Money, Emotions, Bad News, What we care about, How everyone hates "the algorithm", and more.
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1. “Feel the fear and set fire to your hair anyway”
The Sexy Change Myth – Annie Scott – (Midlife Mess with Annie Scott newsletter)
Change is something I deal with a lot. It’s a side effect of living in the world of technology as deeply as I do. I also hear from people, regularly, that are less enamored of change. They’d me more than happy if nothing ever changed, especially on their computer.
Change is like being woken up in the middle of the night from some particularly tasty dream, being yanked from your warm cosy bed and told to run up a mountain, naked in the driving rain. Even when you choose the change, it still feels like a punch in the privates.
While Scott’s talking primarily about life-changes, rather than operating systems, the fact is change is inevitable, and often painful, frustrating, or both. And yet,
Change is necessary and good for us.
Fighting and avoiding often leads only to more suffering.
Do this: It’s hard, I know, and it’s usually far from being sexy, but work to accept change as best you can.
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2. “Everyone hates the algorithm”
The tyranny of the algorithm: why every coffee shop looks the same – Kyle Chayka – (The Guardian)
This was a fascinating, if slightly long, read. The headline captures it perfectly: the concept is that because of social media algorithms, more and more of our common institutions are homogenizing. The independent coffee shop you might visit down the street may have amazing aesthetic similarities to similar establishments across the country, and even around the world.
Simply existing as a coffee shop isn’t enough; the business has to cultivate a parallel existence on the internet
And you have to pay attention to that existence in order to see what’s working, and take part in that existence in order to engage and attract customers. The subtle result? Characteristics that work or are popular in one place are replicated to others. And replicated. And replicated.
And, of course, it applies to much more than coffee shops.
Do this: Homogeneity and individualism both server a purpose. Notice, and perhaps support, the one that matters most to you.
3. “Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, except bad news.”
The Seven Laws of Pessimism – Maarten Boudry – (Quillette)
This essay is so good. I could fill an entire 7 Takeaways with items. Choosing just one was difficult. Of course, it helps that this speaks to one of my personal pre-conceived ideas .
Rather than making an argument for optimism, it details why pessimism is so prevalent, even in the best of times. In fact, it’s downright inevitable.
we have been programmed by evolution to pay attention to really bad things
Even when bad things are on the decline, or good things on the rise, you know which will still get our attention and make us feel like everything is getting worse, whether or not that’s an accurate perception.
Do this: Remember: Not All News Is Bad.
4. “Other people’s emotions aren’t ultimately your problem”
The Imperfectionist: Allow other people their problems – Oliver Burkeman – (The Imperfectionist newsletter)
As he takes care to point out, it’s not license to be a jerk, but a realization that you can’t take care of everyone, and you can’t please everyone.
It’s certainly something that as an online publisher I can relate to. I chuckle when someone criticises one of my YouTube videos for being too technical, and another complains it’s not technical enough. Or someone who’s just pissed off at me for having the “wrong” opinion about something. Trying to be all things to all people is a road to frustration and ultimately, failure.
But Burkeman actually begins with a more general, and perhaps more common, scenario:
you go through your days haunted by the anxiety that someone might be angry or disappointed with you, or on the verge of it, so you’d better do what you can to placate them, even if that means spending your time in ways you wouldn’t otherwise choose
It’s a fine line. Paying attention to those you should, but also realizing you’re also a person you should pay attention to. Martyrdom doesn’t help anyone.
Do this: Take care of yourself too.
5. “To be happier, save money.”
Why You’re Better Off Not Borrowing (14 day gift link) – Arthur C. Brooks – (How To Build A Life – The Atlantic)
I’ll preface this by saying I’m totally aware I come to this topic with great privilege. But the issues Brooks raises are universal.
the more control you can exercise over your financial circumstances, the better for your happiness
This isn’t about need, it’s about discretionary borrowing. Things like excessive or unneeded credit card use, pay later plans, and a general sense of YOLO, “want it now” impatience, all combine to encourage too many people to make bad financial decisions.
My bottom line: paying interest is evil, and you should avoid it as much as possible. Not only are you reducing your financial capabilities by spending additional money you don’t need to, as Brooks points out, you’re contributing to your own unhappiness as well.
Do this: Avoid borrowing and paying interest as much as possible.
6. “Every dollar of savings buys a claim check on the future.”
A Few Thoughts on Spending Money – Morgan Housel – (CollabFund)
In another case of 7 Takeaways serendipity, which always surprises me, my next read after the previous takeaway was this list of Housel’s observations. There are several noteworthy ones, of course, but this one was interesting: when discussing how people spend money…
Their decisions often reflect the psychological wounds of their life experiences.
This is something I’ve really only come to internalize in recent years. I think I always knew that my approach to money was given to me mostly by my parents, but there were no “psychological wounds” involved. As I observe the actions of others, though, that this is often the case becomes so much clearer.
Do this: Pay attention to your approach to money and your attitudes around it.
7. “Give all your fucks to the living.”
A unified theory of fucks – Mandy Brown – (A Working Library blog)
The topic is what we choose to care about. Brown’s metaphor is that we have only so much to give, and at some point, we run out. Except that if we care about the living, rather than the work, the institutions, the money, the whatever, our ability will be replenished.
Give every last fuck you have to living things with beating hearts and breathing lungs and open eyes, with chloroplasts and mycelia and water-seeking roots, with wings and hands and leaves. Give like every fuck might be your last.
I find it a powerful way of looking at things. Even those who choose to be offended could benefit.
Do this: Consider where and how you spend your fucks.
Random links and thoughts
- How AI Works – A fairly reasonable metaphor.
What I’m Reading
- What Life Should Be About: Elegant Essays on the Things That Matter – John P. Weiss
- Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results – Shane Parrish
- Magic Slays (Kate Daniels Book 5) – Ilona Andrews
- A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts – Leo Tolstoy
A full list of my common sources is on the sources page.
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