't work hard and fail, you can credibly preserve the belief or illusion that had you only put forth 100% effort, it would have worked out.

(A hat tip on this idea is owed to some writer I can't remember, maybe Gladwell.)

Randomness and Serendipity on the Internet

This is a short biography of a link, as it relates to the randomness and serendipity that drives conversation on the web.

A couple weeks ago Tim Harford, the Financial Times columnist and author of the stimulating new book Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, was in town on book tour. I've read Tim's stuff for some time but hadn't met him, so I went to his talk at the World Affairs Council and we grabbed dinner afterwards. We had a delightful chat, and later that night Tim linked on Twitter to an old blog post of mine, 50 Ways to Expose Yourself to Randomness.

Seeing that Tim is — according to the hottest economist in America — the best economist on Twitter, he has a strong following and the link got picked up a bit.

This morning, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a noted foreign policy scholar and former Obama State Dept official, tweeted: "Someone that I follow sent out a great piece last week on ways of adding randomness to your life, but now I can't find it. Pse resend!"

An hour later, Michael Clemens, an economist from the Center for Global Development — who I randomly met at a conference in Miami on Latin America and who I've stayed in touch with online ever since — replied, "50 ways to expose yourself to randomness" from @BenCasnocha http://bit.ly/jJYBPB." Presumably, Michael remembered Tim tweeting about it and figured it was the link Anne-Marie remembered.

Shortly thereafter, Anne-Marie wrote a post for CNN's GPS blog about creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and linked at one point in the piece to my post on randomness. It was cool for me to see this – I read Anne-Marie's book The Idea That Is America a couple years ago, and linked to her post on the development of China three years ago. Cooler yet, Fareed Zakaria just tweeted the CNN post on creativity and asked Amy "Tiger Mom" Chua for her reactions. And Amy Chua just replied.

I'm detailing the backstory here because it's fun to point out the random connections that gave rise to Anne-Marie's link on…cultivating randomness. Every day in the blogosphere and twittersphere these types of conversations happen; being able to trace the outlines of how ideas and memes come together is one of the unique joys of the online intellectual experience.

It's also worth pointing out that it was a year-old blog post that got picked up by Tim et al. Blog posts are easily searchable and archivable. It would have never happened with a tweet. It supports the point of my post (and Anil Dash's): Twitter, Transience, and Tempo.

Finally, I think it's relevant that in-person relationships played a role in how the link made its way into Anne-Marie's post. I met Tim for dinner, and afterwards he took a closer look at my blog and then felt compelled to tweet it out. I met Michael, the guy who responded to Anne-Marie's initial question, in-person in Miami and he started following me (and I him) after that. The internet does a marvelous job at connecting people from around the world. Even if I've never met a blogger or tweeter I follow, the connection I feel I have with them is anything but superficial. But it remains the case that an in-person interaction creates a unique bond. In my experience, even just one in-person meeting can enrich the online communications with the person for years to follow.