It’s about sleep

The general sentiment here is that everyone else is sleeping so you’re not missing out on something important and you can spend time taking care of yourself, which generally leads to a positive impact on your productivity throughout the day.

~ Farnam Street from,

The reason successful people are found doing their important work in the morning—working out, reading, writing, … whatever it is that is important to them—is because it’s right after when they have rested.

I’ll repeat: Sleep is the most important thing. Good sleep. Learn about sleep. Your life is already arranged around sleep, although you may wrongly think you’re consciously in control—you’re not… your body is in control. Fix your sleep.

Then use the time just after resting—that’s probably “morning”—to do what you want to actually get done. All the things that you think interrupt you from doing your real work? …you’re enabling that, and you can change that too.


The last lecture

The Last Lecture is a summary of all Pausch had learned and all he wanted to pass along to his children. The lecture, entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” wasn’t about dying rather just the opposite. It was about dreams, moments and overcoming obstacles because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think.”

~ Farnam Street from,

Perhaps you’ve already heard of this book? I had not. Tidy little article from Farnam Street makes me want to run—not walk—out and buy this book.

On the other hand: I really have a problem with books. There’s already a few hundred in the anti-library. My wishlist of books contains 410— err, correction, 411 books.

This is such a delightful problem, yes?


Second order effects

In short, stop optimizing for today or tomorrow and start playing the long game. That means being less efficient in the short term but more effective in the long term. [… I]f you play the long game you stop optimizing and start thinking ahead to the second-order consequences of your decisions.

~ Farnam Street from,

Fundamentally, we humans and our lives are not mathematically tidy.

Aside: I had a math course once—I can’t even remember the material—and the professor said, “it’s a very subtle point that mathematics should model and predict reality.” …or something to that effect. It was mind-bending; but math is part of reality so why wouldn’t reality model itself? *smoke-emits-from-my-ears* The scene, the room, the lighting, everything are burned into my brain.

Heuristics are always and in all cases true but sort of false, because they are imperfect. But the purpose of heuristics is to enable us to wrap our meager brains around the vastly complicated universe. Maths, as in compound interest, exponential growth, 1/r^2 forces, and Fourier transformations, provide models of reality. The comment about second order consequences challenges us to dig deeper into our heuristics, (which are otherwise known more generally as “models.”)

I’ve said this before, here on the blog and out loud: Have you intentionally created the models you have of the world?



Cognitive load matters. Mullainathan and Shafir believe that scarcity imposes a similar mental tax, impairing our ability to perform well, and exercise self-control.

~ Farnam Street from,

Short of food: starving. Short of water: dehydration. Short of money: in debt. Short of time: over-committed. Short of attention: distracted, mindless. But also, short of outlets for creativity? Short of satisfaction? Short of peace? Short of meaning?



The main difference between innovators and the rest of us is that innovators ask more and better questions “and they are more driven to find answers and embrace them, even if the answers are first not what they wanted or expected to find,” Lang writes. “They have less in common with Einstein, frankly, than with young children.”

~ Farnam Street,

It’s common to talk about, (write about, read about,) how questions are the key to pretty much everything. But, I agree with this article. It’s not just about the questions, it’s about the curiosity, drive, tenacity, and possession to find answers to the questions. What makes someone an innovator, a rising star, is their ability—or if they’re really exceptional, their affliction of being unable to stop searching for the answers—to dig and dig and dig and learn and learn and learn. For innovators, all the hard work is front-loaded while the part that looks like the innovation is simply the obvious last step.



Philosophers became insignificant when philosophy became a separate academic discipline, distinct from science and history and literature and religion.

~ From

Which is worth sharing just because it’s Freeman Dyson—I’m quoting a quote—in all his zany glory.

…but also, yeah. Why isn’t STEM today thought of as a branch of philosophy, (“love of truth” after all)? STEM degrees remain Ph.D.s, but beyond that vestigially appendix . . .



In an increasingly interconnected world, finding focus and enabling time to do work is becoming harder and harder. Demands are outstripping our capacity at an alarming rate. It’s time to start thinking about how we work.

~ From

It’s not “time,” it’s far past time. But the key point of the article, (which is itself simply a pull-quote hyper-summary of a book I’ve not read,) is:

Personal responsibility.

That’s it. That’s the magic sauce. Where I’ve found success has only ever been where I took personal responsibility. And I’ve chosen my language carefully in that sentence. There are places where I took personal responsibility and still did not find success; in some cases I’ve found outright failure. But in absolutely no case was I ever successful without taking personal responsibility.


Gaming the System

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

~ From

A long time ago, a social studies teacher had been giving the same multiple-choice, high school, final exam, every year, for [as I recall the story] decades. The catch was two-fold: First, each year he cut the exam into strips separating each question. Yes, by hand, with scissors. He then shuffled the strips, scotch taped them onto a new sheet which did have sequential numbers on it already, and then ran it through the mimeograph machine. There was no way to create a “cheat sheet” for this exam based on previous years (even if we could have gotten a previous test.) Second, the test was insanely long; hundreds and hundreds of questions long. In fact, it was—intentionally—impossibly long.

When he graded the exams, he noted the total number of questions each student attempted. To be clear: He’d note the number of the last question you answered. So if one skipped around, you’re doomed since you definitely get wrong, the ones you didn’t even try to answer. So the incentive is to start at the beginning and just work straight through; recall, they’re totally shuffled. He then computed the average number attempted, and that average was used as the total possible points on the test. If you scored above the possible points (unlikely, but possible,) the points got added to your semester’s total points. (So if you score +2 on the final, the first extra point, brought up your 9/10 quiz score to 10/10. That second extra point brought a homework up from 5/7 to 6/7.)

Have you spotted how you game this system?

Bonus question: I regret what we did, (there were 3 of us.) But, can you tell me why I regret it?


The Honeybee Conjecture

More than 2,000 years ago, Marcus Terentius Varro, a roman citizen, proposed an answer, which ever since has been called “The Honeybee Conjecture.” He thought that if we better understood, there would be an elegant reason for what we see. “The Honeybee Conjecture” is an example of mathematics unlocking a mystery of nature.

~ From

Every once in a while, you will have the chance to be alive when a multi-thousand-year old mystery is solved. Humans are awesome. Mathematics for the win. *drops mic*