Book Notes – Keep Going

Book Cover of Keep Going

1. Every day is ground hog day

Rather than restricting your freedom, a routine gives you freedom by protecting you from the ups and downs of life and helping you take advantage of your limited time, energy, and talent.

2. Build a bliss station

The architect Le Corbussier spent mornings in his apartment painting and afternoons in his office practicing architecture. “Painting every morning is what allows me to be lucid every afternoon,” he said. He did everything he could to keep his two identities separate, even signing his paintings with his birth name, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret.

3. Forget the noun, do the verb.

Job titles, if they’re taken too seriously, will make you feel like you need to work in a way that befits the title, not the way that fits the actual work.

4. Make gifts

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – William Bruce Cameron

You know what success is, or at least you have your own definition of it. (Mine: when my days look how I want them to look.)

5. The ordinary + extra attention = the extraordinary

You do not need to have an extraordinary life to make extraordinary work.

When you have a system for going back through your work, you can better see the bigger picture of what you’ve been up to, and what you should do next.

7. You are allowed to change your mind

“To think independently of other human beings is impossible,” writes Alan Jacobs in his book How to Think. “Everything you think is a response to what someone else has thought and said.”

8. When in doubt, tidy up

It’s always a mistake to equate productivity and creativity. They’re not the same. In fact, they’re frequently at odds with each other: You’re often most creative when you’re the least productive.

I keep one of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s “Oblique Strategies” on a big sign above my desk: When in doubt, tidy up. Note that it says “when in doubt”, not “always”.

Make your mark. Put a dent in the universe. Move fast and break things. These slogans presuppose that the world is in need of marking or denting or breaking and that the cosmic purpose of human beings is vandalism. Things are already a mess out there. We’ve made enough of a mark on this planet. What we need are fewer vandals and more cleanup crews.

10. Plant your garden

“She learned from that tree. The beauty it produced in spring was only because of what it went through during the winter, and sometimes the harshest winters yielded the most glorious springs.”

Like a tree, creative work has seasons. Part of the work is to know which season you’re in, and act accordingly.

The comedian George Carlin lamented how obsessed we all are with the notion of forward, visible progress. “It’s the American view that everything has to keep climbing: productivity, profits, even comedy.” He felt we made no time for reflection. “No time to contract before another expansion. No time to grow up,” he said. “No time to learn from your mistakes. But that notion goes against nature, which is cyclical.”

Worry less about getting things done. Worry more about things worth doing.