1. “Books do not exist in a vacuum.”
How to Remember What You Read – Farnam Street – (blog)
This article was apparently republished recently, which is how I came across it again. I’d read it some time ago, and perhaps even took an action (more in a sec), but then let it all slide.
The issue is that this speaks to something I’ve always struggled with; reading great books, and only peripherally learning anything from them. It’s something I want to improve on.
I’ve mentioned before that I have always sucked at taking notes. Seriously. Since highschool. It’s an area that I see referenced over and over again as a way to improve not only retention but incorporate the takeaways of the book into the greater web of knowledge I’m always looking to grow. The action I alluded to was to purchase the book How to Take Smart Notes, by Sönke Ahrens. I’m seeing it referenced in multiple places these days, so I don’t know if it’s marketing, confirmation bias, or what, but it seems worth a try. And, indeed, it seems that was my thinking last March when I actually purchased the book and put it on my (virtual) shelf.
The Farnam Street article is valuable, particularly the “if you only remember six things” list.
Do this: consider, how do you remember what you read?
2. “Civilization requires optimism”
Kevin Kelly: The Case for Optimism – Kevin Kelly – (Warp News)
I’ll admit it: optimism has been difficult in the last 24 months. Heck, it’s been a problem for the last five years. And yet, deep down, I remain optimistic, but it’s a long term optimism.
Kelly’s piece does a deep dive on why optimism is important and why it’s difficult to see.
Progress is mostly about what does not happen. Progress means a 92-year-old who did not die today, a boy who was not robbed on his way to school, a 12-year girl who is not married to a 30-year old man, etc. What did not happen does not make the news. The best parts of civilization don’t get headlined.
He concludes with specific reasons to be optimistic about our long-term future. Yes, there’ll be bumps along the way, but the trend remains upward.
Do this: rate your own sense of optimism, and try to evaluate why it is what it is. Then consider, perhaps, the longer-term trends that you might be missing.
3. “Most of us will do literally anything else . . . before we’ll admit we have no power.”
There Is No “When This Is Over” – Jude Ellison S. Doyle – (Medium)
The full quote is a little more enlightening:
Most of us will do literally anything else — blame, rage, regress, obsess, dissociate, deny — before we’ll admit we have no power.
To me, this explains so much of what’s happening in the world around us. We hate — I mean really hate to the point of extreme discomfort and irrationality — feeling like we’re not in control. That’s what “freedom” means to many: being in control of their own lives. Take that away, say in the form of a pandemic, and the appropriate measures to bring it under control, and that irrationality manifests in spades.
Do this: remember that you control your reaction. Stoics would say that’s all you control, ever.
4. “. . . readers who either don’t or can’t read.”
Medium Commenters: Please Learn to Read First Before You Start Using Authors as Your Personal Punching Bag – Julia E Hubbel – (Medium)
I think this will resonate with anyone who writes or publishes in some form online, not just on Medium. I can’t tell you the number of times comments on my content — be it written or in video form — show, clearly, that the commenter didn’t bother to actually read the material they’re commenting on. Or if they did, they lost all sense of comprehension the moment they discovered a point they feel to be in error — even if that point is itself refuted later in the material.
Yes, I’ve been people’s punching bag. It’s part of the job. But it still frustrates and sucks.
Do this: read for comprehension. Do comment if you have something to say, but please, for the love of all that is holy, think before commenting.
5. “Writing Is the Only Thing That Matters”
How to Take Smart Notes – Sönke Ahrens – (ebook)
Yes, I’m once again trying to sharpen my note-taking and memory-building skills. I figure it’s a key skill as I get older.
This actually calls back to an earlier takeaway — “Everyone is a writer” — and kicks it up a notch. The fundamental thought here is that it is only our written words that matter. Gone are the days of oral tradition — if it’s not written down it might as well not exist. My take is that this applies not only at the greater, societal level, but also all the way down to the very personal level. If I don’t write it down, it might as well not exist.
Another great quote from the book:
There is no such thing as a history of unwritten ideas.
Do this: write it down.
6. “Feed your brain high-quality content”
The Profile: The athlete building a business empire & America’s biggest digital media company – Polina Pompliano – (Paid Newsletter)
Pompliano turned 30 (youngster!) and shared a few “practical, non-obvious lessons I’ve learned in the last decade.” They’re all good, but this one resonated.
What you eat is who you are, and what you read is who you become.
This very endeavor (7 Takeaways) is a part of my attempt to do exactly that. It’s not always easy. Here’s a corollary of my own: most social media does not qualify as “high-quality content”.
Do this: watch your diet.
7. “Here’s another story.”
Collapse and Renewal – Future Crunch – (Newsletter)
This issue begins with a list of all the news we’re currently familiar with. The bad news. Then a list of stories we probably haven’t heard.
. . . we want to remind you that even during the darkest of times, there is always another set of stories out there. You won’t find them on the front pages of the New York Times and you definitely won’t get them from your Apple News feed, but they’re all true, and they’ve all happened in the last month too.
Future Crunch is a newsletter I subscribe to as part of my work on Not All News Is Bad. The list of all the amazing things that happened last month is not just a good read, it’s an important one. They close with a Jane Goodall quote that sums up why:
These are stories that should have equal time, because they’re what gives people hope.
Do this: Look for those stories. Give them equal time. Share them. Share hope.
What I’m Reading
In progress (also on GoodReads):
- The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown – Catherine Burns (editor)
- Numbers Don’t Lie: 71 Things You Need to Know About the World – Vaclav Smil
- How to Take Smart Notes – Sönke Ahrens
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman