The Download for April 19, 2016

The person who is waiting for something to turn up might start with their shirt sleeves.
— Garth Henrichs, writer
The things I want this week:
The lessons:
  1. Be a sponge.
  2. Narrow is a good place to start.
  3. Competition is good.
  4. Ideas are great–but execution is what matters.
  5. Spend time with people who are different from you.
  6. Getting better is messy.
  7. Innovation isn’t lightning–it’s simmering.

Harvard Business Review: How to get into a rhythm at work if you can’t stick to a schedule

If you fall at this end of the spectrum and find it hard to accept — and even harder to follow — a standard routine, maybe it’s time to stop thinking about managing your time as developing a set of strict rules to follow, and start thinking about increasing productivity as a process of finding and cultivating your unique creative rhythm — your life cadence, your beat. A way of being where there’s a central theme and recognizable melody, but also room for improvisation and blending in harmonies.

Designer and design writer Steven Bradley once quipped, “Whether or not you plan for it, your design will have rhythm running through it. Rhythm activates space. Rhythm creates mood. Rhythm can lead visitors through your design.” Rhythm can also help lead you through your time.

Melissa Camara Wilkins: What to do when the world gets noisy

To know who you are and what you’re about, you have to listen for the still, small voice inside you. You have to choose not to distract yourself from it. You have to separate yourself from all the noise and the outside opinions and the expectations that get in between your heart and your head. You have to get close enough to know what matters to you.

And yes, close is scary. Yes, close takes courage. Close means you can’t hide, and close means you could get hurt. You might make your best attempt at connection and still come away alone. Or you might connect, but discover hard things in the listening. You might have to find compassion for yourself and for others. Getting closer is scary, but it’s the only way to get past all the noise.

McKinsey Quarterly: Want to be a better leader? Observe more and react less

In my experience, though, most of today’s workers—and senior executives perhaps most of all—lack what they need, whether it’s meditation or a different approach, to balance and offset the demands of their “anywhere, everywhere” roles in today’s corporations. The famous hitter Ted Williams, at the conclusion of a long baseball season, used to go hunting and fishing to relax and recharge. Winston Churchill was an amateur painter who once said, “If it weren’t for painting, I couldn’t live. I couldn’t bear the strain of things.”

Most executives can’t disappear for long stretches to go fishing, and picking up painting sounds daunting. But they can use simple versions of proven meditation techniques to improve the quality of their lives, even if it’s only by increments. My purpose in this article isn’t to tell you whether, or how, to meditate; there are several flavors of meditation and I have only really ever tried the tradition of Vipassana.

Vitae: Monetizing the Ph.D. (Great advice on what not to do.)

Could some great idea in your research, or an original method in your academic skill set, change the world or make you rich? Are you living on ramen as a grad student, adjunct, or doomed fifth-year junior professor, while dreaming of a way to monetize that idea?

Try if you must, but please don’t do what I did.

 

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