Find Your ‘Lenses’ – 7 Takeaways for May 9, 2021

Looking at the world through your lens.

1. “Everyone is flawed.”

On This Day in History Sh!t Went Down – James Fell – (ebook)

Cancel culture bothers me. Not that some shouldn’t be “canceled”, but so often it boils down to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Fell may have articulated the closest explanation so far, in the introduction to his book.

Everyone is flawed. Some aren’t just flawed, they’re evil. We should not praise people as heroes, because we will always find reason to be disappointed, crushed, or aghast. However, we can praise heroic acts. Admire the deeds you deem worthy rather than the person behind them. Alternatively, feel free to say fuck them and cancel them from your life. No one is owed your admiration. No one.

We can praise heroic acts, no matter who accomplished them. Maybe. We are not our acts, and yet sometimes our acts reflect who we are.

Do this: separate the individual from the act.

2. “Social Isolation Makes Us Stupid “

The Virtue of Boredom – Mark Manson – (Mindf*ck Money newsletter)

A little more context:

One such study came out last month that found that social isolation caused by lockdowns makes people dumber. … No, seriously, it makes people perform worse at cognitive functions such as basic problem-solving, learning new tasks, memory recall, time estimation, and more.

Now, as a card-carrying introvert, I might disagree with this as an absolute statement. Social awkwardness isolation has served me well. But I can definitely see those who feed on personal interaction being negatively affected. Mason feels that work-at-home might not last as long as we think for reasons like this. He might not be wrong.

Do this: as we (oh, so slowly) come out of the pandemic, carefully foster the social interactions that give you energy.

3. “…how you live each day really does matter. It changes the future.”

Tim Urban – (Twitter)

Urban’s the author of Wait But Why. The full tweet:

If you went back in time before your birth you’d be terrified to do anything, because you’d know that even the smallest nudges to the present can have major impacts on the future.

Applied to today, a reminder that how you live each day really does matter. It changes the future.

I just found it an interesting perspective.

Do this: Change the future.

4. “te-TUM te-TUM te-TUM te-TUM te-TUM”

The Elements of Eloquence – Mark Forsyth – (ebook)

Yes, that’s a quote. It’s a takeaway for me because TIL (Today I Learned) what “iambic pentameter” is. And if that rhythm, or name, sounds familiar:

Shakespeare almost never used another verse form. He didn’t need to. It was the iambic pentameter or it was plain prose.

Iambic: the te-TUM emphasis sequence.

Pentameter: five times.

So simple. (And yes, there’s a bunch of other options and combinations.)

Do this: I got nothing, except next time you run into a particularly pleasing piece of prose, pay attention to its pacing.

5. “Talking is faster than writing”

Voice Notes May Change the Way You Create Your First Draft – Liam Surt – (Medium)

This is something I’ve experimented with a time or two, and I can say it works. The concept is simply this: fire up a voice recorder and dictate your “shitty first draft”. Dictate is perhaps the wrong word, as it’s more of just free-talking or blabbering if you like. The idea is that without real constraint you can do an audio idea-dump of whatever it is that has your attention and is worthy of writing about. While it doesn’t apply to a lot of Ask Leo! articles of the more technical bent, it’s great for editorial style posts and personal blog posts.

One thing I’m surprised about is that the author didn’t mention tools like Google Recorder which will transcribe your recording in real-time. No need for pesky manual playback or transcription, you can start with an editable first draft. It’s a mess, to be sure, but it may have more ideas and things to work with than had you started with a slower, written first draft or idea dump.

Do this: if you’re a writer, talk to yourself and record the conversation.

6. “find your ‘lenses’”

A Much Better Strategy Than ‘Find Your Niche’ – Ali Q – (Medium)

I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the concept of “niching down”; picking a narrow topic area to specialize in so as to stand out from everyone else. Being really good at one thing, rather than good at many. Maybe it’s because I feel myself a “jack of all trades” at heart. I have a hard time limiting my interests.

The author’s position is that you may be better served by “finding your lens”, as he calls it. Focus on what you want, but make it uniquely yours by bringing your perspective to it — something no one else can do.

When we approach a topic through our particular lenses, there’s a good chance we’ll come up with a unique and interesting perspective on it.

I just did this recently with an upcoming Ask Leo! article, but it’s something I can see as having resonated with readers in the past. We’ll see how this new one — a walk down a path of problem solving — will do.

Do this: Even if you don’t write or produce content, it’s fascinating to consider the various “lenses” you bring to a discussion. Read the article for a more detailed definition (he gives it a much more thorough description, and how to apply them to a topic), and then consider your unique perspective.

7. ‘Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts’

‘Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts’: The Age of Misinformation – Max Fisher – (New York Times)

This. So much this.

I was having a conversation (if doing so on social media can be called a “conversation”) just yesterday where someone was expressing disbelief that people could believe some of the things that they do. My wife’s comment was, in part, “it’s complicated”.

(Testing a Facebook embed above. If that fails here’s the link.)

My response:

There’s a strong component of community associated with it all. For any one person in that group to say “no, I think we should all wear masks” is, in a sense, turning their back on their community. That can be significantly more impactful to people than we realize. There’s a lot of this type of tribal stuff that really does complicate all of these discussions, almost beyond comprehension.

The New York Times article above once again dives into this much deeper and more eloquently than I.

Do this: Read the article, but then consider the situations of those you disagree with. It could be much more complicated than simple facts. Unfortunately.

What I’m Reading

In progress (also on GoodReads):


You’ll find all the books I’ve read or am reading as part of this project on the site’s Reading List page.

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