Tough acts!

How I assemble 7 for Sunday varies. This week, I had the three quotes selected, and three of the other pieces chosen and written… and I was left staring at this spot between a quote from Asimov and a quote from Kelly; Tough acts to follow or precede. I racked my brains over this. I felt I should be able to find a joke a la Asimov, which also illuminated a shortcoming of my own… this is the best I could come up with:

Four years ago, when I left for college, I thought my father was the dumbest ape to ever walk the planet. Upon my return I couldn’t believe how much he’d learned!

Why slow learning? We live in an age of information overload, ever-accelerating technologies, and split-second learning. Citizens, learners, and workers today are required to continuously reskill, upskill, and newskill to keep up with this new pace. 

~ Tom Hodgkinson et al from,

Granted, the joke is weak. As a consolation prize, I’ve included that wonderful project for your consideration.


Irrelevant in all circumstances

I waffled on my title. I started a draft with the current title, which is simply item #7 plucked from Housel’s post. Later, I misread it as “Irreverant…” and, even after noticing my speling error, still thought myself clever; “Haha, yes, I am irreverant in all circumstances.” Which my mind then toggled back to “irrelevant” and, “Yes, I am probably also irrelevant in all circumstances.” Ouch.

The firehose makes it easy to mirror the poor Oxford boy: since information is free and ubiquitous but adding context has a mental price, the path of least resistance is to know facts without a clue where they go or whether they’re useful.

~ Morgan Housel from,

And no, it’s not at all a diss on [a]social media. It’s a terrific little post listing different kinds of information. I’d love to be a source of a large amount of #2 and #4. But if I’m being honest, I’m more a source of #5. …and #7, I definitely generate a lot of that. Maybe even some of #8—but only in the, “oh my gawd, no! Spit that out!” sort of way.


Just, hard

I spend large amounts of time just thinking. That’s not so terrible, all things considered since there’s lots of actively anti-useful stuff I could be doing.

People have different personalities, goals, experiences, and levels of chance and serendipity, all of which make universal truths hard to find and difficult to teach. No matter how smart the world becomes, the best answer will always be, “You’ve got to figure it out for yourself.”

A lot of things work like that. Some of the most important topics are the hardest to teach, and real world experience is the only school.

~ Morgan Housel from,

There are certain traps for my mind. One insidious example is when I notice I’ve been doing prolonged thinking. …and then I start thinking about how I was thinking about whatever-it-was. …and might there be some underlying principle or knowledge that I don’t understand? …and maybe I should read more about that? …and maybe I should seek out others who know more about that?

Sometimes, I can manage to shake myself out of that. But usually, I have to simply lean into it for another hour, sometimes even the rest of the day (or week!) “Okay, I’m hung-up on this” and I have to try to go all in. After a real attempt at figuring it out, when I can apprehend just how bonkers-complex it would be, my mind simply let’s go of it.


Ya big softie

Maybe I’m just a big sentimental softie, but I bet if you peer deep into your past, you don’t see a list of names, dates, and places. Instead, I bet you get a hodgepodge of images and events, and I bet that some of the details are hazy or mixed up, like who was there, what they were wearing, or whether it happened when you were six or when you were eight. But I bet the feelings are clear. You’re probably not confused about whether you felt proud or afraid, welcomed or rejected. And I bet that although you could describe these memories to me—a golden-hued day at the zoo, the last fight your parents had before they got divorced—the words would leave a lot out. To really get me to understand, you’d need to hook your brain up to mine, Avatar-style, so I could feel what you felt.

~ Adam Mastroianni from,

Mastroianni’s article is about learning. In particular, how and why and when we forget, and what might we try to do about that fact. I go through cycles of grasping at trying to remember, and leaning into the forgetting. At the end, I expect I’ll forget everything. (Just sayin’.)

My life improves when I realize that my happiness is relative to where I set my sights. If my goal is to remember as much as possible, I’m going to fall short and be disappointed. If my goal is to be pleasantly surprised when I’m reminded of things (experiences, ideas from others, and my own ideas) which I had already discovered, then that suggests a different course of action. Rather than strain to hold on to everything, I try to release everything from within my mind, and try arrange the world around me to bring me joy.



In some fields our knowledge and discoveries are seamlessly passed down across generations. In others, it’s fleeting. Knowledge in some fields is cumulative. In other fields it’s cyclical (at best).

There are occasional periods when society learns that debt can be dangerous, greed backfires, and more money won’t solve all your problems. But it quickly forgets and moves on. Again and again. Generation after generation.

I think there are a few reasons this happens, and what it means we have to accept.

~ Morgan Housel from,

I spend significant time worrying about how to learn from all the experiences I have. Worrying, of course, is not good. When I stop and honestly assess however, I realize that I do a really good job closing loops and bringing what I’ve learned forward into my ongoing work and life.

And then I read pieces like this. If humanity keeps making these cyclical reset-lurches, forgetting hard-won and important lessons, does that bode well for my ability to keep learning and improving? Or is the problem the inter-personal, or inter-generational learning?



Elusive of casual definition

We feel something, and reach out for the nearest phrase or hum with which to communicate, but which fails to do justice to what has induced us to do so. We hear Beethoven’s Ninth and hum poum, poum, poum, we see the pyramids at Giza and go, “that’s nice.” These sounds are asked to account for an experience, but their poverty prevents either us or our interlocutors from really understanding what we have lived through. We stay on the outside of our impressions, as if staring at them through a frosted window, superficially related to them, yet estranged from whatever has eluded casual definition.

~ Alain De Botton



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.