Tag Archives: inspiring

The 50th Law

Power is greater than happiness, contends Robert Greene in an online discussion with Eliezer Yudkowsky about Fear, Power and Mortality (quality summary thereof), as happiness is fleeting and unremitting.

Also discussed in this conversation is strategist Robert Greene’s latest book, The 50th Law: 10 Lessons in Fearlessness, which is the result of an unlikely collaboration with hip hop artist 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson).

Initially (very) sceptical of such a collaboration (hip hop and its culture is completely alien to my tastes), I’ve heard The 50th Law called a “hip hop bible” and a “how-to for applying The 48 Laws of Power” and so had to look deeper.

With the life of Curtis Jackson as the narrative, the book looks at “how to succeed in life and work based on a single principle: fear nothing”. Based on the text of the chapter headings, there’s an ebook introduction available on Slideshare that gives you a good idea of what the book is like.

I found the following excerpts rather inspiring on multiple levels and wanted to share them:

On self-reliance:

When you work for others, you are at their mercy. They own your work; they own you. Your creative spirit is squashed. What keeps you in such positions is a fear of having to sink or swim on your own. Instead you should have a greater fear of what will happen to you if you remain dependent on others for power. Your goal in every maneuver in life must be ownership, working the corner for yourself. When it is yours, it is yours to lose – you are more motivated, more creative, more alive. The ultimate power in life is to be completely self-reliant, completely yourself.

On opportunism:

Your lack of resources can be an advantage, forcing you to be more inventive with the little that you have. […] Do not let fears make you wait for a better moment or become conservative. If there are circumstances you cannot control, make the best of them. It is the ultimate alchemy to transform all such negatives into advantages and power.

On calculated momentum:

In the present there is constant change and so much we cannot control. If you try to micromanage it all, you lose even greater control in the long run.

On connection:

Most people think first of what they want to express or make, then find the audience for their idea. You must work the opposite angle, thinking first of the public. You need to keep your focus on their changing needs, the trends that are washing through them.

On mastery:

To [build the foundations for something that can continue to expand], you will have to serve an apprenticeship. You must learn early on to endure the hours of practice and drudgery, knowing that in the end all of that time will translate into a higher pleasure – mastery of a craft and of yourself.

Thanks, Ryan

In Defense of Sampling: Why Stealing is Inspiring

Audio sampling in contemporary music is a form of budding innovation that proves not only the evolution of the industry, but a method to build on creative works that inspire us.  The practice of sampling is common in most creative industries, but often less obvious than it is in music.  Music sampling happens to receive a poor, distasteful reputation simply because of how it’s perceived in popular culture, rather than understanding why it is a creative tool.  The critics and intellectuals bash the sample for its lack of originality. I praise it for its inspirational tangibility.

My unique argument is that we all, especially those in creative fields, sample like music producers.  Sampling, as it’s embraced in music, just happens to be a more concrete citation of inspiration.  It’s a nod, an ode or respectful glance to those that did it before we did.  The sample is why we do what we do.

The sample is observed in a variety of shapes, forms and frequencies.  Typically, a snippet of another song is cut out, sped up, slowed down or looped, and finally mashed, forced or hammered into new, original sound bite.  Occasionally, the sample is obvious, even identifiable at first listen.  Other times, the sample is indistinguishable, taking on a new creative life form of its own.

The hip-hop music industry has embraced the audio sample, and has subsequently become an easy target for the so-called critics.  The critics yell that it’s stealing.  My response is that it’s sharing.  The critics cry that it’s not creative.  I respond that it’s a new type of creative.  Sampling is simply fair use of the available technology to build and advance previous works of art, displaying little difference to how we embrace the same technologies in other industries.

My only personal, and admittedly obnoxious issue with sampling is the expected public ignorance it promotes.  For instance, Kanye West (who samples in nearly every one of his songs, sometimes distastefully) rapped on the monster, Just Blaze produced, smash hit “Touch the Sky,” which borrowed nearly the entire background instrumentation of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.”  Likewise, the Grammy nominated song “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. pulled the retro punk-rock introduction from the Clash’s “Straight to Hell,” while adding stylistic gunshots and heavy drums for flavor.  Overall, this is healthy for the industry.  But, while these songs have become mainstream hits, the references are ignored by most listeners.

Sampling has and continues to expand past hip-hop.  Led Zeppelin, arguably the most innovative rock outfit in blues rock and heavy metal history, were actually samplers of their time.  They borrowed rifts, covered jams and even transferred lyrics into their own original music for the recording of their second album.  And, twenty-five years later, the Beastie Boys sampled the brave drum introduction from “When the Levee Breaks” into a aggressive, break beat for their song “Rhymin’ and Stealin.”  Led Zeppelin, the innovators, have been re-innovated.  The old folks scream blasphemy.  To me, it is a slight confirmation that the Beastie Boys have good taste in rock ‘n roll.

Sampling is prominent everywhere.  The Blue Note has a compilation of heavily sampled jazz tunes, most of which you will recognize.  Girl Talk developed his entire album, Feed the Animals, around snippets of samples, producing entirely new songs from pieces of others.  When you watch a Quentin Tarantino film, notice his samples of classic Kung Fu flicks.  Or, when you observe a painting by Salvador Dali, attempt to understand his influence from Sigmund Freud.  The sample is relative in all forms of art and science.

My experience as an entrepreneur, specifically in managing software development, has been sample driven.  Although I do more reacting than planning, large aspects of my job are sampling what has worked in the past with hopes that it will work again in the future.  The team I work with began our design process by reviewing numerous software dashboards that had pieces relevant to our vision.  We then pulled and sampled these elements into our sketches, and finally implemented the puzzle pieces into an original design.

The goal of recognizing samples in any form is to have an open, but defensive mind, and question not only the music, but how it is consumed.  Who are the artist’s influences?  Who is sampled, deliberately or unconsciously?  Recognizing sampled inspiration is more than being aware or knowledgeable of history.  It allows you to be a true, critical observer of artistic foundation.

This is a guest post from Alex J. Mann.  You can subscribe to his blog here and follow him on Twitter here.

How To Be Happy in Business

‘What we do well’, ‘What we can be paid to do’ and ‘What we want to do’ are the sets in Bud Caddell’s ‘How To Be Happy in Business’ Venn diagram.

Reminding me of the love–growth–cash triangle (previously posted), this Venn diagram is an infographic worth looking at on an annual or semi-annual basis to quickly get a feel for the direction your professional life is heading.

via Link Banana

(From another Undercurrent strategist, Mike Arauz: the “I’d Rather Be Watching Porn” Test: “because your competition on the Internet is everything else on the Internet“.

Advice for Design and Life, from Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser, the designer best known for creating the ‘I ♥ NY’ logo, offers ten pieces of advice from a life in design:

  • You can only work for people that you like: “all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client”.
  • If you have a choice, never have a job: “if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age”.
  • Some people are toxic; avoid them.
  • Professionalism is not enough, or: the good is the enemy of great: “Professionalism does not allow for [continuous transgression] because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success”.
  • Less is not necessarily more: “Just enough is more”.
  • Style is not to be trusted: “anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the zeitgeist”.
  • How you live changes your brain: “The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on, [than a computer]”.
  • Doubt is better than certainty: “Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience”.
  • On aging: nothing matters.
  • Tell the truth.

via Green Oasis

Advice from Hoehn’s Year

One year after setting his personal goals Charlie Hoehn takes a look back at his achievements and offers some fantastic advice:

Your friends who don’t care or are stupid will use Monster, CareerBuilder, and Craigslist (I was one of these stupid people for a few weeks). They will compete with hundreds of people for mediocre jobs that they won’t get. There will be exceptions to this rule, of course, but not many. Your smarter friends will search for jobs through their network (e.g. a friend’s dad, their cousin’s former boss, etc.). Your smartest friends will travel. The ambitious will start their own company.

You don’t have to walk down the path that everyone else takes. If you haven’t realized it by now, there is no such thing as job security. You’re fooling yourself if you think a steady paycheck will ensure a safe future. The only real form of security is working on yourself.

There’s more great advice in the post—especially for those who are soon to graduate. This is the type of advice I wished I had read three years ago.