Increasing your output by saying No

I don’t always agree with Ryan, but sometimes he comes up with golden insights, and this was one:

if you’re unhappy with your output, say “no” to things that don’t increase productivity.

Ryan Kulp

Brilliant in its simplicity. It’s so much easier to remove distractions, than to increase discipline. So much easier to try to do less things well, than to become a master at them all.

Adding creativity like Nintendo

I read this wonderful article by Matthew Ball about Nintendo and how they differ from Disney in their approach to leveraging IPs. It’s an interesting read and if you have half an hour to spare I recommend it. But in the middle of the article was with wonderful tidbit:

Creator Shigeru Miyamoto actively requires development teams to reinvent the franchise. Following the success of the first entry, a top-down action adventure game, Kotaku reports that Miyamoto-san told “the team—not the Zelda 1 team, but an entirely different team—that he wanted to make a side-scrolling action game where the player had to attack with, and defend against, high and low attacks.”

To be clear, this approach is why Nintendo is so spectacular.

Matthew Ball

If you don’t already know Mr Miyamoto is the legendary creator behind both the Mario and Zelda franchises, his creative works are second too none. I find this little legend especially interesting because Miyamoto is deliberately adding constraints instead of reusing the same tried and true pattern. Even though this is a huge financial risk.

When was the last time you did something deliberately harder?

I don’t think I’ve deliberately thrown away working patterns in my designs at any time. Definitely not in the last five years. I’m intrigued to find out what happens if I try it.

Using herd mentality to your benefit

You notice it every week; how suddenly everyone seems to be talking about that same thing. A new trend. A new thing, having its moment. But how often are these trendy topics valuable?

Now I don’t know this for a fact, but over the years I’ve noticed that trendy things are rarely, if ever, very useful. The trend usually preempts the usefulness. The real work begins when the trend is at its peak. Only after that do people discover, through trial and error, how to actually do the thing.

It will probably take a year or so until they turn around and can teach the rest of us how to use this, no longer trendy, topic in our own work.

This is good news. I think we can use this for our advantage. When I see something interesting I’ll simply write it down, and then google it a year later. By then the experiments will have been run and I can learn from the results. All that time I’m not wasting keeping up with the trend I can use to study and experiment on my own stuff.

The right project for the right time

“People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time—even when hard at work.”

Marcus Aurelius

This is something I’m thinking about today. I’m currently in the start of a new project, trying out ideas and looking for something sticky. And honestly, it’s getting me down. I’m worried, bordering on cynical.

What I’m building is interesting, bordering on fantastic, but is it the right thing?

Is this the important work? Is this the effort that will shape my life in the direction I want to go?

It’s hard to connect the dots looking forward. It’s easily looking back. Does that mean we can plot our course based on our recent history?

Creative time experiment result

In this post I outlined how I wanted to schedule creative time periods in which to work on projects instead of doing more goal oriented todo lists. The idea was that hopefully this would allow me to use my current excitement to get further instead of forcing myself to work on an old project.

Well it turns out that it is incredibly difficult to schedule creative time periods. I didn’t use the period once since I wrote that post. The times the period was allocated I was tired or similarly distracted.

Instead I find myself thinking about problems in exciting projects and writing down solutions to test when I have the time to test them. So maybe this is how I’ll work from now on.

Finding tranquility

“If you seek tranquillity, do less.” Or (more accurately) do what’s essential—what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?” But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.”

Marcus Aurelius, (translated by Gregory Hays)

If you seek tranquility, do less. Always ask yourself, is this necessary.

Words to live by.

“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse

Over ten years ago I fell in love with Herrmann Hesse because of his amazing poem Allein. I actually made a print and had it on my wall for years. So I was excited to read one of his novels. Siddhartha is the story of an indian man living in parallel with the Buddha. Much like The Alchemist it tells a story of personal enlightenment from the perspective of a young man travelling.

It’s a short read and thought provoking. Beautiful prose. But I think I’m more likely to recommend The Alchemist to friends.

“Wisdom that a wise man attempts to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness.””

— Hermann Hesse in Siddhartha