life

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could a smile run through the placid hips and thighs to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875 - 1926

Groundhog Day

Harold Ramis: Serenity is an illusion, but if anything is possible and I can do anything, then there’s a limitless capacity to do good. That’s what Groundhog Day is about. In Groundhog Day, Bill destroys all meaning for himself. Buddhism says our self doesn’t even exist. The self is a convenient illusion that gives us ego. In conventional terms, of course, it exists. There’s a name and picture on your driver’s license, you have to get dressed in the morning, and your paycheck is addressed to somebody, so you have a self. But it’s really an illusion. I did a group exercise, and we were asked to face another person and describe ourselves in two minutes. I started describing myself, and from the very first statement started thinking, That’s not really true. That’s what I like to think about myself, but I’m not as good as I’m saying. It’s all a projection. So then we switched partners, and they said, “Now tell this person who you are.” So I did a corrective on the first, wrong view of myself, and as I’m talking I’m thinking, That’s not me, either. The whole point of the exercise is that we’re not who we think we are. We’re only occasionally who we want to be. We’re not what other people think we are. The self kind of evaporates as a concept. If you can take yourself out of these existential issues, life gets a little simpler. If life is full of possibility, and I stop thinking about myself, I end up where Bill ends up at the end of the movie: in the service of others.

~Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow

Life

"What are the events in life? It's like, you see a door. The first time you come to it, you say, 'Oh, what's on the other side of the door?' Then you open a few doors and then you say, 'I think I want to go over a bridge this time. I'm tired of doors.' Finally you go through one of these things, and you come out the other side, and you realize that's all there are: doors! And windows and bridges and gates. And they all open the same way. And they all close behind you. Look, life is supposed to be a path, and you go along, and these things happen to you, and they're supposed to change your direction, but it turns out that's not true. Turns out the experiences are nothing. They're just some pennies you pick up off the floor, stick in your pocket, and you're just going in a straight line to you-know-where." ~ Roger Sterling, Mad Men

Our Stories

The stories we tell ourselves can be stubbornly resistant to change. Case in point: a recent story by Michael Lewis for This American Life.  

 "These stories we tell about ourselves-- they're almost like our infrastructure, like railroads or highways. We can build them almost any way we want to. But once they're in place, this whole inner landscape grows up around them. So maybe the point here is that you should be careful about how you tell your story, or at least conscious of it. Because once you've told it, once you've built the highway, it's just very hard to move it. Even if your story is about an angel who came out of nowhere and saved your life, even then, not even the angel herself can change it."  ~Michael Lewis

 

Choice

I recently caught up with someone I hadn't seen in over ten years and I was struck, as I often am lately, at how much life seems to be passing me by. Is that true? Or did I just choose a different life? Yep, I'm making choices, even if I don't always think so. And am I happy with my choices? If not, what then?

These are the moments I tune into House Hunters International and contemplate: would things look differently from Rome?

Negative Space

There's a concept in art called negative space. Basically, negative space is defined as when the space around a subject forms an interesting picture that is different from the subject itself. Which got me to thinking about my life, of course. Specifically, the negative space of my life - the current subject of my life and what is or isn't depicted by the space around it. Or said another way, what isn't in my life and how it sheds light on what is there.

Stepping back, I'm not so sure it's a balanced composition. Know what I mean?

Boo Hiss

Ms. Winfrey said she would like to attract to OWN women “in their 30s or perhaps their 20s, to be able to reach people when they are looking to fulfill their destiny.” She added, “By the time you’re 40, 42, you should have kind of figured it out already.” The irony of this statement is amazing. Does Oprah lack self-awareness? Does she not see that crossroads come at multiple points in life? If she/OWN focused more on the big life questions that underpin transitions it's likely she'd get the younger folks.

Note the women in their 20s quoted in the article referenced Martha Beck - pretty much the only person in Oprah's posse that addresses the questions that arise at crossroads.

What's Your Life Strategy?

Do you have a strategy for your life? According to Clay Christensen, you should have one: "Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy."

While at Oxford, he spent an hour every night thinking and reading about the purpose of his life. What he learned:

  • "People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness."
  • "...it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place."
  • "Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people."

How to Live: Visualize Dying

Researchers from Eastern Washington University and Hofstra University in the Journal of Positive Psychology discovered that "people who simply wrote about death in a more abstract way didn’t feel any more grateful afterward; the people who just imagined a day in their life seemed very slightly less grateful. But the gratitude scores of people who actually visualized their own deaths skyrocketed. These people seemed deeply affected by confronting their own mortality 'in a vivid and specific way.'"

But this isn't advice that you should think about your death all the time. The researchers found that even just imagining something you value being taken away from you heightens your appreciation for that thing. In essence, you can get the same benefits by thinking of things for which you are grateful or said another way - keep a gratitude journal.

Serial Entrepreneurship

Growing up I don't think anyone ever suspected I would be an entrepreneur. I certainly didn't. But one day the light bulb went off. I had an idea. And I just knew. Like romance novels detail the first meeting of a romantic partner. I've never experienced that feeling, but when the idea for Consorte hit me, I was smitten. Having an idea, I quickly learned, was the easy part. Making it happen, neh willing it to happen, was the truly difficult task.

And what they don't tell you about entrepreneurship, about corralling a bunch of people behind your vision, about battling misconceptions and skepticism, about hiring people and firing people, about pinching pennies and clawing for dollars, is what an emotional roller coaster it all is.

The ride never stops.

If it does, it's at the precipice, those scary interminable moments before you plummet, your stomach in your throat.

It's a wonder then that after getting off the ride (my first company was acquired last year) that I am getting back on.

What I've learned is entrepreneurship is life and life is entrepreneurship. In life, if you choose to engage in it, you will be forced to grow and scale back, bring people in and let people go, change markets and yes, even reevaluate your product. In the end, to stop creating, building, and growing would mean to stop living.

So when you think about it we're all serial entrepreneurs. Starting, stopping and starting all over again. Life and entrepreneurship require constant movement and reinvention. Looking back I now realize I was an entrepreneur all along - a serial entrepreneur. And maybe, now you will see, you are one, too. I hope you enjoy the ride.

On a Walk

Poem of the Day:

Two miles I had to walk along the fields Before I reached my home. Magnificent The morning was, a memorable pomp, More glorious than I ever had beheld, The sea was laughing at a distance; all The solid mountains were as bright as clouds, Grain tinctured, drenched in empyrean light; And in the meadows and the lower grounds Was all the sweetness of a common dawn, Dews, vapours, and the melody of birds, And Labourers going forth into the fields. Ah! ned I say, dear Friend, but to the brim My heart was full; I made no vows, but vows Were then made for me; bond unknown to me Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly, A dedicated Spirit. On I walk'd In blessedness, which even yet remains.

~ William Wordsworth

An interpretation by David Whyte: "life comes to find us as much as we go out to find it ... life can find you only if you are paying real attention to something other than your own concerns".