Tag: cal newport

Cutting Stone

“When I started both of my books, at first I fell into the same mindset trap of thinking too far ahead — “OMG, 100,000 words to go, why did I get myself into this?!?” Now I keep the phrase “cutting stone” on a little white board on my desk, a reminder just to take each single, barely perceptible axe-chop at the stone at a time, and eventually it will be ground to dust.”

Dave Epstein, ‘Start Where You Are

“People say to me, ‘Oh, you’re so prolific’…God, it doesn’t feel like it—nothing like it. But, you know, you put an ounce in a bucket each day, you get a quart.”

John McPhee quoted in Cal Newport’s ‘Slow Productivity‘ post.

Squid Game

In his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hwang Dong-hyuk, creator of the Netflix series Squid Game, clarified an inaccurate story circulating in the media about how he came to write and eventually acquire funding for the series:

“… there seems to be this common misunderstanding emerging that I wasn’t doing anything else and just focusing on Squid Game for about 10 years, and this made us a blockbuster success somehow. But that wasn’t really the case. In 2009, when it didn’t work out for me to get the necessary investment for the initial feature film piece I was envisioning, I put Squid Game aside. And I went on to create three other movies, and all of those were successful. So, I mean, it’s not like I didn’t do anything else in between and then had this sudden blockbuster success. It’s kind of been misconceived that way in some places, so I just wanted to clarify that a bit.”

This made me think of three things:

First, it’s interesting how the media can create false narratives by omitting information, whether intentional or not.

Second, this post by Cal Newport on Galileo. The timescale for Galileo’s scientific accomplishments was longer than we assumed from the history books, and that’s okay.

Third, believe in your work.

Dare to Be Stupid

In her essay “Copying to Create: The Role of Imitation and Emulation in Developing Haiku Craft” Michele Root-Bernstein quotes Picasso on the importance of copying and imitation:

“You should constantly try to paint like someone else. But the thing is, you can’t! You would like to. You try. But it turns out to be a botch… and it’s at the very moment you make a botch of it that you’re yourself.”

These days I don’t like to botch anything. Even though I’m aware from books on performance and deliberate practice that mistakes and blunders made in the direction of improvement are what result in the improvement sought, I hesitate. It feels counter-intuitive and wrong because it’s hard (and if it’s hard that means I’m doing it wrong, right?). No, as it turns out.

In Tip #5 (“Be Willing to Be Stupid”) of The Little Book of Talent Daniel Coyle writes:

“Feeling stupid is no fun. But being willing to be stupid – in other words, being willing to risk the emotional pain of making mistakes – is absolutely essential, because reaching, failing, and reaching again is the way your brain grows and forms new connections.”

Cal Newport recalls a story in So Good They Can’t Ignore You about Jordan Tice, a successful professional guitar player, and his deliberate practice. Like Jordan Cal also started playing guitar in his teens and toured with a band but unlike Jordan he soon plateaued because he didn’t want to push himself further. “There’s a mental strain,” Cal says, “that accompanies feeling your way through a tune that’s not ingrained in muscle memory, and I hated that feeling.” But Jordan learnt to enjoy the strain and the initial clumsiness of early attempts.

So keep reaching. Be stupid and learn.