Earlier this week I documented the concept of my “Infinite Reading List” — those books that I plan to read and re-read again and again, and that I keep on all my Kindle / mobile devices. Of course, within a day or two I’d already had to modify the list with one I’d overlooked.
There are certain books many would agree are timeless, but I also believe there’s an important personal level of timelessness (if that isn’t a contradiction) as well. Hence I’m sure not everyone will feel drawn to the same list.
1. “Impatience has increased with social media.”
A Few Thoughts On Writing – Morgan Housel – (blog) – This might be one of the biggest challenges non-fiction writers such as myself face. People scan, people skip, people want the highlights without taking time to read the meat. If they don’t get an answer quickly, they’re gone. All those wonderful words you put down are for nothing.
What I enjoyed about stumbling(*) across this item was that it reads like a series of tweets, something that was one of my takeaways last week.
2. “Reading a book on any level beyond the elementary is essentially an effort on your part to ask it questions (and to answer them to the best of your ability).”
How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading – Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren – quoted in How to read and retain more (online course) – This is a great way to frame any non-fiction or personal improvement reading. It’s my takeaway today because it’s something I believe important to remember and helpful to increase my reading effectiveness.
The course is something I’m also experimenting with. HighBrow offers 10-day courses via email. Call them “mini-courses” if you like. They cover a wide range of topics, and I’ve been experimenting with a few.
3. “I’m Never Far From a Good Idea”
‘Atomic Habits’ Author James Clear: ‘I’m Never Far From a Good Idea’ – Polina Marinova Pompliano / The Profile – (Youtube interview). As you can tell I’m not the only one who caught this takeaway, since it’s in the title of the video itself. The interview of full of great ideas, but my favorite is how Clear structures his environment so as to make that takeaway happen. It’s a one hour interview, but worth the investment. “Entrepreneurship is a personal growth engine in disguise.” (His book, “Atomic Habits”, is on my to-read list.)
4. “Everything that needs to be said has already been said.”
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative – Austin Kleon, quoting André Gide – (ebook) – That night seem like an odd takeaway until you see it completely and in context
Some people find this idea depressing, but it fills me with hope. As the French writer André Gide put it, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
One of the struggles all creators face, particularly writers, is that it’s easy to feel like you’re not adding anything new. That what you’re writing about has already been said or done. For example in the “origin story” for 7 Takeaways I said, “Does the world really need yet another curated content newsletter?” It’s already been done. There are oodles of them out there. Set aside the fact that I’m doing this primarily for myself for a moment, and there’s one other trait: none of those others are me. None will have identified this specific takeaway with this specific commentary. None will have added their own spin, their own value.
5. “I didn’t make it happen, but I created an environment in which it COULD happen.”
This is How I Do it – Josh Spector – (email newsletter) – I don’t believe in luck. I believe in being prepared. This takeaway is from an issue of Josh’s newsletter that describes how one of his posts got mentioned in one of the largest email newsletters available today, and the steps he then took to leverage that exposure. As is often the case, this is a takeaway that reinforces my pre-existing beliefs. It frames it slightly differently (creating the environment), and backs it up with concrete examples and steps taken.
6. “…writing is the driving force for almost everything that goes on in the world…”
The Epic 4,000-Word Guide to Differentiating Yourself as a Writer – Todd Brison – (blog) – I really, really, REALLY wish that this single point would have been drilled into me more forcefully back in my school days. I’ve certainly identified writing as something I would do better if I had to do it all again.
OK, ok, maybe “drilled into me” is a bit strong, and probably would be counter-productive. But I do believe that students of my day (and, from what I’ve seen, today as well) don’t appreciate just how important clear, written communication can be. “The more accurately you are able to translate the random electricity shooting around your brain to language, the better your odds of getting seen, heard, and recognized.”
7. “An awkward pause is a chance for someone else to speak”
Advice From 20 Writers for a Better 2021 – Forge Editors – (Medium) – That particular point comes from Let the Awkward Pause Be Awkward by Kate Morgan. I’m guilty of this on so many different levels. It’s about more than just being uncomfortable with silence, it’s about working so hard to prepare and then reply we’re also not listening. As a result, we step all over what others might have to say. This is especially difficult in online (e.g. Zoom) meetings, where added delays and call quality issues make social cues we normally use more difficult to read.
What I’m Reading
I finished my re-read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It’s haunting, it’s brutal, it’s honest, and it’s something I believe everyone needs to read at least once, if not more than once. It’s an important reminder of what man is capable of, both good and bad.
I’ve started “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character, by Richard Feynman. It’s one of those books that physics, math, and engineering geeks are all “supposed” to read.
- re-reading Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon.
- Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig
*: An inordinate number of items cross my radar via the For The Interested newsletter. If you’re someone who makes things, I highly recommend it.