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1. “You can’t focus on everything”
TikTok Video – Hank Green – (TikTok)
In response to a request from a college student for one piece of life advice, Green describes how our current environment has many, many problems worthy of our attention, and that we’re easily shamed if we don’t make each one a priority.
You can’t focus on everything. You cannot spread yourself so thin that the only emotion you can have about the big problem is hopelessness and despair and anger.
As if we need more sources of hopelessness and despair and anger.
But the thing about there being a huge amount of problems is that there’s also a huge number of people.
Pick the thing. Know your limits and do your part, but realize that others will be there to do theirs as well.
Do this: Choose your battles.
2. “This amount of pain is just right”
How Much Pain Can You Take? – Mark Manson – (Newsletter)
Too much pain will lead to trauma and helplessness. Too little pain will lead to entitlement and selfishness.
But just the right amount of pain and struggle: that’s what allows us to feel a sense of accomplishment and meaning in our lives, which then builds up our sense of autonomy and self-worth—the bedrock of a mentally healthy and happy person.
We spend a lot of time avoiding pain. And yet, tackling it in appropriate ways is not only possible, it’s important to our own wellbeing. The question is … how? Using recovery from physical trauma as a metaphor:
When confronting trauma, much like physiotherapy, you have to introduce tiny amounts of challenge extremely gradually
Do this: Dealing with pain and trauma is very personal, and it all starts with being self-aware and internally honest.
3. “Your brain has a lag”
Attention Residue: The Silent Productivity Killer – Sahil Bloom – (The Curiosity Chronicle blog)
Task switching is evil. OK, maybe not evil, but it comes at a higher cost that we believe. Even if you think you’re a “great” task switcher, the fact is you’re less capable than you believe, and could be so much more effective with a few changes. Mostly changes of attitude, masquerading as changes in behavior.
Bloom outlines three strategies to begin implementing right now:
- Focus Work Blocks
- Take a Walk (or a Breath)
- Batch Processing
Honestly, if you’ve spent any time looking at “productivity porn” in recent years, these are nothing new.
So why aren’t we doing them?
Do this: Understand the cost that task switching is having on your own effectiveness.
4. “A little light mind control could make things go your way”
The Psychological Mind Tricks That Actually Work – Jeff Somers – (LifeHacker)
I started to read this article, and much like reading Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, I started to feel icky. It felt like a how-to guide to manipulating other people. While there may be valuable things to be used judiciously, the overall theme just made me feel uncomfortable.
So, like Greene’s book, I flipped the script in my head.
I view this as “psychological mind tricks” to be aware of when you’re on the receiving end. Someone using your name a little too often? Someone make a big ask that you would obviously turn down (to be followed by something that sounds a little more reasonable in comparison?). Getting just a few too many compliments?
I’m not saying those are bad things. Not at all. But they could be a sign of not-quite-Jedi mind tricks as well.
Do this: Be vigilant.
5. “Historians of our lives”
Memory Is the Shadow of Fact, the Artifact of Feeling – Lawrence Yeo – (More to That blog)
Yeo does a deep dive into memory, its fallibility, the emotional context associated with each significant memory or event in our lives, and the fallibility of those emotions as well.
depth of feeling can supersede the reality of fact
This seems true for both memories and even current events: if the feelings are strong enough, regardless of the reason, the facts may not matter.
Do this: Remember (ha!) that your memories are fallible.
6. “Don’t take friendship for granted”
Friendwork – Rob Walker – (The Art of Noticing newsletter)
I have few close friends. They fall into two buckets: those I see regularly, who are part of my day-to-day (or week-to-week) life, and those whom I see infrequently but pick up as if no time had passed at all when we do get together. Both are special in their own, different, ways.
As an introvert during a pandemic, my circle of friends hasn’t expanded much. If anything, it’s contracted as isolation became standard operating procedure. Zoom calls aren’t the same.
Walker shares some notes from the book Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends, by Marisa Franco. His top three items:
- Check In – literally a simple “how’s it going” with whomever you were communicating with last year.
- Reach Out – Drop a line to an acquaintance you’d like to get to know better.
- Model Friendship – Be the kind of friend you want to have. Like attracts like.
To me, all of those are really, really hard. But worth it.
Do this: Be a friend.
7. “We need to be careful that we back up the most important information”
Smartphones might actually be improving your memory – Kristin Houser – (Freethink)
It’s very counter-intuitive, but a couple of items stood out:
current research has yet to prove that the phenomenon of digital dementia even exists
“Digital dementia” being that our memories are becoming less effective because of our reliance on technology.
Here’s where it gets … weird:
“We found that when people were allowed to use an external memory, the device helped them to remember the information they had saved into it,” said senior author Sam Gilbert. “This was hardly surprising, but we also found that the device improved people’s memory for unsaved information as well.”
Added emphasis mine. What I’ve heard before, and noted even in myself, is that the act of writing something down, saving it in a note app, or even recording it as a voice memo, makes remembering it later without the tool at all more likely. This would seem to extend that thought even into items peripheral to what was being saved. Fascinating.
Do this: Be open to using tools that are right for you.
What I’m Reading
- The Expectation Effect – David Robson
- Discipline is Destiny – Ryan Holiday
- The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution – Walter Isaacson (audio)
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman
- Letters from a Stoic – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
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