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1. “Ask your questions now”
Last Questions – Rob Walker – (The Art of Noticing newsletter)
Like Walker, I’ve had a death in the family, and that, too, has put me in a reflective mood. In his case, it was his father.
Still, his actual death was inevitably jarring, and left me thinking, among other things, about all the questions about his life that I wish I had answers to
Mine is similar, yet different. Over recent years, my cousin, who passed recently, and I had various discussions about our shared family history. Many of those discussions led me to wish I’d asked my parents specific questions while they were still around. There are aspects of my family history now lost.
Walker’s admonition is twofold: ask the questions now, before it’s too late. But also, if you’re being asked, answer. As difficult, and as awkward as it sometimes might be … answer.
Do this: Ask and answer.
2. “Optimism shapes reality”
WTF Happened In 2023? – Packy McCormick – (Not Boring newsletter)
In short, McCormick believes we’re on the cusp of “the great acceleration” after 50 years of stagnancy. He examines various data points to point out their potential for great positive outcomes.
Yes, it’s an optimistic view of the possibilities. He refers to himself as a “permabull”, regarding the economy and stock market.
The downside to optimism is limited, the upside is uncapped
There will be many naysayers to his predictions and point of view. That’s fine. But we need more optimism to even have a chance at recovery. If you read this, I encourage you to read with a very open mind, and not knee-jerk react every time he says something that you feel is unrealistic.
Do this: Embrace more optimism.
3. “We need to reframe retirement.”
The Retirement Trap – Sahil Bloom – (Curiosity Chronicle newsletter)
This resonated because in some ways it reflects my path. Very technically, I “retired” in 2001. In reality, it was just a life transition to another phase; one more self-directed and personally fulfilling (not that my time at Microsoft wasn’t, but the time after only more so).
The idea here is that there isn’t a before and after, but a steady, incremental line of growth and progress that leads to more freedom and fulfillment over time.
Incremental growth. I approve of this message.
Do this: As best you can, design a life that needs no traditional retirement.
4. “There is a better way of working”
Devote Yourself to the Cause of Your Life – Evan Armstrong – (Napkin Math newsletter via Every.to)
I’ve been running across more and more pushback to the so-called “hustle culture” promoted by so many entrepreneurial gurus and thought leaders. Armstrong’s is another, but put it in a better perspective that I can appreciate.
Finding ways to imbue each moment with meaning and purpose and effort is the only path to long-term happiness.
Of course it’s not possible, at least not to the “each and every moment” degree, but as a general direction it makes so much more sense for a productive, fulfilling, and yes, happy life.
Do this: “Examine how you spend your precious moments.”
5. “A correlation between population density and voting behavior?”
Is Population Density the Key to Understanding Voting Behavior? – Dave Troy – (Medium)
Maybe this is old news to most, but it’s something I think of every time I see a red/blue map of the US.. Denser areas tend to vote blue, sparser areas go red. Troy does the analysis and finds the crossover point at 800 people per square mile.
What he doesn’t say, and honestly would be my take-away if I were a political animal, is that each party has an opportunity to focus their efforts at those inflection points. (His takeaway is that both parties need to realign their values, which I also agree with but think is not particularly likely given the current environment.)
Do this: The analysis is a worthwhile read.
6. “Dance with curiosity.”
How to Do Great Work – Paul Graham – (Blog)
This is a lengthy but absolutely worthwhile read for anyone interested in succeeding at their vocation and enjoying the trip. There’s a breadth of advice in here that’s difficult to distill into a single take-away. I’d almost make it required reading for folks entering college, but it applies at any age.
If there’s one thread, it’s curiosity.
When in doubt, optimize for interestingness.
While that appears early in the essay, discussing choosing what to work on, it really applies to every stage of doing great work.
Do this: Stay curious.
7. “The near futility of extraterrestrial communication”
Can You Decode an Alien Message? – Shi En Kim – (Scientific American)
This is something I’ve pondered occasionally. What are the chances we could even come close to understanding a message sent to us by an alien civilization? It seems likely that their thought process, indeed their entire being, would be so incredibly unlike ours that the very concept of compatible thought processes might not exist.
I look at our lack of ability to communicate effectively with local intelligent and semi-intelligent species here on earth. As different as they might be from us, we have many things in common, including aspects of biology and environment. Others “out there” (if, of course, they even exist) are likely to be indescribably different in ways we just can’t comprehend. Star Trek’s universal translator doesn’t stand a chance.
Do this: Focus on communicating effectively with your fellow humans. That’s hard enough.
More random links & thoughts
- The Biggest Science Story of the Week – Why the north Atlantic is warmer than ever
The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker “is about creativity, work, and staying human.” As its title implies, it touches often on noticing what’s around us. He has a book by the same name. This week’s “Ask your questions now” takeaway comes from this newsletter.
I’m building and keeping a list on the sources page.
What I’m Reading
- An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel – Hank Green
- What’s Our Problem? – A Self-help Book for Societies – Tim Urban
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman
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