Pessimists are Blind to Progress — 7 Takeaways No. 98


(If you’re having difficulty viewing this in email, visit in your browser. If a link to a source below leads to you a paywall or is otherwise inaccessible, please read my note on the topic: Paywalls.)

1. “It’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right”

16 Life-Learnings from 16 Years of The Marginalian – Maria Popova – (The Marginalian newsletter)

I’ve mentioned before that I’m drawn to these lesson-collection posts, particularly from people I follow and admire. Popova gives me another collection to enjoy, based on her 16 years of publishing her very popular newsletter. #1 on her list?

Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates.

The entire list is not only inspiring but also well written. I found it a worthwhile read.

Do this: #14. Choose joy.

2. “Everyone who believes their answer is right is wrong”

This “Math Test” Changed How I See Humanity  – Hank Green – (vlogbrothers YouTube channel)

Green uses one of those ubiquitous math test memes to explore how so many people can be so passionate about so many completely different answers — all of which are right. Or wrong. Or something.

But for the rest of us, it’s easy to have one of several different opinions that are not the same answer. Questions like that, due to the nature of humanity and its algorithms, are gonna be the ones we’re most likely to see. And that’s gonna drive wedges, and not just in the way that we usually think, where it’s like between two big political parties. But also within political parties. Within communities. Within people who broadly agree with each other on almost everything, they just don’t notice because those aren’t the interesting things.

When, if the question was asked in a more complete way, we wouldn’t find it interesting… because we’d all agree!

Disagreement — often violent disagreement — gets attention. A question or a concept worded poorly (though, perhaps intentionally so) will do exactly that. Everyone will argue about the answer, and everyone will be right, and everyone will be wrong, because the question, ultimately, invites it.

Vague questions that lead to the formation of simple opinions that are likely to conflict with the opinions of others. Are much more likely to create conflict, and thus the one most likely to go viral. And also very often, the answers to those questions are invalid, because the questions themselves are wrong.

Do this: Question the question before answering it.

3. “We don’t even know how to enjoy our free time”

How to Spend Time on What You Value (transcript) – Rebecca Rashid & Arthur C. Brooks – (How to Build a Happy Life podcast)

The podcast hosts discuss one of the man’s most common struggles: how to best spend our precious time on earth. It starts with a provocative question:

If you had one extra hour today, how would you use it?

Brooks answers by distinguishing what he would do (work) versus what he should do (“build love in my life”). It’s a dilemma we all face, whether we acknowledge it or not.

Do this: answer the question for yourself: how would you use it?

4. “Teaching is the most powerful form of learning.”

The Three-Step Learning Model – Sahil Bloom – (The Curiosity Chronicle newsletter)

I can’t mention this as a takeaway without also mentioning the Feynman Technique, which boils down exactly the same thing: teaching something forces you to learn that something better than any other approach. Iterate with feedback from your “students” and it gets even better.

Can confirm. I can’t say that I set out to “teach” with Ask Leo!, but over the years I’ve certainly admitted to trying to “sneak a little education” into my answers. And, indeed, I know my subject matter much better now than when I started.

What I find interesting is that the opportunities to “teach” have expanded tremendously in recent decades. Sure, you could do it in a classroom, but you could also publish a book, create a course, or … even just write a blog post. Almost anything that forces you to explain what it is you think you know for someone else will increase your own understanding.

Even if no one sees it, though it’s better if they do and you get feedback.

Do this: Teach something.

5. “We always fear the unknown.”

Extraordinary Letters on Love, Life, Death, Courage, and Moral Purpose Without Religion – Maria Popova – (The Marginalian newsletter)

Regardless of your beliefs, this is a fascinating overview of letters written by a terminally ill woman to her doctor, explaining her atheism.

My Dear Doctor,

Like you I believe in a higher power, but, unlike yours, mine is not a kind fatherly one. It is Nature, who with all its forces, beauties and necessary evils, rules our destinies according to its own irrevocable laws.

I find the prose and clarity of thought moving.

Do this: It’s worth reading, but I find that believers are often threatened by those who do not. You need not change your mind, but read with it open. (That applies to so much more than just religion.)

6. “I want this to do all my writing for me.”

Writing with Machines – Nathan Baschez – (Every – Divinations newsletter)

This is not currently possible, but the app is constantly being updated with new features.

That quote isn’t from the article but was generated by Lex, an AI writing assistant I’m using for this takeaway. All I did was enter the takeaway, and type “+++” to see what the AI would suggest.

AI is everywhere, it seems. Writing, images, driving, and much more. But one thing that’s clear is that (AI generated content follows:)

AI is not, and cannot, replace the human touch. Sure, it can do some things better than us. But there are some things that only humans can do. For example, AI can’t yet create original content. It can help with grammar, spelling, and even plot, but it can’t come up with an original story. And even when it comes to things like grammar and spelling, there are going to be times when the AI gets it wrong.

All I was going to say was that AI wasn’t ready for prime time. Smile But it is getting closer.

Do this: Watch this space. AI is probably one of the biggest game changers on the horizon — not in the form of Terminator-like killer robots, but more granular applications like writing.

7. “Pessimists are completely blind to progress.”

An End to Doomerism – Hannah Ritchie – (Big Think)

This is so hard right now. And yet, it’s so important. Optimism, not pessimism, is how we make the world better. Believing that there’s a better future motivates us to take the steps required to make that future happen.

Optimists are the ones that move us forward. They are the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the ones willing to put their reputation, money, and time on the line because they see an opportunity to solve a problem.

Honestly, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. A lot. More than most people realize, because it’s all being drowned out by the doom and gloom of pessimistic headlines.

Do this: Assume the best, not the worst. Optimism need not imply naivete. (The article explains how that is.)

What I’m Reading

In progress:


Support 7Takeaways

As Austin Kleon says about his own newsletter: it’s free, but not cheap. Your support helps keep 7Takeaways viable. I appreciate your consideration VERY much.

Pick your own level of support!

Leave a Comment