Long Haul Reinvention, Thinking in Public, and the Idle Computer

Over the last few weeks, I was happy to stumble on a few familiar topics on other places around the internet.

To begin with, it looks like James Altucher beats me when it comes to the long haul:

Time it takes to reinvent yourself: five years.

Here’s a description of the five years:

  • Year One: you’re flailing and reading everything and just starting to DO.
  • Year Two: you know who you need to talk to and network with.
  • You’re Doing every day. You finally know what the monopoly board looks like in your new endeavors.
  • Year Three: you’re good enough to start making money. It might not be a living yet.
  • Year Four: you’re making a good living
  • Year Five: you’re making wealth

Sometimes I get frustrated in years 1-4. I say, “why isn’t it happening yet?” and I punch the floor and hurt my hand and throw a coconut on the floor in a weird ritual. That’s okay. Just keep going. Or stop and pick a new field. It doesn’t matter. Eventually you’re dead and then it’s hard to reinvent yourself.

We may be off concerning the exact period of time it takes to reinvent yourself, but it may be that my own guess in How to Change Your Life in 10 Years was a bit conversative. Whether 5 or 10 years though, the take-away point is that any real transition takes a while. When it doesn’t, either of two things might be happening:

  1. We’re looking at an outlier rather than the new norm. Buying into their “secret to success” won’t do a thing for us.
  2. We’re looking at the faux overnight success of someone who put in a lot of effort behind the scenes (or before jumping on the stage). If we want to copy their secret, it would come down to “do your thing and keep your head down”.


Next up, Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) on his approach to blogging – which seems to entail experiment as method and looks akin to what I called “thinking in public” recently:

In this case, my system involved publicly experimenting with a variety of writing styles and topics and closely monitoring the reactions of readers. I was honing my writing skills and my understanding of the reading public. I didn’t have a specific goal. I was aiming for “better.”

I reasoned that my system would generate good opportunities for me in ways I couldn’t predict with any precision. That’s what makes it a system and not a goal. I was simply improving my odds that something good would happen. I just didn’t know when it might happen or in what form it would come.

Turns out his blogging ventures lead Adams to writing opportunities at the Wall Street Journal, which later led to a book deal. Yet another example for how the long haul works once you start publishing content online. (And in case you don’t get the book deal, here’s Hugh Howey’s very positive take on self-publishing along with some impressive numbers.)


Finally, a sweet idleness-related line in a software review by John Siracusa:

A rule of thumb emerges [for the new Mac OS X Mavericks]: if it doesn’t benefit the user, either immediately or in the future, do it less frequently; if possible, don’t do it at all.

This behavior results from what Siracusa calls the “race to sleep” phenomenon. It refers to a computer trying to get a task done as efficiently as possible in order to go idle afterwards, saving energy and battery life. Efficiency in this sense could mean postponing a task in order to get it done “in batch” with a few others that accumulate over time; or it could mean not doing a task at all if the user won’t notice it anyway (an animation happening in a background window, for example).

To be sure, we’re talking fractions of milliseconds here. But somewhere in there, I guess, is some strange digital poetry to be found – and a metaphor for our own work days: A reminder to work smarter and to do as little as possible, so we can sleep earlier and idle more. If we don’t do that, we may be dumber than our computers already.

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