Caffeine is a Gift — 7 Takeaways No. 115

Midjourney: a cup of coffee on a serving platter with a flower and a bow.
Midjourney: a cup of coffee on a serving platter with a flower and a bow.

(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. “Older adults are on their own”

For Older Americans, the Pandemic Is Not Over – Paula Span – (New York Times)

The item that got my attention was something I’ve been thinking about on occasion:

Americans do not agree about the duty to protect others, whether it’s from a virus or gun violence.

It seems like that is something that’s been in decline. In the face of American individualism and individual rights, we seem to lose another trait: compassion for one-another.

Do this: Be compassionate.

2. “The Self-Interested Case for Not Being a Dick”

10% Happier Revised Edition – Dan Harris – (Audiobook)

I mentioned this book last week, finished it this week, and thoroughly enjoyed, and recommend it. This chapter title leads into a discussion of how compassion for others ultimately helps ourselves, which itself begins with an interview with the Dalai Lama.

Practice of compassion is ultimately benefit to you. So I usually describe: we are selfish, but be wise selfish rather than foolish selfish.

What appeals to me is that Harris’ approach parallels my own: philosophy is nice, but results matter. And, indeed, there are science-backed results.

Overall, compassionate people tended to be healthier, happier, more popular, and more successful at work.

Do this: Practice compassion. Or, to quote Wheaton’s Law: don’t be a dick.

3. “All other studies are puny and puerile.”

Letters from a Stoic – Lucius Annaeus Seneca – (ebook)

In: Letter 88. On liberal and vocational studies

This took me aback.

I respect no study, and deem no study good, which results in money-making.

Almost in contrast to the prior takeaway, here’s a revered philosopher … well … being a dick. At least that’s the way it comes across.

Seneca (and presumably other deeply dedicated philosophers) seems to feel that philosophy, personal improvement in the pursuit of virtue, is the only worthwhile study.

While important, I beg to differ.

Do this: Study what speaks to you, money making or not.

4. “Caffeine is a gift”

Happiness Is a Warm Coffee – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)

If ever an article preached to the choir, resounded in my echo chamber, confirmed my pre-existing beliefs, and just made me smirk in satisfaction, it’s this one.

If it weren’t for coffee, you would probably spend your days shivering in a dark cave, and die after getting a splinter. So don’t be an ungrateful wretch: If you like electricity, running water, and lifesaving medicines, give thanks for the miracle of caffeine.

That after noting the impact on society after caffeine’s introduction in to the European diet in the 17th century. (Honestly, I thought it had been around essentially forever.)

Do this: Have a cup! The darker the better, as far as Brooks, and I, are concerned.

5. “History is the record of top players completing good quests.”

Choose Good Quests – Trae Stephens and Markie Wagner – (Pirate Wires newsletter)

An interesting look at the world of innovation as game play — questing, specifically. The essay focuses primarily on successful founders and those who’ve completed something significant, only to almost quit playing or choose only easy/bad quests. Sideline pontification is one such common role.

many self-titled public intellectuals are not even particularly intellectual. They are just… public.

While the focus is on the previously accomplished (almost shaming those who then move to the sidelines, particularly in venture capital roles), I find the concept having much more broad applicability.

there is a moral imperative for our best players to choose good, hard quests.

Do this: Chose your quest carefully.

6. “A future of more conscientious thinking”

We’ve always been distracted – Joe Stadolnik – (Aeon)

I think we’ve all seen the meme: a black-and-white photo of a subway car full of people each focused intently on a newspaper, with the caption “All this technology is making us anti-social”. What’s fascinating is that the fear being lampooned is nothing new. Each new technology has had its detractors from the very beginning.

For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practise their memory.

That’s Plato, recounting a reaction the Egyptian god Theuth, the inventor of writing, might have received from the king of the gods, Thamus.

Be it writing, printing, books, or even newspapers, all have faced what we now consider irrational opposition. That doesn’t mean we should take today’s new technologies lightly, but that we might panic a little less about them.

Do this: Use technology mindfully, and to your benefit.

7. “Human participants might be foolish or mistaken, they are rarely evil”

The miracle of the commons – Michelle Nijhuis – (Aeon)

You might be more familiar with the phrase/concept “Tragedy of the commons“, which (oversimplified) postulates that common/shared resources often succumb to individual selfishness and greed.

This essay summarizes the late political scientist Elinor Ostrom’s opposite view, citing several examples where the opposite — cooperation for communal well-being — is just as likely. And yet, even in the face of significant counter-evidence, the “tragedy” point of view remains the most cited, and most assumed.

Do this: Never attribute to malice

More links & thoughts

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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