Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth by Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig is one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. He had a career .340 batting average, and still has the highest ratio of runs scored plus runs batted in per 100 plate appearances (35.08) and per 100 games (156.7) among Hall of Fame players. His record of 2,130 consecutive games played eared him the nickname “The Iron Horse.”

He was diagnosed with ALS on June 19, 1939, his 36th birthday. This speech was given on July 4, 1939 at Yankee Stadium in New York.

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.

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Gratitude for Mentors is Repaid through Mentoring Others

One of the delightful surprises of my career has been mentors. I’m grateful that people have reached out and taken an interest in me. If life lessons only came through our own mistakes we would be miserable. Having a mentor to listen, give suggestions, and encourage based on their life experience is priceless.

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.
John C. Crosby

I have been thinking about how to thank these people. I can’t afford gold watches.😉 I think the best thank you is to “pay it forward” through mentoring others.

A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.

Here are my invitations to you:

  • Remember the mentors and teachers who have changed your life. If appropriate, reach out to thank them.
  • Decide how you can become a mentor to someone in your circle of influence.

This doesn’t have to be formal. Look around for someone who has potential and can benefit from the things you have learned and the people you know. Make a plan to start sharing those things.

Your mentors likely had mentors of their own they told you about. One of the greatest gifts I was given through a mentor was an introduction to the writing of his mentor.

The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people.
John C. Maxwell

Thank you for that and everything else CS.

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Personal Renewal by John W. Gardner

John W. Gardner was an activist and author who served in the Johnson administration as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. During his term he helped launch medicare. He also presided over the launch of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which would later help form PBS and NPR.

This speech was delivered to McKinsey & Company in Phoenix, Arizona on November 10, 1990.

This transcript was originally published on

Speech Transcript

I’m going to talk about “Self-Renewal.” One of your most fundamental tasks is the renewal of the organizations you serve, and that usually includes persuading the top officers to accomplish a certain amount of self-renewal. But to help you think about others is not my primary mission this morning. I want to help you think about yourselves.

I take that mission very seriously, and I’ve written out what I have to say because I want every sentence to hit its target. I know a good deal about the kind of work you do and know how demanding it is. But I’m not going to talk about the special problems of your kind of career; I’m going to talk about some basic problems of the life cycle that will surely hit you if you’re not ready for them.

I once wrote a book called “Self-Renewal” that deals with the decay and renewal of societies, organizations and individuals. I explored the question of why civilizations die and how they sometimes renew themselves, and the puzzle of why some men and women go to seed while others remain vital all of their lives. It’s the latter question that I shall deal with at this time. I know that you as an individual are not going to seed. But the person seated on your right may be in fairly serious danger.

Not long ago, I read a splendid article on barnacles. I don’t want to give the wrong impression of the focus of my reading interests. Sometimes days go by without my reading about barnacles, much less remembering what I read. But this article had an unforgettable opening paragraph. “The barnacle” the author explained “is confronted with an existential decision about where it’s going to live. Once it decides.. . it spends the rest of its life with its head cemented to a rock..” End of quote. For a good many of us, it comes to that.

We’ve all seen men and women, even ones in fortunate circumstances with responsible positions who seem to run out of steam in midcareer.

One must be compassionate in assessing the reasons. Perhaps life just presented them with tougher problems than they could solve. It happens. Perhaps something inflicted a major wound on their confidence or their self-esteem. Perhaps they were pulled down by the hidden resentments and grievances that grow in adult life, sometimes so luxuriantly that, like tangled vines, they immobilize the victim. You’ve known such people — feeling secretly defeated, maybe somewhat sour and cynical, or perhaps just vaguely dispirited. Or maybe they just ran so hard for so long that somewhere along the line they forgot what it was they were running for.

I’m not talking about people who fail to get to the top in achievement. We can’t all get to the top, and that isn’t the point of life anyway. I’m talking about people who — no matter how busy they seem to be — have stopped learning or growing. Many of them are just going through the motions. I don’t deride that. Life is hard. Just to keep on keeping on is sometimes an act of courage. But I do worry about men and women functioning far below the level of their potential.

We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit. Boredom is the secret ailment of large-scale organizations. Someone said to me the other day “How can I be so bored when I’m so busy?” And I said “Let me count the ways.” Logan Pearsall Smith said that boredom can rise to the level of a mystical experience, and if that’s true I know some very busy middle level executives who are among the great mystics of all time.

We can’t write off the danger of complacency, growing rigidity, imprisonment by our own comfortable habits and opinions. Look around you. How many people whom you know well — people even younger than yourselves –are already trapped in fixed attitudes and habits. A famous French writer said “There are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives.” I could without any trouble name a half of a dozen national figures resident in Washington, D.C., whom you would recognize, and could tell you roughly the year their clock stopped. I won’t do it because I still have to deal with them periodically.

I’ve watched a lot of mid-career people, and Yogi Berra says you can observe a lot just by watching. I’ve concluded that most people enjoy learning and growing. And many are dearly troubled by the self-assessments of mid-career.

Such self-assessments are no great problem at your age. You’re young and moving up. The drama of your own rise is enough. But when you reach middle age, when your energies aren’t what they used to be, then you’ll begin to wonder what it all added up to; you’ll begin to look for the figure in the carpet of your life. I have some simple advice for you when you begin that process. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Look ahead. Someone said that “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” And above all don’t imagine that the story is over. Life has a lot of chapters.

If we are conscious of the danger of going to seed, we can resort to countervailing measures. At almost any age. You don’t need to run down like an unwound clock. And if your clock is unwound, you can wind it up again. You can stay alive in every sense of the word until you fail physically. I know some pretty successful people who feel that that just isn’t possible for them, that life has trapped them. But they don’t really know that. Life takes unexpected turns.

I said in my book, “Self-Renewal,” that we build our own prisons and serve as our own jail-keepers. I no longer completely agree with that. I still think we’re our own jailkeepers, but I’ve concluded that our parents and the society at large have a hand in building our prisons. They create roles for us — and self images — that hold us captive for a long time. The individual intent on self-renewal will have to deal with ghosts of the past — the memory of earlier failures, the remnants of childhood dramas and rebellions, accumulated grievances and resentments that have long outlived their cause. Sometimes people cling to the ghosts with something almost approaching pleasure — but the hampering effect on growth is inescapable. As Jim Whitaker, who climbed Mount Everest, said “You never conquer the mountain, You only conquer yourself.”

The more I see of human lives, the more I believe the business of growing up is much longer drawn out than we pretend. If we achieve it in our 30’s, even our 40s, we’re doing well. To those of you who are parents of teenagers, I can only say “Sorry about that.”

There’s a myth that learning is for young people. But as the proverb says, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” The middle years are great, great learning years. Even the years past the middle years. I took on a new job after my 77th birthday — and I’m still learning.

Learn all your life. Learn from your failures. Learn from your successes, When you hit a spell of trouble, ask “What is it trying to teach me?” The lessons aren’t always happy ones, but they keep coming. It isn’t a bad idea to pause occasionally for an inward look. By midlife, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.

We learn from our jobs, from our friends and families. We learn by accepting the commitments of life, by playing the roles that life hands us (not necessarily the roles we would have chosen). We learn by growing older, by suffering, by loving, by bearing with the things we can’t change, by taking risks.

The things you learn in maturity aren’t simple things such as acquiring information and skills. You learn not to engage in self-destructive behavior. You leant not to burn up energy in anxiety. You discover how to manage your tensions, if you have any, which you do. You learn that self-pity and resentment are among the most toxic of drugs. You find that the world loves talent, but pays off on character.

You come to understand that most people are neither for you nor against you, they are thinking about themselves. You learn that no matter how hard you try to please, some people in this world are not going to love you, a lesson that is at first troubling and then really quite relaxing.

Those are things that are hard to learn early in life, As a rule you have to have picked up some mileage and some dents in your fenders before you understand. As Norman Douglas said “There are some things you can’t learn from others. You have to pass through the fire.’

You come to terms with yourself. You finally grasp what S. N. Behrman meant when he said “At the end of every road you meet yourself.” You may not get rid of all of your hang-ups, but you learn to control them to the point that you can function productively and not hurt others.

You learn the arts of mutual dependence, meeting the needs of loved ones and letting yourself need them. You can even be unaffected — a quality that often takes years to acquire. You can achieve the simplicity that lies beyond sophistication.

You come to understand your impact on others. It’s interesting that even in the first year of life you learn the impact that a variety of others have on you, but as late as middle age many people have a very imperfect understanding of the impact they themselves have on others. The hostile person keeps asking ‘Why are people so hard to get along with?” In some measure we create our own environment. You may not yet grasp the power of that truth to change your life.

Of course failures are a part of the story too. Everyone fails, Joe Louis said “Everyone has to figure to get beat some time.” The question isn’t did you fail but did you pick yourself up and move ahead? And there is one other little question: ‘Did you collaborate in your own defeat?” A lot of people do. Learn not to.

One of the enemies of sound, lifelong motivation is a rather childish conception we have of the kind of concrete, describable goal toward which all of our efforts drive us. We want to believe that there is a point at which we can feel that we have arrived. We want a scoring system that tells us when we’ve piled up enough points to count ourselves successful.

So you scramble and sweat and climb to reach what you thought was the goal. When you get to the top you stand up and look around and chances are you feel a little empty. Maybe more than a little empty.

You wonder whether you climbed the wrong mountain.

But life isn’t a mountain that has a summit, Nor is it — as some suppose — a riddle that has an answer. Nor a game that has a final score.

Life is an endless unfolding, and if we wish it to be, an endless process of self-discovery, an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our own potentialities and the life situations in which we find ourselves. By potentialities I mean not just intellectual gifts but the full range of one’s capacities for learning, sensing, wondering, understanding, loving and aspiring.

Perhaps you imagine that by age 35 or 45 or even 33 you have explored those potentialities pretty fully. Don’t kid yourself!

The thing you have to understand is that the capacities you actually develop to the full come out as the result of an interplay between you and life’s challenges –and the challenges keep changing. Life pulls things out of you.

There’s something I know about you that you may or may not know about yourself. You have within you more resources of energy than have ever been tapped, more talent than has ever been exploited, more strength than has ever been tested, more to give than you have ever given.

You know about some of the gifts that you have left undeveloped. Would you believe that you have gifts and possibilities you don’t even know about? It’s true. We are just beginning to recognize how even those who have had every advantage and opportunity unconsciously put a ceiling on their own growth, underestimate their potentialities or hide from the risk that growth involves.

Now I’ve discussed renewal at some length, but it isn’t possible to talk about renewal without touching on the subject of motivation. Someone defined horse sense as the good judgment horses have that prevents them from betting on people. But we have to bet on people — and I place my bets more often on high motivation than on any other quality except judgment. There is no perfection of techniques that will substitute for the lift of spirit and heightened performance that comes from strong motivation, The world is moved by highly motivated people, by enthusiasts, by men and women who want something very much or believe very much.

I’m not talking about anything as narrow as ambition. After all, ambition eventually wears out and probably should. But you can keep your zest until the day you die. If I may offer you a simple maxim, “Be interesting,” Everyone wants to be interesting — but the vitalizing thing is to be interested. Keep a sense of curiosity. Discover new things. Care. Risk failure. Reach out.

The nature of one’s personal commitments is a powerful element in renewal, so let me say a word on that subject.

I once lived in a house where I could look out a window as I worked at my desk and observe a small herd of cattle browsing in a neighboring field. And I was struck with a thought that must have occurred to the earliest herdsmen tens of thousands of years ago. You never get the impression that a cow is about to have a nervous breakdown. Or is puzzling about the meaning of life.

Humans have never mastered that kind of complacency. We are worriers and puzzlers, and we want meaning in our lives. I’m not speaking idealistically; I’m stating a plainly observable fact about men and women. It’s a rare person who can go through life like a homeless alley cat, living from day to day, taking its pleasures where it can and dying unnoticed.

That isn’t to say that we haven’t all known a few alley cats. But it isn’t the norm. It just isn’t the way we’re built.

As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Old or young, we’re on our last cruise.” We want it to mean something.

For many this life is a vale of tears; for no one is it free of pain. But we are so designed that we can cope with it if we can live in some context of meaning. Given that powerful help, we can draw on the deep springs of the human spirit, to see our suffering in the framework of all human suffering, to accept the gifts of life with thanks and endure life’s indignities with dignity.

In the stable periods of history, meaning was supplied in the context of a coherent communities and traditionally prescribed patterns of culture. Today you can’t count on any such heritage. You have to build meaning into your life, and you build it through your commitments — whether to your religion, to an ethical order as you conceive it, to your life’s work, to loved ones, to your fellow humans. Young people run around searching for identity, but it isn’t handed out free any more — not in this transient, rootless, pluralistic society. Your identity is what you’ve committed yourself to.

It may just mean doing a better job at whatever you’re doing. There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are –and that too is a kind of commitment. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It matters very little whether they’re behind the wheel of a truck or running a country store or bringing up a family.

I must pause to say a word about my statement “There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are.” I first wrote the sentence some years ago and it has been widely quoted. One day I was looking through a mail order gift catalogue and it included some small ornamental bronze plaques with brief sayings on them, and one of the sayings was the one I just read to you, with my name as author. Well I was so overcome by the idea of a sentence of mine being cast in bronze that I ordered it, but then couldn’t figure out what in the world to do with it. I finally sent it to a friend.

We tend to think of youth and the active middle years as the years of commitment. As you get a little older, you’re told you’ve earned the right to think about yourself. But that’s a deadly prescription! People of every age need commitments beyond the self, need the meaning that commitments provide. Self-preoccupation is a prison, as every self-absorbed person finally knows. Commitments to larger purposes can get you out of prison.

Another significant ingredient in motivation is one’s attitude toward the future. Optimism is unfashionable today, particularly among intellectuals. Everyone makes fun of it. Someone said “Pessimists got that way by financing optimists.” But I am not pessimistic and I advise you not to be. As the fellow said, “I’d be a pessimist but it would never work.”

I can tell you that for renewal, a tough-minded optimism is best. The future is not shaped by people who don’t really believe in the future. Men and women of vitality have always been prepared to bet their futures, even their lives, on ventures of unknown outcome. If they had all looked before they leaped, we would still be crouched in caves sketching animal pictures on the wall,

But I did say tough-minded optimism. High hopes that are dashed by the first failure are precisely what we don’t need. We have to believe in ourselves, but we mustn’t suppose that the path will be easy, it’s tough. Life is painful, and rain falls on the just, and Mr. Churchill was not being a pessimist when he said “I have nothing to offer, but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” He had a great deal more to offer, but as a good leader he was saying it wasn’t going to be easy, and he was also saying something that all great leaders say constantly — that failure is simply a reason to strengthen resolve.

We cannot dream of a Utopia in which all arrangements are ideal and everyone is flawless. Life is tumultuous — an endless losing and regaining of balance, a continuous struggle, never an assured victory.

Nothing is ever finally safe. Every important battle is fought and re-fought. We need to develop a resilient, indomitable morale that enables us to face those realities and still strive with every ounce of energy to prevail. You may wonder if such a struggle — endless and of uncertain outcome — isn’t more than humans can bear. But all of history suggests that the human spirit is well fitted to cope with just that kind of world.

Remember I mentioned earlier the myth that learning is for young people. I want to give you some examples, In a piece I wrote for Reader’s Digest not long ago, I gave what seemed to me a particularly interesting true example of renewal. The man in question was 53 years old. Most of his adult life had been a losing struggle against debt and misfortune. In military service he received a battlefield injury that denied him the use of his left arm. And he was seized and held in captivity for five years. Later he held two government jobs, succeeding at neither. At 53 he was in prison — and not for the first time. There in prison, he decided to write a book, driven by Heaven knows what motive — boredom, the hope of gain, emotional release, creative impulse, who can say? And the book turned out to be one of the greatest ever written, a book that has enthralled the world for ever 350 years. The prisoner was Cervantes; the book: Don Quixote.

Another example was Pope John XXIII, a serious man who found a lot to laugh about. The son of peasant farmers, he once said “In Italy there are three roads to poverty — drinking, gambling and fanning. My family chose the slowest of the three.” When someone asked him how many people worked in the Vatican he said “Oh, about half.” He was 76 years old when he was elected Pope. Through a lifetime in the bureaucracy, the spark of spirit and imagination had remained undimmed, and when he reached the top he launched the most vigorous renewal that the Church has known in this century.

Still another example is Winston Churchill. At age 25, as a correspondent in the Boer War he became a prisoner of war and his dramatic escape made him a national hero. Elected to Parliament at 26, he performed brilliantly, held high cabinet posts with distinction and at 37 became First Lord of the Admiralty. Then he was discredited, unjustly, I believe, by the Dardanelles expedition — the defeat at Gallipoli– and lost his admiralty post. There followed 24 years of ups and downs. All too often the verdict on him was “Brilliant but erratic…not steady, not dependable.” He had only himself to blame. A friend described him as a man who jaywalked through life. He was 66 before his moment of flowering came. Someone said “It’s all right to be a late bloomer if you don’t miss the flower show.” Churchill didn’t miss it.

Well, I won’t give you any more examples. From those I’ve given I hope it’s clear to you that the door of opportunity doesn’t really close as long as you’re reasonably healthy. And I don’t just mean opportunity for high status, but opportunity to grow and enrich your life in every dimension. You just don’t know what’s ahead for you. And remember the words on the bronze plaque “Some men and women make the world better just by being the kind of people they are.” To be that kind of person would be worth all the years of living and learning.

Many years ago I concluded a speech with a paragraph on the meaning in life. The speech was reprinted over the years, and 15 years later that final paragraph came back to me in a rather dramatic way, really a heartbreaking way.

A man wrote to me from Colorado saying that his 20 year-old daughter had been killed in an auto accident some weeks before and that she was carrying in her billfold a paragraph from a speech of mine. He said he was grateful because the paragraph — and the fact that she kept it close to her — told him something he might not otherwise have known about her values and concerns. I can’t imagine where or how she came across the paragraph, but here it is:

“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.”

From time to time I share speeches or addresses that I find inspiring. Have any suggestions for other speeches to share? Let me know below.

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Random Acts of Kindness

With all the negative in the world, it’s important to remember that there is much good too. My family took a day trip today which provided lots of time to discuss things going on in the world. Coronavirus, politics, locusts, the economy, and our kids’ grades. There were some grim moments!

Towards the end of our trip we visited the office of one of our local government leaders. His office manager was so kind. She knew we were coming and prepared a tray of cookies and bottled water for all of us. She made us comfortable, gave us suggestions on how to take a tour of the building, and took a real interest in each of our kids. We visited with her for a few minutes before our appointment time, but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the day for me. Her kindness was a ray of sunlight.

Each person you see is living a complex life. It’s easy to forget that sometimes. A smile and a kind word can make an incredible difference to another person, one that you will likely never know about and may not even make sense to you.

Remember that small acts of kindness never really go unrewarded. The sunshine you bring to another’s day will find it’s way back to you. The more light you produce the more you will receive.

Today kicks off “Random Acts of Kindness” week. I usually think arbitrary holidays are silly, but I really like this one. What acts of kindness have you received this week?

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I have a pen that is great to write with when the cap is on the back. Take the cap off, however, and the balance is off. Writing with it is a chore because it doesn’t feel right. I want my pen to write when I tell it to, and an unbalanced pen doesn’t do that very well.

Life can get out of balance too. Sometimes imbalance happens to us, and sometimes we do it to ourselves. The quickest way to knock my life out of balance is to install Netflix on my phone. If it’s there I end up watching it. Once I’m in the app it’s easy to find a show that I like, and even easier to justify watching just one episode. My life is then out of balance! (I’m such a sucker for binge watching good TV shows. I can never watch just one episode.)

Learn what puts you out of balance and then make a plan to avoid those things.

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A Letter to My 14-Year-Old Self

Life is funny. It’s also hard. It’s not fair and it has a way of exploiting your weaknesses. For all that, you should be optimistic about the future and joyful in your journey. You are lucky to be around in a time when diseases are largely under control, you’ll likely never go to bed hungry more than a few times in a row, and you carry around a smartphone that has what seems like the entire world inside it. It’s a pretty exciting time to be alive.

If there are just a few suggestions I can give it would be these: be kind to people, work hard, do hard things, and read lots of books. You should also take everyone’s advice with a grain or two of salt because no one really knows what they are doing, and that includes me.

Be kind to people

Everyone else has a life as full of emotion, expectation, and promise as you do. They feel like they have good reasons for their decisions just as you do. They usually do the right thing but sometimes mess up, just like you do. Don’t hold anyone to a perfect standard. They won’t measure up, just like you won’t. There are bad people in the world and you need to be aware of them. Give people the benefit of the doubt and they’ll prove themselves one way or the other pretty quickly.

If you have to choose, choose to be kind. The things I regret in life involve my temper with others, my mistreatment of others, and my lack of faith in others. I have never regretted being nice to others.

Work Hard

You may have some talent, but it doesn’t count for much in the real world. Being responsible, dependable, and working hard trumps talent every time. If you work hard in the areas you have talent in you’ll have some really great experiences. Work hard in the areas you don’t have obvious talent in and you’ll have life-changing experiences. Hard work wins out over talent every single time.

Do Hard Things

I wish someone sat me down as a teenager and beat this into my head. Hard things are good. You have to challenge yourself, push past your comfort zone, and learn to seek out difficult things. Most people hate doing hard things and avoid them at all costs. If you want to be like most people just avoid doing hard things. If you want to have a full, successful life you need to understand that doing hard things is necessary. Almost nothing worthwhile in life is easy.

The things I am proudest of were so hard at the time. Learning a language, learning to play an instrument, winning a race, completing a degree, getting married, raising kids. If it’s something significant you can count on it being difficult. The trick is to “embrace the suck,” acknowledge the difficulty, and learn to enjoy the process. The things I look back on, the significant growth I experienced, was never at the finish line. It was all during the process of doing hard things.

Read a lot of Books

The physical, paper book format isn’t the key here. It’s the act of reading. Learn to enjoy getting lost in a book. Learn how to glean at least one piece of wisdom from every book you read. Make books your default leisure activity. Over time you’ll discover the types of books you enjoy and you’ll get better at applying the things you learn to your work and your life.

I used to worry that I was reading the wrong books or reading books that weren’t impressive. That’s silly. There’s no such thing as the wrong books. Read everything, but don’t be afraid to stop reading a book if you don’t like it. Life is too short to struggle through books you don’t like. Maybe you’ll come back to it in a few years and feel differently. Maybe it’s something you’ll never come back and read. Move on and read something else.

Reading will take you around the world, introduce you to amazing people and ideas, and teach you wonderful things. Read, read, read.

I wrote this after an interesting conversation with my son who is 14. As we were talking I was struck by the thought, “am I saying this because it’s what’s best for him or because it’s what I want to hear?” After some thinking, this is the result.

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Reading Gated Content

One of the most amazing things about the internet is hyperlinks. You’re reading something, see a link, click it, and suddenly you’re able to read something new that you didn’t know even existed. It’s like magic. It can also be terrible, yes. Point taken. But I’m frequently amazed at the things I discover when I’m reading a great article and click one of the links in it.

One of the problems I sometimes run into is gated content. If you click a link that leads to an article on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, or even Medium often enough you’ll start to run into paywalls. This is especially annoying if you only want to read a single article.

If you do read a publication frequently you should consider subscribing. It’s important to support writers and content creators. Maybe you do have a subscription but aren’t allowed to log in on your work computer. (/me raises hand!) Whatever the reason, if you need to occasionally get around content gating so you can give something a quick read, here’s how you can do it. These methods aren’t full-proof and may not work in the future, but as of February 2020 they have all worked for me.

Method #1: Incognito mode

For many sites, such as Medium, NYT, Washington Post, or HBR you can get around gating by using a private browsing window. You likely have an article open that has a paywall message.

Copy the URL from the address bar. It’s important to check if the URL has tracking information appended to it. If you see a ? in the URL, everything after that is tracking information. Don’t copy any of that, only the part of the URL that comes before the ?.

Next, open a new “Incognito Browser” window. Different browsers call this by different names, such as a Private Window. You can always find this in the File menu, generally after the New Window option.

After the Incognito window opens, paste in the URL and hit Enter. The article will load without the gating message so you can read it or save to Instapaper or Pocket for later reading.

This workaround works because many publishers allow you to view 3-5 articles per month for free, which they track with cookies. Incognito windows have no cookie history, so it will appear to the site as a brand new visit.

Method #2: Search for the Title

Some outlets, like Inc. Magazine, have started to gate articles on partner sites. This is a smart business move for them since they get paid for all views beyond the paywall, but it’s pretty crummy for readers since these articles are usually available on the publisher’s own website. That’s also good news though, as you can simply find the article on the publisher’s site and read it for free.

If you think this is the case, simply search for the article title in a search engine. For example, if the article is from Inc. Magazine and you find it behind a paywall on Medium, search for the article title in your favorite search engine. Select the search result on the publisher’s main site and you should be able to read the full text.

Method #3: Leverage your Library

There are a few publications, like academic journals or the Wall Street Journal, that require a reader to log in and have a subscription to see any part of an article. Using an incognito window won’t help you here.

Many public libraries have subscriptions that library patrons can use for free. Yesterday I read an article from the Wall Street Journal by logging in to my library account, searching for Wall Street Journal on the library website, and clicking through to their periodical tool. I then searched for the article title I wanted to read and was able to access the full text.

Take care of content creators

This isn’t intended to encourage people to not pay for content. If you find value in a publication you should consider subscribing to support the writers creating the content.

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Reflections on 400 Days of Journaling

In late December 2018 I decided it was time to start keeping a journal. 400 days later I’m a bit surprised at how quickly the time has gone by. This habit has become an important part of who I am and has some interesting side effects. Here are a few thoughts on journaling and how it can help us in the work we do each day.

A Place for “Hot Letters”

The internet has largely made cowards out of us. It’s all too common to see whiny posts about unnamed people and businesses that hint at identity but never come out and say it. I say let them have it! Write it all down in your journal, in great detail, with all the scathing things you want to say. Don’t beat around the bush. Getting all the anger and resentment out is cathartic.

Abraham Lincoln called this practice Hot Letters, and it’s something people used to do. I love it. This has become one of my favorite things about a journal. I can rant and rave, and there’s never any real danger my frothing drivel will see the light of day. The act of writing the hot letter is nearly always enough to calm me down. So far I’ve never felt the need to say anything in a hot letter in public. Just writing it down gives the kick of saying it without the real life consequences.

A Place to Work Out Problems

I’m a strong believer in the bed-bath-bus 3 Bs of creativity. Sometimes the best thing to do is let your mind stew a bit and ideas bubble to the top when you least expect it. Writing about a problem often helps me come up with an answer I hadn’t considered.

I don’t spend any time writing about solutions, I spend time writing about the problem and that process brings new ideas to mind. Something as simple as using different words to explain the problem helps to reframe and refocus it.

A Place to Spot Patterns

I was about eight months into journaling before I started to recognize patterns in my behavior. (I know, I can be a bit slow.) These weren’t dramatic patterns. I started to see subtle patterns around my emotional state at certain times of the month, or times when I had a hard day. By looking at what happened a few days before I started to identify the triggers. Once you understand the trigger you can work out a plan for a better outcome.

Setting the Habit

There are lots of other things I enjoy about journaling, but these are the three ways it helps me the most. It took a while before I started seeing these benefits. Don’t expect to see an immediate difference; the real power is in consistent writing.

When I started my goal was simply to write something each day. I used an app called Day One and most of my journaling happened on my phone. I used a habit tracking app to remind me to write. Many days I only wrote one sentence. Sometimes I just snapped a picture. There are a lot of entries about the weather. In the early months my focus was simply doing it each day.

As journaling became more ingrained I started branching out. Many days I write in a notebook instead of an app. Some days have lots of pictures. Once in a while it’s a hot letter. There’s still plenty of noodling around, playing with ideas and describing problems. I’m not writing for anyone else.

The journal has become a place for unloading and releasing, for downloading ideas into an external brain. As you come back and read previous entries you’ll start to see the higher level benefits.

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Deep Listening

Listening to music with musicians is interesting. Most musicians I know think of listening to music as an activity you do exclusively; not while reading a book, not while looking at your phone, or while working on email. The music deserves full attention while it’s playing. You learn and gain from the music by listening attentively and deeply.

This isn’t to say that musicians don’t like background music. They do, but they also have the annoying habit of actually listening to the background music much more than normal people do. (If you’re friends with musicians you’ve probably had the experience where they groan for no reason or interrupt you to say “I love this song” when you were unaware there was music playing.)

Imagine if everyone listened deeply all the time. How would our conversations be different? How much time could we save in meetings? How many misunderstandings could be avoided? How much more affection would we perceive? The next time you’re in a situation where listening is important, whether to music, to a friend, or even to the news, listen deeply.

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Make Sleep Your Superpower

We all know we need it, but it’s so easy to have a bad relationship with sleep. We’ve all decided to stay up late or get up early. Life is hectic and sometimes it feels like sleep is the easiest block of time to compromise with. Don’t do it!

If you have the Calm app there’s an excellent session by LeBron James called “The Power of Sleep” in the Train Your Mind course. I think I learned more from listening to LeBron talk about how vital sleep is than from anyone else.

Unfortunately that’s gated content so not everyone will be able to listen to it. Here are some interesting articles I recently read that might be helpful as well. If you get into them you’ll see the common theme: all humans need eight or more hours of sleep to optimally function.

The things that have helped me most are getting to bed before 10 pm each night, no screens for an hour before bed, and reading a novel for a few minutes before I fall asleep.

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