The Person Who Clears The Path Controls Its Direction – 7 Takeaways No. 170

Following the instructions. Doing the work. The value of curation. Your memory might not be what you think. Politics is disgusting. Can you believe that photo? Optimism as a longevity hack. Reading great content.

An image depicting a jungle explorer, dressed in a practical outdoor outfit including a wide-brimmed hat, using a machete to clear dense foliage in a thick jungle. The explorer is focused and determined, with a look of adventure in their eyes. The jungle around him is lush and vibrant, filled with various shades of green, and the light filters through the canopy above, creating a dappled effect on the ground. This scene captures the essence of exploration and the challenge of navigating through untamed nature.
(Image: DALL-E 3)

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1. “Actually doing things the recommended way”

The Shortcut is Probably Too Long – David Cain – (Rapititude)

For many reasons, ranging from “we’re special” to not wanting to do the actual work, we often take shortcuts. Cain addresses the first.

I think I’m prone to this particular kind of self-deception, where you believe there’s a shortcut or compromise that works for you and not others.

I think we all are, but I also wonder how often it really boils down to either lack of commitment, or being unwilling to invest the effort required, and then rationalizing that by thinking we’re special.

I start doing it the way people successful in those areas do it, and suddenly I experience strong and consistent results, for the first time in my life.

Do this: Listen to successful people. Do the work.

#work #shortcuts

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2. “The person who clears the path controls its direction”

23 pieces of career advice I wish I’d known earlier – Ryan Holiday – (Twitter, link is to single-page compilation)

It’s been a while since I posted a listicle. Once again there’s a lot that resonated with me in this one. The takeaway above is a perspective I hadn’t considered before.

This also resonated because it’s so true:

Very rarely have I ever let anyone go because they did not have the skills to do their job. It’s almost always their unwillingness to learn those skills or their inability to take feedback

It’s almost a follow on to the previous takeaway. If you’re not willing to learn, if you’re not willing to listen, if you’re not willing to do the work … you’re probably in the wrong job, and are unlikely to succeed.

Do this: Do the work.

#career #listicle #advice

3. “Once it’s easy to include everything, everything gets included”

Curation (vs the road to junk) – Seth Godin – (Blog)

When I started this newsletter, I commented somewhere “the world doesn’t need another curated newsletter”. Over 3 years later, I’m realizing that I might have misjudged that. I follow (and, indeed, many of my takeaways come from) sources that curate the flood of information we face every day. Each has their own spin and priorities, as do I.

Godin’s piece brought this to mind, though he’s talking primarily about big tech.

YouTube doesn’t curate, they encourage the crowd to do that for them.

I might argue that their recommendation engine, along with Amazon’s, and others, does indeed curate, just not along the criteria we might want.

Do this: Look for curation that matches the criteria you want.


4. “We all predict the future every day”

Why memory is more about your future than your past – Kevin Dickinson – (Big Think)

Fascinating Q&A with neuroscientist Charan Ranganath discussing memory, and how our expectations of our ability to remember things are off base.

The act of remembering changes the way you’ll remember an event later on.

While it’s unclear exactly how that change occurs, it’s clear that it does. Our expectation that we should be able to remember to some level of accurate detail is flawed. It takes extra steps at the time of whatever you want to remember.

the principle for having something be memorable is to attend to what’s distinctive about it. The more you can attend to what is distinctive and be mindful of it, the more vivid the memory.

Human memory is amazing, to be sure, but it’s not as easy, or as accurate, as we might believe. One of its overlooked purposes is helping us navigate the future.

Do this: Pay attention.

#memory #attention

5. “Political communication can activate the public’s sensitivity for disgust”

Don’t Let Your Disgust Be Manipulated (gift link) – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)

If I have a theme at all here on 7 Takeaways, it’s thinking and specifically critical thinking, particularly as we enter what is already a contentious political season. Brooks outlines something that I think we all need to be on the lookout for: attempts to manipulate — not just our opinions, but our visceral reactions to “the others”.

… just a few influential manipulators with an audience can convince many others that a viewpoint contrary to their own is an existential threat—and that those with opposing or different views are disgusting, in effect a dangerous human pathogen in our society.

Once you realize this, you’ll see it all around you. And I do mean all around — both sides, left and right, are guilty of this attempted manipulation.

Do this: Pay attention to what’s being said, and your visceral reaction to it.

#disgust #manipulation

6. “Trust in photos is eroding fast”

Kate Middleton’s Doctored Photo is a Sign of Something Much More Serious – Thomas Smith – (Medium)

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this is very true:

Casual alternation also makes it far easier for people to simply doubt the veracity of every photo they see, which deprives the world of an important way to capture history, document atrocities, and tell truthful visual stories.

It’s something I’ve noted myself; a casual distrust of a photo that seems off in some way. And yet, context matters. For example, this recent photo is, indeed, a mixture of two separate shots, taken seconds apart, so I could get the dogs all facing the same way. Like Middleton’s photo, the edit is a little sloppy and obvious if you know where to look. But it also captures something memorable and significant to us. Is it “wrong”? I certainly don’t feel so. But if it were a photo claiming to be an accurate representation of some important event, I might feel otherwise.

It’s complicated. And while it’s not new (photographers have been doctoring photos since the dawn of the technology), the rise of tools like Photoshop and now AI are making it almost trivially easy.

Do this: Yup. Be skeptical. Sadly.

#photography #trust #ai

7. “Optimists tend to live longer”

The New Science of Optimism and Longevity – Immaculata De Vivo – (MIT Press Reader)

It’s becoming more and more understood that having a purpose, and being optimistic, have major correlations with longer and healthier lives.

Cultivating a positive outlook, then, can be a powerful tool for fostering resilience, managing stress, and potentially even enhancing longevity.

It’s not the optimism directly, per se, but how a positive outlook affects our behavior.

… most optimistic people tend to take better care of themselves, especially by eating healthily, exercising, and not smoking.

I expect it runs much deeper than even that.

Do this: Cultivate your positivity.

#positivity #optimism #longevity

8. “The single greatest argument for consuming great content”

Unexpected side-effects – Leo A. Notenboom – (blog)

I had a realization the other day about 7 Takeaways and how it’s affected me over the last 3+ years.

I expected that among the 1,190(!) takeaways published so far, I’d stumble across a handful that I would truly and specifically take to heart and incorporate into my life.

That hasn’t really happened.

The specific takeaways haven’t changed me as much as the overriding themes of all these great writers have. The threads that I see time and time again are making their way into my psyche somehow. My attitudes and opinions have slowly shifted in subtle, but now noticeable, ways, at least to me.

Do this: Read great content.

#reading #7-takeaways

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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1 thought on “The Person Who Clears The Path Controls Its Direction – 7 Takeaways No. 170”

  1. My first issue! Love it!
    SO right about left and right bombast, fact selection, omissions and exaggerations.
    That’s why I like Greta Van Susteren on NewsMax:
    She appeals to my old-school journalism education! We were taught we may not always know best, and not to curate the public’s selection of facts.
    Jon vG


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