Curiosity Is Life’s Superpower – 7 Takeaways No. 186

Making the effort. What's real? Optimism in spite of it all. Curious? Making friends. Get off the couch. Fallacies are seductive.

Meercats looking curious.

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1. “A failed effort is better than no effort at all.”

Comfort Is the Enemy of Achievement – John P. Weiss – (Blog)

The essay focuses on personal stories illustrating the theme in the title: comfort is the enemy of achievement. Indeed, it is.

The takeaway above, in a sense a rephrasing of the idea, is what got my attention. It speaks directly to the fear of failure so many experience when given opportunities to do more, be more, and accomplish more. As Weiss points out, a failed effort “may disappoint, but it instructs.”

The “cost” of failure is rarely as high as we perceive it to be.

Do this: Take the leap. Make the effort.

#achievement #comfort #risk

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2. “The biggest threats to society”

378: Julian Assange, inside a DDoS attack, and deepfake traumas – Eleanor Dallaway (guest) – (Smashing Security podcast)

The full quote that got my attention (it’s at 28:38) is this:

… distinguishing what is real and what is fake is one of the biggest threats to society and in the modern world.

The context here was non-consensual deepfake videos and sexual photos. That’s bad enough. But the concept of how important it is to tell truth from fiction applies everywhere. I keep coming back to the political landscape, where the whole “threat to society” hits home the hardest.

Do this: Do everything in your power to get better at distinguishing truth from fiction.

#deepfakes #fake-news #truth

3. “The long arc of history bends towards progress”

Optimism – Packy McCormick – (Not Boring newsletter)

It seems more difficult than ever, I’ll admit, but I remain an optimist. Not one of blind optimism, but rather of what I (and McCormick) would call “rational optimism”.

In this essay, he discusses optimism at length, and why a) things are much better than they seem, b) optimism is absolutely required for progress to happen, and c) pragmatic/rational optimism is a long-term view.

… pessimism … is actively harmful on both individual and societal levels. If pessimism causes people to stop having kids out of fear, that’s bad. If it makes people give up on trying to improve their environments, that’s bad. If it discourages entrepreneurs from starting companies, or encourages them to play their ambitions safe when they do, that’s bad.

The essay touches on many important points and includes many relevant examples. I encourage you to read it, especially if you’re pessimistic. This is an essay to bookmark and return to when things seem to be turning hopeless.

Do this: Be rationally optimistic.

#optimism #pessimism

4. “Curiosity is life’s superpower.”

You and I Are Too Old to Believe All Wounds Can Be Magically Healed – Julia Hubbel – (Too Old for This Sh*t)

The takeaway above caught my attention completely aside from the content of the essay. It’s something I believe in strongly. While it’s not always easy, choosing to be curious in the face of other, more severe and possibly negative reactions, is an incredibly powerful thing. It shows up in many ways, from being curious about what your mind is up to while meditating to being curious about why you might have reacted a particular way to some perceived slight.

And then there’s pain, the primary topic of Hubbel’s essay.

Being gently and respectfully curious allows us to investigate where we carry pain, and ask of that source what it needs.

There will always be pain. Suffering, pain, dissatisfaction are all a part of life. Understanding what it means for us, and what it means about us, is key not only to understanding how to live with its inevitability, but it sets an important example for others as well.

Do this: Be curious. Perhaps most importantly, be curious about yourself.


5. “A kernel of real friendship”

How People Are Making Friendship Work *Right Now* – Anne Helen Petersen – (Culture Study newsletter)

I guess friendship’s one of my recurring themes here at 7TA, probably because not only do you lose friends as you age, making new ones becomes more difficult. This essay discusses several ways people are establishing and nurturing new friendships. It runs the gamut from moving nearby to simply joining groups with which you have some affinity.

You don’t have to love logistics like me and Tom to make friendship happen. You just have to stop kicking the can down the road.

It’s difficult, though harder for some than others, but it is something that needs to be proactive on our part.

Do this: Nurture those friendships, existing and new.


6. “Do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always got.”

Comfort Is the Enemy of Achievement – John P. Weiss – (Blog)

With several personal stories and examples, and repeated reminders that “Comfort is the enemy of achievement”, Weiss outlines a case for getting up off the couch if you actually want to accomplish anything.

Nearly everything of value in my life was the result of sacrifice, hard work, and effort.

I suspect that’s true for most. While not 100% guaranteed, there’s certainly a strong correlation.

Do this: Get off the couch.

#comfort #discomfort

7. “Adding detail to scenarios makes them more persuasive, but less likely to come true.”

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman – (audio)

I continue to find many insights and many reminders of things that don’t come to mind often enough in this book. If you have the time (it’s lengthy), I recommend it.

Consider the “conjunction fallacy”. Which of these two scenarios is more likely:

A massive flood somewhere in North America next year, in which more than 1,000 people drown
An earthquake in California sometime next year, causing a flood in which more than 1,000 people drown

Many people will select the second, which is incorrect. The additional detail makes it feel more plausible, but it’s still a strict subset of the first, and hence less likely to happen.

Logic is hard for many, but it’s also difficult to simply remember that logic, or whatever other fallacy-busting technique, should be used liberally whenever we’re presented with information. And yes, once again, this applies heavily to the current political environment.

Do this: Bust fallacies.

#critical-thinking #fallacies

What I’m Reading

In progress:


A full list of my common sources is on the sources page, and I list the books I’ve read on my Reading List page.

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1 thought on “Curiosity Is Life’s Superpower – 7 Takeaways No. 186”

  1. Leo,

    As a writer I totally agree that curiosity is a superpower. I’d go so far as to say it is the supreme superpower. Sometimes my enthusiasm for a shiny new subject wanes after a while, but even then I’m left with batch of new knowledge which very often meshes with something else I’ve learned previously, and thus provides a new angle on an old question, or a new insight into something. I’ve possibly taken for granted.

    When I worked as a creative writing tutor I was always exhorting my students to never be afraid to ask questions. As a schoolkid I nearly got locked into the local library one night because I was tucked into a quiet corner learning something from a book. If the librarian hadn’t turned off the lights I would have missed her leaving and locking up 😉



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