One of the best secrets of a happy life – 7 Takeaways for July 4, 2021


1. “We are the legacy of our nation’s tainted past”

Cousins – Lucian K. Truscott IV – (Facebook post)

I found this a stirring essay by one of the descendants of Thomas Jefferson about the relationships between the descendants of Martha Jefferson, his wife, and the descendants of Sally Jennings, his slave. It’s as disturbing as you might imagine. Those who claim others are erasing history seem dead set on . . . erasing history.

Do this: read the essay. Reflect. And if you’re in a position to, act.

2. “a compromised cultural immune system”

The Cause of America’s Post-Truth Predicament – Andy Norman – (Scientific American)

Norman draws an interesting parallel between society’s allowing everyone to believe as they please and an immune system that’s no longer capable of rejecting invaders.

The deep culprit here is not a shadowy government insider. It’s not an aspiring demagogue or a corrupt political party. Trace the problem to its roots and you find a compromised cultural immune system. Astonishingly irrational ideas proliferate because they’re playing us.

There have been many comparisons to ideas as being similar to organic entities, the meme being one. It’s our cultural immune system that allows us all to recognize objective falsehood for what it is, and reject the accompanying idea. We seem to be losing the battle. An interesting, and somewhat sobering, read.

Do this: always focus on the “objective” when you encounter what you believe to be false. And be willing to question your beliefs. It’s healthy for our immune system.

3. “Any time you do something for the first time, it will probably suck.”

The Creative Strategy Iconic Creators use to Make Ideas Happen – Srinivas Rao – (blog)

Entrepreneurship is littered with failures. That’s natural. What’s sad is when the folks behind those failures a) were doing something new and exciting b) totally expected their ideas to be wild successes, and c) they weren’t. Many of those folks are no longer entrepreneurs.

The real takeaway here is to test ideas using low failure cost options — blog posts instead of books, tweets instead of blog posts — you get the idea: test your idea in small ways before your commit your life savings to it. Use the data you collect.

Too many don’t.

Do this: Do something small, take the results, do something bigger. Test & repeat.

4. “One of the best secrets of a happy life”

Essays on Life – Thomas Mitchell, Farmer – (quoted by James Clear in 3-2-1 Thursdays mailing list)

The full quote:

“One of the best secrets of a happy life is the art of extracting comfort and sweetness from every circumstance…

People are always looking for happiness at some future time and in some new thing, or some new set of circumstances, in possession of which they some day expect to find themselves. But the fact is, if happiness is not found now, where we are, and as we are, there is little chance of it ever being found. There is a great deal more happiness around us day by day than we have the sense or power to seek and find.

If we are to cultivate the art of living, we should cultivate the art of extracting sweetness and comfort out of everything, as the bee goes from flower to flower in search of honey.”

It’s a good reminder. What struck me, though, was that on researching the quote’s origin, I learned it’s from a book written in 1914. Timeless wisdom, indeed.

Do this: cultivate the art of living.

5. “Pleasures with Advancing Years”

Pleasures with Advancing Years – Doris Carnevali – (Engaging Wigh Aging blog)

Carnevali is an inspirational (to me) nonagenarian blogger, writing about her experiences as she ages. I’ve written about her before over on Ask Leo!. Serendipitously following the previous takeaway, in this blog post she lists several of the things that give her pleasure. It’s framed as being within her current abilities (or ARCs; Age-Related Changes, as she calls them), but I’m finding it a wonderful list of often everyday things that we all too frequently take for granted. It’s a list we can all use to remind ourselves of what we have.

Do this: Think about all the things you take for granted.

6. “What was once a unifying symbol . . . is now alienating”

A Fourth of July Symbol of Unity That May No Longer Unite – Sarah Maslin Nir – (New York Times)

I’ve felt this way for some time. The flag of the United States doesn’t stand for what it used to. When I see pickup trucks driving by with large flags flying I know they’re probably not my people. The MAGA bumper sticker confirms it. In other countries our flag has become a symbol of ignorance, anti-science, and bullying.

I’ve come to feel the same way about the word “patriot”. It, too, is being wielded hard and often by the far right as some kind of label or litmus test for its members. I think of myself as a centrist, but the far right has perverted the term. Right now I’d shudder at being called a patriot.

For various reasons our flag came down before the previous administration, mostly due to simple wear and tear. Once I saw what was happening, I was reluctant to replace it, though I eventually did — at roughly “the” moment on our most recent inauguration day.

I hope it can stay.

Do this: think about what the flag, and “patriot”, might mean to you.

7. “We all need practice”

How to Think like Shakespeare – Scott Newstok – (ebook)

The full quote:

We all need practice in curiosity, intellectual agility, the determination to analyze, commitment to resourceful communication, historically and culturally situated reflectiveness, the confidence to embrace complexity.

As I think I mentioned before, the book comes across as a bit of an indictment against our education system. I can’t disagree. But the statement above caught my eye, as it’s something so fundamental, so critical, and yet so lacking in how we’re taught.

Do this: Practice.

What I’m Reading

In progress (also on GoodReads):


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