Cory Leonard

Posts Tagged ‘success’

Revisiting David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College Address

In career on March 2, 2015 at 6:42 pm

I find Wallace to have given an insightful and kind convocation speech–in a field that is notable for its superfluity and self-gratification. But this view from Tom Bissell makes me sad to see how much this thought-provoking and truth-telling talk was really about the speaker himself.

Wallace was often accused, even by his admirers, of having a weakness for what Nabokov once referred to as “the doubtful splendors of virtuosity.” Standing before the graduates of Kenyon College, Wallace opted for a tonal simplicity only occasionally evident in the hedge mazes of his fiction. He spoke about the difficulty of empathy (“Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of”), the importance of being well adjusted (“which I suggest to you is not an accidental term”) and the essential lonesomeness of adult life (“lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation”). Truthful, funny and unflaggingly warm, the address was obviously the work of a wise and very kind man. At the edges, though, there was something else — the faint but unmistakable sense that Wallace had passed through considerable darkness, some of which still clung to him, but here he was, today, having beaten it, having made it through.

via Essay – David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College Address – Great and Terrible Truths –


This is Water from Patrick Buckley on Vimeo.


Should You Love Your Job? Expectations and the Rest of Your Life

In career on May 23, 2014 at 8:22 pm


An argument about unhappiness among recent college graduates–a particular subclass–and at best, an effort to explain how social media plays into misshapen expectations about post-collegiate life.  Also, a great implicit argument for a broad liberal education–as that will help you figure out what a good life is, after all.

Sure, some people from Lucy’s parents’ high school or college classes ended up more successful than her parents did.  And while they may have heard about some of it from time to time through the grapevine, for the most part they didn’t really know what was going on in too many other peoples’ careers.

Lucy, on the other hand, finds herself constantly taunted by a modern phenomenon: Facebook Image Crafting.

Social media creates a world for Lucy where A) what everyone else is doing is very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence, and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are going the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation.  This leaves Lucy feeling, incorrectly, like everyone else is doing really well, only adding to her misery:

via wait but why: Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.


Another aspect to this comes from unrealistic expectations about he working world.  One common message from higher education is to “do what you love”–but the reality experienced by alumni is much different.

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life! Before succumbing to the intoxicating warmth of that promise, it’s critical to ask, “Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like nonwork?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?” In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. If we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we really love.

via Do what you love, love what you do: An omnipresent mantra that’s bad for work and workers..

Take Gordon Merino, waxing all philosophical about the topic.  He back up the issue to Kant, asking the big question of what work we should do, noting that “doing what you love” rarely plays into the career plan for society’s most important figures:

The universally recognized paragons of humanity — the Nelson Mandelas, Dietrich Bonhoeffers and Martin Luther Kings — did not organize their lives around self-fulfillment and bucket lists. They, no doubt, found a sense of meaning in their heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but they did not do what they were doing in order to achieve that sense of meaning. They did — like my father and some of those kids from town — what they felt they had to do.

Dr. King taught that every life is marked by dimensions of length, breadth and height. Length refers to self-love, breadth to the community and care of others, and height to the transcendent, to something larger than oneself. Most would agree with Dr. King’s prescription that self-fulfillment requires being able to relate yourself to something higher than the self. Traditionally, that something “higher” was code for God, but whatever the transcendent is, it demands obedience and the willingness to submerge and remold our desires.

via Opionator | The Stone | A life beyond do what you love.



Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. |

In career on March 4, 2014 at 5:10 am

An argument for systems over goals:

If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.

If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.

If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.

If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

Now for the really interesting question:

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

via Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. |


Holiday 2013 Reading List for Young Creatives

In career, media, tech on December 13, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Tis the season for booklists, and reading is a wonderful thing.  Books make great gifts–and without weighing into the delivery mechanism (False dichotomy? Buy ebooks from independents and everyone wins who matters?)

This is my favorite list for students and seekers of an intellectual bent–with The Circle for the Google/Facebook fans, The Flamethrowers for creatives, Americanah for bloggers, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (post-Gatsby viewing because Baz Luhrman is irresistible), and Tenth of December because everyone says you should (and its good.)  Finally, if you are thinking about studying abroad, consider Necessary Errors.

via 2013’s 20 Best Books for Every Kind Of 20-Something – PolicyMic.


Commencement Speeches | Jon Lovett on the Culture of BS

In career, politics on May 23, 2013 at 6:44 am

‘Tis the season for impassioned words to new graduates.  The former Clinton speechwriter does a good deed by prepping Pitzer grads by encouraging them to not “cover for your inexperience” and “sometimes you will be right.”

Now, lessons one and two can be in tension. And I can’t tell you how to strike the balance every time. Though it helps to be very charming. And from my point of view, I’d rather be wrong and cringe than right and regret not speaking up. But the good news is, as long as you aren’t stubbornly wrong so frequently that they kick you out of the building, or so meek that everyone forgets you’re in the building you’ll learn and grow and get better at striking that balance, until your inexperience becomes experience. So it’s a dilemma that solves itself. How awesome is that?

Finally, number three: Know that being honest — both about what you do know, and what you don’t — can and will pay off.

via Life Lessons in Fighting the Culture of Bullshit – Jon Lovett – The Atlantic.

Donald Miller on Creating Meaning and Your Story

In career on May 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Based on the ideas of Dr. Viktor Frankl, Donald Miller’s approach for career and personal development focuses on  meaning as an experience rather than an attainment. He also helps develop narrative skills, something that everyone must face–whether from the often discussed “elevator pitch” to the one-on-one “what you have done” to the memoir.

Q: Don, you’re a best-selling author with a huge following, but you stopped traditional writing to work on Storyline. Why?

A: I started Storyline after I’d accomplished all my goals and still wasn’t happy. I’d become a New York Times bestselling author, which was my goal from high school, and yet I was less happy after accomplishing my goals than I was before. So I began researching what really makes people happy and content. I found that it has nothing to do with fame or money and everything to do with the health of our relationships and our interest in our own work. Serving people rather than trying to impress them is the foundation. So I created a life plan for myself, then shared it with others and found that it helped them heal and recover from a life of pursuing success. Now I consider it my life’s work and, interestingly enough, it fills my life with a deep sense of meaning.

Q: So what’s Storyline all about—practically, what do you do?

A: It’s basically a company that helps people tell better stories with their lives. Through conferences, websites, and individualized training, we create life plans and career paths for people who want to live meaningful lives. That’s what makes us different, really. We start with the question, “What will make your life more meaningful?” rather than, “What will make you more productive?” We’re finding that more and more, very successful people don’t feel satisfied with their success and want something more. That something more is what we help people discover.

via Donald Miller, Christian Iconoclast – The Daily Beast.

Today’s Students: Same as Always, but More So – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education

In career on October 7, 2012 at 3:56 am

College students today, according to Arthur Levine and Diane Dean, drawing on research from Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today’s College Student, observe:

  • Most college students (89 percent) say they are optimistic about their personal futures but pessimistic about the future of the country (65 percent).
  • Three out of four undergraduates expect to be at least as well off as their parents, but four out of five do not expect Social Security to be available when they retire.
  • Current undergraduates have the most inflated grades in 40 years, but a majority (60 percent) believe their grades understate their academic ability, even though nearly half (45 percent) have had to take remedial courses. (Forty-one percent have grades of A-minus or higher, compared with 7 percent in 1969, and only 9 percent have grades of C or lower, compared with 25 percent in 1969.)
  • Undergraduates want change, but they are timid rule followers. They are politically disengaged. More than four out of five believe meaningful social change cannot be achieved through traditional American politics. Only one in nine has ever participated in a demonstration, the lowest level in more than 40 years of research.
  • Today’s students are simultaneously the most connected and disconnected generation in collegiate history. They are connected online 24/7, have reduced the historic campus racial and gender barriers, and aspire to have traditional lifelong relationships with a partner and children at higher rates than their predecessors. But their face-to-face communication skills are poor. They live in a world that emphasizes hookups and one-night stands

At the same time, another paradox leaves them connected and discombobulated:

A digital revolution that produced higher education’s first digital natives, who are better at communicating online than in person and often are more closely connected to a virtual social-media community than to the physical campus community. There is a mismatch between them and their colleges on issues as fundamental as when, where, and how education should occur. Often students do not understand fundamental academic conventions, such as the definition of plagiarism, or what constitutes appropriate decorum in a classroom. This create a growing tension between students and faculty.

via Today’s Students: Same as Always, but More So – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.


Follow a Career Passion? Let It Follow You –

In career on October 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm

So now the NYT is introducing Cal Newport to the world. His small little blog will never be as unknown–but hopfully he’ll be able to continue offering insights

But this philosophy puts a lot of pressure on the rest of us — and demands long deliberation. If we’re not careful, it tells us, we may end up missing our true calling. And even after we make a choice, we’re still not free from its effects. Every time our work becomes hard, we are pushed toward an existential crisis, centered on what for many is an obnoxiously unanswerable question: “Is this what I’m really meant to be doing?” This constant doubt generates anxiety and chronic job-hopping.

As I considered my options during my senior year of college, I knew all about this Cult of Passion and its demands. But I chose to ignore it. The alternative career philosophy that drove me is based on this simple premise: The traits that lead people to love their work are general and have little to do with a job’s specifics. These traits include a sense of autonomy and the feeling that you’re good at what you do and are having an impact on the world. Decades of research on workplace motivation back this up. (Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” offers a nice summary of this literature.)

via Follow a Career Passion? Let It Follow You –


Of Luck and Success — Economic View –

In career, politics on August 7, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Its good to be talented, but better to be lucky.  Or is it?  Answering a very wide divide between liberals and conservatives (hard work pays off and rewards the talented v. luck favors a few) Robert H. Frank explores the implications for each view on public policy:

IN their experiments, the sociologists showed how feedback could be a vitally important random effect. And it can be seen in many other situations: it’s often hard to find information about the quality of a particular product, so we rely on the reactions of friends and acquaintances who’ve already tried it. Any random differences in the early feedback we receive tend to be amplified as we share our reactions with others. Early success — even if unearned — breeds further success, and early failure breeds further failure. The upshot is that the fate of products in general — but especially of those in the intermediate-quality range — often entails an enormous element of luck.

We always knew that it was good to be smart and hard-working, and that if you were born or raised with those qualities, you were incredibly lucky, just as you were lucky if you grew up in the United States rather than in Somalia. But the sociologists’ research helps us understand why many people who have those qualities never find much success in the marketplace. Chance elements in the information flows that promote that success are sometimes the most important random factors of all.

via Of Luck and Success — Economic View –