Why watch the same movie twice?

I’m a huge fan of revisiting good movies again and again over the span of several years. But not just movies—books, music, other works of art, foods. Anything of quality is fair game, even if I was only lukewarm to it initially.

This quote attributed to Heraclitus comes to mind:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
Heraclitus

In this case, the work you are revisiting is the same. You, however, are not. And the context from which you are experiencing it is not.

It’s rewarding to dive into the same good book every few years and find fresh lessons and insights waiting there for you each time. You see things you did not see and likely could not see at a previous point in your life. In a way, the fact that this happens is a sign of life—a confirmation that you are still growing in whatever areas that work covers.

An elegant answer to a personal question

Avinash Kaushik is somebody I’ve developed a great deal of respect for over the last year. I was originally exposed to his work when studying web analytics. Since then, I’ve come to realize that this guy could write an article called “The Best Sandwich I Ever Ate” and I would still be smarter after reading it than I was before.

During a recent Q and A on Yabbly, somebody tossed him a rather personal question:

Question
What is the purpose of your existence? Do you believe in God?

To which he replied:

Answer
I love this poem by Walt Whitman, and I believe we are here to contribute our verse. It is what I worry about, it is what I solve for.

***

O Me! O Life!
BY WALT WHITMAN

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

I loved the fact that he didn’t dodge the question. He answered it honestly and concisely, but in a way that still lets him maintain his privacy.

Clayton Christensen on Hardship

I’m currently reading Clayton Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life. Before hitting Add to Cart on Amazon I spent a few minutes searching the web for things written by him and about him. I came away with several thought-provoking quotes and ideas, some of which I wanted to share.

From Forbes:

I’m an optimistic person. But for the first time in my life, with all my problems, I focused more and more on me–and it was depressing, literally. Sometimes I just wanted to quit trying to learn and speak and write again and just go into my basement and build furniture. I learned an important lesson from this. I learned that focusing on my own problems does not bring happiness. God didn’t say, “Okay. For those with problems it’s okay to focus on yourself. And for those who don’t have problems, I want you to focus on helping others.” Even in dire times God does not exempt me from his commandment to focus my life on others, because it transforms hardship to joy.

Another article ends with this powerful quote:

The person I decide to be has to be robust enough that it doesn’t matter what happens in my life… Life will happen to me. But I don’t want what happens in life to determine who Clay Christensen becomes.

The Accidental Millionaire – by Gary Fong

A Zen approach to business.

You probably haven’t heard of Gary Fong.

Even though I’m interested in photography as a hobby, I hadn’t heard of him until a photographer buddy clued me in. He is known as an innovative wedding photographer, entrepreneur and writer.

In The Accidental Millionaire, Fong tells us his life story so far, giving the details of the personal philosophy that has worked so well for him. This is not the same recycled self-help tips everybody else writes about. In contrast to vision, goals, tasks and actions, Fong’s more Zen-flavored philosophy comes down to exploring things that interest him, creating space for insights to happen and then working his ass off once something catches. He admits he acts on hunches, sometimes decides by flipping a coin and understands the role luck has in success.

[Read more...]

Jack White on Restriction and Creativity

I have a fascination with The White Stripes. It’s amazing to me how much they can do with so little.

In this roughly two minute clip, Jack White talks about the things that foster their creativity.

There are two main takeaways here:

1. You don’t always wake up inspired and you don’t really need to. Get to work anyway. You still may come up with something good. I would add that inspiration often follows getting started anyway.

2. Create a box and then work within that box. Restrictions and constraints can foster creativity. Too many options and a lack of constraints can kill creativity. The White Stripes have chosen certain restrictions and constraints to continually force themselves to be creative.

SSIS Output to Multiple Files

Export a large set of query results into multiple flat files using SSIS.

Let’s say a user asks you to create a flat file output from a database query. Piece of cake. Open SSMS, write the query, run it and copy the results (with headers using SSMS 2008) into a text file. Send the user the file and and you’re done with time left over for a siesta.

But oh wait—they want to be able to open it in an older version of Excel, which will only display ~ 65k rows per sheet. This file has 190k rows. So they ask you to write the output to multiple files, limiting the total rows per file to 60k.

Now what?

You could simply open the raw flat file, go to line 60,001 and cut-paste lines 60,001–120,000 into another file and repeat as necessary. That’s ok for a one-off task but not a good strategy if you are going to be doing this several times. It can be cumbersome and error prone to manually create several files this way.

No—the better approach is to make SSIS do the heavy lifting. I had to do this recently and thought I’d share my solution. [Read more...]

Notes on Marketing and Promotion

I made these notes during last night’s HYPE event: Entrepreneur Roundtable – Marketing & Promotion. The speakers were Caitlin Thayer of Barefoot Media
and Andrew Wood of Mintz & Hoke Communications Group. Caitlin and Andrew discussed brand, marketing, social media and small business success. These notes aren’t their words verbatim so if anything sounds wrong, the blame is mine. [Read more...]