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#38 Most events in life can be categorised in one of two ways: a good time, or a good story.
Words of wisdom from Paul Graham, Scott Belsky and four unlikely friends
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”
…The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about…
This parable from David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech to the graduating class at Kenyon College is just the starting morsel of wisdom that was dished out that day. You can find the whole transcript here.
Life teaches us a lot of lessons. Just keep your mind open and let your curiosity do the magic.
When you look at the lives of people who've done great work, you see a consistent pattern. They often begin with a bus ticket collector's obsessive interest in something that would have seemed pointless to most of their contemporaries.
In “the bus ticket theory of genius,” Paul Graham posits how to do great work. He takes clues from the life and methods of genius to build on his recipe of genius – “to have a disinterested obsession with something that matters.”
A good read, if you are in the mood to go deep on any subject & build your ‘expertise’.
In The Messy Middle, Scott Belsky talks about “Insecurity work”. Here’s the snippet from the book on this (highlights are mine)
Over the years, I have come to recognize the amount of time I spend checking things: Daily sales data, website traffic trends, what people are saying on Twitter, analytics for our customers, team progress on projects, the list goes on. For you, it might be diving into a spreadsheet to manipulate budget numbers or scanning through your unanswered emails again and again. When you're anxious about your business, there is no easier quick-relief antidote than checking things. The problem is that you could spend all day checking things and fail to do anything to change things.
I call it insecurity work- stuff that you do that has
1. no intended outcome,
2. does not move the ball forward in any way, and
3. is quick enough that you can do it unconsciously multiple times a day.
Insecurity work puts you at ease, but it doesn't actually get anything done.
The antidote is a combination of awareness, self-discipline, and delegation. Whether it is Googling the same search terms again and again or constantly checking your in-box as if it were a boiling pot of water, you need to identify these behaviors to then change them. When you spend 30 minutes going down a rabbit hole to answer a particular question, be sure to ask yourself, "Why is this question important and how is the answer actionable?" If the answer is just self-assuring but not actionable, it is likely insecurity work.
Once you've identified your insecurity work, establish some guidelines and rituals for yourself. For example, you could allow yourself a period at the end of every day, say 30 minutes, where you let yourself go through the list of things you're curious about. Put all of your mosquito bites in one place and allow yourself the pleasure of scratching them all at once.
The purpose of reducing the hours you spend on insecurity work is to free up your mind, energy, and time for generating and taking action on new ideas instead of checking in on old ones.
Jargons aside, he has pointed to a very specific issue that I’ve been facing for a long time. I get obsessed with emails & WhatsApp. I take pride in quick revert and inbox zero. As I look back, this obsession has not helped me except for some misplaced sense of happiness & pride. I’ve to get rid of this bad habit. I’ve some starting tips (like the one above).
If there are any others, please do pass them along.
The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse is a collection of life lessons, written as a simple conversation between a tiny boy and his wise friends. The illustrations and simplicity of the whole narration make it special. I get fresh energy and a smile every time I read this book. Buy the hardcover and keep it. For yourself and your loved ones (especially the little ones). A good read of this book will be the cheapest therapy session you can gift yourself.
Will: And what does winning look like to you?
Mac: Reclaiming the Fourth Estate. Reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession. A nightly newscast that informs a debate worthy of a great nation. Civility, respect, and a return to what’s important. The death of bitchiness, the death of gossip and voyeurism. Speaking truth to stupid. No demographic sweet spot. A place where we all come together. We’re coming to a tipping point. I know you know that. There’s gonna be a huge conversation. Is government an instrument of good or is it every man for himself? Is there something bigger we want to reach for or is self- interest our basic resting pulse? You and I have a chance to be among the few people who can frame that debate.
This is one of my favourite moments from S01E01 of The Newsroom. This episode is titled “We just decided to”. I love this media drama from Aaron Sarkin. Will McAvoy & his whole crew portray a sense of “doing the right thing.” And that makes this show an inspiring watch for me; every time. I wish this series had run long, would have been a great watch.
I must admit, I am attracted to characters & shows that celebrate the sense of righteousness and standing up for the truth. Alan Shore with all his wits and flaws is another such character (and the reason I love Boston Legal).
Any other series/character that you can recommend on these lines?
Some random goodness from the internet:
Instagram: Korean artist Lee Sangsoo (@artsangsoo) uses colourful metal strips to make beautiful animal sculptures. They are like “drawings in the air”.
Twitter thread: This one is from Twitter. Yes, the brand, the company Twitter. The campaign says - “if you can dream it, Tweet it”. Inspiring stuff, for sure.
Twitter thread: Trung Phan (@TrungTPhan) picked a few slides from Netflix’s famous culture deck. It outlines Netflix’s approach to managing people in creative industries (eg. media, tech) while scaling fast.
Short reads: Pursuing a life you like (even the topmost job in the country did not give that satisfaction to Taft), The night I met Einstein (a brilliant lesson in curiosity & learning), How to Major in Unicorn (secrets from the Stanford life that only those in Stanford knew till now).
Long read: I must thank Prof. Chinmay & Fiftytwo.in for this piece. Kamla - the woman behind my alma mater IIMA (or WIMWI as we fondly call it).
Before we sign off, here's a snapshot of a message worth noting.
That's all for this week, folks!
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