A Colossal Festival of Consumption — 7 Takeaways No. 106

Christmas Cookies
Christmas Cookies (Image: canva.com)

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0. Merry Christmas!

Do this: Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, or whatever celebration you might be involved in, even if it’s just “Sunday”. I truly appreciate your being here.

1. “This reality is the actual terrain of your real life”

Because the bell rings – Oliver Burkeman – (The Imperfectionist newsletter)

The conclusion of this essay lands on something that I’ve struggled to tell myself for years.

It seems we’re always waiting. Waiting for something to be over, the holiday season to pass, something to happen — before we can return to our normal life and do whatever it is we’re waiting to do.

You can spend your life holding yourself back from full psychological participation in this reality – yearning for a mythical alternative version full of perfect routines and precisely scheduled periods for focused work – and make yourself miserable in the process.

Or, as I try to keep reminding myself, remember that this is life. Right now. This is my life, with all its distractions and commitments and tasks and obligations and more. No amount of waiting will ever change that.

Do this: Don’t wait. Life is now.

2. “Software that makes you ‘shit your pants in fear.'”

Meditations on AI Mecca – Evan Armstrong – (Napkin Math newsletter)

This is a summary of Armstrong’s thoughts after having attended an AI hacker conference in San Francisco. It presents what feels like a good summary of exactly where we are — conceptually — with the recent up-tick in AI-related advancements and correspondingly breathless news stories.

Bottom line is I don’t think we really know where we are, but it sure is cool and scary, wherever it is.

To build in AI, you have to believe at some level that these underlying technologies will end up being net-good. The people I encountered at this event were earnest in that hope.

What I found fascinating is that AI is straddling the mystical and is bringing on many philosophical reflections and debates.

Do this: The essay’s worth a read.

3. “Generosity is truly a way to buy happiness.”

How to Make the Most of Bad Gifts – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)

It’s not lost on me that this issue of 7 Takeaways will be distributed on Christmas Day, too late to take advantage of the thoughts in this essay. Nonetheless, the concepts are valid any time of year.

Gift giving is hard. But then, so is gift getting.

The truth is, most presents are lousy: value-destroying, manipulative, guilt-provoking, or just plain useless to the person who receives them.

Pressure for the giver to give something of true value to the recipient, and pressure on the recipient to accept even the useless gifts with grace.  Brooks offers strategies for both.

Do this: Give mindfully, receive generously.

4. “Create a character in your mind”

Character Alarms, Harsh Truths of Life, & More – Sahil Bloom – (The Friday Five newsletter)

This caught my attention because it introduced me to an expansion, or a way to further leverage a concept I’d heard of and occasionally used myself. He refers to it as “character invention”.

With Character Invention, you create a character in your mind who can do the things you fear with ease. You teach yourself to “flip the switch” and become this character in order to crush that activity.

For example, I’m an introvert. That means I’m often uncomfortable at large gatherings. One way to address that is to go into the situation playing the role of an extrovert. Quite literally, I think of myself as an actor playing someone other than who I really am.

This approach, taking on roles, can be leveraged in multiple different ways beyond just adjusting to an uncomfortable situation. The example Bloom cites is “becoming” different characters throughout the day to focus on different roles and get stuff done.

Do this: Be yourself. And occasionally someone else. Smile

5. “A colossal festival of consumption”

Things to argue about over the holidays instead of politics – (Dynomight newsletter)

A fun list of thought provoking questions. Some fun, some funny, and some that give you pause.

Whatever the Christmas spirit is, it seems pretty nonmaterialistic. So how is it that Christmas is simultaneously a colossal festival of consumption?

Thirty questions, and yes, all of them are more interesting to argue aboutdiscuss over Christmas dinner.

Do this: Have some thoughtful discussions this year.

6. “False, unwarranted beliefs are precursors to harmful consequences”

Do you have a duty to tell people they’re wrong about carrots? – Giulia Terzian & M Inés Corbalán – (Psyche)

If someone is wrong, should we tell them? That is the question of recent times, it would seem. The answer is, of course … maybe.

Context matters. Not only the context of the error, but its realm, its potential for harm, who you are, who they are, and much, much more. And yes, there’s a scenario outlined by the author where it would indeed be wrong not to tell someone they’re wrong about carrots.

As with so many things, there are no simple answers. But it seems like in our age of misinformation this question keeps coming up more and more, and our ability to answer it properly matters more and more as well.

Do this: Pay attention to context, and the potential for harm.

7. “Would I choose them as a close friend?”

When Longtime Friendships Fumble: How to Know Whether to Stay or Cut Loose – Julia Hubbel – (Walkabout Saga blog)

Hubbel describes the slow demise of a long-held close friendship. Ultimately, she asks the question:

As this person is right now, today, would I choose them as a close friend?

Right now. Today. As they are, not what they were when the friendship begain. Would they make the cut?

People change. People grow. People expose more of who they are over time, and sometimes who they are, or who they become, turns out to be someone we wouldn’t choose to have in our lives, much less maintain close friendship with. It’s painful when it happens, but it’s important, I think, for everyone’s mental health (both sides) that the situation be acknowledged. Sometimes we just need to move on.

Do this: Cherish those friends for whom the answer is “yes”.

8. “Your opinions expose who you are.”

You Are Entitled to Your Opinion – Leo Notenboom – (personal blog)

Something I think a lot of people miss when arguing about the right to express their opinion.

… everyone else is also entitled to their opinions. And that includes their opinion about your opinion.

Do this: realize opinions often include consequences.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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