EJ’s blog is moving to ExcellentJourney.net

This is the last post on this long-neglected site. I’ve staked a claim to a new corner of the internet where I plan to be more diligent and brilliantly prolific. (Or prolifically brilliant…?)

So, if you want to follow along, click on over to ExcellentJourney.net. (I wanted a clean slate and my very own URL.)

Thanks for having my little venture on your radar.

My favorite iPad apps

I recently shared my favorite iPhone apps, so I thought I should follow up with apps that I love on the iPad. There is some overlap in my iPhone and iPad apps, but some apps are just better suited to one device over another. And some, like Flipboard, are only for the iPad (for now, at least). Since I got my iPad last summer, it has replaced my iPhone for most of my extended reading and web surfing when I’m away from my Mac. I actually prefer reading on the iPad to reading on my 24″ iMac, though I still do most of my writing on the Mac. Here are apps you should consider if you’ve got an iPad:

My iPad home screen

Instapaper ($4.99) – It’s great on the iPhone, but I use this app even more on the iPad as my go-to reading collection. As you’re browsing the internet and come across articles and posts you want to read but don’t have time at the moment, simply click the “Read Later” bookmarklet on your browser. Later when you open the app on your iPad, all your saved articles are there. You can even read them offline. Set up a free account to get started.

Reeder ($4.99) – A simple, elegant app for reading your Google Reader feeds. (If you’re not using Google Reader or some other RSS reader… why not?)
Flipboard (free) – It’s like your own personalized magazine for the iPad. Read the news and online content in a beautiful, intuitive design. Load in your Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr accounts to browse those sites in a whole new way.
Kindle (free) – iBooks is prettier, but Kindle offers more book choices and syncs my books with all my devices so I can continue reading where I left off on my iPad, iPhone, or Mac.
Weather HD ($0.99) – See the weather simulated in HD videos. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but it makes checking the weather fun.
Penultimate ($1.99) – Write or sketch in this notebook with your finger. Nicely done.
ESV Bible (free) – Easy and quick to move between passages.
Amazon Windowshop (free) – Amazon.com‘s iPad app makes it a breeze to scroll through their site.
Google Earth (free) – “Hold the world in the palm of your hand.” This app continues to amaze and delight.
Keynote ($9.99) – I prefer Keynote to Powerpoint, and the iPad app is useful for tweaking and rehearsing a presentation. Plus, you can connect the iPad to a projector to show your slides to a large audience.
Omnifocus ($39.99) – Yes, it’s very expensive. But it’s the most powerful and versatile task management system I’ve tried. I’m all in with the iPhone and Mac apps of this, too, but the iPad version is the most intuitive and delightful. I do weekly reviews only on the iPad version.
Twitter (free) – Twitter’s official iPad app took some getting used to, but I like it and continue to find ways to get more out of it.
Simplenote (free) – This is my primary note-taking/text entry app. Your notes will synchronize with all your devices and be saved in the cloud through the Simplenote site.
TED Talks (free) – I jokingly tell the college students I work with they should just drop out and instead spend their time watching TED Talks for their education. TED Talks plus a comprehensive Google Reader stream actually would provide a pretty good education.
Evernote (free) – The ultimate collection bucket. Load it up with any information you might want or need later. It even scans photos for text.
Dropbox (free) – “Dropbox is the easiest way to sync and share your files online and across computers.” Agreed. Put your documents and images in Dropbox and you can access them anywhere you’ve got access to the internet.
GarageBand ($4.99) – Just, wow. I’m no musician, and I can create music with this app. If you want to show off the iPad to any doubters, load up this app. Apple designed this one and set the bar high for other app developers.
Flixster (free) – My favorite “what’s at the theaters?” app.
Canabalt ($2.99) – I’m not a gamer, but this is fun for an occasional diversion.
Fruit Ninja ($2.99) – This fun, easy game is great to show off the iPad. Excellent use of the touchscreen.
I’ll need a whole, separate post to share the iPad apps that my kids love. And they do LOVE the iPad. Even my 3-year-old knows how to navigate this device. She has no problem finding and using the apps she likes.
Let me know if you have some favorite iPad apps to recommend.

My favorite iPhone apps

I get asked regularly by fellow iPhone users what my favorite apps are. Especially for someone new to iOS, getting started with apps can be kid-in-the-candy-store overwhelming and sneaky expensive. Those dollars add up quickly, and I rarely use the majority of apps I’ve purchased over the past three years. Here are the iPhone apps that have had staying power with me and that I recommend: 

  • Instapaper ($4.99) – My favorite app by a landslide. Never be without something good to read. Go set up an account and install the bookmarklet on your browser. Then, simply click the “Read Later” bookmark to save any online articles to read later (offline even) on Instapaper.
  • Camera+ ($0.99) – Offers an array of cool features (zoom, tap to focus, burst mode) and fun filters to give more options for the excellent iPhone camera.
  • Reeder ($2.99) – Beautiful way to browse through your Google Reader feeds.
  • Omnifocus ($19.99) – Expensive, but a powerful to-do list/task management app. I use the iPad version for reviews and the Mac version for daily task management, but this iPhone version is perfect for quickly capturing tasks and ideas as they come up. The three versions sync seamlessly.
  • Simplenote (free) – Great text app that syncs seamlessly to a web site to save any notes you create.
  • Twitter (free) – The official, free Twitter app had been perfect until the recent “quickbar” update. If that doesn’t go away soon, I may opt for a 3rd-party app.
  • Kindle (free) – I do most of my reading on the iPad, but the iPhone will do just fine for short bits of reading. Kindle syncs your books across all devices and lets you add highlights and notes.
  • Google Voice (free) – I use this for most of my texting. I love Google Voice and give it as my primary phone number since it can ring all of my phones, and I can manage messages easily from my desktop.
  • Calvetica Calendar ($2.99) – I’ve only had this app for a couple of weeks, but I’m using it now instead of the iPhone’s native calendar app. It’s a gorgeous and clever design.
  • Weather HD (free) – Great for the weather at a glance. Pretty, too.
  • Weightbot ($1.99) – Very satisfying interface and sounds. Easy to keep track of your weight over time.
  • Calcbot ($1.99) – From the same developer as Weightbot. An elegant, full-featured calculator app.
  • Convert ($2.99) – I struggle with measurements, especially in the kitchen. This app looks good and helps me quickly convert measurements.
  • Evernote (free) – THE all-purpose collection bucket for any kind of note.
  • Dropbox (free)- THE go-to app for saving documents to the cloud so they can be accessible from anywhere.
  • ESPN Scorecenter (free) – Go Dawgs.
  • 1Password ($14.99) – One of the best investments I’ve made was to purchase 1Password for the Mac. Solved the problem of keeping up with the huge number of online passwords.
  • Amazon Mobile (free) – Clean interface. Way too easy to tap and buy stuff.
  • Google Search (free) – You can speak and begin searching. Nice portal for most Google apps online.
  • TED Mobile (free) – TED Talks on your phone.
  • Siri (free) – Find and arrange for services, entertainment, and dinner, all just by speaking your request into the phone.
  • Flixster (free) – Find movie times, reviews, and locations
  • Canabalt ($2.99) – A simple, one-finger running game that’s quite satisfying to play for a few minutes at a time.
If you asked my kids, they would make sure to include these apps:

If I were a college freshman today…

Last week I spoke at a meeting of university freshmen who are aspiring campus leaders. I promised several of them that I would follow up with a copy of my notes and a list of resources and quotations that I referred to in my talk. So, here you go. (All links are listed at the end of the post.)

If I had the chance to do my freshman year of college over again, knowing what I know now and living in this generation, here’s what I would do:

-Ask “what makes me come alive?” Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Instead of trying to guess what majors and careers will be in demand or that will earn you a big salary or trying to determine what role you can play to best serve the world, just try to figure out what you love, what makes you “come alive.” It sounds selfish, but the majority of people are sleepwalking through life, spending most of their time doing something they clearly don’t love. That certainly doesn’t serve the world. How many people do you know that are truly happy, who say “TGIM” (the M is for Monday) instead of “TGIF” each week? When you do encounter someone who is passionate about their calling and are living an awake kind of life, you can’t help but be a little infected or convicted by the joy they radiate. Your choosing a path that makes you come alive could very well help others wake up and live with more passion themselves.That alone is a high and noble service to the world.

So, how do you begin to figure out this coming alive thing in college?
(Brace yourself. This is a long list, so feel free to scan through till you find a thought that grabs you.)

-Your major is minor in the big scheme things. Don’t stress about it. What I majored in has had very little impact on my career path. Of all the colleagues I’ve had in my professional life, there are only a handful that I could tell you what they majored in, and most weren’t doing work related to their majors. I recommend that you choose a major that offers classes you will enjoy. Period. Don’t worry about how that major will look on a resume or how you will “use it.” You could major in Greek literature and still get a job at a big corporation if you really wanted to. (In fact, such a major could make you a lot more interesting to an employer who usually sees the same majors over and over.)

One student leader I worked with had a brilliantly simple approach to choosing a major. She read every course description in the college catalog. Every time she read a course description that made her think, “I would enjoy that class,” she circled it. After reading every course description offered, she went back and counted which major had the most courses circled. And that became her major. Brilliant! If you’re going to spend all this time and money taking classes, make them classes you will actually enjoy.

-Go beyond required classes. Don’t be content to just check off your required course list. Find courses outside your chosen field that fascinate you, too. I took a Greek language class and a religion class my senior year as electives. They weren’t part of my major and weren’t required, but I’m still affected by lessons I learned in those classes. Apple CEO Steve Jobs sat in on a calligraphy class when he was in college (after he had already dropped out, actually) and credits that class with inspiring him to include multiple text fonts in the first Apple computers.*

-Find compelling teachers. Seek out the advice of peers, advisors, and instructors to identify the very best teachers on campus, and then take their classes. Don’t worry about how many or how few “A’s” they give. (Your GPA doesn’t make much difference down the road either, unless you’re trying to get into graduate or professional school.)You will learn much from those teachers who love what they do, excel at their craft, and care about their students regardless of what subject they teach. I would rather take a dull subject with a dynamic teacher than an interesting topic taught by a dull teacher. A bad teacher could make sex-ed boring while a great teacher could make accounting compelling. (Apologies to those of you who love accounting.)

-Don’t choose activities just to build a resume. Your time is precious. There is no need waste it doing things you’re not completely committed to doing. As a former college admissions counselor, I was never impressed by an applicant’s long list of mostly superficial involvements. What I was impressed by was an applicant who had found one or two key activities that they had clearly poured themselves into in a remarkable way. It takes some wisdom and some courage to say “no” to things that you don’t want to invest yourself in, especially when you’re being encouraged or asked to get involved. Quit doing what you don’t absolutely love. Hone in on what you find to be a meaningful use of your time, and then put your whole heart into it.

-Be bold. Conquer the fears that keep you from doing what you want to do. Go introduce yourself to that teacher who inspires you. Email or “tweet” the author or business leader or performer or scientist whose work you find compelling. Dare to create a new organization or initiate a movement on campus. Raise your hand in class and offer your idea or your question. Go figure out how to pay for a study abroad experience that will change your life. Create a proposal to intern (for free if necessary) at your dream company or organization and knock on some doors or create a video to make your pitch. Start your own business or non-profit now. Submit an opinion column to the campus newspaper. Set up a blog and begin to share your ideas with the world. Get busy making great stuff. No need to wait on a diploma to start living the life of your dreams as much as you possibly can right now. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t wait on a degree to create Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook.

“Caution is the devil.” William Blake

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau
“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it’s too low and we reach it.” Michelangelo
“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on the face of the earth. So, what the hell… leap.” Cynthia Heimel

-It’s all about relationships. Invest in great friendships while in college. College friendships endure like no others. The core group of friends from my residence hall experience more than 25 years ago remain my “go-to” friends to this day. Just as you should seek out great teachers, go befriend peers that you admire and respect. Learn how to listen, really listen. Don’t hesitate to deviate from your study schedule for the sake of great moments with friends. My college roommate was a pre-med student with very disciplined study habits. I know he regrets that he didn’t pull himself away from his books more often to have some fun with our group of friends. And don’t forget about your family. Now that you’re away at college, it’s easy to take your family for granted. Love your parents. Call, email, or text them often. (Some parents even Facebook and Tweet. Who knew?) Keep them in the loop about your life. Seek out their counsel. Even if you don’t always follow their recommendations, they will appreciate continuing to be included in your adventures. My mom passed five years ago, and I would love to just talk with her one more time. Love your parents while you can. And make time for your siblings, especially if they’re younger. They won’t tell you, but your being away at college has left a big hole in their lives. Sure, they’re probably measuring your old room plotting a way to take it over, but they do miss you. Seek out opportunities to connect with them. Call them regularly. When you go home for visits, plan some time with just them. You will be a hero.

-Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Harvard Professor Richard Light says that his research shows that the most successful and satisfied college students are those that reported building relationships with their instructors. His advice is to find at least one instructor every semester that you can connect with and get to know beyond the classroom. If you do that every semester, after four years you will have at least eight instructors that know you and can advise you about your academic and career plans and actually go to bat for you in a meaningful way as you pursue your postgraduate plans. But don’t limit your mentors to just your instructors. Administrators and other campus support staff are often eager to be helpful. There was a secretary in my residence hall community who was like a mom away from home for me. Older students can be particularly helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask a student you admire to meet for coffee or lunch and pick their brain on their tips for success. They most likely will be flattered and honored and willing to help as well. In return, do your part to mentor and guide other students who seek you out and value your insight.

-Master something. You’re in class like three hours a day in college. That means you’re not in class 20+ hours each day. Do something positive, healthy, constructive, productive, and legal with all that free time. Study and sleep, of course, but even with study time included you’ll have plenty of time to master some things. Learn to juggle. Learn web design. Learn to make iPhone apps. Learn to play a musical instrument. Learn video editing or graphic design. Learn how to make a great French omelet. Learn how to grow your own food. Learn how to fix things. Learn how to give a killer presentation. Learn yoga or martial arts. Or kickboxing. (YouTube “Lloyd Dobler kickboxing.”) Imagine what would be fun, and give it a go. But mastery isn’t easy. It may take many hours, even years for some challenges, filled with frustration and failure, and most people quit when it gets hard or they plateau. If you can learn to persist at something you care about till you’ve mastered it, you will be unstoppable.

-Use great tools. You will be Googled by prospective employers and even by someone you want to date, so create a great presence online. Set up your own blog.* It’s free and easy. Go to Posterous or Tumblr or WordPress. Share your opinions, your questions, your poetry, your photography, or whatever you’re interested in. Set up a Twitter account.* You don’t have to say much. You can just listen for a while. Follow people that you aspire to be like or work with or learn from. Use Google Reader* to follow blogs of interest to you. I’ve learned more from the feeds in my Google Reader account than I did in most of my college classes. Not sure which blogs or online sites to follow? Check out Alltop.com* to find a convenient list of all the great web sites in almost any topic you can imagine. Spend some spare time watching TED Talks,* a collection of some of the most enlightening and entertaining lectures ever compiled. Set up a Google Voice account.* You can pick one phone number for yourself that directs calls and texts to any phone you choose, regardless of your phone carrier. Also, I ditched my paper calendar years ago and rely exclusively on Google Calendar.* I can access it anywhere and easily share calendars with others. And it syncs seamlessly with my iPhone and iPad.

Students today are living in a world of resources and opportunities unimagined even one generation ago. Make the most of this wonderful time in your life and imagine how great you will feel when you graduate with no regrets about how you’ve spent these years.

“Make every day your masterpiece.” John Wooden
TED Talks – Start with these two talks, and you’ll be hooked: Benjamin Zander and Sir Ken Robinson

Dawg Camp letter: “Get the picture.”

I’ve been asked to speak at the University of Georgia’s “Dawg Camp” for new first-year students. It’s a weekend event for entering freshmen who want to get a head-start on making the most of their college experience. I spoke to this group a few years ago, and it was a high energy group. Of course, in my job at UGA, I work closely with entering and current students. I am passionate about challenging students to squeeze the best possible experience out of their college years. In addition to speaking to the students this weekend, the Dawg Camp staff also asked me to submit a letter to the students that will be included in their camp handbook. Here’s my letter to the new students:

Welcome to Dawg Camp!

UGA’s famous former football play-by-play announcer, Larry Munson, began broadcasting each Georgia game with the phrase “Get the picture…” He then proceeded to describe in detail the scene in the stadium, including the color of both teams’ uniforms, the weather, the direction the teams would be going on the field, and even how full the student section was in Sanford Stadium. (By the way, don’t arrive late to football games. It’s not cool to arrive after kickoff. Get there early.) There was magic in the way Munson described a game. And I do think there’s something magical about getting a clear picture of what you want your college career to be.

So, “Get the picture…” Begin with the end in mind. Imagine yourself between the hedges in Sanford Stadium on Saturday, May 17, 2014, at 6 p.m. That is commencement day for the class of 2014. Your class. Picture yourself in your black cap and gown in the stadium on what will likely be a warm spring evening. See your family and friends in the stands, sweating… and cheering for you. Now imagine how you want to feel on that day. What will your emotions be as you complete your UGA education and earn your degree? Go ahead and feel those emotions right now. You want to graduate, sure. But don’t you want to graduate with the feeling that you made the most of your four years here? No regrets. No second-guessing the experience you had as an undergraduate. See yourself with a huge smile on your face on that day, high-fiving the multitude of friends who will surround you, hugging your family. Strutting. (Nothing wrong with a little strut in your step on graduation day. Go ahead… start practicing.) I challenge you to visualize this moment at least once each day while you’re at UGA. There is power in the thoughts you think.

What will it take for that vision to become a reality for you? How can you make your college years amazing? Because you’re at Dawg Camp, you’re at least interested in a running start to your UGA experience. (Or maybe it was your parents’ idea for you to be here. If so, thank your “type A” parents when you get home.) I’ve been fortunate to befriend some of the most outstanding students at UGA in the past eighteen years. The most successful and satisfied students have been those with adventurous spirits, sincere enthusiasm, the courage to pursue what they’re most passionate about, and genuine kindness toward those around them. They have been the students who have been most awake. Too many people sleepwalk their way through college and through life.  While I’m challenging you to envision clearly a moment four years from now, the only moment that ever really matters is right now.  “Make every day your masterpiece,” said John Wooden, the legendary, late UCLA basketball coach. Make an art out of everything you do as a student – even walking across campus or riding the UGA buses or taking notes in your least favorite class can be an incredible adventure if you give your full attention to it.

You’re going to be strongly and repeatedly encouraged at Dawg Camp to “get involved.” I agree with that advice. But there’s no prize for the student that graduates with the longest resume. Find those things to do that have meaning for you, that are rewarding in themselves, not for any external benefit you might receive from them. Take classes that truly interest you. Make an effort to get to know and learn from everyone you encounter – students, faculty, staff, the food services workers, the cleaning crew in your hall, the bus drivers. Trust your instincts. Follow your heart. Spread some love where you can. You’re in for a terrific adventure at UGA. I’m honored to be here for the start of it.

Mind-stretching books

A former student of mine recently dropped in when she was in town. As she left, she asked me to recommend some books I think she ought to read. I get this request regularly from students, so here’s a short list I put together off the top of my head. These books have stretched me and stuck with me over the years.
Art of living:
If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland – The sunniest, most encouraging book I’ve read. I’ve re-read it many times. It’s more about how to live than just how to write.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – Deep but completely accessible. Here’s the secret to life, and it’s surprisingly simple to understand but hard to achieve.
Infinite Possibilities by Mike Dooley – Fun book. The point is that your thoughts become the things of your life. Choose your thoughts wisely. Very practical strategies for living your dreams.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – Four simple but challenging agreements you should make with yourself to live an excellent life.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – A classic. A bit too much like a textbook early on, but all seven habits have influenced me in the many years since I first read it.
The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson – This guy is my health guru. He’s crystallized the “paleo” approach to diet into a paradigm that really works for me. I dropped 15+ pounds immediately after following his advice and have kept it off for almost 2 years. Saturated fat is not the enemy. Processed foods, grains, and sugar are the true culprits in our diet woes. I follow his blog daily: http://www.marksdailyapple.com You should, too.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan – Pollan is the foremost writer in the “real food” movement. Also, I love his fun, little book, Food Rules. It’s only $7 on Amazon. We kept it on our coffee table for a while this year, and guests would pick it up and get lost in it instantly.
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris – Best biography I’ve ever read. Reads like a novel. Roosevelt’s life was fantastic. He was a weak, sickly kid who transformed his body and sharpened his mind throughout his life and had more adventures than 20 people combined.
Illusions by Richard Bach – The author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (which is a magical little book in its own right) tells the story of a reluctant messiah/mechanic.
Anna KareninaWar and Peace by Tolstoy – The two greatest novels ever written. Tolstoy expresses things you’ve felt but could never put into words. Brilliant and worth the effort.
I, Claudius by Robert Graves – A historical fiction classic about the Roman Empire. It’s a page-turner. Intrigue galore and delightfully written.