Your Life Isn’t a One-act Play – 7 Takeaways No. 126

Graduation Caps Flying

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1. “Every possession is an experience”

Buying Experiences Probably Doesn’t Make You Happier than Buying Possessions – Sasha Chapin – (Sasha’s ‘Newsletter’)

I found this fascinating for two completely separate reasons.

First, it challenges the common wisdom that experiencing brings more happiness than possessions. For example, an experience — say a trip to Disneyland — might be more memorable, but that comfy pair of shoes might give you incrementally more happiness over a much longer time as it makes the experience of walking more comfortable. (Not to mention it might incrementally improve your experience at Disneyland!) Perhaps more directly, we are not all the same. Some will, indeed, value experiences greatly and derive more happiness from them. Others, however, will use possessions to improve their lives and overall happiness in smaller increments over time.

The second, though, is how the surveys get it wrong.

People often don’t consider their opinions carefully until you ask questions that prompt reflection.

It’s one thing to ask “will this make you happier”, and it’s another to follow that up with something to force some deeper thought.

Do this: Think deeply.

2. “Acquiring things will rarely bring you deep satisfaction.”

Excellent Advice for Living – Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier – Kevin Kelly – (ebook)

Quite literally the next thing I read after posting the previous takeaway was some more of Kevin Kelly’s book, and this takeaway:

Acquiring things will rarely bring you deep satisfaction. But acquiring experiences will.

I had to include it.

It’s almost a law of nature that for every opinion there is an equal and opposite opinion.

Do this: Possessions or experiences: pay attention to what truly brings you lasting happiness.

3. “We need to balance fighting with loving”

Choose the Activism That Won’t Make You Miserable – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)

While the essay focuses on the title topic, it starts with the rise of depression in Gen Z and younger Millennials. While we’ve seen articles linking social media to the problem, this takes a new tack: this generation feels the need to take more action, and this puts them in positions that foster depression.

The quote that grabbed my attention was this, from the author’s Gen Z daughter:

We have been conscripted as child soldiers in the Baby Boomers’ culture war.

It does feel like a culture war. And if you look at the major players, particularly in the political sphere, it’s Boomers.

And that’s depressing.

Do this: Do what you can, but take care of yourself as well.

4. “Drowned in a sea of irrelevance”

Foreword to “Amusing Ourselves to Death” – Neil Postman – (website extract / book)

This is from a publicly posted copy of the book’s foreword, which contrasts George Orwell’s predictions with those of Aldous Huxley.

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance

Many of the statements in the foreword are hauntingly familiar. I’m going to have to re-read Brave New World (it’s been decades), and then quite possibly Postman’s book.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

The full title of the 2005 book is “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” — which seems even more on-point given the last decade’s worth of politics.

Do this: Filter the irrelevance as best you can.

5. “Introversion is not a weakness”

5 Things Extroverts Get Wrong About Introverts – John Sheehan – (Introvert, Dear)

Another case where I feel seen.

It’s not that we don’t want to interact. We don’t like our quiet time interrupted.

One thing that’s always puzzled me is that there’s plenty of advice for introverts to deal with extroverts, advice to be more outgoing, more assertive, yadda yadda.

Where’s the advice for extroverts to deal with introverts on their terms? Pretty much non-existent. (Though this post is a start.)

Do this: Respect people’s individual style.

6. “Your life isn’t a one-act play”

5 things I wish I heard at the graduation I never had – Bill Gates – (GatesNotes blog)

As someone who’s been watching Bill from the sidelines over many decades (over 4, actually), it’s been interesting to watch him change and grow. In this commencement speech, he reflects on several lessons learned, including some that he wished he’d learned earlier.

One item that resonated with me strongly:

You can—and should—see the rest of your life as an education.

Do this: It’s a worthwhile read, not only for its wisdom, but for how it exemplifies Bill’s own growth.

7. “Covid will not be the last pandemic”

We Worked on the U.S. Pandemic Response. Here Are 13 Takeaways for the Next Health Emergency. – Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Luciana Borio, Rick Bright, Michael T. Osterholm, Jill Jim and David Michaels – (New York Times)

With the so-called end of the emergency, I, and many others, are now wondering: what have we learned? Will we act on it? Or have we learned anything?

Most importantly: what do we do next time?

This New York Times opinion piece is an interesting proposal. It acknowledges several harsh realities (“Social isolation is harmful”), controversial topics (“Vaccines reduce serious disease but are unlikely to prevent transmission.”, “viral transmission can be reduced through the use of high-quality N95 or KN95 respirators”), and even unexpected conclusions (“School should not be interrupted or placed online except in rare circumstances.”)

But to me the most telling is simply this, their very first takeaway:

Human tolerance for lifestyle changes is limited.

I’m tempted to say “American” tolerance, but I know it happened elsewhere. I suspect unless society is willing to learn, grow, bend, and accommodate, the next pandemic will be little different from the one just passed.

Do this: Stay healthy, my friends.

More links & thoughts

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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