Louis CK on Pressure

I like pressure. Pressure doesn’t make me crack. It’s enabling. I eat pressure, and there might be times when I get a bad feeling in my gut that this might be too much, but you feel pressure when you’re not doing something, you know? When you’re getting ready for something, you feel pressure—when you’re anticipating. But when you’re constantly in activity, there’s no time for pressure to just sit there and make you crack.

I like the idea that pressure, when responded to properly, doesn’t make you crack. It helps you anticipate, to keep working, to remain active. Instead of letting pressure swallow you, you “eat” the pressure. Stomach it down and let it fuel you instead of draining you.

Some might say that treating pressure like it’s not dangerous is a silly thing to do, and eventually everyone runs the risk of cracking under pressure. Louis kind of addresses this in another part of the same interview…

I had to put some time and effort into figuring out how to manage energy and time and brain effort and all that stuff. I’ve got a bunch of different things I do. I learned that sharks sleep parts of their brain, like rolling blackouts; they can’t fall asleep because they can’t stop moving or they’ll suffocate. So they sleep sections of their brain at a time. So I do kind of a version of that, where I shut down brain centers. I literally tell myself, “Don’t logistically problem-solve for the next three hours, but you can talk to folks. Driving my kid home from school—don’t think about all the professional things you have to do.”



Do More Because You Can

The habit of doing more than is necessary can only be earned through practice. And the habit is priceless. -Seth Godin (source)

It’s easy to be lazy. It’s easy to do less, to do the bare minimum, or to do nothing. Seth Godin writes, in characteristically simple fashion, about doing the little extras because you can.

You can call it initiative, taking charge, going above and beyond. The fact is, those who do the extra, who work a little harder, who put in a little extra effort; they stand out.

This isn’t something that comes naturally either. Some people learn to do it early, through practice or good role models. Some people never learn to do it well. I’m learning the value of doing it now, but I wish I’d learned it early on.

And the weird thing is it still feels right, even if you don’t get credit, when you do it for the right reasons. This relates to the gratitude muscle, or abundance mindset.

Do a little extra. Try it. It’s small, subtle, secret, and feel surprisingly good.

Tell It As Best You Can

“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” – Neil Gaiman (source)

This is number eight of Gaiman’s eight rules of writing. It is my favorite because of how well it applies to life. It reminds me of Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. If you look at life like a play, a story, a script, etc. you can identify characters, plot points, devices, themes and a whole bunch of other literary stuff. 

Using this like a tool, it’s quite possible to “write” a good life. If I couldn’t buy into any other philosophy, I think this is the one that I’d be sold on every time. Be honest, be straightforward, tell the story the way it should be told. Think about how the story will be told later to help you decide what actions to take. Be earnest, and don’t worry about making mistakes.

Weed out the junk that just distracts from the real story being told. 

You can find a way to get away with just about anything you want. That might sound like a license to just do anything, but it’s not. It’s a challenge to do what tells the best story. Think about the people through history who did whatever they wanted, and are looked at as fools or worse. Take that into consideration when you use your freedom to live your story.

See yourself as the storyteller; then become a master storyteller.

The Underdogs

Malcolm Gladwell writes in his article “How Underdogs can Win”:

“What happened when the underdogs […] acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? […] In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win”.

He uses the example of David and Goliath, where if David had fought Goliath on his terms, he would have almost certainly lost. Playing by different rules, and using ingenuity, David became an unlikely winner.

Sometimes it pays to play by your own rules. Sometimes you can’t do things the way they’re typically done. Sometimes failure means finding a better way to do something. Being unconventional is admitting that there might be other/better ways to win.

When trying something new, you may not even have support, or a clear way to do what you want to do. In those cases you have the freedom to build your own path, to buck convention, to be small and nimble. Advantages don’t always look impressive, nor do they have to. Being the underdog isn’t a bad thing. It might mean you have more at stake, more to prove, more headroom to grow, and more reasons to succeed.

Share some stories about being an underdog, or being unconventional.

Confidence. Clarity. Precision.

This is a manifesto that was presented to me by my good friend and pastor.


I actually liked it so much I made a wallpaper for my computer. For me, confidence and clarity have always been difficult to own. Because of this, precision isn’t even on the radar most of the time.

Confidence gives you the push to do things, and clarity helps you know what to do. Knowing (or believing) you can do something, and being clear about what to do help sharpen your precision. You’ve got the drive, you’ve got the destination, now you just need the focus.

Anyone else struggle with these? What ways do you get through?


“work” is the transfer of energy.
into something creative and inspiring.
If you are active, it will lead to something,
something you can work with.
Work on what you love and share it with the world.
You are responsible for the talent
that has been entrusted to you, go work with it.
When you do what you love EVERY DAY if you get up and you’re EXCITED about what you do,
What you make is important.

The workisnotajob manifesto.

It’s pretty stunning. I love their whole philosophy. The whole idea is helping people work on the things they’re passionate about instead of just committing to the daily grind. There’s a lot of simple, but powerful truths in this manifesto. Healthy reminders about the power of dreams, vision, and creating.

Ideological Constraints

I’ve learned that if you tell your story properly, people are very,
very open-minded — far more open-minded than I would’ve thought. […]
People are information-rich and theory-poor. If you can give them a
way of organizing their experience, then their minds are wide open.
Which I would not have not have necessarily thought. And if you can
frame questions appropriately you can overcome all kinds of
ideological — what you would have thought of — as ideological

Malcolm Gladwell

Bruce Mau- Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

  1. Allow events to change you.
  2. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
  3. Forget about good.
    Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
  4. Process is more important than outcome.
    When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
  5. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).
    Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
  6. Go deep.
    The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
  7. Capture accidents.
    The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
  8. Study.
    A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
  9. Drift.
    Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
  10. Begin anywhere.
    John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
  11. Everyone is a leader.
    Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
  12. Harvest ideas.
    Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
  13. Keep moving.
    The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
  14. Slow down.
    Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
  15. Don’t be cool.
    Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
  16. Ask stupid questions.
    Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
  17. Collaborate.
    The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
  18. ____________________.
    Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.
  19. Stay up late.
    Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
  20. Work the metaphor.
    Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
  21. Be careful to take risks.
    Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.
  22. Repeat yourself.
    If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.
  23. Make your own tools.
    Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
  24. Stand on someone’s shoulders.
    You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
  25. Avoid software.
    The problem with software is that everyone has it.
  26. Don’t clean your desk.
    You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
  27. Don’t enter awards competitions.
    Just don’t. It’s not good for you.
  28. Read only left-hand pages.
    Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”
  29. Make new words.
    Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.
  30. Think with your mind.
    Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
  31. Organization = Liberty.
    Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’
  32. Don’t borrow money.
    Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
  33. Listen carefully.
    Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
  34. Take field trips.
    The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.
  35. Make mistakes faster.
    This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
  36. Imitate.
    Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.
  37. Scat.
    When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.
  38. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
  39. Explore the other edge.
    Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
  40. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms.
    Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
  41. Avoid fields.
    Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.
  42. Laugh.
    People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.
  43. Remember.
    Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
  44. Power to the people.
    Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.

I really don’t have much to add to this long list. It’s pretty beautiful and I think it has valuable advice for anyone reading it. Although it’s clearly geared toward designers and creatives, there is inherent value here for anyone. Allowing events to change us is a universal skill. Just like growth. So is the willingness to laugh and relax. Take breaks, push yourself beyond “good enough” (though it’s not a bad place to start), and do things in unusual ways.

Remember what happened before, and build on it.