Book: String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis

I love tennis. I love David Foster Wallace. And I needed a book on the couch day after a gruelingly long week where I started feeling better and then was flattened this morning by a few spoons of my yogurt and peach breakfast.

String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis was the second book I read today (the first was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – more on that in another post) and it was delightful.

DFW was a tennis player and a pretty good one, especially as a junior player. If you’ve read Infinite Jest, you know that in addition to playing tennis, he is uniquely remarkable in how he writes about it.

String Theory was a collection of five prior long essays (or whatever the long essay equivalent of a novella is) about tennis. The first is about his childhood tennis experience titled Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley. Next is a delicious, curious, and sad essay titled How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart. The meatiest story is the third one titled Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Limitation, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness. I could have read this one twice and still not milked all the juice out of it. I paused after it and got some pretzels to munch on.

Having been to the U.S. Open a half dozen times, I completely identified with Democracy and Commerce at the U.S. Open. And the I remembered reading the last essay – Federer Both Flesh and Not – when it was published in 2006 as Federer as a Religious Experience in The New York Times PLAY Magazine. It used the Federer / Nadal Wimbledon 2006 final as the backdrop for its focus on Federer.

Once again, the footnotes are often better than the essay/story, as DFW lets his hair down (such as it was) and really lets loose on what is going on – unfiltered – between his ears.

I loved this book. If you are a tennis player or fan, do yourself a favor and get String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis (it’s only in hardcopy and worth reading the old school non-digital way.) If you are a DFW fan, you’ve probably already read it (if you haven’t, prioritize!)

Fitbit Pole to Pole Badge

I love getting this in my inbox. Over the past few years I’ve walked from the North Pole to the South Pole. That’s 12,430 miles.

Pole to Pole Badge

If you are counting steps, it’s 23,882,806 as of this morning. And my best step day ever was April 7, 2012, when I ran a 50 mile race and covered 96,442 steps.Lots of Steps

Ok – back to work …

Deleting Crappy Draft Posts

In the cold light of morning, I just deleted three draft blog posts that I wrote last night during a bout of insomnia.

Their titles are telling about what was on my mind at 1am in the morning.

  • SaaS + Transaction Fees
  • Games Are a Hits Business, But B2B SaaS Is A Grind
  • The B2B SaaS MRR Funding Dead Zone

I usually write posts in real time (like this one). I don’t have a lot of drafts stored up nor do I spent a lot of time editing and trying to get the posts just right. Instead, I use my posts to think out loud as I play with ideas, explore my thoughts, or just write what is on my mind. I generally do one edit pass after I’ve written the post and then hit publish.

When I have a thought that occurs to me during the day and don’t have time to write a post, I toss a title into my WordPress Drafts folder and add bullet points on what is in my mind to the body of the post. Each of the three posts above were in my WordPress Draft folder (which had 18 this morning and now has 15) which accumulated over the past two months. The number ebbs and flows as I use a draft about once a week to stimulate a post.

I jammed through all three of these last night – it was probably an hour of writing. I just read through them to see what I had written. I found a bowl of illogical word soup mixed with random crap. While there were plenty of interesting thoughts, the sum total of them was a giant pile of incoherence.

I started rewriting SaaS + Transaction Fees and then got bored. I realized it’d be better to just delete the crap and start over some time in the future when the urge to write about this hit me again.

Over the last twelve years of blogging I’ve deleted many draft posts. When I think about the books I’ve written, it probably takes 150,000 – 200,000 words to get a 50,000 page book. Highlighting something and hitting Cmd-X is second nature.

I often get asked how I write so much. As any writer knows, the answer is to write a lot more than you actually publish. Accepting that part of the process of writing is deleting a lot of what you write is soothing, at least to me.

Dear Insomniacs: You Have My Empathy

It’s 1:34am in Boulder. I’m normally asleep by 10pm. However, since I returned from Australia, I’m up until – well – now.

For most of last week, I still felt shitty from the salmonella poisoning I got two weeks ago. I rationalized that it was ok to take an ambien every night since I was still sick. But, I’m not a fan of ambien or how it makes me feel, so I stopped on Friday. Since then, I’ve crawled into bed around 10pm with my beloved, tossed and turned for about an hour, and then gotten up and either read or typed on my computer.

I have several close friends who are insomniacs. Over the years I’ve heard their stories about being up in the middle of the night, completely awake. I see them yawn at 11am and know that regardless of what they are doing, they’d probably rather be in bed sleeping. I’ve always had sympathy for them, but I’ve never really understood it.

I have trouble sleeping maybe one night a year. On that special night, I get up and read on the couch until I fall asleep.

I’ve four nights into this no-sleep craziness on the heals of ten days of what is called gastroenteritis in polite society. It is exactly zero fun.

With that, my whining is over. I’m giving my insomniac friends virtual hugs wherever they are in the world. I’m going to crawl into bed and try again to go to sleep. Maybe I’ll feel like writing something actually useful to the universe tomorrow.

The 2% Change

Here’s something actionable for you on a Monday morning. If you want to improve your business, in addition to all the other things you are doing, focus on changing thing by 2%.

For example, raise your prices 2%. Eliminate 2% of your variable costs. Focus on the bottom 2% of your team and ask yourself if you really want them on your team. When you cater in food for a meeting, arrange a long term relationship and ask for a 2% discount. Take advantage of any pre-pay or early pay opportunities from vendors who offer a 2% or greater discount. Go through all of your recurring payables and ask yourself the question “do we need this?” and see if you can cut at least 2% of them. The next time you buy something from the Apple store, ask if you are getting a business discount and, if not, ask for one. If you get paid online using credit cards, explore options that are 2% less expensive. If you travel a lot, consider doing 2% more video conferences.

This works for your personal life also. Do you want to lose some weight? Eat 2% less and exercise 2% more. Are you tired? Sleep 2% more. Track your heart rate and see if 2% more sleep will lower your resting heart rate by 2%. Cancel 2% of your meetings. Spent 2% more time each waking day with your spouse, kids, and parents. Take a 2% break during the day and spend it alone going for a walk, fishing, or just sitting quietly on a bench.

You get the idea. As entrepreneurs we spend much of our time on transformative change. When I was president of Feld Technologies, I remember putting energy with my partner Dave into incremental change, especially when we were running short of cash. Don’t forget the 2%. It almost always flows directly to the bottom line.