We Are Not So Different From Cows – 7 Takeaways No. 187

Don't be a dick. Placebo vs. Nocebo. Declining friendship, and more. Embrace the stupid. Moo. Unfortunate acceptance of war. Increasing your idea surface area.

A confused cow standing in the middle of a green field. The cow has a black and white coat with distinctive large spots. Its eyes are wide open, and its head is slightly tilted to one side, giving it a puzzled expression. The background features a clear blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds. The field is lush with green grass, and a few wildflowers are scattered around. The overall scene is bright and sunny, capturing the cow's confusion in a serene and pastoral setting.
(Image: DALL-E 3)

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1. “Most of us are trying our hardest”

How not to be a d*ck – Annie Scott – (Midlife Mess with Annie Scott)

Scott describes her first, and presumably last, experience listing her home on AirBnB. Let’s just say that her first visitors weren’t particularly forgiving of what one might consider to be extremely minor issues.

The fact is we’re becoming less tolerant, less forgiving, and much more quick to judge than ever before. We’re jumping to uncalled for conclusions ever more quickly.

I’m just suggesting we look at the broader context before we judge others harshly.

If you feel you’ve been slighted, if you feel something is amiss, take a breath. Consider whether there might be more to the story than the conclusion you’re so rapidly arriving at.

Do this: Don’t be a d*ck.


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2. “Negative expectations also have a real negative impact on your life”

The Nocebo Effect: Why You Must Eradicate Negative Expectations – Darius Foroux – (Blog)

First, a definition:

The placebo effect happens when positive expectations lead to improved health outcomes. But the nocebo effect is the exact opposite. It’s when negative expectations or beliefs lead to harmful or adverse effects on health.

What I find fascinating is that the placebo effect can occur, even if you know it’s present. That’s why I’m quite happy with some things in my life that I don’t understand, but that could be completely explained as being a placebo. I don’t care, as long as I get the results I’m looking for.

As soon as you understand it, you’ll see the nocebo effect everywhere. People who perpetually expect the worst, and aren’t disappointed. It happens so often in part because they expect the worst.

Do this: Expect better.

#expectations #placebos #nocebo

3. “Blink twice if anxiety or depression has ever held you hostage.”

What Happened to Patriotism in America? – Tom Greene – (Wit & Wisdom newsletter)

“Patriot” has become a red-flag term in many corners. Not because of what patriotism actually means, but because of how it’s been hijacked for political purposes. What Greene addresses, though, is more than that. He cites a study showing it’s not just patriotism, but also faith, having children, and even friendship on the decline.

people simply aren’t as reliable as they once were

we were all set to turbo-introvert mode during the Pandemic

The only thing that has appeared to increase in importance is money.

Do this: Consider what you value.

#patriotism #faith #friendship

4. “Lean into the confusion.”

Why Can’t We Tolerate Discomfort? – Angela Duckworth & Mike Maughan – (No Stupid Questions podcast, ep 202)

I just enjoyed this insight, maybe half way through the episode:

Confusion is an emotion, actually, and some scientists argue, it’s the cardinal emotion of learning. Like, when you are confused, that is the best signal that you’re learning something. But learners hate feeling confused. It makes them feel stupid.

Which is sad, really. I think it prevents a lot of learning, both in education and in the world at large.

Do this: Embrace confusion. Embrace the discomfort. Embrace the stupid.

#confusion #learning

5. “We are not so different from cows”

Humans Could Learn a Lot From Anxious Cows – Kathleen Smith – (Slate)

Smith uses animal behaviour as examples in her therapy practice, and finds it often explains behavior, or at least gives it an accessible framework, to folks who are struggling to understand or accept traditional descriptions.

But our emphasis on human uniqueness, while well intentioned, has backfired into a pattern of labeling a lot of adaptation as dysfunction.

This quote spoke to me because of my belief that a) we are over-diagnosing “trendy” things like ADHD, and b) even when correct, they’re not neccessarily dysfunction, but as the quote says, adaptation. As a friend puts it, some can even be viewed as your superpower.

you are creatures trying your best to survive out there—just like every other creature on this planet.

And there’s much more similarity than you might imagine with all those other creatures. It’s something to both learn from, and take comfort in.

Do this: Embrace your kindred critters.


6. “There must be some reason for its existence”

A Calendar of Wisdom – Leo Tolstoy – (ebook)

If I understand the layout correctly, this quote is from Tolstoy himself (the collection quotes many others as well, and it’s not always clear who’s who):

Neither the descriptions of war nor its terrible cruelties and atrocities can stop people from participating in it. One reason for this is that by viewing the atrocities of war, everyone comes to understand that if such a terrible thing can exist and be accepted by people, then there must be some reason for its existence.

Unless you’re actually in it, war is a just a concept. That it might affect others is also just a concept. Hence wars elsewhere are easier to “accept”, and consider normal. In too many ways, we’ve become desensitized to the atrocities of war, simply by being relentlessly exposed to it day after day. Until, of course, war hits home. Or until we proactively choose to treat it as something more than an abstract concept.

Do this: Choose.


7. “Get more parts on the table.”

Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson – (ebook)

I’m re-reading this book I read a couple of years ago, and find I’m getting more out of it. Some ideas that made little sense (“adjacent possible”?) have gelled on the second go round. I particularly like this characterization:

The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.

Though the comment really talks about interacting with more, and different, people, it also kinda validates my life as a jack-of-all-trades. More cross-pollination happens, I think, than a more focused, isolated life.

Do this: Expand your attention.

#attention #ideas

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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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