The Art of Doing

On the Road: Six New York Times Photographers

From the mouth of an active volcano to a desertous plain that one explorer called, ‘the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams,’ intrepid photographers show us what it’s like to be on the road around the globe.

"I wanted to do a road trip across this place where there seems to be more questions than answers." David Maurice Smith, photographer, for The New York Times Magazine
“I wanted to do a road trip across this place where there seems to be more questions than answers.” Nullarbor, Australia, photographer  David Maurice Smith, for The New York Times Magazine.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” wrote Lewis Carroll.

Six New York Times photographers, some of whom I interviewed for The New York Times Magazine, were given the opportunity to get on the road in any destination of their choice.

Continue reading “On the Road: Six New York Times Photographers”

What Malala Can Teach Us About Being a Leader

When the Taliban tried to kill her for speaking out, Malala Yousafzai only got stronger.


In conversation with Malala Yousafzai and filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth” “Waiting for Superman”) whose film, “He Named Me Malala,” is in theaters this week, we found out what makes Malala a true leader.

You probably wouldn’t think to look to a high school junior for lessons in leadership. But the 18-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai is no ordinary high school student. In her short life, she’s not only drawn international attention to a massive problem—that of the 61 million girls around the world who don’t have access to an education—she’s persuaded world leaders to start taking real action to fix it.

As the filmmaker Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary He Named Me Malala hits theaters this week, it’s worth drawing a few lessons from someone whose influence, courage, and resolve have been felt around the world before she’s even hit 20.

Our story here

How to be a Master at Public Speaking?

Sweaty palms, racing heart, find out how the masters deliver masterful presentations.


How to start, how to hold, how to build, how to end—eight master strategies of public speaking 

Your legs wobble as you approach the podium. Your hands tremble as you adjust the microphone. Your head throbs. A wail builds deep inside you and threatens to escape.

It’s showtime, and the feelings are primal.

Evolutionary biologists tell us that in the presence of a presumed threat, we go into fight-or-flight mode, kicking off a millennia-old chain-reaction that starts in the brain’s fear centers and ends with our muscles pumped with blood and oxygen, prepared for battle or escape.

If you experience this, don’t worry. You’re in good company. In a recent story for the New Yorker, Joan Acocella writes that some of the greatest performers—Daniel-Day Lewis, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Barbra Streisand and Sir Laurence Olivier—have all faced symptoms of extreme stage fright.

As panicked as the thought of presenting in front of a group can make us, whether we’re delivering a speech before hundreds, doing a business pitch, attending a job interview, or introducing a report in a meeting, our careers may depend doing it, and doing it well.

So how can we get better? Our story here.

Bonus: See how comedians handle hecklers.

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How to Use the Science Behind Habits to Sell (Anything!) Better

Pete Trainor of SapientNitro has a simple marketing formula: If a behavior leads to good feeling, then repeat.










We often think of our habits as quirky things we do over and over again without really thinking about them–twirling a lock of hair, checking a cell phone on the way out of the subway, leaving the toilet seat up or down. But when we are selling a product or service, those repetitive actions are exactly what we want people to indulge in.

Be sure that when someone plows land in Farmville or clears jelly off the board in Candy Crush–over and over again, because they can’t stop playing–there is the sound of joyous ka-chinging in the Farmville and Candy Crush boardrooms.

So is there a secret to triggering habits in people so that they’ll engage and keep engaging with whatever it is you create? Pete Trainor, Associate Director UX at SapientNitro, believes that there is. And in his recent fascinating SXSW Interactive talk, “The Neuroscience of Success,” Trainor shared some of the principles that he has distilled over the years from psychology, behavioral, and experimental economics and observations of the human animal: himself. Continue reading “How to Use the Science Behind Habits to Sell (Anything!) Better”

Some of the Most Fascinating Humans In New York, Collected In One Place

At 21 years old, Brandon Stanton–the creative force behind the immensely popular photo blog Humans of New York–had flunked out of college, was kicked out of his parent’s home, was doing drugs, working at a dead end job at Applebee’s and living in his grandparent’s basement in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also convinced that he was going to write a bestseller and he wasn’t wrong.

'This guy was dancing for tips on the sidewalk. I asked him to try and put all his skill into a single move, and this is what I got.' Brandon Stanton, "Humans of New York"
‘This guy was dancing for tips on the sidewalk. I asked him to try and put all his skill into a single move, and this is what I got.’ Brandon Stanton, “Humans of New York”

When Brandon Stanton’s photo project of the Big Apple’s interesting characters grew beyond his original vision, he followed it straight to bestsellerdom.

[Our original article on Brandon Stanton ran in Fast Company last Fall. Recently Brandon was at SXSW for a book signing for his best-selling book, Humans of New York, and a talk on everything he’s learned about audience building, crying alone in his bedroom, the magic of social media and the difficulties of standing out in a world where everyone has something to “like” and “share.” Brandon himself says that he thinks he “has some special insight into building a large following around a new idea. But may have just gotten lucky, and could be completely full of shit…”]

At 21 years old, Brandon Stanton—the creative force behind the immensely popular photo blog Humans of New York—had flunked out of college (earning a combined score of zero on his five courses). Kicked out of his parent’s home, he was doing drugs, working at a dead end job at Applebee’s and living in his grandparent’s basement in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also convinced that he was going to write a bestseller.

Stanton described the unanimous reaction of his friends and family at the time: “They all said, ‘What the hell is wrong with Brandon? What a loser!'”

But now, not even a decade later, Stanton, 29, has eventually achieved his dream with over three million blog followers and a #1 bestseller. Continue reading “Some of the Most Fascinating Humans In New York, Collected In One Place”

How to Create One of the World’s Most Succesful Blogs

From a chapter in our book, “The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It so Well,” based on our interview with Mark Frauenfelder, founder and coeditor of BoingBoing, one of the most popular blogs for the last decade.

Mark Frauenfelder

Rare Saber-Toothed Whale, Anime, Carnival Dark Rides, Crime Photos, Tech Reviews, Gadget Tips—Boing Boing Has It All

At the dawn of blogging in 1995, Mark Frauenfelder moved his ‘zine Boing Boing online. Boing Boing—whose mission was to explore “the coolest, wackiest stuff”—became and remains one of the Internet’s most popular blogs. Defying the corporatization of the blogosphere, Boing Boing has remained a curio of oddities, tech news, gadget tips and real-life marvels with 2.5 million unique visitors a month. Now, Frauenfelder shares daily blogging duties with a troika of other passionate editors Cory Doctorow, David Pescovitz and Xeni Jardin. “The recipe for an excellent blog is to be so deeply obsessed with something that you need to communicate it to others,” says Frauenfelder. “If Boing Boing stopped making money tomorrow, I’d still need to do it.” Here are his ten tips for creating a successful blog: Continue reading “How to Create One of the World’s Most Succesful Blogs”

Malcolm Gladwell Wants to Meme You …
and Meme You Hard

Working in a tradition of his own creation—a bestselling blend of science, compelling case studies and meticulous storytelling—author Malcolm Gladwell comes out with his new book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.”

Malcolm Gladwell

The Goliath of nonfiction Malcolm Gladwell has just released his fifth book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants” on Oct 1.

Working in a tradition of his own creation—a bestselling blend of science, compelling case studies and meticulous storytelling—Malcolm Gladwell sets out to meme you, and meme you hard. The underdog is stronger than you think. The giant is not so giant. Bigger class size is better. Inexperience equals excellence. Dyslexia is an advantage. Being at the top of a mediocre college beats being at the bottom of an Ivy League school. And so on and so on.

On full display is Gladwell’s enormous talent of pulling together a dizzying array of examples from a dizzying array of fields in this case, sports, oncology, education, psychology, military history, law, finance, civil rights, fine arts and criminal justice. His ability to disseminate whippets of counterintuition leads to mind-popping epiphanies. Ultimately, Gladwell doesn’t just get you to rethink the David and Goliath story, he gets you to rethink all lopsided battles, priming you to scan life for the hidden strengths in weakness and the hidden weaknesses in strength. Continue reading “Malcolm Gladwell Wants to Meme You …
and Meme You Hard”

What Makes Laura Linney Act?
It’s the Story, Stupid

Laura Linney, interviewed in “The Art of Doing,” reveals who she’s really acting for.

Laura Linney in her Golden-Globe winning role in "The Big C"
Laura Linney in her Golden-Globe winning role as Cathy Jamison in “The Big C”

When we interviewed Laura Linney for a chapter on “How to Act” in our book, we asked the award-winning actress:

“Who are you acting for?”

And then we waited. A long time. We had to stifle the urge to blurt out helpful suggestions. As the seconds of silence turned into minutes (hours in interview time), we wondered if Linney had misunderstood our question or been offended.

It turned out that she was actually thinking, not pretending to think as sometimes happens when you talk to a famous person who is feeding you lines because that is what their publicist told them to do.

When Linney finally did respond—a full two minutes of tape time later—her answer wasn’t at all one we would have expected. She wasn’t acting for her audience, her fellow actors, directors, producers or even her late father, the playwright Romulus Linney, as we had suspected. No. She wasn’t even acting for herself. Continue reading “What Makes Laura Linney Act?
It’s the Story, Stupid”

The Google Doodler

The satirical set of diagrams that illustrated the lead business section in the story in The New York Times last Friday was the work of a french designer at Google who doodles in his off hours.

ManuCornet OrgCharts
Illustrated by Manu Cornet (2011)


We were curious about what led Manu Cornet, who works on Google’s Gmail, to create this set of six company culture diagrams that made its way around the Web back in 2011 before resurfacing last week as New York Times art work. How, we wondered, did Cornet come to envision Apple’s corporate structure as a pinwheel and Microsoft’s as a show down at the OK Corral?

So we asked him. And he said:

“I always keep a long list of illustration ideas though I don’t have much time to draw them. I must have been thinking about one of those company’s structures and thinking how Apple with Steve Jobs (before he passed away) must really be centralized to allow him to pretty much have the final word on all matters. So I started imagining a circular structure with Jobs at the center.”

From there, Cornet wondered: What would other companies’ cultures look like? Continue reading “The Google Doodler”

The Stories We Tell

Storytelling is among the core principles of success among the superachievers we interviewed. How, why and to what effect we tell stories are also questions actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley explores in her riveting documentary, “Stories We Tell.”

Shaping a narrative is never easy. It’s often the hardest when it’s your own.

Think about the last time you had write a resume, a cover letter, a bio—one small, scant paragraph to encompass your life. You may have struggled to capture the essence of you and felt unsatisfied. But the ability to shape a narrative relevant to your goals really matters. There is power in the well-crafted tale whatever your goal may be—to create a brand, sell a product, promote a cause, or even get a job. It’s something we noticed among the dozens of remarkable people we interviewed for our book. We were impressed not just by the stories they told, but how they told them. Continue reading “The Stories We Tell”