WDS 2016

Rather than break it up by days I'll try to weave the themes I've discovered throughout a single narrative to go along with discoveries and some other recent thoughts and writing.

Doing things for the right reason

Or: the worst thing you can do is not start

I've always been inspired by Chris's story. It's always been an example of perseverance and the continued wishes for adventure. Every time I heard this or other interviews where Chris talks about his early life and how he came to where he is now I look out and away to where I would want to be and wonder if those things are reachable and attainable.

At WDS I spoke with Sean, the creator of Location Rebels, and he asked one very interesting question: what do you want?

I've always thought that I knew the answer but the older I get the more I realize that it's only you think you know the answer but you really don't: "When we had the answers, they changed the questions."

Accept that what you want will change and accept that you will have a never ending quest and that's ok. Remember that the moment you settle, the moment that you compromise you're lost to yourself. Be positive, always ask what can go right instead of what can go wrong.

Consequences of success and failure

One of the things we don't think about enough are the consequences of success. That has been in my mind a lot lately as I move through the process of finishing this project at Google and decide what's next and what shape it'll take.

For some reason I'm reminded of a portion of Neil Gaiman's 2012 commencement speech where he talks about success and failure:

The problems of failure are problems of discouragement, of hopelessness, of hunger. You want everything to happen and you want it now, and things go wrong. My first book – a piece of journalism I had done for the money, and which had already bought me an electric typewriter from the advance – should have been a bestseller. It should have paid me a lot of money. If the publisher hadn't gone into involuntary liquidation between the first print run selling out and the second printing, and before any royalties could be paid, it would have done.

And I shrugged, and I still had my electric typewriter and enough money to pay the rent for a couple of months, and I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn't get the money, then you didn't have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn't get the money, at least I'd have the work.

Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me. I don't know that it's an issue for anybody but me, but it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn't wind up getting the money, either. The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I've never regretted the time I spent on any of them.

The problems of failure are hard.

The problems of success can be harder, because nobody warns you about them.

The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It's Imposter Syndrome, something my wife Amanda [Palmer] christened the Fraud Police.

In my case, I was convinced that there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard (I don't know why he carried a clipboard, in my head, but he did) would be there, to tell me it was all over, and they had caught up with me, and now I would have to go and get a real job, one that didn't consist of making things up and writing them down, and reading books I wanted to read. And then I would go away quietly and get the kind of job where you don't have to make things up any more.

Neil Gaiman -- commencement speech at Academy of Art, 2012

While it's true that we shouldn't define ourselves by our failures we can't discount the fact that failures, even more that successes make you who you are. You just have to accept failures as part of the process. I'm starting this process in the project I'm working on, the level of stress and the amount of feedback I'm expecting to get from the developers in London is scary and it's hard to stay positive.

The other side of the process is that you can’t really say you want to be good at something if you never do it or if you never put yourself out there for the world to see and critique and say mean shit about...

So what makes you really you? Is it the big successes and failures or is it the little thin that make you smile every day (see Slowing down and living in the present for more on this).

“No matter how you define success, momentary happiness should have some role in it…. happiness has also been thought of as having a larger, almost spiritual quality that goes beyond both momentary feelings and reflective thought.

SO how do you become you so the joy can come out as a result?

before you can be unapologetically joyful. You have to be unapologetically you

Jonathan Fields


I have issues with standing still and listening...

I remember that each and every Naginata practice started with us sitting zazen, bowing to each other and meditated to clear our minds for the practice to come.

When did it become so hard to stay still?

How can you zoom the lens out and come back fully engaged and present. How can the stillness lead to an awareness of the wide world?

Jonathan suggested two ideas of how to cultivate awareness by laying still:

  • Daily practice
  • Zoom out 1 week out of 7 or maybe 1 day a week to evaluate the time


Either you do or you don't... it has taken me years to figure out how deep the Yoda quote from Empire Strikes Back really is. The hard part is that the introverted in me doesn't give a shit about meeting new people and the extroverted in training is too short tempered for some of the idiots I normally have to deal with.

Listening to Chelsea Dinsmore reminded me of Scott. Perhaps the biggest challenge during her presentation was: How you do anything is how you do everything. It's an interesting question and something that continues to challenge me as I process the weekend.

How you do anything is how you do everything. How does your work create a reflection of who and what you are?

How do you combat the fear of interacting with people you don't know while remembering that strangers are friends you haven't met yet? How you do anything is how you do everything.

Self imposed limits (and the other kind)

Widen your world... Shit is about more than just you. It's hard to remember that there are more people around you... that the game is not single player. Live your life intentionally, fully and with passion but also learn to distinguish passion from being an ass or being single minded about something... I know that I'm not required to be social when I'm not feeling like it

Curiosity creates creativity. What are you curious and passionate about? Can you take these passions over again once the current project ends? Will the passion be the same as it was before?

We have no limits, only those we place on ourselves so how much are you willing to make those limitations go away. In working on understanding your limitations it also helps to question why something is important to you... why do you want to (or don't want to do this). And, the most important question to ask is how much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve those goals.

Never make statements, always ask questions

Who do you want to be?

I've already done the hardest thing I will ever do. What are the implications of this? What do I have to loose? I never thought I was going to do a triathlon... and I've done 8. I never in my wildest dreams I thought I was going to do a century ride and not only I did a century but I picked up a very hard one to do (riding around Lake Tahoe is no picnic). I started traveling on my own when I was very young... mom put me on a plane (under crew supervision) when I was 6 months old and I traveled overseas on my own for the first time when I was 14. I've traveled to multiple locations in and out of the country since... and I've survived and I've had a wonderful time doing it. So what's next? What other challenges can be as

Conscious choices: exist or be full alive and present. Dream big, live bigger and create a life of adventure. What you do is less important than enjoying it to the fullest. Don't worry about what people say about your efforts and about goals. You're the only person whose opinion matters.

Live with no regrets. It's not about arriving to the end safely but having enjoyed all you've done and leaving nothing on the road...

Failure versus never trying

Failures and assists should not be excluded from the narratives of success. You shouldn't hide your struggles and your efforts when pursuing your goals. One thing that really pisses me off is that we only hear of successful efforts and good results but we never hear about failures. Be positive in your explanations and learn from your failures.

Doubt your doubts

Joy and sorrow can coexist. There is no such thing as absolute failure or absolute success... they coexists and feed of each other and make you who you really are.

What is a good life?

I've always been torn between what I have and what I don't have and, from time to time, have wallowed in misery and misery loves company, doesn't it? The poster below, along with the Holstee manifesto have taken me out of the funk more than once and have led me to live fuller and, I want to think, more deeply 🙂

The Good Life Project Creed

The Good Life Project Creed

One of the biggest questions is what makes for a good life. Part of it is to live to its fullest but also to be wise about it. Walk a mile on someone else's shoes not just once or to say you did it. Do it because you mean it fully and completely.

A good life is not a place at which you arrive, but a lens trough which you choose to view the world

Jonathan Fields

Jonathan's interview with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is eye opening and revealing. It's a very interesting conversation. We can always aspire to be better and I need to continue reminding myself that it's a never ending process.

Coda: Trust

I saw a really interesting scene in Portland. Two women walking together, one in a full blindfold and being led by a working dog in training.

It reminded me of a trust exercise I did while in theater at Central: close your eyes, hold your partner's hand and let him/her drive you anywhere in the theater building.

It also triggered a question on why trust is so hard for me to give and accept.

What worries me

If you want to be productive, the first question you need to ask yourself is: Who do I want to be? Another question is: Where do I want to go? Chances are that the answers to these questions represent growth in some direction. And while you can’t spend all your time pursuing those objectives, you definitely won’t get there if you don’t spend any of your time pursuing them.

If you want to be a writer, you have to spend time writing. If you want to be a sales manager, you can’t just sell — you have to develop your management skill. If you want to start a new company, or launch a new product, or lead a new group, you have to spend time planning and building your skills and experience.

Here’s the key: You need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts. In other words — and this is the hard part — if you want to be productive, you need to spend time doing things that feel ridiculously unproductive.

* * *

It’s the other stuff I worry about. The wildly important stuff that never gets done because there’s no time or it’s not urgent or it’s too hard or risky or terrifying.

You need to practice being your future self

WDS snuck by on me

Can't believe it's that time of the year again... thank goodness WDS moved a month later or I'd have been up to my eyeballs in crap if it hadn't.

For the first time since I started attending WDS I find myself in a good and happy place. I'm {happy|tired|weary} but I wouldn't trade it for the world right now. As tired as I am right now I'm also excited as I haven't been in a long, long time. My skills continue to improve and polish under a very good manager, one I wish I could continue working for as a full time employee or in as many projects as I can squeeze out of myself.

But that's the thing. I'm less concerned with converting to full time than actually creating and sponging as much as I can. It's the learning experience and the opportunities that it gives me rather than me staying at Google long enough to retire... we'll see where this takes me.

Right now I'm still learning, writing and coding... and flying to London! If everything works ok I'll fly to London early September for work and then again in October for a conference and then to Barcelona for vacation... would have never been able to say that a few years ago