If You Burn Out, Relight The Fire – 7 Takeaways No. 159

In a lush forest setting, an elderly woman lights a bonfire with a flaming torch. The forest is dense with vibrant green foliage, towering trees, and a variety of plants. Sunlight filters through the canopy, creating a serene and mystical atmosphere. The woman, wearing comfortable outdoor clothing, stands focused on her task, holding the torch with determination as she ignites the bonfire. The fire crackles to life, casting a warm glow on the surrounding area, highlighting the textures of the forest and the intricate details of the scene.
(Image: DALL-E 3)

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Tomorrow’s 2024? How can that be?

(Sucks that I have to write this, but: some thoughts on Substack’s Nazi problem.)

1. “If you’re unreliable it doesn’t matter what your virtues are”

The Munger Operating System: How to Live a Life That Really Works – Shane Parrish – (Farnam Street blog)

The essay covers several pieces of Munger’s wisdom. The above caught my eye immediately.

… doing what you have faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct.

Reliability is golden. In fact, I’ll say it’s often the make-or-break characteristic of success in both career and life. It doesn’t matter how good you are at something if you can’t be counted on to do it. Reliability and persistence will often catapult you well ahead of the less reliable, with technically greater skill.

Do this: Be reliable.

2. “People love good listeners.”

The Most Important Thing We Bring to Another Person – John P. Weiss – (Blog, and What Life Should Be About: Elegant Essays on the Things That Matter ebook)

An essay starting with the virtues of solitude and self-reflection ends up with the value we bring when we share that solitude with others by simply listening.

When we listen and offer silence, we give another person the space they need to talk. To be heard. To know someone cares. We become a sanctuary for others.

Listening is hard. So hard. It’s a skill we’re typically not trained in, and a skill we don’t practice nearly enough. And yet it’s so critically important in so many arenas.

Do this: Practice listening.

3. “Do more than just wait around to get old”

How to Be Happy Growing Older – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)

Some things really get better with age. Yes, change is constant, and some things don’t get better, but Brooks has us focusing on the positive (of course), as well consciously working to be the older person we want to be.

Start each day by imagining the person you want to be as the years go by: not ruminating on grievances, not wasting time being grumpy, and sharing words of kindness and encouragement with whomever you come across.

When it comes to aging, and what kind of person we’ll become, there’s more in our control than we think.

Do this: Take control.

4. “Place the wish to understand above the wish to be right”

Resolutions for a Life Worth Living: Attainable Aspirations Inspired by Great Humans of the Past – Maria Popova – (The Marginalian)

It’s difficult to avoid year end collections of experiences, regrets, accomplishments, and advice. They’re popping up everywhere.

This one is gold. Popova regularly comments on the writing of others, and this collection of ten looking at influential writers of the past is packed with wisdom. I had difficulty selecting just one thing to share here.

People of the past are harshly judged by the standards of the present …, and people of the present are harshly judged by impossible.

I believe a couple of books will appear on my reading list soon as well.

Do this: This is one worth reading and reflecting on in its entirety.

5. “New Year’s is a human construct to help us mark time.”

You and I Are Too Old to Make New Year’s Resolutions – Julia Hubbel – (To Old for this Sh*t newsletter)

Hey, if they work for you, great. Just know you’re in the minority. And we hear it every year around this time. Untold numbers make their resolutions, start with high energy and good intent … and peter out in a few days or weeks.

Here’s the thing: if you want to change something about yourself — something that would be a good New Year’s resolution, for example — why wait until January 1? Decide now, or at whatever time makes sense in your life. Any day can be New Year’s for you.

It’s not this year I’m gonna. It’s every second of every single day.

My resolution is constant, throughout the year: be kind. January 1 is a fine reminder, I suppose, but there need not be anything magical about the calendar.

Do this: Remember, self-improvement is valid any day of the year.

6. “The Great Resignation has become the Great Exhaustion”

An Exhausting Year in (and Out of) the Office – Cal Newport – (The New Yorker)

The trend:

a sharp increase in how much time the average knowledge worker engages in digital communication

The result:

  • research connects increased digital communication with decreased satisfaction

I’ve long said that email (for example) is not a thing you do, it’s a tool you use. And like any tool, it can be used, and misused. It can be efficient, and horribly inefficient, depending on how you interact with it. The pandemic forced even more digital communication in more varied forms, but the lesson is the same: these are tools that need to be mastered, not tools to master you.

Do this: Use your tools wisely.

7. “If you burn out, relight the fire”

How to Work—and Love It—Into Your 80s and Beyond – Clare Ansberry – (The Wall Street Journal)

A wonderful counterpoint to the previous takeaway, this essay profiles Dr. Gladys McGarey, who at 103 remains active and energized and an example for others. “She has conducted an estimated 200 interviews and podcasts since May.”

Aging well is one of my more common topics these days, and this is an inspiring piece. In so many ways, she’s who I want to be when I grow up.

About 25% of our ability to reach our 90s is attributable to our genetic footprint, while the remaining 75% is related to our behavior and environment.

Do this: Work on that 75%.

More random links & thoughts

I wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year.


Full list on the sources page.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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2 thoughts on “If You Burn Out, Relight The Fire – 7 Takeaways No. 159”

  1. Leo,

    The piece on reliability reminded me of something. Many years ago I was a regular contributor to an Airgun magazine. Although I was never a ‘staff writer’ nearly every month carried an article of mine. Occasionally even two. (Possibly to fill a gap when someone else failed to deliver on time.) It was the same with a computer magazine I also wrote for.

    One editor commented that ‘The man who turns up on time and does the job, gets paid.’ Apparently I was , and I treasure this comment’, ‘easy to work with and not a prickly prima-donna’. 😉

    ‘Tortured genius’ has its moments, but the writer who rolls up their sleeves and gets the job done is valued by those with a looming deadline.



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