An Exciting Project: 10 Million Words

For 2010, Tim Challies has embarked on what I consider to be an exciting challenge: 10 Million Words.

10 Million Words is a year-long project by Tim Challies to learn about life and culture through the lens of all of America’s bestselling books.

Tim, a Canadian, will be reading all of the New York Times’ non-fiction bestselling books in 2010. He is doing this to:

America’s bestselling books tell us, I’m sure, who America is, who her people are, at this time and place. Surely they will give me a glimpse into the world’s most powerful, the world’s most fascinating nation.

So why am I doing it? That is a fair question and one that does not offend me in the least. There are a few answers. First, I love to read and this project gives me an opportunity to read a lot. That, as I see it, is a good thing. Second, it is a challenge and I like to face a good challenge. I expect this project to involve at least ten million words of reading–break that down and you’ll see that it comes to at least three books per week over the course of an entire year. Third, I am interested in the cultural and worldview implications of all of these books. They will provide, I’m sure, a snapshot of where America is at as she enters a new decade. And for me, as a Canadian who spends a fair amount of time wandering the United States and who has family living in the United States, this stands to be particularly interesting.

Tim’s project excites me, and I’d love to embark on a similar project, except that I read a little too slowly. I like to study ideas though. As I look back through history, I like to focus on what ideas had the most influence on a culture. Just as the enlightenment had a massive influence on America’s founders, Robespierre had an influence on the French Revolution.

I’m excited by Tim’s challenge and I’m eagerly following along by his RSS feed in Google Reader. I can’t wait to see what conclusions he is able to draw from studying the ideas behind a years worth of non-fiction bestsellers.

How To Achieve Your Goals: Write Them Every Day

Somewhere in the last two weeks, I came across a tip Brian Tracy put in his email about writing your goals down every day. I saved the email for later, and decided to follow the tip.

Somehow, my brain remembered it as “Write your top 10 goals down every morning”, so I began that day. I’ve had times in the past when I would read my goals out loud every morning, but I’ve never written them, with a pen, daily. I decided to give it a try.

So, every morning, I’d take out my Moleskine and write 10 goals. I somehow managed to get 10 goals out of my head and onto paper, and ran with them for now.

I discovered something interesting. As I wrote my goals out every morning, they began to refine themselves. I realized that 4 goals could be combined into 2 goals, making room for 2 more on my list of 10. I can’t say I’ve had that happen to me. At one point in the past, I set a goal, and after looking at it every day decided “nah, I don’t want to do that” and changed direction.

Then, yesterday, I reread the email from Brian Tracy. This is what the section ACTUALLY said:

Goal Setting
Every morning, take three to five minutes to write out your top goals in the present tense. Get a spiral notebook for this purpose. By writing out your ten goals at the beginning of each day, you will program them deep into your subconscious mind.

I’ve never been good with writing down a desired outcome in the present tense. It always felt kind of hokey to me. But, I have nothing to lose right now. I’d like to see a change of direction in at least one area of my life, specifically, the area of my life that brings in the money. I’m at a low point right now. It’s a long story, and if you’ve followed my last few weeks of entries, you realize that I need to erect some boundaries in what I share with other people. Go ahead and read my back entries through November, then keep going. These blog posts don’t read themselves.

OK, writing goals in the present tense. I decided to try it because I have nothing to lose. I wrote all 10 of my goals in the present tense, as if they already happened (i.e. “I own an iPad”). Just kidding on that one, but you should get the point.

Something strange happened: I looked at my goals in a different light. I reworded a couple of them, but I was forced to consider if more of my goals were really where I wanted to end up. I also realized that looking at my goals in the present tense, 3 of them end up in the same place, so they’re really just the means to the end of a single goal.

Consider this scenario. You set a goal “I want a big house.” Now, look at it in the present tense: “I have a big house”. Think about it. “Uh-oh! I have a big house. Man, this thing takes a lot of time to clean, and it costs a fortune to air condition. I live in New Jersey, and the property taxes are astronomical! Did I really want a house this big?”

It’s hard to describe, but I guess I can say, looking at my goals in the present tense also showed me the consequences of those goals. It made me wonder if that is really where I wanted to end up after all.

I’m going to keep up with this exercise and see where it ends up. Hopefully, it ends up with my goals met.

What about you? What techniques do you use to set and meet your goals? Have you tried writing them every day in the present tense?

Tired of Printed Bibles? Try the iBible…

This is hilarious!

“…and a parental lock for the Song of Solomon and verses with ‘ass’ in them.”

What Exactly Is The Point To Small Talk?

Recently, in the middle of typing out a blog post, I had an epiphany. It was about small talk. I’d always known that when people ask you “How’s it going?”, they usually have no interest in how “it’s going” for you. They just want a generic answer from you.

It hadn’t actually occurred to me that any questions beyond “How’s it going?” fell under the same conditions.

I’ve started to wonder if I have Asperger’s syndrome in at least a small degree. Penelope Trunk has been writing about it lately. I’m not “that bad”, but I do tend to have a poor grasp of some social customs. Like, if you ask me how it’s going, I want to actually tell you how it’s going, even if it’s going bad. In my mind, if you didn’t want to hear it, you wouldn’t have asked.

I also wonder if my mom had some form of Asperger’s. She was far worse than me. Either I learned social interaction from her the wrong way, or we both had some form of Asperger’s. Not much I can do about it now.

Back to the point of this post, I have to wonder, what is the point to small talk? If we ask each other how we’re doing but we’re not supposed to care how each other are doing because we’re not really friends, then what’s the point?

Think about it: this could revolutionize church, the workplace, children’s activities, just about anything. I hope I never pull this off, but consider this scenario:

Casual acquaintance: Hey, how’s it going?

Me (or you): Look, you don’t really care how I’m doing, and I don’t really care how you’re doing. You’re just asking me for pointless small talk, not to build a relationship. Let’s just save ourselves the trouble.

That’s kind of ugly. I guess we’re all better off enduring the pointless small talk. But I still wonder what the point is.

Here’s what I’ll do to improve myself: rather than use small talk to run the conversation like I usually do, I will attempt to use each small talk to learn something about the person subjecting me to the pointless small talk.

What about you? Are you willing to either cut out the pointless small talk, or try to redirect it into something productive, like forming real relationships with other people?

So, What Do YOU Think of the iPad?

Today Apple announced the iPad,which has been referred to by fans as the Tablet for a while. I was getting sick of hearing about the Tablet. I was kind of hoping that it would turn out to be a figment of fans’ imaginations.

I watched the Gizmodo liveblog of the event this afternoon at work. I wasn’t interested in the Tablet, but I did want to know if the iPhone will see a software update anytime soon.

The name is cheesy. I saw Jason Dunn mention on Twitter that Apple must be moving into the feminine hygiene market now. I wanted to laugh, but there was too much activity around my cubicle again.

Through most of the event, I just couldn’t find anything to be impressed about. The iPad looks like an oversized iPhone. I already have an iPhone. But when they mentioned iWork, that got me interested. I do like the idea of being able to surf the Internet, check email, update Twitter, look at pictures, read books, and watch movies or listen to music on the go. That’s why I have an iPhone in the first place. I couldn’t make the intellectual leap as to why an iPhone that wouldn’t fit in my pocket would be a good idea.

Until I heard that you can actually work on the thing. I don’t do a lot of presentations. I’m hoping I can start doing some freelance writing soon, and the mobility and battery life are fairly attractive to me. It got me interested, anyway. I still think a MacBook Pro would be better for me.

As a technology blogger, I would be falling asleep at the switch if I didn’t offer a prediction. Here’s my prediction: this will be the last time Apple designs a product just because its fans and critics wouldn’t shut up about building a product.

That or it will be insanely successful and will revolutionize mobile computing.

Or a third option that I lack the imagination to see.

All I can say is I’m not that excited by it yet.

The Most Useless Career Advice

There’s a piece of career advice going around lately that I find useless. It’s comparable to frugality tips like “Just spend less than you make” or health tips like “Just burn more calories than you eat”.

It’s not that the advice isn’t sound in at least a few ways. It’s just that it’s what everybody says. To me, that makes it useless. It doesn’t add anything to the conversation. It sure as heck doesn’t add anything to my career.

The useless advice?

“If you have a job in this economy, just stay in it. You’re lucky to have it.”

Like I said, I hear it from everybody. I know it. Telling me (or anybody else) that piece of advice doesn’t help. I know that having a job, even a bad one, is a good thing in this economy.

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Busy Is A Form Of Laziness?

I can’t explain why, but the last week I’ve become obssessed with The Four Hour Work Week. If you haven’t read the book, get it. I’ve listened to the audiobook 3 1/2 times in the last week. I guess I’m hoping something will click and I’ll be on my way to not having to work in a cubicle and actually enjoying some time off.

This morning I was listening to the audiobook again while I was working on a requirements traceability matrix. Yeah, the audiobook was far more exciting than the work, but I did it to myself back in November.

While I was listening to the book, I heard something that made me jerk upright. I don’t know if this was a qoute that Tim Ferriss wrote in the book himself or quoted somebody else. “Busy is a form of laziness.”

We all know somebody who is always too busy to do something that should be important. I just ranted about a few such people last week, including one who’s busyness got in the way of a job that should have been easy for me to get into.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Have you ever hidden behind being busy to avoid doing something important? Do you know someone who always seems to be busy but you can’t figure out what they’re actually doing?