3 Ways To Get Value Out Of Nature

Yes, houses are nice. Air conditioning is definitely good (especially coming from Arizona), alongside all the other amazing benefits of society and technology. That being said, there is massive value to nature that you can still find to this day. In this article, I wanted to talk about the three main positive benefits I think people can get from going out into the natural world just a little bit more.

Finding Calmness

There’s something eternally calming and meditative about being away from the bustle of the modern world. If a standard meditation exercise only takes us out of the world for a few moments, then being alone in nature is the ultimate meditation.

Learning from other species

People watching is fun, but watching the rest of the animal kingdom in its natural habitat is a wonder all of itself. There’s a lot you can learn from the strategies of other species; many technological advancements in subjects such as swarm intelligence and aerodynamics would not be made if not for observing how other animals do what they do. Of course, observing forest denizens isn’t just for finding an idea for your next invention; on a more philosophical level it can allow you to connect with others who call this world home.

Understanding the World

We make a lot of stuff up. Sometimes, it’s hard to realize that. In a world full of music, and deadlines, and business and governments, we take such abstract concepts very seriously; perhaps a bit too seriously sometimes. When you go into the forest (or whatever other natural environment you happen to be in), you’re matched with what the world was in the beginning, before we had constructed all these concepts. The only pieces of the puzzle that are real are the ones that are out there; the way the creek flows, the rustling of the leaves, and the games of survival among the animals who live there. These are the only hard and fast rules in life; the ones that we’ve created are mostly derivations. I can find some solace in this, and I bet some of you could as well.

 

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The Difference between Quitting and Giving Up

 

 

I’m usually really bad at quitting things. Once I’ve gotten into something deep, it’s hard to stop it; even if I really don’t like it or it otherwise isn’t giving me value. I just hate the idea of giving up on something.

Part of this probably has to do with the fact that, when I was younger, I had the exact opposite problem. I was giving up on things left and right. I would think of a new great idea for a website, or a project, or a book, get really excited, work on it for about 2 weeks, and then hit a wall. And then never came back from that wall. Repeat ad nauseum.

For veteran readers of the blog, this might sound familiar. It’s something I brought up in my final post on the #100DaysofCode challenge. In the post, I make a promise to myself to continue climbing even when I’ve hit that wall. And while I’ve done pretty good at continuing to hit on things now, I’m starting to wonder; is there anything that you should give up on? And if so, how do you figure out what it is?

About two months ago I read Seth Godin’s The Dip, which I would say touches on this subject better than anything I’ve previously read (it’s also only around 80 pages). Godin essentially fully describes this sort of wall idea that I mentioned in the 100DaysofCode, and gives some outlines on how to tell the difference between quitting for a good reason and quitting for a bad reason. I’ve decided to take a bit of a spin on these ideas and write out what I think are the key principles to think about:

Does this project give me joy?

As a good rule of thumb, Marie-Kondoing your project list will work pretty well. Now, there are a few exceptions to this rule (we’ll discuss them in the next point) but overall if over the full scope of the project you can’t think of a single redeeming feature about it that gives you confidence or excitement, then its pretty easy to see that its probably not worth it. This is the heuristic I probably use most often, although it does need to be used with restraint; just because something does not give you immediate satisfaction does not mean it is worthless in the long term.

What am I currently getting out of this project? What will I get when this project is completed?

Opportunity cost is also a pretty good heuristic for deciding whether something is worth it or not. To gauge opportunity cost, you’d have to look at both short term prospects and long term prospects to decide whether something is good. If something has only a few short-term rewards but many long-term rewards, then it’s a good investment. If there’s no short-term rewards and only a few long-term rewards, then you may want to at least consider other options. This is where the exception from earlier comes into play; something might not necessarily bring joy, but still give you better prospects if you complete it. Sometimes, if the rewards are high enough, I can understand slumping through a project at least temporarily to get into a better position later.

Will this project help me achieve my long-term goals?

Always focus with the end in mind. Not every single one of your current projects will involve one of your long-term goals (at least not obviously) but you should always make sure that the path you’re going down currently will at least lead you into hitting those markers. Don’t have long-term goals? Then make some, and follow them. Long-term goals have been the de-facto best way I have made sure to stay consistently on track, and I’ll probably continue to consistently refine it into the future.

 

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Creatives vs. Technicals: Which Should You Focus On?

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One of life’s greatest conflicts is between the arts and the sciences. The right brain and the left brain. The creatives and the technicals.

In reality, no one thinks that one of these groups is inherently useless. But what’s the right mix? Honestly, it changes depending on what sort of project you’re looking at. A SaaS company would need a larger proportion of technicals rather than creatives, where something like a film project might require more creatives than technicals, and a video game might be split roughly 50/50. I also believe that the greatest competitive advantage here are the people who are focused on training both sides of this dichotomy. If you’re well trained as both a creative and a technical, you can do wide swaths of the work yourself; this not only helps with expenses on projects but can also help in terms of career options.

Everyone is naturally aligned with one of these two. I found from a young age that the creative element aligned with me greatly, but that I had trouble fulling realizing projects due to that missing half. Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried honing my technical side by focusing more on programming and engineering projects, in hopes of equalizing both these sides. I’ve found that doing this has helped me greatly, and I’d recommend it to most other people. There’s certainly more technical guides and tutorials out there on the internet – probably because technical knowledge is less ethereal than creative knowledge – but there are still resources out there for things like art, writing, and design.

Overall, the question should not be about being a creative or a technical, but rather a creative and a technical. Some might argue that more focus is better; I’m not saying that you can’t be more focused in one area than another, but I do believe that having at least basic knowledge contained in both fields will do wonders for you long-term.

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on. You can subscribe to it here.

What you Should be Doing Instead of Networking

 

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Networking. There is perhaps no word more overused in the business world, and no word that more serves as the bane to my existence.

Now, there’s clearly an importance to meeting people. Connecting with others can lead to new doors and avenues that were previously out of reach. What I dislike is the commoditizing of connections; of turning the simple act of being with like-minded people into a business meta-game. There is a strict difference between networking in the games people play, and networking in the way it really ought to be. This is the difference between networking and making real connections.

I fell down the networking trap not too long ago. Coming in as an undergraduate to a business school, you are constantly blasted with the call to networking; pelted with the aphorisms such as “It’s not what you know, but who you know” (ironic coming from a university). Caught in the crossfire, I made massive contact lists; I emailed someone the best alumni from the college, got on the phone with them, asked questions, answered questions, and then… nothing. There was no spark. Despite the fact that I was doing exactly what the business world was telling me to do, I got nothing out of it. I decided to stop the charades of sending out 100 emails a week and focus on what the hell this was all about in the first place.

“Networking” isn’t a business game. It’s just a derogatory world for socialization. When I got on the phone, I asked them questions about their path, what they did at their work, and some of their bigger goals. And then, they answered. The problem with this is that this is neither something that inherently interested me, nor something that inherently interested them. It was all cardboard, recycled hundreds of times by both of us. If you really want to make a connection with someone, connect with them. It’s much easier than the networking game sounds; find a topic that interests you, and see if there’s a match.

I’ll take the classic example of programming. If you’re chatting with a senior engineer, don’t ask him how he got there or generic questions about the company. Instead, ask him about what frameworks or languages he likes to use, and see how it connects with what you like to use. If he’s a big React fan, but you prefer Vue, maybe you could go down the path of asking him why he uses React instead? (By the way, I know next to nothing about these, so my deep apologies to WebDevs if this part is cringy). Either way, you get the point. Find some starting point that interests you, and see if the other person bites. If not, pick another topic.

What if the person never bites back? What if they give fairly boring, stale answers? Well then, that’s fine as well. It just turns out that you two don’t connect very well. This happens. Simply move on to the next person, and eventually you’ll find a match.

Huh. Now that I’ve described this, it all seems so familiar. Could this possibly be… the way normal humans communicate? As it turns out, it is; you can in fact use the way you communicate with other people for networking, and vice versa. This seems pretty obvious now that I’ve written it all out, but you’d be surprised; in a world filled to the brim with networking books, networking workshops, and networking mixers, this simple idea can get lost in the mire.

Another note on this; while casting a wide net can still work, it’s not something I’d personally recommend. Especially as an undergraduate student, there’s not much you can really look for in a business contact; maybe for getting an internship or a full-time job at their firm later on, but this is pretty impersonal and also in a way scummy. I personally just like having these connections occur naturally; I go to conferences and get involved with organizations that have similar interests to mine and meet people as I go. This way, there’s much more relevant, short-term things to discuss, and the contact can still carry on into long-term use for both parties involved.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on. You can subscribe to it here.