Be Very Specific

Brené Brown:

You’re neurobiologically hardwired to care what people think. You have not hacked that. We care what people think. The deal is that you have to be very specific about people whose opinions of you matter. It’s not that you don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. Just don’t give a shit what some people think. And then really solicit feedback from the people that do give you good feedback.

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TK and Then Move On

Seth Godin:

The origin of the editor’s mark “TK” is murky. It’s what you write when there’s a fact or addition you’re waiting on. Instead of stopping everything, simply type “TK” and you know you can come back and fix it later.

The modern purpose of TK is that there are few words in English that contain these two letters juxtaposed in this way, so it’s super easy to use Word to search your manuscript. (Except for ‘latkes’ and ‘pocketknife.’) But I think it predates search.

The magic of TK is more interesting. The existence of TK means we don’t have to stop and wait for everything to be perfect before we proceed.

If the flooring for the kitchen hasn’t arrived yet, TK and then move on to wallpaper the dining room.

Our lives are filled with TK moments. It’ll come. No need to stop and wait for it.

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On Writing, Elizabeth Gilbert

Tidbits from a Copyblogger interview with Elizabeth Gilbert:

Before you begin to write, do you have any pre-game rituals or practices?

Clear off my schedule until I have a nice long block of empty time. Bow down. Ask for grace. Commit to the idea of collaborating with the book, not going to war against it. Cross fingers. Make a cup of tea. Begin.

How many hours a day do you spend writing?

Everything that needs to be done in my life has to be done before 11:00 am, or it won’t be done well, or may not even be done at all. I love the early hours because the world hasn’t tracked me down yet. My best mind is my mind at dawn, after a good night of sleep.

I usually wake up with the solution on the tip of my brain to the creative problem of yesterday, and then I go running to my desk to try to catch my intelligence before it drains out of my ears. By 2pm, I am useless for anything except simple manual labor.

Do you have any tricks for beating procrastination? Do you adhere to deadlines?

I abide by Goethe’s rule: “Never hurry, never rest.” I never go into crazy fugue states, but I don’t ever stop, either. I’m a plow mule. I’m very disciplined, and I have a great regard for deadlines — usually my own.

I was lucky enough to have had discipline instilled in me by my very organized and Calvinist mother, who taught us to work first and play later (and maybe not even play so much, actually).

She also taught us not to become perfectionists, which is where a lot of procrastination and time-wasting occurs. Nothing is less efficient than perfectionism. Her great adage, which I still adhere to, was:

Done is better than good.

I can tell you all kinds of specific things that are wrong with each of my books, but I’m not going to try fixing them, because then you fall down the wormhole, and the books are good enough already, and I want to move on to other things.

90% is truly good enough. There is not enough time in life to quest for perfection. Better to move forward. All this I learned from my mom. I was a lazy kid by nature, but my mother refused to allow me to become a lazy adult.


I think that loving one’s work is a marvelous trick for enjoying life. When people ask me if writing is hard or easy for me, I don’t even know how to answer that. Hard and easy don’t matter.

I don’t need writing to be easy; I just need it to be interesting.

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Questions of a Human Life

Elizabeth Gilbert:

My journey began with a series of questions. That’s how all journeys begin. The shape of my journey was a reflection of my own personal answers to those questions. The shape of your journey will be different from mine, but at bottom, our questions will be the same. These are not easy questions, by the way. They are merely the biggest and oldest questions of any human life:

  • Who am I?
  • Who does my life belong to?
  • What is my relationship to divinity?
  • What have I come here to do?
  • Do I have the right to change my own path?
  • With whom do I want to share my path — if anyone?
  • Do I have the right to experience pleasure and peace? If so, what would bring me pleasure and peace?
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What is the next right move?

Oprah Winfrey:

The way through the challenge is to get still and ask yourself:

What is the next right move?

Not think about “Ohhh, I had all of this…!” —

What is the next right move?

And then from that space, make the next right move. And the next right move.

And not to be overwhelmed by it, because you know your life is bigger than that one moment. You know you’re not defined by what somebody says is a failure for you, because failure is just there to point you in a different direction.

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Aldous Huxley, Island:

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…

See also: A State of Balance

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Long-Term Thinking

Jeff Bezos:

Long-term thinking is a lever. It lets you do things that you could not do or couldn’t even conceive of doing if you were thinking short-term.

If everything has to work in two to three years, then that limits what you can do. If you can give yourself the breathing room to say, “Okay. I’m okay if it takes seven years.” All of a sudden you have way more opportunities.

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You are dreaming with the brain awake

Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements:

What you are seeing and hearing right now is nothing but a dream. You are dreaming right now in this moment. You are dreaming with the brain awake.

Dreaming is the main function of the mind, and the mind dreams twenty-four hours a day. It dreams when the brain is awake, and it also dreams when the brain is asleep. The difference is that when the brain is awake, there is a material frame that makes us perceive things in a linear way. When we go to sleep we do not have the frame, and the dream has the tendency to change constantly.

Humans are dreaming all the time. Before we were born the humans before us created a big outside dream that we will call society’s dream or the dream of the planet. The dream of the planet is the collective dream of billions of smaller, personal dreams, which together create a dream of a family, a dream of a community, a dream of a city, a dream of a country, and finally a dream of the whole humanity. The dream of the planet includes all of society’s rules, its beliefs, its laws, its religions, its different cultures and ways to be, its governments, schools, social events, and holidays.

We are born with the capacity to learn how to dream, and the humans who live before us teach us how to dream the way society dreams. The outside dream has so many rules that when a new human is born, we hook the child’s attention and introduce these rules into his or her mind. The outside dream uses Mom and Dad, the schools, and religion to teach us how to dream.

Attention is the ability we have to discriminate and to focus only on that which we want to perceive. We can perceive millions of things simultaneously, but using our attention, we can hold whatever we want to perceive in the foreground of our mind. The adults around us hooked our attention and put information into our minds through repetition. That is the way we learned everything we know.

By using our attention we learned a whole reality, a whole dream. We learned how to behave in society: what to believe and what not to believe; what is acceptable and what is not acceptable; what is good and what is bad; what is beautiful and what is ugly; what is right and what is wrong. It was all there already — all that knowledge, all those rules and concepts about how to behave in the world.

When you were in school, you sat in a little chair and put your attention on what the teacher was teaching you. When you went to church, you put your attention on what the priest or minister was telling you. It is the same dynamic with Mom and Dad, brothers and sisters: They were all trying to hook your attention. We also learn to hook the attention of other humans, and we develop a need for attention which can become very competitive. Children compete for the attention of their parents, their teachers, their friends. “Look at me! Look at what I’m doing! Hey, I’m here.” The need for attention becomes very strong and continues into adulthood.

The outside dream hooks our attention and teaches us what to believe, beginning with the language that we speak. Language is the code for understanding and communication between humans. Every letter, every word in each language is an agreement. We call this a page in a book; the word page is an agreement that we understand. Once we understand the code, our attention is hooked and the energy is transferred from one person to another.

It was not your choice to speak English. You didn’t choose your religion or your moral values — they were already there before you were born. We never had the opportunity to choose what to believe or what not to believe. We never chose even the smallest of these agreements. We didn’t even choose our own name.

As children, we didn’t have the opportunity to choose our beliefs, but we agreed with the information that was passed to us from the dream of the planet via other humans. The only way to store information is by agreement. The outside dream may hook our attention, but if we don’t agree, we don’t store that information. As soon as we agree, we believe it, and this is called faith. To have faith is to believe unconditionally.

Audio from “The Four Agreements – Martin Roth Beats Edit” by Matthew Dekay and Martin Roth.
See also: “The Four Agreements” audiobook, narrated by Peter Coyote

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Keeping Your Distinctiveness Alive

Jeff Bezos:

In what ways does the world pull at you in an attempt to make you normal? How much work does it take to maintain your distinctiveness? To keep alive the thing or things that make you special?

We all know that distinctiveness – originality – is valuable. We are all taught to “be yourself.” What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical – in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.

You have to pay a price for your distinctiveness, and it’s worth it. The fairy tale version of “be yourself” is that all the pain stops as soon as you allow your distinctiveness to shine. That version is misleading. Being yourself is worth it, but don’t expect it to be easy or free. You’ll have to put energy into it continuously.

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G.I. Gurdjieff:

It is the greatest mistake to think that man is always one and the same. A man is never the same for long. He is continually changing. He seldom remains the same even for half an hour.

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