ToVa Weekend: You, Your Resume and Your Brain on Caffeine

Rupert is a literary dog.

The weekend is here at last and with it comes two articles (and one video) that’ll help you even out your E-v-E ratio. Read on for tips on how to change your core self-image, represent softer achievements on your resume with numbers and avoid a caffeine overdose.

How to Change Your Beliefs and Stick to Your Goals for Good (via)

I’ve dedicated most of the digital ink here at ToVa to the idea of living up to your ideal self. James Clear has a few thoughts on the subject, including a prescription for how to change “you” rather than merely accomplish specific goals – the difference between seeing yourself as a writer or merely finishing a certain story. He suggests casting tiny votes of confidence in your identity, an idea that I might have described as writing your life story one sentence at a time.

How to Quantify Your Resume Bullets (When You Don’t Work With Numbers) (via)

Lily Zhang gives practical tips on how to use numbers to underscore the impact of your professional achievements. This can be a little trickier for those of us who dabble in things not easily measured in this way. Range (“I manage 80 – 100 people”), frequency (“I deliver quarterly presentations to the CEO”) and/or scale (“I liaise with clients that represent $400,000 in billings”)  can be used where the real number isn’t certain, consistent or appreciated.

The Science of Caffeine: The World’s Most Popular Drug

Caffeine – what a drug! It keeps America moving, but how? Watch below for a little insight into how caffeine goes to work on your brain. You might be surprised at how vast the gap is between “healthy” and dangerous levels of daily caffeine intake.

Have a great weekend!

When Opportunity Knocks, Swing For The Fences

Fernando Tatís has a unique claim to fame: he is the only Major League Baseball player to hit two grand slams in one inning of play. He accomplished this feat on April 23, 1999 against the Dodgers. Roll the footage:

What makes this feat all the more incredible is the fact that Tatís is the only player to have the opportunity to accomplish it – no other player has ever found themselves at the plate with the bases loaded twice in one inning. It’s the most impossibly perfect meeting of opportunity and execution you could ever hope to see and it offers an important takeaway: when opportunity knocks, dig in, wait for your pitch and swing for the fences.

We’ve all heard the phrase “success is when preparation meets opportunity” but Tatís shows us that sometimes history will open the door to you and you alone, so you have to be ready to step across the threshold.


You Are The Sole Author Of Your Life Story

How will your life story read?

Every kid has that fantasy career when they’re growing up: firefighter, police officer, movie star, author, etc. For me the dream was to be an astronaut and walk on the moon. Unfortunately, two realities brought me down to Earth (see what I did there?):

  1. I was not interested in acquiring the math and science background that such a career would require.
  2. We don’t fly to the moon anymore so why even bother?

As we mature, most of us abandon those childhood dreams due to similar reality checks. In the process we lose that part of us that could put a cardboard box on our head, call it a space helmet and envision no future in which we are not exploring the lunar landscape. We stop calling ourselves astronauts-in-training and we get on with life. Mortgages can’t be paid with hopes and dreams, after all.

Unfortunately, these self-inflicted limitations that we place on our imagination and self image begin to hold us back from accomplishing the dreams that are in reach.

Say you want to be a writer – what does it take? As near as I can tell, all you have to do is write.

That’s right: the mere act of writing automatically makes you a writer. No MFA required.

Want to be an actor? You don’t need drama school – you just have to act.

Want to play guitar? Strum a guitar and you’re a guitar player.

You see the pattern here. Am I simplifying things? Absolutely. Am I over-simplifying? Not at all.

Read back over the past few sentences. You’ll notice that I didn’t give you one step instructions on how to be F. Scott Fitzgerald, Leonardo DiCaprio or Dave Matthews. All I did was show you what it takes to begin down those particular paths.

One thing you will never encounter is a best-selling author who never wrote a word. I’ve told you how I feel about math and even I can see that this doesn’t add up.

Your experiences between your childhood dreaming and your present reality might make you feel as though it takes a publishing deal to be considered a writer but this is a lie: all it takes to be a writer is to write.

You are the sole author of your life story. If you want there to be any possibility that the story ends with “and all of his albums went platinum” then the next chapter must begin with “He picked up the guitar and began to strum”.

ToVa Weekend: Idea Generation and Better Self Talk

Rupert is a literary dog.

Here are some of the best articles I’ve come across this week, including fantastic advice from creative professionals and the best way to talk to yourself when you want to excel. Have a great weekend!

99U Conference Recap Vol. 1: What Are Your Creative Values?
99U Conference Recap Vol. 2: Rethinking the Way We Work
99U Conference Recap Vol. 3: Rethinking the Way We Lead
99U Conference Recap Vol. 4: Design
99U Conference Recap Vol. 5: Entrepreneurship

The focus of the 99U conference in New York City is on how to make ideas happen. The recaps above highlight insights from creative professionals and leading thinkers from around the world. They are worth reading as a whole, or you can just pick the topic that interests you the most. Please share your favorite bits in the comments!

‘Self Talk’: When Talking to Yourself, the Way You Do It Makes a Difference

Most of us will talk to ourselves when we need to focus on an upcoming task or reflect on our past actions. It turns out that something as simple as addressing yourself by your name or as “you” is much more effective than the first-person “I” when it comes to this self talk. (h/t)

Keep Things In Perspective

Rupert is doing the work. Deadspin recently ran a great piece that was ostensibly about the expense of weddings and the tendency of some couples to lose sight of the only necessary components of a wedding: two people wanting to get married and the person of official authority who can make it legal. In such scenarios – and in everyday life – it can be hard to keep things in perspective. However, the author, Albert Burneko, goes well and truly beyond the wedding example and touches on being practical, tempering expectations and – if one reads between the lines – doing the work.

Life is only as complicated as you make it

The wedding example is a classic – a couple can convene at the courthouse and be Mr. and Mrs. in less than thirty minutes OR many thousands of dollars can be spent on venues, travel, outfits, food, flowers, cake, drinks, favors – the list can go on forever.

That is, it can go as far as you want it to. Burneko’s point is that you should only take that list as far as two considerations will reach:

1) What do you actually want?

2) What can you afford?

To go beyond either limitation is to have lost perspective. To arrange more than you actually want is silly – to arrange more than you can afford is irresponsible. To surpass either limit and then complain about the outcome is a great way to lose friends.

Be ambitious, but temper your expectations

Burneko’s own example of his basketball dreams is too great to not just quote directly:

Sadly, bitter experience and a dawning awareness of the harsh realities of genetics taught young [Burneko] that, at the very least, becoming Penny Hardaway would require many millions of dollars, as well as several still-far-off and probably completely ludicrous advancements in the likely nonexistent scientific field of Replacing Young Boys’ Entire Bodies With Much Larger and More Athletic Bodies for the Fulfillment of Sports Fantasies. This was quite a bummer. 

He knew he would never be Penny Hardaway, but he goes on to make the point that this does not mean he couldn’t (or shouldn’t) play basketball – or that playing the game required anything other than a ball and a hoop.

Just because you can’t have everything doesn’t mean you have failed or that you can’t have anything. To not play basketball because it would not likely lead to NBA stardom is to not be in touch with reality. Ambition is important, but tunnel-vision that limits your potential is a dangerous trap that should be avoided.

So get started

Even though it goes beyond his thesis, my main takeaway from Burneko’s piece was the next logical step to his commentary: do the work. It has long been my ambition to be a novelist and last April I took an important step – the only step neccesary, in fact – toward that goal: I began to write a novel.

The process of writing a novel can also be expensive… if you want it to be. Professional cover design, paid promotion, the opportunity cost of foregone salary if you decide to quit or take leave from your day job.

Or it can be done for essentially nothing. Really, you just need words. Any number over 50,000 will do nicely. Cover designs can be simple (and are hardly an upfront consideration), marketing can be done for free via social media, and there is no opportunity cost (outside of less time for House of Cards) if you commit to writing in your free time.

But what if my ambition is to write the Great American Novel or to be as acclaimed as my own favorite author, F. Scott Fitzgerald? Well, that’s a nice thought and a lofty goal indeed, but I would do well to keep my expectations a little more grounded.

I’m probably not the next Fitzgerald, and that’s OK. It hasn’t stopped me from doing the work. I have my story and when I have my allocated time I flirt with the muse and begin to type. Sometimes I’ll write a sentence or maybe a mere phrase that I convince myself is worth reading – potentially Fitzgerald-esque. I’m probably wrong, but it feels good anyway. If I let the minuscule odds of achieving literary immortality keep me from trying, I wouldn’t have that feeling of accomplishment.

Don’t complicate matters unnecessarily and lose sight of the nuts and bolts.

Don’t forego an activity because there is a chance you won’t be the best.

Set the bar high, but keep your feet on the ground.

Do the work.