Spend More Time with Optimists — 7 Takeaways No. 85

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1. “Simple does not mean easy.”

What To Do When You’re Tired Of Being Tired – Brad Stulberg – (The Growth Equation)

I’ve mentioned “languishing” here before, and apparently when the New York Times published the article in which the author used that term, the response was significant. Many people felt seen. The question is, now what?

Stulberg identifies “behavioral activation” as one approach.

… based on the idea that action can create motivation, especially when you’re in a rut.

I see it as a variation smile to be happy, as opposed to smiling because you’re happy. Starting something — anything — begins a process that leads to better well-being as opposed to feeling stuck in a rut or languishing.

Do this: Take action.

2. “Happy friends make you happier”

You’re NOT The Average Of The Five People You Surround Yourself With – David Burkus – (Medium)

The takeaway is obvious. But it continues:

But if your friend of a friend of a friend is happy with their life, then you have a 6 percent greater likelihood of being happy yourself.

Note the degrees of separation. Similarly:

Your friends make you fat, but so do their friends, and so do their friends of friends.

Again. And this is not just a speculative claim, but apparently backed by some interesting research. The relationship effect casts a significantly wider net than we might think.

I fell into this little wormhole via Audit your friendships, by Mike Crittenden. Pretty interesting. (I posted a quote on Facebook as well.)

Do this: Consider your friends.

3. “Prioritize spending more time with optimists”

The Most Powerful Decision Making Razors – Sahil Bloom – (The Curiosity Chronicle newsletter)

A “razor” is a rule of thumb that simplifies decision making.

You’re familiar with some already, I’m sure. Hanlon’s razor is one of my favorites:

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

I found this a very useful list of decision making tools in razor form, with explanations and examples. The takeaway is from “The Optimist Razor”

When choosing who to spend time with, prioritize spending more time with optimists.

Do this: Make good decisions.

4. “Art is a lie. Nothing is real.”

What’s the Deal With Water Bottles? – Jason Zinoman – (The New York Times)

Yes, it’s an interesting article about the ubiquitous water bottle(s) you’ll see on stage with any stand-up comic. It discusses its uses, the style, the reasoning, and more.

That’s not what caught my attention.

This is one of the most visually interesting approaches to telling a story online I’ve ever seen. It’s quite different, with photos & videos moving about the screen as you scroll through. It’s both eye-catching, and a little difficult to read before you get used to it. I can’t decide if I like it, other than to say that it seems to work for this particular topic.

Do this: Have a look. See what you think.

5. “When specific knowledge is taught, it’s through apprenticeships, not schools.”

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant – Eric Jorgenson – (ebook)

“Specific knowledge” is literal:

Specific knowledge is knowledge you cannot be trained for. If society can train you, it can train someone else and replace you.

I find that almost at odds with the take-away, since apprenticeships are exercises in training.

Setting the definition of “specific knowledge” aside, my take is simply this: in order to learn a skill or acquire knowledge, doing is better than reading. Practicing is better than theorizing. Using knowledge is more effective than collecting knowledge.

Do this: Use your knowledge.

6. “The decline of deep literacy”

Kissinger Knows Why the Global Leadership Deficit Is Getting Worse – Adrian Wooldridge – (Bloomberg)

This is an opinion piece based on ideas from Henry Kissinger’s new book “Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy.” The essay, like the book, looks at the leadership vacuum that has appeared in recent decades and theorizes on its causes. The takeaway above is one. Another boils down to:

Schools have given up providing an education in human excellence — the very idea would be triggering! — and ambitious young people speak less of obligation than of self-expression or personal advancement.

Or, put another way by David Perell, whose newsletter lead me to the item:

But virtue and character are no longer pillars of the university curriculum. Words like duty and nobility have vanished from classroom walls.

Do this: This isn’t a long read, but it’s a nice summary with more background into these two ideas. It’s worth your time.

7. “The future is an infinite succession of presents”

3-2-1: Paying attention, staying hopeful in bad times, and ten year plans – James Clear – (Newsletter)

Clear quotes Howard Zinn:

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

From Zinn’s book “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History”.

It echoes a lot of what I feel to be true, and why I believe optimism is so important. This is why Not All News is Bad exists, and why I took on Heroic Stories. There are so many places and times where people have behaved magnificently.

Do this: Watch for magnificence.

8. “Judgement is comparison in another guise”

On Judging – Leo Notenboom – (Personal blog)

This entry from my 65 Thoughts project discusses our propensity for judgement — both positive and negative. We all do it, almost constantly it seems. And yet, does it really serve a purpose?

“Judge not lest ye be judged” — do we really need this threat to be less judgemental?

Do this: Judge less.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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1 thought on “Spend More Time with Optimists — 7 Takeaways No. 85”

  1. Leo,
    I love the newsletter, one of the very few I make time for each week.
    Though I usually find nuggets that I like and move me to think or take action, this, in particular, struck me: “in order to learn a skill or acquire knowledge, doing is better than reading. Practicing is better than theorizing. Using knowledge is more effective than collecting knowledge.”
    Since much of my time these days is spent as a university professor, I catch a little grief though I joke about it often when I say at the beginning of each semester, “studying is not important”. I follow that with “doing and knowing” is important and the way to improvement. No one ever studied their way to a gold medal or Nobel Prize or anything of any significance that I’m aware of in my life.
    For every 1 part of study, there should be 7-9 parts of just doing and observing and adjusting.


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