Conventional wisdom says that blogging as a business is dead; or if you are unwilling to accept that conclusion then you must at least accept that it has evolved from the heyday of casual blogging in the late nineties and early aughts. Recode, itself only a recent upstart after the dissolution of All Things D, recently waved the white flag, selling to Vox Media; Grantland will continue at ESPN, but without its North Star; and even Jason Kottke and Heather Armstrong , career bloggers, are sending up proverbial flares.
Yesterday, despite all of this, I set in motion the first part of a vision I’ve had for a while now, since at least a few weeks after the stumbling and quiet launch of Notably Worthless almost two years ago. I’m tripling down on blogging, though not as a business; at least not for now.
Scribnotes was born out of a dare from a friend to build my own blogging platform. I built it, used it for a while, and also offered it up to several of my friends. Then, after doing some client work, I realized I liked WordPress well enough , decided to abandon any dreams I had for Scribnotes as a blogging platform and I retired it. I tried a few other things with it until finally settling on what it is today – a place for me to share my thoughts on technology with my small corner of the world. And oh, by the way, if you happen to have a web project or idea you need help with, I’d love to chat with you about that – I design and develop websites if you have a need for that sort of thing.
I agree with the optimistic take that blogging isn’t dead, it’s just evolved. I dream big – I’d love to do this as a job one day, but then I don’t know that I have anything valuable to offer society in that form. So I’m not hanging my hat on that. In the meantime, I’m going to have fun, take my licks, and keep on blogging till I’m blue in the face.
A couple of months ago, when the nation was upended by the Ferguson and Eric Garner decisions, I was sitting at my desk contemplating what exactly this meant for our nation. I was looking at pictures from protests, and they were filled with people intensely expressing anger, anguish, and sadness. All at once I was struck with a question I wasn’t quite prepared to hear – why do we hate each other so much?
Fast forward a few weeks later and reports of police brutality and unrest are never ceasing. Baltimore is burning.
As I page through picture after picture after picture of protests, human barriers, and highly offensive defensives all I see are faces of hatred and pain. And through it all, just about the only calm I can muster comes from these words: “If we’ve ever needed you, Lord it’s now”. I’m convinced that’s our only hope.
I am quite passive in how I approach my career aspirations and this realization hit me like a ton of bricks when I read Khoi Vinh’s interview with Erika Hall. I realized that I frequently let the shimmer of encouraging, but insignificant successes stymie my pursuit of shinier, more challenging and substantial accomplishments. Particularly convicting is this description from Hall about how she found her way into writing about technology:
This is my number-one advice for anybody starting out in their career and especially after interviewing a lot of people for jobs. Having a thing you want to do in an industry and being super-excited about that thing is the hugest asset. If you just come in to a place, even if you say, “I want to have coffee,” and you talk to somebody who’s in a particular field and you say, “What you do is so kickass and I want to do it. Tell me how you did it,” that person is going to want to help you.
Sometimes people are kind of shy. They think, “Oh, I’m going to wait until there’s a job opening” or “I don’t want to take somebody’s time up.” Seriously, that’s a break for somebody who’s really advanced in their career. As long as they have any free time at all, they’ll say, “Oh, God, I could talk to all these annoying people I work with or I could go talk to a young, idealistic person who’s going to look at me like I’m their hero and talk about myself for an hour.” That is candy to an experienced professional.
I default to shyness and fear of confrontation when dealing with people and do not always follow my passions, instead opting for the conservative or safe bet. I don’t know if anything will change, but I hope this will at least help me be more mindful of my proclivity for prudence.
Words from J.D. Bentley that are almost a year old, but words that I needed to read presently:
Will waking up without an alarm clock, putting on a pot of coffee, grabbing a doughnut, and reading the news make you a better man? Not likely. Every man needs to set himself up daily against a challenge or else face an atrophied soul, a decrease in purpose, an inability to discern his own nature.
Instead, read Scripture, reflect on the writings of Marcus Aurelius or other classic texts, pray, think, prioritize. Consider the present, the time you now have and what should be accomplished by the day’s end.
I have no doubt I’ll need gentle reminders of this for weeks to come in order to establish a similarly simple and effective routine.
As I stepped into the role Bethany too often fills in our household this week – preparing myself and Reagan for the day – I was struck by the realization that I have a pretty selfish morning routine. I wake up, get clean, get dressed, eat breakfast, make coffee, gather my things and head off to work. And all the while there’s a buzz of activity going on around me in which I choose if and when to become a willing participant.
After coming to grips with the harsh reality that I need to be a more helpful participant, I also started to think about another relational shortcoming in my life that I need to consider.
Nothing in my experience with God indicates to me that He desires an isolationist life for us, and yet I too often find myself defending this tendency under the guise of a personality trait, some imagined virtuousness, or a significant strain on a resource like time or money. But in the absence of a directive from God, all of these defenses are choices or burdens that I place upon myself. It’s okay to be an introvert, but being an introvert doesn’t excuse a life dedicated to myself, or even exclusively to my family. And by that last bit, I certainly don’t mean I shouldn’t spend significant amounts of time with my family – absolutely I should – but part of my responsibility to my family is to prepare, encourage, and lead their efforts to reach out, to experience life with others. If I am unwilling to do that myself, then I’m not setting the right example for my family.
I like Andrew Sharp’s Grantland piece, Lucky and Good: How Tom Brady Became the Greatest so much, this marks the second time I’ve quoted it:
This is how sports work, and it’s actually how life works. We worship greatness and all the qualities that give birth to it, but we forget how arbitrary this can be. Think about your own life. How random were the occurrences and intersections that got you to exactly where you are? How many different things had to break just right to put you on the path you’re on?
When you look back on the successes in your life, don’t forget about all of the things that broke your way. And don’t just think about the things that propelled you forward, but also remember the barriers that were moved out of your way to keep you from stalling or moving backward. Most importantly, think about how basic some of those things might have been; say, for instance, the simple matter of geography of where you were born – America – or who you were born to. Something like that seems small and relatively insignificant, but it isn’t. And in the context and long view of eternity, it’s incredibly lucky.
No single writer, save for maybe the apostle Paul, has influenced the convergence of my spiritual and secular life the way Donald Miller has. He’s back with another book, Scary Close, and I can already tell it’s going to resonate with me in a way that Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What did before it.
From the first chapter of Scary Close:
This book is about how I realized I could have a happy life without splitting an atom or making a splash. It’s true our lives can pass small and unnoticed by the masses, and we are no less dignified for having lived quietly. In fact, I’ve come to believe there’s something noble about doing little with your life save offering love to a person who is offering it back.
Scary Close is out today in your favorite format.
Last week, Consumer Reports released the results of a recent survey they conducted with car owners. Highlights from the report included high marks from Mazda 3 owners and the Subaru Forester as the best-loved small SUV. That means our garage is batting a thousand.
Clarity is a state of mind many of us value. I’m confident in that statement because I hear others pray for it frequently. I pray for it all the time. Semantically speaking, most of us experience clarity every day; clarity of thought, processing what we observe, basic and immediate recall, and we may even remember a few details from our past with varying but relatively high percentages of success.
But what we request from God is clarity of a different sort – it’s clarity of purpose or path. Whether we’re asking for some instantaneous divine message or just some deeper understanding of the wisdom already left for us, we seek guidance for a decision we are about to make or a better explanation of a circumstance that eludes our understanding. In our most desperate moments, we cry out to God, begging Him to tell us “Why?”.
A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that I might best live my life by surrendering what little foresight I had to God. I stopped trying to understand why or what next, instead seeking more instructive nudges. I learned that making plans is a necessary enterprise of the human experience, but clinging to and relying on them an act of disobedience to God. In my youth, I perceived the Bible as boundaries on experience (to be more specific, fun experience) but I now see it as boundaries around action that, if followed, tear down boundaries on results. I find it a bit easier to receive miracles more willingly when I cease surrounding myself with walls of disbelief.
It’s entirely possible that the only clarity we are promised by God is the kind of clarity we experience when we choose to make every choice, take every leap, on faith rather than by standing on our own feeble understanding.
Watching someone you love lose their clarity of thought certainly clouds one’s own clarity of understanding. We don’t always know what to ask of God and so we just ask for anything, everything. We expect nothing, but we are so patient. I don’t know if God ever promises that we will have clarity in our lifetime, but we rely on the promise of eternity to pull us through. It is faith that fills the void when the clearness is gone.
“Oh how cute. you come with a manual.”
That was Bethany’s response when I sent her this list of tips for dealing with introverts. This list got a lot of run recently in a couple of conversations with some people close to me. Apparently, twelve things is a lot to keep track of (a similar list for extroverts exists, but there are only ten items in that list). I was asked to pare down the list to a more manageable three or four items that are personally important to me. I went with 3, 4, and 5:
- Let them observe first in new situations.
- Give them time to think; don’t demand instant answers.
- Don’t interrupt them.
There. Now you know.