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Tennesse Williams on Success and Struggle

I recently read a short essay called “A Streetcar Named Success” by Tennessee Williams, the renowned mid-twentieth century American playwright who wrote A Street Car Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. The essay talks about how life became a bit disjointed after he became “successful” and started living a life of luxury — living in a hotel and getting room service all the time. He started hanging out with different people, found it difficult to be creative, and just felt more detached from the world.

One does not escape that easily from the seductions of an effete [1] way of life. You cannot arbitrarily say to yourself, I will now continue my life as it was before this thing. Success happened to me. But once you fully apprehend the vacuity [2] of a life without struggle you are equipped with the basic means of salvation. Once you know this is true, that the heart of man, his body and his brain, are forged in a white-hot furnace for the purpose of conflict (the struggle of creation) and that with the conflict removed, the man is a sword cutting daisies, that not privation but luxury is the wolf at the door and that the fangs of this wolf are all the little vanities and conceits [3] and laxities that Success is heir to–why, then with this knowledge you are at least in a position of knowing where danger lies.Tennessee Williams

For Williams, it was only when he relocated out of New York and to a random town in Mexico, where no one knew who he was and he had to struggle a bit more in his daily living was he able to find his creative energies again. While not everyone needs to go to such extremes to keep themselves, his point is well taken.

Even nearly 70 years after it was published, the essay a great reminder that while we often struggle to achieve a life of freedom and ease, we need struggle and hardship to keep ourselves going.

Read the whole thing here: On a Streetcar Named Success

Definitions for some of the more obscure terms:

[1] effete = pretentious [2] vacuity = emptiness [3] conceits = excessive pride in oneself
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Beyond the 10,000 Hour Rule: Talking with Anders Ericsson on How People Reach Expert Performance

We’re all familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, which was made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2010 bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success. In it, Gladwell makes the argument that 10,000 hours of practice is a critical number that separates the great from the truly extraordinary. One of the bodies of work Gladwell relied on to support his thesis were from research by Florida State University Psychology Professor K. Anders Ericsson, the granddaddy of research on how people developing expertise.

Ericsson studied violinists from the West Berlin Music Academy: the highest performing students did not differ significantly from average or low performing students by IQ, family background, or other factors. The only thing that separated top students who and those who would likely end up as music teachers was the total number of hours they had logged over their lifetime engaged in deliberate, focused, independent music practice.

By the age of 20, the top students had logged over 10,000 hours of this kind of training — a nice round number that Gladwell hammered home over and over again in Outliers. [1]  Continue reading…

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11 Nifty Javascript and CSS Libraries for Newb Programmers (Like Me)

One of the things that can be surprising to people who don’t spend much time creating software is just how much code is really a giant mashup of pre-existing pieces of code that have been modified to interact with each other. The beauty of software is that it can be used without being consumed, like an idea or a piece of writing, and that’s what makes it so powerful.

In building side projects, I’ve found and used a number of neat Javascript (and CSS) libraries, which are organized bundles of code that perform specific functionality or style websites in certain ways. Here I’ll share eleven of my favorite ones. I know there are many, many, more* but as an apprentice programmer, these ones are particularly easy to use and I’ve been happy with them.
Continue reading…

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The Problem with “Where Are You From?”

In case you missed it, I wrote up the results of the Asian American Man study on Medium.com, where it’s been read by over 70k people. National Journal, an Atlantic Media’s publication, also wrote a great piece featuring the research in an article called: Asian Americans Feel Held Back at Work by Stereotypes.

Today we’re going to talk about a phrase. It’s a phrase you might use innocuously and infrequently, but one that many Asian Americans hear on a weekly if not daily basis, and can feel unfriendly, even alienating.

That phrase is “Where are you from?” Continue reading…

2015 art of ass kicking roundup

The 2015 Roundup

2015 was a big year.

I started it out living in Manhattan, working at Percolate, and just starting a new role as a PM for the Demo. I ended the year living in Brooklyn, working at Etsy, and settling into being a PM for the Seller Experience team. A whole crap ton of things happened a long the way: I took a GA course on front-end web development which really raised my game as a technology worker, I finally got my Guinness World Record certificate, I settled a long and protracted dispute that we can discuss another time, and I launched a side project that’s generated more money than all my previous side projects combined.

All the while, I’ve been blogging here. Let’s take a look back at the biggest hits on The Art of Ass-Kicking in 2015 (and yes I realize I’m a little late, oh well). Continue reading…