This American’s Life

This American Life recently broadcast its 500th episode which was a remembrance of staff favorites (more here).

I really can’t overstate the importance of This American Life in this American’s (my) life. The show started in 1995, which was my first semester at OU. In 1997 I moved into 614 South Lahoma, a house I shared with a menagerie of other scholarship students who are still my good friends today. We refer to ourselves as “614”. I had a room on the 2nd floor facing the street. The house had a giant fan in the roof; when it was on it would pull air in the windows. Taking naps on my bed by the window with the breeze flowing over me is one of my favorite memories of college. It was in that room I discovered public radio. I was sliding through frequencies on my radio and all of a sudden I recognized music. My mother had listened to NPR in our kitchen – I’d never paid attention – and the tones I recognized were from All Things Considered. I started listening – partially because it reminded me of my Mom – and soon I found This American Life.

My first memory of This American Life is hearing the conventions episode, specifically at 51:96 where John Perry Barlow tells what happened on the plane. That was the moment I fell in love with this art I was hearing come out of my radio. This American Life would be with me later in that apartment on Division Street in Chicago, in that basement apartment in Seattle with the spiders, and on the road between all those places. I consider myself a collector of TAL, I think I have all the mp3s. Thier voices have been with me everywhere I’ve been. The recent episode on bung made me laugh and smile for days.

I consider Ira Glass a personal hero (as well as those less famous members of his staff, present and past). This American Life is a model of sustained brilliance and excellence that I use as a benchmark to strive for in all of my endeavors, business and personal, creative and otherwise.  Ira’s series on storytelling made me think I could try to tell stories of my own.

Congratulations to Ira and This American Life. Your lives, in a very real way, have touched the life of this American.

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If You Are Going To Self Publish, Buy APE First

A few months ago I ran across Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch’s new book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. I asked if I could get a copy to review and I’m very glad I did. In my non-publishing life I’ve done software and project management. In each of those cases I had books that I’d return to at the start of a project to remind myself how to do things right; how to start the project on the right foot.

I did that with A.P.E. on my upcoming project (not quite ready to announce – hint, hint). I revisited it throughout the startup phase of my project and I’m very glad I did. It got my head in the right place and reminded me of some things I’d forgotten since last time. It’s chock full of reference material that will remain evergreen. I’ve done the authoring phase and am about to enter the publishing and entrepreneuring phase of this project. I will keep A.P.E. at hand throughout the process.

Before you self publish, buy APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Kawasaki and Welch.

Precommittment In Action, Or: My Cousin’s Quest To Write A Novel

Precommittment is an idea I’ve been familiar with for some time. “Burn the ships” is the most common expression of this idea, Hernán Cortés having burned his ships to “precommit” his men to conquering the Aztec empire (but perhaps a more accurate phrase would be “scuttle the ships“). You can also throw out all the junk food to precommit yourself to eating healthy. This idea is expressed well in the exceptional book Willpower by Baumeister & Tierney.

Slate has a good article on The Odysseus Option here:

That’s why truly binding precommitment devices are so interesting. The first known practitioner of such voluntary bondage was wily Odysseus, en route home from the Trojan War. As his ship approached the Sirens, he was determined to hear their song without, well, going overboard. Necessity being the mother of invention, he invented history’s first precommitment device. “You must bind me tight with chafing ropes,” our hero instructs inRobert Fagles’ translation, “so I cannot move a muscle, bound to the spot, erect at the mast-block, lashed by ropes to the mast. And if I plead, commanding you to set me free, then lash me faster. …”

What a moment! The Odyssey is really all about self-control, and Odysseus’ foresight and skill at managing desire explains why he—and he alone—survives the harrowing journey back to Ithaca. His actions in this instance set the standard for all who would later enlist others to compel themselves to follow their own commands.

My cousin, Hadley Barrows, is putting this idea into practice. She’s precommitted to writing a novel by posting about it on her blog. She’s very good about goal-type things. You can read about it in her first post here:

My New Goal: Write a Novel

and her follow up post here:

Write a Novel: May Update

I admire her approach and wish her the best of success. I’ve started a new novel as well (about 12,000 words in) but I’m not quite ready to precommit to a launch date. Perhaps I’ll eventually follow my cousin’s lead and precommit in this space. Until then I’m not committing (or precommitting) to anything.

(P.S. Thanks for the review Hadley and I can’t wait to see you at the cabin in a few weeks!)

One Of My Favorite Reviews

This four-star review on Amazon is one of my favorites:

“I absolutely loved this book. It was an easy read and such a heartwarming story. Although there was a lot of tragedy, love and faith prevailed.” – LittleWilma
That just says it so perfectly. Having people like the book like this is one of the main reasons I wrote this book.