Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

Currently Consuming
  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
  • The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    by Daniel Coyle
  • Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow

Paul Tevis

Thursday
Apr092009

I've Got The Brain On The Brain

I just bought my ticket to hear Oliver Sacks speak at UCSB.

Dr. Sacks is a neurologist and a frequent guest on my favorite radio show and podcast, Radiolab, where he talks about strange things our brains do. This is a topic that fascinates and terrifies me. I have a lot of unresolved questions about the nature of the mind and its relationship to the brain. (I was a Philosophy major in college, which only exacerbated the problem.) I love movies that raise issues of consciousness, memory, and personal identity like Memento and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Heck, I've even written a storytelling game about these ideas.

Dr. Sacks has written several excellent books about his experiences with patients suffering from neurological disorders that might best be described as "philosophically challenging," so I'm excited to hear him speak.  The second chapter of A Penny For My Thoughts starts with this quote from his classic work The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, and think it sums up what I find interesting about his work:

The patient’s essential being is very relevant in the higher reaches of neurology, and in psychology; for here the patient’s personhood is essentially involved, and the study of disease and of identity cannot be disjoined.
Friday
Apr032009

Gather 'Round The Fire

This week has been about getting back in touch with my inner extrovert.

It took me a long time to realize that I am an extrovert. When I was a kid, I didn't have many friends, and I spent a lot of time alone. That meant I must have been an introvert, right? Sure enough, every time I took a Myers-Briggs test, I came back as an "I." Nothing simpler than that right?

It turns out that while I thought of myself that way, it was only because I hadn't been in situations that let me think otherwise. It was only after four years of college and about five years of post-college life that I realized, "Hey, I really do draw energy from being around lots of other people, don't it?" (This stands in stark contrast to Gwen, who really is an introvert and finds those same situations exhausting.) But eventually I figured it out, and I got comfortable with it.

Over the last year, however, I've interacted with people (particularly online) a lot less than I have in the past. This is mostly due to my efforts to cut back on and refocus my activities. But As a result, people didn't email, IM, or call me as much as they used to. What I failed to do until recently was recognize that my diminishing social contact was my fault.

Earl Nightingale talks about expecting things from the world. It's simple: the more you serve the world, the more you receive. And it has to start with you. You don't expect the stove to get hot, he asks, before you put wood in it, do you? That's precisely what I thought was going to happen. I'd let my fire, which I'd spent several years building, burn down, and I needed to put more wood in it.

That's what this week has been about for me. I've been posting here, dipping back into forums, getting back in contact with folks, and generally trying to warm things back up. What's surprised me is how quickly I've seen a change, not only in the world, but in myself.

Let's keep that fire going. If I've let things grow a little cool, talk to me, leave a comment, or IM me, or email me, or whatever. I love to connect with people. I thrive on it. And I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out.
Thursday
Apr022009

The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

Numerous people have introduced me to the Cult of Done Manifesto, which holds a certain terrible fascination for me. Caught as I am in the never-ending development cycle for A Penny For My Thoughts ("The smallest game ever to take two years to finish!"), I can't deny its appeal. But as I was talking with Ryan today, I realized that for me, it's the Scylla to perfectionism's Charbydis. The true path is between them, sometimes towards one, other times the other. My struggle is to recognized when I've gotten too close to one of them, so I can row at top speed toward the other.

With Penny, it's time to head for the Scylla.  Yes, there are warts. No, it's not perfect. But it is time to get it done. There is no one right way to do things; it's a matter of picking the right tool for the job. For this job, right now, this is the right tool.

Wednesday
Apr012009

Smart Is Dumb

The problem with being smart is that I think I understand stuff.

My particular version of this problem is that I think I understand something I've encountered before. I heard or read or see something that makes sense to me, and I think, "Oh, I get it." And I do. I just don't internalize it and act on it. And then, some number of months later when I see reference to the same idea again, I skip over it, because I think I already understand it. But I don't. I know it, but I don't understand it. And the dumb part of being smart is that I don't let myself go back over the idea again in detail, reflected against my experience since the last time I encountered it.

(This happens with all sorts of ideas and to a frustrating extent. Rather than make a list, let's just assume that if I've written about it here, I've gone through this process with it.)

If I'm lucky, I'll finally encounter the idea after I've once again failed to fully understand it. If I'm lucky, I'll not realize that it's same idea until after I've consumed it again and let my experiences shuffle around it. And then, if I'm actually smart (and don't just think I'm smart), I'll finally understand it and let it make a difference in my life.
Tuesday
Mar312009

Internet Micro-Fame Is A Drug

As someone who has been publicly recognized for my work, I often worry that if what I'm doing isn't recognized, how could it possibly be as good as what I did before? Is my best work behind me?

Yesterday I read this in The Artist's Way:
Fame is a spiritual drug. It is often a by-product of our artistic work, but like nuclear waste, it can be a very dangerous by-product. Fame, the desire to attain it, the desire to hold on to it, can produce the "How am I doing?" syndrome. This question is not "Is the work going well?" This question is "How does it look to them?"

The point of the work is the work. Fame interferes with that perception. Instead of acting being about acting, it becomes about being a famous actor. Instead of writing being about writing, it becomes about being recognized, not just published.

We all like credit where credit is due. As artists, we don't always get it. Yet, focusing on fame -- on whether we are getting enough -- creates a continual feeling of lack. There is never enough of the fame drug. Wanting more will always snap at our heels, discredit our accomplishments, erode our joy at another's accomplishment. [...]

What we are really scared of is that without fame we won't be loved -- as artists or as people. The solution to this is concrete, small, loving actions. We must actively, consciously, consistently, and creatively nuture our artist selves.

When the fame drug hits, go to your easel, your typewriter, your camera or clay. Pick up the tools of your work and begin to do just a little creative play.

Soon, very soon, the fame drug should start to lessen its hold. The only cure for the fame drug is creative endeavor. Only when we are being joyfully creative can we release the obsession with others and how they are doing.

Yep, that's about right.