Free Prize Inside!
More "Deep Work", Socials Withdrawal, The State of Space in NYC, Bits & Bobs & BS, and a ten-minute play for you to enjoy!
Ahoy! And Happy Do the Work Wednesday!
I hope this finds you well and working. There’s a lot to talk about this week.
4DX, Part 2
On the State of Space in New York
Bits and Bobs and BS
Tactics: “Deep Work” - 4DX, Part 2: Act on Lead Measures
Last week, I discussed Franklin Covey’s First Discipline of Execution that I encountered in Cal Newport’s “Deep Work”: “Focus on the Wildly Important”. I’m still chewing on that one. Keeping in mind that there are just too many good ideas in one’s mind and out in the world, we must narrow our focus to the Wildly Important in order to have a hope of executing any of them. This is no easy task, and I’ve spent some time this week trying to narrow my focus on the projects that have the most momentum, the most potential in the medium term. This doesn’t mean throwing the other ideas into the fire; it means getting past my inner Veruca Salt that stamps her foot and says it wants an Oompa Loompa NOW.
So, once the work begins, there are tow ways of evaluating progress: tracking lead measures and tracking lag measures. Lag measures tell you what has already occurred; lead measures tell you what ought to happen. Lag measures include metrics like revenue and profit and quality, but they are all factors that exist in the rear-view window. The effort to create them has already been expended. You can’t do anything now to affect them. They merely exist. More effort now doesn’t alter them, and yet these are the sorts of things that keep us up at night.
My definition of anxiety is “Worrying About Problems That Don’t Exist”. Stressing because revenue is down, or clicks aren’t high enough, or the draft still isn’t done is a waste of time and attention. We are wayyyyyy better off letting the past stay in your behind, and focusing on today and what we can do right now, right here. If anyone else is sensing a recurring theme here in Self-Help Land, I think we’re on to something.
Lead measures, however, are the sorts of metrics that we can work on now to achieve a goal. This is the work that eventually produces those lag measures that we end up obsessing over and losing our cool for. We’re talking hitting (or exceeding!) daily word counts on a writing project, engaging with a new client every day, running 15 seconds longer than last time, etc. Focusing on the things that build towards the goal is the way to achieve, if not surpass it.
For me, a lead measure is “writing without interruption for one hour.” This takes effort and luck. I’m writing this in my kitchen as my bedroom/office is otherwise occupied with a repair to a cracked radiator1. Finishing this post today, however, is Wildly Important to me, and the way to measure my progress towards finishing it is to, well, do the work. Ta-da.
What are some ideas/examples of lag & lead measures in your work? Can you spot the difference? Can you invert your thinking away from the lag and towards the lead?
I’ve found it rather liberating/calming to slow my roll and not post every clever thing that pops into my head since starting this experiment in Slow-dial Media. I keep an open Notes file I call “The Bucket” where I toss everything that I think might be worth sharing here. Trust me, not all of it makes it to the newsletter, but some of it is in queue already for next week. I’ve cut down my screen time by two full hours in the last three weeks by taking the apps off of my phone. If I absolutely must check in on the Socials, I force myself to go through my browser, which is a clunky pain in my ass, which is exactly what I want it to be. I do feel ever-so-slightly, just a wee tad out of the loop, but I think that’s a.) largely my own perception talking, and b.) a small price to pay to get my precious time and scant, scurrying attention back.
On the State of Space in New York
About six weeks ago, Blair and I decided that, in order to move forward with “Beyond the Veil,” we need to present a mock-up, draft version of the experience of the play so that we can begin to garner industry interest and give the piece a jolt of momentum.
So off I went, looking for a venue.
Holy Buckets, this has not been easy.
Once upon a time, back in the First Age of Bloomberg, there was an entire industry within the industry based on 99-seat theaters. The Equity Showcase Code reined supreme, tickets were capped at $15, and some actually good (even great) work came out of those impoverished circumstances. It was impossible to turn a profit, but this is where you put your best not-for-profit foot forward and did it anyway.
Those days are long gone, and I’ll save my ode/rant about those Good Old Days for another time, but I am here to report that the state of space in New York, the pulsating epicenter of world theater, is in a state of Sad. I was going to call it “dire”, but the pickings are so paltry, to call it such would be hyperbolic.
From what I’m seeing (and especially from what I’m not seeing), I would wager that New York now has fewer theater spaces per capita than any other major American city. My fear is that the shrinking of the marketplace indicates a shrinking of the overall market. I believe that this is not wholly a ramification of the pandemic: performance spaces have gone the way of affordable apartments. What hasn’t been demolished has been transformed: south of 14th St, there’s a decent chance that your bank branch or yoga studio once was a theater.
What seems to remain are cabaret venues and fourth-floor walk-ups.2 The epicenter of world theater cannot long maintain its status if there isn’t a thriving, full ecosystem that allows for and invites fucking around and finding out.
Right now, I’m fucking around and I’m finding out all sorts of things. We’ll find our space. The pickings just shouldn’t be this slim.
Bits, Bobs, & BS
TV I’m Watching:
History of the World, Part II
A Word I Made Up:
“Bourg-shit” - n/adj - A portmanteau of “bourgeois” and “bullshit”. Applicable literally everywhere.
Nightmare Fuel of the Week
Around St Pat’s, I got to thinking about Disney’s “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” and how it a.) introduced Little Me to the existence of Sean Connery, and b.) terrorized Little Me and left me sleepless for weeks with a sequence involving the death-heralding mythical Banshee. YouTube, of course, provided, and reminded me that I was not merely young, but also correct. This shit is terrifying.
Awesome Other Newsletter of the Week (MUST READ)
The Imperfectionist: How to Choose Sanity Now
Quote of the Week (Can I get an “amen”?)
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
— E. B. WHITE
Dream Site-Specific Location of the Week
This 835-Year-Old English Manor Needs Some Modern Love (nytimes.com)
Appropriate for either “Fakespeare’s ‘Clew’” or “Forfeits”
Awesome Interview of the Week:
Awesome Friends Photo of the Week:
Gratuitous Playbill Photo of the Week:
Sick Burn of the Week:
New Yawk Quote of the Week:
“WAT” of the Week:
FREE PRIZE INSIDE!
A perusal of my ten-minute prequel to the Scottish Tragedy: “Weirdos”! It tells the tale of the Weird Sisters as they try (and fail, and fail, and fail) to hex MacBeth from afar, but soon learn that there is greater, destructive magic in his very name.
This is a gross overgeneralization; it is not, however, inaccurate.