Is My Dutch Really that Bad? — 7 Takeaways No. 97

Dutch Cheese Ship in Utrecht.
Dutch Cheese Shop in Utrecht. Signs in Dutch, Sales in English. (Image:

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1. “You’re almost certainly smart enough”

“I’m not that smart” – Seth Goden – (Blog)

This hurt me as I read it because it’s something I hear variations of over and over again at Ask Leo!.

As Godin points out, it’s probably more accurate to say “I don’t care enough”. That’s valid. That’s a choice. I may not agree with your choice, but it’s a much more honest assessment of where you are regarding whatever it is you’re facing.

But you’re almost certainly smart enough.

Do this: Be honest, especially with yourself.

2. “Turn your favorite meme into a living memory.”

Live the Width of Your Life, Not Just the Length Of It – Julia Hubbel – (Walkabout Saga blog)

You can slap all the damned memes on your wall, your phone, against your eyeballs if need be, but if you don’t do anything about them then they are wasted words.

Hubbel writes about aging … forcefully is the word that comes to mind. Perhaps not the word she would use, but apt. Being intentional about how you age, and how you live as you age. More importantly, she lives as a vibrant example of her opinions. (Her “saga” of the last few months has been inspiring, unexpected, and entertaining.)

The upshot of this essay is simple: what’s the point of living long if you’re not living?

Do this: live.

3. “Shouldn’t we have a stronger collective reaction?”

Ark Head – Venkatesh Rao – (Ribbonfarm blog)

We seem to be turtling — pulling our heads into our shells in the face of all that’s happening in the world right now. We’re collectively thinking less about (or worrying about) events on the larger stage and focussing on things more local and in our control. Rao’s metaphor: the ark.

The point of an ark is to survive a cataclysmic flood while preserving as much of everything you care about as possible. Not to make sense of the world past the hull.

In many ways, many of us have reached a level of hopelessness regarding what’s out of our control.

We’ve given up on the prospect of actually solving or managing most of the snowballing global problems and crises we’re hurtling towards.

Do this: Do what you need to do to survive, physically and mentally.

4. “At some point in your life, you will be wrong.”

Why It’s So Hard to Admit You’re Wrong – Kristin Wong – (New York Times)

A fascinating, and short, overview of why we so stubbornly cling to those ideas that, deep down, we know are wrong.

“We cling to old ways of doing things, even when new ways are better and healthier and smarter. We cling to self-defeating beliefs long past their shelf life,” Ms. Tavris said. “And we make our partners, co-workers, parents and kids really, really mad at us.”

Being wrong, or rather admitting that we are wrong, is one of life’s most important and most difficult skills. As uncomfortable as it might make us, it also makes us better people.

Do this: Admit it.

5. “Alien life among us in the form of AIs”

Alien Truth – Paul Graham – (Blog)

Some truths are universal. Graham uses the idea of “alien truths” as a representation. If we ever meet an alien race, it’s likely that some things will be as true for them as for us. Two plus two equals four. “The mass of a carbon atom would be the same on their planet.”

If we take it a step further, though, there are probably less concrete “alien truths”. Justice, for example, might be one.

For example, I think we’d share the principle that a controlled experiment testing some hypothesis entitles us to have proportionally increased belief in it. It seems fairly likely, too, that it would be true for aliens that one can get better at something by practicing. We’d probably share Occam’s razor. There doesn’t seem anything specifically human about any of these ideas.

I chose the AI-related statement as the takeaway because it makes this abstract, philosophical discussion more tangible, and possibly even imminent.

Do this: Consider what truths you hold to be “self evident”. Are they truly universal “alien” truths?

6. “Manifesting is bull.”

The Surprising Science of “Manifestation” – Nit Eyal – (Nir and Far blog)

This caught my eye because of the book I’m reading — The Expectation Effect by David Robson –and that I’ve written about this before.

Manifesting — bringing something tangible into your life through attraction and belief (if you think it, it will come) — is, indeed, bull.


Manifesting teaches adherents to expect good things to happen, and when we open ourselves up to opportunities, we tend to see things we may otherwise miss.

In that respect alone, there is indeed a basis for the science of manifestation.

Eyal’s essay focuses on positivity, something I also believe in strongly. Add “the expectation effect”, and yes, “manifesting” could look like it’s working, but for a whole raft of other reasons.

Do this: Don’t manifest, be honest with yourself, and work on that positive attitude. Good things will come of that.

7. “Is my Dutch really that bad?”

The Dutch paradox – Marjan Ippel – (Always Talkin’ Food newsletter)

I couldn’t not share this because of its timing (ran into it yesterday), and how blisteringly accurate it is.

Most people in the Netherlands speak English and are eager to show it off.
‘I start in Dutch,’ Kylie from Australia shares with the group, ‘they reply in English, I persist in Dutch, they persist in English. In the end, they always win.’

Resistance, as they say, is futile. I found myself in this situation frequently a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting The Netherlands. I tried my rusty Dutch, but between my mangling it and my American accent, the responses were always in English. I said often that their English is much better than my Dutch, and it shows. Add that I know how to pronounce my name “in Dutch” (Lay-oh No-te-bohm instead of the Americanized Lee-oh No-ten-boom), and there were many false starts and assumptions once we got past it.

Do this: learn a foreign language. Seriously. It’s good for the brain, even if you get rusty over time. The younger you can do it, the better, but it’s great brain exercise any time.

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1 thought on “Is My Dutch Really that Bad? — 7 Takeaways No. 97”

  1. Ha! I spent a summer working in Germany a while ago, when I was in college. My German was not the best, but staying with a family that didn’t speak English forced me to get up to speed. At the end of the summer I had a week of travel time built into my schedule, and traveled. I’d work to ONLY speak German. I remember one encounter with a gal at a youth hostel who was attempting to use a broken locker. I explained that the locker was ‘kaput’ she didn’t seem to understand, and I had difficulty understanding her German. I asked whether she spoke English. The next sentence I understood quite well: Ich bin Englisch. So in that instance I switched to English.

    Fortunately I didn’t present as a typical American. I was mangling the language, but not like a typical American. And on more than one time I had folks ask if I was Dutch.


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