Each year I choose a word or short phrase as a reminder. I use it as a talisman throughout the year. Some years I’ve chosen something to keep me mindful of a goal, and in other years something to keep me away from a pitfall or mistake I see that I’m too-often making. In the most recent years I’ve been choosing something aspirational; I’ve been choosing something which every day—even after 365 days—reminds me of where I want to be going.

You can also see how it might similarly interfere with your ability to change your beliefs in pursuit of the truth – it’s hard to let go of false beliefs when they feel true because you believe them. It’s hard to imagine things from perspectives that are not your own. It’s hard to accept that you are limited and fallible, prone to error.

This is where humility comes in.

~ Jen Cole Wright from,

For 2024 I’m choosing the word humility. There are lots of reasons why I think humility is a virtue. But I’m picking it because it feels difficult for me to aspire to being more humble. I have clear evidence (journaling for the win) that humility is a powerful antidote to my occasional fits of petulance. And, as an echo of Yoda‘s wisdom, putting a fine point on something I can improve, by making it my touchstone for 2024 is the way forward for me.

As we’re approaching the end of 2023 I’m sure you, Dear Reader, have already begun some self-reflection. I wish you peace and flourishing for the coming year and I look forward to our continued journey together. Cheers!


Still, choose today

Back at the start of January I mentioned, “Indeed. If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.” My touch phrase, “choose today” for 2023 continues to be a poignant reminder. I’ve now written it at the bottom of every journal entry this year, it often comes to mind in moments when I most need it, and it always reminds me of this:

Stick to what’s in front of you—idea, action, utterance. This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.

~ Marcus Aurelius


“If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.” is a direct quote of Epictetus. Aurelius was born shortly after Epictetus’s death. But Aurelius makes a point of thanking one of his teachers, Rusticus saying in part, “[…] And for introducing me to Epictetus’s lectures–and loaning me his own copy.”

Which leads me to the first thing “choose today” reminds me of each day: Knowledge, and in particular wisdom, are gained through others by seeking out those who have something you wish to learn. These people which I’m mentioning lived thousands of years ago. Others (in other traditions from other regions of the world in other centuries) have separately discovered these same ideas, which makes it clear to me that these ideas are worth considering.

The second thing “choose today” reminds me of is to be forward-looking. Certainly I want to observe and consider my past (and the past of others!) but I should be looking towards the future. If something feels urgent, then where exactly is that sense of urgency coming from, and is the urgency real? If something feels important— same questions. If something feels _insert_whatever_here_— same questions. And then, what can I choose today?


Choose today

In recent years I’ve been choosing a touch phrase. The phrases are reminders, intended to cue up a larger train of thought.

For 2023 the phrase is “Choose today”. It is inspired by two different quotes, both having withstood the test of time:

Stick to what’s in front of you—idea, action, utterance. This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.

~ Marcus Aurelius


…and one of my daily reflection prompts from Epictetus:

So is it possible to be altogether faultless? No, that is impractical; but it is possible to strive continuously not to commit faults. For we shall have cause to be satisfied if, by never relaxing our attention, we shall escape at least a few faults. But as it is, when you say, “I will begin to pay attention tomorrow,” you should know that what you are really saying is this: “I will be shameless, inopportune, abject today; it will be in the power of others to cause me distress; I will get angry, I will be envious today.” See how many evils you are permitting yourself. But if it is well for you to pay attention tomorrow, how much better would it be today? If it is to your advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today, so that you may be able to do the same again tomorrow, and not put it off once more, to the day after tomorrow.

~ Epictetus, 4.12.19-21

Indeed. If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.


Note to self

It never ceases to amaze me how strong is the sense of urgency to dive into doing things.

…but, oh, it is sooo nice to sit still, in the quiet, pre-dawn, with a bunch of cool, (in my opinion of course,) projects.

How cool would it be, if ever day I eliminated one thing? one app, one habit (or an addictive behavior rejected), one item of clothing, one responsibility, one random thing from the myriad of things…

Choose wisely.


2022’s touch-phrase shall be…

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I hope these emails aren’t piling up in your inbox. I know of at least one reader who really enjoys them. They enjoy them so much, they keep saving them for a better time to read them, and they now have a pile. That’s not what I meant to do to you; I’m so sorry!

Back on 3/3/2021, I changed this blog from going out as a daily email, to be a weekly email. One of the reasons was that I didn’t want my email piling up in your inbox. I don’t mean “waaaaaaaaa, you’re not reading!” I mean that I don’t want to be making your life worse. It doesn’t actually affect me whether you read in a timely fashion, read later, or not at all. But puh-LEASE think about this:

If you enjoy these emails so much, don’t you deserve to have a specific time that you can look forward to? Your favorite reading nook, a cup of tea (or rum or whatever)… you know: Make a little ritual out of it. If that ritual turns out to make your life better, then you can always remove my silly missives and slot in something actually worth reading. I digress.

Choose wisely.

Those of you who are regular readers will be aware that I’ve been thinkering on the touch-phrase for 2022. Coming out of the fourth turn, it looked briefly as if, Urgency?! might pull ahead in the final stretch to win by a, “U”. But it wasn’t to be; Choose Wisely was hard at it the whole way down the back stretch and simply had too demanding a lead for Urgency?! to overcome. And why did this turn into a horse race metaphor? They do sound like the name of race horses though. Choose Wisely takes up the mantel from a long lineage of winners: “No.” “Simplify” “Hell Yes! or no.” and “Festina Lente” (which is not an assessment of pasta’s done-ness) to name a few.

Hopefully—lest my life have no meaning—I’ve made you laugh, or think twice, in the past year. Seriously though, please consider hitting one of those supporter links at the tippy top. Every dollar really does matter and move me towards making a living doing things I enjoy.

In other news, I’ve hit the “Drop cap” button on that paragraph back there a ways. Why? No reason. Just always wanted to use it, just to see what it looks like in the emails.


Choose wisely

For this coming year I’ve been trying on a number of phrases. Selecting a yearly touch-phrase is a fairly new habit. The oldest one I’m aware of is from 2012, but I’ve not had one every year since 2012. Each chosen phrase has been in English, with last year’s being the sole exception. For 2022, I’m going to stick with English; The point of these phrases is to remind me of… something. I’m generally too clever by half, so keeping it simple is invariably the right choice for me.

In the recent weeks I’ve been letting my mind wander around, while keeping the thought that I’d like to find a good phrase for 2022. This is quite intentionally a way to shift my mental context, to adjust what I find salient. One pays attention to what one finds salient. In my recent wanderings, I found myself returned to a post about focus.

“Choose wisely,” indeed.


What shall 2022 be?

I’ve begun pondering what shall be 2022’s touchstone phrase, or word. 2021’s “festina lente” has served me well. I’ll miss it, but it’s been worn smooth after a year.

I was flipping through my notes. First my notes about previous years’ phrases, but then wandering through the slipbox. I wandered into the section audaciously labeled, Mastery Projects, and then swung a left into the aisle labeled, On Learning Itself. There’s a stack of slips in there, many of which are notes from a book. This captured quotation held my interest:

If writing is the medium of research and studying nothing else than research, then there is no reason not to work as if nothing else counts than writing.

~ Sönke Ahrens from, How to Take Smart Notes

Perhaps something chosen to remind me to write? …or why I want to write? “Seize the pen?” I feel I’m too far off in the weeds . . .

The next aisle is labeled, Fitness & Health and I swing in there. There’s a slip in there about one’s “first body” versus one’s “second body”, which I noted in 2017 based on a podcast with Jerzy Gregorek. That reminds of something else Gregorek said. I had to go elsewhere in the slipbox—via his name, and then into the huge section on Analects, to find his comments about, “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.

“Choices” then, perhaps?

cerne sapienter?