Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Favorite Quotations from "High Fidelity"

I wanted to share four of my favorite quotations four of my favorite quotations from “High Fidelity” by Nick Horby.


“It seems to me if you add music (and books, probably, and films, and plays, and anything that makes you feel) at the center of your being, then you can't afford to sort out your love life, start to think of it as the finished product. You've got to pick at it, keep it alive and in turmoil, you've got to pick at it and unravel it until it all comes apart and you're compelled to start all over again. Maybe we live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship.”

“It's a mystery of human chemistry and I don't understand it, some people, as far as their senses are concerned, just feel like home.”

“A while back, when Dick & Barry & I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you *are* like, Barry proposed the idea of a questionnaire for potential partners, a 2 or 3 page multiple-choice document that covered all the music/film/TV/book bases. It was intended: a) to dispense with awkward conversation, and b) to prevent a chap from leaping into bed with someone who might, at a later date, turn out to have every Julio Iglesias record ever made. It amused us at the time... But there was an important & essential truth contained in the idea, and the truth was that these things matter, and it's no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently, or if your favorite films wouldn't even speak to each other if they met at a party.”

“Did I do and say these things? Yes, I did. Are there any mitigating circumstances? Not really, unless any circumstances {in other words, context) can be regarded as mitigating. And before you judge, although you have probably already done so, go away and write down the four worst things you have done to a partner, even if - especially if - your partner doesn't know about them. Don't dress things up, or try to explain them; just write them down, in a list, in the plainest language possible. Finished? Ok, so who's the arsehole now?”

Valuing Facebook: Putting a Market Value on Memories

As most people know by now, Facebook recently went public, causing investors everywhere to scramble with the question, “How much is the company actually worth?” I personally find the valuation of Facebook to be extremely interesting, precisely because there are so many different theories on the growth potential, the marketing impact, the data that is being collected, the longevity, and what the future of the Internet holds. I believe that one of the questions that is being asked the most is, Can Facebook be replaced either by another social network or the next new thing?

I’ve gone back and forth, on my viewpoint, and currently conclude that what we mostly use Facebook for, keeping in contact with people, sharing lives, posting photos and updates, etc. can absolutely replaced by something new and likely will be. As a result, the time we care to spend on the network will dwindle, the advertising will dwindle, etc.

So yes, we may lose interest in Facebook to an extent, but the another important question is would we be willing to give up our Facebook page forever? Our first response might be, of course, it’s just social network page, it doesn’t mean that much to us.

But then we start thinking, of all of the memories that are stored within that profile. In retrospect, we might find that initiating the “timeline” was one of the Mark Zuckerberg’s more genius moves, forcing us to understand how, regardless of whether we were conscious of it or not, Facebook has been capturing a story of who we are, of how we’ve grown, of what we love, and of what we’ve done.

Our profiles have captured pieces of our past that we’ll never get back, notes, messages, status updates, and photographs, that take us back in time.

Then, of course¸ there are the profiles of friends on Facebook that are no longer in our lives or have passed away. People we may have loved once that we’ve lost. At times we find comfort in visiting their pages just as one might find comfort in flipping through old photo albums or visiting a grave. Maybe we’ve moved on from our pasts, and so we rarely go back or even want to, but there’s something about knowing it’s there, like the shoe box with pictures beneath our bed that we move from place to place and can never bring ourselves to throw away. 

But what if we had to pay to keep that shoe box, or that photo album? Would anyone of us do so, or would we surrender our memories without hesitation and have the box locked up forever? Personally, I would definitely pay something, but how much is an extremely difficult question to answer. Something tells me, however, that the more my timeline fills up, the higher the price will get. Of course, perhaps I am just an exception, too much of the sentimental type for my own good. However, something tells me that I’m not the only one. 

So as part of figuring out how much Facebook shares are worth, analysts are going to have to figure out how to put a “market value” on our memories, and I think this becomes a very interesting question. How do you really price the shoe boxes beneath 800 million beds?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Favorite Nora Ephron Quotations

In memory of Nora Ephron, an American filmmaker, director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, author, and blogger, I would like to share just a few of my favorite Nora Ephron quotations. It was hard to choose my favorites because there are so many that I love!

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

“Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”

“In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind.”


“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”

“I have no desire to be dominated. Honestly I don't. And yet I find myself becoming angry when I'm not.”

“I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.”

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

“The desire to get married is a basic and primal instinct in women. It's followed by another basic and primal instinct: the desire to be single again.”

“I don’t care who you are. When you sit down to write the first page of your screenplay, in your head, you’re also writing your Oscar acceptance speech.”

“My mother was a good recreational cook, but what she basically believed about cooking was that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you.”


Monday, June 25, 2012

Valuable Lessons From "Be Excellent at Anything"

Although personally I think a lot of self-help books are full of bullshit and bad advice, I always keep my eyes out for the few a year that I discover that can really teach me or remind me of something of value.  The latest such one that I stumbled across is called “Be Excellent at Anything” by Tony Schwartz. I thought this book made several really good points that are worth sharing.


1)   Great performers tend to work more intensely than most of us do but also recover more deeply. Absorbed focus and learning to practice a task with a very high level of attention are very important. There is likely a maximum amount of time that we are capable of working or practicing with such great intensity which means we should not underestimate the need for proper breaks and rejuvenation. Many forms of rejuvenation that I used to see as ways of being lazy or a waste of time I now realize are essential to high performance.

2)   Ask yourself the question, “Is the life you’re leading worth the price you’re paying to live it?” It is important to take the time to look at ourselves honestly to prevent lack of awareness, self-deception, and a failure to see the full consequences of our decisions from leading us down the wrong road. The book also emphasizes that “By embracing our own opposites and getting comfortable with our contradictions, we build richer, deeper lives.” It is suggested that following list of qualities be considered in terms of which quality you value in each pair. 

Extroverted                        Introspective
Decisive                             Open-minded
Confident                           Humble
Logical                               Intuitive
Tactical                              Reflective
Pragmatic                           Visionary
Discerning                          Accepting
Honest                               Compassionate
Courageous                        Prudent
Tenacious                           Flexible
Tough-minded                    Empathic

Many organizations tend to value the qualities on the left side far more, but if we undervalue the qualities on the right we lose access to “essential dimensions of ourselves and others.” Reflecting back on the cultures of some of my former workplaces, I definitely agree that most leadership models encourage cultivation of some of these qualities at the expense of others. The book reads, “Honesty in the absence of compassion becomes cruelty. Tenacity unmediated by flexibility congeals into rigidity. Confidence untempered by humility is arrogance. Courage without prudence is recklessness. Because all virtues are connected to others, any strength overused ultimately becomes a liability.” So true, and yet so often forgotten!

3)   Will and discipline are overrated. According to Roy Baumeister, who has spent much of his career studying self-control, “Acts of choice draw on the same limited resource used for self-control.” Limited is the key word here. For example, people that are on diets tend to perform worse than nondieters on tasks that require focus and vigilance. Instead of constantly struggling to exercise self-control we are better off focusing on replacing bad habits with positive rituals, because the more behaviors become a routine the less conscious effort and energy they require. “The less conscious willpower we have to expend to make things happen the more effective we become.”

4)    Resist the temptation to be constantly multitasking. Ironically this often leaves us feeling emptier and disconnected. Except in rare circumstances it is better and more effective to focus on one thing at a time. We are likely much better off if we build our capacity for absorbed attention and high level concentration.

5)    A quote was mentioned from a speech by Drew Gilpin Faust from her first baccalaureate ceremony address as Harvard University’s new president. “You are worried because you want to have both a meaningful life and a successful life. If you don’t try to do what you love—whether it is painting or biology or finance; if you don’t pursue what you think will be the most meaningful you will regret it.” This is so true and a good reminder, because the opportunity to become successful can be very tempting, and many people gradually sacrifice doing what they love to achieve it, and that is no small price to pay. It is important to continue to be aware of the tradeoffs we are making.

This is not so much a summary of what the book teaches as just a few things that stood out to me that I wanted to share. Feel free to check out the book yourself if you are interested in more of what the author has to say (I included the Amazon link below). Also, feel free to share your thoughts about the points above, as I would love to hear your opinions! Thanks!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

3 Quotations to Live By

Hello my friends.

There are 3 things I am constantly trying to remind myself. I would like to share those with you. Some of you might not agree, some of you might see these points as being so obvious that they hardly bear repeating to yourself over and over again. But I hope that a few of you find these quotations as important as I have in my life.

You see, I think we can underestimate the power of inspirational quotations sometimes, their ability to define us, how much words that we consistently repeat ourselves in our heads can shape our thoughts, our lives, and our actions.

Many of you, already do this on a regular basis. But not all of you. And the three quotations that I’ll share may not mean much to you, and that’s ok. But I encourage you do find words that do. And try as much as you can to live by them.

So here is the first.

“Everyone must learn this lesson somewhere. It costs something to be who you are.”

Most things in life require a certain degree of sacrifice. Everything has a price. And a big part of the price we pay for something is our time. This simple fact is obvious in some areas. For example, most of us understand that a perfect GPA cost us hours of time studying, or that most sports achievements required hours of training. And there are few shortcuts.

But sometimes we forget this in other aspects of our lives. For example, most of you that are very popular spent hours talking and spending time with other people. And those that have artistic talent spend hours with that art. And many people that are good cooks spend hours in the kitchen, and history buffs spend hours watching the history channel and so forth.

So because we each have a limited number of hours, we can’t have everything, and we absolutely cannot be everything that we might want to be. So we are constantly giving up pieces of who we might have been. For everything we gain, a friendship, children, degrees, careers, learning to play a song, vacations, gardening skills, video game accomplishments, knowledge about other people, we are losing something. And for everything we lose we gain something. And we don’t always understand at the time what we are gaining or losing.

Some of the most successful people didn’t always have a lot friends growing up or a family that spent a lot of time together. Some of the greatest artists had hard childhoods. Even the time we spend suffering matters. So every time you miss out on something you would have liked to have think about what you might gain instead. Because you are going to have unfortunate things happen to you in your life and you are going to have to decide how much time you want to sit around feeling sorry for yourself and how much time you want to spend turning that experience into an opportunity to learn something new, or meet someone new, or become someone new.

The late Steve Jobs, the genius behind many of Apple’s greatest innovations, once said, “You can’t connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them backwards.” There are things you might learn today that you might not use for years. But eventually it might help you in ways you never imagined. It’s just so important to try to get the most out of every experience.


Think about if the way you are spending your time is worth it. Think about if it is getting you closer to where you really want to be. Never forget the cost.

The next bit of advice I’d like to give you is this. “Always remember what your true values are and be conscious to whether or not the life you are living is consistent with them.”

And when I say your values I mean YOUR values. These may not be the same values your parents have. These may not be the same values some of your friends have. They may not be the values you were taught growing up, or from a religion, or the same values you had two years ago. Of course, they may very well be, but the point here is to decide for yourself what your true values are and to understand that as you grown and learn and have new experiences these may very well change and that’s okay. What’s not okay, is when deep down your values haven’t changed, but you have, and you start behaving in a way that is no longer consistent with what you really believe in.

When I ask you today what you want out of life, most of your answers to could be translated to, “I want to be successful.” But what does this mean? Doesn’t this mean different things to different people? I don’t think success is about particular goals or achievements. I think that true success is living a life that is consistent with what you truly value.

Having this kind of success is not easy. Because first of all you have to know what you truly value. Sometimes this requires digging deep inside your soul, asking yourself difficult questions, questions that may be painful, questions that may take days or months or even years to answer. And you can never stop being conscious of how the answers might change over time, because what you truly value at 25 might not be the same as what you truly value at 50, and you have to accept this, you have to be willing to grow. No one else can do this for you, or can tell you what your heart believes in, and although wiser people, or culture, or religion, can help guide you to what the answer is, you must not depend on them to give it to you. Because there is no “one size fit all” answer to what you should value, and the only “right” answer is the one you find by searching your soul.

And then, once you have some idea of what’s truly important to you, you have to remember it. This might be the hardest part because so many things, so many other obsessions, and distractions, and people, and jobs, and family, and obligations, and day to day life can get in the way. But if you fail to remember, you might find yourselves working to become “successful” at the wrong thing. It is so easy to get caught up in other lifestyles, to be influenced by those around you into believing that happiness can be found in something else. And it’s not really a good feeling to find you’ve succeeded at getting something you thought you wanted but still not being happy because you let yourself forget what you really value.

So please, find a way to remember every day, maybe through meditation, or reading, or solitary walks, or appreciating nature, or listening to certain music, or through conversations with certain people, or going to a church, or a graveyard, or the sea, whatever is you need to do to remind yourself.

So after you know what you value, and remind yourself of it, you need to make sure you are living a life that is consistent with it, and when you find that you aren’t, you need to have the courage to change. Because sometimes this means walking away of from things, a career you may have been successful at, people that you love, places in which you were comfortable. It might mean having to take risks, having to give up a certain level of security, and perhaps having to deal with failure, uncertainty, criticism, and poverty. So no, I’m not telling you that it will be easy. But I promise you that it will be worth it.

Finally, the final quotation I would like to share with you today is by author Rainer Maria Rilke.
"Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day."


Learn to live with uncertainty. The way you deal with uncertainty and the amount you are able to handle without going crazy will define you in a lot of ways. Sometimes taking the initial plunge the easy part, but learning to live with immense uncertainty day in and day out and to stay in the water long enough for something to happen is what will set you apart. Good luck.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Why Not Wanting To Get Married Doesn't Make You Selfish, Shallow, Or Immature

When two people decide to “tie the knot” the decision is typically followed by elaborate celebrations and being enthusiastically congratulated by about everyone they know. All of this can be rather annoying to those who do not view marriage as essential or even particularly desirable. It is not that marriage isn’t a wonderful thing for many people, but that the alternative life of choosing to pass on being in a long term committed relationship is very much misunderstood. Many people associate a lack of desire to marry or commit to a long term relationship with a fear of getting hurt, selfishness and/or shallowness, or eventual unfulfillment. Perhaps in some cases this is true, but many times this is a very false assessment.

If you remain single by choice, perhaps even after a long line of lovers have tried to persuade you into loving ‘til death do us part’, often times family and friends will say to each other, “I think he/she is afraid of getting hurt.” They imagine that you’ve been burned so badly in the past, had your heart crushed so severely, or lost someone so important to you, that just the thought of loving someone new is terrifying. But it’s not always about an unwillingness to get close to someone, to open your heart, to make yourself vulnerable enough to fall madly in love. Sometimes it’s about a desire to simply embrace that love in the moment without trying to control the future.

Doesn’t this often make you more vulnerable to pain and suffering instead of less? You are willing to allow the people you love the most to leave you whenever they feel like it. You are willing to accept the intense loneliness and longings such goodbyes might bring, the kind of loneliness lifetime partners will likely never have to feel. You are choosing to the forfeit the security of a committed relationship in spite of the risks, but why? Maybe it is because, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said, "Him that I love, I wish to be free-even from me." Maybe you just don’t believe that true love and chains can live in the same place.

Maybe American Psychologist James Hillman was right when he said, “Loving in safety is the smaller part of loving.” Many people can commit themselves to a relationship that they think or hope will end in “happily ever after,” but it takes an entirely different type of courage to pour your heart into something that you acknowledge you’ll eventually be forced to let go of.

Perhaps it’s not that you fear intimacy, but that you refuse to ignore the reality that as life and people change love does too. It takes courage to admit that people can grow out of things, even each other. For some people, the comfort and safety of marriage is just not worth the possibility of being forced to eventually live a lie. Marriage can be an illusion in the sense that it forces you to make and believe in promises that humans do not always have the power to keep. As writer Michael Ventura once stated in one of his columns, “We can promise to want to love someone for the rest of our lives, but we can’t control falling out of love any more than we can control falling in love. We’re all aware of this terrible uncertainty whether or not we admit it, so our promises are no more than good intentions and (as promises) they ring hollow.”

Sometimes two people can start out in love and eventually find themselves in a situation where they only bring out the worst in each other. You can find yourself in a spot in a relationship where you try and try and try but find yourself somehow incapable of not continuing to hurt the other person. In Derek Cianfrance’s movie Blue Valentine, a couple struggle with this exact situation, and in one scene the woman (Cindy) says to her husband during a fight, “I can’t stop this … I can’t stop what’s happening … can you?” As painful a reality as it is, sometimes the best people can do is put their hands up at the scene of wreckage and walk away. You just don’t want spend years of your life trying to fix something that is permanently broken. As Will Grayson says in the John Greene book of the same name, “When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost-the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed”

One of the greatest misconceptions of marriage is that it is the only way to achieve a certain type of fulfillment. But the problem is people like to talk about the joy and fulfillment of finding someone that you can spend forever with, without considering the cost. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain you lose something.” This is absolutely true of a long term committed relationship; the price of this so called “fulfillment” does not come without a steep cost.

The cost isn’t just about being able to do whatever you want and be a sloppy, drunk, slut on the weekends if you feel like it. It’s easy to see one could grow weary of that lifestyle, and the weariness is exactly why many people settle down. It’s about all the people you will miss out on, and what they could teach you about yourself, that your mate never will. It’s about playing the same roles your entire life. It’s about never again experiencing the joy of when you first fall in love with someone. Or even the joy of leaving someone and then coming back to them and falling in love all over again. Not to mention the fact that marriage often does not lead to the fulfillment we thought it would anyway.

But what about this thing called faithfulness? So many people have been taught to idolize faithfulness. I love the quote in The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde that says, “Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect-simply a confession of failures. Faithfulness, I must analyze it someday. The passion for property is in it. There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.” The demand for faithfulness is a need to claim a part of another person. Why do so many people rush to be someone else’s property? I believe in freedom, especially the freedom to give yourself in love.

“Non-marrying” types are also often accused of being shallow, selfish, and/or immature. But maybe the people who chose to only love once in their lives are really the shallow people. Perhaps there is more selfishness in fidelity, in choosing to only share yourself with one person, in tying someone else down so that you never have to worry about experiencing the sharp pangs of jealousy or the reality that not only is there someone else that could take your place, but it might be better for everyone but you if they did. Maybe it is more immature to want to cling to a relationship. If you’re not clingy, jealous, or insecure, fidelity just seems rather silly.

Part of the argument that “non-committers” are selfish is that they hurt and disappoint so many people by leaving. But within marriages don’t people hurt and disappoint each other every day? And if someone stops loving you, is it really a terribly selfish thing to want to be with someone that you can make happy? Vows are great and all but deep down don’t most of us just want to be with someone that stills laughs at our jokes, smiles when they see us, and kisses us in the rain?

Similar to the fulfillment theory is the soul mate theory. People love to say, “You just haven’t met the right person yet.” But even if we were to meet our soul mate, and I do think one can have multiple soul mates in a lifetime, why do we need to live with them forever? As Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Eat Pray Love, “A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.” You can love someone forever without being with them forever. I wish we could stop celebrating marriages so that when they end we no longer have to call them failures. As Patrick McBride said, “The end of a relationship is not a failure any more than the end of a book is a failure.” Even the greatest love stories have to end eventually.

I guess in the end people have to do what’s right for them. It’s easy to criticize people for being delusional but in many cases, a relationship, as many lies as it might be based on, is the best shot they have at happiness. People are afraid of not believing in monogamy because they like resolutions. The want the false illusion of security, they want to believe that promising something has the power to make it happen, and they want to think that they won’t die alone. They want to think that maturity will bring stability. Like the people who look for patterns in the lottery numbers, they love to downplay the impact of chance on our lives. Once again, this is not an argument against marriage. Last night, I watched the movie When Harry Met Sally where throughout the film there are elderly couples talking about their lives together. It is hard not to see that “growing old together” can bring joy. But some of us are born to love strangeness and get bored with familiarity. There is a quote from the tagline of the movie Closer that states, “When you believe in love at first sight you never stop looking.” Some of us don’t really want to fall in love just once but over and over again. We are addicted to the magic of the ability to love someone before we even know their mysteries, or perhaps because of the mysteries. To us, there is more beauty in strangeness, and as said in "The Zoo Where You’re Fed to God" by Michael Ventura, “All paths cause pain, so to choosing the safe over the audacious will not give you less pain only less beauty.” And we want to soak up as much beauty as we can during our brief time on this earth. So romance or security, what shall we choose? We can’t always have both.