Seven Billion Dreamers

Somewhere in the world today a baby is born and unknowingly pushes the population ticker to 7,000,000,000.

Seven billion people. Seven billion dreamers.

It is humanity’s unique blessing to envision things that never were and by our work to make them real. We are a species of dreamers.

And whether we are born in American suburbs or Ugandan villages we dream of the same things. We dream of finding love, finding a calling, finding success. We dream of good lives for our families. We dream of a world where more people, where all people, have the liberty and resources to pursue their dreams.

Our dreams unite us.

The Evolution of Good Ideas

artwork from Barabeke on flickr

Evolution works because it’s not afraid of its children dying. It’s constantly trying new ideas and new combinations of ideas, and a lot of them are really bad. For example, I have asthma and bad eyesight. Thanks evolution.

But evolution doesn’t care. And because its willing to throw so many failed ideas out into the world for testing, it comes up with a lot of good ones as well. Like the brain. Like those little hairs in your ears that keep you from falling over. Like the nuchal ligament on the base of your skull that keeps your head from flopping around when you run (just learned about that today).

Our own idea-making is an evolutionary process as well. But most of the time we hamstring it by holding back most of our ideas, waiting until we find one we’re almost certain will succeed. We’re afraid of our children dying, and maybe even more afraid of how it will reflect on us if they do.

But 2 billion years of R&D tells us that, when it comes to ideas, the more you try, the better. So release a few more into the world for testing. See what happens.

Powerless, Senseless Kindness

Our friends over at Plywood were kind enough to publish a piece I wrote about one of the quotes that inspired the Ember Arts ethos. Here’s an excerpt:

Life is not given special treatment on our planet. Life struggles. The elements wear down life far more quickly than they do a stone.

But against what often seem terrible odds, life persists. Mothers have babies and teach them to be good. Babies grow and try to make a difference. People find each other and commit to love each other for life. Communities gather to encourage and support and build safety nets for one another. People care for each other.

Somewhere deep in this human thing is a drive to care, a realization that alone before this universe we will perish, but together, somehow, we will persist.

To read the rest, go here.

Soccer, Noise, and Steve Jobs

Yesterday I sat in a crowded bar with about 200 Ugandans (and a handful of Kenyans) and watched a big soccer match between Uganda and Kenya on television. The experience of being there with all those people was great, but my experience of the game itself was awful. I could barely follow the action.

There were vuvzelas and whistles blowing, a busted television, horrible ads splashed across the action, and the TV cameras were so lo-res that you could hardly see the ball.

The two teams were playing only a few miles away, but between them and me were so many layers of noise that I missed much of what was happening on the field. (I don’t mean noise in the auditory sense (though that was definitely part of it), but in the signal-vs-noise sense, noise meaning anything that degrades the information being sent.)

It made me wonder, how many layers of noise come between me and Ember’s customers?

It won’t surprise you that I thought about Steve Jobs, about how he controlled the noise between himself and Apple’s customers. He was a legendary perfectionist and notorious micro-manager, ensuring that his vision came through in Apple’s products. And he built an online and physical retail empire, giving customers direct, noiseless access to that vision.

He even responded with legendary regularity to customer emails. Jobs built a company that stripped noise out wherever possible so that he could broadcast his message loud and clear. I’d like to transmit the Ember message with as much clarity.

Steven Pressfield and Resistance

“On the field of the self stand a knight and a dragon.
You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.”
-Steven Pressfield 

Art comes in a million forms. It’s the book you want to write, the meaningful words you want to say to your spouse, the healthy diet you want to start. But why are we sitting around wanting these things rather than doing them? What is stopping us?

That’s the question that Steven Pressfield answers in his books ‘The War of Art‘ and ‘Do The Work.’ And his answer is: Resistance.

If you have ever tried to do something creative, or something that would benefit other people, or something that would make your a healthier or better person, you have felt Resistance. Resistance, according to Pressfield, is what tells us that we’re not good enough, that we are going to fail, that we’ll blow it, that we don’t actually want these good things anyway.

Some critics of Pressfield’s books have called them simplistic, trite, cliched, and overly and amorphously spiritual. According to my readings, this is all true. And yet the power of these books remains. If anything it grows.

The simplicity of Pressfield’s diagnosis of the problem, taking all the various fears and forces that keep us from creating and bundling them up in the term Resistance, allows us to see our task as manageable, to see our enemy as singular and defeatable. And his prescription is equally simple: acknowledge the Resistance that you feel, call it what it is, and then sit down and do your work anyway.

‘The War of Art’ introduces us to Resistance, and to the work of becoming a “pro,” someone who pushes through Resistance day in and day out and gets work done. In ‘Do The Work’ Pressfield acknowledges that many people get mired in Resistance even before starting a project. So he lays out a dead simple framework for quickly planning and starting your project, whether it’s a book or a symphony or a workout routine. And it works.

At Ember we support people in pursuing and realizing their Good Dreams. Pressfield’s books are some of the best in the world at helping you overcome the various faces of Resistance and get to work on your best dreams.

If you find yourself stuck or procrastinating or second guessing yourself on your goals (don’t feel alone, we all do it every day), pick up one or both of these books, read them, and then get to work.

The War of Art: Paperback, Kindle
Do The Work: Hardcover, Kindle