Eleven ways to really screw yourself up

Most things in life aren’t black and white. Overly dualistic thinking isn’t true to reality. Life is full of nuance. A goal can be worth pursuing even if it doesn’t garner the highest success; there are worthwhile things in both flawed people and flawed philosophies.

~ Brett McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/character/the-11-cognitive-distortions-that-are-making-you-a-miserable-sob/

I’m not even sure how to classify this article for you. It’s short enough that you can just go glance at it. You’ll either shrug it off as simplistic (or possibly even offensive), or you’ll find the list of common cognitive mistakes useful. My pull-quote is indicative of the mistake of “splitting” thinking explained, not of the article overall. This mistake was—is still?—my biggest problem.

On the topics of depression and cognitive mistakes, from personal experience I recommend as useful Stoicism in general, and the more modern, (than the one McKay is referencing in the article above,) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple. To be fair, David Burns, the author of the book McKay is summarizing, was instrumental in bringing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy into the mainstream.

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The Structurist

Sometimes I have a “thread of interest” that I simply know I will never have the time to do anything with. Instead of simply ̄\_(ツ)_/ ̄ing and letting it go, I’m sharing this here so I can feel like I did something with it.

The what now? Oh, this periodical…

https://artsandscience.usask.ca/structurist/

…but the links on that page itself are broken. More searching did lead me to find at least some issues in U Sask.’s online store. But they are not cheap. (If they were single-dollars-each, I might just buy them all.)

They are available on ABE Books…

https://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/structurist/

Open questions I had:

Does anyone within the sound of my voice have any issues?
Anyone have any commentary about the periodical at large?
Does anyone’s closest library have any of them?
Is anyone near the University of Saskatchewan?
…have a contact there?
…or any in-real-life means of getting more information?

And also, why aren’t the contents of these online? They seem to be culturally significant.

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Sapiens

About 70,000 or so years ago, our DNA showed a mutation (Harari claims we don’t know quite why) which allowed us to make a leap that no other species, human or otherwise, was able to make. We began to cooperate flexibly, in large groups, with an extremely complex and versatile language. If there is a secret to our success—and remember, success in nature is survival—It was that our brains developed to communicate.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2019/01/yuval-noah-harari-dominate-earth/

Sapiens by Y N Hurari has been on my to-read pile for ages. It’s currently aged its way to the no-seriously-I’m-not-kidding pile of books that are near my desk. The run-of-the-mill to-read pile is several bookcases that live in another room.

And the clock is ticking. The weeks—if one lives to 76, one gets 4,000 weeks—tick by and my collection of to-listen-to podcast episodes (I’ve given up; There are no shows that I subscribe to, pretending I’ll listen to every episode) and my to-read books continues to grow. I need to stop screwing around trying to do things and make a living, and instead get back to listening and reading. Chicken and egg problem, that is.

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Time and strength [are] limited

One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind. In order to read what is good one must make it a condition never to read what is bad; for life is short, and both time and strength limited.

~ Arthur Schopenhauer

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Footprints in the sand

When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. […] From all this it may be concluded that thoughts put down on paper are noth- ing more than footprints in the sand: one sees the road the man has taken, but in order to know what he saw on the way, one requires his eyes.

~ Arthur Schopenhauer

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How does one take notes…

…when the goal isn’t to end up with a pile of notes?

There are many scenarios where, over time, I do want to end up with a collection of notes. This is straight forward; start taking notes, and keep them somewhere. Bonus points if you review them, or use them as reference, or do anything with them.

But what if I have a scenario where I want to “do a better job” but I don’t care at all about the notes themselves. Suppose you have a regularly scheduled recurring meeting, but you don’t need a historical collection of notes. In fact, suppose you don’t actually need notes, but you think: It would be nice to know what we did last time, so we can follow-up next time.

And so I’m thinking this would be easy. I’ll just have a pile of notes (physical, digital, whatever) and I’ll go through them and … wait, what, actually? Recopy them? gag, that’s tedious. How many do I keep? How long do I keep the old ones? Here’s what I came up with…

I’m working in a single digital document. I have a heading, “Ongoing,” at the top that has the big things we currently have on our radar. The list has some dates with notes; “Oct 2020 — started that big project” and similar things.

Next I have a heading, “Jan 5, 2022” with the date of our next scheduled meeting. When that meeting arrives, I start by doing something very weird: I add “9876543210” on the line below the heading. Then I take simple bullet-point notes under that heading. “We discussed the foo bazzle widget needs defranishizing,” and similar items. Before our meeting ends, I add a heading for the date of the NEXT meeting, ABOVE this meeting’s heading. This pushes the heading and notes down the page a bit.

Then I continue reading. The heading just below this meeting’s, is the date of our last meeting. Just below the heading is “9876543210”, which I put there when we had that meeting. I delete the “9” from the front. I read my notes from the meeting. I may even edit them. Sometimes things that were obvious then, don’t seem so obvious a week later.

Then I continue reading. The next heading is the one from two meetings ago. Just below it is “876543210” — think about that, if it’s not obvious that last week, I read this part and already removed the “9”. So this week, I remove the “8.” Read the notes.

I work my way down each of the historical dates. Snipping a lead number, off the front of the line after each heading. 7. 6. 5. etc.

At the very end of the document, I find a heading that is from 11 meetings ago. Below the heading is “0” — because I’ve looked at these notes 9, 8, 7, 6, etc deleting a digit each time. These notes are now quite old. In fact, they should be irrelevant after 11 meetings. If they are not, I figure out what I have to add to “Ongoing” (the very topmost heading)… or perhaps I put a note under the coming meetings heading (just below “Ongoing”.)

It sounds wonky, but it’s magic. One digital document, you can skim the entire thing right in any of the meetings. You can search in the document. I can be sure I’m not forgetting things, but I can be sure I’m not making a huge collection of crap I’m never going to look at again.

Care to guess where that delete-a-digit each time comes from? It’s an idea from book printing. When they used to set type (physical lead type in trays) they would put “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10” (or other orderings of the numbers) in the cover plate. Then print the book. What printing? This one is “1” Next printing? …they’d just chip off the “1” and print “2 3 4 5…” in the book… second printing. They still print those weird sequences of digits in digitally printed books. I believe this one is a second edition, 3rd printing…

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Tribe of Mentors

Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentors was published in 2017, and arrived in my collection as a gift in 2018. It took me three years—until 2021, March of this year in fact—before I was finally ready to read it. I have a couple, (and “couple” always means two,) of things to say about the book.

Excellence is the next five minutes, improvement is the next five minutes, happiness is the next five minutes. This doesn’t mean you ingore planning. I encourage you to make ambitious plans. Just rememeber that the big-beyond-belief things are accomplished when you deconstruct them into the smallest possible pieces and focus on each “moment of impact,” one step at a time.

~ Tim Ferriss

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As I was reading, I marked about 50 quotes. I didn’t count the markers I inserted, and some of them are at sections with several quotes. There are quotes from the people in the book, there are quotes that Ferriss included in single-page, “quotes I’m pondering” section breaks, and there are precisely three quotes from Ferriss himself. (All three are here, in this post.)

The first thing I want to share about this book is that it’s not really Ferriss’s book. He didn’t write a book. The vast bulk is other people’s work and writing. Some of those people impressed me, some were “just” solid humans being their best, and some struck me as self-deluded; which makes it a superlative book. Where—let’s be honest—can one get insight on 100 different people and tuck it under your arm? Insight on people you’ve heard of, people you’ve not yet heard of, and even some people you’ll probably never care to hear of. Furthermore, having myself done a bunch of, “you’re just capturing what other people say,” work, I’m qualified to say: He did the deceptively difficult work of asking. He asked and followed up and nudged and organized (and indexed and cross-indexed) and cast light on people he thought were worth giving a platform.

To paraphrase Jim [Loehr]: The power broker in your life is the voice that no one ever hears. How well you revisit the tone and content of your private voice is what determines the quality of your life. It is the master storyteller, and the stories we tell ourselves are our reality. For instance, how do you speak to yourself when you make a mistake that upsets you? Would you speak that way to a dear freind when they’ve made a mistake? If not, you have work to do. Trust me, we all have work to do.

~ Tim Ferriss, but see also, https://tim.blog/2020/12/28/jim-loehr-2/

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Which brings me to the second thing: There’s a very slim section hiding at the back. If I noted its existence when I read the Table of Contents, (I always read Tables of Contents,) six months later I’d certinaly forgotten the section existed. I could very easily have put the book down most of the way through and completely missed it. If you read nothing else in the book, this last section is the part you should read. I checked and it’s not published as a blog post by Ferriss, (but it’s small enough it could be.) Borrow or buy the book if just to read the last section.

Based on everything I’ve seen, a simple recipe can work: Focus on what’s in front of you, design great days to create a great life, and try not to make the same mistake twice. That’s it. Stop hitting net balls and try something else, perhaps even the opposite. If you really want extra credit, try not to be a dick, and you’ll be a Voltron-level superstar.

~ Tim Ferriss

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If you’ve not already guessed, all three of those quotes from Ferriss are from the last section of the book.

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This is click bait

German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) influenced some of the more prominent minds in the world. His writings and lessons traverse time and discipline. Schopenhauer confronted similar problems with media to the ones we face.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2017/01/schopenhauer-dangers-clickbate/

The scale of Philosophy—just “western” Philosophy alone, even—is mind boggling. Who thought what, at which point in their career. Who influenced whom. Who’s work is now considered bunk, and which is bunk but still necessary to understand some other piece. What is in which language, and then which translation of that should one choose. If so-and-so had an influence on other-person, in what way? …did they build upon, tear down and correct, or push farther the influencer’s work?

At one point, I had deluded myself into attempting a systematic survey of Philosophy. ahahhahaahhaahahhaahahahahahhahaaa. Silly human.

But this small-ish article from Parrish led me to actually wonder about some of Schopenhauer’s essays. And I’ve ended up with an English translation of his On Reading and Books now sitting on my read-next table.

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Grunt work

It’s important to take time to think about what we’re reading and not merely assume the thoughts of the author. We need to digest, synthesize, and organize the thoughts of others if we are to understand. This is the grunt work of thinking. It’s how we acquire wisdom.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2015/08/schopenhauer-on-reading/

That’s a tiny taste from a delightful and sublime collection of thoughts on reading and books. Which will serve perfectly as an on-ramp to Schopenhauer’s actual essay, On Reading and Books. Which, furthermore, is even linked as a modern PDF from that same page. Wonders never cease.

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