What I learned last week (#121): the good life

Learned last week: favorable conditions, being surprised, components of innovation, mtb paris catacombs, and more!

Quote I enjoyed:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein

Book excerpt I came back to:

“Do not confuse a life of comfort and ease for the good life. The good life is one of pushing your boundaries, incrementally overcoming yourself, striving for greatness – whatever that means for you. The happiness that results from the absence of discomfort is the happiness of mediocrity. Live your life, not as if you were trying to hoard a precious treasure, but as if you were crafting your own autobiography with every decision – because you are.” (Designing the Mind, Designing the Mind.The Principles of Psychitecture)


Don’t wait for the time to be right:

Related to the book excerpt above, a different lens to consider looking through if you are procrastinating starting something, or working on something, important.

In a sermon delivered at the height of World War Two, a period awash in distraction and despair, C.S. Lewis delivered a powerful claim about the cultivation of a deep life:

“We are always falling in love or quarreling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.”

Read Favorable Conditions Never Come on calnewport.com


Why are we constantly surprised?

This is a fun and short little read that will make you less certain about things (which is good) and hopefully a little less shocked the next time something seemingly crazy comes along that changes our collective worldview.

What is the modern version of cigarettes, which were doctor-recommended just a few generations ago? We didn’t know dinosaurs existed 200 years ago, which makes you wonder what else is out there that we’re oblivious to today. What company is the modern Enron, so obviously a fraud? What do most people – not a few whackos, but most of us – believe that will look something between hilarious and disgraceful 100 years from now?

A lot of history is just gawking at how wrong, how blind, people can be. Disastrously wrong, embarrassingly blind. Millions of people, all at the same time. When you then realize that today will be considered history in a few generations … oh dear. It’s unpleasant. But also fascinating.

Read A Few Short Stories on collaborativefund.com


Breaking things down in the smallest parts:

Interesting insight into the creative process and the importance of breaking problems down into components and prototyping.

The Eames Office was also known for extensive and meticulous prototyping throughout the design phase of product development, a practice learned from Finnish modernist Eero Saarinen. Saarinen frequently broke a design concept down into its essential elements—often dozens—then methodically proceeded to make dozens more studies of each piece. It’s a fascinating approach and has applications far beyond product design: to discover how to develop a concept, break it down into its smallest parts, whether that is an individual component of a system, a desired outcome, or a series of notes. When each part has been isolated, you’re ready to explore how it can be manipulated or changed. Each element becomes a prototype with its own question to be tested; each success or failure becomes an answer. It should include an element of what you believe is true.

Read Charles and Ray Eames were masters of innovation on fastcompany.com

Advice from Kevin Kelly:

A great bullet list of things to things worth thinking about. Some samples:

The foundation of maturity: Just because it’s not your fault doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility.

Children totally accept — and crave — family rules. “In our family we have a rule for X” is the only excuse a parent needs for setting a family policy. In fact, “I have a rule for X” is the only excuse you need for your own personal policies.

When playing Monopoly, spend all you have to buy, barter, or trade for the Orange properties. Don’t bother with Utilities.

Learn how to tie a bowline knot. Practice in the dark. With one hand. For the rest of your life you’ll use this knot more times than you would ever believe.

I had to Google the knot mentioned above, never got that Scout badge I guess.

Read 99 Additional Bits of Unsolicited Advice on kk.org


“The only thing that makes life possible is not knowing what comes next.” Ursula Le Guin


Just for fun (beware the claustrophobics):

The streets of Paris are well known to all, even perhaps the underground Catacombs which stretch for 1.5km, but few are aware that there are nearly 300km of tunnels several metres below the ‘City of Light.’

Antoni gives us a guided tour, a descent deep down into the dark depths of the capital city, or to hell…


Stuff I wrote and drew about this week:


Other things I was reminded of, or thankful for, last week:

  • The kids and I rewatched an older Disney film Bolt this past weekend and it was predictable but enjoyable. The hamster called Rhino (voiced by Mark Walton) was the highlight for Sam and I. Vivi loves the dog + girl storyline. The kids also rewatched Wolfwalkers and I made a drawing of Robyn.
  • My wife and I managed to finish a major phase of work on the back garden last week, laying down the last of the gravel around some raised garden beds. Of course, as the saying goes, good work leads to more work, and I’m now obsessed with building a rockery across the back of the garden now.
  • My son is going to join his older sister at her school later this year and we had an introductory event this past week that consisted of outdoor mini-games designed to get the kids used to the grounds and introduce them to each other. Outdoors + games is right in his wheelhouse for this kid so he was in top form.

Last but not least, check out what I’m up to now.

Comments welcome!