The List #23

Welcome to the 23rd edition of The List featuring three articles and a relatively short video. As usual I hope you kick back with these on Saturday morning or on a lazy Sunday afternoon and enjoy.

Top MLB prospect lives by his own rules -- in a van -- ESPN

It unsettled him in those first months to see so many zeros on his bank account balance -- "Who am I to deserve that?" he wondered. "What have I really done?" -- so he hired financial advisers and asked them to stash the money in conservative investments where Norris wouldn't have to think about it. His advisers deposit $800 a month into his checking account -- or about half as much as he would earn working full time for minimum wage. It's enough to live in a van, but just barely. "I'm actually more comfortable being kind of poor," he says, because not having money maintains his lifestyle and limits the temptation to conform.

A Brewing Problem - The Atlantic

This is really interesting to me because we actually use Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (now Keurig Green Mountain) as a case study in one of the classes I help teach as an example of appreciative inquiry and corporate social responsibility. Maybe it's time to update the case study?

Meet the Makers: Ableton Developers at Work (14:04)

I love seeing videos of how companies go about getting their work done. The culture at Ableton seems like a great place for the creative and the curious. Anyone have more videos like this? Share them with me on Twitter, eh?

How Steinbeck Used the Diary as a Tool of Discipline, a Hedge Against Self-Doubt, and a Pacemaker for the Heartbeat of Creative Work - Brain Pickings

This is so, so great. I'd say the vast majority of my entries in Day One are things I've written while agonizing over the fact that I need to get to work or don't have any ideas for things to write about. Looks like Steinbeck did a similar thing with his diary while writing The Grapes of Wrath. The other thing that's kind of cool is to see that even an absolute titan of the literary world was plagued by self-doubt -- even while writing a book that ended up earning him a Pulitzer Prize. It's a nice reminder that you aren't doing anything wrong if work is hard.

Photo by Alex Alonso

The List #22

Welcome to the 22nd edition of The List, a roundup of the most interesting bits of the Internet to catch my attention over the past couple weeks. Kick back with a hot beverage, load up these links, and enjoy.

If you like these articles and topics I recommend following me on Twitter as I've been known to share the best stuff I find there, too.

The Shape of Things to Come - The New Yorker

This article is long, so get nice and comfy before you dig into it. If you're interested in behind the scenes coverage of how the most successful company in the world works -- and the man behind the design of the products that have propelled it to that rank -- then this is worth it. Ive is an interesting guy with an eye for detail that is equal parts impressive and exhausting.

How Medium is Building a New Type of Company with No Managers - First Round

I know this isn't a new article but I thought it was one of the best I've seen that really shows what working in a holacratic organization is like. It's one thing to read the manifesto or look at the diagrams it's based on and something totally different to hear from someone working in it every day.

The other thing I'm left with after reading this article is that all these headers about how holacratic organizations don't have managers seem more attention-grabby than truthful. Granted, I haven't worked in a holacratic organization but from what I can tell (and I want to develop this idea further) I think it would be more accurate to say everyone is a manager. Everyone seems to phase in and out of managerial roles as the situation dictates it which is not the same thing as having no managers. Perhaps a quibble on my part but something I'll be thinking and writing about more in the future.

Mike Babcock: The Perfectionist - Sportsnet

Looking at the pen in my hand, he tries to put his outlook into a perspective he believes I’ll understand. “I don’t think there’s a secret to success,” he says. “It’s lifelong learning. What you did last year and how you wrote last year, if you’re writing the same next year someone else is going to have your job. You have to evolve because everyone else evolves.”

I don't imagine there are too many hockey fans out there but this is a fascinating look into my favorite team's head coach. Babcock is widely acknowledged as the best NHL head coach and reading a little bit about his approach to work shows why that is the case. life and work.

Thoreau on Hard Work, the Myth of Productivity, and the True Measure of Meaningful Labor - Brain Pickings

The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. There will be a wide margin for relaxation to his day. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time, and does not exaggerate the value of the husk. Why should the hen set all day? She can lay but one egg, and besides she will not have picked up materials for a new one. Those who work much do not work hard.

Makes me think of this article I wrote a few months ago. I'm still working at developing this but it's a practice that seems worth the effort (which is about as paradoxical sentence you can write when talking about relaxation, right?)

Photo by sun_line

The Complete Workologist 2014 E-Book Now Available

I like re-reading journals and previous articles I've written for this site. Once a year or so I'll go back through and read the previous year's articles. It's a nice way to get reminders about things I should be thinking about, to prompt new writing ideas, and to just generally see how I've changed over the past twelve months. A couple weeks ago I sat down to do this again and I found myself a.) wondering how much I had written for The Workologist over the past year and b.) wishing I had an e-book of all my articles so I didn't have to click through my archives to read each one.

So, I made an e-book of all my 2014 writing (and the answer to a. is approximately 43,700 words - not including The List posts or Commentary posts).

I've had many people express to me that they would like to support the writing I do here but they aren't interested in hiring me as a coach, which until today was really the only way to pay me for any value you find here at The Workologist. Now, for $8, you can have a nicely formatted PDF, .mobi (for Kindle), or .epub (for iBooks) file of all the writing that appeared on The Workologist in 2014. If that seems like a thing you'd enjoy and you're willing to part with $8 you can get it here.

Thank you for your support!

Photo by spykster

The List #21

Time for the first the first The List of 2015. As usual, here are a handful of links from across the internet that caught my eye over the past week (or in this case, the past several weeks). If you ever come across something you think I'd like, feel free to send me an email or connect with me on Twitter (@samspurlin).

Re: New Wired Offices - The Awl

This memo shows what leaders putting aesthetic personal preference ahead of employee needs for doing great work looks like. My already low expectations for Wired are dropping lower.

Something Slightly Less Terrible -

Interviewer: Do you mostly focus on one project at a time, or are you a multitasker?

Loren Brichter: I’d describe my work schedule as cooperatively single-threaded with a heavy context switch cost, so I try to keep time slices on the order of about a week. So I have lots of projects going at once that usually relate to each other in some way, but I only consciously work on one at a time.

I can’t consciously multitask at all, but I think my brain works a bit like libdispatch. The subconscious can chew on a lot of stuff in parallel. So when my conscious mind switches back to some other work it put aside earlier, there are usually a couple good ideas waiting for it.

The Pleasure of Practicing: A Musician's Assuring Account of Creative Homecoming and Overcoming Impostor Syndrome - Brain Pickings

Together this pleasure in music and the discipline of practice engage in an endless tussle, a kind of romance. The sense of joy justifies the labor; the labor, I hope, leads to joy. This, at least, is the bargain I quietly make with myself each morning as I sit down. If I just do my work, then pleasure, mastery will follow. Even the greatest artists must make the same bargain.

Your Best Work - Rands in Repose

In the past five years, the teams I’ve seen work at impressive speed are the ones who self-organized themselves elsewhere. They found a dark corner of the building, they cleared out a large conference room, or they found an unused floor of a building and made it their own. While this might strike you as a case for shared common open space, it’s not. It’s an argument for common space that is not shared because these teams have work to do and don’t want a constant set of irrelevant interruptions. This is why I’m in favor of pod-like set-ups where teams working on similar technology and projects have their own enclosed space. I believe this is the type of set-up that encourages the most efficient forms of collaboration.

The Ultimate Construction of Conversation & How Do You Know When That Itch Has Been Scratched? - The File Drawer

Eric and I are starting to get much more comfortable with who we are and what we're creating with our podcast. These are two of our latest episodes and I'd love if you checked them out (and subscribed to the podcast if you enjoy what you hear)

Photo by Julie Rae Powers

The List #20

This week's The List is all about making things. For some reason I stumbled across several great videos over the past week that feature people in the act of creation. I'm always fascinated by watching people in their element and each of these videos do a great job of scratching that itch.

Omega Speedmaster Watchmaking Demonstration

Ok, actually, this video is more about someone taking something apart. But still, it's worth checking out. The amount of practice and memorization it must take to deconstruct and construct something this complicated is absolutely mind-blowing.

8 Videos About the Making of Monument Valley

Monument Valley is one of the best iOS games I've played in a long time. It's like an interactive piece of art. A new expansion pack just came out and these are some videos from various members of the team talking about different aspects of creating the game. This behind the scenes video is nice and short and fascinating.

The Birth of a Tool. Part III. Damascus steel knife making

Beautiful video. Fascinating process. I want to make a knife.

Aaron Draplin Takes on a Logo Design Challenge

This is what knowing your tools looks like. Mr. Draplin cranks out some pretty awesome logo ideas over the course of 16 minutes and talks about his mental process the entire time. So, so interesting.

What's the best stuff you read or saw this week? Shoot me a link on Twitter (@samspurlin) or leave a comment below!

Photo by Cindee Snider Re

The List #19

I hope all the American readers out there had a great Thanksgiving and all the non-American readers out there had a great end of November. I come to you bearing a gift for your weekend relaxation -- The List #19!

I Was Looking Forward to Gummy Bears - The File Drawer

Shameless self-promotion. Episode three of my podcast with classmate/BFF Eric Middleton is out. Pretty good episode minus our newb status with getting our microphones setup correctly. We just recorded episode four today and I think we've finally ironed out all our mic issues. Now you can say you listened to us back when we were clueless, or something.

The Habits of Highly Productive Writers - The Chronicle of Higher Education

I aspire to be a highly productive writer and this article is better than many I've read recently offering advice for being just that. It's tailored toward academics but I think mostly applies to anyone trying to do something with the written word.

This 15 Minute-Activity Will Make You More Successful at Work - Business Insider

I'll save you the suspense and tell you the 15 minute activity is writing at the end of the workday. I'm working on a chapter along with some classmates about metacognition (thinking about thinking) and leadership development. As part of my research for the chapter I came across a study that showed students who kept a learning journal over the course of a semester learned more than their classmates who did not. I think this is probably a similar thing that's going on here.

Zen and the Art of Cubicle Living - The Atlantic

Interesting to see what organizations are doing to push forward the art and science of workspace design. I think it's fairly obvious there is no best design and the best workplaces of the future will have a variety of different types of spaces available for the various types of work to be done and then personalities of the people doing that work.

Photo by Mario Acosta Garcia

The List #18

This special weekday edition of The List is brought to you by relaxation, rejuvenation, the letter R, and the complete lack of will to do anything remotely looking like work over the weekend.

Why You Should be Paid For Commitment, Not Hours or Results - 99U

This strikes me as terrible. Am I wrong? I'm much more interested in being compensated for what I can do and what I produce -- not how committed I am to an organization. Yuck.

The Cult of Busy - Medium

Busy busy busy busy.

I've made it a personal point to not respond with the word "busy" when people ask me how I'm doing. It's a cop out answer and it shuts down a conversation.

Why We're Building All Tomorrows - Medium

I've done a little bit of consulting with this company and they are working on some great stuff. They just released an app called Emojiary which is a nice mix of quirky emoji-based journal writing and experience sampling method/Quantified Self personal development. You should definitely check it out.

How to Build More Flow into Your Work Day - Entheos

This is my second entheos class and this time it's all about how to tweak the way you work and think to help you experience greater flow during your work day.

Photo by honbliss

The List #17

This week I'm sharing a few of my favorite new podcasts and websites that I've added to my information rotation. It's pretty rare for me to actually add (and keep) a new podcast into my listening routine and it's almost as rare for me to add a new website to my RSS reader so I figured the fact that these have made the cut is worth a mention.

Dive into these over the weekend and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

1. Hello Internet

Not only has this podcast broke into the ranks of my regularly listened to shows, it has cracked the top 3 in terms of my all-time favorite shows. The "two dudes talking" genre of podcast is quickly becoming my favorite style and the two dudes talking in this podcast don't disappoint. They're both professional YouTubers (they make videos for a living -- not something root-related) and have great rapport. It helps that one of the guy, CGP Grey, appears to be my personality doppelgänger in a disturbing number of ways.

2. Slate's Working

It has been a big couple of weeks for new and excellent podcasts. This one features an interview with someone from a different profession every week about the details of what they do all day. I absolutely love hearing about the daily routines and habits of people in professions that I know nothing about. Start with the episode about the pastor -- it's great stuff.

3. ISO50

Tycho creates some of my favorite electronic music and it's safe to say his tunes have driven much of my work over the past couple of years. This is his music and design blog where I've stumbled across more visually and auditory beautiful pieces of art than I can believe. Throw this in your RSS reader and you'll be dripped enough great instrumental electronic music over time to keep all your productivity playlists fresh and interesting. Case in point, I've listened to this song obsessively since first seeing it on this blog.

4. 5 Intriguing Things

I unsubscribe from 95% of the email newsletters I subscribe to. This one has made the cut. Basically Alexis Madrigal emails you a list of 5 links with short summaries on an incredibly broad set of topics. The underlying feature is that they are somehow intriguing. I would say I probably add 1-2 items to my Instapaper queue from this newsletter every day. Not a bad hit rate, really.

I'm not bold enough to place this in the actual list, but I've recently started a podcast called The File Drawer and if you like psychology and/or the "two dudes talking" genre of podcast then I'd love if you checked it out. The first episode is published and we are going to be releasing on a weekly schedule.

Photo by Nicholas Lundgaard

Announcing The File Drawer: A Podcast

Just a quick update to announce the release of a podcast I'm co-hosting called The File Drawer. It's largely the brainchild of my classmate/colleague, Eric Middleton. We're both psychology Ph.D students and we thought getting together and having a weekly conversation revolving (loosely) around our shared interest in human behavior would be a good idea.

While it's not exclusively about the topics I write about at The Workologist discussions about meaningful work, productivity, and my other interests will definitely make an appearance. For example, in the first episode we spend some time talking about my research on self-leadership and independent workers, the power of having a certain type of mindset, and what "the self" actually is. 

The first episode is recorded, published, and you should be able to find it in iTunes or your podcast player of choice right now. You can follow along at as well.

I'm excited to learn more about how to more effectively share my ideas in this new medium and I hope you'll give us a shot in joining your roster of podcasts.

The List #16

You're not here to read my excuses but I'm gonna lay some on you anyway. Crunch time on preparing a presentation and then delivering a presentation at the International Leadership Association last weekend, crunch time on getting my thesis proposal signed off, getting hired to do some teaching in the spring... yadda yadda. End result, sparse writing. Another end result, a new The List today because, let's face it, writing these are easy and makes me feel somewhat productive.


1. The Printing Press, Literacy, and the Creation of a Secret Society of Adults

A really interesting theory about how television is essentially erasing the differences between adults and children. Probably overstated, but an interesting article nonetheless.

2. Elon Musk's Secret Weapon: A Beginner's Guide to First Principles

The idea of reasoning from first principles instead of analogy or basically boiling down everything to its most fundamental components and then going from there. In many ways, I think this is why I found (and still find) minimalism an interesting philosophy to explore. I've got the beginnings of an article written about applying first principles to our lives that I'm hoping to push out sometime next week.

3. The Art of the Finish: How to Go From Busy to Accomplished

If you're a subscriber to The Workologist Newsletter then you likely saw the article I wrote this month about how being really, really good at GTD can make it easy to do "fake work" most of the time. I've adopted the methodology in this article as of a couple weeks ago and so far it is working really well.

4. How to Be Excellent

This was a relatively crazy/surprising find. Bobby Robins is a professional hockey player who plays for the Boston Bruins (boo!) and is also a really, really good writer. His story is pretty interesting considering he made his NHL debut this year at the age of 32.

With my thesis proposal signed off I now need to start collecting data in the very near future. To aid in that effort, I'm creating a list of people who are potentially interested in participating. In the near future that would mean taking a short survey or two, possibly doing an interview if you're interested, and/or participating in a training program (again, only if you're interested). If you want to be kept in the loop with opportunities to participate in my research you can sign up here.

Photo by Edsel Little

The List #15

Welcome to another edition of The List. The List is a curated list of my favorite things from the past week. Articles, videos, podcasts -- the media always changes but the unifying characteristic is that I loved whatever I end up sharing.

1. Advanced Tricycling by Merlin Mann

I look forward to new Merlin Mann talks like most kids look forward to Christmas morning. I'm an unapologetic fan of what Merlin does and how he thinks about what doing great work looks like. This is his latest talk about what it means to get better at something and how to even know what you're supposed to be getting better at.

2. Looking at Productivity as a State of Mind by Sendhil Mullainanthan (NYT)

Factories imposed discipline. They enforced strict work hours. There were rules for when you could go home and for when you had to show up at the beginning of your shift. If you arrived late you could be locked out for the day. For workers being paid piece rates, this certainly got them up and at work on time. You can even see something similar with the assembly line. Those operations dictate a certain pace of work. Like a running partner, an assembly line enforces a certain speed.

As Professor Clark provocatively puts it: “Workers effectively hired capitalists to make them work harder. They lacked the self-control to achieve higher earnings on their own.”

A provocative and fascinating idea about the Industrial Revolution -- and I think it has merit. There's something to be said for the external pressures that force us to work hard and have discipline. When I talk to independent workers one of the things I hear most commonly is how difficult it is to be productive and do great work when working from home and/or for yourself.

It seems to me that the future of work is a matter of finding the balance between the oppressive yet highly productive paradigm of the Industrial Revolution-era factory and the incredibly autonomous yet completely structure-less la-la land of independent knowledge work. Building external pressure into your work day while also allowing for autonomy is a delicate and important balance.

3. Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away by Clay Shirky (Medium)

If I ever teach in a college setting, I'm going to make this article required reading on day one. It's the best argument I've heard for why laptops should be put away during most college classes. I've always felt that it was important for students to be treated like adults and if we wanted to use our computers in class then we should be able to. However, Shirky makes some points that makes me realize it's more complex than that:

"The fact that hardware and software is being professionally designed to distract was the first thing that made me willing to require rather than merely suggest that students not use devices in class. There are some counter-moves in the industry right now — software that takes over your screen to hide distractions, software that prevents you from logging into certain sites or using the internet at all, phones with Do Not Disturb options — but at the moment these are rear-guard actions. The industry has committed itself to an arms race for my students’ attention, and if it’s me against Facebook and Apple, I lose."


"Anyone distracted in class doesn’t just lose out on the content of the discussion, they create a sense of permission that opting out is OK, and, worse, a haze of second-hand distraction for their peers. In an environment like this, students need support for the better angels of their nature (or at least the more intellectual angels), and they need defenses against the powerful short-term incentives to put off complex, frustrating tasks. That support and those defenses don’t just happen, and they are not limited to the individual’s choices. They are provided by social structure, and that structure is disproportionately provided by the professor, especially during the first weeks of class."

If you're a professor, I'd love to hear what your take is on this article and your own policy for computers in class. If you're a student, this article might make you think about your computer usage in a new light as well.

Photo by Katherine Lim

There Are Some Things $100 Million Can't Buy

Months ago there were a spate of articles in the Wall Street Journal about Mohamed El-Erian leaving his position as CEO of Pimco, one of the world's largest financial companies. I had never heard of him and I had only recently started reading the WSJ so I didn't really know Pimco, either. I do remember being struck by how surprised everyone seemed and how there was obviously something going on behind the scenes. Most people chalked it up to a clash of personalities between El-Erian and Pimco's co-founder Bill Gross and everything seemed to go quiet for a couple months.

A couple weeks ago El-Erian surfaced again and the full picture behind his departure is a little bit clearer:

About a year ago, I asked my daughter several times to do something -- brush her teeth, I think it was -- with no success. I reminded her that it was not so long ago that she would have immediately responded, and I wouldn't have had to ask her multiple times; she would have known from my tone of voice that i was serious.

She asked me to wait a minute, went to her room and came back with a piece of paper. It was a list that she had compiled of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments.

Talk about a wake-up call.

Now he works as an economic adviser with Allianz and work takes up about 50% of his time.

From my perspective, this looks a lot like why many people choose to go into independent work. Granted, El-Erian is not a typical independent worker considering he made roughly $100 million last year. It's obviously easier (if not easier, at least more financially viable) for him to scale back his work hours and spend more time with his family.

On a very simple level, this is great evidence of what deliberate decision-making about work can look like. Regardless of our level in an organization or our income we can choose to think about what matters the most in our lives and then take steps to make decisions that support those values. The beautiful part is that this looks different for everyone. The only similarity that I'm pushing is the commitment to being deliberate about the course of action taken instead of locking into a groove and plowing away, heads down, for 40 years without taking a second to look around or ask some reflective questions.

What's the smallest step you can take to make your work more meaningful?

What's the smallest step you can take to make your work more enjoyable?

We can't all make $100 million a year or be CEOs of huge financial firms but we can all make deliberate decisions - even tiny ones - that better align our work, lives, and values.

Photo by Fortune Live Media

The List #14

Happiest of Fridays!

I'm going to kick off this week's The List by being a presumptuous ass and linking to my own article. I had the privilege of having my third article published at 99U. It's about this idea I've been obsessing about for awhile and is really hard to write about coherently. Basically, what does it mean to work with dignity? I'm impressed they decided to run it because it's not necessarily the type of article that's likely to go viral but I think the ideas behind it are really important. It would mean a lot to me if you checked it out.

Which Habits Should I Focus On? - Charles Duhigg

This is a great article from the guy who wrote the book on habits. It answers one of the most common questions clients of mine often have in a really articulate and intelligent way. If you're interested in habit change and are wondering where to start you could do much worse than checking out this article.

Silicon Valley's Contract Worker Problem - New York Magazine

The more I read about the sharing economy and services like Uber, TaskRabbit, and other platforms for "independent work" the more I'm realizing this isn't what I mean by independent work. Independent work deliberately chosen for the benefits one gains from working in this fashion is not the same thing as working for these various platforms as an independent contractor so these companies can get away with not paying benefits and the other responsibilities of having employees. I need to develop my thinking on this further but its articles like this that are causing me to pause and think.

What are the best things you read this week?

Photo by Nicolo Paternoster

The List #13

Since last week's List was a special positive-psychology edition a few of the articles I'm sharing this week are a little bit older. Doesn't mean they aren't awesome, though.

I also want to start casting my net a little bit wider when it comes to what I read on a regular basis so don't hesitate to share some of your favorite sources of reading in the comments or via Twitter.

Kick back with a cup of joe this weekend and enjoy some of my favorite articles from across the web.

America, Say Goodbye to the Era of Big Work - LA Times

I know this website does not appeal exclusively to independent workers -- and that's perfectly awesome. I'm interested in the idea of meaningful and engaging work regardless of the specific context. However, I do have a soft spot for articles about the growth of independent work as it is directly related to my academic/research interests.

The Strange and Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit - GQ

This is just one of the most interesting articles I've read in awhile. Fascinating story about a guy who lived in the wilderness for an insanely long time. There's something about the need for solitude somewhere in here as well. But mostly it's just a really interesting story.

Reboot or Die Trying - Outside

I'm a sucker for stories about people doing things to take deliberate control over the role technology plays in our lives. Between this and the Distraction Free iPhone article (which inspired one of my articles from earlier this week).

John Cage on the Necessity of Boredom - Cal Newport

I feel like every time Cal writes something on his site I end up sharing it here. Obviously, I'm a bit of a fan of the stuff Cal does and how he writes about it. This is a super short one, but it's a great reminder for anyone trying to do creative and meaningful work.

“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

Photo by Jason Thompson

The List #12

No full articles this week and I'm late on publishing The List. Can you tell the semester just started? Even though I've finished my class requirements as a student (woo!) I'm serving as a teaching assistant for two classes and it seems like all my research deadlines all came to a head in the past few days. Those are my excuses and I'm sticking to them.

Anyway, today I'm at a conference about positive psychology/celebration for Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 80th birthday on the campus of my university. In honor of Csikszentmihalyi's birthday I figured I'd share some of the books/talks of a few of the individuals I'm watching speak today.

1. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (book)

Mihaly is turning 80 this year and the event I'm at today is in celebration of his career. The book that really put him on the map is Flow but Good Work, The Evolving Self, and Creativity are also all worth your time. He has also given a TED talk and has written a boatload of academic articles. He's a good dude and Flow was a book that changed my life so I'm not really sure how to recommend it more than that.

2. Flourish by Marty Seligman (book)

Marty Seligman is the other co-founder of the positive psychology movement along with Csikszentmihalyi. His work on well-being is powerful and will make you think about what you can do to build more PERMA into your life. He also has a TED talk that's worth checking out. His earlier books on Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism were some of the first ones I read as I began exploring what this whole positive psychology thing was.

3. Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner (book)

Gardner is a Harvard professor who is a behemoth in the world of educational/developmental psychology. His theory of multiple intelligences, the idea that cognitive/verbal ability should not be equated as "intelligence" and instead there are a series of different types of intelligence that people exhibit to varying degrees, is huge. He also worked with Csikszentmihalyi on the Good Work book and now leads the Good project at Harvard University.

What did you read/watch this week?

Photo by Dan Kasak

The List #11

The past two editions of Weekend Reading has featured almost as many videos as articles so I'm not sure that moniker is particularly accurate any longer. Therefore, this Friday feature where I share some of my favorite things from across the internet will simply be known as "The List" from here on out. Criteria for inclusion on The List is simple -- I must think the item in question was interesting/revelatory/awesome/noteworthy or otherwise worth your time. Articles, videos, podcasts, and music are all fair game and I'll shoot for 3-5 items for inclusion each week.

1. On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs - Strike! Magazine

I tried to find a good quote from the article but each time I thought I found one I realized it over simplified a pretty thorny subject and didn't do justice to the entire argument of the article itself. All I can say is that it's worth a read, especially if you have a sneaking suspicion your job might be bullshit.

2. A Path to Discovery - Rands

Rands has elucidated something I've felt and sought for a long, long time:

The daily tools and services we’ve surrounded ourselves with are incentivized to satisfy our urgent need for instant gratification – to make the precious moments we send on them as useful as quickly as possible. I’m on the lookout for something different. I need more tools and services that encourage serendipity as their primary function because I know how to search for what I need, but what is to discover what I do not know.

I think this is partly why I made the switch from Spotify to Beats a few months ago. The curated playlists and recommendation engine in Beats was helping me find things I never thought I'd like -- it was facilitating the search for what I didn't already know. What other services are out there that support this act of discovery?

3. The Biggest Challenge of my Life: The 777 Project - Joel Runyon

Joel is basically an expert at doing impossible things. His new project seems insane and therefore right up his alley. I love when good people do crazily ambitious things. Good luck, Joel!

4. A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy (free stream)

There is no bigger nostalgia bomb for me than music from the Final Fantasy video games (Final Fantasy VII in particular). Composer Nobuo Uematsu has created some of the most video game music -- hell, music, full stop -- I've ever heard. This is a free stream of an orchestral recording of a wide range of tunes from across the Final Fantasy library. Turn this on Saturday morning while you're lounging around the house or bookmark it for the next time you're sitting down to get some work done.

5. Tycho - Spectre (Bibio Remix)

I haven't become utterly obsessed with a song in a long time. This one has broken the dry spell, though. Tycho creates some of the best music I've heard for working and it features prominently in my work playlists. I recently started following Scott Hansen's (aka Tycho) blog, ISO50. I don't know what it is about it -- but I can't stop listening.

What did you enjoy this week? Share it in the comments below or shoot me a link on Twitter (@samspurlin).

Photo by Buble-Gum

Weekend Reading #10

If you're an astute reader of The Workologist you may have noticed that I missed publishing a Weekend Reading article last week. I was deep in the midst of moving so I ended up having to skip it in favor of spending the day hauling all my stuff over to a new house.

Now that I'm more or less moved in I want to make up for my negligence by making today's edition, the 10th, extra good.

Before we launch into the best stuff I've come across in the past week, I figured I'd mention the guest article I wrote for the VIA Institute on Character about how to use self-experimentation and self-data collection to apply your strengths in new ways. My colleague Jeff Fajans makes an appearance as well.

Alrighty -- without further ado let's get into this week's top picks.

Humans Need Not Apply (15:00) - YouTube via CGP Grey

CGP Grey makes the best informational videos and his latest is on a whole different level. He makes an excellent case that sometime in the relatively near future we are going to face a seismic shift in the labor market as automation/robots become better at a myriad of jobs than humans. It's scary and thought provoking and worth a watch. On a side note, CGP Grey is also a co-host of a podcast that has cracked my lineup and is now a show I look forward to every week (which is pretty hard to do). It's called Hello, Internet and it is also worth your time.

You Can Learn Anything (1:30) - YouTube via Khan Academy

This is a cutesy and super short video that encapsulates the nature of having a growth mindset pretty well. Sure, there are genetic differences in IQ and we all have different strengths/weaknesses but the research shows that believing you have the ability to improve and learn is the first step to actually making it happen.

Why Self Awareness is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change - 99U

The examples should sound familiar: We get necessary and helpful feedback from a boss or colleague, only to snarl under our breath, but failing to realize the foolishness on our end. We become aware of our declining efficiency, so instead of treating the disease we treat the symptoms and we chug coffee only to crash an hour later face-first into our keyboard (and then we go searching for productivity hacks because our workload is too high).

Great article from Paul Jun about why self-awareness is so important yet difficult to cultivate. It's similar to the idea I wrote about regarding the importance of self-reflection (I even called it the most important habit).

The Makers - Vimeo

This is a Vimeo channel with tons of relatively short videos about people who make things. It's one of my most reliable motivation/inspiration boosters that I like to turn to when I'm feeling kind of blah. From a guy who takes bread and butter to a whole new level to a guy who makes blowpipes in the Amazon rainforest, there is an awesome array of people doing awesome things on this channel.

Out of the Doldrums - JD Roth

JD Roth wrote one of the first blogs I ever started reading regularly, Get Rich Slowly (I was super into personal finance for awhile). On his personal website he's been covering a lot of interesting topics including the idea of flow and finding meaning. What JD calls the doldrums I recently called a ["productivity valley."]( ) It's nice to see that I'm not the only one who experiences cycles like this.

As always, thank you very much for continuing to read this site. Traffic numbers have been steadily increasing and for that I'm very grateful. Please don't hesitate to share this site with your friends/colleagues/acquaintances/pets -- it means a lot to me! Also, please follow me on Twitter or drop me an email to say hi.

Photo by NH53

Weekend Reading #9

The latest monthly newsletter was sent to subscribers on Monday morning. If you missed it, you can sign up for future issues and see an archive of issues you missed here. I also recently created a Facebook group for readers of The Workologist which you can join here. Join us over there if you're so inclined. Finally, I recently hired my brother to help me populate the Archive with all the old articles that didn't make the initial trip over from If you check it out now you'll notice it's much more robust than it used to be!

Without further delay, here are some of the best things I've stumbled across in the past week. Enjoy!

A Guide for the Perplexed: Mapping the Meaning of Life and the Four Levels of Being - Brain Pickings

One of the biggest revelations I've had in the past several months is how under appreciated E.F. Schumacher is. I read his books Small is Beautiful and Good Work and they seem like a forerunner to lots of ideas that we see thrown around nowadays -- minimalism, sustainability, flow, etc. I haven't read A Guide for the Perplexed, yet, but this article and my experience with his other books has rocketed it to the top of my list.

Warren Bennis, Leadership Pioneer - Harvard Business Review

Warren Bennis was a leadership thinker, writer, and consultant. He authored many books and acted as an advisor for many powerful people. Unfortunately, he passed away last week. Although I never met him, I did spend a summer working for his son, Will at Locus Workspace. Will is a first rate psychologist and thinker in his own regard and my thoughts go out to him and his family in this tough time.

What Would Your Life Be Like If... - A Daring Adventure

When I first started my coaching practice Tim was the first person I looked to for guidance. He helped get me oriented in the right direction when I was first starting out. We have super different styles but believe in much of the same stuff. His latest article is full of his barely-on-the-rails energy and stream-of-consciousness writing style. If you're tired of my overly academic writing style then Tim is a breath of fresh air. Plus, he knows a thing or two about personal development.

As I've mentioned before, I have a brand new entheos class up called "How to Take Control of Your Indie Work Career." If you're an independent worker and want to improve your day-to-day work experience, I recommend checking it out. I'll be recording another class in the coming weeks so be sure to keep an eye on my Professor page if you're an entheos subscriber (and if you're not, you can try it out for free for 14 days).

Photo by Richard Lee

Weekend Reading #8

It's Friday so you know that means it's time for some Weekend Reading (and in this case Listening and Watching) goodness. Every week I like to share a couple of my favorite pieces of media from the last few days. Let's get to it!

How to Take Control of Your Indie Work Career - Sam Spurlin on en*theos

I hope you can forgive the self-promotion inherent in my first link. en*theos is a company that is all about optimal living. They asked me to write an article and record a class for them awhile ago and it's now live! In it I share my top 10 ideas around improving work when you work for yourself. I then riff on these ideas via video for a little over thirty minutes. I start a little nervous but I think I hit my stride a few minutes in. Anyway, you can get a 10-day free trial to check out the enirety of the site and after that it's $9.95 per month. It's kind of like Netflix for personal development. Pretty neat, right?

The History of Rome - A podcast by Mike Duncan

This is an old podcast I was just introduced to thanks to a starter pack in the new podcast app, Overcast. Mike does an awesome job breaking up the history into bite-sized chunks that are easy to take in during little breaks throughout my day. I've always been a huge history fan but I never really learned as much about ancient Rome as I should have. This podcast is helping fix that. And considering there are well over 100 episodes I think I'll be occupied for awhile.

Oyster - "Netflix for books"

I recently did a one month free trial of Oyster (thanks for the nudge Robyn!) and decided to actually pay for the service once the trial ended. A true rarity for me when it comes to entertainment outlets. Anyway, I've been pretty impressed by the available library and very impressed by the iPad app. I'm currently reading Michel de Montaigne's "Essays" as well as the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson (I'm in some kind of weird essay mood, I guess). Anyway, I highly recommend the service as well as both of those books.

A Band Called Death

This is an excellent documentary about an all-black punk band from Detroit in the early 70's. It's a story about a band well ahead of its time, falling into obscurity, and then suddenly rocketing to critical acclaim nearly 40 years after recording a single album. Perhaps I'm biased because of my Michigan/Detroit connection, but I thought it was definitely worth my time. It's available in lots of different places online (I caught it on Netflix).

What have you been up to this week? Read/watch/listen to anything good?

Photo by Melanie

The Future of...

Last week the Wall Street Journal ran a feature where they asked a bunch of different people in various professions and industries about their take on the future. A couple of them seem particularly relevant to what I'm trying to do here about making the future of work a little bit better for everyone.

The Future of Managers

"It should not matter what hours you work or where you're [working] from. What matters is how you communicate and what you get done. It's a waste of the natural resources of time and energy to commute; when we break the shackles of what looks like work versus what actually drives value, 90% of the cost and space of an office and management will disappear. We will manage by trust and measuring output, rather than the easier task of tallying input."

The Future of Entrepreneurship

"With the increase in the number of startups over the past five years, we've entered the age of democratized entrepreneurship. Just about anyone can afford to launch a business these days, as well as being able to get access to the information they need to see some success at it."

Office of the Future

"As offices improve their ability to follow us everywhere—out of the building envelope and into cafes, homes, bathrooms, via smartphones and computers—cities will reshape themselves to become more like offices, with entire districts centered around co-working and other forms of sharing workspace."

Future of Email

"In the good old days, the secretary did all the hard work and the boss did two things: dictating and editing. But email has made secretaries of us all; we spend up to 38% of our day managing email."

My Take on the Future

Predictions are usually a recipe for putting your foot in your mouth so I'm going to keep it pretty general. Independent work is a real thing. For many types of work across numerous industries it's no longer necessary to work for an established organization. On the entrepreneurship side of things, it's also not necessary to try to create as large an organization as quickly as possible (think Silicon Valley). Creating a small business or working as an independent professional creates space for you to care about something other than money when thinking about ideal outcomes. Work that aligns with our values, is meaningful, and intrinsically rewarding is becoming more and more possible for people who are willing to take some risks and make deliberate decisions across all aspects of their lives.

That's where I think we're headed as a society and I'm doing everything I can to line myself up in such a way as to be a part of that change. Are you?

Photo by Scott Smithson