I Can’t Explain It — 7 Takeaways No. 76

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1. “Beliefs, like genes, are passed down from generation to generation.”

When Advice Collides With Truth – Lawrence Yeo – (More to That blog)

An interesting essay on truth, how truth changes, and how falsifiability is a cornerstone of what it really means for something to be true.

In an age where opinions are common but truth is rare, a strong mind doesn’t take anything in as gospel.

I’ve long championed the idea of skepticism, and this feels like a more gentle apprach to the same mindset.

Do this: Remain appropriately skeptical.

2. “One for me, one for them”

The problem with the internet that no one is talking about – Campbell Walker – (YouTube)

As someone who publishes online for a living, I found this a fascinating history and breakdown of the fundamental dilemma we face: chasing “the algorithm” in pursuit of eyeballs, or creating truly and uniquely authentic work. The takeaway above is songwriter John Mayer’s response as to how he creates an album: he balances both.

The problem is that pursuing eyeballs, up to a point, is absolutely key to online success, but it detracts from your ability to make the pure thing(s) you might otherwise create or experiment with. And the latter can often lead to a much deeper sense of accomplishment, and even greater success.

Do this: if you’re a creator, strive for balance.

3. “Habit-building can serve as an invitation to avoidance”

Against good habits – Oliver Burkeman – (The Imperfectionist blog)

Habit building is super popular right now, and rightfully so. It’s a fine way to improve your life, your effectiveness, your relationships, your whatever.

As with all things, though: in moderation. Burkeman’s personal example is rather than just doing the thing he wants to do, he spends an inordinate amount of time planning for a system to make it a habit, eventually never getting around to … doing the thing.

He doesn’t advocate not building habits; far from it. Instead, though, he looks at how and why we sometimes use the intent of habit building as a way to, of all things, feel in control.

Do this: Build habits, as appropriate, but don’t forget to do the thing.

4. “Maximizing your odds of success”

Atomic Habits – James Clear – (ebook)

More completely:

The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition.

It seemed only fair to follow the (not really) “anti” habit item with something from a chapter in one of the canonical habit building bibles.

We don’t like to think about it, but we’re all different. We all have strengths and weakness, both innate and genetic, as well as acquired and developed. One way to maximize your personal chances for success is to choose endeavors — be it habits you’re attempting to establish, or careers you’re considering — that play to your strengths. While it might be possible to accomplish something that you’re not really predisposed to succeed at, it’ll take massively more work, and is significantly higher risk.

Do this: Play to your strengths. Figure out your strengths if you don’t know what they are.

5. “An aid to clearer thinking”

Churchill’s “Brevity” memo – Mike Crittenden – (Blog)

I did not know this existed, but it tickles me that it does. Winston Churchill requesting that reports be significantly shorter.

… the saving in time will be great, while the discipline of setting out the real points concisely will prove an aid to clearer thinking.

It also serves as an example of what it’s asking for. It’s one page. Worth a quick look.

Do this: Be brief.

6. “Empathy is the awareness of others.”

Thinking About Empathy – David Gerrold – (Patreon, open post)

Considering all the news this week, this seems timely. Besides being a Sci Fi author, and a bit of a curmudgeon, Gerrold often shares thought pieces like this that resonate with me.

… most human problems stem not from a failure to communicate — but from a lack of empathy, a failure to care, a failure of respect.

Empathy is difficult, especially for those we might disagree with. Sadly, empathy also seems easy to lose, particularly in the heat of the moment or in the press of competing priorities.

Do this: Take a breath. Don’t leave your empathy behind.

7. “A spiritual heir of Winnie the Pooh

How to Live with Fear and What It Means to Love: A Tender Meditation in Ink, Watercolor, and Wonder – Maria Popova – (The Marginalian newsletter)

As perhaps an antidote or salve to the next item, I ran into this at the last minute, and it touched me deeply. I was thinking Winnie the Pooh before I ran across the phrase in the text.

Popova reviews and provides examples from a book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. Classified by Amazon as a “Literary Graphic Novel”, it’s a series of heartfelt illustrations (very Pooh- like) with accompanying, simple, bits of wisdom and insight.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Kind”, said the boy.

I picked up a copy right away.

Do this: Remember Aldous Huxley’s quote: “all great truths are obvious truths.”

8. “No, I can’t explain it.”

Requiem for a Once Great Nation – Leo Notenboom – (Personal blog)

I’m generally a positive and hopeful person. But not today.

Do this: I have no idea.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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