Category Archives: Persistence

Bernard Malamud six steps to persisting and the real mystery to crack

Interviewer: What about work habits? Some writers, especially at the beginning, have problems settling how to do it. Malamud: There’s no one way—there’s so much drivel about this subject. You’re who you are, not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe. You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place—you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time—not steal it—and produce the fiction. If the stories come, you get them written, you’re on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you. To sum up Malamud’s advice for persisting: There’s no one way to persist.You do what you want done…by sitting down and doing it.You know you best – pick when and where works for you.Discipline is key.Block off time. Don’t just try to stuff it in.You are the real mystery to crack. You.

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Bernard Malamud on what first drafts are for

“First drafts are for learning what your novel or story is about. Revision is working with that knowledge to enlarge and enhance an idea, to re-form it. D.H. Lawrence, for instance, did seven or eight drafts ofThe Rainbow. The first draft of a book is the most uncertain—where you need guts, the ability to accept the imperfect until it is better. Revision is one of the true pleasures of writing. ‘The men and things of today are wont to lie fairer and truer in tomorrow’s memory,’ Thoreau said.” – Bernard Malamud After the first step of a project or fulfilling a passion, there’s a pause. And you either go on or you don’t. You either persist or you don’t. You need two things to begin: gutsand the ability to accept the imperfect until it is better. The imperfect is where play lives. Failure is the only option here. After you’ve begun, you either keep going…or you don’t. Continuing after the first initial burst of inspiration can be a slog – joyless persistence.  Or not.  Malamud obviously loved the rewriting process. He called revision “one of the true pleasures of writing”.I believe him. He only published eight novels. He wrotenine novels – he burned the manuscript of his first book in 1948. His first published novel came out four years later – it’s called The Natural. You may have seen the Robert Redford movie adaptation. Passion sparks. Play welcomes the imperfect. And the joy that can be found in persistencelets us “enlarge and enhance an idea, to re-form it.” That certainly sounds like true pleasure.

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What to do if you’re not a genius (and what to do if you are)

The Pulitzer-prize winning writer Bernard Malamud, in an interview in The Paris Review, had some advice for writers. This advice applies to all of us. First, for those of us who are non-geniuses. He said, “if you’re not a genius, imitate the daring.” This is pretty specific. Artists of all kinds – painters, musicians, writers, etc. – are routinely advised to imitate the great artists in their field. Ironically, this imitation, when fully learned, provides the technical skills and foundation for real originality. Malamud goes further. Don’t just imitate the great ones. Imitate the daring. Daring is what is required. Leaps into the unknown are not for the faint of heart. And leaps into the unknown are the only actions that can move your life closer to what you dream of.  I’m endlessly inspired by people that are daring. They might be musicians or other types of artists, or they more likely are living a quixotic life. When in doubt, us non-geniuses could use more daring. But what if you are a genius? Malamud has different advice for you. “Assert yourself, in art and humanity.” No need to imitate anyone or anything. Just assert yourself and your passion. Don’t hide any longer. That is of course its own form of daring. Assert yourself in your craft and your work. And assert yourself in your everyday life, your interactions at home, in the shop, everywhere.  There you have it – two bits of advice for everyone – geniuses and non-geniuses alike. Although I suspect we all have parts of us in each category. So we might as well follow both pieces of advice.   “…if you’re not a genius, imitate the daring. If you are a genius, assert yourself, in art and humanity.” – Bernard Malamud, Paris Review interview

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Awkward in a hundred ways, clumsy in a thousand, still I go on

“Awkward in a hundred ways, clumsy in a thousand, still I go on.” -Chinese Zen master Yueh-shan  ? The word humility comes from the root of humus or earth. When we play close to the ground, when we screw up, when we fail we’re ‘brought down back to earth’.  The Zen teachers were good friends with failure. Failure was welcome in their homes. Imagine the puffed up presences dominating the news cycle admitting to being awkward or clumsy! This kind of lack of acceptance of being fundamentally human, and thus fundamentally imperfect shows the presence of a delicate ego that needs the constant bicycle pump of adulation to keep from landing. Much better to play our way through life, experimenting, failing, and learning. Like the baby animal taking its first steps or first flight, the awkardness and clumsiness is essential for success. It’s welcomed. It’s the necessary ingredient.  And when it’s welcomed, nothing can stop us. And still we can go on.

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One man, one hundred years of joy

“If I live to be 103, then I will have skied 100 years.” – Klaus Obermeyer “My sentence was a thousand years of joy.” – Robert Bly How do we persist? What helps what we care about stick? It’s a question that I’ve lived with for it years now. Some observations: We persist at what we love.We find something special in the act of persisting, something that feeds us like no other.We don’t let the rest of life fill in and obscure a passion. Life is not often what you would call “easy”. We find our inspiration where we can. Klaus Obermeyer is a font of inspiration for us. For example, he’s turning 100 years old at the end of 2019 and is still skiing. And he’s smiling while he’s doing it.  Don’t ski? No problem, me neither after tearing ligaments in my leg (while skiing). Let these quotes wash over you and provide a foundation for you to play your particular passion. And to lay the groundwork of delight that will enable you to persist at what uniquely feeds you. (all italics mine)  “You apply the extension of energy in skiing… You love the mountain. You’re the center of your own universe. You’re given all these choices and opportunities—where to turn, how fast to go, how to enjoy it. You have a positive energy; you cannot fear or have negative energy.”  “It doesn’t matter which mountain it is or which run or what conditions there are. I do not discriminate between them. Some are longer; some are shorter… but they’re all fun! I just love skiing.” “I ski whenever it’s nice and you can see where you’re going,”  “The days you don’t ski, they don’t come back.” “I used to ski my age — 82 mph when I was 82 years old. Now I still enjoy skiing but don’t try to go that fast.” “At this point of my age, it’s easier to ski than it is to walk.”  “The beauty of nature in winter, it’s like a fairy tale. The other part is that you are connecting back with speed and zero-G and weightlessness. It gives you a natural high somehow. And to be able to enjoy that speed coming down after climbing the mountain is absolutely marvelous.” “Skiing has been my life. Everything that happened was because of skiing somehow.” I stumbled across 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer during my 40 Days to Change for Good‘first 50 years alive transitioning into last 50 years alive’ retreat. Born in 1919 in Germany, he moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1947. He formed the company that he still oversees today(!), Sport Obermeyer, in 1950.  Over the last seventy years, he has changed how we humans play outside in the winter. Here’s a partial list of his innovations: the first down parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him before he moved to America, the first waterproof-breathable fabrics, high alpine sunscreen, nylon wind shirts, mirrored sunglasses, double-lensed goggles, two pronged ski brakes, lined ski boots, turtlenecks with elasticized collars.  He’s also an inspiring guy – enthusiastic, energetic, cheerful, healthy, strong, fully alive. I began collecting what he had to say about how he has managed to enjoy ninety-nine years alive. Let Klaus inspire and guide you to be ‘happy from here to a hundred’. Note: Most of Klaus’s quotes are from his 99th birthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98thand 96thbirthday interviews, among other sources.

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“Every Attack is an Opportunity” 99-year old Klaus Obermeyer on Aikido and Business

99-year old Klaus Obermeyer practices aikido every day. He says it is the only way to keep his body and mind in shape to run a business and still be active. He applies aikido principles in his “win-win” approach to running his business, Sport Obermeyer. I don’t have any intention to learn and practice aikido. But I do have a strong intention to be inspired by masters of anything to be at my best. Here’s our inspiration on how to approach our problems today: “Aikido is a great martial arts that has a wonderfulness to it. In Aikido you don’t hurt your partner, you control your partner. If you hurt him, he may come back two days later and hit you with a two-by-four. Aikido brings about peace. Aikido exists spiritually as well as physically. The older you get, the more you use of the spiritual part and a little less on the mat.”  “It is a peaceful martial art and an interesting mix of technique and extension of energy.”   “This is a peaceful martial art form. The idea is not to hurt, but to control your opponent.”  “The idea is to become one with the attacker.”  “Every attack that comes at you can be seen as an opportunity. You can make it work in your favor.”   “I don’t fight back. I just step out of the way so my opponent falls on his face.”  “You want to achieve the Japanese state of mushido, where you are totally thoughtless; your mind is blank.” I stumbled across 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer during my 40 Days to Change for Good ‘first 50 years alive transitioning into last 50 years alive’ retreat. Born in 1919 in Germany, he moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1947. He formed the company that he still oversees today(!), Sport Obermeyer, in 1950.  Over the last seventy years, he has changed how we humans play outside in the winter. Here’s a partial list of his innovations: the first down parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him before he moved to America, the first waterproof-breathable fabrics, high alpine sunscreen, nylon wind shirts, mirrored sunglasses, double-lensed goggles, two pronged ski brakes, lined ski boots, turtlenecks with elasticized collars.  He’s also an inspiring guy – enthusiastic, energetic, cheerful, healthy, strong, fully alive. I began collecting what he had to say about how he has managed to enjoy ninety-nine years alive. Let Klaus inspire and guide you to be ‘happy from here to a hundred’. Note: Most of Klaus’s quotes are from his 99th birthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98th and 96th birthday interviews, among other sources.

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Happy from here to a hundred

What if you live to be one hundred years old?  What kind of life would you lead between this moment and then?  What will the quality of those years be like for your? Advertisers would prefer we don’t think those dangerous thoughts. They play on our ‘immediate gratification bias’ – it’s how we’re genetically wired after all. When faced with an uncertain future, take what you can get now.  My 40 Days to Change for Good retreat in 2018 marked my approaching fiftieth year on earth, my hopeful halfway mark alive. We’ll live as long as we live, regardless of our intent. But let’s say that one hundred years old is a possibility for you. The next question we might ask ourselves is, “what do I want the quality of those years ahead to be?” We can ‘just survive’ or we can ‘arrive alive’. One phrase that may help is ‘happy from here to a hundred’. Happiness is a good characteristic to aim for. A deeper happiness perhaps than ‘jumping up and down and yelling out loud how insanely happy I am’ kind of happiness. Perhaps a more quiet happiness, a contentment, a peace with yourself, your choices and your imperfect life.  Persistence needs joy to really activate. And a long life lived with purpose repeatedly redirects and enlivens that life. Here’s to you, and me, and everyone we care about – happy, from here to a hundred.”If I live to be 103, then I will have skied 100 years.” – 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer

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“We receive by nature a gift” 99-year old Klaus Obermeyer on exercise and the body

Will Durant, in summing up Aristotle, said, “we are what we repeatedly do.” Everything adds up, for better and definitely for worse. What we eat repeatedly, think repeatedly, how we move our body repeatedly, all of it combines to create who we are now and how we are now…and how we will meet the future.  Klaus Obermeyer is the most vital and energetic 99-year-old I’ve ever come across. Exercise is one of a few core repeated acts that sustain him. He likens the body to a gift given to us.  “I think we receive by nature a gift by having a body. If we don’t use it, it goes to hell, so it’s really important to keep using it. Do pushups and whatever you can to keep it going.” “I live healthily and work out every day in order to keep my body as strong as possible.” Use it every day and it’ll be there for us, still giving. Don’t use it and we’ll lose it.  “Your body is like a car. It needs maintenance and care. If you don’t work out, your body will slowly deteriorate.”  “What is really important in everybody’s life is to work out. Keep using your muscles and put your bones under pressure. If you don’t put your bones under pressure, nature thinks you don’t need them any more, and slowly they become brittle.” He feels that what exercise we do is less important than that we repeatedly do it. “I really do anything and everything—exercise is exercise. I try to use all of my muscles regularly. The muscles you don’t use eventually disappear, because nature thinks if you’re not using them you don’t need them. “You must work out; if not you slowly degenerate. Exercising keeps your bones and muscles strong.” Today, like every other day, you have a choice. What will you do with your gift? I stumbled across 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer during my 40 Days to Change for Good‘first 50 years alive transitioning into last 50 years alive’ retreat. Born in 1919 in Germany, he moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1947. He formed the company that he still oversees today(!), Sport Obermeyer, in 1950.  Over the last seventy years, he has changed how we humans play outside in the winter. Here’s a partial list of his innovations: the first down parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him before he moved to America, the first waterproof-breathable fabrics, high alpine sunscreen, nylon wind shirts, mirrored sunglasses, double-lensed goggles, two pronged ski brakes, lined ski boots, turtlenecks with elasticized collars.  He’s also an inspiring guy – enthusiastic, energetic, cheerful, healthy, strong, fully alive. I began collecting what he had to say about how he has managed to enjoy ninety-nine years alive. Let Klaus inspire and guide you to be ‘happy from here to a hundred’. Note: Most of Klaus’s quotes are from his 99thbirthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98thand 96thbirthday interviews, among other sources.

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Charge or recharge?

You have a very important meeting to drive to. It’s about an hour drive and you just left late – behind already. You drive faster than you usually would, trying to make up some time. As you get nearer your destination, your car splutters, coughs and stops. You forgot to look at how much gas you had. You’re out of gas. You abandon your car and start running on foot to the appointment. Or you get behind your car and start pushing it towards your destination (let’s say you’ve got two members of the high school football team with you that stopped to help you). That’s what I often see on stressed teams. And most teams are stressed. And most team members are stressed. It’s all charge and no recharge. We’re behind on endless deadlines. We hurtle from one thing to the next trying to go faster. We hit the wall somewhere along the way. Distance athletes also call this ‘the bonk’. And we keep trying to go on, keep pushing past our limits. We forget about working smart. We just work harder. It’s our habit. The car is out of gas and we’re running. Or we’re pushing the team car. The ‘charge’ is the only part this culture values. The ever-upward line on the graph. If you’re sick of that game, play the ignored game. Head down instead. Recharge. “When water gets caught in habitual whirlpools, dig a way out through the bottom to the ocean.” -Rumi

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If I ignore it, it will go away

Weird lumps don’t go away when ignored. They grow. Opossums playing dead don’t deter an approaching automobile. Leaders hoping their people and culture problems will solve themselves? What do you think? When I start coaching a leader I usually hear some variation of the “if I ignore it, it will go away” hope/failed tactic. Also, “I’m too busy/tired/worn down to do anything but give up.” Often managers will add, “It’s just easier to do it myself.” That means your people have trained you well. You’re now doing their work for them. What’s an important challenge you’re ignoring? Has it gone away yet?

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