Grit & Stick-to-it-iveness

Photo Credit • Standard Grit Flag

Grit is something that I’ve heard a lot, but not something that I’ve really taken the time to unearth its true meaning. After listening to my fine friends Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann talk bout it on episodes 87 and 88 of their podcast Back to Work, I began to have a better grasp of what this concept really is.

Grit is essentially what makes you do something when you don’t want to do it. It is the descriptive word we use when describing someone who is motivated to see a goal carried out, even when it sucks to be doing so, because the end goal is enough of a motivation to press on through the crap.

Paul Tough Describes this concept vis–à–vis children in his book How Children Succeed. In his interview on an episode of This American Life he discusses the struggle that children have with the traditional ways we measure intelligence and cognitive ability, but is that really giving us a true picture of what children will succeed?

They talk about the focus on cognitive abilities, conventional “book smarts.” They discuss the current emphasis on these kinds of skills in American education, and the emphasis standardized testing, and then turn our attention to a growing body of research that suggests we may be on the verge of a new approach to some of the biggest challenges facing American schools today. Paul discusses how “non-cognitive skills” — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education…

With that in mind, how are we setting up children to succeed in a world that isn’t going to think for them? I fight this same struggle of hearing that life is supposed to be easier, more relaxing, more comfortable, yet anything worth doing is a lot of work and discipline. Anything worth doing requires a level of “stick-to-it-iveness” that many of us (myself included) don’t just have by default. We have to overcome our nature to be successful.

This whole concept begs the question: Can grit be learned or is it merely something you have or you don’t? Discipline is something we look to others and uphold, but how do we measure the potential for that in ourselves?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that whatever it takes to do more than I’m doing with more purpose, I want to be constantly pursuing that.


Day One Journaling App

Day One IconI have done a lot of doodling and writing on paper without much purpose for pretty much my entire coherent life, yet none of it has been in any kind of consistent or single location. Ever. I’ve always kind of thought that a journal was more just a diary for boys, so I just wrote anywhere, but it was always a hot mess lacking organization.

Enter Day One. I have been using this app since the day it was released, and I can only scratch the surface in telling you how much it’s changed the way I record and reflect on my every day.

Having both Mac & iOS clients means that I’m rarely ever more than a few taps or clicks away from recording a moment. Having it be private and secure allows me to reflect honestly and think out loud without clouding my mind with the fear of someone stumbling onto my scrawlings.

In many ways it’s lessened what I tweet (and sadly, also cut into the amount I write here) because I often simply just want to savor a memory of a particular event or experience, but not necessarily broadcast it to the world. I love having it as a journal to record Maria and I’s memories together of the places we go, or the experiences we have that writing/sharing online just isn’t the proper platform for. Even just for personal ideas, or future endeavors, it’s a great place to save such things because it’s completely searchable.

This is only a very small facet of why I highly recommend Day One if you have any desire to create a written or photo journal of any kind. Day One and the fellows at Bloom have offered me a nearly resistance free writing habit that I couldn’t give up now.


Full Screen Screen Sharing via AppleScript & Alfred in Mountain Lion

Use Alfred and applescript for Screen Sharing instances in Mountain Lion

I use Alfred to do a plethora of things on my mac, and while it works well as an application launcher, that’s merely the tip of the iceberg. I could go into a laundry list of things I use it for, but this particular post I’ll focus on Screen Sharing. I’ve used Screen Sharing a lot as a time saver for either technical support for friends, or to access other computers on my local network. It’s easy enough to go to that networked computer in Finder, click Screen Share, enter your password, and viola! However, doing that hundreds of times grew cumbersome. Knowing I wasn’t the first person to think of using AppleScripting to do this, I turned to the internets and found someone who’d beat me to it. Thankfully Alfred can also run those scripts from itself with a simple key command, so it was a matter of copy/paste, change computer name, and good to go.

However in Mountain Lion, they’ve changed something with the way that System Events calls windows, and suddenly all my (two-dozen or so Screen Share commands don’t work anymore. After some tinkering and trial & error I discovered this fix:

Turns out, if you call the application Screen Sharing twice, it will bring the dialog box back to front focus so it can allow System Events to run it’s magic and get you logged in. I’ve also added a bit at the end that runs after a 2-Second delay that turns it to a fullscreen instance so it’s able to run at maximum resolution. If you’ve got it setup properly in Alfred it should look something like this:

Proper Setup

That’s it, I hope it was helpful, and again I’m by no means anything more than a tinkerer when it comes to this kind of stuff, so if you know of a better way, I’d love your insight.

➤ Update

Jeroen let me know in his comment of a way he’d made his AppleScripts work in Mountain Lion to get Screen Sharing working, and it got me thinking of ways that I could do this in a different way on a deeper level without having to do the login auth. I discovered you can actually cut out a ton of the rigamarole by doing the following:

Not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before, but you can use vnc:// almost anywhere in OS X to start a Screen Sharing session (you can even type it into Safari). This cuts out a ton of the lines from my original script, launches instantly without the dialog box, and I wouldn’t have thought of it without Jeroen‘s comment.

Thanks again man!


Moonrise Kingdom

Unless you’ve been under a rock or perhaps were just recently born, yet gifted with a computer, and the ability to use and understand it immediately, you’ve probably heard of the recently released cinematic adventure directed by Wes AndersonMoonrise Kingdom. I’ve been wanting to see this movie since I’d first heard about it, as I not only love Wes Anderson’s style, but I was quickly swooned by the beautiful poster typography created by the infamous Jessica Hische.

I have always admired Wes Anderson’s Style, and this particular film did not disappoint. Captivating story telling that really brings the characters to life, beautifully shot and composed scenes that coupled-with and enhanced the story perfectly, and an excellent award winning cast made this movie a big win. Writing about this movie and do it justice is like trying to dance about architecture, so it’s one you really just need to see for yourself. I honestly can’t wait to see it again.

“So impressed with Moonrise Kingdom. It’s like Anderson figured out how to keep his touch, but loosen his grip. Taking notes…”
— Frank Chimero (@fchimero) July 9, 2012

Check out the trailer, get some tickets, and go see it while it’s still in theaters.


Sharing in Collaboration

When people think of collaboration, they often think of the sharing of ideas together sitting around a table. But often collaboration can just mean working together on a project that has already been defined, and hoping to make it the best it can be along the way by working together. However, actually sharing within that environment requires an extra level of vulnerability. It requires you to risk giving away your best idea, questioning someone else,s, or revealing your secret sources. All too often collaboration is limited to working together to produce something, when really it’s an opportunity create through learning from one another.

Don’t limit yourself to successes.

We all like success stories, especially when they’re our own. We love to celebrate when our team or someone on it succeeds, but do we value the failures as highly? Often these are the lessons and advice that no one wants to learn from, but they’re a crucial part of the creative ideation process. Nothing tells you what could work more than finding out what doesn’t. The more you can separate what won’t be effective, the more you can focus on the right answer. Experimenting in the creative process is essential, and digging into the reason why someone wouldn’t/didn’t work is crucial to a trajectory of continuous improvement.

Don’t just share your successes, share where you’ve failed, what didn’t work, and why. Show people that you value them enough to prevent them from having to make the same creative mistakes that you did. Providing a place of trust and honesty is so valuable in a vulnerable team environment. If people don’t feel it’s safe to fail, they’ll always be hesitant to take risks, and risks are what keep us pushing forward. Give your team the gift of going second in sharing their failures—for me, that is collaboration.

Sharing may result in stealing.

And that’s ok. Your ideas may get taken when you share, but isn’t the purpose of a team to run with the best idea possible? If you’re keeping great ideas to yourself you’re not only cheating your team, you’re cheating yourself. Our ideas can feel like our currency in a creative world, we can feel like it’s what gives us value.

It’s not about us, it’s about our team. Giving away your ideas keeps you creating by forcing you to come up with new ones. If you always live in the world of giving away your best ideas, you’ll always be looking for another one, in which case everyone wins. Giving away what you think is your best idea often is what makes room for your next one. Creating a culture where there is value to giving away your ideas helps your team realize that it’s safe for them to give their best idea to you.

Sharing your thoughts on someone else’s work is essential to them improving. I can’t think of an instance when someone has given me brutally honest feedback on something and it didn’t make the design better. It can confirm a suspicion you were trying to ignore, or at least make you question the ‘why’ behind what you’re designing. The truth, the best, the greatest has nothing to hide. Question everything and naturally the greatest ideas will float to the top.

Share Inspiration.

We all have places books where we go to be inspired. For some it’s a location, being around certain people, a folder you have stashed in Dropbox, Dribbble, or some other well-curated website of visual goodness. While it’s tempting to hoard that inspiration to yourself, we have to share it. We’re in this together, and what good are we if we don’t keep the greater goal in mind. Akin to the idea of sharing your ideas, it gets the best ideas out there, keeping you on a constant pursuit for what’s next. That my friends is what keeps you innovating, what keeps you searching, learning, experimenting.

Don’t just work beside the people, work with them and learn from them. Being a part of team can be the most valuable asset of a creative, don’t squander the opportunity to improve with the help of those around you by trying to go it alone.