Caia, Mozambique – Help Good, Hardworking People

I’ve been to Caia, Mozambique. It where my sponsored child Cabe lives. I’ve been in his hut and met his father Armindo. They are good people. They have a school there and are working hard to educate their kids. They could use a little more help though. Please take a minute and read this Food For The Hungry blog post about Caia. If you decide to give – or get your church partnered with this area – I promise your dollars will have real impact on good, hardworking people.

Announcing A New Project & Kickstarter Contest

As does @wilw from time to time, I got excited and made a thing.

The thing I made – a 99 cent eBook that you can download here – is the introduction to a series of fifty short novels, tentatively titled Fifty States Of Grace*, that I plan to write (over many years). Each short novel will be set in a different U.S. state. I’m also hoping to build a “crowdsourced” community around these novels that will help me:

  • Determine the order of states the main character (Austin Trenton) will visit
  • Get ideas about places items could be hidden in each state
  • Get ideas about plot twists & the “wrongs Austin should right” in each state
  • Help find typos and errors
  • Have people help shape these novels as they evolve

In order to determine the first state Austin should visit I’ve launched a Kickstarter project which this video will now explain (it also summarizes the plot):

If you think this idea could grow wings please back the Kickstarter project now. It’s very easy – you just use your Amazon account.

Other ways you could pitch in if you were so inclined:

Thanks for your help! Back your home state now!

* “Fifty States Of Grace” is a tentative title because I’ve received feedback that it’s too close to “Fifty Shades Of Grey”. Help me think of a better title!

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.

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!)