We Remember What’s Useful – 7 Takeaways for January 3, 2021


2021. So far, so good.

And welcome to the 83 of you (so far) that decided this was worth a closer look. Even though I’m doing this for myself, I hope it brings you value as well.

“…we remember what’s useful…”

How to Read More Books – Mark Manson – (YouTube) – The full quote that caught my attention:

Basically, we remember what’s useful. If you don’t find ways to implement the ideas you read into your life in some way, you’re not going to remember them

Even though I ran across this after starting 7takeaways it’s pretty obvious why I was called to that video. I think Manson is one of the great thinkers of our time, and I wanted to see how he consumes as much as he does. I’m thinking that “find ways to implement” might well include the additional thought that goes into capturing takeaways and putting them here. I hope.

“Marcus Aurelius responded to the pandemic …”

Ryan Holiday – (Instagram) – The text:

Marcus Aurelius responded to the pandemic that ravaged Rome by:
• Consulting and listening to the experts (Galen)
• Forgiving debts
• Selling palace furnishings to replenish the treasury
• Paying for all funerals for plague victims (weeping for them as well)
• Refusing to flee Rome
• Remembering that all of this has happened before
• With his last breath, reminding his friends not to weep and to consider their own mortality

I think it speaks to me because it stands in such stark contrast to our current leadership.

“A Crisis Doesn’t Change People; It Amplifies Who They Already Are”

1,273 People Share Their Best Life Lessons from 2020 – Mark Manson – (Blog). The blog post itself is pretty interesting and full of takeaway-worthy items. Manson polled his audience: “What have been your biggest lessons from 2020?”. There were many.

This specific statement has been made about many different challenges and situations. It’s vaguely reminiscent of what some people believe about alcohol lowering your inhibitions and letting your true self appear less constrained.  Disasters, also, let the truth appear.

“Great marketing and great promotion is just caring about people who are interested in what you do and serving them.”

Office Hours with Ernest Wilkins – #154: The Office Hours Interview – Josh Spector – (podcast). Josh, and his newsletter For The Interested, is someone I’ve followed for a long time. He always has great insights for entrepreneurial content creators (i.e. me). This podcast covers a wide range of topics, and honestly has several takeaways in it, the one above on marketing, being just one. Of particular resonance to me was a segment on content re-use and repurposing. While that’s something I already try to do, I came away with a couple more ideas on exactly how I might do so. (Specifically breaking down an article’s major points into individual, but stand-alone, tweets.)

“Fear is a reaction. Creativity is a response.”

Michael O’Neill, quoted in 20 Valuable Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 2020 – Srinivas Rao – (Medium). Naturally this comes in the context of the events of 2020, but it’s an interesting way to view unexpected crises. And, let’s be frank: crises are more common than we like to think, and they’re always unexpected.

“We can react with fear. Or we can respond with creativity. The latter will always lead to a much better future.”

“Something small, every day, adds up to something big over time.”

30-day “Practice and Suck Less” challenge – Austin Kleon – (Blog) – This is both obvious, and yet so easily overlooked. As I mentioned when I started this effort, I’ve published 840+ Ask Leo! newsletters. I think that qualifies as a “shit ton” (or at least a “buttload“). How did I do it? One issue at a time. Ditto for the thousands (literally, thousands) of articles that have fed that newsletter in that time. Little stuff adds up. Content generated, improvements made, or whatever it is. A little every day.

“Write down ten ideas every day.”

How To Never Run Out of Ideas, Stay Creative, and Become Prolific – Ayodeji Awosika – (Medium) – It’s an interesting exercise. I don’t always hit 10, but the concept makes total sense. Certainly after doing what I’ve been doing for as long as I’ve been doing it, it’s easy to feel stuck in a bit of a rut.

“The point is to get in the habit of generating ideas constantly. Most of your ideas will suck, but a few will be gold. You take the good ones, save them, implement them, then double down on what works.”

Indeed, most suck — which is why they’ll never see the light of day. But some — a precious few, even — might make the cut. And hopefully I’ll get better over time.

What I’m Reading

I finished The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. You can read some comments here.

I also finished Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, which I’d set aside late last year. The biggish takeaways summarized at the end of the book:

  • Shut your mouth
  • Breathe through your nose
  • Exhale
  • Chew
  • Breathe more, on occasion
  • Hold your breath
  • How we breathe matters

I’ve started Several Short Sentences About Writing. It looks to be a quick read, but packed with good stuff.

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