To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as if nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary, when we are playful with one another, we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence, for seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcomes of open possibility. To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for unlimited possibility.

~ James Carse


Seek to learn

Embracing a growth mindset means to get pleasure out of changing for the better (inward rewarding) instead of getting pleasure in being praised (outward rewarding.) […] to seek as many opportunities to learn as possible is the most reliable long-term growth strategy.

~ Sönke Ahrens from, How to Take Smart Notes

Ahrens of course discusses, and gives credit where credit is due, to Carol Dweck’s ideas. (See Dweck’s, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.) Her comment about “reliable long-term growth strategy” struck me as insightful. Her use of, “most reliable,” is an understatement. What other strategy would even be reliable?

If I want to grow, I need to learn. If I want to learn, I need to maximize those opportunities.



Spacing effect

This is where the spacing effect comes in. It’s a wildly useful phenomenon: we are better able to recall information and concepts if we learn them in multiple, spread-out sessions. We can leverage this effect by using spaced repetition to slowly learn almost anything.

~ Shane Parrish from,

It’s funny how ideas percolate in the brain. This article and another one, (back on the 29th, which is further down in this weekly email,) passed through my radar within a couple of weeks. (I can tell because my general digital reading pile is a FIFO queue.) They were read a few times, but again in relative closeness in time. And they both ended up making the cut to be blog posts.



Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; Indeed they create our courage and wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems, just as in school we deliberately set problems for our children to solve. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.

~ Scott Peck


Side quests

I [generally] hate the Internet. I wanted to start this post with a reference to a little children’s TV skit I saw many (many) moons ago, on Sesame Street or maybe it was the Muppets… about a guy named Henry with a bucket with a hole who tried to fix it based on another character’s—named Liza—ministrations, but which eventually lead him to need the hole-y, original bucket to haul water to complete the bucket-repair process. If you’re not yet grabbing your head, try reading: “There a hole in my bucket. Dear Liza. Dear Liza.” Fortunately, Wikipedia, and a pile of YouTube clips I managed to not watch, have me covered. Long live the Internet!

“Holey-bucket-fixing” is a long chain of tasks which turn out to be circularly dependent. Obviously, I don’t realize it’s holey-bucket-fixing at the start of the side quest. I start off on some simple problem. To do A, I need B. To do B, I need C. To do C, I need… A? Where’s the Tylenol?!

But sometimes, I start off on some simple problem and it goes very well. As in . . .

Your merry band enters the dimly lit inn, glad to find shelter from the stormy night. The rogue among you sticks to the shadows to the left, the dwarf angles right, (in both senses of the word,) towards the bar, and the elf-archer, with the balance of the band in tow, strides for a long table against the doorless, far wall. The dwarf orders the first round of whatever-it-is-they-serve-around-these-parts, and the bartender strikes up a conversation. “Haven’t seen you folks around before. You look like you might be up for an adventure.” If you want to go on an adventure, turn to page 42. If you just want this idiot to shut up so you can drink your whatever-it-is-they-serve-around-these-parts in peace, continue reading.

And so, with a hole in my bucket, or a simple question in mind, or—challenge-loving dwarf-at-the-bar that I play so well—just too curious for my own good… I almost always turn to page 42.


Lifelong learning

Your education shouldn’t end when your schooling does. If you want to get an edge in life, you must be constantly learning, not coasting along on what you already know. Lifelong learning requires the ability to reflect on your mistakes, a lot of reading, and testing what you know.

~ Shane Parrish


Lifelong learning

Your education shouldn’t end when your schooling does. If you want to get an edge in life, you must be constantly learning, not coasting along on what you already know. Lifelong learning requires the ability to reflect on your mistakes, a lot of reading, and testing what you know.

~ Shane Parrish


That quote from, , is one of the too-rare times when, upon reading something, I want to leap to my feet knocking my chair over behind me while shouting, “Hear! Hear!”

It’s true that there is some learning which I prefer to observe, rather than directly experience. In such cases “conceptual” learning, rather than experiential learning, is just fine by me. (eg, )

In general however, ain’t nothing finer than reading something, making a new connection, writing a blog post about that… or spending weeks figuring out how to bend some javascript-DOM-AJAX thing to do what I want… digging in the innards of an automobile to make a new stereo-unit work… digesting some tome from the anti-library… running a year-plus experiment just to see what happens… just generally being all like, “I’m wondering . . .” And then find out where that curiosity leads.

What’ve you been up to in the learning department lately?



Because they can only show scenes, …

~ Ryan Holiday from,

Check the following against your experience: Except for sleep, or fits of unconsciousness, my life is a perfectly seamless and continuous experience. It has no montages, elisions of time, “jump cuts,” nor cross fades. I’ve never experienced a rerun of any moment; every moment is the next moment found directly after that moment that was now, but is now just past.

From my point of view, every other person… every book… every movie… every image painting film story… I experience those in one, compressed form or another. I catch up with a friend over lunch; I get two weeks of their experience compressed into a thirty-second story. Rocky goes from zero to hero in a two-minute (I’m guessing) montage. That person experiences an entire year; I experience their birthday dinner.

Everything out there is a small scene from some real experience. Is it any wonder it’s difficult to understand?



So does experience really make you an expert? What does it actually mean to be one? It turns out, we don’t learn from experience in many contexts.

~ From

You’re really good—an expert even one might say—at many things. But being really good at something… Having a lot of experience doing that something… Does that make you an expert? I think those things are not sufficient. To be an expert one must also explicitly understand the principles underlying the activity. I’m very good at sitting on chairs—but I’ve never studied chairs; their design, their mechanical structure, their aesthetics. I’m not expert.