The world is in a constant state of flux, you know that?
As a whole, we seem to be resistant to that idea. We want things to last forever. We want to hang onto stuff just because “that’s the way things always have been”. It’s not because certain ways are better – it’s just what we’re comfortable with.
Don’t get me wrong: some things should last forever. Marriage should be a lifelong commitment, for example.
But today, careers change a lot more often than they don’t. The way you manage your money can be adapted as you see how trends develop in your spending habits. I change the way I manage my workflow every 3-4 weeks, for some reason.
A lot of the disappointment and frustration and stress of the world seems to come from unexpected change. And yet, they are changes that are so common, the warning signs should have been noticed way before the ball dropped.
And yet we panic when:
- We lose our jobs, even though we’ve seen it happen to thousands of people.
- Facebook changes its site design, even though they do that every other year (minimum) and we’ve always adapted to it.
- Our significant other breaks up with us, even though the telltale signs were probably there months ago but we were too self-centered to notice them.
- Something expensive breaks, leaving us stuck with an expensive repair bill, even though we should be prepared for it, financially.
- Your favorite TV show gets cancelled, even though ratings have been in the toilet for a while now (guilty of this one like crazy).
And so on.
Life needs less panic and more flexibility. Less “You never did THAT before…!” and more “What made you decide to make that change?” Less ignorance and stubbornness and more education and openness to new ideas. You don’t have to accept every idea that comes along, but you should listen to it.
And how do we handle big changes? As the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared.” Work on a side project of some kind that could make you some money. Have an emergency fund in place for repairs and to bridge the gap between jobs, if necessary. Stop hinging your life on Facebook. Own things that you can afford to maintain. Enjoy the great episodes of a TV show that you actually got.
Roll with the punches. Life is going to throw you an endless amount of curveballs. Your only other option to avoid them is to not live anymore. You can’t shield yourself from them, so start figuring out ways of adapting to life’s changes. You’ll be better off for it.
Not only that, but seek out changes. Do things you never thought you’d try. Here are just a few things I’ve been able to do in the past few years that have dramatically increased the quality of my life – and I never thought I would do them:
- Eating healthy foods – and even just have a salad for dinner.
- Attempting to cut back on my sugar intake.
- Cutting cable TV.
- Dedicating a whole night to keeping the TV off.
There are plenty others, but you get the idea. How are you applying change in your life? And how are you going to roll with change when it hits you “suddenly”?
Because old stuff is cooler than new stuff sometimes.
What is it?
A little notebook that slides into my back pocket. Field Notes are popular (affiliate link), and my current brand. But any small notebook that fits into your pocket will do. Also, a pen.
How I use it
While out and about, or even sitting around the house – something comes to mind that I want to remember, so I whip out my notebook and pen, jot it down, and return it safely to my pocket afterwards. Once that thing/idea is addressed, I cross it off in the notebook.
Why I like it
- It’s quick. Typing out the “How I use it” section above took a lot longer than writing down something in my notebook.
- It keeps me accountable for stuff. There’s no excuse for “I forgot”, which is actually pretty great. I don’t worry about missing out on something now because I have it written down.
- Great ideas don’t go unnoticed. Ever have a great idea? Something you thought would be really cool to do? Or you thought, “I should look that up…”? Now you take the burden off your brain and can actually take action on that great idea later.
- I’m more attentive. Emptying out my brain is a great way to keep me focused on the “now”, whether that’s at work, a quick round of meditation, or in conversation with somebody. Hey, you don’t like being rude, do you? The best way to not be rude is listen when someone’s talking. Most of us are too busy trying to think of stuff. A pocket notebook uncorks that attention span and gets you back on track.
- I become a more thoughtful gift-giver. It turned me into an awesome, thoughtful husband. When out and about, my wife will comment on how much she loves [insert something on a store shelf here]. So now I can hang back for a second and write these things down to go into my “Gift Ideas” Evernote note for her. When holidays/birthdays/anniversaries come up, I’ve already got a great list and I don’t even have to ask her. [Note: I'm not blowing my cover here. She knows I do this. I confessed to it a year ago.]
Why you don’t use it
- There’s an app for that. Yeah, this is the main one, and it’s a fairly effective one. With Evernote, or now Google Keep, there are other ways to take notes. Plus, your notes are backed up in the cloud, which is nice. And it’s one less thing to carry around.
Why you should think about it
- It’s less rude. This doesn’t really make sense, but think about it: you’re in conversation with someone, and they pull out a little notebook to jot something down. Not bad. Now you’re talking to someone, and they pull out their phone and stare at it for a minute. See the difference? Regardless of intent, when you are staring at your phone while you talk to somebody, you are telling them they are not worthy of your full attention.
- It’s quicker. This was one of the main reasons why I switched from making Evernote notes to using a notebook. Opening Evernote, clicking “New Note”, creating it, saving it, and exiting the program just took too stinking long compared to the notebook.
- It’s more appropriate in certain situations. This is a big one for me in church. If I’m listening to a sermon and an idea pops in my head, I can’t really pull out my phone and start typing. It looks really bad (again, intent doesn’t matter – perception is reality). But jotting something down in a notebook isn’t a problem for most people. Plus, again, I can now go back to paying attention to the sermon, which is why I’m there.
- It forces you to take action. Being backed up in the cloud is great, but it encourages laziness. Think about it: if I wrote something down in a paper notebook that could get wet or fall out of my pocket or get damaged in any number of ways, I’m going to want to make sure I’m up to date on going through the last couple pages. If I dump something in Evernote, I could immediately forget about it.
A pocket notebook is an old-school approach to a common problem: how do you remember stuff? I transfer a lot of my pocket notes into Evernote later, but that extra step encourages remembrance.
“Oh, here we go again.”
And hey, that’s okay. If you’re passionately against using Evernote, then you can skip this post – see you tomorrow! But if you just don’t “get” Evernote, or you’re completely apathetic about it, then pay attention, because I’m going to show you a bunch of ways to set up your life to automatically use Evernote, and you’re going to thank me later.
This is always the biggest question, and it’s simultaneously the easiest and hardest question to answer. Here’s the easy way: Evernote will let you save and organize anything. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. You can put just about whatever you want into Evernote, and for most users, it’s flipping free. That alone makes it worth a shot.
Evernote is a catch-all solution, and it’s available anywhere you want it to be. Got a smartphone? Then you have an Evernote app. Windows – check. Mac – check. Linux – a bit wonky, but check. And you can use the web version anytime, anywhere. So run to the library or work or wherever and go to Evernote.com and sign in. Boom – there are your notes.
The program also makes everything you save searchable. This is invaluable, especially as your note collection grows – and it will once you start using the tips below. Searching your notes is incredibly useful when you want to find that recipe you want to make for dinner, or those instructions on how to build that table, or that receipt you need for that thing you bought for your business. All text in any note is searchable.
Plus, you can create your own organizational structure. You can just have a pile of notes, or you can have notes separated into notebooks. You could leave it there, but you can also group those notebooks into “stacks”, where you group them however you like. Every note you add can be tagged also.
A real-world look at my Evernote setup
Before I show you how to add content to Evernote, let’s take a quick look at how you could organize your Evernote setup. I have 10 stacks of notebooks, grouped by the type of notebooks that are in them:
- 2013 Goals: A separate notebook for each goal that I have, so that I can insert notes tracking my progress, or helpful notes/articles that could keep me going.
- Bible Notes: A separate notebook for each book of the Bible, with notes in each one for each passage.
- Book Notes: Each notebook under this stack contains notes on books that I have read, usually inserted from highlights on my Kindle.
- Business: A catch-all business-related notebook, with business ideas and other notes about a variety of biz-related items.
- Copywriting: Two notebooks in here to help me along on my copywriting journey, including tips on improving my copywriting and a “swipe file” of successful promotions to learn from.
- Direct Response Projects: These are all notebooks for active promotions I’m working on. My work requires a lot of research, so I can clip items and articles as I research them to refer to later as I write.
- Financial Records: A notebook for each year where I can save receipts and order confirmations.
- Personal: This is the biggest stack, as I have plenty of notebooks within this one, usually as they don’t fit any other category – Bucket List, Church Music, Cigars, Green/DIY tips, Home ideas, Liquor, Recipes, Social, Tech Tips, Timeline (my journal, see below), Travel, and Wish List (for tracking things I want to buy).
- A stack for my biggest client, since I’m usually writing several promos at a time for them.
- Writing: This is for miscellaneous writing, like writing tips, blog post ideas, freewriting sessions, and quotes that I can go back to for inspiration.
I also have a notebook not in any stack called “To Be Organized”, which is set as my default notebook. If I just quickly send something to Evernote, or I have one of the setups below that automatically sends something to Evernote, it just dumps it into here. Then, a few times a week, I’ll go in and review what’s in here to plop it into the appropriate notebook or tag it accordingly.
Tags are also really important when you have a large database of stuff to search, like I do. For example, finding ideas for stuff to cook during the week can be difficult when you have 180 recipes (and counting) in your Evernote notebook. But thanks to tags, it’s not so hard. My recipe for Garlic Grilled Shrimp has the following tags:
- cheap cooking
- quick meals
So if I’m looking for any of the above items, that note will show up in the results. Tight week? I’ll bring up all my recipes tagged with “cheap cooking”. If I feel like grilling, I can bring up all my grilling recipes with that tag, and so on.
“I don’t have a use for Evernote.”
Short answer: yes you do. Everybody does.
You don’t have to use it like I do, but you have no idea how useful having an online “brain” is until you start using it. In fact, somebody on Lifehacker wrote about this topic a couple weeks ago. The only way to really “get” Evernote is to just start using it for everything. This setup took me years to really appreciate, and now I can’t imagine life without it, nor would I want to.
With the 8 setups below, you are going to connect the rest of your digital life to Evernote and you will automatically start seeing results from it. It doesn’t take long to set up any of these, and the possibilities extend far beyond this. But as the weeks and months go by, you’ll start to see why exactly using Evernote in your everyday life is so stinking useful.
So let’s get started. Here are 8 different ways to connect your Evernote account to your everyday life.
Connect your browser with the Web Clipper and add just about anything
This is by far the easiest and most basic step. If you already use Evernote, you probably already have the Web Clipper added and are using it regularly. If not, the Web Clipper does just what it sounds like: it clips web pages to your Evernote.
In real-life use, you might see an article or recipe or photo or something that you want to save online. Just click the Web Clipper, and you have a few options to pick from:
- Clip full page: This lets you take a snapshot of the entire page, top to bottom. Useful for clipping Amazon listings, for example.
- Clip article: Evernote can try to grab just the main content of the web page. If you are reading a blog post, it will cut out just the post, along with any relevant pictures. It won’t save the headers at the top of the page, ads on the side, or the comments. Just the content that you want to see.
- Clip selection: You can highlight a piece of text before clicking on the Clipper, and just save that.
- Clip PDF: If you’re reading a PDF file online, you can save a copy of that file to your Evernote also.
- Clip URL: You might just want to save the URL address of the site as a little bookmark note, and Evernote will let you do that too.
Every note you clip from the Web Clipper will also have the URL saved in the note details within your Evernote note. This is really handy when you need to cite something, because you have the original source linked right there. The Web Clipper is the easiest way to get started, but also the most handy. I use it religiously when researching something for a promotion, going through recipes, or building up a wish list of stuff I want to buy.
To install it, just go to the Web Clipper site and click on the appropriate link for your browser.
Send content from your RSS reader to read later or reference
Most major RSS readers at this point are integrated into Evernote, and they should be. As I talked about last week, I’m using Feedly now. When I read something I want to save for later, I can just click the “Send to Evernote” button, and a new window will pop up with my new note containing the content of that article.
More often than not, this will be built in to your reader of choice. If not, you can just open the article and click the Web Clipper to grab the content anyway. On your mobile device, the “Share” feature of your reader can create a new note in Evernote with that article. Either way, there should be little-to-no setup required here.
Connect your email to create notes whenever you want, and save important emails
As you well know, keeping backups of important documents is really important. Not only that, having them searchable is a huge plus. Keeping them organized is key, and Evernote lets you do so really easily.
Here’s how it works: we all have a unique email address attached to our Evernote accounts. So, you just find that email address in your account, copy it, save it in your address book as “Evernote”, and now you can send emails directly to Evernote. If you don’t tell Evernote where to put the note, it will just save it in your default notebook. But the subject line would work as follows:
Title of your note @Notebook you want to put it in #tags #to #add #to #the #note
So, if I order printer ink on Amazon, it’s a business expense. That means I need to save a copy of the receipt in my financial records. The notebook is “2013″, and I want to tag it as “office supplies” so that I can find it quickly later. Amazon sends me the order confirmation, and I click “Forward” and change the subject line from “Your Amazon.com Order #43589i6″ to…
Printer Ink @2013 #office supplies
And it automatically gets sorted into my Evernote account. Cool, hey?
Evernote wrote a quick blog post on how to find your Evernote email address and set it up here.
Alternate method: If you need an easier way, you can use IFTTT. IFTTT stands for If This, Then That. It’s a very powerful service, and it’s going to basically run the rest of this list. Go to http://www.ifttt.com and create an account. Then, go to “Channels” and add your Evernote account. Now you can browse “recipes” to automatically send stuff to Evernote, or you can create your own.
Sounds complicated? Don’t worry: I’ll link to each recipe below so that all you have to do is click to add it and turn it on, and it’ll do the rest of the work.
So, for the alternate method of emailing in, you can just click the star next to an email you want to save (if you use Gmail), and it will automatically send it to your default Evernote notebook (which, in my case, is “To Be Organized”). Here’s a link to that recipe after you’ve created your IFTTT account. Or, you can just label an email as “Evernote” and send it right along that way.
Send new blog posts to Evernote right away
If you like a particular blog – say, you know, this one – and you want to save all the articles that are posted to it as an ongoing archive of the entire site, you can use this recipe. Now, the recipe listed here is set up to use Lifehacker, which you should be reading anyway, because it’s awesome. This recipe in particular will save the new blog post and tag it as the author of the post, which is really great.
But it doesn’t stop there. You can add any blog that has an RSS feed right to your Evernote account using this same method. And as you’ll see in a minute, this recipe can be used beyond blogs as well.
Save your new Pinterest pins for easy access later
This actually was the inspiration for this entire post.
I’m a man and I love Pinterest. There, I said it.
While Pinterest is largely considered to be a female-dominated site, which it is, there is a lot for anybody to enjoy and look at. From funny stuff to green/DIY-type stuff to future home inspiration projects to recipes, there’s a lot to look at. And I love it.
But my biggest problem came later, as I realized going through my pins to see some of the content was a bit cumbersome. I don’t know where I left off in looking at my pins, and I don’t want 500 different boards. I like having a few big buckets that I can dump pins into.
Using IFTTT, I can have new posts to my Pinterest RSS feed get sent to my Evernote’s “To Be Organized” notebook. Just add this recipe and follow the instructions. Whenever I repin something, that pin gets sent to my Evernote account.
A couple times a week, I go in there and clip what actually looks interesting/useful that I want to save for later, and put it in the appropriate notebook. It’s a beautiful thing, and it really cleans up my Pinterest workflow.
Create quick notes on-the-fly by texting into Evernote
I prefer to carry a paper notebook in my pocket for certain reasons, but if you want to create a quick note to save for later – say, that business idea you just discovered over a few beers with friends, you can send a text to IFTTT.
Go to the IFTTT Channels and click on SMS to get the number to text to. Add that number to your phone’s contact list under “IFTTT”. When you set up SMS with IFTTT, you then add tags when you create a recipe, so that IFTTT knows where to send that text.
So, for example, sometimes my data connection might be weak, and I still want to send a tweet, but my Twitter account won’t load on my phone, or speed is a priority here. I can just send a text to IFTTT, and at the end of the text, I write “#tw”, because that’s how it’s set up under my IFTTT account. IFTTT will receive the text, see the “#tw” tag, and post the text of the SMS message to my Twitter account. Same for Facebook with my “#fb” tag.
This principle applies to Evernote notes, too. Using this recipe, you can text anything to IFTTT and add “#enote” at the end of it, and IFTTT will automatically create a new note with your text in it. This is often way quicker than using the smartphone app, and it’s great if you don’t have a smartphone at all!
Send your Kindle notes and highlights to Evernote straight from your Kindle
As you know, I love reading books on the Kindle. One of the best features about the Kindle is the ability to make non-intrusive highlights and notes in books while you’re reading them. But having them in your Kindle isn’t always ideal.
If you want those notes in your Evernote, you can send them through Twitter. Here’s how it works:
- Connect your Twitter account with your Evernote account.
- Then, connect your Twitter account with your Kindle.
- Now, when you highlight something on your Kindle, follow the instructions at the bottom of the screen to share that highlight.
- When the message box pops up, write “d myen” and then a comment for the note.
- Your note will appear in your default Evernote notebook, and because you put that “d” at the beginning of your note, it was not publicly posted to your Twitter stream. Boom.
Finally, for power users: create an ongoing journal of everything you do in one Evernote notebook
This might not be for everybody. I’m fascinated with the idea of archiving my life. I keep a written journal, and now I keep an automatic digital one, too.
I feel like it will be something that’s interesting to me someday, whether it’s to refer to my initial reactions to worldwide events, or just something my grandkids will stumble on. Could be cool.
And again, it’s a backup of sorts.
I have one Evernote notebook dedicated to grabbing all of my online activities and keeping an ongoing note. When I tweet, it adds that tweet to the timeline. Same goes for Facebook status updates, photos posted to Flickr (or Instagram), blog posts, and even LinkedIn updates. You could also save Foursquare check-ins if you’d like. Really any online activity you want.
It’s a slightly involved process, but it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to really set up. Plus: Lifehacker has the step-by-step instructions covered for you.
So there you go – if you implement these strategies, I think Evernote’s usefulness will start coming to you rather quickly. Do you already use Evernote? What are your favorite ways to integrate this app into your daily workflow?
When it comes to gadgets and technology, I’m a total geek. I love it. I want to play around with them and see what they’re capable of doing. However, I am also a classic overthinker.
My biggest fear when it comes to tech is blowing more money than I need to on something and having it go to waste. I’ve wasted too much money in my younger years, so I make sure that my gadgets follow two simple rules: 1) reasonably priced for what I’m getting and 2) appropriate specs for what I’m going to use it for.
Based on that analysis, I bought a cheap, knock-off, $90 Android tablet from Amazon (the item is suddenly no longer available on Amazon, but it was a D2Pad).
Here’s how I got there…
Toying around with my wife’s tablet
For Christmas last year, I bought my wife a similarly-priced Android tablet from Walmart. I knew that she just wanted to play a few light games, and otherwise use it for email and Facebook (and now, Pinterest, because we’re a Pinterest-obsessed household). These were things she was doing on her phone, but sometimes you want a larger screen, and her laptop has become old, heavy, and permanently tied to the wall outlet.
So I got her the tablet as a way to let her still be mobile without having to walk upstairs into the office, unplug her laptop, carry it down (with the cooling mat because it’s old and overheats like crazy), plug it in, and so on. This tablet is light, holds a charge for a few hours, and she can just grab it and curl up on the couch with it.
She hasn’t used it much lately because she says it was just running too slow. She could browse the web and the keyboard caused too many delays. So it sat in a drawer 85% of the time.
As the Google-branded tablets have been coming down in price, we starting kicking around the idea of buying one for the house so that we have one that runs at a good clip and is usable.
My business has grown, and so has my need to consume more content online, especially news and finance-related items. Top copywriter John Forde even talked this week in his e-newsletter about the fact that great ideas are everywhere, and you do need to consume a lot of content to get them.
Combined with my merge to Feedly, I’ve been awash in content that I’ve needed to pore through every day. And while it’s easy to do this on my desktop, that posed two problems: 1) I get caught up in it and wind up reading more than working, which is a problem, and 2) after work hours, I don’t want to sit in my office, so the content piles up.
I used my netbook for it, but I hate trackpads. So trying to navigate with the netbook is frustrating. I’d rather use that device for typing and creation-related activities.
I decided to grab my wife’s tablet and give it a run. After working with it for a bit, it indeed seemed slow. But several things were happening that were causing it to run slowly. Most importantly, the tablet was trying to update apps. When it does this, just like on our phones, it runs incredibly slow. So I needed to let the apps update before trying to use it.
Then, I discovered a trend: everything ran slow when the stock browser was being used. Like, unusably slow. Once I installed the Dolphin Browser, the tablet started to perk up.
Suddenly, it had new life. It became usable. Not just usable, but quite smooth! I couldn’t install Feedly, because the tablet was linked to my wife’s Google account, but I could install Pocket and just send articles there for later reading.
This worked very well – to a point.
When you open up your Feedly and have 100-200 items to go through every time, that extra step of sending it to Pocket was slowing me down. Plus, I couldn’t send articles to my Evernote for later reference, so they had to sit until I came back to my desktop.
Buying my own tablet
Knowing that 95% of the consumption on that device was going to be business-related, I was able to use some of my business expense money to purchase a D2Pad tablet off of Amazon Prime.
After an evening of using it, I couldn’t be happier.
It’s the perfect little transitional tool that gets me out of the office without squinting to read on my phone all the time. Plus, I am able to block all consumption on my desktop to focus on work, and force myself to only consume on the tablet.
Having all my sharing accounts, especially Evernote, is very beneficial as well.
An added bonus is having Dropbox on it (which came pre-installed). With Dropbox, I can send PDFs, comic books, and app files directly to my tablet just by putting them in my Dropbox folder. I love that, and it makes life really easy.
I don’t use it for everything I read, however. My long form articles and books are all read on my Kindle, which has an exponentially-better battery life and is easier on my eyes. And my creation needs (like writing and working on promotions) are still done on my netbook, where I have the keyboard.
My final take on tablets
I’ve long been anti-tablet. I thought they were over-hyped and way too many people were buying them.
My opinion, though, has more been tied to the people using them rather than the devices themselves.
To be honest, I can live without my tablet. But life is much more convenient with it. I didn’t go out of my way to grab one as soon as possible – I bought one with saved up money. Also, I analyzed my usage and bought a device appropriate for it.
Most people are buying crazy tablets that are far more powerful than they need – just like they do when they are buying Macs. Most people just need a glorified web browser. Why do you need a tablet with GPS on it when you have a phone that does that already? And I’ll say it a million times: you look stupid holding up your tablet to take pictures of stuff. Take your phone for that.
I didn’t need a multimedia powerhouse – I just needed something that would let me read blogs away from my desk. I read plenty of reviews of cheap Android tablets and this one got enough great reviews to let me take the plunge.
A tablet is a want, and it’s a consumption device for the vast majority of you. Temper your expectations and save your money.
I love my tablet, and I believe I paid an appropriate price for it. That’s all that matters to me.
What do you think? Are tablets a “need” in your house? Why?
Plenty of things in this world are debatable, but to me, these are not:
- If you want to be happy, at some point, you have to take a risk. This is true in both your professional and your personal lives.
- The greatest things that have happened to me in this life occurred when I was at my most vulnerable.
- Many people view taking action as “work”, or something that detracts from your life.
- Action empowers you. It gives you control.
- You have more control than you think.
- The only way to really tap into that control, even at your lowest, most excruciating point, is to simply entertain the idea that you possess it. Once your brain thinks you have control, you start making decisions to prove it right.
- Being connected via the interwebs is a truly wonderful thing because it is adding so much to our lives.
- Being connected via the interwebs is a truly awful thing because it continues to take away so much of it.
- The true joys in life are simple: a board game with someone close, a great conversation over a few beers, quietly watching the sun rise. Note that none of these joys involve shoving a smartphone in your face.
- One of the most unique and awesome actions you can take in your life is keeping your phone in your pocket during dinner or a conversation.
- The fact that #10 has to be said is incredibly depressing to me.
- Facebook can be fun, but it’s not so important that you need to be on it all day. Nothing happened today, and nothing will happen tomorrow.
- Email is an important form of communication, but you aren’t that important. You don’t need to be notified every time something comes in.
- Writing down a goal on paper is one of the best ways to achieve something.
- I installed StayFocusd for Chrome last night because I was wrong.
- To this day, nothing makes me laugh as consistently as a good quality sitcom.
- The ’90s were awesome, but my life at that time sucked.
- When pro wrestling is done right, few forms of entertainment are as captivating.
- Pro wrestling is rarely done right anymore.
- In a different life, I live in London.
- In another life, I live in Austin, Texas.
- 99% of people in this world have the time, but they’re not willing to make the priority.
- You are not the other 1%.
- Nothing forces you to grow up quicker than when a friend dies young.
- Way too many people assume that technology is something they don’t have time for, or will complicate their lives.
- Technology has made my life easier, saved me thousands of dollars, and saved me lots of time.
- Consumption is almost as important as creation, as long as you consume the right stuff.
- Teddy Roosevelt would laugh at those who say there’s too much consumption. He would, however, agree that we are all consuming the wrong stuff.
- We all should be reading more books.
- We all should be reading more blogs – real ones that add value to our lives, not ones with pictures of Randy Savage Photoshopped into different pictures.
- If we are not making intentional decisions about how to live our lives, then we are allowing someone else to do it for us.
- A man treats women with respect. This is non-negotiable.
- Maui is one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the world.
- While in Europe, we lost a lot of money and spent large portions of the trip lost, tired, and miserable.
- I still want to go back and see more.
- Travel is accessible to everyone. Just because you don’t have enough money now doesn’t mean you can’t get it.
- I just bought an Android tablet, but that’s because I determined that I want one. I don’t need one.
- I’m only using it for consuming content – mainly blogs – so I bought a cheap one. I don’t game, so I’m not going to spend a lot of money on a “powerful” one right now.
- I can’t wait to have children.
- I can’t wait to own a house.
- We haven’t rushed into either of those things because we know how those commitments affect our lives. We’re young – we have time.
- There are a lot of benefits to hanging onto a piece of your childhood, as well as keeping a childlike mind.
- However, shirking responsibility and being lazy is not a part of #42.
- No matter what politician is in office, half the country will be unhappy, and the other half will be complaining about the half that is unhappy.
- No matter what politician is in office, nothing’s going to get done and this country will continue to spiral.
- I am still damn proud to be from the United States.
- Once in a while, you need to set a goal that stops other people in their tracks. Then, you need to hustle your butt off and achieve it.
- Sometimes, the temporary pain is worth being able to tell the story for the rest of your life.
- Most pain, especially physical, is temporary. Fearing it throughout life only leads to a life not worth living.
- If you expect discomfort, you can handle it better.
- My LASIK surgery may go down as one of the smartest investments I’ve ever made in my life.
- There is no such thing as overnight success. At all. It does not happen.
- Success only comes from sacrifice and discomfort. If you can’t handle those two things, then I hope you’re happy where you are, because you’re not going to get any further.
- Crap, I just realized I’ve written something really similar to this already. Oh well. I’m going to add the word “more” to the title.
What do you know to be true about life?
I’ve got a lot on my mind – lots of cool and not-so-cool things going on. So let’s dump them out on a page, shall we? (note: This is a good exercise for you to do, especially if you are having trouble concentrating.)
- Jazz music. I’ve added the Blue Note app on Spotify, and I play a little classic jazz from time to time. Makes me feel like a Huxtable. I love it.
- Classic sitcoms. Cheers, Friends, early Simpsons, Arrested Development (different kind of “classic”), Boy Meets World. The sitcom is derided today as a lazy, cookie-cutter way of running a show – and it can be. But watching a quality one reminds you of what an effective form of comedy it can be. These shows still make me laugh out loud, even when I know the joke is coming.
- The effectiveness of budgeting. Most people look at a budget as an “I can’t” form of document. But my wife and I see our budget as a form of freedom. We are finally able to spend on quality stuff, since we designate money every month to spend on it.
- Intentional living. Homemade hand soap, homemade laundry soap, homemade dishwasher detergent, homemade face wash, homemade shampoo, and so on. We’re making active decisions to reduce our wastefulness and increase the quality of the products we are putting on and in our bodies. It’s making a huge difference, both physically and financially.
- The destruction of intellectual discourse. There seems to be no existence of respectful disagreement in our culture anymore, and that makes me sad. Less reason, more shouting – that’s the M.O. today.
- My love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love that Facebook connects me with people I rarely get to see or talk to. I hate that Facebook gives a voice to LOUD OPINIONS whenever I post something that somebody disagrees with.
- The effectiveness of yoga. Yes, I do DDP Yoga still. And I’ve put on about 10 pounds of muscle in the last few months. All I’ve done is use my bodyweight, and it’s made a huge difference in my health.
- New vegetables. Without Brewers Organics delivering a box of produce to our front door every other week, my wife and I would never buy bok choy, arugula, or even kiwi. We are richer for the experience – and healthier. Tonight? Maple baked radishes.
- The tablet as a consumption device. I love my Kindle, and it’s great with Longform.org articles. But there is a certain middle ground where I have blog posts that I want to read away from my computer. Adding Pocket to my wife’s cheap Android tablet has renewed my interest in the device. I want one so that I can consume away from my desk more often, and I love that I would only need a cheap tablet to do it.
- Feedly. I am finding myself able to consume more news and posts that affect my life positively with this new tool. It is remarkably effective in helping me run through content – even more so than Google Reader was.
- No TV Tuesdays. Also part of our intentional living, my wife and I have continued this on-and-off tradition of turning off the television on Tuesday evenings after dinner and doing something together, like playing a board game. It helps us get along better as a couple, even if we are both sore losers.
- The reproductive process. This has been off-limits for me for my entire life (as it has for most guys). But as we look to build a family, I find open discussion about how the male and female bodies work together to be very interesting and not at all gross. I guess it helps that I have a vested interest in the outcome of that coworking. And I’m not just talking about the sex (though it helps).
- Early rising. It still is a struggle at times, but the more I commit to it, the easier it gets. I used to be more tempted to take a morning nap when I woke up at 5am. Now I find that I can get out of bed with little issues in the wee hours of the morning, and my work life is better off for it.
- Reading. From blogs to books, I’m not doing enough of it.
- Writing. Also not doing enough of it.
- The challenge of my work. I’ve broken through to where the good money is in direct response copywriting, but the flip side of that is that expectations are exponentially higher, and the work is much, much harder. However, that does make it more rewarding when I write a winner, both professionally and financially.
- Pinterest. I really didn’t think I’d be this “into” Pinterest, but it’s turned into a valuable resource for me to find ideas on home design, DIY projects, and great food to eat. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
- Book writing. It’s been a real struggle, and something I want to talk about more in the coming days. I still need to figure a few things out about how I want to write and how I want to learn to write better.
- Communication. It’s the cornerstone of our marriage. I’m amazed at the marital problems I hear about that can be traced back to a simple lack of communication.
- Job security and the concept of “risk”. I’ve long been derided for being an entrepreneur because it’s “too risky”. But 2 out of my 3 brothers have lost their jobs this year for one reason or another, and the third is hardly in a job that is secure for the long term. How is putting all your eggs in one basket less risky that diversifying across a few clients? This past week certainly confirmed that point with me.
- The price of quality. Clothing, food, products, and so on. The price isn’t always so high. You might have to pay with your time a little bit, but more often than not, I’ve found that the time cost has been incredibly worth it in the long run. It’s amazing how much you can improve your surroundings with just an hour a month.
What fascinates you right now?
I’ve long touted the wonderfulness of Google Reader. While it wasn’t a service that was perfect, it did what it did very well: it pulled content from web sites and plunked them down into a list for me to see. From there, it was only one click to send article to my Pocket, where I could read them whenever I wanted.
I loved Google Reader and used it for the past 5+ years. So you can imagine my disdain when I learned that they were shutting down the service.
I’ve never really “bought into” any other RSS alternatives. There’s always some kind of problem that prevents me from liking it. Flipboard almost won out due to its great interface, but I couldn’t mark stuff as “read”, and I didn’t care for its organizational features (or lack thereof). Pulse was another great option, but it had the same problems.
So I finally crumbled and moved everything over to Feedly. Feedly certainly isn’t perfect (adding a feed can sometimes not work properly), but it did have some key features that are causing it to grow on me:
- I can look at all my updated feeds at once and clear them out with “Mark All as Read”. This is my #1 feature. I need to be able to do this. It keeps my feed reader clean, and then I only focus on what’s new. It keeps me efficient.
- My favorite Reader plugins are built right into Feedly. I can click a button on any site and add it to Feedly (when that button works). I can add any article to pocket with a couple clicks on the web version and one long-press on the mobile app. I can read an article within its site with one click of the “Preview” button. These are all killer features that keep me comfortable with Feedly.
- The interface is really nice. Seems like a banal statement to make, but I don’t need or want a complicated interface for browsing my content. And actually, Feedly gives me plenty of options so that I can browse how I want to browse.
So yeah, Feedly is definitely winning out. I’ll miss Reader, but at least we have a service that is going to be updated occasionally by a company committed to keeping RSS alive.
Don’t really know what RSS is? Prefer to get all your content from Twitter or Facebook? This article explains why you really ought to use RSS instead, and what keeps Twitter and Facebook from being “real” replacements.
The Dark Knight was a massive success – critically, financially, and artistically.
It was a fantastic movie, though a touch long. The characters (Joker, in particular) became iconic. It took what was already an excellent film in Batman Begins, turned the sucker to 11 and broke the knob clean off.
Everyone saw it. People who weren’t even Batman fans saw it because they felt they had to. Heck, Heath Ledger won an Oscar for playing a guy in clown makeup.
And, just like fans of Arrested Development who are freaking out because there may only be one bonus season of their show whose return they begged for (causing Will Arnett, one of the stars of the show, to essentially say: “Look, you’re getting another season. How about you be happy with at least that and we’ll go from there?”), fans of The Dark Knight immediately began speculating on what the next movie would be: how would they top it? How do you replace The Joker? What could possibly be this good?
For years, those looking forward to the final piece of the Christopher Nolan trilogy speculated and came up with grand ideas. They Photoshopped, they wrote tons of useless fan fiction, and they had high expectations.
What they got in return was The Dark Knight Rises. I did not watch or read any reviews of TDKR before that weekend. I saw it twice opening weekend and concluded that it was a near-perfect movie for me. It was fun, it was full of action, it made you think, and it really wrapped up the series nicely. The pacing was great, the sets were outstanding, and the characters were top-notch.
You wouldn’t know it if you looked online.
I’m not linking to anybody here, but just Google “Dark Knight Rises review” and feast your eyes on the piles of comments:
- “How could he fix his back?! Oh, THAT’s realistic!”
- “I thought this was a Batman movie! There wasn’t enough Batman!”
- “How come we don’t know Bane’s backstory?!” [Note: The Joker is considered to be the perfect Bat-villain, and there was zero backstory on him, aside from several conflicting made-up stories he told.]
- “How can Batman’s plane fly that fast?! Even calculating that he had to go 5 miles in 3.4 seconds to avoid the blast radius, he would have had to achieve a speed of blahblahblahblahblah…”
- “There’s no way he could get back to Gotham City so fast from that pit!”
These are all paraphrased, but they are all actual comments I saw in both reviews and the blog comments on those reviews. Yes, a Batman movie was being criticized on the basis of calculating top speeds and the feasibility of them.
Art house movies don’t get this kind of scrutiny. Best Picture winners don’t get questioned or analyzed this much. It was stunning – and supremely annoying.
Here’s what really happened: in the time between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, fans of the movie started imagining the perfect follow-up, despite not having any experience in making movies. They knew what they thought would be cool, and Christopher Nolan made something different from what they were picturing in their heads.
So, in response, they thought that the movie sucked and looked for reasons to complain about it to anyone that would listen.
I love the internet, even when sudden changes to it can make me freak. It’s a powerful tool for research, networking, and communication. I’ve built my business on it. It, uh, powers this writing.
But the flip side to this is that the internet has given us a soapbox we didn’t need to stand on. Suddenly, because we can, we are able and allowed to voice our opinions about stuff.
Never mind the fact that, should we hang out in real life, most people would shut each other up when they whine too much. Happened to me in high school all the time. That’s what friends are for.
But because we’re not facing anybody, we can spend our time wallowing in our own pool of cynicism – masking it over as intellectual discourse.
My suggestion is not that people should be banned from having opinions. Not everybody has to like The Dark Knight Rises just because I did. But we’ve transitioned from being a culture that was very tolerant of negativity and cynicism because we got used to it into a culture that is almost completely built on it.
We whine. We complain. We talk. We talk a lot.
There was a very funny web site that I used to subscribe to that covered a lot of pop culture stuff, and recently, I stopped reading it. It’s not that it isn’t funny anymore – it still is, and it covered a lot of topics that I enjoy reading about.
It’s that I realized how negative everything was. Everything that happened was an excuse to get on a high horse and write something that sounded like intelligent thought, but was really just using bigger words to whine about crap that isn’t worth paying attention to.
So here’s how I say we fix it: if you find yourself in a complaining spiral, do these things:
First, can you just, like, not watch/read/experience the thing you’re complaining about? Hey, if you don’t like the Twilight movies, I get it. Good grief, do I get it. But unless you are watching them to appease your wife who insists that you watch them with her (hi honey!), why do you keep watching them? You hated the first one, so stop there! Say you didn’t like it and move on. Don’t write thousand word reviews of stuff you don’t like and never expected to like. You think Honey Boo Boo is going to lead to the collapse of civilization? Me too. But that’s why I don’t write about it or watch it every week. Hate [insert politician here]? You know the only reason politicians are around is because people pay attention to them, right?
Like, just say your piece briefly, if at all, and move on. It gets old.
Second, go accomplish something instead. Unfortunately, the stereotype of the blogger in his parents’ basement is alive and well, and for good reason: it’s still accurate. I’ve seen pictures of bloggers who look like they haven’t showered or cleaned themselves up in months commenting on how ugly or talentless celebrities are. You know how you get the ultimate revenge? By being a productive member of society. By making a difference. By being the bigger person.
That blog I was telling you about? The author, at one point, commented on how he spent last Saturday watching House of Cards from start to finish on Netflix. This is a guy who apparently is married and has at least one kid. House of Cards is a 13-episode series at one hour apiece.
So this guy has the time to sit in front of Netflix for 13 hours on a Saturday instead of spending time with his family? Who gives a crap what your opinion is of anything at that point? Unless you’re sick on the couch, there is absolutely no reason to sit around for 13 hours straight watching TV!
Go do something. Be accomplished. Take up a hobby that doesn’t involve judging other people.
I hate Twilight. I think Honey Boo Boo is the stupidest thing in the world (as is most of TLC at this point). I think House of Cards is an excellent show.
I have opinions. I’m free to share them, as are you. But at some point, I need to stop complaining about the stuff that I can’t do anything about and move on to things that get me revved up.
Let’s create a culture that rewards accomplishment instead of giving attention to things we don’t like. Then, and only then, will they have a chance of going away.
And if they don’t, at least you’re doing something productive with your time instead of wasting your breath and depressing people around you.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge for while knowledge defines everything we know, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” - Albert Einstein
One of the intents of this site was also to chronicle my adventures in “learning how to read” again. The beauty of having an open concept for a blog like this is that I can write about pretty much whatever I want – and I have. But I also want to make sure I return to certain themes, and reading is one of them.
As per my goal this year of reading 25 books, I am currently working on my sixth, seventh, and eighth books. Since I’ve already written about the first one, here are a few thoughts and reflections on the other four that I’ve read so far this year.
(Note: all Amazon links are affiliate links. They don’t affect your price if you use it to buy one, but you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to.)
The Architecture of Persuasion by Michael Masterson
Why I read it: My biggest client wanted me to read it and discuss it with them, so I did.
Reaction: It’s a pretty short book, but it is certainly packed with relevant information for my job as a freelance copywriter. I was also pretty stunned at just how much goes into a successful promotion. If you are in marketing (and even if you are not), it’s important to understand that every single word of a great sales letter matters, and each word needs to serve a purpose. That’s something that gets away from me from time to time. You can also read this – even if you are not a copywriter – to learn more about how a successful persuasive argument/exchange really works. The author illustrates the art of persuasion by using the example of wooing a woman into the bedroom throughout the book. Crude? Sure. But it’s effective as it really helps drive home the different points he’s making.
Early to Rise by Andy Traub
Why I read it: I wanted to get up earlier (and succeeded in doing so, in part thanks to this book).
Reaction: It’s a simple, to-the-point book, and in some ways, I really appreciate and prefer it. If your topic isn’t all that complicated, there’s no need to make your book that much complicated either. Instead, take the time to make your simple points as effective and efficient as possible. Traub does a great job in doing that, as well as finding ways to keep you motivated while you work on getting up early in the morning. He breaks it down into a 30-day program that you are free to read in its entirety right away, or read one short chapter each morning. I read it as a combination of both of those methods and really enjoyed it. I am also happy to support an author that goes the self-publishing route, as I plan on doing the same in my own authorship.
We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories of the Band of Brothers by Marcus Brotherton
Reaction: As men, we have no idea what honor means anymore. Here’s an idea to wrap around your head: often in this book, there’s a recurring theme of getting back to your unit. For example, a guy would get blown to hell and be sent to a hospital to be taken care of. He would not be medically cleared to fight. After a few weeks, he would go AWOL (“absent without official leave” – desertion from the military). But instead of running off to go relax in some town or to sneak back home, these guys were sneaking back to the front lines to be with their fighting units. In later years, you’d see guys going to Canada to avoid the draft and wounding themselves to stay out of the war, and many of the guys in World War II that were fighting for our country were literally sneaking out of hospitals to get back to the war, because that’s what they were there to do. Holy cow. It also stuns me that, even though I’ve watched Band of Brothers and heard countless stories of WWII vets, there are so many other stories to be told. This was a fairly long book, but boy, was it ever interesting. I have nothing but the utmost respect for all of the brave men that fought for our country during that war. As we live today, we have a skewed vision of what war really means, but WWII was different: it was real and full of sacrifice, both for those on the lines and those at home. The sheer numbers of those who died during WWII are astronomical, and it makes other wars seem paltry by comparison (not that any death should be reduced to just a statistic). Highly recommended.
ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Why I read it: I had always heard good things about this book, but I never got around to reading it. I had it in PDF form and was sitting in an airport in Chicago, on my way home from Austin. With nothing to do, I opened my netbook and read this book, cover-to-cover, in about an hour.
Reaction: Just like Early to Rise, this book showed that your message can be very simple and still have great impact. There’s no fluff in ReWork, and it comes from a really smart writer and businessman. Running a business is hard, but it’s not all that complicated. Often, complication results from overthinking it or just going with the flow. If you question how business is being done and simplify your efforts, you’d be surprised at how much success you can have. This was a well-written and no-nonsense book that calls you out for making dumb business decisions, and I really appreciated it.
So there you go. There are four books that I read in the past month and a half. Currently, I’m reading Grapes of Wrath, The 7 Triggers to Yes, and 45 Master Characters. So stay tuned – there’s plenty more reading and discussion to be had!
Have you read any of these books? What are you reading right now?