When In Doubt, Love – 7 Takeaways No. 158

Silhouettes couples holding hands on sunset.
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Welcome to this week’s edition of “Something of substance each day, collected and delivered weekly.” Smile

1. “The consequences of those consequences”

Chesterton’s Fence: A Lesson in Second Order Thinking – Shane Parrish – (Farnam Street blog)

Chesterton’s Fence is an apocryphal story about removing a fence without realizing, not the consequences, but the second-order unanticipated consequences of the removal.

Unless we know why someone made a decision, we can’t safely change it or conclude that they were wrong.

This is something software engineers (well, good ones, at least) have to consider all the time when maintaining code originally written by someone else. “Why the heck did they do it that way?!” is not only a common exclamation, but an important one to answer.

Do this: Think ahead.

2. “Reality Doesn’t Care What You Call It”

Nobody Has Seasonal Affective Disorder – David Cain – (Raptitude blog)

The essay’s about much more than SAD, but uses the author’s experience with the symptoms to explore what happens when we give things labels.

When you tag something as X in the mind, you stop considering things that don’t apply to X

While labels can help target investigation and treatment, they can also hinder it. I find this particularly important when some labels — like ADHD right now — become trendy. Yes, it’s a useful label for some, but treating it as blinders for all is doing no one any favors.

Do this: Look past the blinders.

3. “I said ‘yes’ to life”

I am dying at age 49. Here’s why I have no regrets. – Amy Ettinger – (Washington Post)

Much wisdom results from examining our own mortality. Nowhere is that more poignant when that wisdom comes from someone who’s dying too soon.

Much like Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture“, Ettinger shares observations on and lessons from her life, and her coming demise.

I’ve learned that life is all about a series of moments, and I plan to spend as much remaining time as I can savoring each one, surrounded by the beauty of nature and my family and friends.

Honestly, I wish more people would share their lessons along the way. And I wish more people would listen. The reality is we’re all dying; some of us are just doing it more quickly, or sooner, than others.

Do this: Savor the moments.

4. “When in doubt, love.”

Relationship Advice from 500 Years – Sahil Bloom – (Curiosity Chronicle newsletter)

I asked couples who have been married 40, 50, or 60+ years a simple question: What relationship advice would you give to your younger selves?

Yes, it’s another list, but it’s a lovely one, and follows the previous takeaway nicely as well. I’ll say it here too: I wish more people would listen. Being married 42 years, I can confirm the contents of the list.

Do this: Love.

5. “Your own experiences have value.”

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman – (ebook)

There are people who, when they die, will take with them the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime. It’ll be lost forever. Commenting on something said by the Greek philosopher Seneca, Holiday adds:

You have accumulated your own wisdom too. Stake your claim. Put something down for the ages— in words and also in example.

Example, yes. But words … that’s how knowledge survives. That’s what I’d love to see more people doing. That’s how our accumulated wisdom survives. And don’t for a minute doubt that you have it.

Seneca’s full quote:

For it’s disgraceful for an old person, or one in sight of old age, to have only the knowledge carried in their notebooks. Zeno said this . . . what do you say? Cleanthes said that . . . what do you say? How long will you be compelled by the claims of another? Take charge and stake your own claim— something posterity will carry in its notebook.

Do this: Stake your claim.

6. “Listening is an act of kindness.”

We Are All Broken, in What Life Should Be About: Elegant Essays on the Things That Matter – John P. Weiss – (ebook)

Weiss shares stories of loss, and of hope, with the theme of contact and kindness making the difference.

Every interaction is a chance to shine a light of encouragement and hope.

Important all year round, but especially relevant during the holiday season. Every interaction. Be kind.

Do this: Listen.

7. “A good idea is a network.”

Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson – (audio book)

I’m closing in on the conclusion, and if there’s one big take away from the exploration I’ve see it’s simply this: not only are good ideas networks of other ideas and possibilities, but the thrive in environments where we explicitly stack the deck in favor of those collisions happening. Put yourself in positions to encounter other ideas, even contrary ideas, and be open to potential combinations and insights. (This mirrors and reinforces a similar takeaway a couple of weeks ago.)

But Dunbar’s study showed that those isolated eureka moments were rarities. Instead, most important ideas emerged during regular lab meetings, where a dozen or so researchers would gather and informally present and discuss their latest work. If you looked at the map of idea formation that Dunbar created, the ground zero of innovation was not the microscope. It was the conference table.

While that example comes from the lab, the concept applies to every creative endeavor. The more we expose ourselves to outside ideas, the more creatively we can combine them and create our own.

Do this: Expose yourself.

More random links & thoughts


Full list on the sources page.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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