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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Reading – Prizes, Rights & Secrets

  • All in all, I would urge readers to not pay too much attention to big prestigious literary prizes. In a perfect world, I would wish for every writer a magical bag of money that is never empty (to level the financial question) and simply do away with them all: no Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, no National Book Award, no PEN/Faulkner, no Man Booker, no Nobel Prize in Literature. Let writers write, let critics have their say, let readers read, let time decide.
    It doesn’t really matter, though. Even without the magic moneybags, and even with the swells of cacophonic hype surrounding all the literary prizes and all the literary darlings of any given moment, history will plod on, and the Ozymandias of now will be the half-sunk and shattered visage of later. F. Scott Fitzgerald, who never won a Pulitzer, will remain F. Scott Fitzgerald, and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Booth Tarkington will remain Booth Tarkington. And anyway, I am absolutely certain there have been many writers the equal of Fitzgerald who, through their own bad luck or other people’s bad taste, were never published and never read, let alone given prizes, and it’s especially to these unknown soldiers of literature that I raise my glass. John Kennedy Toole killed himself believing he was doomed to be one of them, and he most certainly would have been, had his mother not accosted Walker Percy years later with his manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces, which went on to win a twelve-years-posthumous Pulitzer Prize. It was a nice gesture.

    tags: prizes immortality passion millions writing awards wp

  • Of readers and their rights – Analysis – DNAPennac examines three fundamental issues: how much small children love hearing stories; how wonderful it is when they discover they can put letters together and actually read; and how between parents and schools, we push kids away from books in the years that follow…
    There are habits that foster reading — we all evolve these instinctively for ourselves as readers. Pennac calls these ‘reader’s rights’. It’s just that when we become parents and teachers, we forget them…
    As parents and educators, our job is simply to enable kids to read. Whether they read later or not is their choice. As Pennac reminds us, while it’s fine for a child to grow up and reject reading, ‘it’s totally unacceptable for someone to feel that they have been rejected by reading’

    tags: reader reading kids parenting books review wp

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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Books, Links

 

Success, Failure & Measurement

  • I’ve been observing leaders and organizations for a long time now, and this is what I’ve found: leaders basically fall into one of two groups.
    In the first group are those leaders who swear by metrics and swear about their unreliable, childish workers who need to be controlled.
    The second group consists of leaders who hire mature, responsible adults and treat them as such. These leaders don’t really think much of metrics. They’re more interested in buy-in and results.
    Which kind of a leader are you?

    tags: performance measurement metrics organization business leadership wp

  • My case illustrates how success is always rationalized. People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck — especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don’t want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There is a reason for this: the world does not want to acknowledge it either…
    And you have to ask: if a professional athlete paid millions of dollars can be misvalued who can’t be? If the supposedly pure meritocracy of professional sports can’t distinguish between lucky and good, who can?
    The “Moneyball” story has practical implications. If you use better data, you can find better values; there are always market inefficiencies to exploit, and so on. But it has a broader and less practical message: don’t be deceived by life’s outcomes. Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them. Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.

    tags: princeton commencement speech michaellewis luck success life wp

  • Atul Gawande: Failure and Rescue : The New YorkerThis may in fact be the real story of human and societal improvement. We talk a lot about “risk management”—a nice hygienic phrase. But in the end, risk is necessary. Things can and will go wrong. Yet some have a better capacity to prepare for the possibility, to limit the damage, and to sometimes even retrieve success from failure.
    When things go wrong, there seem to be three main pitfalls to avoid, three ways to fail to rescue. You could choose a wrong plan, an inadequate plan, or no plan at all. Say you’re cooking and you inadvertently set a grease pan on fire. Throwing gasoline on the fire would be a completely wrong plan. Trying to blow the fire out would be inadequate. And ignoring it—“Fire? What fire?”—would be no plan at all…
    We have this problem called confidence. To take a risk, you must have confidence in yourself. In surgery, you learn early how essential that is. You are imperfect. Your knowledge is never complete. The science is never certain. Your skills are never infallible. Yet you must act. You cannot let yourself become paralyzed by fear.
    Yet you cannot blind yourself to failure, either. Indeed, you must prepare for it. For, strangely enough, only then is success possible…
    As you embark on your path from here, you are going to take chances—on a relationship, a job, a new line of study. You will have great hopes. But things won’t always go right…
    So you will take risks, and you will have failures. But it’s what happens afterward that is defining. A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it—will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right?—because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue.

    tags: failure success risk life Attitude atul_gawande wp

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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Links

 

Reading, Eating, Sleeping

  • Being bored is a kind of diagnostic for the gap between what you might be interested in and your current environment. But now it is an act of significant discipline to say, “I’m going to stare out the window. I’m going to schedule some time to stare out the window.” The endless gratification offered up by our devices means that the experience of reading in particular now becomes something we have to choose to do.

    tags: reading books kindle ebooks publishing clay_shirky wp

  • a team of scientists from the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in Israel published the results of its peer-reviewed research, revealing that a pea plant subjected to drought conditions communicated its stress to other such plants, with which it shared its soil. In other words, through the roots, it relayed to its neighbors the biochemical message about the onset of drought, prompting them to react as though they, too, were in a similar predicament.

    tags: nytimes ethics vegetarianism food wp

  • Kathryn Schulz on ‘Internal Time’ by Till Roenneberg — New York Magazine Book ReviewOne of those whatevers is us. Time is what we measure, not just with our external Einsteinian clocks but with our internal Roennbergian ones: heart rate, hunger, breath, sleep. Like almost every other species, we humans are a kind of mobile timepiece. Unlike other species, we’ve overrun our niche in the temporal ecosystem, just as we have in the physical one. We move as freely from time to time as we do from place to place—working nights, jetting three hours into the past for a long weekend. That remarkable temporal suppleness, like our adaptiveness more generally, both rewards and imperils us. We live in all time but, unlike De Mairan’s mimosa, we live uneasily in it, struggling to balance our inner self with the demands of nature and each other.And we live uneasily in time in another way, too. Time is what all creatures measure, but humans are the creatures who measure time. That is a remarkable but not a comfortable ability. If human culture is delightful but disrupts our sleep, the same could be said of human consciousness. It’s wonderful, thank heavens for it—and yet we are the only species kept awake at night by the thought that time is passing, that its quantity, for us, is finite. This is the fundamental pathos of being, in effect, a conscious Swatch. Our internal clocks do what we cannot: keep time

    tags: book review time sleep habits wp

  • Kathryn Schulz on Being a Literary Night Owl — New York MagazineI can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a night owl. As a kid, I read in bed until hours that would have horrified my parents, had they known…I pulled my first all-nighter halfway through sixth grade. I was 11.
    There was no particular reason for it, that first time. I didn’t have homework, wasn’t behind on any project, wasn’t in the grips of preadolescent angst. I just wasn’t tired…
    Predictably, getting up in the morning—not that morning; every morning—was a misery. By seventh grade I walked to school, and I was never not late, which was unfortunate, because I hate being late. (As an adult, I am scrupulously punctual; but then, I also scrupulously avoid early-morning meetings.) On weekends, liberated, I routinely slept until eleven or noon…Even more annoying, though, were family vacations, when my parents, sister, and I would all share a hotel room.tags: sleep habits nocturnal night wp
  • Maurice Sendak Scared Children Because He Loved Them – Joe Fassler – Entertainment – The AtlanticThrough reading, then, a young person can try out the prospect of illicit freedom—disobedience, overindulgence, parentlessness—but can ultimately make a willing return to home sweet home.
    When fairy tales flirt with trouble, but avoid real consequences, they really work. And yet the possibility of straying too far—the Lindbergh scenario—haunts Sendak’s work. “Certainly,” Sendak told the Caldecott audience, “we want to protect our children from new and painful experiences that are beyond their emotional comprehension and intensify anxiety.” The child must return home safely for the story to have ameliorative power; Sendak criticized Roald Dahl and Hans Christian Andersen for veering into unnecessary cruelty. Still, he insisted that children are more complicated, tolerant readers than we think, and that they will surprise us in their ability to respond to difficult literature.
    Eventually, we all endure a startling transformation, if we are lucky—the transformation from child to adult, or from child to parent. We can lose touch, along the way, with the people we once were. In this light, we should be grateful to Maurice Sendak: His work reminds us that we contain many selves, and that there can be fluidity among them. He was dark and light, innocent and experienced, playful and morose. He opened a roiling window into childhood, he cast the shadow augury of growing old.tags: maurice_sendak children kids stories books wp
  • 8 Songs That Will Get Your Butt Out Of Bed In The Morning « Thought CatalogExactly what it says!tags: songs morning wp

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Posted by on June 9, 2012 in Links

 

Censorship, Religion & Offence

  • Nearly 25 years later, I’m a little more grown-up and the idea of banning things, especially creative works, still makes no sense to me. These days, what’s coming on the ban radar seems more ridiculous than ever before…
    I’m not sure what is more difficult to explain—that Reliance Entertainment thought Dangerous Ishq would have box-office earnings, or that anyone would want to waste bandwidth, time and storage space on the film; or that Vimeo, a favourite with indie filmmakers and known for hosting a lot of original content, was considered a threat. Meanwhile YouTube, the shady den that has everything from puppy videos to pirated films, remained unaffected because that’s where all the Bollywood trailers and song videos are put up. On the other hand, if you want to see some award-winning short films or see what’s the latest upload at the official White House channel on Vimeo, you’d learn that there’s a John Doe order preventing you from accessing the site…
    To give Sibal the benefit of doubt, maybe he was referring to the freedom enjoyed by politicians because in that case, he’s absolutely right. For instance, it’s difficult to imagine an elected representative killing time watching pornography while attending the European or American equivalent of Parliament. And that’s just a trivial example. We all know that politicians are truly free to do anything they want in this country. The laws are as flexible as flubber for them. They’re enacted inflexibly for the benefit of us humble, everyday citizens, and it is to preserve our delicate innocence that Sibal wants a draconian set of rules that will regulate the content we can access on the net.

    tags: internet freedom ban offence GoI india free_speech wp

  • Smite the Heathens, Charlie BrownAs the world grows more open, religions have turned more dogmatic and stringent. Instead of letting them evolve and adapt with modern life, the human race has turned religion into something complex and grotesque. These days religion is less about finding the meaning of life and more about competing with each other…
    Also, pretending to defend god is also pure human hubris. What the self-appointed defenders of faith are essentially saying is that not only is their god the most omnipotent, the most powerful, the king of every other god, but this very same powerful entity needs them, the average Joe – the guy who gets confined to the bed for five days because he was dumb enough to leave home without an umbrella even though it was drizzling outside-to defend them. Talk about your delusions of grandeur.tags: religion faith atheism belief offence freedom wp
  • Salman Rushdie’s PEN World Voices Lecture on Censorship : The New YorkerThe creative act requires not only freedom but also this assumption of freedom. If the creative artist worries if he will still be free tomorrow, then he will not be free today. If he is afraid of the consequences of his choice of subject or of his manner of treatment of it, then his choices will not be determined by his talent, but by fear. If we are not confident of our freedom, then we are not free…
    At its most effective, the censor’s lie actually succeeds in replacing the artist’s truth. That which is censored is thought to have deserved censorship. Boat-rocking is deplored…
    You will even find people who will give you the argument that censorship is good for artists because it challenges their imagination. This is like arguing that if you cut a man’s arms off you can praise him for learning to write with a pen held between his teeth. Censorship is not good for art, and it is even worse for artists themselves…
    Even more serious is the growing acceptance of the don’t-rock-the-boat response to those artists who do rock it, the growing agreement that censorship can be justified when certain interest groups, or genders, or faiths declare themselves affronted by a piece of work. Great art, or, let’s just say, more modestly, original art is never created in the safe middle ground, but always at the edge. Originality is dangerous. It challenges, questions, overturns assumptions, unsettles moral codes, disrespects sacred cows or other such entities. It can be shocking, or ugly, or, to use the catch-all term so beloved of the tabloid press, controversial. And if we believe in liberty, if we want the air we breathe to remain plentiful and breathable, this is the art whose right to exist we must not only defend, but celebrate. Art is not entertainment. At its very best, it’s a revolution.tags: art creativity offence salman_rushdie censorship wp

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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Links

 

Change & Leadership

  • How can CEOs learn from Kodak’s failure? Historically, Kodak was built on a culture of innovation and change. It’s the type of culture that’s full of passionate innovators, already naturally in tune to the urgency surrounding changes in the market and technology. It’s these people – those excited about new ideas within your own organization – who keep your company moving ahead instead of falling behind. One key to avoiding complacency is to ensure these innovators have a voice with enough volume to be heard (and listened to) at the top. It’s these voices that can continue to keep a sense of urgency in your organization. If they are given the power to lead, they will continue to innovate, help keep a culture of urgency and affect change.
    As Kodak became more successful, complacency grew, leaders listened less to these voices, which made complacency grow some more. It can be a vicious cycle. It certainly was at Kodak. And if you don’t address it first… good luck.

    tags: business change kodak complacency hubris innovation downfall forbes wp

  • Change This – Let’s Make Leadership Real Again“What has happened to leadership? With all the crises and challenges we face and the increasingly risk-averse environment in which we operate, leadership has become generic, ephemeral, and bland…
    The problem is we’re no longer leading. We’re hiding behind committees. We’re using the crutches of data and metrics to make our decisions for us. We blame policies and corporate culture for the problems our teams face rather than delivering the tough messages with a sense of ownership.
    The result of all of this is our people don’t trust us anymore. Work has become transactional. They do the work and we pay them. It’s a fee-for-service mindset. When they find someone who will pay them more for their services, they’re gone. And when we no longer have need of their services, we simply cast those people aside. It’s a toxic environment. It’s hard for people to trust their leaders when they feel like they’re simply a cog in the machine.”tags: change leadership business culture wp
  • How to get your team to speak up | SmartBlogsReality-avoidance is the dark side to the pursuit of excellence. It’s ironic: when leaders drive for results at all costs, making it difficult for their people to point out unrealistic objectives, they actually get further away from achieving their objectives. There is a fine line between challenging a team to achieve beyond all expectations and living in a fantasy world. The only way a leader can discern the boundary between “all-out effort” and “this is total make-believe” is to create a culture where team members feel empowered to push back on their leaders’ demands…
    “You can do it!” isn’t motivating and it’s not productive. Show your team that you live in the Land of Reality, not the Land of the Overly Optimistic, by encouraging a culture that’s that say it’s OK to speak up.tags: business management voice team leadership wp
  • How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the InternetWeb startups are made out of two things: people and code. The people make the code, and the code makes the people rich. Code is like a poem; it has to follow certain structural requirements, and yet out of that structure can come art. But code is art that does something. It is the assembly of something brand new from nothing but an idea.
    This is the story of a wonderful idea. Something that had never been done before, a moment of change that shaped the Internet we know today. This is the story of Flickr. And how Yahoo bought it and murdered it and screwed itself out of relevance along the way.

    tags: flickr yahoo web startup failure strategy wp

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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Links

 

commencement speeches

  • You will never feel like you know what you are doing, so don’t wait for it.
    Outside of your small circle of family and close friends, no one cares what you wear, what you do, what you read, or what you watch. This can be both liberating and terrifying. Choose liberating.
    The more you enjoyed your time here, the more the memory of it will sting.
    It is easy to make decisions about your life without even knowing you are making them. You will regret the decisions you did not make a hell of a lot more than the decisions you knew you were making.
    What you will turn out to be will probably not bear much resemblance to what you thought you would be. Try not to mourn this overmuch.
    The small patch of understanding and meaning you can create for yourself will be the anchor of your happiness. Grow and guard it.

    tags: commencement speech life wp

  • Neil Gaiman: Keynote Address | The University of the Arts
    If you don’t know it’s impossible it’s easier to do. And because nobody’s done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet…I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work…
    The problems of failure are hard.
    The problems of success can be harder, because nobody warns you about them…
    I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful…
    You get work however you get work.
    People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today’s world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you…
    When I agreed to give this address, I started trying to think what the best advice I’d been given over the years was.
    And it came from Stephen King twenty years ago, at the height of the success of Sandman. I was writing a comic that people loved and were taking seriously. King had liked Sandman and my novel with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, and he saw the madness, the long signing lines, all that, and his advice was this:
    “This is really great. You should enjoy it.”
    And I didn’t. Best advice I got that I ignored.Instead I worried about it. I worried about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story. There wasn’t a moment for the next fourteen or fifteen years that I wasn’t writing something in my head, or wondering about it. And I didn’t stop and look around and go, this is really fun. I wish I’d enjoyed it more. It’s been an amazing ride. But there were parts of the ride I missed, because I was too worried about things going wrong, about what came next, to enjoy the bit I was on.
    That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places…
    So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.
    And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.tags: neilgaiman speech commencement inspiration wp
  • Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 on Vimeo
  • Aaron Sorkin’s Commencement Speech – 13 May 2012 – YouTube
    Today is May 13th, and today you graduate, and today you already know what I know: to get where you’re going, you have to be good, and to be good where you’re going, you have to be damned good. Every once in a while, you’ll succeed. Most of the time you’ll fail, and most of the time the circumstances will be well beyond your control…Develop your own compass, and trust it. Take risks, dare to fail, remember the first person through the wall always gets hurt…
    it seems to me that more and more we’ve come to expect less and less of each other, and that’s got to change. Your friends, your family, this school expect more of you than vocational success.
    Today is May 13th and today you graduate and the rules are about to change, and one of them is this: Decisions are made by those who show up. Don’t ever forget that you’re a citizen of this world.
    Don’t ever forget that you’re a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit, things that are easy, things that are free, things that you can do every day. Civility, respect, kindness, character. You’re too good for schadenfreude, you’re too good for gossip and snark, you’re too good for intolerance—and since you’re walking into the middle of a presidential election, it’s worth mentioning that you’re too good to think people who disagree with you are your enemy…
    Don’t ever forget that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has…
    How you live matters. You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.tags: commencement speech aaron_sorkin youtube video wp
  • Dear esteemed graduation speech-givers,
    This is the graduating class of 2012. This year all of you have stunned us with graduation speeches of exceptional quality all over India. Many of us have been touched by your inspirational words.
    Usually people like you are so busy, and getting time for a frank tete-a-tete is hugely challenging.
    Therefore, we relish this rare chance to give you feedback. Hello! Please keep your BlackBerry on the table, your iPad in your bag, sit up and listen boss. Focus. Come on!
    But otherwise overall the class of 2012 has been truly inspired by the speeches all of you have made. We step forth into the real world fully aware of the power of public virtue and private hypocrisy.

    tags: commencement speech funny humor graduates sidin wp

  • Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I…I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don’t really know to put this, so I’ll be blunt. We broke it.
    Please don’t be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.
    I don’t know if you’ve been following the news lately, but it just kinda got away from us. Somewhere between the gold rush of easy internet profits and an arrogant sense of endless empire, we heard kind of a pinging noise, and uh, then the damn thing just died on us. So I apologize…
    So how do you know what is the right path to choose to get the result that you desire? And the honest answer is this. You won’t. And accepting that greatly eases the anxiety of your life experience…
    College is something you complete. Life is something you experience. So don’t worry about your grade, or the results or success. Success is defined in myriad ways, and you will find it, and people will no longer be grading you, but it will come from your own internal sense of decency…
    Love what you do. Get good at it. Competence is a rare commodity in this day and age. And let the chips fall where they may…
    And the other thing….that I will say is, when I spoke earlier about the world being broke, I was somewhat being facetious, because every generation has their challenge. And things change rapidly, and life gets better in an instant.

    tags: jon stewart commencement speech funny humor graduates wp

  • Another really good commencement speech!

    tags: jon stewart commencement speech funny humor graduates wp

  • The youtube video

    tags: stephen colbert graduates commencement speech funny humor wp

  • Today is about you — you who have worked so hard to pack your heads with learning until your skulls are all plump like — sausage of knowledge. It’s an apt metaphor, don’t question it. But now your time at college is at an end. Now you are leaving here. And this leads me to a question that just isn’t asked enough at commencements. Why are you leaving here?
    This seems like a very nice place. They have a lovely website. Besides, have you seen the world outside lately? They are playing for KEEPS out there, folks. My God, I couldn’t wait to get here today just so I could take a breather from the real world. I don’t know if they told you what’s happened while you’ve matriculated here for the past four years. The world is waiting for you people with a club. Unprecedented changes happening in the last four years. Like globalization. We now live in a hyperconnected, global economic, outsourced society…
    But you seem nice enough, so I’ll try to give you some advice. First of all, when you go to apply for your first job, don’t wear these robes. Medieval garb does not instill confidence in future employers — unless you’re applying to be a scrivener. And if someone does offer you a job, say yes. You can always quit later. Then at least you’ll be one of the unemployed as opposed to one of the never-employed. Nothing looks worse on a resume than nothing…
    Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what’s going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say “yes.” And if you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say “yes” back.
    Now will saying “yes” get you in trouble at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”

    tags: stephen colbert graduates commencement speech funny humor wp

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Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Links

 
 
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