📚 Reading without purpose, Revisiting history, Map the picture & Memory dividends
Plus a lot of fun finds to bring more cheer in the festive season
Hi & welcome to the post #138.
This is the last post for the year 2023. Current trends suggest that I should do a ‘rewind’ of sorts. But I’m too lazy for that, so I am going to try something different (and easier).
Over your journey with “Stay Curious” this year, If you liked, shared or saved any piece, please share it in a comment below & help others revisit it. If you can tell us “why did you like it?” as well, it will be like a cherry on the cake.
I will continue curating novel ideas like I have been doing for the last 137 weeks. Just one change for this week, I will focus more on fun & interesting things to keep up with the holiday spirit.
Sounds good? So why don’t you go first and comment away your best picks from the last year.
And then, enjoy the best finds of this week from the pile below.
1. Without Purpose
Christopher Nolan reads without purpose. Somewhere this newsletter has a similar spirit, there is a lot of wandering, exploration and some chance discoveries. Maybe I will find a ‘purpose’ in the process. Maybe.
I think one of the most important, and difficult, challenges of work — if not of life in general — is striking a balance between focusing your attention on what’s right in front of you and remaining open to new possibilities. I also think it becomes pretty easy, especially as we get settled in routines, to let the oppenness1 part of that balance slip silently away.
2. Lessons Worth Borrowing
Sam Altman’s what I wish someone had told me. Nothing fancy, all grounded in the very basic notions of life’s lessons.
Cohesive teams, the right combination of calmness and urgency, and unreasonable commitment are how things get finished. Long-term orientation is in short supply; try not to worry about what people think in the short term, which will get easier over time.
3. Revisiting History with Empire
I recently added ‘history’ to the set of areas where I want to explore more. Empire podcast with William Dalrymple and Anita Anand has been a good starting point. I am listening to the first season covering the period & events of the British empire in India. We studied a ‘version’ of Indian history in the school curriculum. We did not learn the history, but just memorized (and vomited in our answer sheets) some dates & names, places & events.
Listening to this podcast now has helped add some context to some of those details. There is so much that shaped our country and who we are, and we’re hardly aware of it.
I am intrigued by two specific things that I had not known much before I heard them on this podcast:
Contribution and role played by Marwadi and Jain bankers (also known collectively as Jagat Seths) in helping East Indian Company spread their empire in India
That European mercenaries played an important role throughout. Conquests of Maratha, Tipu’s, Sikh armies as well as most notable improvement in our warfare were had direct impact of the outsiders who brought with them the modern ways of fighting war.
4. The Barnum effect
The Barnum effect is our tendency to apply personal meaning to statements that could apply to many people. Sketchplanations does a fairly good job of explaining it using examples from P. T. Barnum (now of The Greatest Showman fame)’s original experiment around this idea.
Here’s the sketchplanation’s take:
It’s sort of the reason things like horoscopes work (for those who believe in them). There are also debates around if tastes like Myers-Briggs Test operate in the same zone. I cannot comment on those, though.
5. Map The Picture
Nigel Poor suggests indulging in the verbal photograph: remember an important moment in your life and write about it “as if [you] were describing a photographic image.”
Rob Walker’s post has a lot of goodness towards the end, check it out for some “random fun discoveries”.
6. Fascinating World of Flavour & Seasoning Makers
If you love your potato chips, then read on. Guardian shares a long piece on the weird, secretive world of crisp flavours.
This, incidentally, is why Walkers launched Thai Sweet Chilli Sensations in the UK in 2002. “That tipping point into the mainstream is very important for picking a big flavour,” Wade says. Crisp launches can act as a rough timeline of travel and immigration trends – only four Thai restaurants opened in the UK in the 1970s, but by 2003, there were 446. Today, Thai Sweet Chilli is one of the best-selling Walkers flavours in the UK.
7. Why is art made?
Spencer Greenberg talks of four reasons art is made and how they shape the art world.
Well, since most of the money in art comes from very wealthy people who are trying to signal status (to others, but also, sometimes to themselves), this warps the art market (especially what gets attention). For instance, it appears to have a really negative influence on what is shown in some galleries and museums (showing art that is about what it signals about the owner and viewer rather than art that is about the artist, beauty, or the emotion it creates in the viewer).
8. Memory dividends
Hatta Getaway tells us more about the Cost of Traveling Around the World for a Year. Don’t expect any dollar value in the answers, it goes much deeper and valuable. The following snippet may give a hint or two.
In Die with Zero by Bill Perkins, the author introduces the concept of “memory dividends” to reshape our perspective on wealth and life. Perkins suggests trading money for experiences that generate lasting and cherished memories, especially when those experiences cannot be fully enjoyed at a later point in life. Perkins advocates for investing in a portfolio of these moments, while striving to die with zero in the bank and, more importantly, zero regrets.
9. Cognitive biases inverted
Cognitive biases are actually superpowers. George Mack takes a dig on cognitive biases to see the brighter side.
10. Everything else
That's all for this week, folks!
I hope I've earned the privilege of your time.
Please leave a comment or send a message with your feedback. It’s highly helpful & encouraging. If that’s too much of an effort (or not required), at least hit the ❤️ at the start or end of the post to show your love.