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Reinventing Yourself with Merlin Mann
November 29th, 2013
Gabe and Erik are joined by Merlin Mann to talk about starting over, what you really should be doing with your life, verbing, inventors, and emotional petshops.
This week is the first of what will be monthly episodes with a guest and a slightly longer running time. We don’t think that anyone reading this or listening to the episode needs an introduction to Merlin Mann, but we do want to set the stage a little bit.
Just as this podcast is essentially Generational reborn, many of us have at one point reinvented ourselves. Sometimes this reinvention is more of a realization, and sometimes we make a conscious decision to make a change. When Erik and Gabe decided they wanted to talk about this together, they thought Merlin would be the perfect guest to serve as both foil and therapist. He graciously agreed to join them on this episode, and we think you will enjoy the result.
If you haven’t read Merlin’s own introduction in a while, you should take a look. It’s perfect.
Guest Spotlight: Merlin Mann
- Kung Fu Grippe
- As a connoisseur of select tree nuts, Merlin has developed a distinguishing palate of salty treats and healthy living.
- Merlin is on Twitter but you probably shouldn’t follow him. Well OK, just follow him for a little while. Maybe until you start to understand his jokes.
- Merlin is also on Vimeo.
- Merlin’s interview on The Great Discontent is a wonderful introduction.
Merlin as Project Manager
Merlin as Podcaster
John and Merlin are trying to help you . Especially if you think you don’t need their help. See: that’s part of the problem …
There’s really no excuse for missing the supplemental material over at the official Tumblr site.
- Merlin has co-hosted Back to Work with Dan Benjamin since January 18, 2011.
- You Look Nice Today holds a special place in every nerd’s heart. The trio of Merlin, Scott Simpson and Lonely Sandwich were proof that smart humor is timeless and that we all missed out on the potential for baby butlers.
- Merlin’s appearances on MacBreak Weekly are some of the best episodes of tech podcasting and date way back to 2006. Just start in the archives and work your way forward.
- Merlin has delivered many tutorials and application reviews through the, mostly defunct, MacBreak show. If you’re like us, it was a Merlin video in 2006 that introduced you to the power of Quicksilver and changed the way you used your Mac (also the first thing he ever did with Leo Laporte). At least until Quicksilver broke your heart.
- The Merlin Show
- This Week in Tech
- Merlin’s most recent visit on TWIT was way back in 2011
- Merlin’s been involved with OmniFocus since before the first public release. The application has benefitted from his unique influence and you can watch his most recent video about how he uses the tool.
The show notes you are reading right now take a lot of work. It’s work that we believe is worth the time and effort, thanks to Merlin. The Back to Work show notes are the inspiration that started us along this path. Merlin is very often the originator of the things I find valuable and interesting.
Merlin on Podcasts
- Mac Power Users
- Beyond the Todo List
- Show Me Your Mic
- Merlin was the first interview and appeared again later to discuss Inbox Zero on CMD + Space.
- MaxFunCon in 2008, 2009 and 2011
- The ProfHacker
Merlin as Public Speaker
Merlin as Educator
- Merlin is a tireless philanthropist. He provides free Internet advice for the ordinary man in series such as how to use a fucking camera and which are the best pants for nerds.
- Education in the United States
- Say it don’t spray it
- Organizing Perspectives
“I am mainly former things”
|“That doesn’t cancer your balls or anything?”|
Merlin explains that he didn’t decide to do 43 Folders, but instead realized that he was already doing it and likens early life to a map primarily built around school. Deviations from the map build the resiliency needed to properly navigate the territory.
|“I’m not saying go out and just be a hobo”|
When you think outside the box, sometimes you realize that you’ve “entered a new” box only by looking backwards. Worrying too much about the box means missed opportunity.
- Usually being an undeclared major isn’t about being open-minded.
Nouns and Verbs
|“…you need a good noun”|
Beyond just the nouns and verbs, we are obsessed with labels, but sometimes they can only be applied when the work is done. Maybe it’s chunking, but we need to beware othe lack of creativity that this connotes. We also discover that Merlin’s presentation may be a MacGuffin, but in the end, you’ll still get to pal around with him and have a steak.
- Quit on 5by5
- Jamie Phelps
- Full Stack Developer
- Swiss Army Knife or Generalizing Specialist
- “Nouns and verbs, nouns and verbs, nouns and verbs”
|“We’re not even on iTunes”|
I… I… I don’t even know what to say… pic.twitter.com/Dy9anfc3Tr— Technical Difficulti (@techdiffpodcast) November 14, 2013
- Success vs. fame
Doing this Other Thing
While nearly returning once more to the nouns-and-verbs well, Merlin helps up know when to un-pot ourselves, even though learning to take risks and thinking orthogonally may land us in a Mississippi chain gang.
|“That’s a really, really big question”|
- Gabe channels Cal Newport, reacting strongly against passions, but Merlin points out the limitless career potential abroad.
- What Color is your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles
Running Away from Discomfort
Whether or not achieving quality of life is a #firstworldproblem or not, sometimes we have to shift into emergency mode and reinvention isn’t a choice. Merlin cautions us that this emergency mindset can taint our decisions long after we have reattained stability. Also, emotional pet shops.
The concept of three worlds is a carryover from the Cold War. It came into being after World War II as a way to describe the split of the globe in to two large blocs, Communism and capitalism. The First World represented the capitalist West, democracy, moonbeams, and unicorns. The Second World represented, communism, socialist, industrial states, red stars, and evil. The Third World represented everyone else not aligned with the First or Second Worlds.
This idea was also formed when everything was seen to be evolving, and the First World was defined as the bright and shining light that the other “worlds” would eventually become. Unsurprisingly, this opinion wasn’t universally held, and Mao Zedong’s alternative Three Worlds Theory divides the globe into superpowers (First World) and the superpowers’ allies (Second World), with the leftovers as the Third World.
This term no longer has its original clear definitions, and the First World is now used as a pot-and-kettle shaming technique on Twitter, and the Third World as a convenient “bin” for the aforementioned shamers and politicians to put poor foreigners. Fortunately, First World folks have now defined a Fourth World in which to put the weird people from their own countries.
|“They seem to have pretty steady access to the internet”|
|“I’m going to stop with the whores”|
- “The talk where I cried” Merlin Mann Webstock 2011
|“We really have an emotional petshop, not a life”|
I don’t think transference is the right word.
|“It’s better to be dead than look stupid, but it is possible to do both”|
|“It’s called therapy”|
Therapy for whom?
What Happens After Reinvention
Merlin ponders how we change, what our personal admixture might be, and why feelings of incompetence can be a good thing.
|“You’re going to spend a lot of your cycles just trying to figure out what you should be learning”|
Merlin’s reference to William James is likely the result of the epigram often attributed to him: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” This quip, which runs parallel to Occam’s Razor, has also been attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte and Richard Feynman referred to as Hanlon’s Razor, but the James tie seems most common on the internet due to a Jargon File Entry. I have more about why “Hanlon,” but you’re just here for Merlin anyway….
|“My daughter punches me in the nose and says, ‘you’re full of it.’ Very good, grasshoper”|
Well, that’s all for this week. If you have anything that you’d like to add to or correct in the show notes you can find me on Twitter @potatowire or feel free to send an email to me at potatowire dot com.
Download Gabe’s iThoughts mind map on this week’s topic.