the domino project

Get Yourself In Fighting (Mental) Shape For 2014

It’s the day after Christmas.

Some are taking it easy. Others are sorting through their holiday gifts and deciding what to keep, return or exchange. Others are getting pumped up for Boxing Day sales. I’m one of those nerds that looks to see what’s on sale at the bookstore (both the digital and physical ones). The prices have all dropped, so it’s easy pickings. It’s also the perfect time to think about this because starting tomorrow (maybe even today), your brain and body are going to start moving into New Year’s headspace. And, as great (or miserable) as 2013 was, nobody wants to repeat the same year over again. Most of us want to improve – at best – or even tweak it a little bit more in the positive direction.

Combine those two worlds, and here’s a list of books that will inspire you to up your game in 2014:

  • Accidental Genius by Mark Levy. There are so many books on productivity and how to organize your ideas and thoughts. Most of them give practical tips and ideas, but few take you to the depths of how to grind through an idea and turn it into something more. Levy’s instructional techniques around freewriting – without question – will get you there. This simple and fast technique has helped me to get started on projects that have been sitting around, or to have a breakthrough on a concept where the ideas weren’t flowing. Here’s my promise to you: this book will make your work better and help you to get projects that you have been putting off to move forward. Quickly.
  • The Art of The Pitch by Peter Coughter. If you are in the marketing and communications business, then you’re pitching. Always. There have been tons of books published on how to make your pitches better, but none as strong as The Art of The Pitch. If you’re looking to win more business and win more pitches, then this is the must-have book for you.
  • Choose Yourself by James Altucher. A great, great book about the choices we make in our lives when it comes to business and getting what we want. This book is equal parts motivational and equal parts wake-up call to the new realities of business. On top of that, Altucher is one of the best and brightest business writers out there. The book is easy, accessible, funny and profound. You will think differently about your work after reading this amazing book.
  • Do The Work by Steven Pressfield. This book was published on Seth Godin‘s The Domino Project imprint. It’s a modernized and abridged version of Pressfield’s seminal book, The War of Art. If you’re struggling with motivation or how to just “put your ass where your heart is,” as Pressfield says, this book will help you meet and battle what he calls, “The Resistance.” A brilliant and fast read.
  • Linchpin by Seth Godin. When people think of Seth Godin, they often think of Purple Cow or Permission Marketing or The Dip. I think of Linchpin. It’s one of Seth’s bigger/longer books (and for good reason). The subtitle of the book is, “Are You Indispensible?” This book defines what it means to be indispensible in the work that you do, and how to chart the course. This book is indispensible if you’re looking to be indispensible. I read this one every year… around this time of year.
  • Little Red Book Of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer. I used to think that the notion of selling was icky. I first came across Gitomer’s work by reading The Sales Bible well over a decade ago. What I quickly realized is that Gitomer doesn’t teach you how to sell anything. Sadly, we equate sales with manipulation, and that is not Gitomer’s game. Like Altucher, Gitomer is hilarious and fun to read. HIs books are quick, actionable but – most importantly – practical. Another book you should read and re-read at this time of the year, to get you in the mood to make some moves.
  • Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. This book came out in 2005 and helped me better understand two major forces that the most successful people deploy that most of the rest of the population take for granted. One, the power of networking. Not for networking’s sake, but to build a viable community. Two, the ability to use moments like breakfast, lunch and supper to meet and connect – one on one – with people you do not normally connect with. It amazes me how the bulk of the population eat with the same people at work – each and every day. Those with valuable networks get access to opportunities that most can only dream of. This book will help you create the framework.

Now, it’s your turn. Which are the books that inspire you to do big things?

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Are Creative Types Just A Bunch Of Slackers?

When you think of creative types, what do you think of?

If they are creatives and they work in the marketing industry, most people think of individuals wearing shorts, t-shirts and bouncing rubbery objects off of their walls until its lunchtime or until an idea strikes. For others, it’s a scene out of the movie Limitless, where Bradley Cooper is a wannabe writer who has a publishing contract and a literary agent, but he spends his time seeking out inspiration by doing anything (and, I do mean anything) but the hard work of putting the words on to paper or a screen. It’s not wrong to say that creatives are often given a bad rap. For the most part, their reputations are often summed up in one word: slackers.

It’s simply not true. 

Recently, Jerry Seinfeld was on Howard Stern and it was one of the most fascinating pieces of content I’ve consumed in a very long time (you can listen to it here). Stern (like me) is fascinated with the mechanics of standup comedy and how Jerry puts together a set. Much in the same way that I love the Paris Review because of the way they not only interview authors but dissect their work environment and writing habits. Seinfeld is obsessive. He works on jokes like he’s sitting on the assembly line: day in and day out. Tinkering with it. Wordsmithing it. Perfecting the timing. It’s the complete opposite of doing nothing. You can’t look at authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and not be impressed with their output. It takes other authors years to pull together enough words to call it a book. It’s not a question of speed (some have it, while others don’t), but it is a question of habits. I was first introduced to the concept of bringing a blue-collar work ethic to the creative space in Steven Pressfield‘s amazing book, The War Of Art. It was re-introduced to me when he updated some of the concepts for the book, Do The Work (which was a part of Seth Godin‘s The Domino Project publishing imprint). I used to believe that writing (whether it’s a book, article or blog post) is a lot easier when you know you’re not the only one suffering to find the idea and the words to match it. I’ve since changed my ways. My views were further changed during my book launch event for CTRL ALT Delete that happened at the Google office in NYC a few months back. I was fortunate enough to have a live conversation on stage with Seth Godin. Someone in the crowd asked us about our writing output and Godin stated that he doesn’t believe in writer’s block because there is no such thing as thinker’s block or talker’s block and he likes to write like he talks (you can watch the video footage of our conversation below).

What it’s really all about.

I am about 70% through an amazing book called, Daily Rituals – How Artists Work, by Mason Currey. It looks at everyone from Hemingway to Kafka and beyond. The book features writers, painters, architects and artists. Some entries are short, while others are more well-documented. Through the ages, there are three common threads that keep coming up that, to me, that demonstrate why we consider these individuals great. It also demonstrates just how absurdly wrong our perception is of the creative class.

  1. Hard work. There are no entries about people who wandered around the local pub scene, partied late into the night and magically were able to create great work. Some of these artists are early risers (we’re talking 4 am wake-ups), while others were able to work deep into the night (we’re talking about going to sleep at 4 am). All of them brought a rigid work ethic to what it was that they were creating and – for the most part – were somewhat obsessive with delivering something of excellence. This hard work and dedication is not about how many hours they spent on something, but every one of them spent countless hours during the day hard at work on getting the work done. It only be defined as the opposite of slacking and procrastinating. They were on a tight schedule. 
  2. Take notes. When these people weren’t spending their working day toiling towards perfection and on a schedule, they were taking notes. Some kept notebooks on their night tables, while others would frequently be seen out and about, but off in a corner taking notes or working through a problem. I’m reminded of a story that famed author Jeffrey Gitomer once told me about his father and how he would always be writing notes on a pad of paper that he kept with him. When Jeffrey asked him what he was writing, his father would reply, “I’m doing my homework.” The world’s most admired creatives do a lot of homework by taking a lot of notes when they’re not “on the job.”
  3. They walk. Through the decades, each and every one of these creative types took time – every day – to go for a long and/or vigorous walk. Yes, they would often stop and take notes as well, but they would frequently go out for an extended period to think, ponder or spend time with family and friends. While some would walk alone, others would walk with their spouses or partners. Each and every one of them found time to do some kind of deep and intensive physical exercise, but – more often than not – it was walking. It feels like it was done as a holistic exercise. One that moved the body, mind and spirit.

So, the next time you’re not feeling creative, it may be best to stop wondering about where that next idea is going to come from and ask yourself if you have dedicated daily rituals that will let the million flowers bloom. 

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