Jack of All Trades — 7 Takeaways No. 103

Tools of the Trade
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1. “Brussels sprouts used to be terrible”

Underrated reasons to be thankful – (Dynomight Internet Newsletter)

OK, this one’s both fun, and a little eye opening. 30 things to be thankful for I guarantee you’ve never considered.

there’s been a 93% decline in stomach cancer deaths over the past 100 years—from by far the biggest killer among cancers to one of the smaller ones—and mostly this was an accident, it happened because better food refrigeration

Now, if they could just do to broccoli what they apparently did to Brussels sprouts (I had no idea), I’d be even more thankful.

Do this: Be thankful.

2. “Be just a little less arrogant”

Lessons from David Foster Wallace’s “This Is Water” – Sahil Bloom – (Curiosity Chronicle)

This is kind of a combo takeaway, because it encompasses both Wallace’s “This Is Water” commencement speech (audio and transcript here) and Bloom’s reflections on it in a recent newsletter.

As a result of our design, if you will, we are the center of our own universe.

… there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

But it all comes back to thinking, and our perspective(s) on the world, and our opinions of our opinions.

… this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.

There are many gems in the speech, and Bloom highlights several important points.

Do this: take 22 minutes to listen to it, or read the transcript. Then … be less arrogant and more open to the possibility that you might be wrong.

3. “A rebellion born in affluence and boredom”

Why Did the Oath Keepers Do It? – Tom Nichols – (The Atlantic)

It’s a question I’ve asked as well: what the hell were they thinking? What were they expecting to have happen, regardless of whether they failed or even if they’d succeeded? And, why?

Losers with too much time on their hands seems to be a common assessment. This analysis would concur. Quoting Eric Hoffer:

There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. In almost all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers among the bored than among the exploited and suppressed.


As the columnist George Will put it in 2020, when society is bored by its own comforts, there is a “hunger for apocalypse,” a need for great drama that can provide some sense of purpose in life.

Have we become too comfortable? I don’t know. I gotta say; it feels like the analysis has a certain amount of legitimacy.

Do this: Not sure this is really actionable, other than to measure current events in the light of this possible explanation.

4. “Five minutes to break the cycle”

3-2-1: The last 30 days of the year, the power of thoughts, and certainty – James Clear – (3-2-1 Newsletter)

The full quote:

It only takes five minutes to break the cycle.
Five minutes of exercise and you are back on the path. Five minutes of writing and the manuscript is moving forward again. Five minutes of conversation and the relationship is restored.
It doesn’t take much to feel good again.

What I often refer to as “activation energy” … the act of just starting something … applies not only to those things we want to accomplish, but just as well to those things we want to undo, or resume, or otherwise fix.

Do this: Start.

5. “Language shapes expectations”

Labeling Yourself is Keeping You Down, Do This Instead – Nir Eyal – (Nir and Far blog)

In many ways, this short essay is a simplification and continuation of the book I recommended last week, The Expectation Effect. Eyal initially focuses on how the words we use to describe ourselves often cement the very behaviours we might want to change. The examples he includes, however, are more general.

… teachers’ positive perception of students correlated to those students’ high performance on intellectual and academic tests. In contrast, teachers’ negative perceptions would lead to low performance from students. The labels the children received became a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

The key takeaway? It all applies to our self-thought as well. What we expect of ourselves is often what we are capable — or incapable — of. Per Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

Do this: Watch your self-talk.

6. “Anger is just a slightly less mild form of madness.”

Discipline is Destiny – Ryan Holiday – (ebook)

Anyone that knows me knows I have quite an aversion to anger. It makes me very uncomfortable, particularly when I’m around someone who seems irrationally angry about something. (And here I am inviting people to bring me their tech problems?)

The problem is that anger is so often a loss of control. It’s not action, it’s not constructive, it’s not helpful. Sure, it can spur action, but action doesn’t require it. In fact, I daresay action resulting from well-reasoned thought is likely to be more effective than whatever results from fits of anger.

Holiday generalizes even further, saying that passion of any sort is distracting and destructive. I’m not sure I agree completely, but:

Nearly every regret, every mistake, every embarrassing moment—whether it be personal or professional or historical—have one thing in common: Somebody lost control of their emotions. Somebody got carried away.

That applies to just about any unbridled passion.

Do this: Watch your passion, particularly when you’re passionately angry.

7. “Jack of all trades master of none”

The Next Time Someone Calls You a “Jack of All Trades Master of None,” Tell Them That’s Not the Full QuoteD’Ana Joi – (Medium)

This caught my eye mostly because it’s something I’ve long considered myself: both a jack of all trades, and indeed, a master of none of them. (Though, admittedly, I’m better at some than others.)

What I didn’t know is that some consider this an insult. Who knew? I’m quite happy with my jack-status.

The full quote more or less confirms this:

Jack of all trades master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one.

And, get this, it apparently dates back to the late 1300’s. Particularly then, but even now, it’s simply more valuable to know how to do many different things relatively well than it is to focus solely on excellence in a single skill.

Sign me up.

Do this: Dabble. It’s worked well for me.

8. “Using one of the greatest gifts”

Skeptical to the End – Leo Notenboom – (Personal blog)

I wrote a thing. A story? A parable? A fantasy? Perhaps a wish.

An atheist meets God, and they have a little chat. The atheist is surprised, but not for the reasons you might expect.

Do this: Use your gift.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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