Archive for the ‘About the Blog’ Category


“Pursuit of Awesomeness” Gets a New Name


Whenever I’ve told the name of my blog to anyone in my personal life, I’ve received a wide smile and excitement about the venture. When I’ve told it to anyone in my professional life, I’ve received a forced smile and polite nod. If I could put the look into words, it would be something like, “Oh, okay. You’re not actually someone I should take seriously. My mistake.” Colleagues tend to ask me about my “awesomeness” blog, and I cringe.

As tempting as its been to make a change and regain some professional respect, my mind has always rebelled against changing it. “Pursuit of Awesomeness” means something to me. It names in broad emotional terms what my professional work and my entire life are about, even if I don’t quite have a precise handle on what it is means. If my choice is between a name that gets me excited to write or something bland but professional like “Performance Psychology Weekly,” I think it’s better to choose the former.

But now I figured out how to have my cake and eat it, too! Behold “Psychology for the Ambitious!” Drink from its glory!

I came to the new name while working out what problem I’m trying to solve with my career. A key question here was who to consider my audience, and my answer was essentially my friends and people like them. The people I gravitate to and sympathize with are the ones that live with the attitude of “Okay, I’m alive, and I have this really cool world to play with. What do I want to do with it? Translating that attitude into goals and quality work and ultimate success is a real challenge, and that’s where I hope to add value.

The name “Pursuit of Awesomeness” actually does seem immature to me now by comparison–not because pursuing awesomeness is something best left to childhood but because its so damned imprecise. As I said, “Pursuit of Awesomeness” names a broad emotion; I actually have to explain it in order for the name to mean anything to anyone. “Psychology for the Ambitious” summons up a subject, an audience, a tone, and suggests some topics you might read about. I like it.

So now I’ve written two posts in a row about the blog itself. I suppose I should actually get to doing something. Fair enough.


Randal Hits a Setback


Hello again, my readers (aka Ginny, Matt, Sam, and maybe Dan),

I’m back, and I’m hungry. Or at least, I’m hungry for hunger.

I started this year with a commitment to writing 24 posts over the year. And I actually did pretty well for a while before suddenly stopping. I didn’t even leave a “Dear John” letter. How inconsiderate am I?

Well, I was working on a book. The focus was first on how to build skill, then it changed to how to improve yourself post-mistakes, then how to bring your A-Game to the table. I did quite a bit of research, made quite a few detailed outlines. And then when it came time to actually start writing…I didn’t actually feel like I had something worth saying.

I’m back here at the drawing board, trying to find a topic and something to say that I’m deeply excited about. I want a cause. Something to be proud of proclaiming as loudly as I can because the world will be so much richer, powerful, and happier for it.

I’m a little discouraged about the setback, but I do think that setbacks are normal. The best things in my life are the things that had the bumpiest roads. I don’t think it’s the difficulty that makes them great–that just speaks to the height and rarity of the goal. But the difficulty makes me feel like I deserve the prize. One of my favorite quotes is from Randy Pausch: “The brick walls aren’t there to stop you. The brick walls are there to show you how much you want something.”

I also think that I did make progress in the interim. I did a lot of solid thinking and research over the last few months, and I’m excited about sharing that work with others. Expect posts on risk, focus, priorities, worst case scenarios, all of which I believe have merit. I’d be surprised if my ultimate point weren’t directly related to one of these topics.

More importantly, I think I’m returning to the blog with a stronger goal. Where before my intention was to explore my field in a meandering way, I am now specifically looking for something I need to say. What’s worth the one/three/ten years of my life that a book would require?

My intention now is to explore the field of motivation deeply and personally. What has already been said that’s worthwhile? What do I have to add? I’m trying not to put too much pressure on the process. If there’s value, I’ll say it. But I always want to be moving forward. I think that if I can keep moving in the general direction of things that kinda sorta have value, then eventually I will have what I want, something with dramatic value. Though probably not without a few more setbacks.


What Is Awesomeness, and Why Does It Need Its Own Blog?


AS11-40-5872_21Dec2008I was going to start this blog over the weekend, when I had some time free. But today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch, and I can think of no better expression of what I want this blog to be about.

In 1962, JFK gave a speech at Rice University defending the space program and reaffirming his goal of reaching the moon within the decade. The speech contained this gem:

“But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

And of course, in the last year of the decade, Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

I marvel all the time at the fact that we made it to the moon. That thing, up in the sky, that thing you can point to and which seems to me more than a giant leap away…we decided we were going there, we figured out how, we corrected our mistakes along the way, and we did it.

This is what I think people mean by “awesomeness.” It’s skill, boldness, achievement, making the most of your life. The dictionary definition is “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear,” and I think that is one of the rare cases where commonly used slang has retained its original meaning. Awesomeness denotes an extremely impressive or daunting achievement, something beyond the common and which requires extremely impressive skill. Going to the moon or climbing the highest mountain–clearly awesome. Pulling off a complicated guitar solo or difficult rock-climbing move or any of the many other things people commonly call “awesome”–clearly awesome.

And, obviously, none of this is easy. If it were easy, it wouldn’t qualify. Acquiring the capacity is a confusing adventure.  Some people just jump in and seem to pick up skills and execute effortlessly; others similarly jump in but struggle fruitlessly. Clearly, these two people differ somehow in their approach.

And that’s where I’d like to help out. The major goal of my life is to explore the world of goal-pursuit, understand it the best I can, and share my findings to the seekers out there, helping them along the way. I can’t learn how to live your life for you–that’s always going to be up to the individual person–but maybe I can help by collecting observations, collating them, clarifying things. To borrow a teacher’s related metaphor, I’m acting here as a map-maker.

This blog is the journal of my explorations, where I note observations so that I might record them for later map-making and share them with others to see if they are seeing the same thing. Some of the things I’m interested in writing about are: life-goals, productive and unproductive relationships at work, self-correction, motivation; but I’m going to be exploring basically anything I come across that I think others might find interesting. Please feel free to disagree with my observations and conclusions anywhere along the way.

My hope as a map-maker is that you can look at your own world with the guidance of the map and figure out what you want to do in it, where the obstacles might be, and how you might want to deal with them. I want to see more moon-launches. I want to see great films and novels. I want to see incredible advances in science. I want to see awesome products come out of awesome companies.

My wildest hope is to help in pushing out the boundaries of what people consider impressive or daunting, so that today’s challenges become tomorrow’s childs play. And then we’ll just have to push out a little further to new, previously impossible goals. Why would we do that? Because they’re hard!

So go forth! Do something awesome! Then come back and tell us what happened while you were out there!

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