deep thoughts by a whale

Vegas with Night Lights
Alien Landing in Vegas

The Book:

It is important to note that suddenly, and against all probability, a Sperm Whale had been called into existence, several miles above the surface of an alien planet and since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity.

This is what it thought, as it fell:

The Whale:

Ahhh! Woooh! What’s happening? Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life? What do I mean by who am I?

Okay okay, calm down calm down get a grip now. Ooh, this is an interesting sensation. What is it? Its a sort of tingling in my… well I suppose I better start finding names for things. Let’s call it a… tail! Yeah! Tail! And hey, what’s this roaring sound, whooshing past what I’m suddenly gonna call my head? Wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do.

Yeah, this is really exciting. I’m dizzy with anticipation! Or is it the wind? There’s an awful lot of that now isn’t it? And what’s this thing coming toward me very fast? So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like ‘Ow’, ‘Ownge’, ‘Round’, ‘Ground’! That’s it! Ground! Ha!

I wonder if it’ll be friends with me? Hello Ground!

[dies]

let us not plot against others….so by benefiting them we benefit ourselves

“Let us not plot against others, lest we injure ourselves. When we supplant the reputation of others, let us consider that we injure ourselves, it is against ourselves that we plot. For perchance with men we do him harm, if we have power, but ourselves in the sight of God, by provoking him against us. Let us not, then, injure ourselves. For as we injure ourselves when we injure our neighbors, so by benefiting them we benefit ourselves” (‘Hom. 14, in Phil.,’ Oxford transl.).

Source: http://biblehub.com/proverbs/26-27.htm

the book is not supposed to solve

Scores of readers, often students, wrote to Wilder over the years seeking his position on the questions posed in The Bridge. In this excerpt from a letter written march 6, 1928, four months after the appearance of the novel, Wilder responds to a query from John Townley, one of his former pupils at Lawrenceville.

The first:

Thornton Wilder
Davis House
Lawrenceville, New Jersey

Dear John:

The book is not supposed to solve. A vague comfort is supposed to hover above the unanswered questions, but it is not a theorem with its Q.E.D. The book is supposed to be as puzzling and distressing as the news that five of your friends died in an automobile accident. I dare not claim that all sudden deaths are, in the last counting, triumphant. As you say, a little over half the situations seem to prove something and the rest escape, or even contradict.

Chekhov said: “The business of literature is not to answer questions, but to state them fairly.”

I claim that human affection contains a strange unanalyzable consolation and that is all. People who are full of faith claim that the book is a vindication of this optimism; disillusioned people claim that it is a barely concealed “anatomy of despair. I am nearer the second group than the first; though some days I discover myself shouting confidentially in the first group.

Where will i be thirty years from now? – with Hardy or Cardinal Newman?

– Thornton Wilder

Afterward, The Bridge of San Louis Rey

dramatically speaking, intention is everything

“When the pressure is intense, a driver who is being chased relentlessly by a competitor, realizes that he might be better off pushing from behind than pulling from the front. In that case the smart move is to yield his lead to the trailing car and let the other driver pass. Relieved of his burden our new leader can tuck in behind and make the leader drive his mirrors.

Sometimes however it is important to hold one’s position, and not allow the pass. For strategic reasons. Psychological reasons.

Sometimes a driver simply has to prove that he is better than his competition. Racing is about discipline and intelligence. Not about who has the heavier foot. The one who drives smart will always win in the end.

Sometimes you have to assert yourself.

And dramatically speaking, intention is everything.

No race has ever been won in the first corner. But many a race has been lost there.”

– Enzo, The Art of Racing in the Rain

no genuine attempt to address the issues

The West went to Vienna accusing Asia of trying to undermine the ideal of universality and determined to blame Asia if the conference failed. Inevitably Asia resisted. The result after weeks of wrangling was a predictable diplomatic compromise ambiguous enough so that all could live with it, but settled very few things. There was no real dialogue between Asia and the West, no genuine attempt to address the issues or forge a meeting of minds.

-  Ambassador Kausikan, World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, June 1993

 

…nothing so liberalizes a man

“…nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people. An Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotchman, an Italian or so, several Frenchmen and a number of Americans were present, and you couldn’t ask a question about any possible country under the sun, but some fellow in the crowd had been there and could give the information from personal experience.”

– Mark Twain

whatever….

 “did I say that? …. whatever…. shit….. Whenever you play some shit and someone else feels inspired to get off their ass and do something creative, positive. That’s some shit, right?”

Prefuse 73

I know that, all my life, I’ve been going around in a fog

“I know that, all my life, I’ve been going around in a fog. You’re just a bunch of molecules until you know who you are. You spend your time getting to be a big Hollywood actor. But then what? You’ve reached a comfortable plateau, and you want to stay on it; you resist change. One day, after many weeks of LSD, my last defense crumbled. To my delight, I found I had a tough inner core of strength. In my youth, I was very dependent upon older men and women. Now people come to me for help!”

– Carey Grant

deadlines

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

persistence

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
– Calvin Coolidge

there’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser

Kay: We do not discharge our weapons in view of the public!
Jay: Man, we ain’t got time for this cover-up bullshit! I don’t know whether or not you’ve forgotten, but there’s an Arquillian Battle Cruiser that’s about to…
Kay: There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!

Men in Black, IMDB

In nomine Patri

Connor: Now you will receive us.
Murphy: We do not ask for your poor, or your hungry.
Connor: We do not want your tired and sick.
Murphy: It is your corrupt we claim.
Connor: It is your evil that will be sought by us.
Murphy: With every breath we shall hunt them down.
Connor: Each day, we will spill their blood till it rains down from the skies.
Murphy: Do not kill, do not rape, do not steal, these are principles which every man of every faith can embrace.
Connor: These are not polite suggestions, these are codes of behavior and those of you that ignore them will pay the dearest cost.
Murphy: There are varying degrees of evil, we urge you lesser forms of filth not to push the bounds and cross over, into true corruption, into our domain.
Connor: For if you do, one day you will look behind you and you will see we three. And on that day, you will reap it.
Murphy: And we will send you to whatever god you wish.
[Murphy and Conner join II Duce behind Yakavetta]
Connor, Murphy, Il Duce: And shepherds we shall be, for Thee, my Lord, for Thee. Power hath descended forth from Thy hand.
Yakavetta: Vaffanculo
Connor, Murphy, Il Duce: That our feet may swiftly carry out Thy command. So we shall flow a river forth to Thee, and teeming with souls shall it ever be.
Il Duce: In nomine Patri.
Connor: Et Fili.
Murphy: Spiritus Sancti.

The Boondock Saints

fear, not love

“People react to fear, not love. They don’t teach that in Sunday school, but it’s true.” – Richard Nixon

don’t be so judgmental

“I always laugh when somebody says, “don’t be so judgmental.” betty boopBeing judgmental is just what we do. Not being judgmental really would be like death. Normative behavior is normal. That original self-conscious, slightly despairing glance in the mirror (together with, “Is this it?” or “Is that all there is?”) is a great enabler because it compels us to seek improvement.”
Andy Martin, NYT The Phenomenology of Ugly

Lucia Micarelli – Genius is Bullshit

“I hate the word “genius.” I think people misuse it. They think that if someone’s a genius, everything just happens. That’s bullshit. It’s about respecting yourself and your talent, and realizing that there are no shortcuts. Whether it’s now or later, you have to put in the effort to get from point A to point B. You can’t just take a side street.”

Lucia Micarelli, Violinist, Actor, BadAss (source, pg 55)

When to Apply Business Advice

I emailed out to the company today’s quote of the day, something we do internally, with the three quotes below. But given how popular advice from 37 Signals is among some of my employees, I wanted to add some commentary (after the jump). And BTW, I definitely agree with these three quotes from Rework.

“You need less than you think…Do you really need six months or can you make something in two?”  (pg. 53)

and

“No time is no excuse.  The most common excuse people give: “There’s not enough time.”  They claim they’d love to start a company, learn an instrument, market an invention, write a book, or whatever, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Come on.  There’s always enough time if you spend it right.” (pg. 40)

and

“When you put off decisions, they pile up.  And piles end up ignored, dealt with in haste, or thrown out.  As a result, the individual problems in those piles stay unresolved.  Whenever you can, swap ‘Let’s think about it’ with ‘Let’s decide on it.’  Commit to making decisions.  Don’t wait for the perfect solution.  Decide and move forward.  You want to get into the rhythm of making choices.  When you get into that flow of making decision after decision, you build momentum and boost morale…You can’t build on top of ‘We’ll decide later,’ but you can build on top of ‘Done.’  The problem comes when you postpone decisions in the hope that a perfect answer will come to you later.  It won’t.” (pg. 77)

All from Jason Fried and David Hansson in the book Rework

COMMENTS: 37 Signals has been successful creating jobs for people and making a profit. They build tools for themselves and then share their applications with others. There is no question Basecamp is a success. The 37 Signals formula is to build products to the exact specifications of THEIR customers, it just so happens the customer is first and foremost THEM.

Our business model is different. We make products for OTHER people. This is a subtle but important distinction. Picture a male fashion designer who makes women’s clothes. He can appreciate them. He has a creative vision. But the clothes he designs will be worn by his female clientele. The male fashion designer’s success is when women purchase his designs built for the them. The male fashion designer is challenged to make a simple and beautiful product that works with the physical reality of his customers.

While I usually agree with the content of Rework, I find I do not always agree with the 37 Signals viewpoint. Yes, it works for them. Yes I agree with 90% of it. But just as critical is to know what advice is bad advice for a firm like ours. I think it is important that I plan for the company’s future. Thus I do not agree with statements such as this:

“Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control…Why don’t we call plans what they really are: guesses.  Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses and your strategic plans as strategic guesses.  Now you can stop worrying about them as much.”  (pg. 19)

It is catchy. It makes for a good anti-establishment Purple Cow type of quote. But I suspect the employees at Schipul appreciate me applying that advice carefully. Does that advice relate to our particular situation? No. And I think the team at 37 is plenty of smart enough to tell people to apply their advice…well, if it applies!

Sometimes advice is populist, but there is a logical flaw. A company who follows the infamous “work smarter not harder” quickly falls to a company that believes “work smarter AND harder.” Working smarter-not-harder would only work if hard workers were dumb. But we get smarter through experience! So unfortunately, hard workers are typically also smarter than you. Oooops. But we don’t like to admit that. What we want to hear is that the 4 hour work week is a winner.  I certainly wish the global economy worked that way!

I guess I am saying, use common sense and trust experience built upon DOING stuff.

pseudo friendliness and overt joviality

“When one is acting under the rule of dissociated impulses, everybody except the individual himself knows and perceives what is happening. The individual who is stingy and mean in certain relationships will persist in perceiving himself as generous and kind. Similarly the individual who has trouble getting close to people may compensate for this deficiency with a pseudo friendliness and overt joviality (a common cultural trait, characteristic of many Americans, that is recognized all over the world).”

Beyond Culture, Edward T. Hall, pg 234