Hard Times Create Strong Men — 7 Takeaways No. 116

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1. “There’s a geopolitical case for you to get your shit together.”

The Benefits of Not Being a Jerk to Yourself – Dan Harris – (YouTube – TED Talk)

I finished Harris’ book 10% Happier last week, so was interested in seeing him in action. (I’d never actually seen him on TV in his news role.) He’s an entertaining speaker.

The premise here is very simple: being kinder to ourselves leads to our being kinder to everyone else. That, then, has ripple effects far beyond our personal sphere.

Self-love, properly understood, not as narcissism, but as having your own back, is not selfish. It makes you better at loving other people.

Do this: Have your own back.

2. “Optimism is about embracing problems”

The Future Will Be Shaped by Optimists – Kevin Kelly – (TED / YouTube)

Optimists get a bad rap. We (and, indeed, I include myself) are often accused of being polyannas, conveniently ignoring all the bad crap that’s happening, which causes so many others to be pessismists.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Optimists simply believe that all that bad crap a) is viewed out of proportion to all the good crap, and b) can be solved over time.

Honestly, the title of this talk is slightly wrong. In reality the future has always been shaped by optimists, and the trend is just continuing. Kelly provides logical evidence to back that up.

Do this: This is a video worth 10 minutes of your time. Give it a look.

3. “At least four-in-ten U.S. adults …”

Mental health and the pandemic: What U.S. surveys have found -John Gramlich – (Pew Research Center)

The full takeaway is the essay’s first section title:

At least four-in-ten U.S. adults (41%) have experienced high levels of psychological distress at some point during the pandemic,

The essary goes on to discuss the effect on school-agers as well, but the item above was enough to get my attention. Honestly, I wonder if the number isn’t a tad low. It’s been a difficult time for a lot of people (and continues to be so, for many).

Do this: Be kind. We’re all pretty stressed.

4. “Apply rule harder”

How ‘Should’ Makes Us Stupid — And How to Get Smart Again – Jane Elliott PhD – (Medium)

I’ve always been extremely uncomfortable with the word “should”. There are SO MANY “should’s” in our life that it can become overwhelming and ultimately demoralizing. Elliot captures some (though not all) of my objections well.

The whole stupefying system of ‘should’ rests on our conviction that we’re inherently terrible at self-discipline, which means there’s no analysis required to understand why we can’t do the things we know we want to do.

I’m not entirely convinced of her step-by-step approach to dealing with ’em, but the underlying concept: understanding the motivation behind the should’s and the reasons we might want otherwise, seems sound.

Do this: Recharacterize shoulds as wants. This makes things get clearer, and give you more control.

5. “Data avoids arguments”

Without data you’re just another person with an opinion – (Sketchplanations)

Such a complex topic. As current society seems to imply, data doesn’t avoid arguments at all, but rather invites denial. So. Much. Denial.

I believe it was in the book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” where the a counter argument was poised: an overly strict adherence to data-only decision making can be blamed for the events leading up to the Challenger disaster. There were many, many individuals with a “gut feel” or other opinion that the launch should be scrubbed, but they couldn’t raise those objections because they didn’t have hard data to bring to the table.

Data is important, but then so are the guts of the experienced. Their subconcious is often seeing patterns the rest of us don’t.

Do this: Trust the data, and go with your gut when appropriate.

6. “Rumination can be an easy trap to fall into.”

Stuck in a loop of worrying thoughts? Here’s how to stop it – Megan L Rogers – (Psyche)

Heck, there are scenarios from my teen years I still find myself ruminating on from time to time. One has to wonder what the value is, and what it is that lead us to develop rumination as an often poor coping strategy.

The article discusses some of the roots, but does include several steps, mostly unsurprising, to dealing with rumination including everything from distration to mindfulness to various forms of therapy. What strikes me the most, perhaps, is how common it is in its various guises.

I liked the division into two subtypes: brooding and reflection, one with clearly more potential benefit than the other.

Do this: Reflect.

7. “Hard times create strong men.”

Be Your Future Self Now: The Science of Intentional Transformation – Benjamin P. Hardy – (ebook)

Even though it’s a self-help book, the following philisophical quote (itself a quote from the book “Those Who Remain: A Postapocalyptic Novel”, by Benjamin P. Hardy) caught my attention:

Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.

It feels like an astute observation on the lifecycle of countries.

Including the one we’re in.

Do this: Create good times and strong people.

8. “Don’t assume you’ll ‘retire’.”

Retirement is Obsolete – Leo A. Notenboom – (Personal blog)

Reading several items recently had me getting uncomfortable and somewhat annoyed by the assumptions around “retirement”. This essay’s the result.

Agism is rampant, and retirement expectation is one common way it manifests.

Do this: Keep your options open … wide open.

More links & thoughts

  • Stay in the Game – An emotional but great read chronicling the author’s son’s very difficult journey though adolescence and into adulthood, including what one person has characterised as a “Hollywood-esque” twist at the end. Very moving.
  • If you’re watching Star Trek Picard (and of course you are), you’ll recognize this sound. OK, even if not Picard, you’ll recognize it from many other venues.
  • Nostalgia: Screensavers some of you might remember, now implemted as web pages: After Dark Screensavers in CSS.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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