timothy ferriss

OED: Odd, Eccentric & Dynamic


As an undergraduate I was introduced to the magic of the Oxford English Dictionary. Some may question the use of the word “magic” to describe this tome, but for a class full of eager English majors, cracking the spine (well, spines–there are several volumes) of the OED and diving into the deep waters of word meanings and derivations was nothing short of a magical moment. Who knew that finding the first time the word “marshmallow” was ever printed in the English language could hold such fascination?

The OED quickly stepped into the arena of classic reference material soon after its first edition was finally printed in the 1920’s. Classics speak of tradition. And often tradition speaks of the formal or perhaps less-than-daring. What seldom peeks out from behind the covers of such a thing as the OED is the very intense, sometimes unbelievable, story of how it came to be in the first place.  In Charlotte Brewer’s book Treasure-House of the Language: The Living OED  the idea of what a mammoth undertaking it was to even consider compiling the OED in the first place comes to life . The product as well as the process molded many lives and created somewhat of a subculture along the way.

What drives the creation of such a thing as the OED–or any such large, almost unbelievable notion?  What occured to me is that such a project or product often really is driven by, well, another take on the O-E-D: the Odd, Eccentric and the Dynamic.  Think about it: how many of the incredible, deep and useful products or projects that change our lives had their early stirrings in odd moments? How many were driven by eccentric, passionate individuals who simply knew it would work and stood behind the idea? How about the dynamics that arise from deep conversations or shared actions? Yes, we’re talking innovation-in-action here.  (And so, proving that The Oxford English Dictionary has many types of magic).

Here is a small string of  O-E-D (Odd, Eccentric, Dynamic) products, programs and personalities off the top of my mind. File these under “inspiration” and/or “find out more”:

Cerritos LibraryMartha Graham, Playing For Others, Anythink Libraries, Gustafer Yellowgold, Timothy Ferris, Indievision, The Fun Theory

What’s on your OED list?

1 in 5? Maybe? (Parkinson’s Law)

I’ve received bunches of feedback from the 5 in 5 Challenge. In gist, what most are saying goes a little like this: I want to do this, but it seems impossible. However…it has made me think more about what I’m doing, writing and I’m more conscious about my time and the quality–and brevity–of what I write.

So, what I’m thinking is this: Maybe we can do 1 meaningful thing in 5 minutes. (?)

Since writing that post, I’ve dug back through my copy of The Four-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss to verify my point about working within time limits often results in a better in product. The point goes back to Parkinson’s Law. Ferris has this to say about it on page 75 of his book:

Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the immediate deadline.

With this in mind, I’d say that we’re all right on target! For instance, right now, I am working on a major project to create a mobile literacy outlet here in Charlotte that we’ve dedicated to launch on June 18 (this project includes the customization of a large delivery truck to be the centerpiece for a “mobile library zone”) That’s less than 1 month from now. My senses are heightened, I am on the phone, email and fax and searching for vendors like mad, putting teams into place and looking to hire a skilled and innovative contract program specialist–NOW. All these puzzle pieces are a floating around waiting to come together. However, I simply know they’ll come together in the right time and way. Is this Parkinson’s Law in action? Ask me on June 19.