Two months ago I was in Tulum. This was my first time travelling with a close friend, and I’ve learned a few things about myself and leadership. Here are a few tips that might help you.
On the way to Tulum, I am silent.
“Do you like this place? Are you glad we didn’t go to Cuba? Do you like the hotel?” Megz asks.
“Yes,” I say.
“What’s wrong?” She says.
“I’m just tired,” I say. It’s 3am and I could’ve been playing beach volleyball back home. Somewhere in my body there is excitement about Mexico, but overall I’m craving a shower and bed.
The next day, she says: “I thought you were angry.”
“Because you were quiet.”
For better or worse, each of us is setting performance benchmarks for people around us and we can create a lot of stress for someone.
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I wasn’t always a pescatarian. I’ve stopped eating meat for probably seven years now, for a slew of reasons. This is something I’m not very vocal about, but people catch on and ask the following questions, without fail:
“How long have you been vegetari–er–pescatarian?”
“Do you eat eggs?”
In the past year or so, I’ve noticed that people are less surprised at my alternative diet.
If you are trying to make a social change, here are a few things I’ve noticed.
There’s something intriguing about creating an idea quick and dirty from scratch. That’s why I’m a fan of hackathons: you get 24 hours to create a project about anything.
The most boring hackathon I have ever attended was when a bunch of doctors sat around and ate finger biscuits while they chatted about their patients’ problems — for goodness sakes, if no one is stressed, then it’s not a true hackathon.
I’ve heard from about fifty different doctors now that if you create a ‘physical activity tracking app’, you will “solve diabetes” or “decrease obesity” or some other sort of magic trick. Hi, can you google “fitbit”?
Doctors tell you about the flaws in their patients’ treatments and conditions though, which are good for working with. For example, after a while, breast cancer survivors become too lazy to get screened again. Or, for some tests, the length of time between getting screened and getting results is ridiculous. We put health science people together with engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs, at our hackathon, and got some great projects.
So, a hackathon is about getting the right people in the same room together and giving them the right tools to achieve a goal the dirty way. In music terms, this is like jamming in someone’s garage and coming up with a great song just because you were in the right place at the right time.
I put together a FAQ about organizing a hackathon, focused on logistics, which will give you a peek into the effort that goes towards a large-scale hackathon!
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One evening after work, I wander into the new Tom Lee store that I see from my office everyday and slip into the fancy glass room that’s filled with acoustic pianos. No one pays attention to me in my t-shirt and jeans.
I play cadences on pianos that I pass by, until I stop at one to play for a short while.
“Can I help you find something?”
“No, I’m just looking,” I say, gesturing with my chin. “Baby grands.”
“You are obviously pretty good,” he says. “That was, you know, Liszt.”
I nod. I didn’t know that was Liszt. I thought I got lucky pressing the keys.
He gestures to another piano nearby — which happens to be a cheaper Steinway brand. I play it for a little bit and realize the keys are too light.
“Want to play a Steinway?”
He walks over towards one and pulls out the bench, like at a restaurant. How do I get rid of him?
Right before my flight to Mexico, I played beach volleyball because I couldn’t resist: Vancouver’s first non-rainy day in ages.
I come home unable to bend my foot, like it’s a giant lego foot. I am becoming sort of an eccentric travel figure suffocating under the weight of everyone’s opinion. Everyone thinks I should’ve gone to a resort in Cancun.
But there is something magical about experiencing a way of life that is so different from mine from a vastly different corner of the world. If I incorporate some good into my life from each of my travels, then I’d get a bit wiser by the end of it all.
That’s how I found myself at my first dinner in Tulum, sitting on a stump of wood, eating the best veggie burger I’ve had in my life while barefoot reggae musicians in hip-length dreads set up their drums and guitar and mic and start singing lilting Spanish tunes.
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I’m getting a new fridge because my old one started leaking.
What do my broken fridge and piano practice have in common? Let me explain.
We push the fridge out of the cabinet and I’m trying to disconnect the water line with a wrench. Am I supposed to twist the top or bottom part? I don’t know but I try both and neither work.
“Get me pliers!” I shout.
My sister hands me the needlenose pliers and for goodness’ sake even I know that’s not what needlenose pliers are for.
So I’m using a wrench to twist the nut–it fits around the nut but it won’t move at all, solid like if you tried to collapse a wall with your body.
Shit, I’m not strong enough.
I’ve seen my dad twist things and it looked so simple.
So I’m just standing around feeling bad about myself because the nut didn’t even wiggle a little.
Later, the handyman comes, and uses these large pliers that I’ve seen my dad use, to twist the nut. It comes loose in seconds.
Oh, I think to myself, I just needed the right pliers, not superhuman strength.
How many times have we been using a wrench to twist at problems when all we needed was the right pliers?
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Many people ask about starting a business, in particular, how to teach music.
In January, I met a girl who was building her business and I thought we’d cheer each other on as buddies, because my first rule to excelling in some area is finding a friend in the same space.
I shared my favourite tools and strategies with her. “Friends share their best stuff,” I thought. But every time I asked her opinion, she introduced me to her consulting service.
A few weeks ago, she emailed me:
I’m sorry but I can’t continue with our chats. I don’t have the time to check in every couple of weeks.
Best of luck with everything in your business.
How do people find best friends to grow with?
I don’t have a buddy but I’ve shaken the system up for building a business–here it is.
How to build a community of learners
All my businesses have been based on learning, with a community involved. This is no exception. I thought I’d be running design strategy consulting sessions all summer long, but it has grown beyond that.
Here’s the strategy I ran with this time:
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