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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.

Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#26)

Good way to think about apologies (and relating to others in general): I thought Seth Godin’s Defective apologies post was spot on and I think the model of Empathy -> Connection -> Trust is very simple and powerful.

Consider that an effective apology has a few elements to it:

1. You know what sort of apology you’re offering.

2. You share your story with the aggrieved as well as hearing their story, thus becoming human, and then taking the time to help them feel seen by you.

3. You engage with the person who was harmed and find out, beyond being seen, what would help them move forward, noting that it’s impossible to make complete amends.

Thinking about digital minimalism and parenting: I recently listened to a 10% happier podcast with Cal Newport (a lot of it was about his new book, Digital Minimalism). On a recommendation I also checked out his blog, which is fantastic, and this article on how The Arizona Cardinals Now Give Their Players Phone Breaks every 20-30 minutes during team events caught my eye.

Many concerned readers sent me this article, and with good reason. It’s an extreme case of a techno-philosophy that I facetiously call the kids these days mindset, in which parents, educators, bosses and (it now seems) coaches shrug their shoulders when confronted with the impacts of highly addictive technology on young people.

Yeah, we can’t just shrug…

Most coaches would never tolerate a habit that was clearly harming their players’ physical fitness, regardless of how popular it was in the general public. The same standards should hold for their players’ cognitive fitness.

The broader point here, however, is that these standards should also extend to less obvious applications of this mindset, such as when a teacher concedes to student demands to replace written book reports with YouTube videos, or a parent shrugs off a child’s Fortnite addiction.

Reinforcement for wanting to follow a creators path: Following the Cal Newport-tip above, I read this piece from the great Derek Sivers on How to change or build your career. In it he links to So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, which is going on my list along with Deep Work.

Looking for your passion, purpose, or calling is an example of the fixed mindset. You’re assuming that this is an inherent and unchanging thing inside of you, like trying to read your DNA or blood type. But you won’t find passion and purpose there, because that’s not where those feelings come from.

Passion and purpose are emotions that come after expertise and experience. The way to get them is to commit to the path of mastery, get great at something, and do great work.

A great career isn’t something you find — it’s something you earn when you’ve got rare and valuable skills to offer in return.

The new album from Flying Lotus is on point: This album has been my close companion for a bunch of work over the past week: Flying Lotus – Flamagra.
 

Favorite quote from the week:

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.

Herbert Spencer