Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Resistance - from Linchpin

More from Linchpin:

"When you feel the resistance, the stall, the fear, and the pull, you know you're on to something. Whichever way the wind of resistance is coming from, that's the way to head - directly into the resistance. And the closer you get to achieving the breakthrough your genius has in mind, the stronger the wind will blow and the harder the resistance will fight to stop you.

I stopped writing this book a dozen times. Each time, the force that got me to pick it up again was the resistance. I realized that my lizard brain was afraid of this book, which is the best reason I can think of to write it.

Eating ice cream is easy. Making something that matters is hard. The resistance will help you find the thing you most need to do because it is the thing the resistance most wants to stop.

Its obvious. The resistance is afraid. The closer you come to unleashing the thing it fears, the harder it will fight."

"The habit that successful artists have developed is simple: they thrash a lot at the start, because starting means that they are going to finish. Not maybe, not probably, but going to.

If you want to produce things on time and on budget all you have to do is work until you run out of time or run out of money. Then ship.

No room for stalling or excuses or the resistance. On ship date, it's gone."

"Bre Pettis wrote this manifesto on his blog:

1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action, and completion.
2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3. There is no editing stage.
4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
5. Banish procastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7. Once you're done you can throw it away.
8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
11. Destruction is a variant of done.
12. If you have an idea and publish it on the Interent, that counts as a ghost of done.
13. Done is the engine of more."

"In The Dip, I talk about how hard it is to quit a project ( a job, a career, a relationship), even if the project is going absolutely nowhere.

It occurs to me that part of this pain comes from the resistance.

If it appears that you're fighting the good fight, laboring on, doing what you trained to do, then, hey, you're virtuous. You can proclaim victory without risk. There's not a lot to fear when you're stuck in the dip, not a lot that can threaten you're standing. You're just a hardworking guy, doing your best; how dare someone criticize you?

The people who have experienced this and fought back - by quitting when they were stuck - tell me that the feeling of liberation and new potential is incredible. Suddenly, they can get back to doing the work, to making a difference, and to engaging with a community.

The hard part is distinguishing between quitting because the resistance wants you to (bad idea) or because the resistance doesn't want you to (great idea). The goal is to quit the tasks you're doing because you're hididng on behalf of the lizard brain and to push through the very tasks the lizard fears."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Strawbery Girl - How it Ends

Well, I just finished the book and it turns out Mr. Slater finds God. His conversion story is interesting as well. After he shoots his chickens (every single one of them - chickens his wife used to pay for necessities because the cow money mainly went into alcohol), Mr. Slater ditches his family for a while. His wife and kids get deathly sick, the Boyer family take care of them and literally nurse the Mrs. Slater her young girls and little newborn back to health.

When Mr. Slater returns, he finds that the Boyers found it in their heart, despite all of the trouble he caused them, to save his family's life. Something he was unwilling to do himself. That humbles him. Coincidentally, just days before his return, a traveling preacher comes by the Slater's home and Mrs. Slater tells the preacher all of the trouble alcohol has caused her husband.

Shortly after his return, the Slaters go to church and the preacher especially gets after Mr. Slater. Already humbled by the Boyer's kind and forgiving acts, his heart is softened (like mud he says) and he changes his ways.

Just thought I'd let you know. There's always hope for everyone. And when we can find it in our hearts to be kind to everyone, even those folks we don't particularly like, and most especially, even those folks who don't particularly like us, you'll never know what kind of effect you might have on another person.

I guess this is all too simple and tidy (its a book for kids after all), but the book does a masterful job of brining you into a world that no longer exists (as far as I know), of families scraping by, living off the land, shortly before the industrial age is about to take over.

The last chapter also talks about a new Phosphate plant moving in that'll fence in a bunch of land so they can use dynamite to extract the phosphate for fertilizer manufacturing.

Mr. Slater's meager livelihood will be threatened since he depends so much on access to an open range. Boyer's fence drove him into a rage that lead him to increasing violence.

In this case his response is different:

"'That makes it mighty bad for you, if they fence in your range,' said Boyer. 'What will you do?'

'Sell out,' said Slater. 'Can't do nothin' to stop it. Citrus people are fencing, too. Got to quit the cattle business, I reckon.' A week before, Slater would have ranted with furious anger. Now he spoke quietly and peaceably. Every one noticed the change.

'What you fixin' to do?' asked Boyer.

'Take a job with the phosphate company, I reckon!' Slater laughed heartily. 'Ain't nothin' else to do. Hear them loud booms goin' off early every mornin'? They're dynamitin' the stuff out of the ground. I went over to tell 'em what I thought of 'em forr fencin' my cows out, and I come home with the job of dynamiter! Hit will jest suit me. Grandpa was an old Indian fighter in the Seminole War. He liked nothin' better than firin' off a gun, and I favor him in most ways. I reckon' hit'll jest about suit me to touch off a fuse in them pits, then run as fast as I can, and listen to it go BOOM and blow the whole place up!'"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Strawbery Girl

I'm currently reading Strawberry Girl to my kids, and I'm surprised by how much I enjoy reading these pretty sophisticated children's books to my children. I enjoy these books I'm sure more than they do.

This book is about a couple of families, neighbors, in backwoods Florida during the turn of the century. The family highlighted in the book, The Boyers, had just moved in from South Carolina, to start a farm. They had cattle and chickens, but mostly, they were growing crops - most notably - strawberries. They are an industrious, innovative, hard working family that start having some success. Their closest neighbors, The Slaters, however, are trouble. Unlike the Boyers, the Slaters are content to scrape by with as little effort as possible. They are a cattle herding family, but they let their cows wander the land, open range style, eating whatever they can find. Mr. Slater drinks a lot and raises rough children.

The contrast I think hurts Slater's ego and they have trouble. Mr. Boyer fences in his land, taps into underground water, grows strawberries, something nobody else thinks is possible, feeds his animals feed. He's educated and innovative. Slater lets his cows and pigs wander, lets them eat what they can and resents the fence that Boyer builds that keeps his animals from the nearby lake.

As the book goes on, Mr. Slater resorts to stronger and stronger violence. He starts a grass fire that threatens the Boyer's house. He poisons their mule. He cuts their fence and lets his cows and hogs ruin the Boyer's crops.

Its jealousy really. But as he does this, he spirals. He drinks more and more, self medicating his guilt and jealousy. In a drunken rant, he shoots all of his own chickens just to prove to everyone he's a good shot, but in doing so, he's hurting himself. Its a death spiral he's on.

I'm not sure how it'll end yet, I'm a few chapters off.

But I'm sure there's some Boyer in me and some Slater, but I'm much more aware of the Slater part. Its hard to notice the ways that I'm actually succeeding and doing well, but its easy to see how I come up short as I compare my weaknesses with other's successes.

It's also easy to feel jealous and to think of was to pull others successes down, or at least to try to. But sabotaging others inevitably hurt ourselves much more.

So, what Mr. Slater could have done, but didn't, is to accept that Mr. Boyer was a bit further along then him, and learn from him and then perhaps build from Mr. Boyer's knowledge and then innovate in his own way. Then Mr. Boyer, perhaps, may have had a chance to learn from Mr. Slater.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Some Interesting News on the Deficit Front

Turns out the Supreme Court and the Economic Recession might in some weird way result in lower long term deficits...

The long term deficits, despite what any conservative who wants to blame it all on Obama will tell you, is going to be coming from increasing in medicare and social security benefits.

In this article this economists describe how the deficits may be reduced by cutting benefits instead of increasing the payroll tax:

1) The recession is forcing baby boomers to work longer - which will decrease their dependence and demand for government aid.
2) The Supreme Court decision to decrease regulation on businesses to spend money on elections will increase their influence and decrease the influence of elderly. The ability of government to increase the payroll tax will no likely be affected.
3) The ability of Barack Obama to raise money and political activism from the young will no doubt be duplicated by future politicians again increasing their political influence at the expense of the elderly.

Now, if we could just allow more

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Analysis of Sensible Conservative Alternatives

I've read a few high level summaries of some conservative proposals to health care reform, but Megan's is a pretty interesting proposal, briefly alluded to here.

First, she doesn't address Medicare which is an entirely different can of worms (old people have especially high health care costs especially end of life care, just as their ability to work and pay for such care degrades).

Her proposal is basically this:

"I think that the argument for catastrophic coverage is much stronger for a variety of reasons, which is why I'd like to see the government pick up the tab for expenses that total more than 15% or 20% of annual income. There's certainly also a case for providing basic care and treatment for certain chronic conditions to the poor, though even in that case, I'd like to see us at least try to handle the problem with a combination of catastrophic insurance, and better income supports. But if that failed--and it might--I'd absolutely support public provisions of those sorts of treatments to lower income Americans, along with no-brainers like prenatal and infant care."

So, in essence, she rejects the idea of health insurance at all for basic day to day health care that really should be paid for out of pocket, and believes it should only be used for catastrophic care that kicks in automatically as it reaches 15 to 20% of your income. In her view (and mine probably), that's probably about the level that, as health care costs rise above it, will push people into bankruptcy. Below that requires a pretty big sacrifice but a sacrifice that won't bankrupt a person. And this kind of health care plan would work well for many (most) people below 65 I'm willing to guess. And would go a long way in reducing cost and injecting efficiencies into the system because consumers of health care would be the ones actually paying directly for that health care.

By the way, this idea is a pretty strong revolutionary departure from our current system, and I have no doubts it would be a big improvement from our current messed up system.

I take some issue with the idea, though, in regards to how it treats those with chronic conditions. If a chronic condition consistently, year after year, puts you at the catastrophic levels, wouldn't 15-20% of your income significantly affect most middle income wage earners ability to do much of anything else useful with that money - say save for college, buy a house, save for other unforeseen expenses. I grant you that one costly health care event in a single year is painful but manageable, but if year after year, you have to take off 15-20% off of your salary for medical expenses - that's a pretty heavy burden.

I say this selfishly because I believe (I haven't run the numbers) that if we had to pay for diabetes care 100% ourselves, we would approach that level pretty quickly almost every year. And you cannot legitimately opt out of health care for chronic conditions without seriously sacrifices your long term health (although some would probably try).

One more point on the catastrophic portion of this plan if applied in a single payer free market environment, those with chronic illness may still be left out. Catastrophes are just more likely when you have chronic illness. So, as McArdle alludes to, this catastrophic insurance would probably have to be government funded or government regulated through an insurance exchange to be effective.

So, lets say we take McArdle's plan: an insurance exchange that offered nothing but catastrophic insurance. Say you throw me a bone and offer the idea of instituting a high risk insurance pool subsidized by government tax payers to make management of chronic disease more in-line cost-wise with current insurance plans. We still pay a lot of out of pocket for our diabetes, but its affordable - we are still able to afford a house, an education, etc. Its affordable because its subsidized.

Then how does this plan compare with the Senate's plan? Not much. You would have to have mandates on the catastrophic care if its provided by an exchange or you pay for it through taxes (another kind of mandate) if its funded by the government.

The high risk pool would be either funded by taxes or by higher premiums for everyone in the regulated exchange.

Basically, if you've given me a single, significant (but in my view necessary) concession to McArdle's plan, her plan is really, really close to the Senate's bill - a bill that McArdle ironically does not support.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I've done my fair share of debating about the health care legislation now stalled in Congress. I have no idea what the chances of its passing is. But being the father of a daughter with type 1 diabetes - a preexisting condition that will follow her all her life - I know she will be uninsureable under our current system. She (and I) will have to find refuge under government subsidized employer based insurance. Which means I must find big employers and hope that employer based insurance remains in tact for years to come.

I'm not totally confident that this is my only option. I need to look into it. Type 1 diabetes has a pretty strong community and I'm guessing I will always find ways to make sure she has access to insulin no matter what happens.

But, this system we have is arbitrary, random, inefficient, and insane. The Senate bill goes a long ways to making it less insane and provides some serious steps forward to finding greater efficiencies.

There are fairly serious conservative proposals out there, but if you delve deeper into the more serious proposals that actually make attempts to provide coverage for everyone - they really are not a big departure from the Senate bill.

Detractors claim that the Senate bill is a government takeover. Really? That implies the government isn't already all over our health care system. It is. The bill just makes its involvement a little more obvious, and in doing so, has a greater chance in extending its subsidies more equitably.

Anyway, here's a little anecdote about how insane our current health care system works. In this story, a man has a preexisting condition created from childhood abuse and as a result is literally denied coverage from the single-payer system. He's lucky because he qualified for medicaid, but he has to make sure he stays qualified for medicaid - which means basically, no chance at building up assets for retirement, children's education, or other concerns.

Faces of American Health Care, Part Three: Shane Hutte's Bittersweet Blessing from austin considine on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

More from Linchpin

"Organizations that earn dramatic success always do it in markets where asymptotes don't exist, or where they can be shattered. If you could figure out how to bowl 320, that would be amazing. Until that happens, pick a different sport if you want to be a linchpin."

"Work is a chance to do art. Good art is useless and banal. No one crosses the street to buy good art, or becomes loyal to a good artist. If you can't be remarkable, perhaps you should consider doing nothing until you can. If your organization skipped a month's catalog because you didn't have anything great to put in it, what would happen the next month? Would the quality and user delight of your product line improve?"

Raising the bar is easier than it looks, and it pays for itself. If your boss won't raise your bar, you should."

From Linchpin

I've been reading and facebooking from this book. Here are some of the quotes:

"Linchpins make change happen. That's the job description. Change that isn't written down, step by step, change that isn't guaranteed to work. There is a scarcity of people willing to do this, which is precisely why it's valuable."

"Of course you're a linchpin (at least occasionally). Of course you're a genius (when the time is right). You're insubordinate when you want to be and creative when you need to be. Now your job is figuring out how to do that more often."

"The New American Dream: 'Be remarkable, Be generous, Create art, Make judgment calls, Connect people and ideas ... And we have no choice but to reward you'."

"I am Good at School'. This is a fundamentally different statement from, 'I did well in school and therefore I will do a great job working for you.' The essential thing measured by school is whether or not your are good at school."

"Being good at school is a fine skill if you intend to do school forever. For the rest of us, being good at school is a little like being good at Frisbee. It's nice but it's not relevant unless your career involves homework assignments, looking through textbooks for answers known to your supervisors, complying with instructions and then, in high pressure settings, regurgitating those facts."

"We've been trained since first grade to avoid making mistakes. The goal of any test, after all, is to get 100 percent. No mistakes. Get nothing wrong and you get an A, right? Read someone's resume, and discover twenty years of extraordinary exploits and one typo."

"Which are you going to mention first? We hire for perfect, we manage for perfect, we measure for perfect, and we reward for perfect. So why are we surprised that people spend their precious minutes of self-directed, focused work time trying to achieve perfect? "

"The problem is simple: Art is never defect-free. Things that are remarkable never meet spec, because that would make them standardized, not worth talking about."

"Bob Dylan knows a little about becoming indispensable, being an artist, and living on the edge: 'Daltrey, Townshend, McCartney, the Beach Boys, Elton, Billy Joel. They made perfect records, so they have to play them perfectly... exactly the way people remember them. My records were never perfect. So there is no point in trying to duplicate them. Anyway, I'm no mainstream artist.... I guess most of my influences could be thought of as eccentric. Mass media had no overwhelming reach so I was drawn to the traveling performers passing through. The side show performers - bluegrass singers, the black cowboys with chaps and lariat doing rope tricks. Miss Europe, Qausimodo, the Bearded Lady, the half-man half-woman, the deformed and the bent, Atlas the Dwarf, the fire-eaters, the teachers and preachers, the blues singers. I remember it like it was yesterday. I got close to some of these people. I learned about dignity from them. Freedom too. Civil rights, human rights. How to stay within yourself. Most others were into the rides like the tilt-a-whirl and the roller-coaster. To me that was the nightmare. All the giddiness. The artificiality of it...

The interviewer then reminded Dylan, 'But you've sold over a hundred million records.' Dylan's answer gets to the heart of what it means to be an artist: 'Yeah I know. It's a mystery to me too.'"

"Avoiding the treadmill of defect-free is not easy to sell to someone who's been trained in the perfection worldview since first grade (which is most of us). But artists embrace the mystery of our genius instead. They understand that there is no map, no step-by-step plan, and no way to avoid blame now and then."

"If it wasn't a mystery, it would be easy. If it were easy, it wouldn't be worth much."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Why Homeschoolers Need a Well Functioning Government

I think there's a misnomer that homeschooling families refuse to accept government assistance because they feel they can do it better on their own. This is not true in our experience. Not true at all. We simply have chosen to take advantage of a different set of government funded services, without them, my wife (who is doing almost all of the work) would be much less effective. The most obvious examples:

1) The Tempe Library

My wife takes our kids to the library once every few weeks, and literally turns in about 50 pounds of books and checks out 50 pounds more. My kids don't get through all of those books, but a lot of them. We use them to supplement history lessons (our kids are studying the Vikings right now and are reading book after book about the Vikings, not to mention building Viking ships, etc.), to learn and create science experiments, and to just enjoy the act of reading. Without this valuable resource, we would be left to the books we could afford to buy or borrow from friends, or google on the internet. But the internet offers shallow knowledge. Books allow you to explore a single topic at a much, more desirable pace, allowing yourself to immerse in a new world. And the library really expands this world beyond comprehension. Our homeschooling experience would be much, much poorer without our local library.

Not to mention what else the library provides beyond just books - story time, access to knowledgeable librarians... Not to mention what library's could provide as they learn to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world. See this inspired article by Seth Godin. Although I take issue with this quote:

"They can't survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don't want to own (or for reference books we can't afford to own.)",

but I love this quote:

"What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others."

So, city of Tempe library, we love you. And we hope you continue to thrive, grow, and become an even better resource for us and for others in our city.

2) City Parks:

Once a week, our kids join other kids to congregate at a city park for homeschooling PE. We demand a park with plenty of open fields, green (or near green) grass, basketball courts, so our kids can grow and develop physical skills and good health.

Not to mention all of the times we enjoy Tempe Town Lake, Kiwanis Park, Daley Park, and other parks throughout and around Tempe.

Our son's birthday party will be held at a local park. Our last trip to Portland, OR to visit my sister, we spend a lot of times visiting parks.

I love city parks, I want them well maintained, and as a homeschooling family and just as a family with kids in a place with nice weather (well in February), we want to be outside as much as possible. We demand parks.

Those are the two big things, but of course I can talk about a well functioning police and fire department - we want, need and demand basic security. A well functioning and affordable health care system, well functioning sewage, access to affordable and clean water, access to affordable and clean energy.

And of course, access to a well functioning school, affordable school system. We may or may not homeschool for our kids through high school, but either way, I could see us taking advantage of our local schools. Enrolling part time in courses we can't teach ourself, taking advantage of our affordable junior college network of schools. And our lives our much better because my community is well educated. I know everyone can't home school and I demand a high quality and improving school system - public and private.

None of this is possible without a well functioning government. Lets demand our politicians to provide it and make sure they have enough resources to get these necessary jobs done with a high quality.

A well functioning government is only possible if we have a well functioning and educating and engaged electorate.