My Alcoholic Brother – 7 Takeaways for September 26, 2021

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1. “trying to be rational in an irrational situation”

The Profile: The founder who wants to build a utopia & the startup bringing back the woolly mammoth – Polina Pompliano – (The Profile newsletter)

This. So much this:

“Your mistake is that you’re trying to be rational in an irrational situation.”

This is something I’ve witnessed often, and — as a person who tries very hard to be rational (it’s the engineer in me) — I’ve been fortunate to be able to identify situations where rational thinking just isn’t the answer. In my case that usually means “walk away”. Pompliano’s point is:

Sometimes, the only way to get someone to dip a toe in the crystal pool of rational thought is to wade through the messy swamp of emotions first.

I have difficulty in the swamp.

Do this: learn to recognize emotion in discussions and especially disagreements.

2. “say something flattering or cheerful to a stranger every day.”

How to Age Gracefully – Jane E. Brody – (New York Times)

Having just had my 64th birthday, aging is increasingly on my mind. This essay’s a nice, aspirational piece outlining one octogenarian’s outlook on life. In particular, it introduced me to a book: Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old, which has been added to my reading list.

Do this: I know, I know, it’s cliché, but still: “Live each day as if it’s your last, with an eye on the future in case it’s not . . .”

3. “I Won’t Join the ‘Organ Recital'”

Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old – Steven Petrow – (ebook)

The “organ recital” referenced is the litany of all the physical issues we’re dealing with. I’m sure you’ve been on the receiving end: “how are you?” results in a long list of physical ailments, often in TMI detail. It’s rare that others care about the list, much less the details. And yet, as we age, that list and those details become very important to us. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for dealing with them to become a defining characteristic of our personal journey. Nonetheless. Not everyone wants to hear about it, even if it seems to be such an important discussion topic that’s oh-so-easy to fall into.

If someone cares about your sciatica, they will ask about your sciatica. If someone cares about your bowel movements, they will ask about your bowel movements. (Spoiler: few will ask.) When someone asks “how are you?” you don’t need to lie, but you don’t need to run down the list either. If they want more, they’ll ask.

Do this: Keep your bowel movements to yourself. (And, of course, your doctor/medical professional. They get paid to listen to this . . . uh . . . “stuff”.)

4. “one camera, one lens”

How to Photograph a Vacation – Josh Rose – (Medium)

I dabble in photography, and realized early on that vacations are an exercise in balance. On one hand, you want to be present and experiencing the moment, on the other hand, you also want to capture the moment so as to be able to recall and enjoy its memory again and again.

a good amount of your images should star you and your family.

I’ve recently been scanning old photographs from years gone by, and this comment rings true. The photos that really speak to me as I run across them are of family and loved ones. I wish there were more.

There’s a lot of photography technique advice in the essay as well, but the meta-information — be present, include your people — speaks to us all regardless of our experience.

Do this: Think about what you’ll want to have twenty years from now. Shoot that.

5. “The United States is my alcoholic brother.”

10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America – Mark Manson – (Medium)

This is a lengthy read — Medium says 14 minutes. It can be a difficult read if your not open to the idea that The United States might not be the greatest country on the planet.

Manson walks through several observations relating to how we’re seen outside of the country, how we relate to the rest of the world, and how we stand in some of the things that, to be honest, we should, and could, be better at.

2. Few People Hate Us

As just one example, Manson points out that few people outside the US hate us. Mostly because few people outside the US really think about us that much. Sure, they watch our politics and shake their heads in disbelief, but hating us just isn’t a priority for most. They have better things to do with their time. As an immigrant myself, with ties outside the U.S. I can attest to this being true.

In fact, I can attest to the entire list being pretty darned accurate.

Do this: I rarely say “read the article” that I’ve just quoted, so while I’d like to, let me suggest this instead: skim the article. Note the 10 items. And then for those that mystify, or perhaps even anger you, take a few minutes to read the rationale.

6. “If you’re so smart and capable, why can’t you figure out how to be happy?”

You Should Spend More Time Doing Nothing — That’s When You Actually Grow – Alan Trapulionis – (Medium)

The takeaway is actually a quote by Naval Ravikant, someone whose name I keep running across in my reading. Other than that I’m not familiar with him, but it seems I should be. To oversimplify he’s apparently a silicon valley angel investor and a very successful one at that.

Contrary to what you might expect someone in that position to be, he’s happy. And part of his “secret” is explicitly taking time to do nothing.

The author tried it.

. . . something magical happened. For the first time in a long time, I started having thoughts. Not procedural instructions. Not plans. Not dreams. Thoughts. Words, glued together, forming a dialogue. I could hear it again.

Do this: Slow down. There’s actually a very good chance you’ll be more, not less, effective.

7. “Nobody wants to be a teacher anymore.”

The World’s Worst Job, Explained with Total Honesty – Jessica Wildfire – (Medium)

This is brutal because it’s so accurate. It’s entertaining satire, with a very sharp bite.

I can’t imagine anyone choosing to be a teacher these days, and this essay nails all the reasons why. Low pay. High demands. Unrealistic expectations. Low pay. Constant judgment. Low pay. The list goes on.

I respect anyone who does it — especially those who do it well — but totally understand why they might choose to leave the profession. It’s our very great loss.

Do this: This one needs systemic change. Do what you can to support the changes necessary such that educators get the support and respect they need to teach our children well.

What I’m Reading

In progress (also on GoodReads):


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