& Roo

the well-lived life is not a spectator sport

How Airbnb Made Me Treat Myself Better

I love Airbnb. While traveling, I've stayed in Airbnb listings almost exclusively since hearing about it in 2009. I began hosting a few years ago and have had nothing but great experiences with the guests we've invited to stay in our home.

Recently I went to see Chip Conley, Airbnb's Hospitality guru (founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels and Esalen Board Member) talk about being a great host. He is animated, succinct, and intriguing - if you get the chance to see him on stage, do it. His talk had lots of great points for hosts to improve their listings and ratings however there were two that stuck out.

The first: DISAPPOINTMENT = EXPECTATIONS - REALITY. The most succinct way I've seen someone express one of the most important principles of dealing with customers. The second: when people travel they have a pyramid of needs with expectations, desires, and unmet needs stacked one on top of the other. Disappointment happens at the bottom. Amazement happens at the top.

Taking these lessons in stride, we've been putting them into practice over the past 6 months. We've redecorated our guest room, purchased a new bed, bought curtains, new bedsheets, and bought fancy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash for our guests. 

All of which made me realize how many things I was doing for strangers that I hadn't or wouldn't do for myself.

My girlfriend and I both come from very practical families that also hold hospitality sacred - taking care of people with ironed sheets, folded towels, strong tea (PG Tips!) and good food. Both of our parents are great at entertaining and self-sacrifice, which seemingly go hand-in-hand.  We managed to pick up their altruism, which has made it easy to ignore ourselves in service to others.

Through  Airbnb though, we realized that taking care of other people in this way allowed us to take better care of ourselves. To realize our own unmet needs, and to build habits and spaces that took care of us as well as we had been taught to take care of others. 

Create Flow By Constantly Creating Small Challenges For Yourself

I've never been good at ping-pong. At Boxee, we had a table in one of our conference rooms. I lost frequently to various members of the team. My biggest highlights usually came from creating new rules that helped me win (IE - shots off the overhead light fixture meant players swapped scores). It gave me a ray of hope against people in the office who played like Olympians. 

One day, my co-worker Nick and I were playing ping-pong and I was struggling.  He stopped and told me, "If you want to get better, pick one thing to focus on each game and just work on that." Some games it was my forehand, others my backhand, others were all about spin. Soon enough, I started feeling more comfortable playing ping-pong. I wasn't winning, but the challenge was not to win, it was simply to get better. And that made it more enjoyable.

In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi book Flow, he investigates the mindset that high performers achieve when they are doing their best. Flow feels fulfilling and energizing. He breaks "Flow" down into several common characteristics: 

  1. Clear goals / progress markers
  2. Clear and immediate feedback
  3. A  balance between perceived challenges and perceived skills

Flow helped me realize that beating Nick at that moment was too big a challenge for my perceived skills. Being the good coach that he is, Nick re-balanced the scales a bit, and gave me a challenge that matched my skill level. After that ping-pong became fun again. 

I match the challenge to my skills all the time now.  In most cases, I'm increasing the challenge of a task I've done hundreds of times. In others, I'm breaking down a huge challenge (changing careers) into smaller parts that match my skillset.

I've written hundreds of thousands of emails, but can I write this one as succinctly as possible? I've been in thousands of meetings, but can I accomplish what I need to do quickly AND have everyone leave with a smile on their face? I've read hundreds of books, but can I skim this one and get what I need out of it? You get the idea. . . 

So if a task bores you, raise the challenge and see how different it feels. 

 

Bliss & Balance

A potential new hire mentioned that she was concerned about work/life balance at a startup. ‘Balance’ felt outdated. I imagined a scale in front of me with 8 hrs of work on one side, and 8 hours of play on the other.

We are now decades past Joseph Campbell’s advice to follow your bliss. His mantra urged us, like Gary Vaynerchuk now, to find what we were passionate about and make a career of it. It is our rightful place in the universe. But being able to embrace this philosophy takes a certain enlightenment that most people don’t have. It takes being able to see past all the fear, the money issues, and the ambiguity of how.

It takes having faith in yourself.

In my former life as a Christian, we used the metaphor of a piggy bank. Every step you took closer to what you felt God wanted was a quarter in the bank. Once the steps became larger — moving to a new city, not taking a higher paying job, breaking up with someone who didn’t support your relationship with God — you could look in the piggy bank, and know that everything was going to be okay. You had saved up enough to last you through this tough time.

So what’s the difference between bliss and balance?

Bliss is integrative, balance is separative.
Bliss describes how you feel, balance describes what you do.
Bliss ensures that whatever you’re doing brings you joy. Balance ensures you don’t do too much of something you don’t like.

Paolo Soleri vs. Frank Lloyd Wright

For the past 2 weeks I’ve had the chance to step into the work of one of the 20th Century’s most interesting architects.  While he studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, Paolo’s ideas were inherently different from Wright’s. 

 Frank Lloyd Wright's master-planned community, Broadacre Farms. 

Frank Lloyd Wright's master-planned community, Broadacre Farms. 

Both were megalomaniacs as many great creators are.  However Wright’s focus on nature was meant to help people enjoy it while Paolo’s included the desire to preserve it as well.  Where Wright was opulent, Paolo was stoic.  Where Wright built out, Paolo built up.  Where Wright went rectilinear and finished, Soleri went curvilinear and earthy.  

 Paolo Soleri's Arcology #12 which includes greenhouses, retail, living, and artistic spaces for a community of 5,000 people.

Paolo Soleri's Arcology #12 which includes greenhouses, retail, living, and artistic spaces for a community of 5,000 people.

Soleri’s concrete form carried with them the fingerprint of how they were made - silt-cast, plywood forms, or hand placed.  He saw each element as an opportunity to showcase his style with artistic designs, simple forms, and more.