Mastery, purpose, and autonomy

A highly influential book for me in designing Automattic was Daniel Pink’s Drive, where he eloquently introduces the three things that really matter in motivating people: mastery, purpose, and autonomy. Mastery is the urge to get better skills. Purpose is the desire to do something that has meaning, that’s bigger than yourself. These first two principles physically co-located companies can be great at. But the third, autonomy, is where even the best in-office company can never match a Level 4 or above distributed company.

~ Matt Mullenweg from, https://ma.tt/2020/04/five-levels-of-autonomy/

I’ve read and listened to a bunch of stuff from Mullenweg and he’s consistently someone with his head on straight and his priorities—particularly those related to the many people working for his company—in order. If you just went, “Matt who?” definitely read that little post, and then, perhaps, dip into his podcast, Distributed. (Maybe try the episode, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg on building a fully distributed company, to get a good taste.)

Also, yes, more autonomy for everyone.

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Vitality

Brett McKay: But how can men maintain that vitality, even when they have those responsibilities they have at home?

Vic Verdier: I personally use two strategies, if you want. The first one is very easy. It’s to read books, books and biographies, novels, books of adventures, books of people taking risk. I’m thinking Hemingway, Jack London, but also biographies of great leaders who took risks, and thanks to you, Brett, I learned more about Theodore Roosevelt and the way he reinvented himself all the time, challenging himself. And when you read those books, you realize that you don’t really have anything to lose by trying new things all the time. So that’s my first strategy, getting some inspiration from reading. The second strategy for me is to, on a weekly basis, to do some kind of self-assessment, meaning every week I’m thinking about my life and what I’m doing, and when I start to settle down, I know it’s time to do something different. Do you remember this movie, Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray is repeating the same day over and over again?

Brett McKay: Of course.

Vic Verdier: I think… If I live twice the same day, somehow I wasted one day. So I try to have some diversity in my life, and every time I think that I fall into some kind of routine, I know I have to explore something else or go somewhere else or do… Take another course or learn some new skills.

~ From https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-stay-fit-as-you-age/

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This wide-ranging conversation with Verdier touches on everything from his military and deep diving careers, to Parkour, MoveNat and general ways to stay fit and healthy. Worth a listen, and doubly-so if you’re a dude over 40. (Or know one.)

There’s an embedded player on that page, or find episode 704 of The Art of Manliness podcast, How to Keep Your Edge as You Get Older.

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The joy of being wrong

Now more than ever, opinions divide us. Meanwhile, our ability to effectively communicate has degraded, fueled by social media algorithms and self-selected information silos that confirm our biases, calcify our world views, and consequently drive us even further apart. As a result we suffer—individually and as a collective.

~ Rich Roll from, https://www.richroll.com/podcast/adam-grant-580/

I’ve been cherry-picking episodes of the Rich Roll Podcast, and this is another superlative one. Roll’s discussion—about a half hour in if memory serves—of trying to be a “lighthouse” makes clear an important point about modeling behavior: Be the change you want to see in the world.

Grant and Roll talk a lot about Grant’s new book; That’s a model for a podcast episode which I usually do not like. And they talk almost as much about competitive swimming and diving, which are two more things I’m generally disinterested in. But to my delight, I enjoyed through (contrast with the more usual ‘sat through’) the first half, and currently have the second half awaiting my ears.

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Narrative

Cinematic Portraiture … I try to make a picture that draws elements of a larger scene happening. For me it’s always that challenge of how do you come up with a picture that gets the essence of the person, but also does a little more.

It’s different depending on the medium, but there are some things that are the same throughout. One of them is, you have to know or define your narrative because you’re always telling a story whether it’s in a single frame or in a two hour documentary. The first thing for me is to know what story I’m telling. With photographs it’s often, I read about the person, I start sketching ideas, and hopefully I can make up a story that I can tell that is true with that person. If it’s a music video, I’ll try to get what I want to say about the song; Whether it’s trying to be very literal or trying to be very opposite, I still have to know the story I want to tell. With doing Off Camera, it really is— You could talk to anyone for 100 hours and not get even close to their whole deal, so the idea is to try to pick the things you really want to look into and develop a little narrative.

~ Sam Jones starting around 44:50, from https://www.richroll.com/podcast/how-to-cultivate-your-authentic-voice-with-sam-jones-rrp-126/

Sam Jones is well-known for his Off-Camera project. Each “episode” is a photoshoot, documentary video, podcast and print magazine. This interview from 2015 on Rich Roll’s podcast covers a wide range of things related to being creative. This podcast episode is a true gem.

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Deep dive about problem formulation

Episode 27 of John Vervaeke’s, Awakening from the Meaning Crisis presents an intriguing definition of intelligence, and in particular how does on succeed or fail at finding solutions to generalized problems (“I’m thirsty, how do I get water?” “How do I win this chess game?” “What’s 4 times 8?”)

https://anchor.fm/john-vervaeke/episodes/Ep–27—Problem-Formulation-e4m01h

https://overcast.fm/+RhgZ_rULA

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Going in dumb

In the episode with Ray Suarez, about 43 minutes in, they’re talking about the evergreen (for those of us into this stuff) topic of preparation. Should one be [prepared]? How much, or how little? And so on. There aren’t many things I listen to more than once; this is one.

Here’s a link to the area where Suarez starts discussing “going in dumb” versus going in prepared. If you’re really into conversation, you’ll need about 15 minutes as you probably won’t be able to press stop. In any case, nothing I write here is as important as what they’re discussing.

https://overcast.fm/+JU6XxrKbc/43:16

That’s a link to the Overcast podcast player’s web frontend. It will simply play from that time code right in your web browser. You can also try this link to the episode itself.)

https://maximumfun.org/episodes/the-turnaround-with-jesse-thorn/ray-suarez/

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The Roller-Coaster

I think working with anyone who’s a brilliant creative can at times be a rollercoaster. Working with any other human other than yourself can be a rollercoaster, because they’re not you, so, you know… their reactions to things are going to be different than yours. But I think that’s part of the adventure. You talked to me about One Love, you talked to me about the telethon, and now you’re talking to me about clients. My response is the same: Life is not ever going to be content. Life is never going to be normal. For the rest of your life you’re on a journey that has ups and downs and ups and downs, it is a roller coaster that never ends. Until one day you close your eyes and you’re off the roller coaster. And I think for me, I just want to be on as many different journey’s as possible, so at least if I’m on a roller coaster, there’s a new zigzag and a turn that I didn’t know about before.

~ Scooter Braun from, https://www.calfussman.com/podcasts/2018/1/29/big-questions-scooter-braun

In this interview titled, Bringing Light to Darkness, Cal and Scooter have a wide ranging discussion of the challenges Scooter faced in 2017 and the lessons he learned. I’m a big fan of Cal’s work generally. Although this is one of his earlier podcasts, it’s a gold mine.

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