Monthly Archives: April 2017

When Self-Aware Is All You Got

I had lunch today with a friend who had seen The End of the Tour — which I have not seen — and he asked me if he should read David Foster Wallace.

Ugh. I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask. My only credential is that I think I’ve tried to read everything he’s ever written, and I’ve never gotten even 50 pages deep in any of it. Except for Consider The Lobster, which I did manage to crack 100 pages, but that was for a book club where I take pride in finishing everything.

So you can imagine that my endorsement of the DFW was pretty weak. I think I said things like painfully self-indulgent and self-absorbed, and that I just got bored of him quickly. I went on like that for a while.

What I did end up telling was the counter-story for my big meh on Wallace: the story of how I’ve hated Annie Proulx for many years based on the insane hype from The Shipping News, how I found her realism tedious and her narrative focus so stilted and narrow that she bored me, and then how being forced to read Close Range and then Postcards (book club again!) later in life I completely reversed my view and have fallen in love with her work. I think I get her now, her spareness and subtlety and patience. Her quietness.

I guess on the DFW front it’s probably fair to say that I’m in some kind waiting mode. I may get the revelation. Lord knows I have a few of these dudes I’ve been circling (ahem, Pynchon..).

But today after reading Deirdre Coyle’s Men Recommend David Foster Wallace to Me I think I’m unlikely to turn the Annie Proulx corner on the old four-eyed raghead any time soon.

Who Before Why

Me and 31 million other viewers are fans of Sinek’s Golden Circle TED talk. I watch it every few months when I feel stuck on What-ness and need some perspective. Dude talks fast and when you slow him down some of what he says makes more emotional sense than actual logical sense, but I do find his focus on understanding the “why am I making this thing?” a great clarifying exercise.

I recently came across Lex Sisney’s comments on the Golden Circle and I think I agree with him — that there’s a hidden Who in the middle of Sinek’s Golden Circle that makes it more useful to me, especially for the purposes of thinking through product design.

And from a writing perspective — communicating in general — I know the first question is really “who is your audience?”

Generally I think the Who question for most applications helps me avoid some of the navel-gazing that comes with spending too long on the Why. And I guess when you think about it, the What question gets opened up by How. And How gets loosened up by the Why. And with Sisney’s improvement the Who unfolds the model one layer deeper.