Self reliance

Last September, my son’s first grade teacher proudly said during the parents’ orientation session that one of her main goals for the year was that children finish the year able consistently to follow instructions.

Hmmm.  Useful to be sure, but it left me feeling empty.

School is a funny thing.  It teaches us so many valuable lessons.   It gives a set of tools that, historically, has helped us to succeed.  Yet it also passes along a subtle, unstated, pernicious notion: someone else out there knows better than you do.  Your teacher.  The expert.  The guy who wrote the textbook.

We have a first grade class with kids brimming with curiosity, and we have a chance to decide what, and how, to teach them.  In our decision to teach them to follow the schedule and listen to the teacher, do we instill a quiet but powerful notion of self-doubt, a need to stay within the lines, a belief that someone else knows best?

They say youth is wasted on the young, and it may also be that the work of great authors is also wasted on the young as well.  Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self Reliance was required high school reading at a time when I was in no position to have an opinion on whether I was trusting myself too much, too little, or just right.

Now’s the time to reread it, and The Domino Project has it ready for you here (sorry, the 100 limited edition hardcover copies already sold out), replete with relevant new reflections from the likes of Jesse Dylan, Steve Pressfield, and Milton Glaser.

Now you may be asking yourself how relevant an essay written in 1841 will feel, but I promise this baby is worth the reread.  It is a full-on kick-in-the-pants, and on the off chance you don’t find it inspiring (very unlikely), I’m sure you’ll impress someone with a great quotation about inconsistency being the hobgoblin of little minds (yes, that’s Emerson).  So, again, you can buy it here.

Here’s the bonus: you can sign up to a self-reliance pledge, with the support and daily encouragement of our friends at the Domino Project.   They’ll be putting up daily prompts from cool, inspiring bloggers/thinkers/rabble-rousers on (or you can get them by email) to help you stay inspired and keep on listening to the person who knows best: you.

Learn from the bards and sages in your life.  Absorb everything you can of their wisdom and experience.  Stand on their shoulders and honor them by developing a deep, abiding, fierce and humble conviction in what you believe.

In the words of Emerson, “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages.”

Good posts, bad posts, and the dragon

I have a confession to make: yesterday’s post wasn’t really finished.  I simply ran out of time, and even though I wanted to give it another read, to tweak it some, to tighten it and make it a little punchier, I just couldn’t.

So I published it.

And you know what?  I bet you didn’t notice, because my own inner critic screams a heck of a lot louder than you do.  And if you did notice, you probably didn’t care all that much.

I just finished Stephen Pressfield’s manifesto Do the Work (available for FREE on Kindle), the second book published by The Domino Project.  It’s an entire book about the Resistance, a malevolent force (an actual dragon) out to fight you to the death, to stop you in your tracks, to keep you from producing great art and for sharing your gifts with the world.

It will take you about two hours to read this book, and I promise it will stick with you for the rest of your life.  Every time you start to hesitate, to hold back, to put off something even a little bit, you’ll know that dragon is out there leering at you, snickering in the knowledge that he might win another round.

That dragon was telling me not to post yesterday, was telling me the post wasn’t good enough.   Tomorrow it will tell me that I don’t have a post in me, or if I do come up with something, it will tell me that what I do have to say isn’t good enough or insightful enough or clever enough to make it worth reading.

My ace in the hole is that I’ve already shipped.  I do it every day. I know how to win this battle.

And so do you.  Fight on!

(Here’s the link again to Do the Work, free on Kindle, in case something or someone held you back from getting it the first time.  Pressfield is the real deal, the author of 8 books, and he knows of what he speaks.)

My impulse book purchase

Last week, for the second time, a friend recommended a book to me.  Rather than let the idea pass, I brought it right away on my iPhone to be read later on my Kindle, for $5.99.

The next day, she brought me a paper copy of the book for me to read. Suddenly I had two copies.

This has never happened to me before: making an impulse book purchase so fast that I ended up with two copies. In fact, for most people (outside of the most avid readers and book-buyers) “impulse book purchase” used to be oxymoronic.

No longer.

The demise of print newspapers and magazines has led to a chorus proclaiming the end of books.  I don’t buy it.  When the price of the book is (or could be) within the vicinity of the price of ringtones – 2.6 billion of those have been downloaded – and, perhaps more relevant, when the price sits somewhere between the going rate of an iPhone app and an iPad app AND they’re just as easy to acquire, there’s no reason to believe that people are going to buy fewer books, but there’s lots of reason to believe that how people buy “books” and what people buy will look a lot more like lots of other things we know about (online content, apps, games) than they will like the book business today.

That’s why it pays to pay attention to The Domino Project.  Why the time to start building your audience, your voice, your tribe is now, not tomorrow.  And why, whether we like these changes or not, it’s time to understand and embrace them.