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Re-Potting with Resources: What Would You Make?

Security Building

Leo Interviews Merlin Mann of 43 Folders

The beginning of a blood-curdling recession hardly seems like the time to ruminate about fantasy resources, I'll grant you that. But, I want you to think about something. Really think about it.

If, tomorrow morning, you had 60% of the time and resources you needed to start making anything you wanted, what would it be? And, what would you do first?

Thanks, Leo

To be honest, Zen Habits isn't my favorite site in the universe (oy, always with the "Zen"). But, it turns out its founder, Leo Babauta is a very nice fellow, who also has a new site for his new book. So, he's been interviewing a few people for the site, including yrs truly. Apart from my brief, low-sugar meltdown at the beginning of our talk, I really like how his interview with me turned out. (As I've said before, interviews are one place where I find out what I really think.)

For one, I'm always happy to share how my daughter is constantly (delightfully) blowing up my whole notion of priority. That's huge.

But, I also like that this interview is the first place that people who don't know me personally will hear me ask that question above -- about what you'd want to make (I turn the tables and ask it to Leo toward the end of his interview, around 19:20).

Never See it Coming

It's a wildly disarming question, especially when you don't know it's coming. Because it makes you realize how much you may view life as a slog toward a tomorrow that's pretty much identical to today and yesterday and the week before. And, certainly, there's nothing wrong with security, dependability, and providing continuity to yourself and your family. It's what adults need.

But, as most of us discover -- especially at the beginning of that blood-curdling recession -- security is an illusion. It's a heuristic we draw from observing the coincidence of things not going badly for a while at a stretch. And, that's great. While it lasts. But, it's definitely an illusion.

Thing is, if I think about all the events in my life that led to a really big, (eventually positive) change, they all started as something awful. A death, a layoff, a divorce. Anything that forced me to "re-pot myself" at a time that seemed sad, inconvenient, and horribly timed. At the time, each seemed like "the end" -- something I couldn't possibly recover from.

But, that's life. It's a huge dick about both your plans and your desire to avoid inconvenience.

Humor Me

So. What if, just for the sake of argument, we embraced the thinking of the fat man, and accepted that we have no real idea what's going to happen tomorrow. Because, let's be honest, we don't. You or I might get seriously re-potted tomorrow morning, and wouldn't it be splendid if we had something besides our incredulity and angst to comfort us?

So, I ask that question. What would you make? What would you start?

Change is a wave you can ride or drown under, but you can't just sit on the beach, eating Dippin' Dots and listening to Skynyrd. That's not how it works. So, even if you're mostly secure right now, and even if you're mostly doing what you like, just think about what a big change would mean and how you'd ride it.

But, Why the Free Stuff?

The reason I throw in that "60% of what you need," is that it's just enough to make the question interesting and ambitious. Give someone no resources, and they have no imagination. Give them all the resources and they break ground on a Hooters in their garage. But, give someone most of the resources they need, and you have a delightful real-world challenge to the creative imagination.

And, finally, if you're feeling really ambitious, imagine you have most of what you need today. Because, here's the O. Henry ending: you probably already have at least part of what you need to get started. On a novel. On a one-person business. On your first gallery show. Maybe it's only 40% or 25% or .001%. But, it's something. And something is all any project needs to get started. Don't believe me? Try it.

Imagine you have almost what you need. Then, just start something.

About Merlin

Merlin's picture


Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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