Choose Which Poison

“You’re going to pay a price for every bloody thing you do and everything you don’t do. You don’t get to choose to not pay a price. You get to choose which poison you’re going to take. That’s it.”
Jordan B. Peterson

Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

I am working on a list of “Bill’s Rules” – hopefully coming up with a list of useful, yet pithy, statements that I, more or less, came up with on my own. I’m up to four, but have serious doubts about the fourth – probably goin’ to give that one up.

At any rate, Numero Uno:

The key to creativity and innovation is to embrace failure

This seems obvious at first – of course if you are to be creative and innovative you have to be willing to fail. What I’m saying goes beyond that – you have to embrace failure. You have to crave failure. You have to have failure as your primary goal.

To illustrate, I’ll give an example from that white-hot furnace meant to burn away all and any trace of creativity and innovation (and joy, and human-ess, and anything else worthwhile) – the world of the modern giant corporation. It is a world of metrics, and goals, and people scurrying like ants to meet those metrics… and the world be dammed. Not meeting goal, having that dreaded red box on the monthly PowerPoint metric presentation – projected on that screen in that sterile conference room – , is the worse thing in the world and a source of executive shame.

And they don’t understand why other companies (usually very small) always come up with the new ideas.

Here’s my idea – everyone should have on their annual review goal list – “I will initiate at least six major projects in the coming year that will fail… preferably fail in a spectacular and embarrassing manner.”

That would spur some creativity and innovation. And what happens if your projects all succeed in wild and unpredictable ways? Well, you weren’t innovative and creative enough – if you manage to hold on to your job you better try harder next year.

What I learned this week, May 28, 2017

Frack Yea!

Learn to use mental dispersion to strengthen creativity

Nowadays we are constantly confronted by a screen demanding our attention; whether this is our computers, phone, television sets or a film, street ads or an ecosystem of ads, becoming distracted is easier than ever before, and the attention required to solve a problem or to find innovative solutions is a rare and fleeting moment.

However, this might be precisely because we are used to feeling guilty for not being more creative, or because we do not pay more attention: according to large body of research, creativity is more closely connected to daydreaming and dispersion than with the intellectual effort of paying attention.


A masterpiece of universal knowledge, the Tarot is a mirror that looks directly into the eye of the soul.

In the cult film, The Holy Mountain, filmmaker, poet, and magician, Alejandro Jodorowsky said: “the Tarot will teach you how to create a soul.” Did all of us not come into the world with a soul, our own, ready-made? But to ask about the nature of the soul in these abstract terms is a theological and speculative problem and one toward which little progress can be made. But to ask any individual and earthly soul is to open a door onto a passage along which the Tarot will help one to move.

The Tarot is an ancient game of cards, most likely created, anonymously, during the 14th century. Jodorowsky doesn’t hesitate to call it “an encyclopedia of symbols.” But during the 20th century, the use of Tarot became popular thanks to the printing of massive editions of the Tarot of Marseilles or the Raider-Waite deck. These cards don’t have fixed meanings, but are related and visually associated with one another based on the lives and experiences of both the seeker and the reader (i.e.; the person doing the reading).

The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles

It seems as if the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with aging was “corrected” with exercise, especially if it was intense, says Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, a professor of medicine and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic and the study’s senior author. In fact, older people’s cells responded in some ways more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did — suggesting, he says, that it is never too late to benefit from exercise.

Here’s what a MacGuffin is, and 10 killer examples that made movies awesome

from Wikipedia

In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of MacGuffin is a person, place, or thing (such as money or an object of value). Other more abstract types include victory, glory, survival, power, love, or some unexplained driving force.

The MacGuffin technique is common in films, especially thrillers. Usually the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and thereafter declines in importance. It may reappear at the climax of the story but sometimes is actually forgotten by the end of the story.

The use of a MacGuffin as a plot device predates the name “MacGuffin”. The Holy Grail of Arthurian Legend has been cited as an example of an early MacGuffin, as a desired object that serves to advance the plot. In the 1929 detective novel The Maltese Falcon, a small statuette provides both the book’s eponymous title and its motive for intrigue.

The name “MacGuffin” was originally coined by the English screenwriter Angus MacPhail, although it was popularised by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s, but the concept pre-dates the term. The World War I–era actress Pearl White used weenie to identify whatever object (a roll of film, a rare coin, expensive diamonds, etc.) impelled the heroes, and often the villains as well, to pursue each other through the convoluted plots of The Perils of Pauline and the other silent film serials in which she starred.

What Milk Should I Drink?

Almond-milk drinkers, for years, have exhibited a special sort of self-righteousness, based equally, I think, on the impressive nutritional profile of their chosen nut and the hardship they endure to consume it. (It is thin, weak, balky in a foamer—this from personal experience.) Soy milk, the most fiercely partisan might have argued, was for people who enjoyed having their endocrine systems disrupted, or who worked for Monsanto, while cow milk was for gluttonous torturers. Coconut, hazelnut, cashew, hemp milks: distant sirens, usually encountered in punitively expensive hand-pressed blends at places that consider macchiatos tacky and instead offer cortados and Gibraltars. Even as the big companies got involved and managed to make almond milk creamy, thick, and voluminous, the movement kept its puritanical edge.

Consumer Justice Investigates Network Of Professional Panhandlers

Doug Denton runs Homeward Bound, Inc. — a non-profit agency that helps people overcome addiction. He said most panhandlers aren’t homeless, and that giving them money is likely just enabling their addictions. “Just assume you’re buying drugs for them,” Denton said. He says in many cases there are people controlling the corners, adding, “The organizers of these rings are supplying the drugs and alcohol and reaping the profits.”


These are the rules.

I didn’t make them up. These are inalienable truths, a part of the divine spectrum of unquestionable constants that hold our universe together.

There might be those who feel deeply offended by some of the wisdom contained herein but I must insist that it is firmly in your interest to understand that the rules are quite infallible and with the greatest of respect, if you take issue with this doctrine, you are very probably a massive douchebag and it is thus all the more important that you adhere to these rules lest you reveal yourself as such.

Now read and obey.

Madison King at the first Patio Session

Deep Ellum

Courthouse Jam
Denton, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Daily Writing Tip 24 of 100, Exquisite Characters

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Exquisite Characters

Source – The Creative Process by Carol Burke and Molly Best Tinsley

The point of all these negatives is this: the heart of a short story, its energy source, is not, or is no longer, the plot. As the editor of one literary quarterly expressed it for would-be contributors, what he responds to in a story above and beyond everything else is “exquisite characterization.” A story is about people before it is about anything else–about human beings, richly rendered in all their quirkiness and typicality, in all their pain and pleasure, weakness and strength, despair and hope.

I had a writing teacher confess that the biggest problem he had was that his characters, “never did what I want them to do.” Isn’t that the ultimate compliment to your own writing – that the characters you have created are so real and interesting that they insist on living out their own lives, no matter what you want them to do. They become real people, not puppets on a string dancing to some literary formula or hackneyed plot device.

Daily Writing Tip 11 of 100, Creating A Ritual

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Creating A Ritual

Source – Spark – by Julie Burstein

The writer Isabel Allende has a very clear ritual.When she visited Studio 360 to talk about her novel Ines of My Soul, she said every year, on January 8, she sits down at her desk to write a new book.

Even if she hasn’t finished the book from the previous year, she puts all her research material aside and starts a new book on the morning of January 8. Even if she has no idea what she is going to write about she starts a new book on January 8.

Imagine the pressure on the evening of January 7.

This is a big, confusing, terrifying world… and we can only see a tiny, tiny sliver of it – both in place and in time. Writing is an attempt to make sense of it all – which is an absurd and insurmountable goal. The only way we can deal with the terrible mystery of that vast unknowable existence out there is with faith. And one key to maintaining faith in the face of terror is ritual. Even for the most devout faithless out there – without ritual it is impossible to even get out of bed in the morning.

If nothing else, ritual helps get the work done. And there is nothing more important than that.

What I learned this week, October 21, 2011

16 Tips to Simplify Your Life (and Increase Your Productivity)

from Tom.Basson

  1. Turn off all technology for 60 minutes a day
  2. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning.
  3. Start your day with exercise.
  4. Be obedient to the sabbath!
  5. Learn to say no.
  6. Plan your week ahead.
  7. Don’t answer your phone every time it rings.
  8. Get up early.
  9. Go to bed early.
  10. Eat a big healthy breakfast.
  11. Clean out your closets. Get rid of things you never wear or don’t use anymore.
  12. Stop watching TV.
  13.  Make sure you plan a decent holiday break once a year.
  14. Learn to protect your time.
  15. Do your banking online.
  16. Use Evernote.

Building Three-Dimensional Characters

  • Spine
  • Supporting Trait
  • Fatal Flaw
  • Shadow

I may be a loser and an idiot, but at least I’m not like this:

Family calls 911 when they get lost in a corn maze.

Isn’t that the point of a maize maze? Aren’t you supposed to get lost? I went to one once, with two kids, and it was a little disconcerting – but I was also aware that at any time I could walk through the corn if I had to.

OK, I hate Martha Stewart as much as you do… actually I hate her more, because I actually have a reason to be pissed at her. If you ask me nice, some day I’ll tell you about it.

In the meantime, she may be a nasty little piece of work, but she does know how to:

Make the perfect Macaroni and Cheese

Uncertainty, Innovation, and the Alchemy of Fear

  • Single Task
  • Exercise Your Brain
  • Reframe
  • Pulse and Pause
  • Drop Certainty Anchors

One of Lee’s friends told us about a pet that I had never heard about. Micro-Pigs.


Seems like a good idea, I suppose…. Isn’t that where Bacon Bits come from?


What I learned this week, September 2, 2011

Amy Tan on Creativity

I have been around the block a few times – I have lived long enough to have ridden the economic roller coaster in its up and downs. I’ve been telling folks that the last few years have felt a lot like the Jimmy Carter “malaise” stagflation of 1981.

There are a lot of parallels, and everything fades in memory, especially the worst things, but man, this one is nasty. I keep meeting people, hearing things, and reading more and more about this sort of situation:

“I don’t think anybody realized you had to recreate yourself out of the box,” Wiedemer says, noting that she has a BS in Finance and a dozen years of experience in the financial services industry. “If I had it to do over I wouldn’t climb the ladder in corporate America… Whenever I was unemployed in the past it was never for more than a couple weeks.”

Damn This Recession! – The rise of the unemployees

I added a long TED talk to my blog post on Douglas Adams. If you are a fan of him or of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, go take a look. Don’t forget your towel.

There have been a lot of theories about the cause(s) of the drastic drop in the crime rate over the last few decades. There is certainly more than one explanation. The popular book, Freakonomics, attributes a lot of the drop in crime to the rising abortion rate. Obviously, our increased prison population and more police on the street had a part.

One idea that I always had is the fact that lead was removed from gasoline at the time. This resulted in a dramatic reduction in lead levels, especially in young people, especially in urban areas. Elevated lead levels are associated with aggressive behavior and other mental problems.

I have been criticised for this view; someone told me, “Only a man would think of something like that,” which I thought was pretty idiotic. My personal response was, “Only a person with access to environmental lead data, who had done blood level testing in elevated lead exposure situations (after the Livingston Train Derailment in 1982), and who had done research into how elevated blood lead levels lead to changes in behavior, would think of something like that.”

Finally, I actually found an article that also mentions this theory:

There may also be a medical reason for the crime decline. For decades, doctors have known that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent, and delinquent. In 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency required oil companies to stop putting lead in gasoline. At the same time, lead in paint was banned for any new home (though old buildings still have lead paint, which children can absorb). Tests have shown that the amount of lead in Americans’ blood fell by four-fifths between 1975 and 1991. A 2000 study by economist Rick Nevin suggested that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the nineties. A later study by Nevin claimed that this also happened in other nations. Another economist, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, has made the same argument. (One oddity about this fascinating claim has yet to be explained: why the reduction related to lead-free blood included only violent crime, not property offenses.)

From Crime and the Great Recession by James Q. Wilson, in City Journal

No matter how bad I am, I’ll never be as bad as this:

Writing Tips for the Week

How to Stay Motivated

Condensed from Colombia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

1. Set a daily writing goal.

2. Schedule your writing as early as possible in the day. If you fear or dislike writing, then once it’s done, you experience a tremendous sense of relief that you have the rest of the day to do everything else you must do…without having to think about your writing.

3. Think ahead and plan backwards.

4. Work with deadlines.

5. There is no writing, only re-writing, Lamott (1994) says, “Get it down, so you can clean it up.” Shaw (1993) says, “There is no such thing as good writing. There is only good rewriting.” If it helps to motivate you, you do not need to write a final draft, or even a good draft. You write today what you must so that you can produce good writing when you edit.

6. Reward progress.

7. Motivate (and comfort) yourself with stories of other good writers (and how they suffer, too).

8. Read others’ acknowledgments.

9. And here’s another good motivational strategy: Donate $5 to your favorite U.S. presidential candidate’s opponent for each day you do not write.

Do you ever watch the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs?

I have had the experience of actually doing a job, at the exact location, that was on the show (it wasn’t a bad job at all – and it certainly wasn’t “dirty”).

Salt Mine – Outside

Yes, I used to work there.

At a quick glance – “Dirty Jobs” is just another cheapy, throwaway, cable pseudo-reality series that gives you a few chuckles and a shock or two – barely enough to keep your hand off of the remote control and certainly not enough to justify wasting that precious sliver of time that it takes to watch the thing.

But maybe there’s something else going on here. Maybe you can learn something.

Take a look at this TED talk (yes, all of it) – the host certainly has learned something

Did you think you would get a lecture from the Dirty Jobs guy on Anagnorisis and Peripeteia? With the added instructional lecture on how to bite off a pair of sheep balls?

Stay tuned my friends, you might learn something.

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