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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#65)

Quote that I loved:

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

Alice Walker

Ten stories you need right now:

https://www.sciencealert.com/here-are-10-good-news-stories-you-need-to-read-right-now


50 things to do:

Just some ideas between friends.


A great talk on self-renewal:

Hard not to just copy the entire talk here, it’s really good.

We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit. Boredom is the secret ailment of large-scale organizations. Someone said to me the other day “How can I be so bored when I’m so busy?” And I said “Let me count the ways.” Logan Pearsall Smith said that boredom can rise to the level of a mystical experience, and if that’s true I know some very busy middle level executives who are among the great mystics of all time.

Learn all your life. Learn from your failures. Learn from your successes, When you hit a spell of trouble, ask “What is it trying to teach me?” The lessons aren’t always happy ones, but they keep coming. It isn’t a bad idea to pause occasionally for an inward look. By midlife, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.

We learn from our jobs, from our friends and families. We learn by accepting the commitments of life, by playing the roles that life hands us (not necessarily the roles we would have chosen). We learn by growing older, by suffering, by loving, by bearing with the things we can’t change, by taking risks.

There will inevitably many who will find the current disruption a reason to venture out and do something new and scary. At least there is something good there to think about.


It’s normal to feel weird about this:

And so the drunken carousel of wildly-spinning emotions goes on, staffed by octopods, ridden by monkeys, narrated by a short-circuiting robot.

These are weird days, friends. It’d be weird if you weren’t weird about that.

I love Chuck Wendig.


Favorite book excerpt:

“What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here—and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.” (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird)

Writing, drawing, making, doing…the same rules apply. Go make a mess and leave it for awhile. It’s ok.


A gripping story to keep you occupied:

Forty five years ago, eight Soviet women climbers were pinned on top of a high mountain in the USSR in the worst storm in 25 years.

The presentation on this is super cool.

https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2020/01/sport/russian-climbers-peak-lenin-spt-intl


Art projects keep us sane:

Here’s what we did this week. Lots more to come.


Lastly, check out what we’re up to now.

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#64)

Book excerpt I enjoyed:

“Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life—and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree.” (Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)

We gotta keep running.


The story you tell yourself can change everything:

A person who is managing a customer-support team can tell herself that she’s overseeing people who answer customer questions. That’s one story.

Another story is that she manages people who genuinely love helping others; a group that exudes empathy and enjoys solving problems like detectives. This narrative drives her intentions and behaviors. When this is the story she believes about her work, it speaks to her identity and sharpens her work.

While there are environmental forces—such as leadership and workplace culture—that influence what we believe about ourselves, ultimately we are the stewards of our own stories.


This may be silver lining for (non-remote) workers:

More companies might fully embrace remote work after this current coronapocolypse. That’s a good thing.

“We’ll never probably be the same. People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.” Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of human resources, in BuzzFeed News


How should we think about the end:

We may not have arrived at the end, but we have certainly arrived at the thought of it. Medical, environmental, political, economic and military problems seem to have joined forces to remind us that the story of humanity is, at some point, going to draw to a close. That’s a very painful thought to have. It also raises a serious philosophical problem.


Beware the hand dryer:

This is validating what my Dad has been saying for years.

A 2012 analysis of 12 studies over four decades published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings concluded that “[f]rom a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers” and that they should be used in “locations in which hygiene is paramount, such as hospitals and clinics.” Though it could be argued that hygiene should be paramount in the restroom of, say, your neighborhood Panera Bread, too.

https://www.wired.com/story/wash-your-hands-but-beware-the-electric-hand-dryer


Learning more about shoelaces is a powerful distraction:

First, check out this very short TED talk on how to tie your shoes:

The strong form of the shoe knot. Sometimes a small advantage somewhere in life can yield tremendous advantage elsewhere. Brilliant.

Also related is Iann’s shoelace site:

https://www.fieggen.com/shoelace

And finally, here’s what the extra lace hole on your gym shoes is for:


Lastly, check out what we’re up to now.

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#63)

Art projects are like little fires:

Here are four recent ones.


Quote I was thinking about this week:

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

Peter Drucker

Subscriptions are only going to get more ubiquitous: That everything is seemingly behind a paywall is frustrating with news and science, it might not be a bad thing entirely in the long run:

Today, there seems to be a larger integration happening across-the-board, for everyone. All of us, in one form or another, will have no choice but to practice self-sponsorship. Imagining a future where Twitter and Instagram have private monthly subscription options for users with locked accounts doesn’t seem that far off. Maybe certain platforms offer package deals. For $10 a month on YouTube, you choose which five creators you want to subscribe to, of which they get a cut.

This new reality is less about everyone transforming into their own brand or even becoming an independent contractor at the whims of a mercurial gig economy—it will be the very basis for life, or at least livelihood. It’s the creation of a future in which we can never afford to stop working, or better yet, where work doesn’t actually feel like work. Most people will still have the kind of jobs they have now, but living them will provide the additional capital they need to get by, as each person’s life just becomes another upload into someone else’s feed. This shift will completely change how we define labor, and what it means to generations who come after us, remapping their relationship to the internet and its many resources.

https://www.wired.com/story/everyone-is-a-subscription


The difference between men and women:

Brought to life in the form of a poem by Neil Gaiman along with a pretty animated short.

Titled “The Mushroom Hunters,” lovingly addressed to Neil’s newborn son Ash…the poem went on to win the Rhysling Award for best long poem and has now been brought to new life in a soulful short film…

Read the full poem here:


Book excerpt I enjoyed:

“Instead of running from our emotions or being swept away by their initial gusts, we should learn to sit with them, become at peace with their unique flavors, and ultimately discover deep pools of inspiration. I have found that this is a natural process.” (Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning)


It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top:

Some inspiration from one of my favorite books.


What I was thankful for last week:

  • A note I found in the car that Vivian wrote for me the day earlier while we were sitting listening to music and waiting for Kav to get back from grocery shopping. It simply read “I love you”.
  • Reading The Naughtiest Unicorn lying in bed with Vivi after school, her with a hot chocolate and me with a cup of coffee. Can’t think of anything better to spend a late afternoon doing.
  • Got to go to Kav’s spinning class with her on Monday. Good to do something a) with just Kav and I, b) exercise other than running, and c) do it with a group which definitely brings out my competitive side.

Lastly, check out what we’re up to now.

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Art

The side of the mountain

Here is some inspiration for a little morning brush pen drawing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this metaphor of the side of the mountain versus the top over the past week.

“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.” (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

This book was not the easiest read, but it keeps coming back to mind for me. I think I could re-read it another two or three times and still find new things within.

Another excerpt in the same categorey and from the same book that gets to the point more succinctly:

“The past cannot remember the past. The future can’t generate the future. The cutting edge of this instant right here and now is always nothing less than the totality of everything there is.” (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

Finally, the only recording I’ve re-listened a number of times on the subject of recognizing that the most important thing is right now:

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#62)

Visited another new place in Scotland and spent much of the week there:

Islay and Jura are two isles (islands) off the west coast of Scotland known for being remote, sparsely populated, wild, beautiful and full of some of the best whisky in the world. My Dad and I ventured out to find all of this to be very true indeed.


Favorite new music: The latest from Makaya McCraven, We’re New Again: A Reimagining has been a great companion to lunches and sketching.

The Chicago drummer and producer transforms Gil-Scott Heron’s final album into a masterpiece of dirty blues, spiritual jazz, and deep yearning.

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/gil-scott-heron-makaya-mccraven-were-new-again-a-reimagining-by-makaya-mccraven/


Quote that made me think:

Don’t allow your rituals to become ruts.

Todd Henry

George Leonard and The Power of the Mind: this reference came up from a previous book note, and I read the Esquire article that provided the seed for his later book, Mastery.

This frontier thinking has venerable roots, especially in the Eastern martial arts, all of which share a common faith in an energy source called ki in Japanese, ch’i in Chinese, pneuma in Greek, and prana in Sanskrit. In the ancient tradition, ki is the fundamental energy of the universe that connects and relates all things. By controlling the flow of this energy in one’s own body or projecting it toward external objects, the martial artist can supposedly achieve extraordinary powers. Legends abound of masters who can stop an opponent in his tracks from halfway across the room or even throw him head over heels. Karate practitioners generally claim that ki, even more than muscular strength, makes it possible for them to break bbards or concrete blocks.

Thus far, ki has proved difficult to measure, and skeptics tend to attribute its powers to suggestion, a sort of dynamic placebo effect. To the pragmatist, this distinction is unimportant. As a practitioner of aikido, an art in which ki plays an especially important role, I’ve generally found a strong correlation between my perception of personal ki and the power of my techniques. The idea of ki can offer the untrained person an effective way of gaining a sensation of increased energy along with relaxation, especially during times of fatigue and stress. Here’s an exercise designed to demonstrate the power that can come from visualizing ki.

https://classic.esquire.com/article/1988/5/1/the-power-of-the-mind

I didn’t know much about George Leonard and his book prior, but based on a brief scan of notes from James Clear’s blog, I plan to pick it up.


Sir William Osler and the power of work: Osler was one of the most important figures in the founding of modern medicine, and said the following in one of his books:

Let each hour of the day have its allotted duty, and cultivate that power of concentration which grows with its exercise, so that the attention neither flags nor wavers, but settles with bull-dog tenacity on the subject before you. Constant repetition makes a good habit fit easily in your mind, and by the end of the session you may have gained that most precious of all knowledge—the power of work.

From Cal Newport:

We don’t teach this any more.

Modern educational institutions care a lot about content: what theories we teach, what ideas students are exposed to, what skills they come away knowing. But we rarely address the more general question of how one transforms their mind into a tool well-honed for elite-level cognitive work.


Book excerpt that I loved:

Although the strategy of gaining happiness by working to get whatever it is we find ourselves wanting is obvious and has been used by most people throughout recorded history and across cultures, it has an important defect, as thoughtful people throughout recorded history and across cultures have realized: For each desire we fulfill in accordance with this strategy, a new desire will pop into our head to take its place. This means that no matter how hard we work to satisfy our desires, we will be no closer to satisfaction than if we had fulfilled none of them. We will, in other words, remain dissatisfied.” (William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life)


How to be perfect: A poem by Ron Padgett that’s got some brilliant advice and a subtle power. I’m adding it to my regular re-read list. Here’s just a small sampling (it’s much longer):

Look at that bird over there.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have expressed a desire to kill you.

Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.

Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it.

What is out (in) there?

HT to Austin Kleon

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57243/how-to-be-perfect


What made me grateful last week:

  • Re-discovering cribbage and playing cards. Can’t think of a better way to end a day.
  • Working from home meant more time with my Dad during his visit.
  • Doing blind self-portraits with Vivian:

Lastly, check out what we’re up to now.