Reading Is Not Natural – 7 Takeaways No. 169

The death of books? (I hope not!) We live in incredible times. Pep talks. Complaining (maybe do it less?). Bystander intervention. Learning is taking control. The not-so-wise crowd.

A middle-aged man is sitting in a large, comfortable leather chair in a cozy, well-lit library. He's engrossed in reading a hardcover book, with shelves of books surrounding him. The room is filled with warm light, casting soft shadows. A small table next to him holds a steaming cup of coffee. The library has a classic design, with a rich wooden interior, a plush carpet underfoot, and a large window draped with heavy curtains, through which soft daylight filters. The atmosphere is quiet and serene, ideal for reading and relaxation.
(Image: DALL-E 3)

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1. “Reading is not natural for humans”

Are books dead? Why Gen Z doesn’t read – Jean M. Twenge – (Generation Tech newsletter)

The very existence of 7 Takeaways is, in some respects, an argument for the premise here. People, particularly younger people, are reading less. There are simply too many distractions, and we’ve only become more and more impatient.

I created 7 Takeaways to force myself to read something substantial every day. That this is what it takes for a boomer, I can’t imagine how subsequent generations are going to cope.

“Then, after we gave them the phones they’d long been clamoring for,” he writes, “their recreational reading of books basically ended.”

The focus here is on recreational reading — reading something not assigned as schoolwork. Even in school, though, there are situations mentioned where books are no longer part of high school assignments. Scary.

Do this: Read.


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2. “We are lucky enough to be alive in the most incredible time in human history.”

Ambition’s Gravity – Packy McCormick – (Not Boring newsletter)

I love this essay. It captures much of the positivity I feel about technology and our progress with it, in words better than I would write. It’s positioned as a inspirational, “get off your butt” essay, but along the way it does a great job of articulating much of what we either take for granted or don’t even notice.

It also includes the best definition of pragmatic “manifesting” that I’ve seen so far:

name your aim, and you will be more aware of the things that might help you achieve it

Perhaps it’s because I’ve written about it before and it succinctly aligns with my own thoughts.

But what really speaks to me are observations like this:

the common person today has access to tools with which to create that industrialists and CEOs of old couldn’t have fathomed, and that the toolkit is expanding every single day

Indeed. What an incredible time.

Do this: This is an article well worth reading in its entirety.

#luck #positivity #technology

3. “I realized that we both could use a pep talk.”

Letter To My Younger Self # 6: “Don’t take things personally. And meditate!” – Ann Klein – (Oldster newsletter)

I know letters to your younger self can be interesting, and even a powerful way to work through issues and gain perspective.

Klein’s biggest message might be this:

Again: Don’t take it personally! Everything will be so much easier if you can learn to do that. I know, I know—a lot easier to achieve at 61 than 7.

Personally, I’ve never been able to come up with something I’d tell my 7-year-old self. Except that maybe the grade school bullying that was in my future at that point would pass.

I found Klein’s an interesting, and pragmatic, message.

Do this: Think about how far you’ve come. (That’s something I reflect on almost every day. Wow.)


4. “Grousing can behave like a communicable disease.”

Five Teachings of the Dalai Lama I Try to Live By (gift link) – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)

Fear not if you feel like Buddhist teaching isn’t something you care for. While Brooks uses Buddhist teachings, he turns them in to secular, practical, concepts that apply to all.

Aside from making yourself needlessly unhappy, complaining encourages others to complain as well. This phenomenon, which has been dubbed by scholars in the Journal of Business Research as the “complaint contagion effect,”

The ultimate use of these five teachings Brooks shares is simply to be more aware of your own actions and reactions, and to make choices making your life, and the lives of those around you, better.

Do this: Pay attention.

#buddhism #anger #complaints

5. “Bystander-intervention training”

“If Something Feels Off, You Need to Speak Up” – Daniel McGinn – (Harvard Business Review)

I did not know such a thing existed. I think it’s wonderful that it does. I don’t think it’s wonderful that it’s needed, though.

Coworkers should respond by taking whatever actions they are comfortable with that might help. There is no wrong answer.

The article (a Q&A with employment attorney Asha Santos) targets business, of course, but the concepts apply more broadly. It really falls into the “if you see something, say something” realm. The biggest concern most people have is retaliation, which is very understandable. Hence the “whatever actions they are comfortable with”.

Do this: Say something, if you can.


6. “Assume everything is learnable”

How to be More Agentic – Cate Hall – (Useful Fictions newsletter)

Over the years, I’ve seen many people give up on something because they believed they were what they were and could not change. Some skill, or even some trait, was permanently beyond them. They’d given up.

The essay is on agency, and proactively taking on more of it in your life. “Increase your luck surface area” is one example that’s honestly one of my hot buttons. Assuming you can’t learn something is another. It prevents success without even having tried.

Whatever it is, assume it can be learned and that the task is to figure out the best way to do it.

You can learn almost anything if you’re willing to put in the effort.

Do this: Learn. And never stop.

#learning #agency

7. “The wisdom of the crowd is not always wise”

The Art of Non-Conformity – Susan Cain – (The Quiet Life with Susan Cain newsletter)

There’s a famous psychological experiment where a group of people are given a task to identify something obvious — which is the longer of three very different length lines, for example — but all but one have been planted to give the wrong answer. The experiment is, what will the single subject do? Many will change their answer to the obviously wrong one to conform to the group. The implication was that they actually changed their belief. Not so.

I knew it wasn’t the right answer, but I just didn’t want to cause an argument

I suspect this sums up a significant part of current political activity.

Even having one ally that agrees with you can be enough. Being in the minority is, apparently, better than being alone.

Do this: Represent truth. Be the ally.

#truth #ally

Random Links & Thoughts

What I’m Reading

In progress:


A full list of my common sources is on the sources page.

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