L O G S
Fishing my fleeting thoughts for ideas worth writing
November 3 A litmus test for whether you're learning from a piece of media: "Would I ever want to read this information as a transcript?" If the answer is "No, never," then you're being entertained, not educated.
'If You Don't Like the Weather, Wait Five Minutes'
In Iceland, there’s this saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” It’s a joke about the severe and volatile climate of the island-nation, and it’s a philosophy that propels its people. Even in the deep dark of winter, where ice covers everything and you see the sun for twelve hour per week, wait five minutes and you might see the Aurora Borealis. In the summer, when you trek into the countryside to camp or resolve to climb that mountain on your bucket list, you’d better do it before the weather changes, before a storm banks the corner five minutes from now.
There should be a second part of the saying that goes, “If you like the weather, pray for it to stay.” In Iceland, every square foot of blue sky is a gift. And when you’re living outside, like I was, the weather can have a pretty big impact on your days. I can tell you from experience that the saying is not always true. Sometimes, the bad weather sticks around for more than five minutes. Sometimes, you hike all day in the rain, and pitch your tent in it, and wake up to the sound of it.
But regardless of whether this saying is an accurate whether forecast, it’s still a useful mindset. It’s a form of faith. Even when the weather is bad and not getting better, you can find comfort in the idea that it might be better in just five minutes, and it’s not a lie. The could always change in the next five minutes. And believing that is enough to get you through the bad stuff before it’s better.
When you stop worrying about the future and embrace the idea of “this too shall pass,” you can sink into the present moment and fully absorb your surroundings (elevate your experience). The majesty of Nature and the chaos of her weatherly whims makes you feel 1) small and 2) grateful.
That feeling is my favorite feeling in life; you feel small on the scale of the Universe and ultimately significant on the scale of your self.
November 1 Aimlessness is one of the unique privileges of human consciousness. We may look at animals and envy their simple, anxiety-free lives; we may want to inhabit a head that isn't flooded with worries about the future and insecurities of the present. But animals lack the ability to be aimless. Every subtle movement is spurred on by some bodily function for survival.
As humans, we understand what's required for survival and can grant ourselves time and space where we don't have to worry about it. We have the privilege of spending time being aimless, yet we fail to indulge in that pleasure — one of the most blissful and creatively generative practices one can have.
[[Ideas Come from Aimlessness]]
One of the greatest highs of life comes from being on the edge of understanding with a eager partner in an organic conversation. Those moments are beautiful and exciting for both their rarity and their impact.
Rather than as pure speculation, read this essay as fiction, as if it were written by a young man reflecting on death in a world where the afterlife is confirmed to be one long dream...
Films and plays are perfect dreams from the collective conscience. Video games induce lucid dreams for one's waking conscience.
I hate the Screen-Time limits on iOS. They're so performative; they're barely hiding the fact they want you to stay on your phone, to keep scrolling. That's not directly Apple's incentive, but it's how they appeal to developers. To appeal to customers, Apple acts like this is a lifestyle feature to help you manage your time. But with no more effort than it takes to dismiss a pop-up ad that interrupts your algorithm-fed, short-form video, you can extend your screen time for 15 minutes or ignore your self-imposed limits for the whole day with a single (color-incentivized!) click.
I could be the John Muir of Iceland.
"The Bare Necessities" is not only an all-time pun but a rich philosophical discussion of what we can learn from how animals are in Nature. The bear lives like a bear — eats and sleeps and floats on the river according to the whims of his body and Nature. And every moment, he is only focused on the present, as all animals are. He has no anxieties about the past or future. The bear has all the carelessness of an animal yet the human faculty of gratitude, enough to marvel at the abundance of life and educate man on how to adopt his perspective.
By the grace of some deity (or elf), that French family pulled up in their van in a storm only minutes after the Polish women had dropped me off in the cold, wet, foggy, rocky overpass. I was 15 miles from anywhere, or — as it turned out — a warm, 10-minute van ride that dropped me off an hour early for the last ferry of the day.
[[Feeling Fire and Ice]]
October 31 The return key on a keyboard is a 1:1 map from the mechanics of a typewriter, but it doesn't quite work for how we write today. Why do I have to hit "return" twice every time I start a new paragraph, just as I have to hit the lever twice on a mechanical typewriter? You only use line breaks for lists and poems; the rest of the time, you want a paragraph break, not a line break. So, why isn't that the default function of the "return" key?
(There's the exception of printed and indented prose. But that could just be a toggle setting in any word processor: Are you writing a novel or an email? For most people, paragraphs breaks will do.)
October 30 There's something about this longing for rest that we have in busy times, or after a work day. But with enough leisure time available, you long to do more than just relax. You long to learn and grow.
Just think of anyone in the pandemic who started off relieved for being granted a clean break from their busy lives, only to be sent into a spiral of boredom that they had to climb out of. Most people took to new hobbies and filled their time with learning and conversing and contributing to their communities.
The same happened to me in Iceland. When I first got there — more than anything — I was relieved to have no obligations. I took pleasure in exploring aimlessly, reading and writing and bathing in the city's pools. When I left Reykjavik and started hiking, I would talk or sing to myself and even play with a fidget toy to pass the time. But after a certain amount of complete leisurely freedom, I started walking in silence and only uttering words to the strangers I met and the friends and family I called. I rarely watched any videos and never scrolled social media. My leisure time was spent journaling about my experiences or reading to learn new ideas and to study great writing.
When life is busy, I can play video games every day and justify it as relaxation. But if my calendar is empty, I can only play video games for so many days before I can no longer justify it, before I start using my free time to do things that are more meaningful to me.
October 28 The best reason to play sports as a kid: You learn to be coachable, to invite and implement feedback.
The Origin of Idioms
Most idioms are just more memorable, rhythmic ways of saying common things.
- "Fought tooth and nail" x "Bit and scratched"
Once the phrase becomes remembered, it takes on a figurative layer, beyond the literal meaning of the word in the phrase.
The most impactful lesson that I've learned in life (and one of the easiest to forget): Success is a feeling.
We tend to measure success in life by the size of your house, the prestige of your job or university, the tics off your bucket list, or the number of plates you can bench. But when we measure success by material metrics, we always want more. There is no limit to how much money you could have, how much weight you could bench, or how big your house could be. When we measure success by material metrics, we forget that success is a feeling. More than any of those quantifiable things, success is measured by the calm of your mind in the morning, your sense of purpose at work, and how well you sleep at night.
October 27 Why do adults have to become parents before they give themselves permission to play at the playground?
Great editorial feedback improves the writer's craft, not just their draft.
October 26 A heterosexual man is so deluded that, based on the number of samples he gets from the good-looking dermatologist Dr. woman, he will convince himself thereafter in his memory that their conversation had a hint of sexual tension — rather than the reality that she had been friendly and attentive to him because he was her patient, not because of how he looked with his shirt off.
That good-looking woman cared for me, he thinks, forgetting/ignoring that the good-looking woman was a doctor.
She gave me a bag overflowing with samples of moisturizers, and it wasn't because of the severity of my rash or her office's abundance of lotions; it was because she was into me.
There's nothing ugly about being human, so don't hide what's shared among us: sex, dreams, sex-dreams, etc.
It's no secret that modern media incentivizes sensational clips and soundbites.
October 23On Hannah Arendt's active vs. contemplative life:
The contemplative and active phases of life feed each other, like inhaling and exhaling. Both are necessary, in a recurring sequence, and the alternative is pain.
October 22 Highly neurotic people operate as if the worst possible outcome is the most likely.
October 20 Social media is a game show. Every user competes for attention and the fame and fortune that follows, strung out on an endless drip of likes, perpetually dissatisfied for their ever-increasing appetites.
Every work of fiction is a fantasy. That's why it's worth reading.
October 19 Use a colon to attach one or more fragments. Use a semicolon to connect one or more sentences.
October 18 The faith required for morality: I am capable of discerning right from wrong, and I have a duty to uphold what I deem to be just.
Take pride in being illegible.
How to handle desire: Avoid all distractions, but not all pleasures. Align your desires with your values.
Give your vision integrity, give your word value by manifesting them in action.
Recalling a dream is like fishing into your subconscious. There's no way to know what's down there, but as you recall and your dream, you reveal an entire organism that was obscured by the depths.
The more you practice dream-recall, the longer your line gets, and the better your lure. You'll catch bigger fish and see them in greater detail.
[[Dreams as an Aesthetic Experience]]
Local and Timeless Knowledge
You can think of knowledge along a 2-D matrix, with the axes being Time and Space. There is local or global knowledge, timely and timeless knowledge. Depending on what you care about, how you live, and what you do for work, only one of the four quadrants of knowledge will be most relevant to you.
I want to live in a way where I prioritize local and timeless knowledge, where that is the type of knowledge most relevant to my life. I don't want to care about the world's problems, only my problems and those of my friends, family, and commute -- local knowledge. I don't want tog follow stock-market news and watch sports, only universal accounts of history and timeless works of fiction and philosophy — timeless knowledge.
The problem: modern media trends toward timely, global knowledge.
October 10 A maxim is a heuristic for action, an aphorism a tool for thought.
Aphorisms help you discover what is true. Maxims help you decide what to do.
A maxim is a heuristic for action, an aphorism a vehicle for thought.
October 9 Some of my favorite moments are when I'm misunderstood. They prove that I can't be put in a box, that my essence exceeds definition.
October 8 Touch grass, kick ass (in that order).
Can I remain detached from worldly outcomes while still achieving in the world?
If you don't resolve your insecurities, they will rule your life.
There are two ways people avoid insecurities:
- Guilt — internalized, fragile, non-confrontational
- Blame — aggressive, dismissive, disagreeable
The antidote to both guilt and blame is radical self-honesty, -responsibility, -reliance. Know yourself and your insecurities and work to correct them.
October 7 The best thing you can do for the world is to become the best version of yourself.
Everything else follows from a concerted effort in that pursuit.
Subjects at Rest
Cultivate a practice of stillness, where you — the subject — sit on the banks and observe the endless Stream of Subjectivity: the happenings of your experience (thoughts, emotions, ideas).
October 5 In logical writing, truth is explicit. In lyrical writing, truth is felt. Meta writing is about how to best communicate truth through language.
Change is the only certainty. To be certain of anything else is to be in denial of change.
— — Change is the only certainty. Being certain of anything else is merely a failure to accept change.
— — The only certainty in life is change. Certainty of anything else is merely a failure to accept change.
Pass no judgement, give only feedback.
— — Level no judgement, give only feedback.
Give unsolicited praise and criticism upon request.
Fun reading is memorable writing.
Success comes from repeated failure, direction from many missteps, and great ideas from strings of duds. If you want fertile soil, mix in manure.
October 4 My little-league baseball coach repeated this maxim every practice and printed it on t-shirts:
Feedback is a gift.
It might be the greatest lesson I learned from playing sports. The more receptive you are to feedback, the more you'll learn and the better you'll perform.
— — The greatest lesson I learned from sports was how to be coachable. The more receptive you are to feedback, the more you learn and the better you perform.
My Little League ball coach printed this maxim on a shirt and repeated it every practice:
Feedback is a gift.
— — On my Little League baseball team, we had three rules:
- Respect the game.
- No excuses.
- Feedback is a gift.
The third one really stuck with me. It taught me how to be coachable, which is one of the greatest lessons I learned from sports. The more coachable you are, the better you'll perform.
An aphorism is like a folded map you can put in your pocket.
— — Aphorisms are like acorns, if acorns could immediately unfold into great oaks. (An acorn in your hand, an oak in your head)
Don't read into things. Read behind things.
Instead of dreaming up ideas and implications that don't exist, take in the context of what someone is saying.
October 3 Only drafts can haunt you. Publish an idea to bury it. You can always resurrect it.
October 2 "Bad luck" is often caused by a lack of focus. When you have inertia directed away from yourself or out of the present moment, you miss things, lose balance, or misspeak.
Imagine your keys are loose in your pocket while you're working out. You lay down to do glute bridges or an ab exercise, and your keys fall out. But you don't notice because your headphones are in. That's the last set of your workout, and you leave the gym without noticing your keys are missing.
The distraction didn't cause a dire error. When you get to the car and notice your keys are missing, you go back into the gym to find them. Distraction isn't ruinous, but it's inconvenient and breeds anxiety.
September 29 Online writing has killed the art of the paragraph. Popular writers of old thought in the unit of the paragraph. Popular writers of today think in the unit of phrases, fragments: headlines, hooks, memes.
Instead of using paragraph breaks to separate ideas, we've started using them for emphasis, like bold or italic font. When we don't want the modern, short-attention-span reader to miss something, we put that thing in its own paragraph.
What you lose with this is the integrity and structure of a good paragraph. It's analogous to a three-act narrative:
- What you want them to know
- Why you know it
- How you've proven it / why it matters.
Within any good paragraph is an inciting incident, some conflict, and a resolution. There are expectations, stakes, and a pay-off. The pay-off doesn't land if it's separated from the narrative by a paragraph break.
No play has an intermission between acts two and three.
September 28 I live in a place where you need to be a multi-millionaire to own a house with a garage.
September 27 Setting your thermostat is like placing a limit order.
- The current temperature is the current price.
- Buying is setting the AC to "Cool" and setting the target temperature below the current temperature.
- Selling is turning the furnace on and setting the target temperature above the current temperature.
September 22 Why I should care more about birthdays: For every person, each birthday is like beating death in the Super Bowl. Another year you and I live is another victory for the human race over the cold indifference and disruptive entropy of the Universe.
September 20 Sacrifice is a vice.
Einstein and Oppenheimer made similar accomplishments and contributions to the world. But since the Theory of Relativity hasn't killed anybody, we see Einstein more favorably.
If those moments cease to be, it won't be a tragedy if all the moments that have been were as good as they could be.
Attune Your Taste
In this new paradigm of independent publishing, there are no more gatekeepers.
Everyone is free to share whatever they want with the whole world. But what we’ve lost with the gatekeepers are editorial standards.
Now, you and me — the consumers —must be the arbiters of quality.
You need to believe in God to think that life is worth living? Have you looked outside? (You must've never gone for a hike at sunrise.)
September 17 If you want to be radically different, radical things must first become normal to you.
- Sitting in boredom
- Lingering in awkward silence without breaking eye contact
- Sharing how you actually feel and what you actually think.
Yes, these things are radical.
September 16 Dogma is the antidote to (the pain of) truth/reality, (and it comes at the cost of intellectual honesty).
Be an intellectual nomad; don't dwell in dogma.
— — Reality, by nature, is in flux. And for that very fact, any immutable belief is further from the truth than one that is malleable.
September 15 You have too many tabs open if you go to click one and accidentally click the 'X' to close it. This happens to me every weekday.
In a media landscape without gatekeepers, you must be the arbiter of quality.
— — In a world without gatekeepers, you must be the arbiter of quality.
— — (Curate the content you consume –– as if you were the editor of a major publication.)
(Edit your own work, and only consume information with high editorial standards.)
September 14 Too often, progress comes at the price of stillness and gratitude.
In pursuit of progress, we pick up our pace, and we start moving so fast that we don't enjoy the process and lose sight of how far we've come.
Ideally, we would always make progress but at a sustainable pace — slow enough that we never lose sight of where we are right now.
[[Defining Success and Managing Expectations]]
September 12 To become a better writer, spend more time editing. Your editing will make you a better writer, and you can spend less time editing (for an equivalent quality).
An unwritten thought has no weight in the world, but a written thought can tilt the world.
September 10 Just as a task will fill the time allotted for it, leisure time balloons to fill the time between tasks. If you want it done, schedule time to do it.
Editing is an entirely separate skill from writing. And the best way to become a better writer is to develop the skill of self-editing.
We humans have these infinite concepts of what could be, yet we are stuck in the finite concrete of reality.
Example of reciprocity: When you're done playing pool, re-rack the balls for the next players.
(Also: Refilling the Brita water jug)
September 9 On of these days, I will die. Until then, I will live.
September 8 In the course of my life, I will spend hours contemplating suicide, so that I don't consider it for a second.
— — In the course of my life, I will spend hours contemplating suicide, but I won't consider it for a second.
— — In the course of my life, I will spend hours contemplating suicide, so that I won't consider it for a second.
— — In my life, contemplate suicide for hours but never consider it for a second.
"Evergreen" isn't even an evergreen term. It's a product of the age of content and the attention economy. I no longer want to write evergreen essays. I want to write timeless essays.
September 7 When giving feedback, be provocative, not prescriptive.
As an editor, don't impose your vision for the piece. Instead, ask questions that provoke and reveal the writer's vision. Only make statements about:
- How you understood the piece and your main take-away
- How it made you feel
- What you would like to see expanded, added, or omitted.
These are provocative statements. If you are tempted to make a prescriptive statement, phrase it as a question instead.
September 6 If ever you have the chance to compliment or support someone with actions rather than words, do it.
- Don't send your condolences; show up at the funeral.
- Tell her she's pretty in the midst of prolonged eye contact.
- Invite an old friend over for a meal.
Before you ask someone a question, ask yourself how you could make that question unique. Do you want a conversation to be predictable or revelatory? That all depends on what questions you ask.
September 1 If you take the goal of democracy to be perfectly fair representation for all people and equal opportunity without exception, then we are failing. But if you reframe the aim of democracy as avoiding authoritarianism, we are wildly successful.
August 29 Don't give it any credit. It isn't doing shit. All it's doing is reading and rewording what humans have written.
AI is not thinking; it's strategically regurgitating.
Conservatives think that progress comes from the movements of the free market. Liberals think that progress comes from policy.
They're both right. Social progress comes primarily from policy, then implicitly from economic freedom and access to quality education. Material progress comes primarily from the free market and can be accelerated by stimulus policy.
[[The liberal asks what's possible. The conservative asks what's practical. Without the one, we'd stick to the status quo, and without the other, we'd have no idea where to go.]]
August 27 A man so domesticated that the dog trains him
August 25 Your first draft generates a bunch of potentially related ideas — like a pile of building blocks on the floor.
During revision, you sift through those ideas and make them click together like Lego bricks.
Morality Requires Faith
There is a faith required to live a moral life, but not a faith in God. To have a sound morality, you must have the following faith: "I have the necessary faculties to discern right from wrong, and I have the duty to uphold in the world what I deem to be just."
August 21 Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do the things at which you are great, not those you were never made for.”
My revision: "Do the things at which you are great, not those for which you were never made."
- Parallel structure
- Not ending with prepositions
- Emphasizing the right elements/phrases at the beginning and end of the sentence.
Match the rigor of your writing to your reader's stamina. At the start of an essay or book chapter, don't lead with an easy, fluffy anecdote. While your reader is fresh, lead with a challenging concept, an intriguing question, or your thesis.
(It's like doing your hardest lift at the start of your workout.)
Then, make a four-course meal out of that initial idea. And don't forget to serve dessert.
August 17 The dark side of gratitude is complacency. The dark side of ambition is dissatisfaction.
By hoping, you are subordinating the present to the future. Why hope for something better? What could be better than this?!
The only life-affirming manifestation of hope is faith in the unbounded potential of the present moment. Hope that what you are doing will lead to good things, but don't hope for good things to come.
August 16 You were made to be misunderstood. (We contain multitudes.)
Your first draft maps out the road. Revision paves the road (for others).
— — Your first draft is a dirt road. Through Revision, you pave the road and make it accessible to others.
— — Your first draft is a gravel road. Revision paves the road and makes your ideas accessible to others.
August 15 Writers, think of yourself like a park ranger who’s building a hiking trail. You don’t hold the hiker’s hand as they go, but you do give them a clear path to follow on their own — so that they don’t get lost.
Claims and Evidence
When writing essays, you can generally think of there being two types of ideas: claims and evidence.
If you want your argument to be cohesive and clear, your reader must know — for each idea — whether it is a new claim or evidence for a claim.
If you want your argument to be convincing, your reader must agree that each of your claims have sufficient evidence.
— — When writing essays, you can generally think of you having two types of ideas: claims and evidence for your claims. If you want your argument to be cohesive and clear, your reader must know, for each idea, whether it is a claim or evidence.
It's unnatural to be unchanging.
There are two valid reasons to compare yourself to others:
- To find gratitude in your situation by comparing your hardships to others'
- And to reassure yourself of your character and morality by comparing your worst deeds others'.
Of course, in the latter case, you risk justifying your wrong doings. And in the former case, you risk gaslighting yourself. But what you risk in these exercises you gain even more for the gratitude and self-esteem they bring.
Keep your comparisons tame, but don't dismiss them as wholly unproductive or unhealthy.
August 14 There is a certain feeling I get when I have copied something but haven't pasted it – may be a block of text or a webpage URL.
That is an open loop. The feeling you get when that loop is open, when you have copied but not yet pasted, is what you want to avoid. The more time you spend in that headspace of open loops, the less time you spend in the headspace of thinking about the always-open circle.
Open loops are unsolved problems. The open circle represents the open and unanswerable questions of life. There are solutions to every problem in the world, but there are not answers for every question in your head.
[[Closed Loops and an Open Circle]]
Group Discussion Framework
When you chime into a group discussion, you're either building on or branching from what has been said. If you are doing neither, that's called a monologue.
August 12 Inbox zero? Why? That means that anyone with your email can add a task to your to-do list.
A Logical Argument for a Dream-Like Afterlife
- There is no perceptual difference between the waking state and the dreaming state (in non-lucid dreams).
- In a dream, you identify only with yourself, even though the world you're experiencing is a world you're simultaneously creating.
- You can have dreams within a dream.
- You recognize that you are dreaming when you come out of a dream, not when you drift into it.
- There is no way for you to prove that the entire physical, waking world does not exist purely in your imagination, like a dream.
- When you die in a dream (or right before you die), you wake up.
Therefore: Death could be the event that shakes us awake from our parent dream and reveals that we are not a single snowflake in a blizzard but the entire storm, the sea, and the stars.
August 9 Relationships are meant to supplement your individuality, not supplant it.
Perfectionism is pathological. It’s the compulsion to chase an illusion: perfect.
I dream because I am human. I am human because I dream.
August 8 Sometimes characters in film aren't people. Sometimes, the main character is a concept or setting.
Christopher Nolan does this with entropy, time, and dreams in :
- Interstellar and Memento
James Cameron does this with Pandora in Avatar.
Even when these movies have too much exposition, a weak plot, or shallow character development, they still work because they're depicting things that can only be represented in the cinema.
A movie isn't just a script. It's a movie.
— — The direct contrast to this is Quinten Tarantino. His movies are scripts firsts, then films.
August 4Oppenheimer Intro
I cried within the first 30 seconds of Oppenheimer.
The opening scene is a close-up of the fiery blaze of a detonated atomic bomb. Before the scene cuts to Killian Murphy's Oppenheimer, two lines of text show up on screen.
They're written in black, and you can only see them for their contrast agains the red and orange flames erupting in the background:
Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. / For this he was chained to a rock and tortured for eternity.
[[Oppenheimer convinced me that we will kill ourselves.]]
August 3 The spring and fall are pivotal moments in the past:
- "Spring has sprung."
- "The leaves have fallen."
The summer energizes the present:
- "Summer is here!"
- "School is out for summer!"
- "Have a great summer!"
The winter looms large in the future:
- "Winter is coming."
- "I can't wait for snow!"
- "The groundhog saw his shadow; it will be a long winter."
When you treat life as a series of seasons, success becomes synonymous with progress, and your main goal becomes the following: gracefully transition between this phase and the next.
[[Defining Success and Managing Expectations]]
August 2 "Season" is from the Latin root serere meaning "to sow."
A season is not a stagnant phase of time or a style of nature. "Season" is a verb. It means to plant new seeds so that they may grow — to sow.
Invite the change of the seasons in your life because transitioning to new seasons is the only way to avoid stagnation.
(Don't wait for the solstice.) Like Mother Nature, invite new seasons when you need them, and sow [now] what you want to grow.
[[Make like Nature and grow. Invite change and uncertainty so that you're open to serendipity.]]
Make like Nature and grow. Invite change and uncertainty so that you're open to serendipity.
Am I the only one who is completely uninterested in learning how to talk to a computer? Why would I read about how to prompt chat GPT when I can read a book by a human that is a 300-page distillation of their best thinking and their area of expertise?
Why would I spend time learning how to communicate with a computer when there's still so much I have to learn how to communicate better with humans?
August 1 If you want your message to be remembered, edit it for meter as much as for meaning.
— — If you want your message to be memorable, edit for meter as much as for meaning.
— — If you want your message to be memorable, edit its meter as much as its meaning.
— — If you want your language to be memorable, edit for meter, not just for meaning.
Liberalism is not the party of tolerance; conservatism is not the party of bigotry. Conservatism is not the party of reason; liberalism is not the party of impulse. Liberalism is not the party of progress; conservatism is not the party of tradition.
Most people are tolerant, reasonable, and want to progress with respect to our long-held traditions. Liberalism and conservatism are parties of very similar people who too often forget their common ground.
Liberalism is the party of possibility. Conservatism is the party of practicality. Without the one, we'd stick to the status quo, and without the other, we'd have no idea where to go.
[[The liberal asks what's possible. The conservative asks what's practical. Without the one, we'd stick to the status quo, and without the other, we'd have no idea where to go.]]
Every time I go through customs in a foreign country, I get tripped up. They ask, "Where are you coming from?" Recently, the right answer has been New Jersey. But, my natural, instinctual response is, "Kansas City." No matter my destination, my point of origin is always the same — because I'm a Kansas-City native.
Weddings evangelize the religion of marriage.
July 31 Stereotypes are not truths. But they are tools.
July 30 When you're consoling/supporting someone, share your experiences, not your opinions — and never accusations.
[[My three rules for effective facilitation:]]
Extending the Icelandic saying:
"If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." If you like the weather, pray.
[[Feeling Fire and Ice]]
I write to clarify my thinking, to discover what I believe.
There is a Goldilocks zone of clarity required for me to write about an idea. If I'm too clear on it, I have no motivation to write about it — because I've always learned what I need. If the idea isn't clear enough, I need to think about it more before I write.
The trick is to write while I'm still in the Goldilocks zone, so that other people can benefit from my learning process.
July 29 Capitalism only works when money is merely a metric of value and a means to many ends.
Capitalism fails when money becomes the object of value — when it becomes an end.
[[Stop measuring success. Start feeling success.]]
The best writing — whether fiction or nonfiction — is like a Russian nesting doll. There is a clear, coherent image at every level of granularity. (And each smaller layer unpacks and composes the largest idea.)
I have faith but no religion, self-awareness but so salvation.
July 28 Think of "revision" etymologically — as a prefix and a root: re•vision.
Revision means revisiting what you've written and looking at in full, to see if the full thing should be different in some way. Revision is structural. It's an arial view — the forest, not the trees or the leaves.
— — There are three levels of editing, each one with a narrower scope than the rest:
- Revision = "Structural Edits"
- Edit = "Line Edit"
- Proof = "Proofread"
Closed Loops and an Open Circle
There is a solution to every problem in the world. Yet, for the most important questions in your head, there are no answers.
Strangers aren't strange. Deep-sea creatures, hairless cats, mycelia, and Mars are strange. Strangers are human.
[[Experiment: Micro-Dose Discomfort]]
— — The creatures at the bottom of the ocean are strange.
July 26 There is no best way to go, but there is a worst way: to follow.
The shortest path to greener grass is to tend to your lawn.
[[The quickest path to greener grass is to tend to your lawn.]]
The ultimate sense of security it so feel at home within yourself — even when you are abroad, in uncomfortable, unfamiliar territory. Self-assurance and autonomy are that feeling: I am always at home.
July 25 Stop measuring success. Start feeling success.
[[Defining Success and Managing Expectations]]
More than creatures of habit, we are creatures of expectation.
[[Defining Success and Managing Expectations]]
Success is never absolute; it is always measured relative to our expectations.
- Public companies guide down their earnings so that their stock doesn't jump down off of their latest quarterly report.
[[Defining Success and Managing Expectations]]
July 19 Before BitCoin, we already had a cryptocurrency. It was social media accounts, where "followers" and "likes" made up the metadata and the social graph was the blockchain.
If you could trade Twitter accounts on the NYSE, it'd be equivalent to trading crypto: for both, there is no underlying asset to determine value. For BitCoin and for Twitter accounts, their value rests solely on the public's perception of their value.
July 17 Once you have a big enough archive, you need to start curating yourself. If what you're writing is evergreen, then send people to it year-round, year after year.
You can't expect someone to stumble into and scroll through your archives. Craft a compelling reason for why it's worth reading now, and send that out. May your archives be read, not just this week's newsletter.
July 16 The heart holds your darlings. The head hunts them.
When I delude myself, I elude my Self.
Not all "great people" lead great lives.
That's what we lose when we get lost in the weeds of perceived gender inequalities. Behind nearly every great man is a great mother. We get caught up on the wrong metrics — money, fame, notoriety. Maybe all the mothers want is to be great mothers. Maybe they don't want to compete with the "great men" who spend their lives chasing accolades and missing birthdays.
I happily embrace the feminine energy of an inscrutable legacy. I don't need credit for the great things I do. I don't care whether I'm remembered. The only thing I care about is becoming the best possible version of myself, while doing right by everyone I interact with along the way.
Make me the moon, so that I can cuddle with the ocean and make waves that kiss the shore. Don't let me become the Sun, which sits so distant and apathetic. I want to offer more to the world than the energy from my fusion run-off.
I have no kinship with the men who seek a stone-etched legacy. Strip me of money, fame, and notoriety; leave me with a sense clarity, sound relationships, and meaning. I would die happy.
Three (overly simplified) rules for effective facilitation:
- Be the first to share.
- Ask thoughtful questions that are provocative but not prescriptive or accusatory.
- Otherwise, shut up and listen.
— — My three rules for effective facilitation:
- Be the first to share (to share something real).
- Ask thoughtful follow-ups that keep the conversation on course.
- Otherwise, shut up.
July 14 Mortality is the source of meaning and morality in life.
What we do only matters because we are aware that we will die, and we only have an interest in doing what is right because 1) we don't want to endure the consequences of immoral actions, with our finite time; and 2) we don't want to harm others, who also have finite time.
If we were immortal, nothing would matter, and nothing would be immoral, because every moment would be a baptism, beginning an entirely new, infinite lifetime.
July 13 A rock balance is so grounding and brings you so close to nature. You're using the raw components that've emerged from years of natural processes to create something that only humans could possibly create. It's human order against the canvas of nature's order, or her chaos.
A rock balance by a river is like if Michelangelo's David stood in a marble quarry.
July 12 The moon is so much closer to us than the sun — literally and figuratively. When you watch and listen to the tide come in, that's the moon hugging the ocean, kissing the shore.
[[The Moon Is a Woman]]
July 11Essence and Ornaments
The essence (of a sentence or paragraph) is the core meaning/information/message.
Ornaments improve the reader experience and help them feel and relate to what you're saying. But with too many ornaments, you risk muddying the meaning.
July 9 You wonder why Canada is economically subordinate to the U.S. Then, you stand beneath skyscrapers that say in big letters "TD Ameritrade," "CBIC," and "[American Bank]" and jaywalk while 50 Toronto natives wait at the crosswalk for another two minutes watching two total cars go by.
If you're not willing to jaywalk on across an empty street, you may not have what it takes to be an economic world power.
Recalling a dream is no different than recalling a waking experience from memory. They feel like the same mental operation — the details just as clear, the feelings just as pronounced.
That means failing to remember your dream is like failing to recall an experience in waking life. You can multiply your memory, the breadth of your experience by recalling your dreams. While their events have no impact on the world, the contents of dream-memories can prompt insights as well as any waking memory.
July 8 We rise and fall to the level of our expectations.
(We rise and fall to meet expectations.)
July 6 All the worst parts of capitalism are due not to it but to consumerism. If we didn't value shit at a premium and saw shit for what it is, then our lives wouldn't be so governed by whats on store shelves, billboards, and Super Bowl ads.
I'm a free-market democracy, the consumer has complete power, the final say. If you don't like what you see, don't buy it.
July 4 Line edit by sifting the essence from the ornaments.
A pice of art does not have a theme in it. The piece of art is of the theme. Like crop circles, the art's commentary on the theme is revealed only as a whole, from an arial view.
(Explore the difference between symbols (the concrete, the crops), motifs (repeated patterns in the crop circle), and theme (a statement of the whole piece of art about a known concept).
Don't use a full stops after fragments, or at least use them sparingly. Please.
Would you rather stick your reader in bumper-to-bumper traffic ahead of the Holland tunnel, forcing them to stop and read your ad-copy fragment billboards that line the turnpike? Fast wifi. Best cheese. Breast reductions covered by insurance. Or, would you rather set your reader loose on the freeway, coming off cruise control to change lanes and only ever stopping to turn off at scenic viewpoints?
There is this 2-mile stretch of black sand beach on the northern coast of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, which jets out from the western side of Iceland. It's more of a place in time than in space — a place in memory. If I couldn't remember the feeling of my feet going numb, I would mistake it in my mind for a dream.
- Perched in the clear horizon: the portal to the center of the Earth
July 3 Nothing you write will be right the first time. Every first draft is disposable.
Yet every one is essential.
To deal with the depths, live with clarity.
To achieve breadth, live with congruence.
To deal with the darkness, live with detachment (acceptance).
June 29 Do you want your name in big, bold letters on the desk in a corporate corner office? Or would you rather have the world as your office?
Ref: "Chasing Prestige" (David Perell)
When giving feedback, don't pick apart the whole essay; pick a part, and help the writer improve the essay in one meaningful, memorable way.
June 28 Addiction puts blinders on you, like a horse. When the object of our desire is attainable, everything else fades to black, and we start sprinting, ever-faster, on the same circular track. Yet, there is no finish line. The only way it ends is if you are debilitated, depleted by the thing you're after: more and more of the same.
June 26 I study philosophy because it applies to all other areas of study and to every part of life (politics, business, leadership, psychology, relationships, and fitness to name a few).
PhD means "Doctorate of Philosophy." The highest level of study in any field is to understand and contribute to the philosophy of the field itself, to expand the field to new territory and develop a comprehensive map of it in your head. A PhD in philosophy, then is a meta-study. You are expanding the field of knowledge about what we can know and how we know it.
If philosophy were a three-legged stool, it would stand on these unanswerable questions:
- What is just? (Ethics)
- What is true? (Epistemology)
- What is real? (Metaphysics)
— — OR
- What is it that I ought to do? (Ethics)
- What can I know to be true? (Epistemology)
- What is the nature of (my)reality? (Metaphysics)
June 25 Mindfulness is a prerequisite for freedom, stillness a prerequisite for creativity.
Both mindfulness and stillness are modes of awareness. Unaware in action, you are coerced by causes and effects, not free. Unaware in thought, you are blind to your own insights, not creative.
June 24 Forget about developing IP. Focus on developing the 'I.' Your IP can be bought and sold, but your 'I' is an intangible, immeasurable asset.
(The 'I' is yourself, your intellect, your identify — verbally, introspection.)
Any book on writing will warn you about adverbs. They're low on the part-of-speech hierarchy because they rarely add meaning.
But that doesn't mean you can't use them well. Here's @BennyCarts with an admirable use of an adverb:
"Step back from the role you play and take in the fact that you’re a mobile meat sack provisionally containing infinity." (Benny Carts, The Art of Not Writing a Goddamn Thing)
June 23 What is this slippery, modern world robbing from you? Is there a grippy, analog tool that could change the outcome?
June 22 Stop worrying about packaging and presentation. Focus on quality for an infinite time horizon, and approach perfection. People will notice, and those who don't notice will hear about you from the people who do.
You can grow not from virality but from renowned quality and word-of-mouth credibility.
The quickest path to greener grass is to tend to your lawn.
Do you have a favorite pun?
My undisputed champion is "The Bare Necessities."
June 21 I saw a sign in Hiawatha, Kansas. It said "freedom hospice." Freedom for whom? I ask. Is it that the family will be free from caring for their elderly? Is it that the dying will soon be free from this world and ascend to His Kingdom? Or did that just not give the name much thought?
June 20 To quote another American transcendentalist, "we contain multitudes." That means, we are great insomuch as our scale and scope is incomprehensible, inexhaustible. We have, within each of us, such a breath and death that make us ineffable.
June 18 There are two types of individualism: the selfish and the responsible.
Selfish individualism: "I can do everything myself."
Responsible individualism: "I should take care is myself."
(East Coast vs. Midwest)
Don’t write to please. Don’t write to meet a perceived demand. Just focus on creating something you’re proud of and on writing well. Audiences form around quality and authenticity — and the only way to guarantee those is to write for yourself, to write something you would like to read.
(From a Daily Email that I wrote with Sherry)
June 14 Recalling a dream is like reading a printed page from the back side, holding it up to the light of day and reversing the backwards words.
June 13 The writer is not just an artist. He is also an editor, which is antithetical to art; editing is analytical. Yet, editing is necessary to make great art and to make a living as a writer.
June 12 Maintain the mystery. Without it, life ceases to be.
Mindset shift: It's not an unpublished idea; it's a pre-published idea. (Or, it's a dud that will help me dig up my next one.)
June 10 Every shit is a story. They all have a three-act structure — whether it's diarrhea or a no-wipe wonder.
- Sprint/stroll/skip to the throne
- Enjoy or endure
- Flush, relieved and resolved
Everyone says that the book is better than the movie, but most of that is because your experience with the book is uniquely yours — more so than the movie.
(You create the world in your head or you watch it unfold on screen. Both can be well-told stories, but only the book will be a story you helped create.)
June 8 Line editing (sometimes copyediting) is an in-depth review and can require multiple rounds of revision and feedback, and can cover everything from paragraph order to punctuation. A proofread is the final polish of a piece before it goes out the door, which doesn't require any revisions from the author — just minor corrections.
(There's also developmental editing.)
June 7 If before I go to sleep tonight, I can let go of today, then maybe I'll be able to let go of life when I go to die.
June 6 You're not dancing if your hands are below your waist.
June 5 It is not immoral to park illegally. It is illegal. The immoral thing would be to shirk the responsibility of the consequences from parking illegally.
June 2 What is the chance of us being able to witness a full eclipse? Doesn't that mean that the moon has to be the same multiple closer to us than the Sun is larger than the moon?
Online creators amass a following in one of two main ways:
- They grind through a prolific period, where they publish as much as possible, that propels them in front of the eyes of the world. (David Perell's YouTube and Podcast, Casey Neistat's vlogs, Stavros Halkias's crowd-work sets)
- They create enough and well enough that someone (or many people) with a considerable audience recommends them, and then they retain that audience by following a publishing schedule (Van Neistat).
Electronics rely on intangible energy, like the chemical potential energy stored in batteries. But analog devices rely on kinetic energy. They have mechanisms that must be activated, and you have the ability, the force to activate them.
Take a typewriter. Every key is a lever, and every time you hit a key, a metal bar swings up and stamps a single letter through an ink ribbon onto a sheet of paper. As long as the mechanisms are intact, you bring the energy. You can convert the food you eat, the water you drink, and the sleep you get, into words, paragraphs typed with a 90-year-old machine. In 90 years, where will your iPhone be? Who will be using to create art, to express themselves, to deepen their connection with themselves.
Imagine a life where we weren't feathered to our devices and outlets by the chords of our chargers and Ethernet cables. Imagine a life where you could use the energy within your body to perpetually use any device you needed.
May 31 Modern media is a carousel. You either ride it up and down, round and round, like a child. Or you sit across the way and watch it spin, but only when you look up from a page of a well-written book.
May 29 The best restaurants specialize in one meal of the day. The most successful restaurants are open all-day long. The most sustainable restaurants offer two meals: either lunch and dinner or breakfast and lunch.
Decide whether you want to be a super successful specialist or not as successful but with more talents, interests, and time. But you do, don't serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Moon Is a Woman
The moon is undoubtedly feminine, the Sun masculine.
The Sun gets all the credit and sits at the very center of our solar system, but the moon... she is the one who cares for us, comforts us. She is tidally locked, always facing us, always aware of how we are and what we need. She orbits us, while the Sun sits — distant, idle, and apathetic — and gives us his fusion run-off.
It is around the Sun that we physically revolve, but it is by lunar cycles that we emotionally flow. The moon is Earth's companion.
— — Notes
- Waves crashing on the shore
- Guiding explorers across the land at night
- Denoting the passage of time, beyond the time of day
- Mother Earth and the moon are like a mother and a grandmother, respectfully
- The moon is mysterious: we only ever see one side of her. The Sun concealed himself by putting off a blinding light, but within a year, he is on display from every angle.
May 28 Look deeply into a human eye and tell me that we don't have worlds within us. What is a pupil if not a black hole? What is an iris if not an event horizon?
And what gravity eyes have! We are drawn to them, drawn into them because of what's behind them: entire worlds.
Riff on Cliches
Riff on cliches. They're a hack to crisp, economic language. You can use all the associations of the cliche and then subvert the actual meaning with your own version or twist.
Don't just play the tired four-chord pop progression. Make your own jazzy remix of the familiar tune, and benefit from all the associations to convey a fresh idea, dense with meaning.
(Reference Scary Pockets)
Write Like a Coffee Shop
Write like a coffee shop. Become part of someone's routine. Make your ideas so infections that they are a source of energy for someone's day, or someone's week.
I am possibly a decade from having 1,000 paid newsletter subscribers (figure $60k/yr at $5/mo). But how many people spend an average of $3 on coffee per day?!
What's the coffee shops' secret? They become part of your routine — reliable, simple. And they create a place you want to be, a place you like visiting — comfortable, familiar, communal.
If you can write reliably, and if people know what to expect when they visit your shop, they may just make you part of their routine and stop in to join your community.
May 17 At my favorite coffee shop, I have to wait at least 10 minutes before I can drink my tea. And that time is a gift. Every few minutes, I'll smell it and experience it in that way, detecting whether it's ready for my tongue.
I always want to live in a way where I'm not in a rush to drink my tea. I want to always live a life where I smell my tea first and savor every morsel of flavored vapor.
Riff on cliches. They're a hack to crisp, economic language. You can use all the associations of the cliche and then subvert the actual meaning with your own version or twist.
Today is heavy because it's all you're guaranteed. Today is light because you have the freedom to determine tomorrow.
May 14 I hate the term "progressive" because it suggest that they're the only people in favor of progress. We all want progress. We just have different ideas about how to get there.
May 10 Imagine how our perceptions of the world and the constructs of our society would be different if, when we looked to the sky, we saw two stars orbiting each other in harmony, at the center of our solar system.
Maybe we'd be less selfish, more compatible, and more romantic. Maybe our lives would be more sustainable and we'd be less interested in consumption and fleeting pleasures. Binary stars exist with each other but not for each other. They collaborate to create something bigger than them both: their relationship.
May 9 I take pride in being misunderstood. It's evidence of a level of uncertainty, mystery, and adventure in my life that prevents who I am from being simplified to a tagline.
I take pride in being misunderstood. It's not evidence of a lack of eloquence but of a level of complexity and uncertainty in my life that prevents who I am or what I do from becoming a slogan (tagline).
May 8 The liberal asks what's possible. The conservative asks what's practical. Without the one, we'd stick to the status quo, and without the other, we'd have no idea where to go.
May 7 Is there a belief or idea that helps you accept the hard truth of your mortality? What helps you feel more comfortable with the reality of death?
Dreams offer me some comfort.
Every night, when my body stops moving and when I lose consciousness, I have dreams, which are rich, vivid experiences that are concealed from my waking mind.
I'm not saying that I believe that death is like a dream. But the fact that I dream leaves the question open; I will never know what happens after I die, just as I don't know what will happen when I go to sleep at night.
My Summer Solstice
Summer doesn't start until I catch a firefly.
May 6 Concision ≠ Brevity
Concision means dense, economic, bang-for-your-buck prose.
Brevity means sacrificing accuracy and clarity to lower the barrier to entry.
Parts of Speech Ranked by Meaning-Density
- Verbs are the only words that can be complete sentences. (An imperative, with the implied subject of "you.")
- Adverbs often signal that you need a more descriptive, or a stronger, verb. They don't do much else.
The creatures of the air and sea map to the masculine and feminine energies, respectively.
May 2 No one has to fire Chekhov's gun. Your reader just has to wonder whether someone will fire it.
"In dramatic literature, this technique inherits the name Chekhov’s Gun. In a letter he penned in 1889, Russian playwright Anton Chekhov wrote: “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.”" (Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer)
April 30 On Christ's Passion and Resurrection:
The story reveals the archetypes and structure underlying the narratives of Western culture; it's a passionate, transformative struggle that brings man closer to God — a journey from the ordinary world, to Hell, and back. You'll find that same structure equally in the The Odyssey and in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Christ's Passion is the model for the monomyth.
April 29 Now, every time it rains I think of Iceland. Something that used to be dreary and draining now brings me feelings of nostalgia and bliss. And I'm reminded of the Icelandic saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."
There are harsh sights, unpleasant smells, prickly surfaces, and repugnant tastes in nature. But there are few, if any, ear-piercing, ungodly sounds.
That's why, when I hear the screech of a subway or feel the decibel-boasting bass from concert speakers, I'm reminded of humanity's negative byproducts on nature.
Few people have the lexicon or categories to delineate these two types of pronouns. It's easy once you know the difference.
Subject: We humans are made in the image of God. Object: God made us humans in the image of God.
April 22 Seeing something as black or white is like seeing life as either birth or death. What about the glorious gradient between? What about living?
[[Live in the Third]]
April 21 The interrogative mood is underrepresented in online writing.
Thoughtful questions help the reader discover their own insights. Isn't that the value of writing anyway — what it inspires in you, not what it says to you? The interrogative mood admits uncertainty and invites the reader's thoughts to interrupt the author's indicatives and imperatives.
Ask questions. Be provocative, not prescriptive.
Don't Train on Me
- You've seen the AI Impressionist paintings. You've heard the automated musical Frankensteins. You've read the LLM adaptations of your favorite authors. AI's impersonations will only get better, which means that art will only get worse.
- Encrypt the Internet to soil the training pool and give the LLMs gibberish to draw from. Castrate them at the source: human language.
- Maybe a short Story where a crypto bro pumps and dumps a coin that infects the Internet and prevents AI from training on natural language
April 16 Potential book (or short eBook idea): Research, analyze, and synthesize creation myths from across eras and cultures, searching for overlapping evidence of the elementary characteristics of the human experience.
Shave on Sundays
You can always decide where rock bottom is — you must. Because there is no bottom, only more of a cavernous pit. That is, if you keep falling down.
If you decide, you can right the world's axis in a day. You can turn it around and set yourself on an entirely new path. You must first recognize their falling, then have the strength to pivot.
To get reps of this skill — pivoting — I think I'll adopt a new practice. I'll shave on Sunday — no matter how many times I shaved during the week or how recently I last shaved. I'll make Sunday a weekly rep of pivoting. Sunday will prompt me to check myself and see where I've fallen and what wagons I want to mount for the weeks ahead.
The chorus of "Kilby Girl" is a great example of economic storytelling.
Expected value is one of those advanced mathematical concepts that everyone would benefit from knowing. It helps me make prudent decisions without being risk averse-averse. You weigh the options based on probabilities of their future value.
April 13 Morality is human, partial. The universe is amoral, indifferent. A star's sneeze could scorch our planet and make our species extinct.
(It wouldn't be some divine punishment. It'd just be a cosmic coincidence.)
— — It's the difference between foul play and natural causes. A murderer owes an immeasurable debt to their victim. But Nature owes nothing to us when a hurricane sweeps hundreds into the sea.
April 12 In all writing, there is the essence and ornaments.
When you revise, clearly identify and communicate the essence, then prudently adorn it with entertaining ornaments.
April 11 Good feedback is different than positive feedback. Measure the quality of feedback by how much it improves the product.
April 8 The Promethean Struggle:
Go under so that what you've created may go beyond you, may transcend you.
Give without expectation to what you value.
April 5 The only way to write for everyone is to write exclusively for yourself. Write something you'd want to reread, revisit, and revise 'till the end of time. If that's how you feel about it, maybe someone else will read it once and find some value in it.
Misery creeps when you share something you have no interest in reading and that played no part in your personal growth to create.
April 4 Misery comes from dreading the next moment. When you don't wish for time to move in a different direction, you dwell pleasurably in the present moment.
April 3 To all those who claim to have no religious beliefs, or no personal matters of faith, consider this:
Every morning, when we wake up, we operate under the unverifiable belief that this is reality and that a dream.
Dreams and Ideals
An ideal is a dream that gets you out of bed. Like a dream, it is a hallucination of something you can clearly conceive yet never grasp. Any experience of the ideal is one you wake up from, realizing that you have not yet arrived.
And if you ever reach the ideal, you wake up and realize that there's still more to do, further to go.
A Faith in Dreams
Dreams are the only natural mystery — the only grand mystery that I can confirm isn't fiction, which is why dreams are the centerpiece of my personal faith.
Every night, we hallucinate an entire reality. I call it a "reality" because (unless lucid) we cannot distinguish a dream from our waking experience.
March 31 Use the hyphen within words, the en dash between words, and the em dash between clauses.
— — Use the hyphen to create words, the en dash to attach phrases, and the em dash to connect clauses.
March 26 When their parent falls from super-human to simply human, the adolescent matures. Adulthood comes when you see the infants in your elders.
Nihilism Is Untenable
To exist is to create values (to evaluate), which is why nihilism is an untenable position; if life is meaningless, we have decided that it is so.
Create a working title before anything. Finalize the title after everything. The best titles are those discovered from seeing the work in its polished form.
Don't worry about the packaging before you've bought the gift.
Some titles that were clearly the bow on top:
- My Head Is an Animal — It's a line from the chorus of the first track on the album, which means Of Monsters and Men likely chose the album's title likely after completing "Dirty Paws"and after deciding the track list.
- Consider the Lobster — DFW's collection of essays couldn't have got its name until he knew which he'd include in the anthology.
March 25 Morocco has reminded me of the importance of prayer. It's grounding and elevating. It's humbling and transcendental. When you paused reflect on the gift of existence, you are reminded of what matters — and what doesn't.
Beauty, wealth, and status are not flaunted here. They're kept private and protected.
- Riads conceal the garden
- Unassuming exteriors, even to the most intricate, elaborate, grand buildings
- It's the opposite of the American attitude.
March 22 Sometimes, open shut doors.
Don't ignore the syllabic symmetry between "ah-choo" and "bless you." Exploit it. Next time someone sneezes, imitate their sneeze with your "bless you." It's fun.
March 21 If you move west fast enough, you can live forever. If you move east instead, you'll get ahead. Move North or South to scale the seasonality of life.
Which of the world's problems are caused by people who are self-aware, mindful, and confident? Few, if any. The best thing for the world is for me to learn about and love myself.
If it's early in the morning, and you're inviting a new day, I don't want to hear the birds chirping or the sun peeking through the window. I want to hear the next-door neighbor's boxer, Rocky, barking through a brick wall.
(The birds and the sun are already embedded within my understanding of the morning. They're cliche. They add nothing, unless you use those details to move the plot or develop character. Be economical, and avoid cliches. Even if they're apt, they weaken your story or argument.)
Find meaning in every moment as you approach (unattainable) fulfillment.
March 17 When you make a mistake, skip the Christian response of making formal penance and requesting punishment. Mistakes come with their own consequences. Don't exacerbate them.
Make a mistake, accept the consequences, then learn from the mistake and don't do it again.
Forget being a penitent; don't dwell in what you've done. Just start doing differently.
March 16 There is no pursuit more beneficial to the world than that of self-understanding. From it follows sound ethics, a sense of meaning and purpose, and love for others on the grounds that they are also human.
Dreams Are Aesthetic Experiences
Dreams are a purely aesthetic experience. There is no singular meaning in them, just as it is for any painting or sculpture.
They are meaningful because we assign a meaning to them, but that doesn't make dreams less important.
— — 03/5/23: Dreams are amoral, and, while they raise questions about how we know what is true, they do not reveal truth; they do not express meaning. We assign meaning to them.
March 14 Relationships are powerful mediums for growth. But in their very power is what sows their finitude. People in relationships grow through each other. It's no surprise that they also grow apart.
Life doesn't have to be epic; it doesn't have to be grand; it doesn't have to be sacred. Because it already is, as it is already.
March 10 A litmus test for high neuroticism: Do you look both ways before crossing a one-way street?
- The colon indicates.
- The semicolon coordinates.
- The dash elaborates.
March 9 The three levels of consumption (reading):
(Why I'd never make it as a critic)
Women have a strength that you submit to. It's different than a man's. We fight strong men, no matter how outmatched we may be. A strong woman decides the outcome without a fight.
A man may burn the world. A woman can erase it.
March 7 The fire of conversation is collaborative. You must take turns tossing in kindling. If your counterpart withholds their fuel, let the fire fizzle. (Don't steal their turn.) The alternative is for conversation to devolve into monologue, where there is only the illusion of bonfire-camaraderie.
March 3 To be honest is to remain uncertain.
Intellectual honesty requires uncertainty.
How to have a healthy relationship with money: Major in quantitative finance and minor in philosophy.
The finance knowledge cures any anxiety around money, and the philosophy knowledge cures greed.
March 2 Happiness is too low of a bar; it's an unworthy ideal. You can be happy and comfortable, static, unchanging. You can be fearful, anxious, or desperate and be growing, improving, evolving.
Rather than happiness, which comes and goes, aim for fulfillment, which you can always approach and never attain — which requires doubt, discomfort, and self-discovery.
Iteration vs. Compilation
It doesn't have to be the first take (and it probably shouldn't be). But try to do it one take.
(On the difference between iteration and compilation)
- My Substack voiceovers
- Live vocal performances
- Practical-effects films
February 27 How I knew I was an editor: reading books about writing and deciding to create my own style guide.
When you meet people on the road, their first question is never "What do you do for work?". In a nomadic setting, everyone is aware of how little time you we have with one another, so they ask questions to learn who you are, not to learn what you do.
When we recognize how fleeting our moments are, we focus more on what matters. We prioritize connection and understanding over finding commonalities.
An analysis of how we try and fail to communicate — and why conversation is a craft as worthy of mastery, as any fine art
February 20 Religion presents the world as a dichotomy — black and white. Philosophy explores the world's dualities — all the grey.
It's the difference between dogma and speculation/skepticism.
February 19 Stoicism is often misunderstood — conflated with the adjective "stoic," which is used colloquially as "unfeeling." Stoic philosophy is not about avoiding feelings but about accepting that which is out of your control. Stoicism is about feeling and then either acting (if you can influence the situation) or accepting (if you have done all you can and are faced with certain external events).
Life is a series of seasons, and staying in any one season is stagnation.
The stagnant are sunburned or frostbitten and endure more misery for fearing the fall and spring.
Steer toward the solstice. Train yourself in transition.
In any given moment, you can only either focus on how you're being perceived or on perceiving people.
- Being in your head vs. in your body
- Awareness vs. insecurity
February 16 It’s funny how far “certainty” catapults us from the truth.
When I delude myself, I elude my Self.
You can either see life as a series of mistakes or as one long learning process.
We all have a shared responsibility for the agreements we have with each other.
February 15 The adventurer lives with vitality. The traveler constantly seeks novelty.
February 14 It's impossible to make eye contact with someone when on a video call. It's the greatest loss of remote work.
February 13 "Travel" means making an itinerary. It's about leaving here and arriving somewhere.
"Adventure" means inviting uncertainty. It's about being here and being ready to go anywhere.
It's best to be both. Happy at home and adventurous abroad.
February 10 The prettiness of your prose means nothing if the contents of your ideas aren’t worth unwrapping.
(From a WOP Daily Email)
Make your writing more than pretty paper and a bow. Give design and purpose to your writing. Fill your prose with content that makes people learn something new or question something they know.
Next time you revise your writing, make sure to look past its packaging. Examine the contents. Check how well the design works, and then make it better before sharing it with the world.
If you were in the midst of a plane crash and the person next to you was sound asleep, would you wake him?
Do you have an obligation to alert the man of his impending death? Or is it immoral to break his blissful ignorance?
On Humanity's Dual Nature
We are never one thing or the other but always two things at once. The primary characteristic of humanity is our dual nature, our inherent duality. It's at the core of what we all share.
We are the yin and the yang, God's creation and the fallen man, free to act and subject to the rules of society. We are not bathed in light or cast in darkness, but exist as dawns and dusks. We don't inhabit Heaven or Hell, but Earth. We are not either free or fated, but both — always.
- My #1 value
- Freedom + Responsibility
- Must be both independent and automatic
- Harmony among the Light and Heavy
The Utility of Narrative
Create stories for the purpose of exploring or communicating an idea. I have no interest in stories made for pure entertainment.
- That's why I'm drawn to short stories and novellas over novels. It's a beautiful, wonderful thing to build a world and to visit that in your imagination. But I'd rather explore my own dreams.
- Short stories have a theme. They are economical; everything builds to an idea.
- That's why I love psychological thrillers. They critique a part of us, draw it out and make it the center of a drama. (Get Out, Silence of the Lambs, Parasite, The Menu)
At the same time, I have no interest in reading about an idea that I can't feel, that I have no hope of embodying. Rational arguments should be grounded in feeling, in narrative. And narratives should serve their concepts, transcended by their implications (not confined to their fantasies).
February 3 All innovation requires that something first be invented.
Step 1: Make it.
Step 2: Make it better.
Step 3: Ship it, and start something new.
February 2 It is not a privilege to have what you earned but to have been supported in the process of earning it.
January 29 The Earth spins about itself, and we act as if the sun abandons us at night. The sun doesn't rise and set; it is persistent. We are the turbulent ones, as in stillness you see.
Maybe at the heart of life, too, is light.
January 27 My top 10 tweet-length quotes from Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance."
January 21 There is no best way to go. There is only the worst way, which is to follow.
The horizon is all we have, and it's something we'll never reach. What matters is whether we move towards it.
We can sail toward the horizon or stop on a comfortable island and never see what lies beyond that beach. Those with The greatest self-understanding are those who sail forever and die at sea.
An Ode to Unconditional Art
- Screw story structure, forget convention.
- As long as you make something cohesive with form, it doesn't have to have an expressed purpose, a desired take-way, or a CTA.
- Art is aesthetic. It is meant to be experienced, not consumed. Individuals have experiences, mobs consume. The value of a piece should vary by the individual who experiences it — and not just who they are but at what point in their life they encounter the art.
- I would never make it as a critic because as long as art inspires me, provokes some interesting thought within me, I value it. It doesn't matter the Goodreads or Rotten Tomatoes score.
- Just like any experience, art is as valuable and as impactful as you make it.
[[Prometheus and Unconditional Living]]
January 18 Editing requires that we question what we know so that what we have created can be made better.
Amount vs. Number
"Amount" refers to singular nouns, "number" to plural.
- You have the greatest number of pets in our building.
- The number of friends you have doesn't matter, only the amount that they care about you.
- That's a large amount of money. That's a large number of bills.
Quantity for Reach + Response
Quality for Resonance + Retention
I need to inhale editing and exhale writing.
January 16 We are the most free in free-fall. When we take a decisive leap into the abyss, we manifest our freedom in action.
Dive into the unknown. Dive inwards.
Simple Sleep Tips
- Find the most comfortable/natural position, and use it every night
- Eliminate screen time before bed
- Make your bed every morning and don't use it during the day
It's not more or less. It's more, less, or fewer.
Use "less" for singular nouns, "fewer" for plural nouns and "more" for either.
— — Examples:
- Would you like more or less money?
- Please give me fewer grapes next time.
- I wish I had more skis, but maybe I should have fewer.
- Could there be more people here? There should be fewer people here.
- He has less free time than me because I have fewer meetings.
Text-Generating AI Won't Get Better Than This
I am not naïve. I know that the technology will improve, that AI will sound more alike humans. But text-generating AI is better right now than it will ever be in one important way.
Today's AI are trained on words written on humans. Everything on the Internet before now, stretching back to the entire history of humanity before the Internet, was created by humans. But today, in the midst of content-generating AI, the training set will be saturated by words from the metal-minded.
AI spits out quantity, at a quality that will improve overtime. But as the AI-to-human ratio increases, AI will start to train on AI-generated content. It will imitate itself rather than learning to imitate us. And then we will enter a hell for readers and consumers, where real, breathing beings will be buried. Language will have been hijacked by non-beings that have never spoken.
January 11 What does it mean to live like the sun won't rise, like today is your last?
It doesn't mean spending all your money, jumping off a cliff, or gorging on a feast. It means living unconditionally.
It means, today, doing only those things that you would do even if you didn't make it to tomorrow.
Narrative vs. Nostalgia
When did we stop sharing the stories of our dreams and only those in our memories?
Remakes, sequels, reboots — that's all there is. But are there fewer creative people? Are we artistically uneducated? Have we been made lame by some universal lobotomy?
When did we become servants of the stories instead of their creators, instead of using characters and a narrative to explore our inner worlds rather than to squeeze dry the sponge of nostalgia?
Comprehending vs. Understanding
You can understand an idea with a thought, but to apply/integrate it, you have to feel it.
The ineffable is accessible because we can feel it; we just can't speak it.
You can know what someone said without knowing what it means (or why they said it).
January 8 There are greater pleasures than those I have sought. They come when the seeking subsides — from simply being.
What you do only matters as much as it makes you who you are.
Everything is impermanent — every pain and pleasure, each agony and ecstasy, all grief and glory.
This too shall pass, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Nothing is guaranteed but the present. Live now as if you don't have tomorrow. Do something you find meaningful, and close loops when you have the opportunity.
- Say what you know is unsaid. Have the uncomfortable conversations.
- Say goodbye when you part from people, even a partner, coworker, or barista that you plan to see tomorrow.
- Find stillness, exercise your freedom.
January 7 Chaos pendulums illustrate the question of free will.
Chaos pendulums are the perfect illustration of this idea: Stillness is a prerequisite for freedom.
We have freedom, but not every act is one of free will. Most of the time, we are riding along some cause-and-effect chain. Yet, there are these moments of freedom that initiate an entirely new series of phenomena.
Our freedom is the ability to pause the seining chaos pendulum. We can hold it in our hands by finding stillness. And by pausing it in motion, we initiate a new series of movements that would have never existed otherwise.
The bad things that happened to you you don't deserve. They don't happen because of who you are but because you believe that's why they happen.
Change your self-image, change your experience.
January 6 Loose writing loses readers. Technique matters.
You could: • Slather glue between your sentences and hope they stick. OR • Use proper grammar and mechanics to make your sentences click like Lego bricks.
Sticking isn't enough. Make your writing click.
Curiosity as Curriculum
What if education weren't some simple, pragmatic program to land a lucrative job? What if it, instead, encouraged the personal pursuit of knowledge?
You can become an expert in anything. And any expert can make a living. So, why not study what you love?
Instead of sticking to some strict syllabus, create a curriculum from your curiosity.
January 3Please, Fewer Pleasantries
Pleasantries reverberate, but they don't resonate. They're comforting words that placate rather than provoke or inspire.
December 31 Shiva (Hindu god) dances on the babe of ignorance to maintain and recreate the world.
Meditation is attention and awareness. It is not thoughtlessness.
We can choose to dispatch our awareness to 10 things at once — lamenting the past, worrying about the future, multitasking in the present. Or, we can concentrate that 10-fold awareness by focussing on one thing: this moment. That's what mediation is.
Our default state is heady and self-centered. Meditation is embodied and connected.
A candidate for my 2023 motto: "Mix in manure."
Success comes from repeated failure, skill from many missteps, direction from aimless wander.
If you want fertile soil, mix in manure.
Uncertainty and Jain Logic
All truths are uncertain. At best, what we know is conditional.
Qualify your propositions for the sake of accuracy and rigor.
Content Creation in The Kingdom of Ends
Is content creation counter to Kantian ethics?
Content creators make a living from people consuming. And to make a living, they must create more than they consume — expecting many followers while following few. What does it mean for content creators to treat their followers as ends in themselves, rather than an ocean of eyeballs.
How Tennis Taught Me Detachment
For me, the truth of life to which tennis is most closely related is the fact that life and everything in it is fleeting –– emotions, successes, pain, and our lives themselves. You can make the fleeting things meaningful and put all you have into them, even though they will end.
And tennis taught me this by being a series of fleeting moments –– tournaments, matches, sets, points, shots; all arise, and, as a player, you must let them go. The only way for a point to go well is to attend to each shot and give it your complete effort. But, at the same time, you have to be detached from the outcome of the shot or of the point because you are forced to go on immediately to the next one. A point, set, or match only goes the way you want it to if you let go of all things that didn't go the way you wanted. Tennis is presence and detachment.
Tennis showed me that I must give my all to the moment at hand, and it taught me how to become detached from the outcome of the moment.