Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

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Originals

Book Notes

Okay, this book was recommended in several places, both online and in a couple books I had recently read.

I really did not like this book. It was One. Giant. Book. Of. Hindsight. Bias. with elements of pop-psychology thrown in for good measure. It almost felt like Gladwell was ghost writing this book.

Hey, look, this company's company's founders worked really really hard and did something different and they succeeded ENORMOUSLY! They were original!

What about the other million company founders who worked really, really hard and didn't succeed enormously or even slightly? They weren't original? Weren't original enough?

Take Warby Parker, the eyeglasses company. They saw a monopoly and disrupted it. The founders were really really really unsure (according to the book) that the company would do as well as it has. That's great, good reporting. What about the other companies trying to disrupt the eyeglasses monopoly. How did they succeed (well, they aren't in this book, so clearly they didn't) or fail? How were they not original enough?

I understand what Grant is saying, that to be wildly successful you need to do something different and differently than what other people are doing. Sure, I get that. Hooray that all the companies in the book managed to Do Something Differently™ and succeeded. A lot of companies don't make it. A lot of "better" options are really stupid ideas that cannot and should not be monetized. Their ideas, like this book, are fluff.

Did not like this book, do not recommend this book, spend your time reading something else if you're looking for a rah-rah-rah I'm-an-entrepreneur book. Perennial Seller or The $100 Startup are far better than this one.

The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.
Page 7

The starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place.
Page 7

When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created by people.
Page 8

Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.
Page 9

Child prodigies are hindered by achievement motivation.
Page 10

The more you value achievement, the more you come to dread failure. Instead of aiming for unique accomplishments, the intense desire to succeed leads us to strive for guaranteed success.
Page 10

As economist Joseph Schumpeter famously observed, originality is an act of creative destruction. Advocating for new systems often requires demolishing the old way of doing things, and we hold back for fear of rocking the boat.
Page 13

We view them as self-starters, but their efforts are often fueled and sometimes forced by others.
Page 16

Having a sense of security in one realm gives us the freedom to be original in another.
Page 19

When hundreds of historians, psychologists, and political scientists evaluated America’s presidents, they determined that the least effective leaders were those who followed the will of the people and the precedents set by their predecessors.
Page 23

Originality is not a fixed trait. It is a free choice. Lincoln wasn’t born with an original personality. Taking on controversy wasn’t programmed into his DNA; it was an act of conscious will.
Page 24

their inner experiences are not any different from our own. They feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyway. They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.
Page 28

the biggest barrier to originality is not idea generation—it’s idea selection.
Page 31

Social scientists have long known that we tend to be overconfident when we evaluate ourselves.
Page 33

If originals aren’t reliable judges of the quality of their ideas, how do they maximize their odds of creating a masterpiece? They come up with a large number of ideas.
Page 35

They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality.
Page 35

In every field, even the most eminent creators typically produce a large quantity of work that’s technically sound but considered unremarkable by experts and audiences.
Page 36

In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.
Page 37

Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection.
Page 37

The best way to get better at judging our ideas is to gather feedback. Put a lot of ideas out there and see which ones are praised and adopted by your target audience.
Page 38

In the face of uncertainty, our first instinct is often to reject novelty, looking for reasons why unfamiliar concepts might fail.
Page 40

As we gain knowledge about a domain, we become prisoners of our prototypes.
Page 41

We often speak of the wisdom of crowds, but we need to be careful about which crowds we’re considering.
Page 42

Instead of attempting to assess our own originality or seeking feedback from managers, we ought to turn more often to our colleagues. They lack the risk-aversion of managers and test audiences; they’re open to seeing the potential in unusual possibilities, which guards against false negatives.
Page 42

This evidence helps to explain why many performers enjoy the approval of audiences but covet the admiration of their peers.
Page 43

instead of adopting a managerial mindset for evaluating ideas, they got into a creative mindset by generating ideas themselves. Just spending six minutes developing original ideas made them more open to novelty, improving their ability to see the potential in something unusual.
Page 43

Once you take on a managerial role, it’s hard to avoid letting an evaluative mindset creep in to cause false negatives.
Page 44

If we want to increase our odds of betting on the best original ideas, we have to generate our own ideas immediately before we screen others’ suggestions.
Page 44

“If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative,” Steve Jobs said back in 1982, “you have to not have the same bag of experience as everyone else does.”
Page 45

Research on highly creative adults shows that they tended to move to new cities much more frequently than their peers in childhood, which gave them exposure to different cultures and values, and encouraged flexibility and adaptability.
Page 48

In a digital world dominated by invisible bits and bytes, Jobs was enamored with the possibility that the next breakthrough innovation would be in transportation.
Page 51

As Nobel Prize–winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and decision expert Gary Klein explain, intuitions are only trustworthy when people build up experience making judgments in a predictable environment.
Page 53

In a rapidly changing world, the lessons of experience can easily point us in the wrong direction. And because the pace of change is accelerating, our environments are becoming ever more unpredictable. This makes intuition less reliable as a source of insight about new ideas and places a growing premium on analysis.
Page 53

The more successful people have been in the past, the worse they perform when they enter a new environment.
Page 54

In the words of Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, “Passionate people don’t wear their passion on their sleeves; they have it in their hearts.”
Page 55

He excelled at creating brilliant solutions to problems identified by others, not in finding the right problems to solve.
Page 56

If we want to improve our idea selection skills, we shouldn’t look at whether people have been successful. We need to track how they’ve been successful.
Page 56

“It’s rare that originality comes from insiders,” Neil tells me,
Page 58

As Randy Komisar puts it, “If I’m hitting .300, I’m a genius. That’s because the future cannot be predicted. The sooner you learn it, the sooner you can be good at it.”
Page 60

When we judge their greatness, we focus not on their averages, but on their peaks.
Page 61

Leaders and managers appreciate it when employees take the initiative to offer help, build networks, gather new knowledge, and seek feedback. But there’s one form of initiative that gets penalized: speaking up with suggestions.
Page 65

When we climb up the moral ladder, it can be rather lonely at the top.
Page 65

Power involves exercising control or authority over others; status is being respected and admired.
Page 65

When people sought to exert influence but lacked respect, others perceived them as difficult, coercive, and self-serving. Since they haven’t earned our admiration, we don’t feel they have the right to tell us what to do, and we push back.
Page 65

When we’re trying to influence others and we discover that they don’t respect us, it fuels a vicious cycle of resentment. In an effort to assert our own authority, we respond by resorting to increasingly disrespectful behaviors.
Page 66

Status cannot be claimed; it has to be earned or granted.
Page 66

As iconic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola observed, “The way to come to power is not always to merely challenge the Establishment, but first make a place in it and then challenge and double-cross the Establishment.”
Page 66

idiosyncrasy credits—the latitude to deviate from the group’s expectations. Idiosyncrasy credits accrue through respect, not rank: they’re based on contributions. We squash a low-status member who tries to challenge the status quo, but tolerate and sometimes even applaud the originality of a high-status star.
Page 67

But when you’re pitching a novel idea or speaking up with a suggestion for change, your audience is likely to be skeptical.
Page 69

The first advantage is that leading with weaknesses disarms the audience. Marketing professors Marian Friestad and Peter Wright find that when we’re aware that someone is trying to persuade us, we naturally raise our mental shields. Rampant confidence is a red flag—a signal that we need to defend ourselves against weapons of influence.
Page 69

“Unbridled optimism comes across as salesmanship; it seems dishonest somehow, and as a consequence it’s met with skepticism. Everyone is allergic to the feeling, or suspicious of being sold.”
Page 70

When people only touted the pluses of their ideas, she quickly concluded that “this idea is full of holes; they really haven’t thought it through, and they’ve constructed their slide deck to keep me from figuring it out. When people presented drawbacks or disadvantages, I would become an ally. Instead of selling me, they’ve given me a problem to solve.”
Page 71

People think an amateur can appreciate art, but it takes a professional to critique it.
Page 72

This is the second benefit of leading with the limitations of an idea: it makes you look smart.*
Page 72

The third advantage of being up front about the downsides of your ideas is that it makes you more trustworthy.
Page 73

A fourth advantage of this approach is that it leaves audiences with a more favorable assessment of the idea itself, due to a bias in how we process information.
Page 73

Just as presenting negatives can ironically make it more difficult for audiences to think of them, speaking up effectively depends on making the positive features easier to process.
Page 74

Overall, the evidence suggests that liking continues to increase as people are exposed to an idea between ten and twenty times, with additional exposure still useful for more complex ideas. Interestingly, exposures are more effective when they’re short and mixed in with other ideas, to help maintain the audience’s curiosity. It’s also best to introduce a delay between the presentation of the idea and the evaluation of it, which provides time for it to sink in.
Page 78

Building on a classic book by economist Albert Hirschman, there are four different options for handling a dissatisfying situation.
Page 79

decades of research show that you have a choice between exit, voice, persistence, and neglect. Exit means removing yourself from the situation altogether:
Page 79

Voice involves actively trying to improve the situation:
Page 79

Persistence is gritting your teeth and bearing it:
Page 79

Neglect entails staying in the current situation but reducing your effort:
Page 79

Fundamentally, these choices are based on feelings of control and commitment. Do you believe you can effect change, and do you care enough to try? If you believe you’re stuck with the status quo, you’ll choose neglect when you’re not committed, and persistence when you are. If you do feel you can make a difference, but you aren’t committed to the person, country, or organization, you’ll leave. Only when you believe your actions matter and care deeply will you consider speaking up.
Page 80

As much as agreeable people may love us, they often hate conflict even more. Their desire to please others and preserve harmony makes them prone to backing down instead of sticking up for us.
Page 81

It is often the prickly people who are more comfortable taking a stand against others and against convention.
Page 81

Research shows that when managers have a track record of challenging the status quo, they tend to be more open to new ideas and less threatened by contributions from others. They care more about making the organization better than about defending it as it stands. They’re motivated to advance the organization’s mission, which means they’re not so loyal that they turn a blind eye to its shortcomings.
Page 82

If you’re perched at the top, you’re expected to be different and therefore have the license to deviate. Likewise, if you’re still at the bottom of a status hierarchy, you have little to lose and everything to gain by being original. But the middle segment of that hierarchy—where the majority of people in an organization are found—is dominated by insecurity. Now that you have a bit of respect, you value your standing in the group and don’t want to jeopardize it. To maintain and then gain status, you play a game of follow-the-leader, conforming to prove your worth as a group member.
Page 82

The fall from low to lower hardly hurts; the fall from middle to low is devastating.
Page 83

Middle-status conformity leads us to choose the safety of the tried-and-true over the danger of the original.
Page 83

security analysts were significantly less likely to issue negative stock ratings when they or the banks that employed them had middle status.
Page 83

it was more effective to voice ideas upward and downward, and spent less time attempting to make suggestions to middle managers.
Page 84

But when I looked at the evidence, I was dismayed to discover that even today, speaking while female remains notoriously difficult. Across cultures, there’s a rich body of evidence showing that people continue to hold strong gender-role stereotypes, expecting men to be assertive and women to be communal. When women speak up, they run the risk of violating that gender stereotype, which leads audiences to judge them as aggressive.
Page 85

Other studies show that male executives who talk more than their peers are rewarded, but female executives who engage in the same behavior are devalued by both men and women.
Page 85

Extensive research shows that when women speak up on behalf of others, they avoid backlash, because they’re being communal.
Page 86

For minority-group members, it’s particularly important to earn status before exercising power.
Page 86

the best way to handle dissatisfaction. In the quest for originality, neglect isn’t an option. Persistence is a temporary route to earning the right to speak up. But in the long run, like neglect, persistence maintains the status quo and falls short of resolving your dissatisfaction. To change the situation, exit and voice are the only viable alternatives.
Page 89

a major drawback of exit. Although it has the advantage of altering your own circumstances, it doesn’t make them better for anyone else, as it enables the status quo to endure.
Page 89

in the long run, research shows that the mistakes we regret are not errors of commission, but errors of omission. If we could do things over, most of us would censor ourselves less and express our ideas more.
Page 91

Employees who procrastinated regularly spent more time engaging in divergent thinking and were rated as significantly more creative by their supervisors. Procrastination didn’t always fuel creativity: if the employees weren’t intrinsically motivated to solve a major problem, stalling just set them behind.
Page 95

In ancient Egypt, there were two different verbs for procrastination: one denoted laziness; the other meant waiting for the right time.
Page 96

people have a better memory for incomplete than complete tasks. Once a task is finished, we stop thinking about it. But when it is interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds.
Page 99

Great originals are great procrastinators, but they don’t skip planning altogether. They procrastinate strategically, making gradual progress by testing and refining different possibilities.
Page 102

The pioneers were first movers: the initial company to develop or sell a product. The settlers were slower to launch, waiting until the pioneers had created a market before entering it.
Page 103

Surprisingly, the downsides of being the first mover are frequently bigger than the upsides. On balance, studies suggest that pioneers may sometimes capture greater market share, but end up not only with lower chances of survival but lower profits as well.
Page 104

Being original doesn’t require being first. It just means being different and better.
Page 105

When originals rush to be pioneers, they’re prone to overstep; that’s the first disadvantage.
Page 105

roughly three out of every four fail because of premature scaling—making investments that the market isn’t yet ready to support.
Page 105

Second, there’s reason to believe that the kinds of people who choose to be late movers may be better suited to succeed. Risk seekers are drawn to being first, and they’re prone to making impulsive decisions. Meanwhile, more risk-averse entrepreneurs watch from the sidelines, waiting for the right opportunity and balancing their risk portfolios before entering.
Page 106

Third, along with being less recklessly ambitious, settlers can improve upon competitors’ technology to make products better. When you’re the first to market, you have to make all the mistakes yourself. Meanwhile, settlers can watch and learn from your errors.
Page 106

Fourth, whereas pioneers tend to get stuck in their early offerings, settlers can observe market changes and shifting consumer tastes and adjust accordingly.
Page 106

As physicist Max Planck once observed, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die.”
Page 107

The time at which we reach our heights of originality, and how long they last, depends on our styles of thinking.
Page 109

Conceptual innovators formulate a big idea and set out to execute it. Experimental innovators solve problems through trial and error, learning and evolving as they go along. They are at work on a particular problem, but they don’t have a specific solution in mind at the outset. Instead of planning in advance, they figure it out as they go.
Page 109

According to Galenson, conceptual innovators are sprinters, and experimental innovators are marathoners.
Page 110

conceptual innovators become less original once they’re entrenched in conventional ways of approaching problems.
Page 110

Conceptual innovators tend to generate original ideas early but risk copying themselves. The experimental approach takes longer, but proves more renewable: instead of reproducing our past ideas, experiments enable us to continue discovering new ones.
Page 112

The more experiments you run, the less constrained you become by your ideas from the past. You learn from what you discover in your audience, on the canvas, or in the data.
Page 113

The key insight is a Goldilocks theory of coalition formation. The originals who start a movement will often be its most radical members, whose ideas and ideals will prove too hot for those who follow their lead. To form alliances with opposing groups, it’s best to temper the cause, cooling it as much as possible. Yet to draw allies into joining the cause itself, what’s needed is a moderately tempered message that is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right.
Page 117

We assume that common goals bind groups together, but the reality is that they often drive groups apart.
Page 117

Even if they care about different causes, groups find affinity when they use the same methods of engagement.
Page 121

Simon Sinek argues that if we want to inspire people, we should start with why. If we communicate the vision behind our ideas, the purpose guiding our products, people will flock to us. This is excellent advice—and when you’re doing something original that challenges the status quo, you have to be careful about how you communicate your why. When people championing moral change explain their why, it runs the risk of clashing with deep-seated convictions. When creative non-conformists explain their why, it may violate common notions of what’s possible.
Page 124

Shifting the focus from why to how can help people become less radical.
Page 125

when people with extreme political views were asked to explain the reasons behind their policy preferences, they stuck to their guns. Explaining why gave them a chance to affirm their convictions. But when asked to explain how their preferred policies work, they became more moderate. Considering how led them to confront the gaps in their knowledge and realize that some of their extreme views were impractical.
Page 125

Steinman leveraged what psychologist Robert Cialdini calls the foot-in-the-door technique, where you lead with a small request to secure an initial commitment before revealing the larger one. By opening with a moderate ask instead of a radical one, Steinman gained allies.
Page 125

Coalitions often fall apart when people refuse to moderate their radicalism.
Page 125

Psychologists call them ambivalent relationships. You might know them as frenemies—people who sometimes support you and sometimes undermine you.
Page 129

Negative relationships are unpleasant, but they’re predictable: if a colleague consistently undermines you, you can keep your distance and expect the worst. But when you’re dealing with an ambivalent relationship, you’re constantly on guard, grappling with questions about when that person can actually be trusted. As Duffy’s team explains, “It takes more emotional energy and coping resources to deal with individuals who are inconsistent.”
Page 130

psychologist Bert Uchino found that ambivalent relationships are literally unhealthier than negative relationships.
Page 131

But our best allies aren’t the people who have supported us all along. They’re the ones who started out against us and then came around to our side.
Page 131

Third, and most important, it is our former adversaries who are the most effective at persuading others to join our movements. They can marshal better arguments on our behalf, because they understand the doubts and misgivings of resisters and fence-sitters. And they’re a more credible source, because they haven’t just been Pollyanna followers or “yes men” all along.
Page 132

On average, a novel starting point followed by a familiarity infusion led to ideas that were judged as 14 percent more practical, without sacrificing any originality.
Page 137

Her actions offer two lessons about persuading potential partners to join forces. First, we need to think differently about values. Instead of assuming that others share our principles, or trying to convince them to adopt ours, we ought to present our values as a means of pursuing theirs. It’s hard to change other people’s ideals. It’s much easier to link our agendas to familiar values that people already hold.
Page 140

transparency isn’t always the best policy. As much as they want to be straightforward with potential partners, originals occasionally need to reframe their ideas to appeal to their audience.
Page 141

In her dying breath in 1893, Lucy Stone whispered four words to her daughter: “Make the world better.”
Page 145

According to eminent Stanford professor James March, when many of us make decisions, we follow a logic of consequence: Which course of action will produce the best result? If you’re like Robinson, and you consistently challenge the status quo, you operate differently, using instead a logic of appropriateness: What does a person like me do in a situation like this? Rather than looking outward in an attempt to predict the outcome, you turn inward to your identity. You base the decision on who you are—or who you want to be.
Page 154

When we use the logic of consequence, we can always find reasons not to take risks. The logic of appropriateness frees us up. We think less about what will guarantee the outcome we want, and act more on a visceral sense of what someone like us ought to do.
Page 154

Birth order doesn’t determine who you are; it only affects the probability that you’ll develop in a particular way. There are many other contributing factors, both in your biology and your life experience.
Page 155

Hundreds of studies point to the same conclusion: although firstborns tend to be more dominant, conscientious, and ambitious, laterborns are more open to taking risks and embracing original ideas. Firstborns tend to defend the status quo; laterborns are inclined to challenge it.*
Page 155

At its core, comedy is an act of rebellion.
Page 157

To challenge expectations and question core values, comedians must take calculated risks; to do it without offending the audience to the point that they tune out, comedians need creativity. The very choice to become a comedian means abandoning the prospect of a stable, predictable career.
Page 158

Psychologist Robert Zajonc observed that firstborns grow up in a world of adults, while the more older siblings you have, the more time you spend learning from other children.
Page 159

When older siblings serve as surrogate parents and role models, you don’t face as many rules or punishments, and you enjoy the security of their protection. You also end up taking risks earlier: instead of emulating the measured, carefully considered choices of adults, you follow the lead of other children.
Page 160

The larger the family, the more laterborns face lax rules and get away with things that their elder siblings wouldn’t have.
Page 162

If parents do believe in enforcing a lot of regulations, the way they explain them matters a great deal. New research shows that teenagers defy rules when they’re enforced in a controlling manner, by yelling or threatening punishment. When mothers enforce many rules but offer a clear rationale for why they’re important, teenagers are substantially less likely to break them, because they internalize them.
Page 164

They outlined their standards of conduct and explained their grounding in a set of principles about right and wrong, referencing values like morality, integrity, respect, curiosity, and perseverance. But “emphasis was placed upon the development of one’s ethical code,” MacKinnon wrote. Above all, the parents who raised highly creative architects granted their children the autonomy to choose their own values.
Page 164

Reasoning does create a paradox: it leads both to more rule following and more rebelliousness. By explaining moral principles, parents encourage their children to comply voluntarily with rules that align with important values and to question rules that don’t. Good explanations enable children to develop a code of ethics that often coincides with societal expectations; when they don’t square up, children rely on the internal compass of values rather than the external compass of rules.
Page 165

While the bystanders’ parents focused on enforcing compliance with rules for their own sake, the rescuers’ parents encouraged their children to consider the impact of their actions on others.*
Page 165

In general, we tend to be overconfident about our own invulnerability to harm.
Page 166

Robinson wrote. “He said it didn’t take guts to follow the crowd, that courage and intelligence lay in being willing to be different.
Page 167

When our character is praised, we internalize it as part of our identities. Instead of seeing ourselves as engaging in isolated moral acts, we start to develop a more unified self-concept as a moral person.
Page 168

children between ages three and six were 22 percent to 29 percent more likely to clean up blocks, toys, and crayons when they were asked to be helpers instead of to help. Even though their character
Page 169

His team was able to cut cheating in half with the same turn of phrase: instead of “Please don’t cheat,” they changed the appeal to “Please don’t be a cheater.” When you’re urged not to cheat, you can do it and still see an ethical person in the mirror. But when you’re told not to be a cheater, the act casts a shadow; immorality is tied to your identity, making the behavior much less attractive. Cheating is an isolated action that gets evaluated with the logic of consequence: Can I get away with it? Being a cheater evokes a sense of self, triggering the logic of appropriateness: What kind of person am I, and who do I want to be?
Page 169

When we shift our emphasis from behavior to character, people evaluate choices differently. Instead of asking whether this behavior will achieve the results they want, they take action because it is the right thing to do.
Page 170

When Winstead went public with her rebellious political views, her father quipped, “I screwed up. I raised you to have an opinion, and I forgot to tell you it was supposed to be mine.”
Page 171

Remarkably, there are studies showing that when children’s stories emphasize original achievements, the next generation innovates more.
Page 173

groupthink—the tendency to seek consensus instead of fostering dissent. Groupthink is the enemy of originality; people feel pressured to conform to the dominant, default views instead of championing diversity of thought.
Page 176

groupthink occurs when people “are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group,” and their “strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.”
Page 177

When a group becomes that cohesive, it develops a strong culture—people share the same values and norms, and believe in them intensely. And there’s a fine line between having a strong culture and operating like a cult.
Page 177

They observe that “the benefits of group cohesion” include “enhanced communication,” and members of cohesive groups “are likely to be secure enough in their roles to challenge one another.”
Page 179

“Minority viewpoints are important, not because they tend to prevail but because they stimulate divergent attention and thought,” finds Berkeley psychologist Charlan Nemeth,
Page 185

Dissenting opinions are useful even when they’re wrong.
Page 185

The evidence suggests that social bonds don’t drive groupthink; the culprits are overconfidence and reputational concerns.
Page 185

While it can be appealing to assign a devil’s advocate, it’s much more powerful to unearth one. When people are designated to dissent, they’re just playing a role. This causes two problems: They don’t argue forcefully or consistently enough for the minority viewpoint, and group members are less likely to take them seriously. “Dissenting for the sake of dissenting is not useful.
Page 192

But when it is authentic, it stimulates thought; it clarifies and it emboldens.” The secret to success is sincerity, the old saying goes: Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made. In fact, it’s not easy to fake sincerity. For devil’s advocates to be maximally effective, they need to really believe in the position they’re representing—and the group needs to believe that they believe it, too.
Page 193

“The greatest tragedy of mankind,” Dalio says, “comes from the inability of people to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true.”
Page 195

Through the process of open-minded debate, Dalio expects employees to reconcile their differences. Instead of reaching consensus because some people are overconfident or others are afraid to speak up, the staff get on the same page by duking it out. In the language of futurist Paul Saffo, the norm is to have “strong opinions, weakly held.”
Page 195

If employees can get in sync about making sure that everyone speaks up, they don’t need to worry as much about groupthink.
Page 195

Decisions will be made based on an idea meritocracy, not a status hierarchy or democracy.
Page 196

Uh huh. Decisions are made by the person screaming loudest in the room, as much as Dalio wants to believe in his vision.

Hofmann found that a culture that focuses too heavily on solutions becomes a culture of advocacy, dampening inquiry. If you’re always expected to have an answer ready, you’ll arrive at meetings with your diagnosis complete, missing out on the chance to learn from a broad range of perspectives.
Page 197

Getting problems noted is half the battle against groupthink; the other is listening to the right opinions about how to solve them.
Page 199

Although everyone’s opinions are welcome, they’re not all valued equally. Bridgewater is not a democracy. Voting privileges the majority, when the minority might have a better opinion. “Democratic decision making—one person, one vote—is dumb,” Dalio explains, “because not everybody has the same believability.”*
Page 199

If you’re about to interact with a few Bridgewater colleagues for the first time, you can see their track records on seventy-seven different dimensions of values, skills, and abilities in the areas of higher-level thinking, practical thinking, maintaining high standards, determination, open-mindedness yet assertiveness, and organization and reliability. During regular review cycles, employees rate one another on different qualities like integrity, courage, living in truth, taking the bull by its horns, not tolerating problems, being willing to touch a nerve, fighting to get in sync, and holding people accountable.
Page 200

At any time, employees can submit dots, or observations—they assess peers, leaders, or subordinates on the metrics and give short explanations of what they’ve observed.
Page 200

When you express an opinion, it’s weighted by whether you’ve established yourself as believable on that dimension. Your believability is a probability of being right in the present, and is based on your judgment, reasoning, and behavior in the past. In presenting your views, you’re expected to consider your own believability by telling your audience how confident you are. If you have doubts, and you’re not known as believable in the domain, you shouldn’t have an opinion in the first place; you’re supposed to ask questions so you can learn. If you’re expressing a fierce conviction, you should be forthright about it—but know that your colleagues will probe the quality of your reasoning. Even then, you’re supposed to be assertive and open-minded at the same time.
Page 200

Karl Weick advises, “Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong.”
Page 201

Even if your organization doesn’t currently embrace critical upward feedback, holding an open season on leaders might be an effective way to begin changing the culture.
Page 203

CEO Tom Gerrity asked a consultant to tell him everything he did wrong in front of his entire staff of roughly a hundred employees. By role modeling receptivity to feedback, employees across the company became more willing to challenge him—and one another.
Page 203

It’s easier to start a relationship with the door open than to pry open a door that’s already been slammed shut.
Page 204

I’d come to believe that no one had the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking up about it, I explained to Dalio, and since that’s what their culture prizes, I wouldn’t pull any punches. “I’m unoffendable,” he replied, giving me the green light to go ahead.
Page 205

when organizations fail to prioritize principles, their performance suffers.
Page 205

few years earlier, Dalio had been asked whether it was his personal dream to have everyone live by the principles. “No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Nooo. Nooo. Absolutely not. No. Just please. No,” he replied emphatically.
Page 206

“Shapers” are independent thinkers: curious, non-conforming, and rebellious. They practice brutal, nonhierarchical honesty. And they act in the face of risk, because their fear of not succeeding exceeds their fear of failing.
Page 208

The greatest shapers don’t stop at introducing originality into the world. They create cultures that unleash originality in others.
Page 209

Although many originals come across as beacons of conviction and confidence on the outside, their inner experiences are peppered with ambivalence and self-doubt.
Page 212

Choosing to challenge the status quo is an uphill battle, and there are bound to be failures, barriers, and setbacks along the way.
Page 212

Strategic optimists anticipate the best, staying calm and setting high expectations. Defensive pessimists expect the worst, feeling anxious and imagining all the things that can go wrong.
Page 212

When self-doubts creep in, defensive pessimists don’t allow themselves to be crippled by fear. They deliberately imagine a disaster scenario to intensify their anxiety and convert it into motivation. Once they’ve considered the worst, they’re driven to avoid it, considering every relevant detail to make sure they don’t crash and burn, which enables them to feel a sense of control.
Page 213

Their confidence springs not from ignorance or delusions about the difficulties ahead, but from a realistic appraisal and an exhaustive plan. When they don’t feel anxious, they become complacent; when encouraged, they become discouraged from planning.
Page 213

“The trick is to make fear your friend,” he notes. “Fear forces you to prepare more rigorously and see potential problems more quickly.”
Page 214

To overcome fear, why does getting excited work better than trying to calm yourself down? Fear is an intense emotion: You can feel your heart pumping and your blood coursing. In that state, trying to relax is like slamming on the brakes when a car is going 80 miles per hour. The vehicle still has momentum. Rather than trying to suppress a strong emotion, it’s easier to convert it into a different emotion—one that’s equally intense, but propels us to step on the gas.
Page 216

Fear is marked by uncertainty about the future: We’re worried that something bad will happen. But because the event hasn’t occurred yet, there’s also a possibility, however slim, that the outcome will be positive. We can step on the gas by focusing on the reasons to move forward—the sliver of excitement that we feel about breaking loose and singing our song.
Page 216

When we’re not yet committed to a particular action, thinking like a defensive pessimist can be hazardous. Since we don’t have our hearts set on charging ahead, envisioning a dismal failure will only activate anxiety, triggering the stop system and slamming our brakes. By looking on the bright side, we’ll activate enthusiasm and turn on the go system.
Page 217

But once we’ve settled on a course of action, when anxieties creep in, it’s better to think like a defensive pessimist and confront them directly. In this case, instead of attempting to turn worries and doubts into positive emotions, we can shift the go system into higher gear by embracing our fear. Since we’ve set our minds to press forward, envisioning the worst-case scenario enables us to harness anxiety as a source of motivation to prepare and succeed.
Page 217

Originality brings more bumps in the road, yet it leaves us with more happiness and a greater sense of meaning.
Page 219

Just flying solo with an opinion can make even a committed original fearful enough to conform to the majority.
Page 225

The easiest way to encourage non-conformity is to introduce a single dissenter.
Page 225

Merely knowing that you’re not the only resister makes it substantially easier to reject the crowd. Emotional strength can be found even in small numbers.
Page 225

If you want people to go out on a limb, you need to show them that they’re not alone.
Page 226

Effective displays of humor are what Popovic calls dilemma actions: choices that put oppressors in a lose-lose situation.
Page 228

Instead of trying to decelerate the stop system, he uses laughter to rev up the go system. When you have no power, it’s a powerful way to convert strong negative emotions into positive ones.
Page 229

“Executives underestimate how hard it can be to drive people out of their comfort zones,” Kotter writes. “Without a sense of urgency, people . . . won’t make needed sacrifices. Instead they cling to the status quo and resist.”
Page 232

Now, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to avoid that loss, even if it means risking an even bigger one.
Page 233

If you want people to modify their behavior, is it better to highlight the benefits of changing or the costs of not changing?
Page 233

If they think the behavior is safe, we should emphasize all the good things that will happen if they do it—they’ll want to act immediately to obtain those certain gains. But when people believe a behavior is risky, that approach doesn’t work. They’re already comfortable with the status quo, so the benefits of change aren’t attractive, and the stop system kicks in. Instead, we need to destabilize the status quo and accentuate the bad things that will happen if they don’t change. Taking a risk is more appealing when they’re faced with a guaranteed loss if they don’t. The prospect of a certain loss brings the go system online.
Page 233

When deliberating about innovation opportunities, the leaders weren’t inclined to take risks. When they considered how their competitors could put them out of business, they realized that it was a risk not to innovate. The urgency of innovation was apparent.
Page 234

If you want people to take risks, you need first to show what’s wrong with the present. To drive people out of their comfort zones, you have to cultivate dissatisfaction, frustration, or anger at the current state of affairs, making it a guaranteed loss.
Page 234

The audience was only prepared to be moved by his dream of tomorrow after he had exposed the nightmare of today.
Page 235

when we’re experiencing doubts on the way toward achieving a goal, whether we ought to look backward or forward depends on our commitment. When our commitment is wavering, the best way to stay on track is to consider the progress we’ve already made. As we recognize what we’ve invested and attained, it seems like a waste to give up, and our confidence and commitment surge.
Page 235

Once commitment is fortified, instead of glancing in the rearview mirror, it’s better to look forward by highlighting the work left to be done. When we’re determined to reach an objective, it’s the gap between where we are and where we aspire to be that lights a fire under us.
Page 236

Anger counteracts apathy: We feel that we’ve been wronged, and we’re compelled to fight.
Page 236

Deep acting dissolves the distinction between your true self and the role you are playing. You are no longer acting, because you are actually experiencing the genuine feelings of the character.
Page 237

Deep acting turns out to be a more sustainable strategy for managing emotions than surface acting.
Page 238

One of the fundamental problems with venting is that it focuses attention on the perpetrator of injustice. The more you think about the person who wronged you, the more violently you want to lash out in retaliation. “Anger
Page 241

Research demonstrates that when we’re angry at others, we aim for retaliation or revenge. But when we’re angry for others, we seek out justice and a better system. We don’t just want to punish; we want to help.
Page 242

Do diverse experiences really generate originality, or do original people seek out diverse experiences?
Page 322

Shared tactics only facilitate alliances up to a point. When the overlap in tactics between groups was more than 61 percent, coalitions became less likely. When their methods are pretty much the same, groups simply have less to learn and gain from one another; their efforts are more likely to be redundant.
Page 322

The representatives shared their perspectives, avoiding blaming each other and justifying their own views, and focusing on analyzing the effects of their interaction on the conflict. After all participants expressed their concerns and understood and acknowledged those posed by everyone else, they embarked on joint problem solving.
Page 322

As psychologists Andreas Mojzisch and Stefan Schulz-Hardt find, “knowing others’ preferences degrades the quality of group decisions.” Next, instead of discussing alternatives one at a time, they compared and contrasted each of the alternatives. Evidence shows that when groups consider options one at a time, a majority preference can emerge too early. It’s better to rank order the options, because comparing your third and fourth choice might surface information that shifts the entire decision. Psychologist Andrea Hollingshead finds that when groups are instructed to rank order the alternatives, instead of choosing the best alternative, they’re more likely to consider each option, share information about the unpopular ones, and make a good decision.
Page 322

Research shows that when American presidents’ inaugural addresses feature positive thoughts about the future, employment rates and gross domestic product decline during their terms in office. When presidents are too optimistic, the economy gets worse. Negative thoughts can direct our attention to potential problems, and the absence of those thoughts predicts a failure to take preventative and corrective actions.
Page 322

Psychologist James Pennebaker has demonstrated that expressing our thoughts and feelings about a stressful or traumatic event is most salutary after we’ve had some time to process the event, when we’re not blinded by anger or consumed by distress.
Page 322

Do not talk about things immediately after they happened. That will cement the trauma in your psyche. Give yourself time to process the trauma, minimum 6 days, then start talking, writing, sharing, discussing it, otherwise you risk never being able to process it.

The Anxiety Toolkit

Book Notes

This book is how to deal with anxiety, coping mechanisms and the like. Again, I have no idea how this ended up in my to-read pile, a problem I am becoming more anxious about fixing as I write that statement again.

The anxieties described in the beginning of this book are not anxieties I have. Public speaking in and of itself does not cause me to become a ball of anxious jelly. I know that my voice will crack and my throat will become dry when I first start talking in front of a crowd, but my heart doesn't race and I feel notice the voice and throat from outside of myself, not inside. Neither am I stuck by nerves about doing basic adult tasks or looking out for myself. I believe I have done a very good job at identifying my anxieties and addressing my anxieties.

As such, when I read this book, I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the techniques and suggestions in the book. I didn't relate to the "do you feel X?" questions in the beginning of each chapter. I am grateful for whatever place I am on the autism scale that allowed me to dodge those particular emotions.

I was thinking this was an interesting book, but not applicable in a meaningful way to me, until I read the chapter on rumination.

Hooboy. Hello, Kitt.

This is the chapter I paid attention to. This is the chapter that made the rest of the book worth reading.

And that's the thing, isn't it?

We all have different manifestations of our anxieties and different ways of processing anxiety. We all have different triggers and different soothing mechanisms. Some people have fantastic soothing mechanisms, others need help, guidance, and a direction.

Boyes comments early and frequently:

Like any book, take what you find useful from it and ignore the rest.

Which sums up my opinion of the book. It's worth reading if you have anxieties or want to hear about other people's coping mechanism. Drinking to numbness is not a valid solution, for example, it is abdication of responsibility to your own life and a crappy coping mechanism. This book lists other, better coping mechanisms. Worth a read if you need some.

Update: Read Faith Harper's Coping Skills first. It's a shorter and better read for those needing immediate coping skills. Come back to this one once the worst is over.

To better manage your anxiety, you don’t need to understand the average anxious person — you need to understand the multidimensional you.
Page 19

People who are agreeable tend to prioritize getting along with others. They may not be willing to make waves when they can see problems with other people’s ideas or plans. In contrast, people who are naturally disagreeable may underestimate the importance of getting along with others and not invest enough in relationship building.
Page 26

If you’re anxious and agreeable, you may find yourself overcommitting to things because you overestimate the potential negative consequences of saying no.
Page 26

When people overfocus on anxiety for a long time, they tend to lose confidence in their capacity to be anything other than a walking ball of worry and rumination.
Page 33

When anxiety becomes a major problem for someone, it’s usually because the person has become stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle where the things he or she does to reduce anxiety in the short term cause it to multiply in the long term.
Page 37

Find the Goals Where Pursuing Them Is Worth Tolerating Anxiety
Page 42

Goals Don’t Need to Be Giant to Be Important to You
Page 43

When you’re thinking about goals, keep in mind that more ambitious goals aren’t “better” than less ambitious goals. Many people would rather visit 30 countries in a lifetime than 200.
Page 43

Experiment: What’s one idiosyncratic goal that’s important to you?
Page 44

However, there are some instances when anxiety causes people to restrict their goals.
Page 44

People with shaky self-worth may hold back from setting ambitious goals because they worry that others will see them as too confident or full of themselves.
Page 44

Your worry might be that you won’t get the alone time you need to feel balanced.
Page 45

If you’re constantly thinking of new goals, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It suggests you’re hardwired with a high need for novelty and excitement.
Page 46

Feeling happy is like feeling warm. It’s a state of being that feels good. It might sound counterintuitive but focusing directly on pursuing happiness isn’t always the best approach to increasing it. This parallels the idea that focusing on reducing anxiety isn’t always the best way to decrease it.
Page 47

Self-esteem is composed of (1) a sense of self-worth and (2) a sense of being competent at things. 4 For example, sources of self-worth might involve loving and being loved by others; an ability to make other people feel comfortable and at ease; or positive contributions you make to society, your field, or your community. In contrast, a sense of competency might come from being good at computer tasks, being able to prepare a dinner party for 10, or paying your bills on time. Try coming up with three sources of self-worth and three things you’re competent at. Aim to recognize areas you’ve tended to underappreciate.
Page 48

Whenever you’re feeling anxious, use this feeling as your cue to practice articulating your negative prediction and an alternative. Try prompting yourself to think of the best possible outcome, instead of just the worst.
Page 59

When you change a habit, you don’t so much break a bad habit as build up and strengthen a new one.
Page 59

If you’re currently stuck in pause mode, and have been for a while, taking some action is usually better than taking no action. When you can recognize the value of acting with uncertainty, you’ll help your brain start to interpret uncertainty as a positive or not-so-terrible state, rather than it causing your alarm bells to ring loudly.
Page 60

Try to come up with three examples of your own. If coming up with three examples is intimidating, come up with just one example.
Page 60

Nope. Go for 10.
Page 60

the vast majority of failures aren’t catastrophes.
Page 63

Many people underestimate their capacity to cope with trying something and not succeeding. Anxious people often worry about later regretting decisions and finding it hard to deal with the ensuing emotions.
Page 63

Anxiety tends to make people think in dichotomous, either/ or terms. A common example is seeing success and failure as the only two potential end points, rather than seeing a zigzagging path toward success that is dotted with failures along the way.
Page 65

1. Have you had any past experiences where you ended up succeeding after initial failure? List one. 2. Identify one area in which you have a fixed mindset. It should be a skill/ capacity you see as important to your success, where you see yourself as not as good as you’d like to be, and where you see that skill/ capacity as fixed. 3. Identify a new growth mindset that you’d like to strengthen.
Page 65

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to wait for your thoughts to change before you try behavioral shifts. Mental and behavioral shifts go hand in hand. When you start making changes in your behavior (even subtle ones), you’ll notice that all kinds of thoughts, including your view of yourself, start to shift. Changing your behavior, without waiting for your thoughts to always shift first, is one of the best and fastest ways you can reduce your anxiety.
Page 69

The best way to instantly feel less anxious is to slow your breathing. Try this whenever you feel physically overaroused due to anxiety, or when your thoughts are either racing or frozen. Slowing your breathing will automatically slow down your heart rate.
Page 70

Here are some tips for slowing your breathing: 1. Before you try to slow your breathing, drop your shoulders. It’ll make it easier. Also, focus on breathing slowly rather than breathing deeply. 2. If you have an area of tension in your body, like your neck and shoulders are tight, imagine you’re breathing fresh new air into those areas. There’s nothing sciencey about this, but lots of people like this method.
Page 70

Deciding when and where you’re going to do something will dramatically increase the likelihood you’ll follow through.
Page 71

Intermittent reinforcement means sometimes getting rewarded but without being able to predict when you’ll score vs. when you’ll strike out. 5 Intermittent reinforcement results in behaviors being quickly acquired and creates behaviors that are very persistent—
Page 72

The take-home message: Even if you achieve only intermittent reinforcement—that is, you experience success only sometimes—having some successes will make your behavior much more resilient, and you’ll be less likely to give up.
Page 72

regularly interact with people who are already successfully doing what you want to do.
Page 73

if you surround yourself with people who are already acting in the ways you need to act, this will likely rub off on you. You’ll be more likely to take action.
Page 73

When an opportunity to act with uncertainty comes up, articulate the potential upsides of taking action:
Page 73

Look for small ways to practice hesitating a little less than you usually would.
Page 74

give yourself some criteria for making quicker decisions.
Page 74

Believe it or not, psychologists have a term to describe people who like to think a lot. The trait is called need for cognition. It refers to people who enjoy effortful thinking and feel motivated to attempt to understand and make sense of things.
Page 78

Ruminating can sometimes be a bit like daydreaming, in that people often get lost in rumination without realizing they’re doing it.
Page 80

Experiment: Jot down a list of the different topics of rumination you’re prone to. Use the following ideas to brainstorm, or just fill in the blanks: Replaying conversations with people in power positions in your life. For example, replaying conversations, including email conversations, with [insert names of people] . Replaying memories of experiences of failure from the past. For example, . Thinking about ways in which you’re not as perfect as you’d like to be. For example, thinking you’re not as good at as you’d like. Thinking about things you should be doing to be more successful, such as . Thinking about whether you’re too much of a loser to ever have success and happiness. Replaying small errors you’ve made, such as . Thinking about the path not taken, such as .
Page 80

when you’re ruminating: Don’t trust your memory. You might be ruminating about something fictional or at least magnified.
Page 81

Experiment: Do you have any current rumination topics where memory bias might be playing a role?
Page 81

Answer the following questions: 1. What’s your ruminating mind telling you? 2. What are the objective data telling you about whether your ruminative thoughts are likely to be correct?
Page 81

3. Are you recalling feedback as harsher than it was or recalling blips in your performance as worse than they were?
Page 82

However, because anxiety tends to make thinking negative, narrow, and rigid, it’s difficult to do creative problem solving when you’re feeling highly anxious.
Page 82

Reducing self-criticism is a critical part of reducing rumination.
Page 83

harsh self-criticism doesn’t help you move forward because it isn’t a very effective motivational tool,
Page 84

Acknowledging the emotions you’re feeling (such as embarrassed, disappointed, upset) and then giving yourself compassion will lead to your making better choices than criticizing yourself will.
Page 84

Identify a mistake or weakness that you want to focus on, and then write for three minutes using the following instructions: “Imagine that you are talking to yourself about this weakness (or mistake) from a compassionate and understanding perspective. What would you say?” Try this experiment
Page 84

Try to notice when you get caught in should/ shouldn’t thinking traps, in which you criticize yourself just for feeling anxious.
Page 85

Try this: Switch out any shoulds hidden in your self-talk and replace them with prefer. 7 For example, instead of saying “I should have achieved more by now” try “I would prefer to have achieved more by now.”
Page 86

Doing something useful then further helps lift you out of rumination.
Page 86

if you’re jumping to any negative conclusions about why the person hasn’t responded and try coming up with alternative explanations that are plausible.
Page 87

Often you won’t find out the reasons for other people’s actions, which is part of why this type of rumination tends to be so futile.
Page 87

Humans like to have explanations for why things happen. When we don’t have one, we tend to invent something. Sometimes the explanations involve personalizing. Personalizing is when you take something more personally than it was meant in reality.
Page 88

you need to learn to tolerate that you’re not always going to know why people behave the way they do.
Page 88

Recognize that if someone acts strangely, there’s a very high likelihood that the behavior has something to do with what’s happening for that person, rather than being about you, and you’re probably never going to know what the reason was.
Page 88

Start with three minutes of one of the following practices, and increase the time you spend meditating by 30 seconds each day: Pay attention to the physical sensations of your breathing. Lie down and put your hand on your abdomen to feel the sensations of it rising as you breathe in and falling as you breathe out. Sit or lie down and listen to any sounds and the silence between sounds. Let sounds just come in and out of your awareness regardless of whether they’re relaxing sounds or not. Walk for three minutes and pay attention to what you see. Walk and pay attention to the feelings of air on your skin. Walk and pay attention to the physical sensations of your body moving. Do three minutes of open awareness, in which you pay attention to any sensations that show up. Pay attention to anything in the here and now, which could be sounds, your breathing, the sensations of your body making contact with your chair, or the sensations of your feet on the floor. Spend three minutes paying attention to any sensations of pain, tension, comfort, or relaxation in your body. You don’t need to try to change the sensations; just allow them to be what they are, and ebb and flow as they do.
Page 89

When your thoughts drift away from what you’re supposed to be paying attention to, gently (and without self-criticism) bring them back. Expect to need to do this a lot. It’s a normal part of doing mindfulness meditation and doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. You’re likely to get
Page 90

forward. To shift out of rumination and into problem-solving mode, concretely and realistically define what your best three to six options are.
Page 91

Defining your options relieves some of the stress of rumination and helps you shift to effective problem solving. Keeping your list of options short will prevent you from running into choice-overload problems.
Page 91

Experiment: Practice concretely defining your best three to six options for moving forward with a problem you’re currently ruminating or worrying about. Write brief bullet points, like in the example just given. You can use this method for all sorts of problems.
Page 92

Imagery exposure is a technique in which you vividly recall a situation you’ve been ruminating about,
Page 92

To start, recall all the sights and sounds of the past situation (or feared situation) in as much detail as you can. For
Page 93

Deliberately keep the image in mind until your anxiety falls to half of where it started (or less). For example, if vividly recalling the situation triggers 8 out of 10 anxiety initially, hold the image in mind until your anxiety drops to about a level 4. Repeat the imagery exposure exercise at least once a day until you can bring the image to mind without it triggering more than about half of the peak anxiety you experienced the first time you tried imagery exposure.
Page 93

If you’re ruminating because you’ve been putting off dealing with an issue, taking any level of action to address what you’ve been avoiding will usually help alleviate your rumination.
Page 94

Move Ruminative Thinking Forward by Asking Questions
Page 95

Ask questions as a way of unclogging stuck thinking. When you ask questions, you may get useful new information, or just the process of asking the questions may stimulate your own thinking. Sometimes even getting unhelpful responses can help you move forward, because they prompt you to define your problem differently. This often happens when someone misunderstands your question and gives an unhelpful, irrelevant response, but this makes you reformulate your question in a clearer form.
Page 95

Thinking Shifts to Overcome Unhelpful Types of Perfectionism Anxiety-related thinking patterns can contribute to problems like prioritizing the wrong types of tasks, feeling burned out, and getting intensely frustrated when results aren’t coming as quickly or consistently as you’d like.
Page 101

If you can shift your thinking from a performance focus to a mastery focus, you’ll become less fearful, more resilient, and more open to good, new ideas. Performance focus is when your highest priority is to show you can do something well now. Mastery focus is when you’re mostly concerned with advancing your skills.
Page 104

A mastery focus can help you persist after setbacks.
Page 104

Mastery goals will help you become less upset about individual instances of failure.
Page 105

What’s your most important mastery goal right now? Complete this sentence: “My goal is to master the skills involved in
Page 105

How would people with your mastery goal: 1. React to mistakes, setbacks, disappointments, and negative moods? 2. Prioritize which tasks they work on? What types of tasks would they deprioritize? 3. React when they’d sunk a lot of time into something and then realized a particular strategy or idea didn’t have the potential they’d hoped it would? 4. Ensure they were optimizing their learning and skill acquisition? 5. React when they felt anxious?
Page 105

3. How would you talk to yourself differently if you had more acceptance of this? What would you say to yourself?
Page 107

More Useful Pattern Anxiety/ frustration “I need to work harder” thinking error Spot the thinking trap Take a break Resume and maintain the behavioral goal I know works for me
Page 109

Thoughts are just thoughts; the problem is that we accept thoughts as true, and confuse feelings with facts. Part of the reason this happens is memory bias: Your brain will tend to remember events from the past that match your current mood.
Page 111

Therefore, regaining confidence is often just a matter of being patient and waiting for a negative or anxious mood to pass.
Page 112

Excessive expectations plus anxiety get in the way of generating ideas.
Page 112

Instead, try asking yourself: What do I know that’s relevant to solving my problem or helping me answer my question? How could I replicate something I’ve already done successfully, but with a twist? How could I combine two concepts that could be combined but aren’t usually? (Like croissants + donuts = cronuts) How could I take a successful method and replicate it with different ingredients? (Such as you notice the title of a viral blog post and copy the form of the title for a blog post you’re writing about a different topic.) Experiment: Try thinking of a successful method and how the method could be replicated but with different ingredients.
Page 113

The following are some ways of making more willpower available to you: Reduce the number of tasks you attempt to get done each day to a very small number. Always identify what your most important task is, and make sure you get that single task done. You can group together your trivial tasks, like replying to emails or paying bills online, and count those as just one item. Refresh your available willpower by doing tasks slowly.
Page 114

Slowing down in this way is considered a form of mindfulness practice.
Page 115

Another way to refresh your willpower is by taking some slow breaths or doing any of the mindfulness practices
Page 115

Know Your Warning Signs That You’ve Persisted Too Long
Page 116

Define your overpersistence warning signs in objective and specific ways. This will make it harder to ignore them than if your definitions were fuzzy.
Page 116

We all have recency bias, meaning recent memories tend to be the most salient.
Page 117

Experiment with what it’s like to stop working while you’re in the zone and still enjoying a task rather than when you’re exhausted and frustrated.
Page 117

A behavioral experiment you can try is delegating or outsourcing tasks you feel overwhelmed by.
Page 118

To help you be less tempted to jump around, reduce your exposure to excessive information and alternatives.
Page 119

questions. Write down one specific example of each.
Page 126

Have you avoided seeking feedback early on only to later realize that earlier feedback would’ve saved you from continuing down the wrong track for so long? When? Have you avoided feedback only to later realize your fears of negative feedback were unjustified? How long did you worry unnecessarily? What was that like for you? Have you had times when your predictions of negative feedback came true, but it was a much milder experience than you’d anticipated? Have you had an experience where you realized that making the required changes was much easier than you thought, and you had endured extra worry for no reason? What cool opportunities have you opted out of because you didn’t want to expose yourself to even the possibility of negative feedback?
Page 127

One of the reasons anxious people fear feedback is that they tend to judge their performance more harshly than others judge them.
Page 127

Just like everyone has a vision blind spot, everyone has cognitive blind spots that can lead to making less than stellar choices.
Page 128

Think about a specific scenario in which you fear negative feedback. If your fears came true: How would you go about making the required changes? How could you be self-accepting of your sensitivity to criticism? How could you talk to yourself gently about the emotions you’re feeling instead of criticizing yourself for feeling upset? How could you be patient with yourself while you’re having those feelings? What self-care would you do while you wait for your hurt and upset feelings to pass? (Yes, rewatching episodes of ’90s TV is a totally acceptable answer. 3) What personal support would you access to cope with your emotions? For example, you’d talk to a friend.
Page 129

Anxiety can cause people to sometimes misinterpret feedback once they’ve received it. When people feel anxious, they tend to interpret ambiguous information (and lack of feedback) as negative.
Page 130

You need to train yourself to consider the possibility that whatever has happened might not be personal. The second is recognizing that negative feedback does not necessarily mean the person doesn’t like you, doesn’t respect your capabilities, or doesn’t recognize your potential.
Page 131

Anxiety (and stress) can make people more vulnerable to the hostility bias, a type of personalizing where you jump to the conclusion that other people have hostile intent.
Page 132

The hostility bias often crops up in the workplace and in other group settings. For example, others offer you suggestions. You experience those suggestions as being attacked or nitpicked.
Page 132

the best way to tackle the hostility bias in the moment is to slow your breathing to calm yourself physiologically, then use a behavioral strategy such as “canned responses” (see the next section).
Page 133

You can prepare some verbal canned responses for times when you need to stall, without appearing defensive while you’re mentally processing feedback. Some examples: I think you’ve got a good point about ____. I’ll think about everything you’ve said. I need to process your feedback and mull it over. That’s an interesting way to look at it. Let me think about how I can incorporate your feedback. Let me think about how best to proceed from here. I’ll email you with some thoughts.
Page 133

You can also have canned responses for when you feel embarrassed that a blind spot has been revealed. For example: I hadn’t thought of it like that. That’s really useful. Thanks for alerting me to that way of looking at it. That’s a great idea. I often come away from our conversations with a new perspective.
Page 134

Acting as if you feel relaxed is one of the fastest ways to actually feel more calm. If you get an anxiety spike when you receive feedback or tend to feel defensive, try making your body language more open.
Page 134

Drop your shoulders, lift your head, make gentle eye contact, and relax your hands. When you do this, your
Page 135

When you ask people to give you feedback, ask for it in the form of a “poop sandwich.” The poop sandwich is feedback given in the following order—something you did well, a problem or learning edge, something else you did well. Try to give and receive feedback using this technique.
Page 136

Sometimes anxious people need time to process a little bit of feedback before they’re open to receiving more.
Page 137

Avoidance will eat you alive psychologically if you don’t work on it.
Page 142

How avoidance coping manifests for you will depend on what your dominant response type is when you’re facing something you’d rather avoid. There are three possible responses: freezing, fleeing, or fighting.
Page 142

By recognizing the gap between your values and your behavior, you can find the motivation to overcome your avoidance.
Page 145

Guilt is psychologically healthy. Shame is not. The difference between guilt and shame is that guilt is about feeling bad about a behavior; shame is about feeling bad about who you are.
Page 145

If you up your belief in your ability to cope with facing an upsetting reality, you’ll experience less desire to avoid.
Page 146

Examples That’s Me (indicate with a ) All or nothing thinking / Rigid thinking / Unrelenting standards / Perfectionism You need to clean a whole room but don’t have the energy. You do nothing rather than clean one or two things in the room. You believe that everything needs to be done to an excellent level. If you can’t do something to an excellent level, you tend to avoid it completely. You set unrealistic productivity goals for how much you can get done. This causes you to avoid everything completely because you feel overwhelmed. Negative predictions You expect that if you try something you’ll fail. You put off asking for things because you think other people won’t be interested or expect they’ll say no (mind reading). You put off getting user feedback because you expect it will be negative / You avoid testing products with real customers. You overestimate how difficult or unpleasant a task will be. Underestimating your ability to cope You underestimate your ability to cope with boring, stressful, or anxiety-provoking tasks. Personalizing: personalizing your difficulty with a task rather than seeing the task itself as difficult, which gives you an excuse to avoid You think the reason you struggle with something is because you’re too stupid to figure it out rather than thinking it’s inherently challenging and has a learning curve. You think you’re the only one who has problems with something.
Page 149

You make a list of all the situations and behaviors you avoid due to anxiety. You then assign a number to each item on your list based on how anxiety provoking you expect doing the avoided behavior would be. Use numbers from 0 (= not anxiety provoking at all) to 100 (= you would fear having an instant panic attack).
Page 150

Aim to construct a list that has several avoided actions in each 10-point range.
Page 150

Make a plan for how you can work through your hierarchy, starting at the bottom of the list. Where possible, repeat an avoided behavior several times before you move up to the next level.
Page 150

During the 30 days, take as many opportunities as you can to be less avoidant than you usually would be.
Page 151

As situations come up, focus on taking some action, even if you’re not certain what the absolute right action is.
Page 151

Don’t be too all-or-nothing about overcoming avoidance coping. We all have only so much willpower available for dealing with things we’d prefer not to do.
Page 152

When you’re avoiding something, try identifying the next action you need to take to move forward. Do that action.
Page 152

After you’ve worked on a task you’ve been avoiding, allow yourself to enjoy the fruits of your labor by taking some time to relax.
Page 155

assume that if you don’t plan when and where you’re going to do something, you’re probably not going to do it. If you avoid choosing when and where you’ll do a task, take that as a clue that you’re not committed to doing it.
Page 157

Pick a smaller action for which you are willing to plan when and where you’ll do it.
Page 157

Antiprocrastination strategies that can work well for a while can stop working. Accept that you’ll need to switch strategies in and out.
Page 158

Some areas in which you can set up your life to fit your temperament are: Have the right level of busyness in your life.
Page 169

Pick the physical activity level that’s right for you.
Page 169

Having pleasurable activities to look forward to and enough physical activity will help protect you against depression. Have the right level of social contact in your life, and have routines that put this on autopilot.
Page 169

Allow yourself the right amount of mental space to work up to doing something—enough time that you can do some mulling over the prospect of getting started but not so much time that it starts to feel like avoidance of getting started.
Page 170

Have self-knowledge of what types of stress you find most difficult to process. Don’t voluntarily expose yourself to those types without considering alternatives.
Page 170

It’s sometimes easy to forget other people’s emotional needs when you’re putting so much hard work into your own.
Page 171

Also make sure that the first thing you say to your loved one when you reunite at the end of the day is something positive rather than complaining, whining, or handing out honey do’s
Page 171

use feeling anxious, stuck, or overwhelmed as your cue to ask yourself whether any of your most common behavioral traps are the culprit.
Page 174

Make sure you have a plan for an alternative action you can take when you notice yourself sucked into your most frequent behavioral traps.
Page 174

Many of the anxious people I’ve met are prone to excessive responsibility taking. They really don’t like to let anyone down and typically work hard to avoid conflict or other people being potentially unhappy with them. And they usually have high standards for self-performance.
Page 181

problem solving should generally involve concretely defining what the problem is, generating a short list of your best options for moving forward, picking something, and deciding when and where you’re going to implement that solution.
Page 184

Being in thinking-only mode for long periods is comforting in the same way that overeating junk food for long periods is. It feels comfortable in the moment, but in the long term, you end up far from where you wanted to be.
Page 184

Anxious people sometimes spend too much time and energy trying to change other people. Be aware if you’re doing this as a way of avoiding focusing on yourself and your own goals. Of course it’s easier to shift focus to what others could change rather than deal with the psychological work that’s sitting on your own plate.
Page 187

It’s really important that you like who you are. Provided you’re not a serial killer, no one deserves the emotional pain of going through life not liking themselves
Page 196

List your top five strengths as a person. Since you’re free to revise your list at any point (it’s yours after all), don’t get too perfectionistic about it. Once you have your list, identify a task you currently need to do. How could you apply one of your top five strengths to approach that task in a new way?
Page 199

The Consolations of Philosophy

Book Notes

While in large need of self-soothing and anxiety reducing, I went to every paper store in Nottingham that I could map out within walking distance of where I was. One of the places was a bookstore at the top of a flight of winding stairs with walls plastered with lots of NO and DO NOT DO THIS THING OR THAT THING. The entrance was more than a little off-putting, but the store itself was full of lots of quirky books and design books that seemed right in line with my style. I saw many books that I owned, which was favorable to me.

The proprietor saw me soon after I walked in, and wandered over to talk with me. He offered the usual greetings, which I answered with my own greetings. I expected him to let me wander after the pleasantries, but he continued speaking. He kept talking about the book store and other things, then asked what I liked to read. I explained my current non-fiction kick, and he started handing me books as suggestions.

And kept handing me books.

And talking.

I kept setting the books down where-ever I happened to be standing.

And turning around in clear social norms indicating that I wanted not to be talking.

He kept talking.

I really wanted him to stop talking, so that I could look at the books at my own speed. He didn't stop talking.

So, I listened to a couple of his suggestions, bought The Consolations of Philosophy, along with The Consolation of Philosophy, of which the former is a riff, and left.

I read Consolations this week.

The timing of it was great for me.

The book has six consolations: consolations for unpopularity, consolations for not having enough money, consolations for frustration, consolations for inadequacy, consolations for a broken heart, and consolations for difficulties. Each section has a philosopher featured, a short essay on his philosophy, and a section for, hey, things aren't so bad, here's what he thought and how it is relevant to your situation.

I enjoyed the book, I enjoyed the introduction to the new philosophers and descriptions of the ones I knew. Not sure I was particularly consoled per se, but I was entertained. Worth reading.

In conversations, my priority was to be liked, rather than to speak the truth.
Page 7

Philosophy had supplied Socrates with convictions in which he had been able to have rational, as opposed to hysterical, confidence when faced with disapproval.
Page 7

Every society has notions of what one should believe and how one should behave in order to avoid suspicion and unpopularity.
Page 9

If we refrain from questioning the status quo, it is – aside from the weather and the size of our cities – primarily because we associate what is popular with what is right.
Page 16

[W]hich suggests that we pick our friends not only because they are kind and enjoyable company, but also, perhaps more importantly, because they understand us for who we think we are.
Page 147

Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books that were written because authors couldn’t find anyone to talk to.
Page 148

There are, so Montaigne implied, no legitimate reasons why books in the humanities should be difficult or boring; wisdom does not require a specialized vocabulary or syntax, nor does an audience benefit from being wearied.
Page 158

Carefully used, boredom can be a valuable indicator of the merit of books.
Page 158

But writing with simplicity requires courage, for there is a danger that one will be overlooked, dismissed as simpleminded by those with a tenacious belief that impassable prose is a hallmark of intelligence.
Page 159

Yet in Montaigne’s schema of intelligence, what matters in a book is usefulness and appropriateness to life; it is less valuable to convey with precision what Plato wrote or Epicurus meant than to judge whether what they have said is interesting and could in the early hours help us over anxiety or loneliness. The responsibility of authors in the humanities is not to quasi-scientific accuracy, but to happiness and health.
Page 160

It is tempting to quote authors when they express our very own thoughts but with a clarity and psychological accuracy we cannot match. They know us better than we know ourselves. What is shy and confused in us is succinctly and elegantly phrased in them,
Page 161

It is striking how much more seriously we are likely to be taken after we have been dead a few centuries. Statements which might be acceptable when they issue from the quills of ancient authors are likely to attract ridicule when expressed by contemporaries. Critics are not inclined to bow before the grander pronouncements of those with whom they attended university.
Page 163

We may take this in two ways: that no one is genuinely marvellous, but that only families and staff are close enough to discern the disappointing truth. Or that many people are interesting, but that if they are too close to us in age and place, we are likely not to take them too seriously, on account of a curious bias against what is at hand.
Page 164

The philosopher might have offered unflattering explanations of why we fall in love, but there was consolation for rejection –the consolation of knowing that our pain is normal. We should not feel confused by the enormity of the upset that can ensue from only a few days of hope.
Page 194

Love could not induce us to take on the burden of propagating the species without promising us the greatest happiness we could imagine. To be shocked at how deeply rejection hurts is to ignore what acceptance involves. We must never allow our suffering to be compounded by suggestions that there is something odd in suffering so deeply.
Page 194

We should in time learn to forgive our rejectors.
Page 194

In every clumsy attempt by one person to inform another that they need more space or time, that they are reluctant to commit or are afraid of intimacy, the rejector is striving to intellectualize an essentially unconscious negative verdict formulated by the will-to-life.
Page 194

It is consoling, when love has let us down, to hear that happiness was never part of the plan. The darkest thinkers may, paradoxically, be the most cheering:
Page 197

What we encounter in works of art and philosophy are objective versions of our own pains and struggles, evoked and defined in sound, language or image. Artists and philosophers not only show us what we have felt, they present our experiences more poignantly and intelligently than we have been able; they give shape to aspects of our lives that we recognize as our own, yet could never have understood so clearly on our own. They explain our condition to us, and thereby help us to be less lonely with, and confused by it.
Page 199

The greatest works of art speak to us without knowing of us.
Page 200

The most fulfilling human projects appeared inseparable from a degree of torment, the sources of our greatest joys lying awkwardly close to those of our greatest pains:
Page 215

Why? Because no one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at the first attempt; and in the interval between initial failure and subsequent success, in the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfilment.
Page 215

Christianity had, in Nietzsche’s account, emerged from the minds of timid slaves in the Roman Empire who had lacked the stomach to climb to the tops of mountains, and so had built themselves a philosophy claiming that their bases were delightful. Christians had wished to enjoy the real ingredients of fulfilment (a position in the world, sex, intellectual mastery, creativity) but did not have the courage to endure the difficulties these goods demanded. They had therefore fashioned a hypocritical creed denouncing what they wanted but were too weak to fight for while praising what they did not want but happened to have.
Page 237

The Road to Unfreedom

Book Notes

I picked up this book after expressing enthusiasm for Snyder's much shorter book, On Tyranny, and being told, oh, right, that shorter book was written while writing this book, and this book is also recommended. And I concur with the recommendation. Strongly.

Recognize that this book was written before Cheetoh had gained the insane head of steam he has now, and just how awful our situation can get once he gets going. Okay, so, we know that Russia helped elect Cheetoh. We know that they have been interfering with not only our political systems, but pretty much every other political system in the world. A super power like the USSR does not go down quietly, and Russia as emerged as a worthy successor.

In order to do that well, you need that whole nationalist thing. And in that light, we have Putin who has set himself up to be a god. How does one do that? Well, tell you what, I have no idea, but Synder does. And here's where this book comes in: a history of Russia sufficient to understand just how much shit we are in, how the soft pudgy of America and the rise of white nationalism has allowed America to be torn apart from the inside, with careful nudging from the outside by Russia. The fat, happy cow being led to the slaughter.

Except, except, hell, I really don't know enough about Russian history to know how much of this is true, and how much of it is, in itself, propaganda. I have no idea. Which is why I asked Rob to read the book when I was done, and let me know just how justified my newly found dislike for the country is. He said he'd let me know.

In the meantime, I strongly recommend the book.

During self-inflicted catastrophes of this kind, a certain kind of man always finds a way to blame a woman. In Vladimir Putin’s case, that woman was Hillary Clinton.
Page 53

The only escape from the alternatives of inevitability and eternity was history: understanding it or making it.
Page 109

To think historically is not to trade one national myth for another,
Page 112

No other land attracted as much colonial attention within Europe. This reveals the rule: European history turns on colonization and decolonization.
Page 119

This was an important moment in Ukrainian history; it confirmed democracy as a succession principle. So long as the rule of law functioned at the heights of politics, there was always hope that it might one day extend to everyday life.
Page 122

The reflex of protecting the future, triggered in the minds of students by the fear of losing Europe, was triggered in others by the fear of losing the one generation raised in an independent Ukraine.
Page 125

Once again the word went out, and Kyivans of all walks of life decided to put their bodies in front of batons. A young businesswoman recalled that her friends “were shaving and putting on clean clothes in case they should die that night.”
Page 125

The history of the Maidan between November 2013 and February 2014, the work of more than a million people presenting their bodies to the cold stone, is not the same thing as the history of the failed attempts to put it down. Bloodshed had been unthinkable for protestors within Ukraine; only bloodshed made Americans and Europeans notice the country; bloodshed served Moscow as an argument to send the Russian army to bring much more. And so the temptation is strong to recall Ukraine as it was seen from the outside, the arc of narrative following the arc of bullets.
Page 127

For those who took part in the Maidan, their protest was about defending what was still thought to be possible: a decent future for their own country.
Page 127

The violence mattered to them as a marker of the intolerable.
Page 127

Kyiv is a bilingual capital, something unusual in Europe and unthinkable in Russia and the United States. Europeans, Russians, and Americans rarely considered that everyday bilingualism might bespeak political maturity, and imagined instead that a Ukraine that spoke two languages must be divided into two groups and two halves.
Page 128

Hrytsak and others recalled the French philosopher Albert Camus and his idea of a revolt as the moment when death is chosen over submission.
Page 130

Poland and Lithuania were not in fact enemies of Russia in the Great Northern War. Getting one’s own history wrong is essential to eternity politics.
Page 133

On January 9, 2014, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine informed Yanukovych that Ukrainian riot policemen would be given Russian citizenship after the coming operation to crush the Maidan. This was a very important assurance, since it meant that these policemen did not need to fear the consequences of their actions. If the opposition won in the end, they would still be safe.
Page 134

Russian military intelligence created fictitious personae on the internet to spread these stories.
Page 138

She claimed that Western objections to the Russian invasion of Ukraine were a matter of “double standards.” This common Russian argument made of law not a general principle but a cultural artifact located among non-Russian peoples. Because Western states do not always follow every law, it ran, law had no validity. Russia, too, might violate laws; but since Russia did not accept the rule of law, this was not hypocritical. Since Russia was not hypocritical, it was innocent. If there are no standards, went the reasoning, then there are no double standards.
Page 143

This was Ilyin’s politics of eternity: a cycle back to the past replaces the forward movement of time; law means what Russia’s leader says it means; Russia is repairing God’s failed world with violence. Putin was the redeemer from beyond history who emerged to alter time.
Page 143

This was a new variety of fascism, which could be called schizofascism: actual fascists calling their opponents “fascists,” blaming the Holocaust on the Jews, treating the Second World War as an argument for more violence. It was a natural next step in a Russian politics of eternity, in which Russia was innocent and thus no Russian could ever be a fascist. During the Second World War, Soviet propaganda identified the enemy as the “fascists.” According to Soviet ideology, fascism arose from capitalism.
Page 145

Russians, Europeans, and Americans were meant to forget the students who were beaten on a cold November night because they wanted a future.
Page 150

Putin returned to the office of president with a parliamentary majority in violation of the laws of his own country. The leader who came to power by such means had to divert attention, blame, and responsibility to external enemies.
Page 151

A coup involves the military or the police or some combination of the two.
Page 153

Yanukovych’s flight to Russia placed Ukrainian citizens and lawmakers in an unusual situation: a head of state, during an invasion of his country, sought permanent refuge in the invading country. This was a situation without legal precedent. The agent of transition was a legally elected parliament.
Page 153

It makes a difference whether young people go to the streets to defend a future or arrive in tanks to suppress one.
Page 154

At the crucial junctures, an innocent Russia is always repelling a sinful West.
Page 155

It became official Russian policy, as it had been official Soviet policy, to recall the Second World War as having begun in 1941 rather than in 1939. The year 1941 is a moment of Russian innocence only if it is forgotten that the Soviet Union had begun the war in 1939 as Germany’s ally, and that between 1939 and 1941 had undertaken policies in occupied lands that were not so very different from Germany’s own.
Page 155

The Russian supreme court later confirmed that a Russian citizen could be convicted of a crime for a re-posting of elementary facts about Russian history on social media.
Page 156

The future held only more ignorance about the more distant future. As he wrote in Almost Zero: “Knowledge only gives knowledge, but uncertainty gives hope.”
Page 160

As Ilyin had done, Surkov invoked familiar biblical verses in order to invert their meanings. In his novel, he has a nun refer to First Corinthians 13: 13: “Uncertainty gives hope. Faith. Love.” If citizens can be kept uncertain by the regular manufacture of crisis, their emotions can be managed and directed. This is the opposite of the plain meaning of the biblical passage Surkov was citing: hope, faith, and love are the trinity of virtues that articulate themselves as we learn to see the world as it is.
Page 160

The first thing we learn when we see from the perspective of another is that we are not innocent.
Page 160

Its employees and those of other Russian state networks were taught that power was real but that the facts of the world were not.
Page 161

RT, Russia’s television propaganda sender for foreign audiences, had the same purpose: the suppression of knowledge that might inspire action, and the coaxing of emotion into inaction.
Page 161

The adage that there are two sides to a story makes sense when those who represent each side accept the factuality of the world and interpret the same set of facts. Putin’s strategy of implausible deniability exploited this convention while destroying its basis.
Page 164

In the Russian invasion, the strong used the weapons of the weak—partisan and terrorist tactics—in order to pretend to be the weak.
Page 165

Seeing violent death made people vulnerable to stories that imparted to these deaths some larger sense. These stories were provided by Russian television. It was impossible to know who had launched the shell that landed in your neighborhood;
Page 173

Once separatists had brought about the same kind of death that they had seen, the stories of innocence became unimpeachable truth. It is hard to resist lies for which one has already killed.
Page 173

Armies usually evacuate civilians from an artillery range so that they will not be killed by the enemy’s return fire. Russian authorities gave no such orders, presumably because they were confident no counterstrike was coming.
Page 176

Some local Russians felt ill at ease about this one-way war, in which their farmsteads were used to rain down death on people not so different from themselves.
Page 177

Russia needed a monopoly on martyrdom. In order to preserve it, Russia would make war on a nation with a far greater record of suffering (the Ukrainians), while abusing the memory of a people with a still greater record of victimhood (the Jews).
Page 186

Anton Tumanov’s family received a report: the place of death was listed as “location of unit”; the time of death as “time of performing military service”; the cause of death as “blood loss after having lost his legs.” His mother learned more about how her son died because one of his comrades took the risk of telling her. “What I don’t understand,” Tumanov’s mother said, “is what he died for. Why couldn’t we let people in Ukraine sort things out for themselves?” It pained her that her son was killed in a war that was not officially taking place. “If they sent our soldiers there, let them admit it.” When she posted the facts of her son’s death on social media, she was attacked as a traitor.
Page 188

Despite promises of safe passage, Ukrainian soldiers attempting to exit the pocket were killed.
Page 190

He meant that factuality was the enemy. This was the case made by the Izborsk Club in its manifesto and by the Russian commander Antyufeyev before the summer invasion: facts were “information technologies” from the West, and to destroy factuality was to destroy the West. Opinion polls suggest that the denial of factuality did suppress a sense of responsibility among Russians.
Page 194

The underlying logic of the Russian war against Ukraine, Europe, and America was strategic relativism. Given native kleptocracy and dependence on commodity exports, Russian state power could not increase, nor Russian technology close the gap with Europe or America. Relative power could however
Page 195

What Europeans and Americans had that Russians lacked were integrated trade zones and predictable politics with respected principles of succession. If these could be damaged, Russian losses would be acceptable since enemy losses would be still greater. In strategic relativism, the point is to transform international politics into a negative-sum game, where a skillful player will lose less than everyone else.
Page 195

Russia would bomb Syria to generate refugees, then encourage Europeans to panic. This would help the AfD, and thus make Europe more like Russia.
Page 198

In her decision to accept Syrian refugees, Merkel was motivated by the history of the 1930s, when Nazi Germany made its own Jewish citizens into refugees. The Russian response was in effect to say: If Merkel wants refugees, we will provide them, and use the issue to destroy her government and German democracy.
Page 199

The undesired exposure of private conversations was incipient totalitarianism, in a country that had been a focal point of Nazi and Soviet aspirations during the twentieth century. This point was rarely made. Polish memories of German and Soviet aggression tended to congeal around heroism and villainy. What got lost was the memory of how totalitarianism endured into the 1970s and 1980s: not by atrocities where the distinction between the perpetrator and victim is clear, but by an erosion of the line between private and public life that demolishes the rule of law and invites the population to participate in the demolition. Poles returned to a world of bugged conversations, unexpected denunciations, and constant suspicion.
Page 202

Public life cannot be sustained without private life. It is impossible to govern, even for the best of democrats, without the possibility for discreet conversations. The only politicians who are invulnerable to exposure are those who control the secrets of others, or those whose avowed behavior is so shameless that they are invulnerable to blackmail.
Page 202

By accepting that the private lives of public figures are the same thing as politics, citizens cooperate in the destruction of a public sphere.
Page 203

If Russians believed that all leaders and all media lied, then they would learn to dismiss Western models for themselves. If the citizens of Europe and the United States joined in the general distrust of one another and their institutions, then Europe and America could be expected to disintegrate. Journalists cannot function amidst total skepticism; civil societies wane when citizens cannot count on one another; the rule of law depends upon the beliefs that people will follow law without its being enforced and that enforcement when it comes will be impartial. The very idea of impartiality assumes that there are truths that can be understood regardless of perspective.
Page 208

A few weeks earlier, on Russian state television, a Russian anchor had claimed that Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves; and her interlocutor, Alexander Prokhanov, had agreed. Putin’s government paid the anchorwoman, and Putin himself made media appearances with Prokhanov (who also took a joyride in a Russian bomber, a rather clear expression of official support). These people were not condemned.
Page 212

Pilger wrote his article under the influence of a text he found on the internet, purportedly written by a physician, detailing supposed Ukrainian atrocities in Odessa—but the doctor did not exist and the event did not take place.
Page 213

None of these influential American and British writers visited Ukraine, which would have been the normal journalistic practice. Those who spoke so freely of conspiracies, coups, juntas, camps, fascists, and genocides shied from contact with the real world. From a distance, they used their talents to drown a country in unreality; in so doing, they submerged their own countries and themselves.
Page 214

When Moscow brought to bear in the United States the same techniques used in Ukraine, few on the American Right or the American Left noticed. And so the United States was defeated, Trump was elected, the Republican Party was blinded, and the Democratic Party was shocked. Russians supplied the political fiction, but Americans were asking for it.
Page 215

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey Where wealth accumulates, and men decay. —OLIVER GOLDSMITH, 1770
Page 217

“Donald Trump, successful businessman” was not a person. It was a fantasy born in the strange climate where the downdraft of the American politics of eternity, its unfettered capitalism, met the rising hydrocarbon fumes of the Russian politics of eternity, its kleptocratic authoritarianism. Russians raised “a creature of their own” to the presidency of the United States. Trump was the payload of a cyberweapon, meant to create chaos and weakness, as in fact he has done.
Page 219

Russia is not a wealthy country, but its wealth is highly concentrated. It is thus common practice for Russians to place someone in their debt by providing easy money and naming the price later.
Page 221

In June 2017, after Russia’s victory, Putin spoke for himself, saying that he had never denied that Russian volunteers had made cyberwar against the United States. This was the precise formulation he had used to describe the Russian invasion of Ukraine: that he had never denied that there were volunteers. Putin was admitting, with a wink, that Russia had defeated the United States in a cyberwar.
Page 227

American exceptionalism proved to be an enormous American vulnerability.
Page 227

Unlike Ukrainians, Americans were unaccustomed to the idea that the internet might be used against them.
Page 227

In 2016, about a million sites on Facebook were using a tool that allowed them to artificially generate tens of millions of “likes,” thereby pushing certain items, often fictions, into the newsfeeds of unwitting Americans.
Page 228

An important scholarly study published the day before the polls opened warned that bots could “endanger the integrity of the presidential election.” It cited three main problems: “first, influence can be redistributed across suspicious accounts that may be operated with malicious purposes; second, the political conversation can be further polarized; third, spreading of misinformation and unverified information can be enhanced.”
Page 229

Having used its Twitter bots to encourage a Leave vote in the Brexit referendum, Russia now turned them loose in the United States.
Page 230

As in Poland in 2015, so in the United States in 2016: no one considered the totalitarian implications of the selective public release of private communications. Totalitarianism effaces the boundary between the private and public, so that it is normal for us all to be transparent to power all of the time.
Page 232

More fundamentally, it was a foretaste of what modern totalitarianism is like: no one can act in politics without fear, since anything done now can be revealed later, with personal consequences.
Page 232

Of course, citizens play their part in creating a totalitarian atmosphere. Those who chose to call and threaten were in the avant-garde of American totalitarianism.
Page 232

If they take as knowledge only what is revealed by foreign hackers, citizens become beholden to hostile powers.
Page 233

The drama of revelation of one thing makes us forget that other things are hidden.
Page 233

This was a telling omission, since no American presidential campaign was ever so closely bound to a foreign power. The connections were perfectly clear from the open sources.
Page 233

One success of Russia’s cyberwar was that the seductiveness of the secret and the trivial drew Americans away from the obvious and the important: that the sovereignty of the United States was under visible attack.
Page 233

In important respects, American media had become like Russian media, and this made Americans vulnerable to Russian tactics.
Page 244

The United States once boasted an impressive network of regional newspapers. After the financial crisis of 2008, the American local press, already weakening, was allowed to collapse.
Page 245

Where there are local reporters, journalism concerns events that people see and care about. When local reporters disappear, the news becomes abstract. It becomes a kind of entertainment rather than a report about the familiar.
Page 245

The internet is an attention economy, which means that profit-seeking platforms are designed to divide the attention of their users into the smallest possible units that can be exploited by advertising messages. If news is to appear on such platforms, it must be tailored to fit a brief attention span and arouse the hunger for reinforcement. News that draws viewers tends to wear a neural path between prejudice and outrage.
Page 245

Some Americans wished to believe that what is private must be mysterious, and they were coaxed along by Russia.
Page 246

Russians exploited American gullibility.
Page 247

Everyone who liked, followed, and supported Heart of Texas was taking part in a Russian intervention in American politics designed to destroy the United States of America. Americans liked the site because it affirmed their own prejudices and pushed them just a bit further. It offered both the thrill of transgression and a sense of legitimacy.
Page 247

The internet is a bit like this. It knows much about us, but interacts with us without revealing that this is so. It makes us unfree by arousing our worst tribal impulses and placing them at the service of unseen others.
Page 249

Authoritarianism arrives not because people say that they want it, but because they lose the ability to distinguish between facts and desires.
Page 249

Democracies die when people cease to believe that voting matters. The question is not whether elections are held, but whether they are free and fair. If so, democracy produces a sense of time, an expectation of the future that calms the present. The meaning of each democratic election is promise of the next one. If we anticipate that another meaningful election will take place, we know that the next time around we can correct our mistakes, which in the meantime we blame upon the people whom we elect. In this way, democracy transforms human fallibility into political predictability, and helps us to experience time as movement forward into a future over which we have some influence. If we come to believe that elections are simply a repetitive ritual of support, democracy loses its meaning.
Page 249

The essence of Russia’s foreign policy is strategic relativism: Russia cannot become stronger, so it must make others weaker. The simplest way to make others weaker is to make them more like Russia. Rather than addressing its problems, Russia exports them; and one of its basic problems is the absence of a succession principle.
Page 249

The rule of law requires that the government control violence, and that the population expects that government can do so. The presence of guns in American society, which can feel like strength to some Americans, appeared in Moscow as a national weakness.
Page 250

Russia’s support of the NRA resembled its support of right-wing paramilitaries in Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
Page 251

Democracy depends upon the free exchange of ideas, where “free” means “without the threat of violence.”
Page 251

An important sign of the collapse of the rule of law is the rise of a paramilitary and its merger with government power.
Page 251

Puerto Rico has more inhabitants than twenty-one of the fifty American states, but its American citizens have no influence on presidential elections.
Page 252

As a result of gerrymandering, Democratic voters in Ohio or North Carolina in effect have, respectively, about one-half or one-third as much ability to elect a representative in Congress as do Republican voters. Citizens did not have an equal vote.
Page 252

When a minority president and a minority party control the executive and legislative branches of government, they can be tempted into a politics where victory depends not upon policy that pleases majorities but upon further limitation of the franchise.
Page 252

In 2016 in Florida, some 23% of African Americans were denied the vote as convicted felons. Felonies in Florida include releasing a helium balloon and harvesting lobsters with short tails.
Page 253

The Republican majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, made clear that the Senate would not consider any nominee of Barack Obama. This broke one of the most important conventions of the federal government of the United States, and was commented upon in Moscow.
Page 255

Moscow was attacking, and Congress declined to defend the country.
Page 256

Even as Kasich and Rubio took a stand on Russian foreign policy, the crucial Republican legislators surrendered in advance to Russian cyberattack. It was more important to humiliate a black president than it was to defend the independence of the United States of America. That is how wars are lost.
Page 257

It is easy to see the appeal of eternity to wealthy and corrupt men in control of a lawless state. They cannot offer social advance to their population, and so must find some other form of motion in politics.
Page 257

Demoralized by their inability to change their station in life, they must accept that the meaning of politics lies not in institutional reform but in daily emotion.
Page 257

Russian oligarchy emerged in the 1990s, but was consolidated as the kleptocratic control of the state by a single oligarchical clan under Putin in the 2000s.
Page 258

The appeal of the politics of eternity to such men is all too understandable. Far better to shackle a nation and rattle the world than to risk the loss of so much.
Page 258

address. Russians used shell companies to purchase American real estate, often anonymously.
Page 259

Since the 1980s, the tax rates paid by the top 0.1% of American earners fell from about 65% to about 35%, and for the top 0.01% from about 75% to below 25%.
Page 260

In the 2010s, the United States approached the Russian standard of inequality.
Page 261

Oligarchy works as a patronage system that dissolves democracy, law, and patriotism. American and Russian oligarchs have far more in common with one another than they do with their own populations.
Page 261

The problem was that American leaders took globalization as the solution to its own problems, rather than as an invitation to reform the American state.
Page 262

Persistent opioid use makes it harder for people to learn from experience, or to take responsibility for their actions.
Page 265

The politics of eternity triumphs when fiction comes to life.
Page 266

In the Russian model, investigative reporting must be marginalized so that news can become a daily spectacle.
Page 267

His spokesman Sean Spicer claimed that Hitler did not kill “his own people.” The idea that German Jews were not part of the German people is how the Holocaust began.
Page 268

The politics of eternity demands that effort be directed against the enemy, which can be the enemy within.
Page 268

of eternity takes racial inequality and makes it a source of economic inequality, turning whites against blacks, declaring hatred normal and change impossible.
Page 270

Americans living in the countryside tend to believe that their taxes are distributed to people in the cities, although the opposite is the case.
Page 270

Trump was a loser since he could only win thanks to Russia; Republicans were greater losers since he had trapped their party; Democrats were still greater losers since they were excluded from power; and the Americans who suffer from deliberately engineered inequality and health crisis were the greatest losers of all.
Page 271

Trump was called a “populist.” A populist, however, is someone who proposes policies to increase opportunities for the masses, as opposed to the financial elites. Trump was something else: a sadopopulist, whose policies were designed to hurt the most vulnerable part of his own electorate.
Page 272

On another level, such a voter is changing the currency of politics from achievement to suffering, from gain to pain, helping a leader of choice establish a regime of sadopopulism.
Page 272

Moscow won a negative-sum game in international politics by helping to turn American domestic politics into a negative-sum game.
Page 273

Some Americans can be persuaded to live shorter and worse lives, provided that they are under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that blacks (or perhaps immigrants or Muslims) suffer still more.
Page 273

If people who support the government expect their reward to be pain, then a democracy based upon policy competition between parties is endangered.
Page 273

In the long term, a government that cannot assemble a majority through reforms will destroy the principle of rule by majority.
Page 274

The electoral logic of sadopopulism is to limit the vote to those who benefit from inequality and to those who like pain, and take the vote away from those who expect government to endorse equality and reform.
Page 274

The temptation Russia offered Trump was the presidency. The temptation Trump offered Republicans was that of a one-party state, government by rigged elections rather than by political competition, a racial oligarchy in which the task of leaders was to bring pain rather than prosperity, to emote for a tribe rather than perform for all. If all the federal government did was maximize inequality and suppress votes, at some point a line would be crossed. Americans, like Russians, would eventually cease to believe in their own elections; then the United States, like the Russian Federation, would be in permanent succession crisis, with no legitimate way to choose leaders. This would be the triumph of the Russian foreign policy of the 2010s: the export of Russia’s problems to its chosen adversaries, the normalization of Russia’s syndromes by way of contagion.
Page 275

Politics is international, but repair must be local. The presidential campaign
Page 275

To break the spell of inevitability, we must see ourselves as we are, not on some exceptional path, but in history alongside others.
Page 275

To experience its destruction is to see a world for the first time. Inheritors of an order we did not build, we are now witnesses to a decline we did not foresee.
Page 277

Inevitability and eternity are not history but ideas within history, ways of experiencing our time that accelerate its trends while slowing our thoughts.
Page 277

The virtues of equality, individuality, succession, integration, novelty, and truth depend each upon all the others, and all of them upon human decisions and actions. An assault upon one is an assault upon all; strengthening one means affirming the rest.
Page 277

All of the virtues depend upon truth, and truth depends upon them all.
Page 278

Authoritarianism begins when we can no longer tell the difference between the true and the appealing. At the same time, the cynic who decides that there is no truth at all is the citizen who welcomes the tyrant.
Page 278

To seek the truth means finding a way between conformity and complacency, towards individuality.
Page 278

If it is true that we are individuals, and if it is true that we live in a democracy, then each of us should have a single vote, not greater or lesser power in elections as a result of wealth or race or privilege or geography.
Page 278

A fascist says “the people” and means “some people,” those he favors at the moment.
Page 279

If there is no truth, there can be no trust, and nothing new appears in a human vacuum.
Page 279

In conditions of distrust and isolation, creativity and energy veer towards paranoia and conspiracy, a feverish repetition of the oldest mistakes.
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Atomic Habits

Book Notes

I have been a fan of BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits methodology for breaking bad habits and learning good (often new) habits. BJ Fogg did not write this book. James Clear did, with methodologies that are strongly drawn from Fogg's work.

Fogg's new habit forming process is 1. start small (like, way smaller than you just thought for "small"), 2. piggyback on an existing routine, and 3. reward yourself immediately after doing the new habit. Fogg has shown much success at Stanford with this process, and I love it. It works very, very well for me.

Fogg does not have a book about this particular technique of developing good habits. With this book, James Clear does.

Atomic Habits is pretty much a long version of those three steps from BJ Fogg. Until Fogg writes a book on them, this is a fantastic substitute, interpretation of Fogg's work.

Much of the book is rah-rah, how-to-internalize-good-internal-chatter, "obvious," self-help rhetoric, which, let's face it, if you're picking up this book to learn good habits, you actually need. And, while I'm not a fan of the "habit journal" (you can draw lines on a notebook page for the same effect), I do appreciate the habit making guides in the book.

For anyone not a Fogg fan or even aware of BJ Fogg, I strongly recommend this book. If you don't have good habits, aren't the person you want to be, ignore the kabillion quotes I have from the book here, grab a copy and read it.

It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action.
Page 15

Improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run.
Page 15

Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.
Page 18

In the words of three-time Super Bowl winner Bill Walsh, “The score takes care of itself.” The same is true for other areas of life. If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
Page 24

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.
Page 24

Goal setting suffers from a serious case of survivorship bias. We concentrate on the people who end up winning—the survivors—and mistakenly assume that ambitious goals led to their success while overlooking all of the people who had the same objective but didn’t succeed.
Page 24

Behind every system of actions are a system of beliefs.
Page 32

Behavior that is incongruent with the self will not last.
Page 32

It’s hard to change your habits if you never change the underlying beliefs that led to your past behavior.
Page 33

It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.
Page 33

True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity.
Page 34

Doing the right thing is easy. After all, when your behavior and your identity are fully aligned, you are no longer pursuing behavior change. You are simply acting like the type of person you already believe yourself to be.
Page 34

Many people walk through life in a cognitive slumber, blindly following the norms attached to their identity.
Page 35

The more deeply a thought or action is tied to your identity, the more difficult it is to change it. It can feel comfortable to believe what your culture believes (group identity) or to do what upholds your self-image (personal identity), even if it’s wrong.
Page 35

We do not change by snapping our fingers and deciding to be someone entirely new. We change bit by bit, day by day, habit by habit. We are continually undergoing microevolutions of the self.
Page 37

First, decide who you want to be. This holds at any level—as an individual, as a team, as a community, as a nation. What do you want to stand for? What are your principles and values? Who do you wish to become?
Page 39

Ask yourself, “Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?”
Page 39

But the true question is: “Are you becoming the type of person you want to become?” The first step is not what or how, but who. You need to know who you want to be.
Page 40

Ultimately, your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be. They are the channel through which you develop your deepest beliefs about yourself. Quite literally, you become your habits.
Page 41

The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. Your identity emerges out of your habits. Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.
Page 41

This is the feedback loop behind all human behavior: try, fail, learn, try differently.
Page 45

Habits do not restrict freedom. They create it. In fact, the people who don’t have their habits handled are often the ones with the least amount of freedom.
Page 46

The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.*
Page 47

Because the cue is the first indication that we’re close to a reward, it naturally leads to a craving.
Page 48

Cravings are the second step, and they are the motivational force behind every habit. Without some level of motivation or desire—without craving a change—we have no reason to act. What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers.
Page 48

Every craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state.
Page 48

The response is the actual habit you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action.
Page 48

a habit can occur only if you are capable of doing it.
Page 49

Finally, the response delivers a reward. Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes: (1) they satisfy us and (2) they teach us.
Page 49

The first purpose of rewards is to satisfy your craving.
Page 49

Your brain is a reward detector.
Page 49

All behavior is driven by the desire to solve a problem. Sometimes the problem is that you notice something good and you want to obtain it. Sometimes the problem is that you are experiencing pain and you want to relieve it. Either way, the purpose of every habit is to solve the problems you face.
Page 51

How to Create a Good Habit The 1st law (Cue): Make it obvious. The 2nd law (Craving): Make it attractive. The 3rd law (Response): Make it easy. The 4th law (Reward): Make it satisfying.
Page 54

How to Break a Bad Habit Inversion of the 1st law (Cue): Make it invisible. Inversion of the 2nd law (Craving): Make it unattractive. Inversion of the 3rd law (Response): Make it difficult. Inversion of the 4th law (Reward): Make it unsatisfying.
Page 54

Whenever you want to change your behavior, you can simply ask yourself: How can I make it obvious? How can I make it attractive? How can I make it easy? How can I make it satisfying?
Page 54

Every goal is doomed to fail if it goes against the grain of human nature.
Page 55

Your habits are shaped by the systems in your life.
Page 55

A habit is a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic. The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible. Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward. The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.
Page 55

Consider hunger. How do you know when you’re hungry? You don’t necessarily have to see a cookie on the counter to realize that it is time to eat. Appetite and hunger are governed nonconsciously.
Page 61

As habits form, your actions come under the direction of your automatic and non-conscious mind. You fall into old patterns before you realize what’s happening. Unless someone points it out, you may not notice that you cover your mouth with your hand whenever you laugh, that you apologize before asking a question, or that you have a habit of finishing other people’s sentences.
Page 61

If a habit remains mindless, you can’t expect to improve it. As the psychologist Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Page 62

If you’re still having trouble determining how to rate a particular habit, here is a question I like to use: “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?” Habits that reinforce your desired identity are usually good. Habits that conflict with your desired identity are usually bad.
Page 65

If you waste time online, notice that you are spending your life in a way that you do not want to.
Page 66

Hearing your bad habits spoken aloud makes the consequences seem more real. It adds weight to the action rather than letting yourself mindlessly slip into an old routine.
Page 66

With enough practice, your brain will pick up on the cues that predict certain outcomes without consciously thinking about it. Once our habits become automatic, we stop paying attention to what we are doing. The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them.
Page 66

The sentence they filled out is what researchers refer to as an implementation intention, which is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. That is, how you intend to implement a particular habit.
Page 70

Hundreds of studies have shown that implementation intentions are effective for sticking to our goals,
Page 70

Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.
Page 71

If you aren’t sure when to start your habit, try the first day of the week, month, or year. People are more likely to take action at those times because hope is usually higher. If we have hope, we have a reason to take action. A fresh start feels motivating.
Page 71

Give your habits a time and a space to live in the world. The goal is to make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time, even if you can’t say why.
Page 72

Social skills. When I walk into a party, I will introduce myself to someone I don’t know yet.
Page 76

Finances. When I want to buy something over $ 100, I will wait twenty-four hours before purchasing.
Page 76

One way to find the right trigger for your habit stack is by brainstorming a list of your current habits.
Page 77

People often choose products not because of what they are, but because of where they are.
Page 82

In 1936, psychologist Kurt Lewin wrote a simple equation that makes a powerful statement: Behavior is a function of the Person in their Environment, or B = f (P, E).
Page 83

Given that we are more dependent on vision than on any other sense, it should come as no surprise that visual cues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior. For this reason, a small change in what you see can lead to a big shift in what you do. As a result, you can imagine how important it is to live and work in environments that are filled with productive cues and devoid of unproductive ones.
Page 84

Every habit is initiated by a cue, and we are more likely to notice cues that stand out.
Page 85

Making a better decision is easy and natural when the cues for good habits are right in front of you.
Page 86

Environment design is powerful not only because it influences how we engage with the world but also because we rarely do it. Most people live in a world others have created for them.
Page 87

Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.
Page 87

Stop thinking about your environment as filled with objects. Start thinking about it as filled with relationships. Think in terms of how you interact with the spaces around you.
Page 87

The power of context also reveals an important strategy: habits can be easier to change in a new environment. It helps to escape the subtle triggers and cues that nudge you toward your current habits.
Page 88

Habits thrive under predictable circumstances like these. Focus comes automatically when you are sitting at your work desk. Relaxation is easier when you are in a space designed for that purpose.
Page 90

Robins revealed that addictions could spontaneously dissolve if there was a radical change in the environment.
Page 92

The Vietnam studies ran counter to many of our cultural beliefs about bad habits because it challenged the conventional association of unhealthy behavior as a moral weakness.
Page 92

The idea that a little bit of discipline would solve all our problems is deeply embedded in our culture.
Page 92

When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.
Page 92

The people with the best self-control are typically the ones who need to use it the least. It’s easier to practice self-restraint when you don’t have to use it very often.
Page 93

Here’s the punch line: You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it. Once the mental grooves of habit have been carved into your brain, they are nearly impossible to remove entirely—even if they go unused for quite a while. And that means that simply resisting temptation is an ineffective strategy.
Page 94

One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.
Page 94

This practice is an inversion of the 1st Law of Behavior Change. Rather than make it obvious, you can make it invisible.
Page 95

Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible.
Page 95

People with high self-control tend to spend less time in tempting situations. It’s easier to avoid temptation than resist it.
Page 95

One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it. Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.
Page 95

The 1st Law: Make It Obvious 1.1: Fill out the Habits Scorecard. Write down your current habits to become aware of them. 1.2: Use implementation intentions: “I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].” 1.3: Use habit stacking: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].” 1.4: Design your environment. Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible.
Page 96

Inversion of the 1st Law: Make It Invisible 1.5: Reduce exposure. Remove the cues of your bad habits from your environment.
Page 97

A supernormal stimulus is a heightened version of reality—like a beak with three red dots or an egg the size of a volleyball—and it elicits a stronger response than usual.
Page 102

The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming. Look around. Society is filled with highly engineered versions of reality that are more attractive than the world our ancestors evolved in.
Page 104

Interestingly, the reward system that is activated in the brain when you receive a reward is the same system that is activated when you anticipate a reward. This is one reason the anticipation of an experience can often feel better than the attainment of it.
Page 106

Your brain has far more neural circuitry allocated for wanting rewards than for liking them.
Page 108

Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
Page 109

You’re more likely to find a behavior attractive if you get to do one of your favorite things at the same time.
Page 109

Temptation bundling is one way to apply a psychology theory known as Premack’s Principle. Named after the work of professor David Premack, the principle states that “more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors.”
Page 110

It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.
Page 111

Temptation bundling is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to
Page 111

We don’t choose our earliest habits, we imitate them.
Page 115

Often, you follow the habits of your culture without thinking, without questioning, and sometimes without remembering.
Page 115

We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close. The many. The powerful.
Page 116

Proximity has a powerful effect on our behavior.
Page 116

We pick up habits from the people around us. We
Page 116

As a general rule, the closer we are to someone, the more likely we are to imitate some of their habits.
Page 116

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day.
Page 117

Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.
Page 117

Join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.
Page 117

Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe.
Page 118

This is why remaining part of a group after achieving a goal is crucial to maintaining your habits. It’s friendship and community that embed a new identity and help behaviors last over the long run.
Page 118

Whenever we are unsure how to act, we look to the group to guide our behavior. We are constantly scanning our environment and wondering, “What is everyone else doing?”
Page 120

The normal behavior of the tribe often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual.
Page 120

There is tremendous internal pressure to comply with the norms of the group. The reward of being accepted is often greater than the reward of winning an argument, looking smart, or finding truth. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.
Page 120

When changing your habits means challenging the tribe, change is unattractive. When changing your habits means fitting in with the tribe, change is very attractive.
Page 121

Humans everywhere pursue power, prestige, and status.
Page 121

Every behavior has a surface level craving and a deeper, underlying motive.
Page 127

Look at nearly any product that is habit-forming and you’ll see that it does not create a new motivation, but rather latches onto the underlying motives of human nature.
Page 127

Your current habits are not necessarily the best way to solve the problems you face; they are just the methods you learned to use. Once you associate a solution with the problem you need to solve, you keep coming back to it.
Page 128

Habits are all about associations. These associations determine whether we predict a habit to be worth repeating or not. As we
Page 128

our behavior is heavily dependent on how we interpret the events that happen to us, not necessarily the objective reality of the events themselves.
Page 129

You have been sensing the cues the entire time, but it is only when you predict that you would be better off in a different state that you take action.
Page 129

A craving is the sense that something is missing. It is the desire to change your internal state.
Page 129

You can make hard habits more attractive if you can learn to associate them with a positive experience.
Page 130

You simply practice associating your habits with something you enjoy, then you can use that cue whenever you need a bit of motivation.
Page 132

It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change:
Page 142

We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action.
Page 142

If motion doesn’t lead to results, why do we do it? Sometimes we do it because we actually need to plan or learn more. But more often than not, we do it because motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure. Most of us are experts at avoiding criticism. It doesn’t feel good to fail or to be judged publicly, so we tend to avoid situations where that might happen. And that’s the biggest reason why you slip into motion rather than taking action: you want to delay failure.
Page 142

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every feature of a new habit. You just need to practice it.
Page 143

To build a habit, you need to practice it. And the most effective way to make practice happen is to adhere to the 3rd Law of Behavior Change: make it easy.
Page 147

Conventional wisdom holds that motivation is the key to habit change. Maybe if you really wanted it, you’d actually do it. But the truth is, our real motivation is to be lazy and to do what is convenient. And despite what the latest productivity best seller will tell you, this is a smart strategy, not a dumb one. Energy is precious, and the brain is wired to conserve it whenever possible.
Page 151

You don’t actually want the habit itself. What you really want is the outcome the habit delivers. The greater the obstacle—that is, the more difficult the habit—the more friction there is between you and your desired end state.
Page 152

Certainly, you are capable of doing very hard things. The problem is that some days you feel like doing the hard work and some days you feel like giving in. On the tough days, it’s crucial to have as many things working in your favor as possible so that you can overcome the challenges life naturally throws your way. The less friction you face, the easier it is for your stronger self to emerge.
Page 152

For example, when deciding where to practice a new habit, it is best to choose a place that is already along the path of your daily routine. Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life.
Page 153

Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to reduce the friction associated with our good habits and increase the friction associated with our bad ones.
Page 155

As you master the art of showing up, the first two minutes simply become a ritual at the beginning of a larger routine.
Page 164

The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.
Page 164

It’s better to do less than you hoped than to do nothing at all.
Page 165

Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.
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How To Stay Sane

Book Notes

I really need to do my book reviews immediately after reading the book, lest I, like in this instance, not recall what I actively thought about the book as I was reading it.

I liked this book enough to say, "This book belongs on my bookshelf." Rather than reading a borrowed copy from the library and returning it, likely never to read it again, I bought a copy of the book to keep on my shelf, to pull down and perhaps read again, or to loan to a friend.

The book has elements of Stoicism in it, always an attraction to me these days, but also includes some active how-tos and exercises on surviving these end of days. There are elements of journaling, active reflection, some disassociation, and whoa whoa whoa wait is that true? that help one, well, stay sane.

I"m not sure I'd recommend the book to anyone not actively asking for a book on how to settle, even if just a little bit, but I will strongly recommend this one to, even buy a copy for, anyone who does, indeed, ask for a guidebook on growing up, staying sane, and existing as an adult.

Our ways of bonding to others; how we trust; how comfortable we generally feel with ourselves; how quickly or slowly we can soothe ourselves after an upset have a firm foundation in the neural pathways laid down in the mammalian right brain in our early years.
Page 7

You may be aware of the influence of both what I am calling the left and the right brains when you experience the familiar dilemma of having very good reasons to do the sensible thing, but find yourself doing the other thing all the same. The
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1. Self-Observation Socrates stated that ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ This is an extreme stance, but I do believe that the continuing development of a non-judgemental, self-observing part of ourselves is crucial for our wisdom and sanity.
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2. Relating to Others We all need safe, trusting, reliable, nourishing relationships.
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... someone who not only listens but reads between the lines and perhaps even gently challenges us.
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The right kind of stress creates positive stimulation. It will push us to learn new things and to be creative, but it will not be so overwhelming that it tips us over into panic.
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4. What’s the Story? (Personal Narrative) If we get to know the stories we live by, we will be able to edit and change them if we need to.
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We may have beliefs that start with ‘I’m the sort of person who …’ or ‘That’s not me; I don’t do that …’
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The ability to observe and listen to feelings and bodily sensations is essential to staying sane.
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There is a difference between saying ‘I am angry’ and saying ‘I feel angry’. The first statement is a description that appears closed. The second is an acknowledgement of a feeling, and does not define the whole self.
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It may help to think of our self-observing part as a distinct component of ourselves. It is self-accepting and non-judgemental. It acknowledges what is, not what should be, and does not assign values such as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It notices emotions and thoughts but gives us space to decide how to act on them.
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To begin self-observing, ask yourself these questions: What am I feeling now? What am I thinking now? What am I doing at this moment? How am I breathing?
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What do I want for myself in this new moment?
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... take time to notice what I call post-rationalization, which could also be called self-justification. This describes the way we have of mentally ‘tidying up’ what is going on inside and outside of ourselves, often coming up with convenient explanations which may actually be nonsense, to justify our behaviour.
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Instead we can increase our tolerance for uncertainty, nurture our curiosity and continue to learn.
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A feeling cannot be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It is how we act out our feelings that is moral or immoral.
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What you write is up to you. I am a fan of random memories, as well as what you are thinking and feeling at the moment of writing. I also like dreams.
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... stream-of-consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning just after waking, has been found to be effective in raising self-awareness.
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If you read your diary back to yourself you may identify some of your behavioural and emotional habits. For example, can you spot how much justification or reasoning you are using, or how much compassion you show yourself, or how much of what you write is fantasy?
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Our heads are always full of chatter, littered with phrases, images, repeated messages, running commentaries on our actions and thoughts. Much may be harmless, but some can be toxic:
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Throughout our lives we have a desire and a need to be acknowledged and understood. Although this is most productively achieved in conjunction with another person, contemplative practice is one way we can achieve this on our own.
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A brain, like a neuron, is not much use on its own. Our brains need other brains –or, as we more often put it, people need people.
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We run about, earning a living, achieving things and making a decent show of it all (or not), but what affects us most are the people around us: our parents, our children, our lovers, our colleagues, our neighbours and our friends.
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In crowded countries such as Japan and Britain we tend to have ‘negative-politeness’. This means that people are aware of others’ need for privacy, and their desire not to be intruded upon. In countries where there is more space, like the USA, people are more inclined to practise ‘positive politeness’, where the emphasis is on inclusion and openness. The anthropologist Kate Fox says that what looks like stand-offishness in a negative-politeness culture is really a sort of consideration for people’s privacy.
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The War On Normal People

Book Notes

I really wish I had kept track of where books are recommended to me. Difficulty with that is that it means I'm actually curating my to-read pile and not using serendipity to read something interesting.

Wait....

Okay, this book is, self-described, better titled "How We Are All Fucked." Yang does a phenomenal job of describing society not from the loftiest learned lofts, nor from the victor's viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of the normal person, the non-famous, the person who is middle class or below, has a family or doesn't, has an education or doesn't, and is making it or isn't.

The book describes the global and federal and societal forces that shape the success of those lives, though not successfully and not well, because the normal person is definitely losing this war. The realization of which should cause everyone to both thank Yang, and read this book.

Read this book, because there is hope at the end. The hope requires effort, something we seem to keep forgetting.

There is really only one entity—the federal government—that can realistically reformat society in ways that will prevent large swaths of the country from becoming jobless zones of derelict buildings and broken people. Nonprofits will be at the front lines of fighting the decline, but most of their activities will be like bandages on top of an infected wound. State governments are generally hamstrung with balanced budget requirements and limited resources.
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It was less the buildings and surroundings and more the people. They seemed despondent and depressed, like their horizons had been lowered to simply scraping by.
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As for me, I had gone from being an underdog to one of the guys with the answers, from finding the most marginalized or excluded person in the room to finding the richest person and making him or her feel special.
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spent a lot of time with people who had already won, which was not what I’d envisioned.
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Think of your five best friends. The odds of them all being college graduates if you took a random sampling of Americans would be about one-third of 1 percent, or 0.0036.
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Google “Adsum” by Iamus and take a listen.
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Surgeons are among the highest-trained, most highly compensated doctors because cutting people open is a big deal. Yet their highest-value work is, for the most part, manual and mechanical.
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Some patients also might prefer seeing a human doctor, though I suspect this preference will fade over time.
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There’s a big distinction between humans as humans and humans as workers. The former are indispensable. The latter may not be.
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It’s worth considering whether humans are not actually best suited for many forms of work. Consider also the reverse: Are most forms of work ideal for humans? That is, if we’re not good for work, is work good for us?
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Voltaire wrote that “Work keeps at bay three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.” The total absence of work is demonstrably a bad thing for most people.
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Part of this understanding in America is a high level of commitment to work—educated Americans are working longer hours than they did 30 years ago, and many are expected to be available via email on nights and weekends, even as working hours have dropped in other developed countries.
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Benjamin Hunnicutt, a historian at the University of Iowa, argues that if a cashier’s job were a video game, we would call it completely mindless and the worst game ever designed. But if it’s called a job, politicians praise it as dignified and meaningful. Hunnicutt observes that “Purpose, meaning, identity, fulfillment, creativity, autonomy—all these things that positive psychology has shown us to be necessary for well-being are absent in the average job.” Most jobs today are a means for survival. Without their structure and support, people suffer psychologically and socially, as well as financially and even physically.
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Whether work is good for humans depends a bit on your point of view. We don’t like it and we’re almost certainly getting too much of it. But we don’t know what to do with ourselves without it. Oscar Wilde wrote, “Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do.” Unfortunately that may describe the vast majority of us.
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The challenge we must overcome is that humans need work more than work needs us.
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Betting against new jobs has been completely ill-founded at every point in the past.
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History repeats itself until it doesn’t.
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The United States instituted universal high school; in 1910 only 19 percent of American teenagers were in a high school, and barely 9 percent of 18-year-olds graduated.
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In college, I learned about the efficient capital market hypothesis: stock market prices reflect all available information, and attempts to beat the market are going to be ineffective over time. Now, most every investment professional believes that this is grossly incorrect or at least incomplete given the financial crash, the rise of behavioral economics, the success of certain hedge funds, and the fact that trading firms are investing millions in having a faster pipe to the exchanges to front-run other traders.
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The employment market is loaded with friction. We all know that in real life. Yet so much of our policy assumes a dream world where people are infinitely mobile across state lines, know what jobs are there, have the savings to wait it out, make wise decisions about school, are endlessly resilient, and encounter understanding employers who are rooting for them and can see their merits.
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The demise of retail could make drone pilots more of a need over time. The
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Short story - drone pilot to deliver, dodge other drones trying to steal delivery
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Successfully retraining large numbers of displaced workers would require a heroic number of assumptions to prove true. The government needs to be able to identify displaced workers over a range of industries and have both the resources to pay for mass retraining and the flexibility to accommodate individual situations. Each person needs to have the capacity and will to be retrained in an in-demand field. The government needs to be an effective disseminator of information to thousands of individuals in real time. The worker needs to actually learn new marketable skills from the course or school in question. Last, there need to be new employers in the region that want to hire large numbers of newly trained middle-aged workers as opposed to, say, younger workers.
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We should 100 percent invest in successful retraining of employees. But we should also know that we’re historically very bad at it even in situations where we know displacement is happening.
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There are presently a record 95 million working-age Americans, a full 37 percent of adults, who are out of the workforce.
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Ryan Avent of the Economist poses a theory that technology has created an abundance of labor, both human and machine, and that companies when faced with both low labor costs and a low-growth environment invest less in new technology, which leads to lower productivity growth. This would suggest that we’re in an environment where employers are faced with low incentives to innovate because people are quite cheap to hire.
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The way management teams work is that we generally try to grow and take advantage of opportunities. We try to operate efficiently, but it’s not our number one priority all of the time. We also don’t walk around trying to be jerks in periods of relative prosperity.
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We joked at Venture for America that “smart” people in the United States will do one of six things in six places: finance, consulting, law, technology, medicine, or academia in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Washington, DC. Conventional wisdom says the “smartest” things to do today are to head to Wall Street and become a financial wizard or go to Silicon Valley and become a tech genius.
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Instead of seeing college as a period of intellectual exploration, many young people now see it as a mass sort or cull that determines one’s future prospects and lot in life.
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It turns out that depressed, indebted, risk-averse young people generally don’t start companies. This will have effects for decades to come.
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This is a disaster in the making because technology is transforming society and our economy while politicians are left responding to the effects ineffectively years after the fact or, worse yet, ignoring them.
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Occasionally we see people leave for a more hospitable or child-friendly environment. We envy them a little, while also patting ourselves on the back for sticking it out. Professional empathy is limited.
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On some level, most of us recognize that we are servants to the tide of innovation and efficiency. As the water rises, we will protest as we clamber to higher ground.
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The underlying logic of the meritocratic system is this: If you’re successful, it’s because you’re smart and hardworking, and thus virtuous. If you’re poor or unsuccessful, it’s because you’re lazy and/ or stupid and of subpar character. The people at the top belong there and the people at the bottom have only themselves to blame.
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Being good at these tests, however, has very little to do with character, virtue, or work ethic. They just mean you are good at the tests.
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We say success in America is about hard work and character. It’s not really. Most of success today is about how good you are at certain tests and what kind of family background you have, with some exceptions sprinkled in to try to make it all seem fair. Intellect as narrowly defined by academics and test scores is now the proxy for human worth. Efficiency is close behind. Our system rewards specific talents more than anything.
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The meritocracy was never intended to be a real thing—it started out as a parody in a British satire in 1958 by Michael Young. At the time, a world where “intelligence fully determined who thrived and languished was understood to be predatory, pathological and far-fetched,” observes journalist David Freedman.
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gives everything a tinge of justice. It makes the suffering of the marginalized more palatable, in that there’s a sense that they deserve it. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that they often agree—they think they deserve it, too. They’re wrong. Intelligence and character aren’t the same things at all.
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People in the bubble think that the world is more orderly than it is. They overplan. They mistake smarts for judgment. They mistake smarts for character. They overvalue credentials. Head not heart. They need status and reassurance. They see risk as a bad thing. They optimize for the wrong things. They think in two years, not 20. They need other bubble people around. They get pissed off when others succeed. They think their smarts should determine their place in the world. They think ideas supersede action. They get agitated if they’re not making clear progress. They’re unhappy. They fear being wrong and looking silly. They don’t like to sell. They talk themselves out of having guts. They worship the market. They worry too much. Bubble people have their pluses and minuses like anyone else.
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Yuval Harari, the Israeli scholar, suggests that “the way we treat stupid people in the future will be the way we treat animals today.”
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also thought—correctly—that even if it didn’t work out I’d be fine. My story is one of relative abundance, and it should feel familiar.
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There’s a substantial correlation between one’s socioeconomic background and starting a successful company.
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The truth is that it’s a lot easier to start a company if you have a few things going for you. In addition to resources, you have a mindset of abundance. After you make one thing work out, you kind of think you can make anything work out.
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But the mechanics of entrepreneurship make it a lot more accessible to people who can realistically gather meaningful resources, defer money, and take on risk.
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That’s an environment of abundance. Money comes to you and good things happen to you seemingly for no reason, though the real reason is where you happen to be sitting.
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A mindset of scarcity is more than just “stress”—it actually makes one less rational and more impulsive by consuming bandwidth.
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We all respond poorly to scarcity.
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One could argue that it is essential for any democracy to do all it can to keep its population free of a mindset of scarcity in order to make better decisions.
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A culture of scarcity is a culture of negativity. People think about what can go wrong. They attack each other. Tribalism and divisiveness go way up. Reason starts to lose ground. Decision-making gets systematically worse. Acts of sustained optimism—getting married, starting a business, moving for a new job—all go down.
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When jobs leave a city or region, things go downhill pretty fast.
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They don’t want to move because this is what they are used to. Do you want to go and do your own thing, or be with your family? They say places are what you make of them, but it’s hard to make something beautiful when it is shit.”
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The central point is this: In places where jobs disappear, society falls apart. The public sector and civic institutions are poorly equipped to do much about it. When a community truly disintegrates, knitting it back together becomes a herculean, perhaps impossible task. Virtue, trust, and cohesion—the stuff of civilization—are difficult to restore. If anything, it’s striking how public corruption seems to often arrive hand-in-hand with economic hardship.
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In a growing organization, people are more optimistic, imaginative, courageous, and generous. In a contracting environment, people can become negative, political, self-serving, and corrupt.
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One of the great myths in American life is that everything self-corrects. If it goes down, it will come back up. If it gets too high, it will come back down to earth.
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Historically, virtually all American cities had more businesses open than close in a given year, even during recessions. After 2008, that basic measurement of dynamism collapsed.
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realized that, if you’re managing in a contracting environment, it’s possible that leaving the urinal duct-taped might be a perfectly reasonable way to go. Optimism could be stupid. When you’re used to losing people and resources, you make different choices.
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Getting married is an act of optimism, stability, and prosperity. It also can be expensive.
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Women are now the clear majority of college graduates—in 2017 women comprise 57 percent of college graduates, and the trend is expected to continue in the coming years.
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Single mothers outnumber fathers more than four to one.
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J. D. Vance made the same observation about school being something boys were supposed to ignore: “As a child, I associated accomplishments in school with femininity. Manliness meant strength, courage, a willingness to fight, and later, success with girls. Boys who got good grades were ‘sissies’… studies now show that working-class boys like me do much worse in school because they view schoolwork as a feminine endeavor.”
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Frederick Douglass wrote that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
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I realized that there are many similarities between being a parent and being an entrepreneur. Here is a partial list: • Everyone’s got an opinion. But no one knows what they’re doing. • The first two years are brutal. • No one cares as much as you do. • On its best days it fills you with meaning and purpose. • People lie about it all the time. • Choose your partner wisely. • Heart is more important than money. But money helps. • It is very, very hard to outsource. • You find out who your friends are. And you make some new ones. • Occasionally the responsibility blows your mind. • If you knew what it entailed you might not get started. But you’re glad you did. • There will be a thousand small tasks you never imagined. • How you spend your time is more important than what you say. • Everything costs more than you thought it would. • Most of the work is dirty, thankless, and gritty. • You learn a lot about yourself. You get tested in ways that you can’t imagine. • When you find someone who can really help you’re incredibly grateful. • You have to try to make time for yourself or it won’t happen. • Whatever your weaknesses are, they will come out. • You think it’s fragile. But it will surprise you. • You sometimes do things you weren’t sure you were capable of. • When it does something great, there’s nothing like it. • You start out all-important. Yet the goal is to make yourself irrelevant. • People sometimes give you too much credit. • There is a lot of noise out there, but at the end of the day it’s your call. • It gives your life a different dimension. You grow new parts of yourself. • It’s harder than anyone expects. It’s the best thing ever.
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A study showed that one out of every 550 patients started on opioid therapy died of opioid-related causes a median of 2.6 years after their first opioid prescription.
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The percentage of working-age Americans who received disability benefits was 5.2 percent in 2017, up from only 2.5 percent in 1980.
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Disability payments received by beneficiaries in these five states exceed $ 1 billion per month.
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One judge who administers disability decisions said that “if the American public knew what was going on in our system, half would be outraged and the other half would apply for benefits.”
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J. D. Vance writes of how the people in Ohio became angry that they were working hard and scraping by while others were doing nothing and living off of government checks.
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The numbers have grown to a point where more Americans are currently on disability than work in construction.
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We pretend that our economy is doing all right while millions of people give up and “get on the draw” or “get on the check.” It’s a $ 143 billion per year shock absorber for the unemployed or unemployable, whose ranks are growing all of the time.
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And it’s likely easier to think of yourself as genuinely disabled than as someone cheating society for a monthly draw.
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They speak to a primal set of basic impulses—to world creating, skill building, achievement, violence, leadership, teamwork, speed, efficiency, status, decision making, and accomplishment. They fall into a whole suite of things that appeal to young men in particular—to me the list would go something like gaming, the stock market, fantasy sports, gambling, basketball, science fiction/ geek movies, and cryptocurrencies, most of which involve a blend of numbers and optimization. It’s a need for mastery, progress, competition, and risk.
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How exactly are these game-playing men getting by? They live with their parents.
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You experience a continuous feeling of progress and accomplishment.
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We have entered an age of transparency where we can see our institutions and leaders for all of their flaws. Trust is for the gullible. Everything now will be a fight. Appealing to common interests will be all the more difficult.
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We are the most heavily armed society in the history of mankind—disintegration is unlikely to be gentle.
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In his book Ages of Discord, the scholar Peter Turchin proposes a structural-demographic theory of political instability based on societies throughout history. He suggests that there are three main preconditions to revolution: (1) elite oversupply and disunity, (2) popular misery based on falling living standards, and (3) a state in fiscal crisis. He uses a host of variables to measure these conditions, including real wages, marital trends, proportion of children in two-parent households, minimum wage, wealth distribution, college tuition, average height, oversupply of lawyers, political polarization, income tax on the wealthy, visits to national monuments, trust in government, and other factors.
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By his analysis, “the US right now has much in common with the Antebellum 1850s [before the Civil War] and, more surprisingly, with… France on the eve of the French Revolution.” He projects increased turmoil through 2020 and warns that “we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp at which American society will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval.”
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Even now, people of color report higher levels of optimism than poor whites, despite worse economic circumstances. It’s difficult to go from feeling like the pillar of one’s society to feeling like an afterthought or failure.
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Contributing to the discord will be a climate that equates opposing ideas or speech to violence and hate. Righteousness can fuel abhorrent behavior, and many react with a shocking level of vitriol and contempt for conflicting viewpoints and the people who hold them. Hatred is easy, as is condemnation. Addressing the conditions that breed hatred is very hard.
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However, it would be nearly impossible to curb automation for any prolonged period of time effectively across all industries.
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Time only flows in one direction, and progress is a good thing as long as its benefits are shared.
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Doing nothing leads to almost certain ruin. Trying to forestall progress is likely a doomed strategy over time.
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When you’re left with no other options, the unthinkable becomes necessary.
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Robert Kennedy famously said that GDP “does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play… it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
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Peter Frase, author of Four Futures, points out that work encompasses three things: the means by which the economy produces goods and services, the means by which people earn income, and an activity that lends meaning or purpose to many people’s lives.
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Twelve thousand dollars a year is not enough to do more than scrape by. Very few people will quit their jobs because of a guaranteed income at this level unless they were in a marginal or exploitative situation. The available data bears this out. On the other hand, the benefits would be absolutely enormous: • It would be a massive stimulus to lower-cost areas. • It would empower people to avoid making terrible decisions based on financial scarcity and month-to-month needs. • It would be a phenomenal boon to creativity and entrepreneurship. • It would enable people to more effectively transition from shrinking industries and environments to new ones. • It would reduce stress, improve health, decrease crime, and strengthen relationships. • It would support parents and caretakers for the work that they do, particularly mothers. • It would give all citizens an honest stake in society and a sense of the future. • It would restore a sense of optimism and faith in communities around the country. • It would stimulate and maintain the consumer economy through the automation wave. • It would maintain order and preserve our way of life through the greatest economic and social transition in history. • It would make our society more equitable, fair, and just.
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Putting money into people’s hands and keeping it there would be a perpetual boost and support to job growth and the economy.
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Businesses will benefit immensely from the fact that their customers will have more money to spend each month—most Americans will spend the vast majority of their money locally.
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You may not recall that the U.S. government printed over $ 4 trillion in new money for its quantitative easing program following the 2008 financial collapse. This money went to the balance sheets of the banks and depressed interest rates. It punished savers and retirees. There was little to no inflation.
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With the Freedom Dividend, money would be put in the hands of our citizens in a time of unprecedented economic dislocation. It would grow the consumer economy. It’s a stimulus of people. The vast majority of the money would go directly into the economy each month, into paying bills, feeding children, visiting loved ones, youth sports, eating at the local restaurant, piano lessons, extra tutoring help, car repairs, small businesses, housing improvements, prenatal vitamins, elder care, and so on. Most Americans are so cash-strapped that most of the money would be spent locally and quickly.
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To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “Americans will always do the right thing. After they’ve tried everything else.”
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We’re trying relative deprivation and it’s not working. Half-measures are wasting time. Scarcity will not save us. Abundance will.
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Money has to come from somewhere. We’re used to the government spending billions wastefully to no great effect.
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By definition, none of the money would be wasted because it goes to citizens. It’s analogous to a company giving dividends or moneys to its shareholders. No one regards that as a waste of money, because the shareholders theoretically are the owners of the company.
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Are we not, as the citizens of the United States, the owners of this country?
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You know what’s really expensive? Dysfunction. Revolution. Keeping people and families functional will largely pay for itself.
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“It will destroy people’s incentives to work.” All of the available data shows that work hours stay stable or at most decrease modestly with a basic income.
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First, work is vital and the core of the human experience. Second, no one will want to work if they don’t have to. These two ideas are at complete odds with each other. Either work is a core of the human experience and we’ll do it even if we don’t necessarily have to, or work is something we have no interest in doing and we do it only to survive.
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“People will spend the money on stupid things, like drugs and alcohol.” The data doesn’t show this. In every basic income study, there has been no increase in drug and alcohol use. If anything, an improved sense of the future motivates people to figure out a plan for how to improve their lot.
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There are true addicts, and some people are self-destructive. But it’s not like a lack of money is presently keeping people from using opioids and alcohol—they find a way to get both money and drugs right now, sometimes illicitly.
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Here’s the thing—poor people tend to be much more careful with their money than rich people.
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The idea that poor people will be irresponsible with their money and squander it seems to be a product of deep-seated biases rather than emblematic of the truth. There’s a tendency for rich people to dismiss poor people as weak-willed children with no cost discipline. The evidence runs in the other direction. As the Dutch philosopher Rutger Bregman and others put it, “Poverty is not a lack of character. It’s a lack of cash.”
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Many of the populations people are most eager to see employed and kept from idleness are among the least competent and able to be employed by the private sector. The natural tendency is to spend a lot of money on people doing things that aren’t actually that valuable.
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But an economy where most people work for the government has been tried and failed in many environments—
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Perhaps most crucially, endless new businesses would form. If you are in a town of 5,000 people in Missouri and everyone is struggling to get by, starting, say, a bakery may not be that attractive. But with a UBI, there will be an additional $ 60 million being spent in that town next year. You personally will have an income to fall back on if the bakery doesn’t work out.
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Time banking is a system through which people trade time and build credits within communities by performing various helpful tasks—transporting an item, walking a dog, cleaning up a yard, cooking a meal, providing a ride to the doctor, and so on.
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Some might ask, “Why create a new digital currency instead of just using dollars?” First, people will respond to points in a different way than they would if they were paid very low monetary amounts.
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Second, everyone will feel much more open and comfortable sharing balances if it’s a new social currency. You want people to advertise and reinforce their behavior. Behavior is much more likely to be reinforced if it’s social and recognized.
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Third, by creating a new currency, the government could essentially induce billions of dollars of positive social activity without having to spend nearly that amount.
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At present, the market systematically tends to undervalue many things, activities, and people, many of which are core to the human experience.
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First, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist system. There
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Our current form of institutional capitalism and corporatism is just the latest of many different versions.
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Now imagine a new type of capitalist economy that is geared toward maximizing human well-being and fulfillment.
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Human Capitalism would have a few core tenets: 1. Humanity is more important than money. 2. The unit of an economy is each person, not each dollar. 3. Markets exist to serve our common goals and values.
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Our economic system must shift to focus on bettering the lot of the average person. Capitalism has to be made to serve human ends and goals, rather than have our humanity subverted to serve the marketplace. We shape the system. We own it, not the other way around.
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In addition to GDP and job statistics, the government should adopt measurements such as: • Median income and standard of living • Levels of engagement with work and labor participation rate • Health-adjusted life expectancy • Childhood success rates • Infant mortality • Surveys of national well-being • Average physical fitness and mental health • Quality of infrastructure • Proportion of elderly in quality care • Human capital development and access to education • Marriage rates and success • Deaths of despair/ despair index/ substance abuse • National optimism/ mindset of abundance • Community integrity and social capital • Environmental quality • Global temperature variance and sea levels • Reacclimation of incarcerated individuals and rates of criminality • Artistic and cultural vibrancy • Design and aesthetics • Information integrity/ journalism • Dynamism and mobility • Social and economic equity • Public safety • Civic engagement • Cybersecurity • Economic competitiveness and growth • Responsiveness and evolution of government • Efficient use of resources
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I’m no fan of big government. The larger an organization is, the more cumbersome and ridiculous it often gets.
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We have so many brilliant doctors—they should be innovators, detectives, guides, and sources of comfort, not glorified assembly line workers. And freeing health care from being locked to a job would be a massive boon to economic growth and dynamism.
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Similar to health care, the automation wave should lead us to invest more people in education and human capital development. It should also drive us to dramatically increase our emphasis on technical and vocational training and apprenticeships at the high school level to take advantage of the jobs that will continue to exist.
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In an age with less and less employment, the abilities to self-manage and socialize will become the new keys to success in life. We
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Grit, persistence, adaptability, financial literacy, interview skills, human relationships, conversation, communication, managing technology, navigating conflicts, preparing healthy food, physical fitness, resilience, self-regulation, time management, basic psychology and mental health practices, arts, and music—all of these would help students and also make school seem much more relevant.
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The purpose of education should be to enable a citizen to live a good, positive, socially productive life independent of work.
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People teach other people. If you want to teach thousands of students well, you teach one student well. Then you do it thousands of times.
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Climb to the hilltop and tell others behind us what we see. What do you see? And build the society we want on the other side.
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How To Think

Book Notes

Okay, so, I read this book at the beginning of the year, but for reasons I cannot recall, I didn't review it immediately after finishing it. Which meant I should either not review it, or, you know, reread it. I recalled the book took me about two hours to read it the first time. Given the title, and my general inclination to liking thinking, I figured I'd read it again. Unsure how to count this in my book total for the year, I'll probably count it twice.

I so enjoyed this book. All of about a tenth into it, I recalled how much I enjoyed the book the first time. Unlike The Art of Thinking Clearly, which is a list of all the various biases and quirks people have in thinking, this book is a journey about how one should approach thinking. We, in general, don't want to think. It's hard, effort is required. We have to go against much of the social conditioning we've been in for the thousands of years of evolution we've needed to survive to this point. And thoughts are the result of reactions to others' thoughts. All of this is explored in Jacobs' writing.

The book hops down various paths related to thinking, and circles back around in a wonderful way. I enjoyed this book the first reading, and the second reading 11 months later. Recommended and worth a read.

This is what thinking is : not the decision itself but what goes into the decision , the consideration , the assessment . It’s testing your own responses and weighing the available evidence ; it’s grasping , as best you can and with all available and relevant senses , what is , and it’s also speculating , as carefully and responsibly as you can , about what might be . And it’s knowing when not to go it alone , and whom you should ask for help .
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For me , the fundamental problem we have may best be described as an orientation of the will : we suffer from a settled determination to avoid thinking . Relatively few people want to think . Thinking troubles us ; thinking tires us . Thinking can force us out of familiar , comforting habits ; thinking can complicate our lives ; thinking can set us at odds ,
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or at least complicate our relationships , with those we admire or love or follow . Who needs thinking ?
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After the first few moments of the speaker’s lecture , Fried had effectively stopped listening : he had heard something he didn’t agree with and immediately entered Refutation Mode — and in Refutation Mode there is no listening . Moreover , when there is no listening there is no thinking . To enter Refutation Mode is to say , in effect , that you’ve already done all the thinking you need to do , that no further information or reflection is required .
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It could be coincidence , or synchronicity , or fate ; but sometimes there’s a blessed convergence between what you read and what you need . A
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In a 1994 essay called “ Puritans and Prigs , ” Robinson challenges the contemptuous attitudes many people have toward the Puritans — the very word is no more than an insult now — and gives a more generous and accurate account of what they thought and why they thought it .
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Puritanism . ” That is , the kinds of traits we label “ puritan ” — rigidity , narrowness of mind , judgmentalism — are precisely the ones people display whenever they talk about the Puritans . *
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“ Very simply , ” Robinson writes , “ it is a great example of our collective eagerness to disparage without knowledge or information about the thing disparaged , when the reward is the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved . ”
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The word doesn’t have any meaning as such , certainly not any historical validity ; it’s more like the password to get into the clubhouse .
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Robinson further comments that this kind of usage “ demonstrates how effectively such consensus can close off a subject from inquiry , ”
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The more useful a term is for marking my inclusion in a group , the less interested I will be in testing the validity of my use of that term against — well , against any kind of standard .
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They are invested , for the moment anyway , in not thinking .
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T . S . Eliot wrote almost a century ago about a phenomenon that he believed to be the product of the nineteenth century : “ When there is so much to be known , when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings , when everyone knows a little about a great many things , it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not . ”
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People invested in not knowing , not thinking about , certain things in order to have “ the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved ” will be ecstatic when their instinct for consensus is gratified — and wrathful when it is thwarted .
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( Social bonding is cemented by shared emotion , shared emotion generates social bonding . It’s a feedback loop from which reflection is excluded . )
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Human beings are not built to be indifferent to the waves and pulses of their social world .
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The person who genuinely wants to think will have to develop strategies for recognizing the subtlest of social pressures , confronting the pull of the ingroup and disgust for the outgroup .
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It’s very rewarding to show them not necessarily that their beliefs are wrong , but that they haven’t defended them very well , haven’t understood their underlying logic , haven’t grasped the best ways to commend
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their views to skeptical Others . *
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Harding’s essay is “ Representing Fundamentalism : The Problem of the Repugnant Cultural Other , ”
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The cold divisive logic of the RCO impoverishes us , all of us , and brings us closer to that primitive state that the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes called “ the war of every man against every man . ”
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simply knowing the forces that act on us to prevent genuine reflection , making an accurate diagnosis of our condition , is the first course of treatment .
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Eno and Schmidt called the card deck Oblique Strategies because they knew that when an artist is blocked , direct approaches meant to fix the problem invariably make it worse . In a similar way , sometimes you can get better at thinking only by turning your attention to matters other than thinking .
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We’re probably all subject to what the literary critic Gary Saul Morson calls “ backshadowing ” — “ foreshadowing after the fact , ” that is , the temptation to believe that we can look into the past and discern some point at which the present became inevitable .
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This ending deprives us of the easy comforts that Sapere aude stories tend to offer — the reassurance that , though life in the bigger world may be hard at times , may even be miserable , it is nonetheless the right trade to make because the security of community is not really the most vital thing in the long run . Le Guin’s swerve from the more familiar form of the trope says : We don’t know that . To think , to dig into the foundations of our beliefs , is a risk , and perhaps a tragic risk . There are no guarantees that it will make us happy or even give us satisfaction .
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To think independently of other human beings is impossible , and if it were possible it would be undesirable . Thinking is necessarily , thoroughly , and wonderfully social . Everything you think is a response to what someone else has thought and said . And when people commend someone for “ thinking for herself ” they usually mean “ ceasing to sound like people I dislike and starting to sound more like people I approve of . ”
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This is a point worth dwelling on . How often do we say “ she really thinks for herself ” when someone rejects views that we hold ? No : when someone departs from what we believe to be the True Path our tendency is to look for bad influences . She’s fallen under the spell of so - and - so . She’s been reading too much X or listening to too much Y or watching too much Z . Similarly , people in my line of work always say that we want to promote “ critical thinking ” — but really we want our students to think critically only about what they’ve learned
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at home and in church , not about what they learn from us . *
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When we believe something to be true , we tend also to see the very process of arriving at it as clear and objective , and therefore the kind of thing we can achieve on our own ; when we hold that a given notion is false , we ascribe belief in it to some unfortunate wrong turning , usually taken because an inquirer was led astray ,
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all of us at various times in our lives believe true things for poor reasons , and false things for good reasons , and that whatever we think we know , whether we’re right or wrong , arises from our interactions with other human beings .
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Gladwell assumes that if Wilt had been thinking rationally , the only thing he would have
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been concerned about was success in his job . But that’s because Gladwell , like many of us , seems to have unwittingly internalized the idea that when professional athletes do the thing they’re paid to do , they’re not acting according to the workaday necessity ( like the rest of us ) but rather are expressing with grace and energy their inmost competitive instincts , and doing so in a way that gives them delight . We need to believe that because much of our delight in watching them derives from our belief in their delight .
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Many professional athletes have confessed that , while they do sometimes find great satisfaction and even , yes , delight in their work , they never forget that it is indeed work .
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In his 2012 book The Righteous Mind , Jonathan Haidt tries to understand why we disagree with one another — especially , but not only , about politics and religion — and , more important , why it is so hard for people to see those who disagree with them as equally intelligent , equally decent human beings .
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Central to his argument is this point : “ Intuitions come first , strategic reasoning second . Moral intuitions arise automatically and almost instantaneously , long before moral reasoning has a chance to get started , and those first intuitions tend to drive our later reasoning . ” Our “ moral arguments ” are therefore “ mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly , crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives . ”
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Such networks of affiliation are complicated , and discerning their presence requires what the ancients called “ prudence , ” a virtue that , like many virtues , is cultivated largely by avoiding certain vices : the kind of optimism that Scruton calls “ unscrupulous ” and its accompanying rushes to judgment , its reluctance to question its preferred means .
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Roger Scruton , The Uses of Pessimism ( Oxford University Press , 2010 ) , p . 17 .
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3 That is , many Americans are happy to treat other people unfairly if those other people belong to the alien Tribe . And — this is perhaps the most telling and troubling finding of all — their desire to punish the outgroup is significantly stronger than their desire to support the ingroup .
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Here we might recall the “ unscrupulousness , ” the headlong rush forward , of the optimists Roger Scruton critiques . When you believe that the brokenness of this world can be not just ameliorated but fixed , once and for all , then people who don’t share your optimism , or who do share it but invest it in a different system , are adversaries of Utopia . ( An “ adversary ” is literally one who has turned against you , one who blocks your path . ) Whole classes of people can by this logic become expendable — indeed , it can become the optimist’s perceived duty to eliminate the adversaries .
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is , I believe that it is reasonable and wise , in a democratic social order , to make a commitment to what political philosophers call proceduralism : an agreement that political adversaries ought to abide by the same rules , because this is how we maintain a peaceable social order .
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That belief is on its way to being comprehensively rejected by the American people . And I have seen this in both academic and ecclesial settings as well : using the existing rules against your opponents , or formulating new ones with the explicit purpose of marginalizing them , without pausing to ask whether such methods are fair , or even whether they might be turned against you someday , when the political winds are blowing in a different direction . Such is the power of sheer animus : it disables our ethical and our practical judgment .
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And this is why learning to think with the best people , and not to think with the worst , is so important . To dwell habitually with people is inevitably to adopt their way of approaching the world , which is a matter not just of ideas but also of practices . These best people will provide for you models of how to treat those who disagree with
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them :
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interlocutors . When people cease to be people because they are , to us , merely representatives or mouthpieces of positions we want to eradicate ,
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then we , in our zeal to win , have sacrificed empathy : we have declined the opportunity to understand other people’s desires , principles , fears . And that is a great price to pay for supposed “ victory ” in debate .
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The myths we choose , or more likely simply inherit , do a tremendous amount of intellectual heavy lifting for us . Even more than the empty words and phrases of Orwell’s “ tired hack on the platform , ” these myths do our thinking for us . We can’t do without them ; the making of analogies is intrinsic to thinking , and we always and inevitably strive to understand one thing in relation to another thing that we already know .
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Our social taxonomies are useful , but if we think of them as something more than that , if we employ them to enforce strict separation between one person and another , if we treat them as solid and impermeable barriers that make mutual understanding impossible , they serve us poorly .
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The problem , of course , and sadly , is that we all have some convictions that are unsettled when they ought to be settled , and others that are settled when they ought to be unsettled .
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one . Economists speak of sunk costs as investments in a particular project that cannot be recovered , and some of them have pointed out that sunk costs have a disproportionate influence on decision making . The more people have invested in a particular project , the more reluctant they are to abandon it , no matter how strong the evidence indicating that it’s a lost cause .
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Fundamentally , for Hoffer , mass movements are a psychological phenomenon — however many roots they may have in
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particular cultural and political circumstances . He called the book in which he explores this psychology The True Believer ( 1951 ) .
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You can know whether your social environment is healthy for thinking by its attitude toward ideas from the outgroup . If you quote some unapproved figure , or have the “ wrong ” website open in your browser , and someone turns up his nose and says , “ I can’t believe you’re reading that crap ” — generally , not a good sign . Even if what you’re reading is Mein Kampf , because there are actually good reasons for reading Mein Kampf .
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In short , the Usage Wars are a kind of miniature embodiment of Culture Wars in all their endless variety — and therefore a kind of test case for how we deal with disagreement , especially when there’s disagreement on matters we care about very deeply .
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If it’s not exactly clear what all this has to do with the Democratic Spirit , perhaps Wallace’s definition of that Spirit will help : A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility , i.e . , passionate conviction plus a sedulous respect for the convictions of others . As any American knows , this is a difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain , particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about . Equally tough is a DS’s criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity — you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and at your motives for believing what you believe , and to do it more or less continually .
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( Which is more or less what this book is all about . I could take those three sentences as my epigraph . )
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failure . It is the failure to recognize other dialects , other contexts , other people , as having value that needs to be respected — especially , it’s tempting to say , if you want those people to respect your dialects and contexts and friends and family members , but perhaps what really matters is the damage this inability to code - switch does to the social fabric . It rends it .
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Remember : Humani nihil a me alienum puto . Human beings , like you , who happen through
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circumstance or temperament to have come to different conclusions than yours . This does not mean that their views are correct , or even as likely to be correct as your own ; you need not admit any such thing , but when they are wrong they’re wrong in the same way that you are , when that happens to you ( as it assuredly does ) .
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death . Better to follow the principle articulated by W . H . Auden : “ The same rules apply to self - examination as apply to auricular confession : Be brief , be blunt , be gone . ” *
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We shouldn’t expect moral heroism of ourselves . Such an expectation is fruitless and in the long run profoundly damaging . But we can expect to cultivate a more general disposition of skepticism about our own motives and generosity toward the motives of others .
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You have to be a certain kind of person to make this book work for you : the kind of person who , at least some of the time , cares more about working toward the truth than about one’s current social position . And working toward the truth is one of life’s great adventures .
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To cease thinking , as Thomas Aquinas explained , is an act either of despair — “ I can’t go any further ” — or of presumption — “ I need not go any further . ” * 2 What is needed for the life of thinking is hope : hope of knowing more , understanding more , being more than we currently are .
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The Thinking Person’s Checklist 1 . When faced with provocation to respond to what someone has said , give it five minutes . Take a walk , or weed the garden , or chop some vegetables . Get your body involved : your body knows the rhythms to live by , and if your mind falls into your body’s rhythm , you’ll have a better chance of thinking . 2 . Value learning over debating . Don’t “ talk for victory . ” 3 . As best you can , online and off , avoid the people who fan flames . 4 . Remember that you don’t have to respond to what everyone else is responding to in order to signal your virtue and right - mindedness .
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5 . If you do have to respond to what everyone else is responding to in order to signal your virtue and right - mindedness , or else lose your status in your community , then you should realize that it’s not a community but rather an Inner Ring . 6 . Gravitate as best you can , in every way you can , toward people who seem to value genuine community and can handle disagreement with equanimity . 7 . Seek out the best and fairest - minded of people whose views you disagree with . Listen to them for a time without responding . Whatever they say , think it over . 8 . Patiently , and as honestly as you can , assess your repugnances . 9 . Sometimes the “ ick factor ” is telling ; sometimes it’s a distraction from what matters . 10 . Beware of metaphors and myths that do
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too much heavy cognitive lifting ; notice what your “ terministic screens ” are directing your attention to — and what they’re directing your attention away from ; look closely for hidden metaphors and beware the power of myth . 11 . Try to describe others ’ positions in the language that they use , without indulging in in - other - wordsing . 12 . Be brave .
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Hello, My Name is Awesome

Book Notes

Okay, wow, I STRONGLY recommend this book for anyone who is naming a business or product. Like, don't expect to have a name in two days, do the work to figure out a good name, and yes, this book will help. I wish I had a product or company to name at this point, because this book is the way I'd find the name.

Watkins comments early in the book that her colleagues were concerned about her giving away her naming secrets by writing and publishing this book. Her response was something to the tune of, "Nah, I'll be fine, people don't want to do the work of finding the best name, I'm good," Which is totally believe.

Watkins gives step-by-step instructions on finding options and choosing them. For the record: I have fully sucked in naming my projects, by a lot. I now know it.

I originally borrowed this book from the library, but appreciated the content enough to go buy a copy from the book. I strongly recommend you do the same if you're naming a product. If you're not naming a product (or company), keep this on the back burner for when you do. You won't regret it.

clever ad headlines get noticed , get buzz , and get sales because they make strong emotional connections with consumers .
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SMILE : The 5 Qualities of a Super - Sticky Name Suggestive — evokes something about your brand Meaningful — resonates with your audience Imagery — is visually evocative to aid in memory Legs — lends itself to a theme for extended mileage Emotional — moves people SCRATCH : The 7 Deadly Sins Spelling challenged — looks like a typo Copycat — is similar to competitors ’ names Restrictive — limits future growth Annoying — is forced or frustrates customers Tame — is flat , descriptive , uninspired Curse of Knowledge — makes sense only to insiders
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Suggestive — Evokes Something about Your Brand A name can’t be expected to say everything , but it should suggest something about your brand .
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These names , also known as portmanteaus , work well because they cleverly marry two words together , are intuitive to spell , and easy to pronounce .
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Meaningful —
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Resonates with Your Audience It’s important to make sure your name is meaningful to potential customers , not just to you . Most of the time when people encounter your name , you won’t be there to explain it to them .
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Do Not Name Your Company after yourself While it may evoke warm thoughts to your friends and family , your personal name is meaningless to your future customers .
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Imagery — Visually Evocative to Aid in Memory
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Legs — Lends Itself to a Theme for Extended Mileage To get the most out of your name , give it one that has legs . Strive for a theme with mileage you can build your brand around . Names with legs provide endless wordplay and verbal branding opportunities .
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If you have a catchy name that makes people smile , you can slap it on merchandise that people will pay for because they love your name and want to show it off .
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Emotional — Moves People A recent Fast Company article revealed that 50 percent of every buying decision is driven by emotion .
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“ A name should make you smile instead of scratch your head . ”
Page 21

SCRATCH is an acronym for the seven deal breakers . A good way to remember this : if it makes you scratch your head , scratch it off the list .
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Spelling Challenged — Not Spelled like It Sounds If you have to spell your name out loud for people , Siri butchers it , or it looks like a typo , it’s a mistake .
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Don’t Get Cute with Numbers While it may work for texting and clever license plates , embedding numbers in a brand name looks cutesy and unprofessional .
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Test the Siri Theory The true test to see if a name is spelling challenged is to see and hear how voice recognition software spells it .
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Copycat — Similar to a Competitor Hijacking another company’s original idea isn’t good for your business reputation or for building trust with your customers .
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Restrictive — Locks You In , Limits Growth
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Do Not Use the Same Name for Your Product and Company
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Annoying — Forced , Frustrates Customers Annoying of course is subjective , but if you think about your
Page 28

name from a customer’s point of view , you can avoid causing frustration if your name does not appear forced , random , or grammatically incorrect .
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Clunky Coined Names If you invent a new word for your name , be careful that it doesn’t sound unnatural . Mashing two words together or mixing up a bunch of letters to form a new word rarely appears or sounds smooth .
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Resist the Temptation to Be Mysterious
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Tame — Flat , Descriptive , Uninspired If you want your name to stand out in a sea of sameness and get noticed — without a massive advertising budget — you can’t afford to be shy .
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Curse of Knowledge — Only Insiders Get It No one is more of an expert on the company or product you are naming than you . But when communicating with potential customers who are unfamiliar with your world , insider knowledge can become a curse . We can’t unlearn what we know , so we find it extremely difficult to think like a newbie . We talk in acronyms , internal shorthand , code words , and
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industry jargon — all of which sounds like a foreign language to outsiders . Don’t alienate potential customers .
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Avoid Alphanumeric Brain - benders
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Is Your Name in Urban Dictionary ? If your brand is targeted at teens or young adults , be sure to look up your name in Urban Dictionary ( urbandictionary.com ) before you give it the green light .
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Hard to Pronounce — Not Obvious , Unapproachable
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Avoid Acronyms Speaking of capital letters , FYI , people have ADD . You can expect them to remember only one name , not two .
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Two Pronunciations Is Double Trouble Words that can be pronounced two different ways are also pronunciation pitfalls .
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3 Strategies to Get a Good Domain Name for $ 9.95 Here are three simple strategies that will help you nab a domain name that people can spell , pronounce , and understand . Strategy # 1 : Add Another Word or Two
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5 Silly Ideas to Steer Clear Of Here are some amateur mistakes to watch out for . Silly Idea # 1 : Spell It Creatively
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Sil.ly Idea # 2 : Use an Obscure Domain Extension to Spell Your Name
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Silly Idea # 3 : Use . org For a For - Profit Business
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Silly Idea # 4 : Domain Name = Trademark Just because you own a domain name does not mean you own the trademark .
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Silly Idea # 5 : Don’t Look before You Leap Before you pounce on a domain name , make sure the words mashed together don’t spell something unintentional , which is called a SLURL — a clever portmanteau of Slur + URL .
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GOAL OF ASSIGNMENT What do you want to accomplish ?
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IN A NUTSHELL Sum it up it in 140 characters or less .
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BRAND POSITIONING How do you want your brand to be positioned in the marketplace ?
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CONSUMER INSIGHTS Consumer insights reveal people’s behaviors , as opposed to preferences . For instance , when naming an herbal tea brand , it helps to think beyond what tea drinkers like about herbal tea ( e.g . , flavor , fragrance , health benefits ) and consider what circumstances lead them to enjoy their tea . It could be getting home after a long commute , relaxing with a book in their favorite chair , or sipping a cup before bedtime to help them get a restful sleep .
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TARGET AUDIENCE Who are the customers you want to reach ?
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COMPETITION List your competitors so you know what you are up against and to help you steer clear of similar names , which could pose trademark conflicts .
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DESIRED BRAND EXPERIENCES The best names evoke a positive brand experience that makes a strong emotional connection , such as “ This tastes great , ” “ I will feel better , ” or “ This is fun ! ”
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BRAND PERSONALITY The 5 – 12 adjectives that best describe the tone and personality of your brand . ( This exercise is much easier to do if you think of your brand as a person . )
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WORDS TO EXPLORE List some words you may like to have in your new name .
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THEMES / IDEAS TO AVOID Don’t even think of going here :
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WORDS TO AVOID
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List any words you would not like to have in your new name .
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DOMAIN NAME MODIFIERS List modifier words that will help you secure a domain name , which may not be available as an exact match to your new name or may be out of your price range :
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NAME STYLE LIKES & DISLIKES List 5 brand names that you collectively like the style of ( and why ) .
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List 5 brand names that you collectively dislike the style of ( and why )
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ACID TEST FOR USING THE NEW NAME Write how the new name would be used in a sentence .
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ALSO GOOD TO KNOW List anything else you think would be important to the name development .
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THE WARM - UP — LIST 12 WORD SPARKS
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Mine the Online Goldmine
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Open the Thesaurus Treasure Chest Begin your online brainstorming on a thesaurus website , where you can find a jackpot of synonyms and related words .
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Supercharge Your Imagination with Images A picture says a thousand words . And many of those words can inspire awesome names , which is why I always do image searches to fuel my creativity .
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Comb through Glossaries of Terms Every sport has its own lingo of fun words and phrases . You can find pages and pages of them online by searching for “ glossaries , ” “ lingo , ” “ vernacular , ” “ jargon , ” “ dictionaries , ” “ thesaurus , ” “ terms , ” “ words , ” or “ slang , ” which are essentially the same thing but will turn up different results in searches .
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Dictionaries Have More Than Just Definitions
Page 63

Sometimes Clichés Are Good
Page 64

Go Googlestorming !
Page 64

Movie Title Madness
Page 65

Breeze through Some Book Titles
Page 66

Tune into iTunes
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12 Rules for Reviewing Your Names Rule 1 Have people initially review the list of names independently , as opposed to in a group .
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Rule 2
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Is it right ? which is much more objective and effective .
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Rule 3 Refrain from negative comments .
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Rule 4 Keep in mind that a name can’t say everything —
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Rule 5
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print out the list to review on paper instead of viewing it online . Read it multiple times , top to bottom and bottom to top . Give yourself a few days to let all the names sink in .
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Rule 6 As tempting as it is , do not share your list with outsiders and ask for their opinions on SurveyMonkey .
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Rule 7
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A good way to review company names is to imagine each one on your caller ID , name badge , store sign , website , or business card . Imagine product names on the product , a sales sheet , or on the shelf .
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Rule 8 Don’t be afraid to be different .
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Rule 9 Refrain from looking up domain names this early in the process .
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Rule 10 Each reviewer should select at least ten names from the list .
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Rule 11 Don’t fall in love with any one name until after you have conducted trademark screens .
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Rule 12 Have fun !
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How To Be Interesting

Book Notes

This is a cute, adorable, simple book that I'm pretty sure I didn't include in my list of books I've read because it is a 15 minute read and does it really qualify in my "Read 100 books this year" goal?

I mean, yes, by definition, it is a book, so yes. But it is a 15 minute read, if you linger, so does it?

This is a book of short bits of wisdom, delightfully illustrated with Venn Diagrams and Hagy's whimsical style.

You know how you have the "Oh the Places You'll Go" book that you give to every high school graduate?

Consider this book instead.

Yes, I am a fan of Jessica Hagy. I still think this book is worth reading. And gifting.

Dance. Talk. Build. Network. Play. Help. Create. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re doing it. Sitting around and complaining is not an acceptable form of “something,” in case you were wondering.
Location 109

If it is unappetizing: Do not eat, date, or sign up for it. If the mere thought of it is depressing: Do not major in it, sit through it, or devote your life to it. If it is not important to you: Do not do it only because it is important to someone else.
Location 115

A love ignored will wither and die.
Location 151

You are not wrong to be unique. You not incorrect because you are different. You should not be sorry for being interesting.
Location 170

The only way to exceed expectations is to ignore them—and do what needs doing instead.
Location 180

Amazing is rare, if only because so few people reach for it. Risking the ordinary is the only way to get something extraordinary.
Location 224

Acknowledge the roles coincidence, chance, systemic processes (and yes, maybe even luck), play in our world.
Location 270

Don’t feel guilty for taking a shot at something. Don’t feel terrible for wanting something. Save the guilt for never giving yourself the chance to try.
Location 293

If things are unsatisfactory: Document them. Change them. Few people ever bother with that second bit.
Location 397

If you’ve got bad memories attached to places, things, and even people: Let them go. You will feel lighter almost immediately.
Location 407

After all, it’s only an interesting backstory if you can get past it.
Location 434

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?

Book Notes

I really loved this book. I mean, I was expecting to like it, but I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. Probably helps that Alan Alda was my favorite actor when I was growing up. God, I hope he doesn't Kevin Spacey that opinion. Anyway.

This book was about Alda's journey into his improving scientific communication with "the masses" (my word, not his). He's been excited about science, and wanted to convey that enthusiasm. Here's how, including the scientific basis for some of the techniques he used. Here's how, including how improv can help one become a better communicator. Here's how, including practicing empathy. it was just such a great book.

I wish I had read it with the Caltech Book Club, mostly so that I would have someone to talk with about this book. I know that Tech offers improv classes, and the Book Club organized an online class for the members to take. I love the idea of an improv class, while being simultaneously overwhelmingly nervous about them. I can talk tech to a room of 1500 people, but improv with a group of 10 people? YIKES!

I recommend the book. If you're in science and/or tech and want to improve your communication skills, I strongly recommend this book. Good stuff.

It’s being so aware of the other person that, even if you have your back to them, you’re observing them. It’s letting everything about them affect you; not just their words, but also their tone of voice, their body language, even subtle things like where they’re standing in the room or how they occupy a chair. Relating is letting all that seep into you and have an effect on how you respond to the other person.
Page 10

I so loved this idea—that on the stage the other actor has to be able to affect you if a scene is to take place—that I came to the conclusion that, even in life, unless I’m responding with my whole self—unless, in fact, I’m willing to be changed by you—I’m probably not really listening. But if I do listen—openly, naïvely, and innocently—there’s a chance, possibly the only chance, that a true dialogue and real communication will take place between us.
Page 10

Ignorance was my ally as long as it was backed up by curiosity. Ignorance without curiosity is not so good, but with curiosity it was the clear water through which I could see the coins at the bottom of the fountain.
Page 11

His letter has come to be known as Jefferson’s dialogue between Head and Heart.
Page 22

In fact, it’s not until about the age of four or five that it even occurs to children that deception is possible. There’s no point in lying if everybody knows what you’re thinking!
Page 28

I coach from the side and explain that it’s his responsibility to help the mirror, his partner, keep up with him. This is the students’ first glimmer of the basic idea: The person who’s communicating something is responsible for how well the other person follows him.
Page 30

If I’m trying to explain something and you don’t follow me, it’s not simply your job to catch up. It’s my job to slow down.
Page 30

In other studies, simply tapping in sync, like tapping on a table, produced the same results. After they had spent some time tapping in sync, the subjects paid more attention to the good of the group, and they made fewer selfish choices.
Page 33

One thing she’ll learn from this is that there are many different ways to express the same thought, depending on whom you’re talking with.
Page 40

What could predict it, though, were three factors: the ability of the members of the group to freely take part in discussions, members’ scores on a standardized test of empathy, and, surprisingly, the presence of women in the group.
Page 56

If you get the sense that the rest of the group is aware of your feelings and won’t punish you for speaking up, you might be more inclined to offer an idea.
Page 57

Whether face-to-face or online, they reported, “some teams consistently worked smarter than others.” And the reasons they worked smarter were the same: They had “members who communicated a lot, participated equally, and possessed good emotion-reading skills.”
Page 57

He struck a chord when he wrote about the pitfalls of assuming students are totally responsible for their own motivation, noting that “this can lead researchers to blame group members for their lack of motivation.” Instead, he feels that it’s up to the leader of the group to motivate the students, or else things can break down. This is the very thing that happens in the mirror exercise when the leader doesn’t take responsibility for helping the other person to follow. They lose the connection that could keep them in sync. It happens when a teacher blames the student or a speaker blames the audience for not understanding what they have to say.
Page 58

The responsibility really belongs to the person speaking, not the person listening.
Page 59

“The goal,” he was saying, “is to provide people with the conditions that enhance their natural self-motivated behavior.”
Page 59

Some of my limited experience as a boss has included the unpleasant task of firing people who, it suddenly turned out, were wrong for the job—that remarkable transformation where someone you thought was perfect has turned into a werewolf. They haven’t actually become something else, of course. They’re the same perfectly fine people they were months earlier. But with all my supposed sensitivity and mind-reading ability, I hadn’t picked up on who they really were when I hired them.
Page 70

I could have avoided all the mind reading I needed in firing them humanely if I had been better at it when I was hiring them.
Page 70

He seems aware that good communication is the responsibility of the person delivering the information, not the person receiving
Page 73

we teach scientists that it’s not necessary to tell the audience everything you know in one gulp. Sometimes, telling us just enough to make us want to know more is exactly the right amount. We gag on force-feeding.
Page 73

Leek says, “It’s people’s nature where if they don’t understand something, they tend to say, ‘No.’
Page 73

When I can’t open a hard plastic “clamshell” container with scissors or a knife, or even a hammer, I wonder, Has the president of the company ever personally tried to open this thing?
Page 74

Social awareness became one of the key attributes of emotional intelligence as described in the work of Daniel Goleman. Goleman has refined the notion of social awareness to three separate steps: first, having an instantaneous, primal awareness of another’s inner state (empathy); then, grasping their feelings and thoughts (Theory of Mind); and, finally, understanding—or, as he says, “getting complicated social situations.” Goleman has described social awareness as “the ability to identify a client’s or customer’s often unstated needs and concerns and then match them to products or services.” He adds that “this empathic strategy distinguishes star sales performers from average ones.”
Page 76

You’re vulnerable when you laugh. You let the other person in.
Page 82

What’s the story? Where are you in the story?…
Page 83

He asks himself the same kind of questions we suggest our scientists ask: “Who is receiving it? Who are you? Why are you listening to this? Why would you care? Should you care?… I think,”
Page 83

I asked them to make imaginary objects out of space and pass them around in a circle, just as I would if I were working with scientists. Next, they tossed balls made of nothing to one another, but the kids had to make sure the ball they caught was the same size and weight as the one that was thrown to them. As always, the better they got at that, the more you believed you could see the ball passing from one person to another. The kids were delighted to see imaginary objects coming into existence simply because they were observing one another and responding—making contact. Then I asked them to toss not a ball, but an emotion around the circle. That was hard to grasp at first. It was confusing enough to toss around a ball that didn’t really exist; now I was asking them to pass around a feeling. To get them started, I made a sound and a gesture that I hoped conveyed a sense of joy and tossed it to the girl standing next to me. Her job was to catch it, the same way she had caught the imaginary ball, then mimic the emotion and pass it on to someone else. The emotion made its way around the circle, and soon the natural expressiveness of musicians took over and they were tossing passions to one another.
Page 84

You accept what you get from the other person, and then let it grow into something else. You keep moving things forward.
Page 86

Life, of course, is an improvisation. You don’t know what’s coming next.
Page 87

Self-regulation has to take place: You know what the other person is going through because you recognize their emotion in yourself, but you don’t have to act out that emotion. You take responsibility for regulating your own feelings.
Page 93

Training in improv and acting in general both lead to improvement on standardized tests designed to measure a person’s ability to connect with the state of mind of another person.
Page 94

The Three Rules of Three 1. When I talk to an audience, I try to make no more than three points. (They can’t remember more than three, and neither can I.) In fact, restricting myself to one big point is even better. But three is the limit. 2. I try to explain difficult ideas three different ways. Some people can’t understand something the first couple of ways I say it, but can if I say it another way. This lets them triangulate their way to understanding. 3. I try to find a subtle way to make an important point three times. It sticks a little better. But even
Page 98

I stopped practicing empathy for a while; it was exhausting.
Page 105

I began to look at people’s faces not only to guess what they were feeling, but to actually name it. I would mentally attach a word to what I thought was their emotion. Labeling it meant that I wasn’t just observing them; I was making a conscious effort to settle on the exact word that described what I saw.
Page 105

But what emotion are they going through? Identifying it doesn’t make me more sympathetic, but it does give me a chance to respond more appropriately. It kind of heads off impatience.
Page 106

He briefly outlined a method where he could give people an app for their smartphones that they could tap every time they read someone’s emotion and named it. They could do this for a week, and he could use standardized tools for testing empathy before and after a run. He thought for a moment and said, “I’d love to do that study.”
Page 107

In fact, I’d be happy to report on a failure, I thought. I have a lot of respect for failed experiments. It’s how scientists know what doesn’t work. I wish more so-called failures in research got attention. It would save others from going down the same dead-end alleys. It could be helpful to report on this if it didn’t pan out.
Page 108

He reminded me that the study was still going on and told me he was being very careful about not committing the error of peeking at the results before all the data were in.
Page 111

Matt mentioned that the harder it is for someone to read their own emotions, the harder it is for them to read the emotions of others. Maybe I should have been working on becoming better aware of my own emotions.
Page 112

Reading the Mind in the Eyes test.
Page 118

The first time I took it, I scored 33 out of 36. This time I got 36 out of 36. This proves nothing at all, of course, and ranks on a scale of reliable evidence just above wishing. But I was delighted anyway.
Page 123

Even when we think of empathy as a tool for good, it might not be a good idea to oversell its strengths, and we should remember that there will always be people who will use it against others for their own benefit.
Page 128

For Bloom, empathy is harder to achieve than we realize, and it doesn’t lead to moral behavior or good policy as much as rationality does.
Page 128

There are times we know what the rational action should be, but don’t take it until we consider what the other person is feeling. I know, in my own life, I sometimes respond to a question with an answer that isn’t really helpful.
Page 131

George Gopen wrote with Judith Swan, called “The Science of Scientific Writing,”
Page 134

As Gopen says, “Readers expect [a sentence] to be a story about whoever shows up first.”
Page 135

Richard Feynman told the story of a boy who taunted him when he was young, challenging him to name a bird they’d just seen. When he couldn’t, the boy said, “It’s a brown-throated thrush. Your father doesn’t teach you anything!” But his father already had taught him something that was more important than the name of a thing. He’d said to him, “See that bird? It’s a Spencer’s warbler.” Feynman could tell his father had made up the name. Then he started to give Richard fictitious names of the same bird in several languages. “You can know the name of that bird in all the languages of the world,” he said, “but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird…. so let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing—that’s what counts.”
Page 140

And we believe that the body’s stress-hormone response acts to enhance memory.”
Page 154

So, emotion helps us remember. That was clear. But this was new to me: that a bit of stress can help make that memory stick and feel more important than other memories.
Page 155

And there was no deodorant in my suitcase. I have a pathological fear of smelling bad, especially in front of twenty-eight hundred people.
Page 156

Laughter, he’s found, is far better than anger. And not just as an aid to memory, but as a way to connect.
Page 157

If we’re looking for a way to bring emotion to someone, a story is the perfect vehicle. We can’t resist stories. We crave them.
Page 161

As Mike has written: “Though the left hemisphere had no clue, it would not be satisfied to state it did not know. It would guess, prevaricate, rationalize, and look for a cause and effect, but it would always come up with an answer that fit the circumstances.”
Page 166

As Steve Strogatz told me, the trouble with a lecture is that it answers questions that haven’t been asked.
Page 169

So, what is a story? Aristotle is often quoted as saying that a story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Page 171

We can identify with someone who has a goal, but we root for someone with both a goal and an obstacle.
Page 172

Having a goal in the first place is crucially important. What does the hero or heroine want? What has she set out to achieve that is, at this moment, the most important thing in her life?
Page 172

I’ve often thought there ought to be a sign in the wings that says, “No one permitted beyond this point unless you know what you want with all your heart, and you know how you’re going to get it.”
Page 172

Here’s where the importance of the middle comes in. If an obstacle complicates the story and puts everything in doubt, then we have suspense and at the height of that suspense there’s going to be a turning point, where things are either going to get a lot better or a lot worse. There’s something very engaging about this because it’s difficult not to be caught up in someone’s struggle to achieve something.
Page 174

For me, the acknowledgment of an opposing thought is one of the things that makes science such a dramatic thing to watch.
Page 175

The more commonality between the storyteller and the listener, the more an MRI will show their brains in sync.
Page 178

Communication works only in cases when you understand something about what I’m going to say to you.”
Page 179

But even though any single study is seldom the final answer to anything, it can point you in a direction that’s worth exploring.
Page 181

And an awareness of similarity seems to be worth exploring, because it’s helpful in figuring out what the other person is thinking.
Page 181

There’s something appealing about a private language. It can be intoxicating. Jargon is like that, and the more rarefied it is—the fewer people who understand it besides you—the more it resembles the common hydrofloxia. It has a seductive aroma. You can get drunk on it.
Page 185

The three computer scientists at MIT who created SCIgen had shown how easily jargon gone amok can open the door to fraudulent research papers: nonsense leading to non-science.
Page 187

“Automatic SBIR Proposal Generator”
Page 187

Speaking jargon to the right person can save time and it can also lead to fewer errors.
Page 188

Their shocking conclusion was that very often extra knowledge is a disadvantage. At first it seems nonsensical that knowledge could be a burden, and even a curse. The problem, of course, is not in the knowledge itself. The problem is when you can’t imagine what it’s like not to have that knowledge.
Page 190

There’s something about having knowledge that makes it difficult to take the beginner’s view, to be able to think the way you did before you had that knowledge. And unless you’re aware that you actually know something the other person doesn’t know, you can be at a disadvantage.
Page 190

It’s like the line from a poem by Samuel Beckett: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Page 194

Scientists fail better when they’re looking for more truth rather than some absolute true-for-all-time truth.
Page 194

Virtue and Terror

Book Notes

This is one of those books that sits with you for a long while after you have finished reading it. If you don't know the circumstances happening at the time of the writing, or about the author, Maximilien Robespierre, himself, then the book might not linger.

If you recognize that the earlier works of Robespierre are what you want to hear from a leader, someone who is actively championing the underdog, the little guy, the poor, who believes in basic human rights for everyone, who actively fights against slavery; and then realize that the same man led the new government that overthrew the previous government and subsequently started murdering anyone who opposed the new government (or who was even suspected of opposing the new government), then you begin to recognize why the book is sticking with you for so long.

Yes, we want things to be fair. Yes, we want to be rewarded for our hard work. Yes, it would be great if everyone had an equal chance at opportunities. Yes, we want justice and equality.

But here we have a man who was against the death penalty, but argued strongly for the right of a government to execute, murder, anyone who opposed said government. You will have your Liberty by force, dammit.

Much of the justification he uses, yeah, I agree with. Some of it, not so much. This isn't a period in history that I paid strong attention to, though I wish I had, but from these kinds of writings. You can read about history, and yes, it reads like a story book. Then you read some of these works, you hear the words, you feel the emotions, and realize it wasn't a story, it happened, these were people. Suddenly, history becomes this absolutely fascinating saga about human nature. You can see how Robespierre played people, how our motivations are the same, how influence works, and how neuroscience has helped us understand many of these things.

We're still confusing creatures, but we have patterns. This book shows just how much they haven't changed.

I strongly recommend this book. It is a slow read.

Unformatted quotes that caught my attention:

The further crucial point to bear in mind is that, for Robespierre, revolutionary terror is the very opposite of war: Robespierre was a pacifist, not out of hypocrisy or humanitarian sensitivity, but because he was well aware that war among nations as a rule serves as the means to obfuscate revolutionary struggle within each nation.
Location 107

And this is what Robespierre aims at in his famous accusation to the moderates that what they really want is a ‘revolution without a revolution’: they want a revolution deprived of the excess in which democracy and terror coincide, a revolution respecting social rules, subordinated to pre-existing norms, a revolution in which violence is deprived of the ‘divine’ dimension and thus reduced to a strategic intervention serving precise and limited goals: Citizens, did you want a revolution without a revolution? What is this spirit of persecution that has come to revise, so to speak, the one that broke our chains? But what sure judgement can one make of the effects that can follow these great commotions? Who can mark, after the event, the exact point at which the waves of popular insurrection should break? At that price, what people could ever have shaken off the yoke of despotism? For while it is true that a great nation cannot rise in a simultaneous movement, and that tyranny can only be hit by the portion of citizens that is closest to it, how would these ever dare to attack it if, after the victory, delegates from remote parts could hold them responsible for the duration or violence of the political torment that had saved the homeland? They ought to be regarded as justified by tacit proxy for the whole of society. The French, friends of liberty, meeting in Paris last August, acted in that role, in the name of all the departments. They should either be approved or repudiated entirely. To make them criminally responsible for a few apparent or real disorders, inseparable from so great a shock, would be to punish them for their devotion.
Location 151

The best way to approach it is via Freud’s reluctance to endorse the injunction ‘Love thy neighbour!’ –the temptation to be resisted here is the ethical domestication of the neighbour –for example, what Emmanuel Levinas did with his notion of the neighbour as the abyssal point from which the call of ethical responsibility emanates.
Location 196

Robespierre, in a true master stroke, assumes full subjectivization –waiting a little bit for the ominous effect of his words to take place, he then continues in the first-person singular: ‘I say that anyone who trembles at this moment is guilty; for innocence never fears public scrutiny.’ 16
Location 244

there are no innocent bystanders in the crucial moments of revolutionary decision, because, in such moments, innocence itself –exempting oneself from the decision, going on as if the struggle I am witnessing does not really concern me –is the highest treason.
Location 250

This is how Yamamoto Jocho, a Zen priest, described the proper attitude of a warrior: every day without fail one should consider oneself as dead. There is a saying of the elders that goes, ‘Step from under the eaves and you’re a dead man. Leave the gate and the enemy is waiting.’ This is not a matter of being careful. It is to consider oneself as dead beforehand. 18
Location 270

Every legal order (or every order of explicit normativity) has to rely on a complex ‘reflexive’ network of informal rules which tells us how are we to relate to the explicit norms, how are we to apply them: to what extent are we to take them literally, how and when are we allowed, solicited even, to disregard them, etc. –and this is the domain of habit. To know the habits of a society is to know the metarules of how to apply its explicit norms: when to use them or not use them; when to violate them; when not to use a choice which is offered; when we are effectively obliged to do something, but have to pretend that we are doing it as a free choice (as in the case of potlatch).
Location 295

Recall the polite offer-meant-to-be-refused: it is a ‘habit’ to refuse such an offer, and anyone who accepts such an offer commits a vulgar blunder. The same goes for many political situations in which a choice is given on condition that we make the right choice: we are solemnly reminded that we can say no –but we are expected to reject this offer and enthusiastically say yes.
Location 300

To cast off the yoke of habit means: if all men are equal, then all men are to be effectively treated as equal; if blacks are also human, they should be immediately treated as such.
Location 314

Of course, radical bourgeois revolutionaries are aware of this limitation; however, the way they try to amend it is through a direct ‘terrorist’ imposition of more and more de facto equality (equal wages, equal health treatment …), which can only be imposed through new forms of formal inequality (different sorts of preferential treatments of the under-privileged).
Location 342

How are we to reinvent the Jacobin terror?
Location 406

Actually, what IS jacobian terror?
Location 406

Kant’s well-known thesis that Reason without Intuition is empty, while Intuition without Reason is blind: is not its political counterpart Robespierre’s dictum according to which Virtue without Terror is impotent, while Terror without Virtue is lethal, striking blindly?
Location 424

It is only such a radical stance that allows us to break with today’s predominant mode of politics, post-political biopolitics, which is a politics of fear, formulated as a defence against a potential victimization or harassment. Therein resides the true line of separation between radical emancipatory politics and the politics of the status quo: it is not the difference between two different positive visions, sets of axioms, but, rather, the difference between the politics based on a set of universal axioms and the politics which renounces the very constitutive dimension of the political, since it resorts to fear as its ultimate mobilizing principle: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of godless sexual depravity, fear of the excessive state itself (with its burdensome taxation), fear of ecological catastrophes –such a (post) politics always amounts to a frightening rallying of frightened men.
Location 452

liberty consists in obeying laws voluntarily adopted, and servitude in being forced to submit to an outside will.
Location 987

All men born and domiciled in France are members of the political society called the French nation, in other words French citizens. That is what they are by the nature of things and by the main principles of the law of nations. The rights attached to this title depend neither on the fortune each individual possesses, nor on the amount of taxation to which he is subject, because it is not tax that makes us citizens; the quality of citizen only obliges him to contribute to the common expenditure of the state, according to his abilities. Now you can give laws to the citizens, but you cannot annihilate them.
Location 990

I ought only to answer with a word or two: the people, that multitude of men whose cause I am defending, have rights that come from the same origin as your own. Who gave you the power to take them away? General practicality,
Location 1007

There is more: unless you do everything for liberty, you have done nothing. There are no two ways of being free: one must be entirely free, or become a slave once more. The least resource left to despotism will soon restore its power.
Location 1026

The law, the public authority: is it not established to protect weakness against injustice and oppression? It is thus an offence to all social principles to place it entirely in the hands of the rich.
Location 1044

Do you really believe in all honesty that a hard and laborious life produces more faults than softness, luxury and ambition? And
Location 1063

Abuses are the work and the domain of the rich, they are the scourges of the people: the interest of the people is the general interest, that of the rich is a particular interest;
Location 1077

It gives the citizens this astonishing lesson: ‘Be rich, whatever the cost, or you will be nothing.’
Location 1155

To make laws to restore and establish the rights of your constituents. It is thus not possible for you to strip them of those same rights.
Location 1184

It falls only to the essentially infallible Being to be immutable; to change is not just a right but a duty for any human will that has faltered. Men who decide the fate of other men are less exempt than anyone from this common obligation.
Location 1200

it is necessary for surveillance by honest people to stand against the forces of ambitious and corrupt intriguers.
Location 1276

It is in the nature of things that the march of reason should be slow and gradual.
Location 1397

The most depraved government finds powerful support in the prejudices, the habits, the education of peoples.
Location 1397

In a sort of despair, they want to hurl themselves into a foreign war, as if they hoped that the mere change brought about by war would bring us to life, or that order and liberty would eventually emerge from the general confusion.
Location 1417

There are in revolutions movements contrary to liberty and movements that favour it, as in illnesses there are salutary crises and mortal ones. The favourable movements are those aimed directly against tyrants, like the Americans’ insurrection, or that of 14 July. But war on the outside, provoked, directed by the government in the circumstances we are in now, is a movement in the wrong direction, a crisis that could lead to the death of the body politic. Such a war can only send public opinion off on a false scent, divert the nation’s well-founded anxieties, and forestall the favourable crisis that attacks by enemies of liberty might have brought on.
Location 1420

During a foreign war the people, as I said, distracted by military events from political deliberations affecting the essential foundations of its liberty, is less inclined to take seriously the underhand manoeuvres of plotters who are undermining it and the executive government which is knocking it about, and pay less attention to the weakness or corruption of representatives who are failing to defend it.
Location 1425

The sort of man who would look with horror on the betrayal of the homeland can still be led by adroit officers to run its best citizens through with steel;
Location 1438

I am enlightening it; to enlighten free men is to awaken their courage, to prevent that courage itself from becoming a stumbling-block to their liberty;
Location 1472

I neither deny them nor believe them; for I have heard too many calumnies to believe denunciations that come from the same source and that all bear the imprint of bias or passion.
Location 1539

Might you not also reproach us for having illegally smashed the mercenary scribblers, whose profession was to propagate fraud and blaspheme against liberty?
Location 1551

Who can mark, after the event, the exact point at which the waves of popular insurrection should break? At that price, what people could ever have shaken off the yoke of despotism?
Location 1571

For while it is true that a great nation cannot rise in a simultaneous movement, and that tyranny can only be hit by the portion of citizens that is closest to it, how would these ever dare to attack it if, after the victory, delegates from remote parts could hold them responsible for the duration or violence of the political torment that had saved the homeland? They ought to be regarded as justified by tacit proxy for the whole of society.
Location 1572

M. Louvet himself generalized, in a very vague way, the accusation directed earlier against me personally; from this it seems certain that calumny had been doing its work in the shadows.
Location 1587

To form an accurate idea of these events, the truth should be sought, not in the writings or slanderous speeches that have misrepresented them, but in the history of the recent revolution.
Location 1596

So you only talk about dictatorship in order to exercise it yourself without any restraint; you only talk about proscriptions and tyranny because you want to proscribe and tyrannize.
Location 1656

I renounce the just vengeance I would have a right to pursue against the slanderers; I ask that that vengeance be nothing more than the return of peace and the triumph of liberty.
Location 1663

In every country where nature provides for the needs of men with prodigality, scarcity can only be imputed to defects of administration or of the laws themselves; bad laws and bad administration have their origins in false principles and bad morals.
Location 1678

You need at least to subject to severe examination all the laws made under royal despotism and under the auspices of noble, ecclesiastical or bourgeois aristocracy; and so far you have no others at all.
Location 1684

freedom of trade is necessary up to the point where homicidal greed starts to abuse it;
Location 1694

Common sense indicates, for example, the truth that foodstuffs that are in no way essential to life can be left to untrammelled speculation by the merchant; any momentary scarcity that might be felt is always a bearable inconvenience; and it is acceptable in general that the unlimited freedom of such a market should turn to the greater profit of the state and some individuals; but the lives of men cannot be subjected to the same uncertainty. It is not necessary that I be able to purchase brilliant fabrics; but I do need to be rich enough to buy bread, for myself and my children. The merchant is welcome to retain goods coveted by wealth and vanity in his shops, until he finds the moment to sell them at the highest possible price; but no man has the right to amass piles of wheat, when his neighbour is dying of hunger.
Location 1704

What is the first object of society? It is to maintain the imprescriptible rights of man. What is the first of those rights? The right to life.
Location 1710

The first social law is therefore the one that guarantees all members of society the means to live; all the others are subordinate to that one; property was only instituted and guaranteed to consolidate it; it is primarily to live that people have property.
Location 1711

No doubt if all men were just and virtuous; if cupidity were never tempted to devour the people’s substance; if the rich, receptive to the voices of reason and nature, regarded themselves as the bursars of society, or as brothers to the poor, it might be possible to recognize no law but the most unlimited freedom;
Location 1726

Let the circulation of goods be protected throughout the whole Republic; but let the necessary measures be taken to ensure that circulation takes place. It is precisely the lack of circulation that I am complaining about. For the scourge of the people, the source of scarcity, is the obstacles placed in the way of circulation, under the pretext of rendering it unlimited. Does public subsistence circulate when greedy speculators are keeping it piled in their granaries? Does it circulate, when it is accumulated in the hands of a small number of millionaires who withhold it from the market, to make it more valuable and rare; who coldly calculate how many families must perish before the commodity reaches the release date fixed by their atrocious avarice?
Location 1735

Ha! what sort of good citizen can complain of being obliged to act with probity and in broad daylight?
Location 1754

I am well aware that when we examine the circumstances of some particular riot, aroused by the real or imagined scarcity of wheat, we sometimes recognize the influence of an outside cause. Ambition and intrigue need to start trouble: sometimes it is those same men who stir up the people, to find the pretext to slaughter it and to make liberty itself seem terrible in the eyes of weak and selfish individuals. But it is no less true that the people is naturally upright and peaceable; it is always guided by a pure intention; the malevolent can only stir it up by presenting a motive that is powerful and legitimate in its eyes.
Location 1772

the greatest service the legislator can perform for men is to force them to be honest folk.
Location 1789

do not forget that the source of order is justice; that the surest guarantor of public peace is the well-being of the citizens,
Location 1798

It does not even occur to us that most are inevitably still connected with the prejudices on which despotism fed us.
Location 1836

When a nation has been forced to resort to the right of insurrection, it returns to the state of nature in relation to the tyrant. How can the tyrant invoke the social pact? He has annihilated it. The nation can still keep it, if it thinks fit, for everything concerning relations between citizens; but the effect of tyranny and insurrection is to break it entirely where the tyrant is concerned; it places them reciprocally in a state of war. Courts and legal proceedings are only for members of the same side.
Location 1842

Peoples do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts.
Location 1849

It is less a question of enlightenment than of avoiding voluntary blindness.
Location 1920

Why is it that what seems clear to us at one time seems obscure at another?
Location 1921

There was no need for a revolution, surely, to teach the universe that extreme disproportion between fortunes is the source of many ills and many crimes, but we are nevertheless convinced that equality of possessions is a chimera.
Location 1970

Now, where public contributions are concerned, is there any principle more obviously derived from the nature of things and from eternal justice, than one that obliges the citizens to contribute to public expenditure progressively, in accordance with the size of their fortune, in other words in accordance with the advantages they draw from society?
Location 1998

XIX. In any free state, the law above all should defend public and individual liberty against abuse of authority by those who govern. Any institution that does not assume the people to be good, and the magistrate corruptible, is itself depraved.
Location 2044

XXXI. In both these cases, subjecting resistance against oppression to legal forms is the ultimate refinement of tyranny.
Location 2065

XXXIII. Offences committed by people’s representatives should be severely and promptly punished. No one has the right to claim to be more inviolable than other citizens.
Location 2067

The truth is that under the old empress, as under all women who hold the sceptre, it is men who govern.
Location 2323

That country combines the ferocity of savage hordes with the vices of civilized peoples.
Location 2324

Force can overthrow a throne; only wisdom can found a Republic.
Location 2368

They say their authority is its work. No: God created tigers; but kings are the masterpieces of human corruption.
Location 2443

Aristides11
Location 2469

Successes send weak souls to sleep; they spur strong souls on. Let
Location 2524

If revolutionary government should be more active in its working and freer in its movements than ordinary government, does that make it less just and less legitimate? No. It is supported by the holiest of all laws: the salvation of the people; by the most indisputable of all entitlements: necessity.
Location 2554

Yes! If it is accepted that there are moderates and cowards of good faith, why should there not be patriots of good faith, who are sometimes carried away by a praiseworthy sentiment to go too far?
Location 2582

By sketching the duties of revolutionary government, we have marked the pitfalls that threaten it. The greater its power, the more free and rapid its action, the more it should be directed by good faith. On
Location 2589

Let us raise our souls to the height of republican virtues and examples from antiquity. Themistocles7 had more genius than the Lacedaemonian general commanding the Greek fleet: however, when the general answered a much-needed piece of advice meant to save the country by raising his baton to strike him, Themistocles merely said ‘Strike then, but listen’, and Greece triumphed over the Asian tyrant.
Location 2603

Punishing a hundred obscure and subordinate culprits is less useful to liberty than executing the head of a conspiracy.
Location 2665

commerce the source of public wealth and not just the monstrous opulence of a few houses.
Location 2735

We want in our country to substitute morality for egoism, probity for honour, principles for practices, duties for proprieties, the rule of reason for the tyranny of fashion, contempt of vice for contempt of misfortune, pride for insolence, greatness of soul for vanity, love of glory for love of money, good people for good company, merit for intrigue, genius for fine wit, truth for brilliance, the charm of happiness for the boredom of luxury, the greatness of man for the pettiness of great men, a magnanimous, powerful, happy people for an amiable, frivolous and miserable people; in short all the virtues and miracles of the Republic for all the vices and absurdities of monarchy.
Location 2735

A democracy is not a state in which the people, continually assembled, manages all public business for itself, still less one in which a hundred thousand fractions of the people, through isolated, precipitate and contradictory measures, would decide the fate of the whole society: no such government has ever existed, and it could only exist to take the people back to despotism. Democracy is a state in which the sovereign people, guided by laws which are its own work, does for itself all that it can do properly, and through delegates all that it cannot do for itself.
Location 2746

Thus, anything that tends to arouse love of the homeland, to purify morals, to elevate souls, to direct the passions of the human heart towards the public interest, should be adopted or established by you. Anything that tends to concentrate them on the abjectness of the personal self, to arouse crazes for small things and contempt for great ones, should be rejected or repressed by you.
Location 2775

A nation is really corrupted when, having lost by slow degrees its character and its liberty, it moves from democracy to aristocracy or monarchy; that is the death of the body politic through decrepitude.
Location 2795

From all of this we should deduce a great truth: that the character of popular government is to be trusting towards the people and severe with itself.
Location 2814

If the mainspring of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the mainspring of popular government in revolution is virtue and terror both: virtue, without which terror is disastrous; terror, without which virtue is powerless.
Location 2827

Nature’s law is that any physical and moral entity must provide for its own preservation;
Location 2834

he would rather wear out a hundred red caps than perform one good act.
Location 2905

Do we need to assert the rights of the people oppressed by the government? They speak only of respect for the law and obedience to the constituted authorities.
Location 2933

The wish to forestall evil is always to them a reason for augmenting it. In the North the poultry were killed, depriving us of eggs, under the pretext that poultry eat grain. In the Midi, people wanted to uproot mulberry and orange trees, on the pretext that silk is a luxury product, and oranges unnecessary.
Location 2938

Would you believe that in the areas where superstition has had most influence, not content with loading the operations concerning religion with all the forms most calculated to render them odious, they spread terror among the people by starting a rumour that all children under ten and all old people over seventy were going to be killed? That this rumour was spread particularly in former Brittany and in the departments of Rhine and Moselle?
Location 2941

In perfidious hands all the remedies for our ills become poisons; whatever you can do, whatever you can say, they will turn it against you, even the truths we have just been developing.
Location 2954

Thus, for example, after having planted the seeds of civil war everywhere, with the violent attack on religious prejudices, they will seek to arm fanaticism and aristocracy with the very measures that sound policy recommended to you in favour of freedom of religion.
Location 2956

Democracy perishes through two excesses, the aristocracy of those who govern, or the people’s contempt for the authorities it has itself established, a contempt that results in each coterie, each individual appropriating public power, and brings the people, through excess of disorder, to annihilation or rule by a single individual.
Location 2971

There are two powers on earth, reason and tyranny; wherever one is predominant, the other is banned. Those who denounce the moral strength of reason as a crime are therefore seeking to revive tyranny.
Location 3112

Which is the more guilty, one who threatens its security through violence, or one who undermines its justice through seduction and perfidy? To mislead it is to betray it; to push it into acts contrary to its intentions and principles is to risk its destruction; for its power is based on virtue itself and on the confidence of the nation.
Location 3123

Why do those who used to say: I declare to you that we are walking on volcanoes, believe today that they are walking on nothing but roses?
Location 3177

Think about the end of the campaign; be afraid of internal factions; be afraid of the intrigues favoured by absence in a foreign land.
Location 3192

There should be no question of hobbling the people’s justice through new forms; penal law ought necessarily to have something vague about it because, the current character of the conspirators being one of dissimulation and hypocrisy, justice needs to be able to grasp them in all forms.
Location 3200

So the safeguard of patriotism lies not in the slowness or weakness of national law, but in the principles and integrity of those entrusted with it, in the good faith of the government, in the open protection it gives to patriots, and the energy with which it represses the aristocracy; in the public mind, and in certain moral and political institutions that, without hampering the workings of the law, offer a safeguard to good citizens and repress bad ones, through their influence on public opinion and on the direction of the revolutionary march; these will be proposed to you as soon as the most immediate conspiracies allow the friends of liberty time to draw breath.
Location 3203

Let us not be mistaken: establishing an immense Republic on foundations of reason and equality, holding all the parts of this immense empire together with vigorous bonds, is not an enterprise that can be completed thoughtlessly: it is the masterpiece of virtue and human reason. A host of factions springs up inside a great revolution; how can they be repressed, if you do not subject all the passions to constant justice? Your only guarantor of liberty is rigorous observation of the principles and the universal morality you have proclaimed. If reason does not reign, then crime and ambition must reign; without it, victory is just an instrument of ambition and a danger to liberty, a lethal pretext misused by intrigue to lull patriotism to sleep on the edge of the precipice; without it, what is the very meaning of victory?
Location 3243

know that every friend of liberty will always be trapped between a duty and a calumny; that those who cannot be accused of betrayal will be accused of ambition; that the influence of probity and principle will be likened to the strength of tyranny and the violence of factions; that your trust and your esteem will be certificates of proscription for all your friends; that the cries of oppressed patriotism will be called cries of sedition, and that, not daring to attack you in the mass, they will proscribe you singly in the persons of all good citizens, until the ambitious have organized their tyranny.
Location 3290

The Courage To Be Disliked

Book Notes

I actively did not like this book.

I was expecting the book to be a Japanese flavor of Stoicism, told in an interesting way.

Instead, it is an Adlerian philosophy lesson wrapped up in a conversation. The conversation part isn't the part that annoys me, so much as the Adler philosophy.

Basic tenets:

1. You act or feel a certain way because you chose to and you use your past or other circumstances to justify the behavior.
2. All problems are interpersonal relationship problems
3. All relationships should be horizontal, treat everyone as equals.

The second rule manifests itself in the Stoic philosophy of control, mostly that just about everything except how you react is outside of your control. Adler says don't take on other people's "life tasks." You can’t control what other people think of you, so why worry about it? This is pretty much the only part I agreed with.

The first rule is the one that completely annoyed me. it puts the blame on the individual for systemic prejudices against her, and says it's her fault for feeling angry or frustrated or annoyed or mad. Hey, are you upset that you're told no you can't go to a conference, but your male coworker can go, that's your problem you feel angry at that unfairness. Hey, are you mad that you and two other women were all "laid-off" because of "budget concerns" because you thought Cowboy was irresponsible and called him on it, well that's your problem you've been fired, not the boys club we had here at work, you didn't bow down fast enough.

I am pretty sure that anyone who says Adler's philosophy is great is at the top of his (yes, male gendered noun on purpose) power landscape.

Did not like this book. Do not like Adler's philosophy, mock anyone who you see reading this book.

PHILOSOPHER: There is no change in what I say. The world is simple and life is simple, too.
YOUTH: How? Anyone can see that it’s a chaotic mass of contradictions.
PHILOSOPHER: That is not because the world is complicated. It’s because you are making the world complicated.
Location 120

PHILOSOPHER: None of us live in an objective world, but instead in a subjective world that we ourselves have given meaning to. The world you see is different from the one I see, and it’s impossible to share your world with anyone else.
Location 125

There is no escape from your own subjectivity. At present, the world seems complicated and mysterious to you, but if you change, the world will appear more simple. The issue is not about how the world is, but about how you are.
Location 138

It’s as if you see the world through dark glasses, so naturally everything seems dark. But if that is the case, instead of lamenting about the world’s darkness, you could just remove the glasses. Perhaps the world will appear terribly bright to you then and you will involuntarily shut your eyes. Maybe you’ll want the glasses back on, but can you even take them off in the first place?
Location 142

But why does everyone feel they want to change? There’s only one answer: because they cannot change. If it were easy for people to change, they wouldn’t spend so much time wishing they could.
Page 8

He is not pretending to be sick. The anxiety and fear your friend is feeling are real. On occasion, he might also suffer from migraines and violent stomach cramps. However, these too are symptoms that he has created in order to achieve the goal of not going out.
Page 11

But Adler, in denial of the trauma argument, states the following: “No experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences—the so-called trauma—but instead we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. We are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining.”
Page 13

So, Stoicism. Gotcha
Page 13

We determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to those past experiences. Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.
Page 13

Every criminal has an internal justification for getting involved in crime. A dispute over money leads someone to engage in murder, for instance. To the perpetrator, it is something for which there is a justification and which can be restated as an accomplishment of “good.” Of course, this is not good in a moral sense, but good in the sense of being “of benefit to oneself.”
Page 29

The Greek word for “good” (agathon) does not have a moral meaning. It just means “beneficial.” Conversely, the word for “evil” (kakon) means “not beneficial.” Our world is rife with injustices and misdeeds of all kinds, yet there is not one person who desires evil in the purest sense of the word, that is to say something “not beneficial.”
Page 29

PHILOSOPHER: People are constantly selecting their lifestyles. Right now, while we are having this tête-à-tête, we are selecting ours. You describe yourself as an unhappy person. You say that you want to change right this minute. You even claim that you want to be reborn as a different person. After all that, then why are you still unable to change? It is because you are making the persistent decision not to change your lifestyle.
Page 34

What you should do now is make a decision to stop your current lifestyle. For instance, earlier you said, “If only I could be someone like Y, I’d be happy.” As long as you live that way, in the realm of the possibility of “If only such and such were the case,” you will never be able to change. Because saying “If only I could be like Y” is an excuse to yourself for not changing.
Page 37

He wants to live inside that realm of possibilities, where he can say that he could do it if he only had the time, or that he could write if he just had the proper environment, and that he really does have the talent for it.
Page 37

Adler’s teleology tells us, “No matter what has occurred in your life up to this point, it should have no bearing at all on how you live from now on.” That you, living in the here and now, are the one who determines your own life.
Page 40

PHILOSOPHER: Her story certainly isn’t unusual. Students preparing for their exams think, If I pass, life will be rosy. Company workers think, If I get transferred, everything will go well. But even when those wishes are fulfilled, in many cases nothing about their situations changes at all. YOUTH: Indeed.
Page 48

Why do you dislike yourself? Why do you focus only on your shortcomings, and why have you decided to not start liking yourself? It’s because you are overly afraid of being disliked by other people and getting hurt in your interpersonal relationships.
Page 50

But don’t forget, it’s basically impossible to not get hurt in your relations with other people. When you enter into interpersonal relationships, it is inevitable that to a greater or lesser extent you will get hurt, and you will hurt someone, too.
Page 51

YOUTH: In other words, the feelings of inferiority we’re suffering from are subjective interpretations rather than objective facts?
Page 58

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. We cannot alter objective facts. But subjective interpretations can be altered as much as one likes. And we are inhabitants of a subjective world.
Page 58

PHILOSOPHER: This is the other aspect of the inferiority complex. Those who manifest their inferiority complexes in words or attitudes, who say that “A is the situation, so B cannot be done,” are implying that if only it were not for A, they’d be capable and have value.
Page 65

As Adler points out, no one is capable of putting up with having feelings of inferiority for a long period of time. Feelings of inferiority are something that everyone has, but staying in that condition is too heavy to endure forever.
Page 65

The healthiest way is to try to compensate through striving and growth. For instance, it could be by applying oneself to one’s studies, engaging in constant training, or being diligent in one’s work. However, people who aren’t equipped with that courage end up stepping into an inferiority complex. Again, it’s thinking, I’m not well educated, so I can’t succeed. And
Page 66

PHILOSOPHER: A healthy feeling of inferiority is not something that comes from comparing oneself to others; it comes from one’s comparison with one’s ideal self.
Page 73

YOUTH: Does that mean you dropped out of competition? That you somehow accepted defeat? PHILOSOPHER: No. I withdrew from places that are preoccupied with winning and losing. When one is trying to be oneself, competition will inevitably get in the way.
Page 75

PHILOSOPHER: This is what is so terrifying about competition. Even if you’re not a loser, even if you’re someone who keeps on winning, if you are someone who has placed himself in competition, you will never have a moment’s peace. You don’t want to be a loser. And you always have to keep on winning if you don’t want to be a loser. You can’t trust other people. The reason so many people don’t really feel happy while they’re building up their success in the eyes of society is that they are living in competition. Because to them, the world is a perilous place that is overflowing with enemies.
Page 78

PHILOSOPHER: Certainly, there are times when I feel indignation with regard to social problems. But I would say that rather than a sudden burst of emotion, it is indignation based on logic. There is a difference between personal anger (personal grudge) and indignation with regard to society’s contradictions and injustices (righteous indignation). Personal anger soon cools. Righteous indignation, on the other hand, lasts for a long time. Anger as an expression of a personal grudge is nothing but a tool for making others submit to you.
Page 82

PHILOSOPHER: If someone were to abuse me to my face, I would think about the person’s hidden goal. Even if you are not directly abusive, when you feel genuinely angry due to another person’s words or behavior, please consider that the person is challenging you to a power struggle.
Page 83

PHILOSOPHER: The first thing that I want you to understand here is the fact that anger is a form of communication, and that communication is nevertheless possible without using anger. We can convey our thoughts and intentions and be accepted without any need for anger.
Page 87

PHILOSOPHER: The moment one is convinced that “I am right” in an interpersonal relationship, one has already stepped into a power struggle.
Page 88

PHILOSOPHER: In the first place, the rightness of one’s assertions has nothing to do with winning or losing. If you think you are right, regardless of what other people’s opinions might be, the matter should be closed then and there. However, many people will rush into a power struggle and try to make others submit to them. And that is why they think of “admitting a mistake” as “admitting defeat.”
Page 89

PHILOSOPHER: Because of one’s mind-set of not wanting to lose, one is unable to admit one’s mistake, the result being that one ends up choosing the wrong path. Admitting mistakes, conveying words of apology, and stepping down from power struggles—none of these things is defeat. The pursuit of superiority is not something that is carried out through competition with other people.
Page 89

Adler does not accept restricting one’s partner. If the person seems to be happy, one can frankly celebrate that condition. That is love. Relationships in which people restrict each other eventually fall apart.
Page 97

The kind of relationship that feels somehow oppressive and strained when the two people are together cannot be called love, even if there is passion.
Page 98

As Adler says, “Children who have not been taught to confront challenges will try to avoid all challenges.”
Page 136

PHILOSOPHER: Maybe it is easier to live in such a way as to satisfy other people’s expectations. Because one is entrusting one’s own life to them. For example, one runs along the tracks that one’s parents have laid out. Even if there are a lot of things one might object to, one will not lose one’s way as long as one stays on those rails. But if one is deciding one’s path oneself, it’s only natural that one will get lost at times. One comes up against the wall of “how one should live.”
Page 139

And, in that case, one has no choice but to discipline oneself on the basis that other people are watching. To aspire to be recognized by others and live an honest life. Other people’s eyes are my guide. PHILOSOPHER: Does one choose recognition from others, or does one choose a path of freedom without recognition? It’s an important question—let’s think about it together. To live one’s life trying to gauge other people’s feelings and being worried about how they look at you. To live in such a way that others’ wishes are granted. There may indeed be signposts to guide you this way, but it is a very unfree way to live.
Page 139

Unless one is unconcerned by other people’s judgments, has no fear of being disliked by other people, and pays the cost that one might never be recognized, one will never be able to follow through in one’s own way of living. That is to say, one will not be able to be
Page 145

The courage to be happy also includes the courage to be disliked.
Page 146

Though this might be termed a “you and I” relationship, if it is one that can break down just because you raise an objection, then it is not the sort of relationship you need to get into in the first place. It is fine to just let go of it. Living in fear of one’s relationships falling apart is an unfree way to live, in which one is living for other people.
Page 177

Do not cling to the small community right in front of you. There will always be more “you and I,” and more “everyone,” and larger communities that exist.
Page 177

One wishes to be praised by someone. Or conversely, one decides to give praise to someone. This is proof that one is seeing all interpersonal relationships as “vertical relationships.”
Page 181

Even if you do derive joy from being praised, it is the same as being dependent on vertical relationships and acknowledging that you have no ability. Because giving praise is a judgment that is passed by a person of ability onto a person without ability.
Page 186

When receiving praise becomes one’s goal, one is choosing a way of living that is in line with another person’s system of values.
Page 186

It is about having concern for others, building horizontal relationships, and taking the approach of encouragement.
Page 189

Adler goes so far as to warn that those who sacrifice their own lives for others are people who have conformed to society too much.
Page 220

PHILOSOPHER: Do not treat it as a line. Think of life as a series of dots. If you look through a magnifying glass at a solid line drawn with chalk, you will discover that what you thought was a line is actually a series of small dots. Seemingly linear existence is actually a series of dots; in other words, life is a series of moments. YOUTH: A series of moments? PHILOSOPHER: Yes. It is a series of moments called “now.” We can live only in the here and now. Our lives exist only in moments.
Page 246

PHILOSOPHER: And Adler, having stated that “life in general has no meaning,” then continues, “Whatever meaning life has must be assigned to it by the individual.”
Page 259

Perenniel Seller

Book Notes

This is one of those books that was not what I was expecting, but was still fascinating to read. It made me wish I had a project that I was working on, so that I could apply the wisdom of the book to said project.

The unfortunate part of the book is that it is not a "here's how to do this thing you want to do so well that you have a hit, and as such, you can spend the rest of your life satisfied with that knowledge that 'you done good'." But really, if such a book did exist, it would be said hit, and then everything would be amazing, and we'd be back to the point where when everything's amazing, nothing is.

So, what is the fortunate part of the book? Eh.... it says, 'If you have a good idea and work really hard at it, and focus on it, ignoring all the distractions," you'll be successful (not necessarily financially or famously successful, but successful for some definition of successful).

At that point, promote the hell out of the work.

And here's how to do that.

Again, I really wish I had a project I could apply this book to. Honestly, I'm likely to come back to this book when I do. Worth reading if you have a project / product that you're willing to embrace the long-tail on, and not some flash in the pan, fleeting, POS thing that modern society seems to thrive on these days.

People claim to want to do something that matters, yet they measure themselves against things that don’t, and track their progress not in years but in microseconds.
Page 3

Promotion is not how things are made great—only how they’re heard about.
Page 19

To be great, one must make great work, and making great work is incredibly hard. It must be our primary focus.
Page 19

Phil Libin, the cofounder of Evernote, has a quote I like to share with clients: “People [who are] thinking about things other than making the best product never make the best product.”
Page 20

When we look to great works of history as our example, we see one thing: that powerful work is a struggle and that it requires great sacrifice. The desire for lasting greatness makes the struggle survivable, the sacrifice worth it.
Page 20

I’ve met with no shortage of smart, accomplished people who, I’ve realized, don’t actually want to write a book despite what they say. They want to have a book.
Page 22

To make something great, what’s required is need. As in, I need to do this. I have to. I can’t not.
Page 22

Every project must begin with the right intent. It might also need luck and timing and a thousand other things, but the right intent is nonnegotiable—and, thankfully, intent is very much in your control.
Page 24

willingness to trade off something—time, comfort, easy money, recognition—lies at the heart of every great work. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but always a significant sacrifice that needs to happen. If it didn’t, everyone would do it.
Page 27

“If you focus on near-term growth above everything else,” he has written, “you miss the most important question you should be asking: Will this business still be around a decade from now?”
Page 33

Doing so is not simple, however. It can mean tough choices, saying no when everyone wants you to say yes—sometimes even the people closest to you who are counting on you.
Page 37

Frank Darabont, the director and writer of The Shawshank Redemption, was offered $ 2.5 million to sell the rights so that Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise could be cast as the stars.
Page 37

As Hemingway supposedly said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Page 37

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has some forty-seven alternative endings for Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. He rewrote the first part of the book, by his own count, more than fifty times. He wrote all of them, trying them like pieces of a puzzle until one finally fit.
Page 38

On the other end of the creative spectrum, the brilliant military strategist John Boyd utilized what he called “drawdown periods.” After a one a.m. breakthrough, he’d spend weeks just looking at an idea, testing whether others had already come up with it, identifying possible problems with it. Only after this period ended would he begin the real work on the project.
Page 40

Creative people naturally produce false positives. Ideas that they think are good but aren’t. Ideas that other people have already had. Mediocre ideas that contain buried within them the seeds of much better ideas. The key is to catch them early. And the only way to do that is by doing the work at least partly in front of an audience.
Page 42

These conflicting, contradictory notes can be simultaneously ego-boosting or soul-crushing if you’re not careful. The proper approach is to have a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish, so you can parse the constructive criticism you need from the notes you need to ignore.
Page 42

Creating is often a solitary experience. Yet work made entirely in isolation is usually doomed to remain lonely.
Page 43

You don’t have to be a genius to make genius—you just have to have small moments of brilliance and edit out the boring stuff.
Page 43

Ask questions. How can I give people a sample of what I’m thinking? How does the idea resonate in conversation? What does an online audience think of it? What does a poll of your friends reveal?
Page 43

Instead, it’s about finding the germ of a good idea and then making it a great product through feedback and hard work. Forget going off into some cave.
Page 44

There is no question that planning is really important, but it’s seductive to get lost in that planning—to hope that the perfect project simply floats your way instead of deciding that it’s on you to make it.
Page 44

An audience isn’t a target that you happen to bump into; instead, it must be explicitly scoped and sighted in. It must be chosen.
Page 45

For any project, you must know what you are doing—and what you are not doing. You must also know who you are doing it for—and who you are not doing it for—to be able to say: THIS and for THESE PEOPLE.
Page 45

If you don’t know who you’re writing for or who you’re making for, how will you know if you’re doing it right? How will you know if you’ve done it? You are unlikely to hit a target you haven’t aimed for. Hope is not helpful here; having something and someone to measure against is.
Page 47

A critical test of any product: Does it have a purpose? Does it add value to the world? How will it improve the lives of the people who buy it?
Page 48

People need to socialize, they need a job, and a place to live, and more.
Page 49

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten as a creator was from a successful writer who told me that the key to success in nonfiction was that the work should be either “very entertaining” or “extremely practical.”
Page 49

You want what you’re making to do something for people, to help them do something—and have that be why they will talk about it and tell other people about it.
Page 49

The bigger and more painful the problem you solve, the better its cultural hook, and the more important and more lucrative your attempt to address it can be.
Page 50

So the creator of any project should try to answer some variant of these questions: What does this teach? What does this solve? How am I entertaining? What am I giving? What are we offering? What are we sharing?
Page 51

They can’t seem to understand that most customers won’t get excited about a moderate improvement—because most people don’t even care. I’m always wary of any description that resembles “It’s like ______ but with ______.” I’m wary of it not only because it’s inherently unoriginal, but also because, again, it forces the creators to compete with the very dominant entity they are supposedly improving on.
Page 53

The higher and more exciting standard for every project should force you to ask questions like this: What sacred cows am I slaying? What dominant institution am I displacing? What groups am I disrupting? What people am I pissing off?
Page 54

The point is that you cannot violate every single convention simultaneously, nor should you do it simply for its own sake.
Page 56

Great books of timeless wisdom offer the same joys. Pick them up and open them at random—something will call out to you and help alleviate your suffering, even if you’ve already read the book a dozen times.
Page 57

If the first step in the process is coming to terms with the fact that no one is coming to save you—there’s no one to take this thing off your hands and champion it the rest of the way home—then the second is realizing that the person who is going to need to step up is you.
Page 67

Adults create perennial sellers—and adults take responsibility for themselves. Children expect opportunities to be handed to them; maturity is understanding you have to go out and make them.
Page 68

This is the most counterintuitive part of any creative process—just when you think you’re “done,” you’ll often find you’re not even close to being finished.
Page 70

Here is another famous Hemingway line on writing: “The first draft of anything is shit.”
Page 70

Imagine if every author or creator were given carte blanche to make whatever he or she wanted—a world in which no one ever challenged others’ work and green-lighted it sight unseen. As appealing as this might seem to creators, the result would be an avalanche of terrible first drafts released as final products.
Page 70

The fact is, most people are so terrified of what an outside voice might say that they forgo opportunities to improve what they are making.
Page 75

Nobody creates flawless first drafts. And nobody creates better second drafts without the intervention of someone else. Nobody.
Page 76

For that reason, Amazon actually requires managers who are launching a new product to write a press release about it before the idea is even given the green light.
Page 78

For creators, it’s typically easier to reach the smaller, better-defined group. If you reach the smaller group and wow them, there will be many opportunities to spread outward and upward.
Page 87

For books, the superagent and publishing entrepreneur Shawn Coyne (Robert McKee, Jon Krakauer, Michael Connelly) likes to use ten thousand readers as his benchmark. That’s what it takes, in his experience, for a book to successfully break through and for the ideas in it to take hold.
Page 88

You must create room for the audience to inhabit and relate to the work. You must avoid the trap of making this about you—because, remember, you won’t be the one buying it.
Page 89

The democratization of production was great news—it empowered people like you and me. The bad news is that it empowered millions of other people too.
Page 90

Three critical variables determine whether that will happen: the Positioning, the Packaging and the Pitch. Positioning is what your project is and who it is for. Packaging is what it looks like and what it’s called. The Pitch is the sell—how the project is described and what it offers to the audience. Each is essential.
Page 90

That saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover”? It’s total nonsense. Of course you can judge a book by its cover—that’s why books have covers.
Page 91

Consider how someone would describe your book, movie, restaurant, campaign, candidacy—whatever—at a party. Consider someone trying to tell someone else about it in just 140 characters. What would they say? Will they feel stupid saying it? It’s a ______ that does ______ for ______. Have you made filling in those blanks as easy and exciting as possible? Have you done the hard work for them?
Page 95

That is: What’s your sell for this thing? How do you tell people what it is and why they should care?
Page 95

At some point in the near future (the third section of this book), you’re going to have to describe to other human beings what this project is in an exciting and compelling way. You’re going to need to explain to reporters, prospective buyers or investors, publishers, and your own fans: Who this is for Who this is not for Why it is special What it will do for them Why anyone should care The one sentence and one paragraph can be taken and tweaked for public consumption. It’s creating a literal elevator pitch: You’ve got fifteen seconds to catch an important person’s attention.
Page 97

The answer should be clear by now: I am making a ______ that does ______ for ______ because ______. The “why” doesn’t need to be public—but if you can’t define your goal for yourself, how will you know if you’ve achieved it? How will you know how to make decisions in situations where that goal is threatened or jeopardized?
Page 98

Once that has occurred, there is one last thing you must do. You must deliberately forsake all other missions.
Page 99

Nothing has sunk more creators and caused more unhappiness than this: our inherently human tendency to pursue a strategy aimed at accomplishing one goal while simultaneously expecting to achieve other goals entirely unrelated.
Page 100

Only crazy people would compare themselves to people on totally different tracks.
Page 101

The fashion designer Marc Ecko has good advice: We can’t prioritize the gatekeepers (the media) over the goalkeepers (the audience). To do so is foolishly shortsighted.
Page 103

Herb Cohen, considered one of the world’s greatest negotiators, famously said, “You’re better off with a great salesman and a mediocre product than with a masterpiece and a moron to sell it.”
Page 111

The idea that you won’t have to work to sell your product is more than entitled. “‘ If you build it they will come’ can happen, but to count on that is naive,”
Page 112

I always prefer to start from a place of reality, not from my own projections and preferences. Humility is clearer-eyed than ego—and that’s important because humility always works harder than ego.
Page 114

The mark of a future perennial seller is a creator who doesn’t believe he is God’s gift to the world, but instead thinks he has created something of value and is excited and dedicated to get it out there. Guess what? A sense of entitlement is not how you’re going to reach them. Hunger and humility make the difference.
Page 116

Our marketing efforts, then, should be catalysts for word of mouth. We are trying to create the spark that leads to a fire.
Page 119

no one gets coverage for thinking about maybe doing something. You get coverage for taking a stand, for risking something, for going out there and creating news where there wasn’t any before. You don’t get coverage for what you feel or what you believe. Only what you do with those beliefs or feelings.
Page 158

And that’s a useful standard for good advertising: is it about your ego or is it about doing something of value? The fact is, humor and levity will probably do more for your brand over the long term than trying to beat people over the head with brilliantly effective advertising copy. So if you are going to advertise—if you have determined that it is wiser to spend a dollar there than on anything else you might do—then at least make sure you have a good time and that your audience has one too.
Page 169

The best strategy is to try everything and see what works for your project—because it’s going to be different for every single project. When you find something, stick with it. Marketing is the art of allocating resources—sending more power to the wheels that are getting traction, sending it away from the ones that are spinning. And investing in each strategy until the results stop working. Then find the next one!
Page 171

Everyone wants a platform when they need one. People want to have a big list—they just don’t want to lay the groundwork for one beforehand. They think a robust platform is their God-given right for being so smart and talented. Or they think that since they’ve been successful in the past, obviously everyone is going to line up to buy whatever they’re doing now. Sorry—not how it works.
Page 182

It’s hard to be an artist when a middleman gets to decide which pieces of your art make it to viewers.
Page 183

They’re afraid of carving their own path and finding nothing at the end of it. They’re overly concerned with the vanity and status consciousness of fans who are comfortable in the traditional system.
Page 183

Mainstream media is learning the hard way what happens when you outsource audience engagement to search engines or social media.
Page 187

Eight-and nine-figure social media metrics can be very intoxicating, but we should be wary of overinvesting in social platforms, because they come and go—ask all the folks who had large Myspace followings—and it’s entirely outside our control. Their policies can change; they can get acquired or go bankrupt. They can suddenly start charging you money for services that you once expected would be free.
Page 187

The best way to create a list is to provide incredible amounts of value. Here are some strategies to help you do that: Give something away for free as an incentive. (Maybe it’s a guide, an article, an excerpt from your book, a coupon for a discount, etc.) Create a gate. (There used to be a Facebook tool that allowed musicians to give away a free song in exchange for a Facebook like or share—that’s a gate. BitTorrent does the same thing with its Bundles—some of the content is free, and if you want the rest of it, you’ve got to fork over an email address.) Use pop-ups. (You’re browsing a site and liking what you see and BOOM a little window pops up and asks if you want to subscribe. I put such pop-ups at the back of all my books.) Do things by hand. (I once saw an author pass around a clipboard and a sign-up sheet at the end of a talk. It was old-school, but it worked. Also, at the back of my books I tell people to email me if they want to sign up, and then I sign them up by hand.) Run sweepstakes or contests. (Why do you think the lunch place by your office has a fishbowl for business cards? Those cards have phone numbers and email addresses. They give away a sandwich once a week and get hundreds of subscribers in return.) Do a swap. (One person with a list recommends that their readers sign up for yours; you email your fans for theirs.) Promise a service. (The last one is the simplest and most important. What does your list do for people? Promise something worth subscribing to and you’ll have great success.) Lists vary in size and quality, but they all have one thing in common—they start at zero. I
Page 190

To get your first one hundred subscribers, Noah recommends doing this: Put a link in your email signature. How many emails do you send a day? See which social networks allow you to export your followers and send them a note asking them to join. Post online once a week asking your friends/ family/ coworkers to join your mailing list. Ask one group you are active in to join your newsletter. Create a physical form you can give out at events. That’s a pretty decent start, requiring very little effort.
Page 191

Some of Tim’s strategies: Never dismiss anyone—You never know who might help you one day with your work.
Page 193

Play the long game—It’s not about finding someone who can help you right this second. It’s about establishing a relationship that can one day benefit both of you. Focus on “pre-VIPs”—The people who aren’t well known but should be and will be.
Page 193

Be generous, do favors, help other people with their products.
Page 194

The comedian Marc Maron perfectly encapsulates how we feel when we see a peer or competitor snag some big opportunity or score a big break. In such moments of jealousy and envy, we say, “How did you get that?” The emphasis there on “you” is important, as in, “It should have been me,” and the “that,” as in, “You don’t deserve something so great.” We’re mad that others were more successful than us, that somehow everything seemed to break their way, perhaps bitter that people opened doors for them and not for us. This is not only a miserable way to live, but it also misses the point. No one is entitled to relationships only because their work is genius. Relationships have to be earned, and maintained.
Page 195

As I see it, not everyone who publishes a book is an author. He or she is just someone who has published a book. The best way to become an author is to write more books, just as a true entrepreneur starts more than one business. The best way to become a true comedian, filmmaker, designer, or entrepreneur is to never stop, to keep going. Obviously there are exceptions to this—there are plenty of brilliant creators who have made only one thing. They are still entrepreneurs just as Harper Lee is clearly an author.
Page 208

As Goethe’s maxim goes, “The greatest respect an author can have for his public is never to produce what is expected but what he himself considers right and useful for whatever stage of intellectual development has been reached by himself and others.” This is true for any type of creative person.
Page 210

There’s another reality of creative businesses that we need to consider: Most of the real money isn’t in the royalties or the sales. For authors, the real money comes from speaking, teaching, or consulting.
Page 211

Luck is polarizing. The successful like to pretend it does not exist. The unsuccessful or the jaded pretend that it is everything. Both explanations are wrong. No matter what we have heard from our parents and internalized as part of the American Dream, hard work does not trump all. At the very, very top, the world is not a simple meritocracy, and it never has been.
Page 219

Incognito

Book Notes

I started reading this book and thought, very quickly, hey, I know this stuff already. This feels very familiar.

And a few pages into the book, I realized why when my first highlight appeared: I'd read this book before.

I don't recall when I'd read the book before, as it isn't in my notes for the last 4 years, but I had read it before. After debating for a bit on whether to reread it or put it down in favor of a new book, I figured I could give it a read, and read it quickly. Was not disappointed in myself.

The brain does a lot. We are oblivious to pretty much all of it. We can, however, be aware of some of that blindness, be aware of how we are going to react even when we expect and want to react differently, be aware of how small changes can improve our lives, and be gentle with ourselves when we are strange.

This book is seven years old. While we have more research, more theories, and more data about the brain, the fundamentals are the same, which makes this a great second read, too. I'd be interested in a follow up book with curation of the latest research.

Anyway, definitely worth reading, even recommended.

As far as anyone can tell, we’re the only system on the planet so complex that we’ve thrown ourselves headlong into the game of deciphering our own programming language. Imagine that your desktop computer began to control its own peripheral devices, removed its own cover, and pointed its webcam at its own circuitry. That’s us.
Page 2

Alterations to the brain change the kinds of thoughts we can think. In a state of deep sleep, there are no thoughts. When the brain transitions into dream sleep, there are unbidden, bizarre thoughts.
Page 3

The first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control.
Page 4

The men were consistently more attracted to the women with dilated eyes.
Page 4

This might explain a few things for me.

Instead, they simply felt more drawn toward some women than others, for reasons they couldn’t quite put a finger on.
Page 5

In the largely inaccessible workings of the brain, something knew that a woman’s dilated eyes correlates with sexual excitement and readiness.
Page 5

How is it possible to get angry at yourself: who, exactly, is mad at whom?
Page 19

It is interesting to consider that the majority of human beings live their whole lives unaware that they are only seeing a limited cone of vision at any moment.
Page 24

One of the most pervasive mistakes is to believe that our visual system gives a faithful representation of what is “out there” in the same way that a movie camera would.
Page 24

As Mariotte delved more deeply into this issue, he realized that there is a hole in our vision—what has come to be known as the “blind spot” in each eye. To demonstrate this to yourself, close your left eye and keep your right eye fixed on the plus sign. Slowly move the page closer
Page 32

My blind spot caused me all sorts of grief after I started having migraines at nine years old. I couldn't tell migraine spots from my blind spot and had to see a few doctors to figure out what the blindness was.

But more significantly, no one had noticed because the brain “fills in” the missing information from the blind spot.
Page 33

When the dot disappears, you do not perceive a hole of whiteness or blackness in its place; instead your brain invents a patch of the background pattern.
Page 33

Unless you're having a migraine with auras, then all bets are off.

He discovered that outfielders use an unconscious program that tells them not where to end up but simply how to keep running. They move in such a way that the parabolic path of the ball always progresses in a straight line from their point of view. If the ball’s path looks like its deviating from a straight line, they modify their running path.
Page 37

Fascinating!

Your brain is in the dark but your mind constructs light.
Page 40

Consider the way you are reading the letters on this page. Your eyes flick effortlessly over the ornate shapes without any awareness that you are translating them: the meaning of the words simply comes to you. You perceive the language, not the low-level details of the graphemes.
Page 41

The second is that the people experiencing the hallucinations are discomfited by the knowledge that their visual scene is at least partially the counterfeit coinage of their brains.
Page 45

Though, if you grew up with migraines, you kinda learn early on not to trust absolutely what you see, and always take a second look.

In this way, the brain refines its model of the world by paying attention to its mistakes.
Page 49

It will come as no surprise to you that the mere exposure effect is part of the magic behind product branding, celebrity building, and political campaigning: with repeated exposure to a product or face, you come to prefer it more. The mere exposure effect is why people in the public spotlight are not always as disturbed as one might expect by negative press.
Page 65

Another real-world manifestation of implicit memory is known as the illusion-of-truth effect: you are more likely to believe that a statement is true if you have heard it before—whether or not it is actually true.
Page 65

F'ing brain.

Nothing is inherently tasty or repulsive—it depends on your needs. Deliciousness is simply an index of usefulness.
Page 76

Each organism has its own umwelt, which it presumably assumes to be the entire objective reality “out there.”
Page 77

Easy things are hard: most of what we take for granted is neurally complex.
Page 89

Researchers (as well as purveyors of pornography) have been able to discern a surprisingly narrow range for the female proportions that males find most attractive: the perfect ratio between the waist and hips usually resides between 0.67 and 0.8. The waist-to-hip ratios of Playboy centerfolds has remained at about 0.7 over time, even as their average weight has decreased. 22 Women with a ratio in this range are not only judged by males as more attractive, but are also presumed to be more healthy, humorous, and intelligent.
Page 91

When men ranked the beauty of women’s faces, they found the women with dilated eyes more attractive, because dilated eyes signal sexual interest.
Page 92

The Babylonian Talmud contains a passage in the same spirit: “In came wine, out went a secret.”

It later advises, “In three things is a man revealed: in his wine goblet, in his purse, and in his wrath.”
Page 103

Many people prefer a view of human nature that includes a true side and a false side—in other words, humans have a single genuine aim and the rest is decoration, evasion, or cover-up. That’s intuitive, but it’s incomplete.
Page 104

Your brain, as well, interprets your body’s actions and builds a story around them. Psychologists have found that if you hold a pencil between your teeth while you read something, you’ll think the material is funnier; that’s because the interpretation is influenced by the smile on your face. If you sit up straight instead of slouching, you’ll feel happier. The brain assumes that if the mouth and spine are doing that, it must be because of cheerfulness.
Page 134

Minds seek patterns. In a term introduced by science writer Michael Shermer, they are driven toward “patternicity”—the attempt to find structure in meaningless data.

Evolution favors pattern seeking, because it allows the possibility of reducing mysteries to fast and efficient programs in the neural circuitry.
Page 138

A popular model in the neuroscience literature suggests that dream plots are stitched together from essentially random activity: discharges of neural populations in the midbrain. These signals tickle into existence the simulation of a scene in a shopping mall, or a glimpse of recognition of a loved one, or a feeling of falling, or a sense of epiphany. All these moments are dynamically woven into a story, and this is why after a night of random activity you wake up, roll over to your partner, and feel as though you have a bizarre plot to relate.
Page 139

Consider the concept of a secret. The main thing known about secrets is that keeping them is unhealthy for the brain.
Page 145

After years of study, Pennebaker concluded that “the act of not discussing or confiding the event with another may be more damaging than having experienced the event per se.”

He and his team discovered that when subjects confessed or wrote about their deeply held secrets, their health improved, their number of doctor visits went down, and there were measurable decreases in their stress hormone levels.
Page 145

The main reason not to reveal a secret is aversion to the long-term consequences. A friend might think ill of you, or a lover might be hurt, or a community might ostracize you. This concern about the outcome is evidenced by the fact that people are more likely to tell their secrets to total strangers; with someone you don’t know, the neural conflict can be dissipated with none of the costs.
Page 146

If we hope to invent robots that think, our challenge is not simply to devise a subagent to cleverly solve each problem but instead to ceaselessly reinvent subagents, each with overlapping solutions, and then to pit them against one another. Overlapping factions offer protection against degradation (think of cognitive reserve) as well as clever problem solving by unexpected approaches.
Page 147

Some people are constitutionally incapable of keeping a secret, and this balance may tell us something about the battles going on inside them and which way they tip. Good spies and secret agents are those people whose battle always tips toward long-term decision making rather than the thrill of telling.
Page 150

When your biology changes, so can your decision making, your appetites, and your desires. The drives you take for granted (“ I’m a hetero/ homosexual,” “I’m attracted to children/ adults,” “I’m aggressive/ not aggressive,” and so on) depend on the intricate details of your neural machinery.
Page 155

Many of us like to believe that all adults possess the same capacity to make sound choices.

It’s a nice idea, but it’s wrong.
Page 157

As far as we can tell, all activity in the brain is driven by other activity in the brain, in a vastly complex, interconnected network. For better or worse, this seems to leave no room for anything other than neural activity—that is, no room for a ghost in the machine. To consider this from the other direction, if free will is to have any effect on the actions of the body, it needs to influence the ongoing brain activity. And to do that, it needs to be physically connected to at least some of the neurons. But we don’t find any spot in the brain that is not itself driven by other parts of the network. Instead, every part of the brain is densely interconnected with—and driven by—other brain parts. And that suggests that no part is independent and therefore “free.” So in our current understanding of science, we can’t find the physical gap in which to slip free will—the uncaused causer—because there seems to be no part of the machinery that does not follow in a causal relationship from the other parts.
Page 166

However, at this point, no one can see a clear way around the problem of a nonphysical entity (free will) interacting with a physical entity (the stuff of the brain).
Page 167

To help a citizen reintegrate into society, the ethical goal is to change him as little as possible to allow his behavior to come into line with society’s needs.
Page 182

Poor impulse control is a hallmark characteristic of the majority of criminals in the prison system.
Page 182

If it seems difficult to empathize with people who have poor impulse control, just think of all the things you succumb to that you don’t want to. Snacks? Alcohol? Chocolate cake? Television? One doesn’t have to look far to find poor impulse control pervading our own landscape of decision making. It’s not that we don’t know what’s best for us, it’s simply that the frontal lobe circuits representing the long-term considerations can’t win the elections when the temptation is present. It’s like trying to elect a party of moderates in the middle of war and economic meltdown.
Page 182

Recall the patients with frontotemporal dementia who shoplift, expose themselves, urinate in public, and burst out into song at inappropriate times. Those zombie systems have been lurking under the surface the whole time, but they’ve been masked by a normally functioning frontal lobe.
Page 184

The same goes for the mentally retarded or schizophrenic; punitive action may slake bloodlust for some, but there is no point in it for society more broadly.
Page 189

Biological explanation will not exculpate criminals. Brain science will improve the legal system, not impede its function. 36 For the smooth operation of society, we will still remove from the streets those criminals who prove themselves to be over-aggressive, under-empathetic, and poor at controlling their impulses. They will still be taken into the care of the government. But the important change will be in the way we punish the vast range of criminal acts—in terms of rational sentencing and new ideas for rehabilitation. The emphasis will shift from punishment to recognizing problems (both neural and social) and meaningfully addressing them.
Page 190

Effective law requires effective behavioral models: understanding not just how we would like people to behave, but how they actually behave.
Page 191

Visual illusions reveal a deeper concept: that our thoughts are generated by machinery to which we have no direct access.
Page 194

The dethronement led to a richer, deeper understanding, and what we lost in egocentrism was counterbalanced in surprise and wonder.
Page 196

(It is also the case that a virtuous actor can have minimal temptations and therefore no requirement for good brakes, but one could suggest that the more virtuous person is he who has fought a stronger battle to resist temptation rather than he who was never enticed.)
Page 197

All of this leads to a key question: do we possess a soul that is separate from our physical biology—or are we simply an enormously complex biological network that mechanically produces our hopes, aspirations, dreams, desires, humor, and passions? 7 The majority of people on the planet vote for the extrabiological soul, while the majority of neuroscientists vote for the latter: an essence that is a natural property that emerges from a vast physical system, and nothing more besides.
Page 203

As soon as your drink is spiked, your sandwich is sneezed upon, or your genome picks up a mutation, your ship moves in a different direction. Try as you might to make it otherwise, the changes in your machinery lead to changes in you. Given these facts on the ground, it is far from clear that we hold the option of “choosing” who we would like to be.
Page 209

Who you turn out to be depends on such a vast network of factors that it will presumably remain impossible to make a one-to-one mapping between molecules and behavior (more on that in the moment).
Page 209

If there’s something like a soul, it is at minimum tangled irreversibly with the microscopic details.
Page 209

In other words, a lower level of social acceptance into the majority correlates with a higher chance of a schizophrenic break. In ways not currently understood, it appears that repeated social rejection perturbs the normal functioning of the dopamine systems.
Page 211

In my view, the argument from parsimony is really no argument at all—it typically functions only to shut down more interesting discussion. If history is any guide, it’s never a good idea to assume that a scientific problem is cornered.
Page 222

Keep in mind that every single generation before us has worked under the assumption that they possessed all the major tools for understanding the universe, and they were all wrong, without exception.
Page 223

“Vision after early blindness.”
Page 230

eagleman.com/ incognito for interactive demonstrations of how little we perceive of the world. For excellent reviews on change blindness, see Rensink, O’Regan, and Clark, “To see or not to see”; Simons, “Current approaches to change
Page 230

Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution

Book Notes

Okay, I really have no idea why I picked up this book. It was on some list, it sounded interesting, so I picked it up.

This is not a guide to political revolution.

This is a Bernie Sanders Manifesto, along with resources to work within the system.

The book is a long iteration of his platform, is beliefs, what he stands for. The book says, "Here is a problem. Here is how I think this problem could be solved." Not, "Here's how to solve this problem, and the data to prove it will work." Not, "Here's the legislation I have introduced." Not, "Here is the cultural problem that contributes to this social problem and do these actions to fix it."

Revolution is painful, the callouts in this book to "get involved" are not. Yes, they are time consuming, but revolution means an overhaul of the system, not an evolution of the system.

One can appreciate what Sanders is trying to do to make the country better. A complete upheaval might be the way to go. This is not the guidebook for that revolution. Better to look at The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for a guide, even if I disagree with that book's actual politics.

The book is worth a read to understand what Sanders stands for. For that part, it was worth the read. I don't disagree with much of his platform, I just don't see the pilot programs, the supporting data, or the means to implement.

In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a basic principle of American economic life should be that if you work forty hours or more a week, you do not live in poverty.
Location 77

Increasing the minimum wage is good for businesses as well as workers because it reduces employee turnover. When workers earn a living wage, they are more likely to stay with their company.
Location 120

And spend money.

Public assistance given to low-wage workers is essentially subsidizing the profits of the companies paying the low wages.
Location 126

Which is bullshit.

Walmart makes profits by paying wages so low that the workers not only qualify for but also need public assistance just to get by.
Location 131

Hate Walmart.

I do not believe that the government should burden taxpayers with the financial support of profitable corporations owned by some of the wealthiest people in this country. That’s absurd.
Location 145

If we are serious about reversing the decline of the middle class, we need a major federal jobs program that puts millions of Americans to work at decent-paying jobs. We need workers to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure—our roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, airports, railways, levees, and dams.
Location 258

Our tax code essentially legalizes tax dodging for large corporations.
Location 349

America is not broke. The very wealthy and huge, profitable corporations just aren’t paying the taxes that, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. more than a century ago, “are what we pay for a civilized society.”
Location 364

The Roundtable also wants to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to seventy, and to cut cost-of-living adjustments for seniors and disabled veterans. These CEOs callously promote the idea that increasing their corporate profits is more important than their fellow Americans receiving the benefits they have earned by working or by serving in the military.
Location 369

We have been losing millions of jobs as a direct result of our disastrous trade policies. This is a major contributor to the decline of the middle class, rising poverty, and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else. We must do everything possible to stop companies from outsourcing American jobs.
Location 444

Americans see that there are different rules for the rich and powerful than for everyone else. They see kids arrested and sometimes even jailed for possessing marijuana or for other minor crimes. But when it comes to Wall Street executives, whose illegal behavior hurts millions of Americans, they see that there are no arrests, no police records, and no jail time.
Location 555

There is something fundamentally wrong with our criminal justice system when not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy in 2008.
Location 565

“Equal Justice Under Law” cannot just be words engraved over the doors of the Supreme Court.
Location 567

 To create an economy that works for all americans and not just a handful of billionaires, we have to address the ever-increasing size of the megabanks.

 We must end, once and for all, the scheme that is nothing more than a free insurance policy for wall street: “too big to fail.”

 We need a banking system that is part of a productive economy—making loans at affordable rates to small and medium-sized businesses—so we can create a growing economy with decent-paying jobs.

 We need a banking system that encourages homeownership by offering affordable mortgage products that are designed to work for both the lender and the borrower.

 We need a banking system that is transparent and accountable and that adheres to the highest ethical standards as well as to the spirit and the letter of the law.
Location 574

One might have thought that as part of the bailout, these huge banks would have been reduced in size to make certain that we never experience a recurrence of what happened in 2008. In fact, the very opposite occurred. Today, three of the four largest financial institutions—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo—are about 80 percent bigger than they were before we bailed them out.
Location 585

No financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure would send the world economy into crisis.
Location 591

If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.
Location 592

Today, commercial banks still have over $ 177.46 trillion of derivatives contracts on their books. That is insane.
Location 603

All derivatives trading should be done in an open, transparent exchange similar to the stock market, without exceptions. As
Location 615

Needless to say, this game of high-speed speculation adds absolutely nothing to a productive economy.
Location 628

We have to discourage reckless gambling on Wall Street and encourage productive investments in a job-creating economy.
Location 631

we need to turn for-profit credit-rating agencies into transparent nonprofit institutions that are independent from Wall Street and accountable to a board of directors that represents the public interest.
Location 656

The decisions that the Federal Reserve made during the 2008 crisis sent a very clear message: while the rich and powerful are “too big to fail” and are worthy of an endless supply of cheap credit, ordinary Americans must fend for themselves. This was a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.
Location 687

We must require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full and independent audit of the Fed every year.
Location 718

Health care should be a right, not a perk of being employed.
Location 757

it has never made sense to me that our health care system is primarily designed to make huge profits for multibillion-dollar insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals, and medical equipment suppliers.
Location 762

The details of the national health systems vary in each of these countries, but all of them guarantee health care for all their citizens, and none of them allow private health insurance companies to profit off human illness.
Location 766

Think about the extraordinary impact it would have on our economy if all Americans had the freedom to follow their dreams and not worry about whether the family had health insurance.
Location 824

The pharmaceutical industry, because of its great power, rarely loses legislative fights. It has effectively purchased the Congress, and there are Republican and Democratic leaders who support its every effort.
Location 863

There was a time, forty or fifty years ago, when many people could graduate from high school and move right into a decent-paying job with good benefits. Strong unions offered apprenticeships, and a large manufacturing sector provided opportunities for those without an advanced degree.
Location 974

Exactly how much do students benefit by having, in some cases, dozens of vice presidents of this or that, each earning hundreds of thousands of dollars or more?
Location 989

Another reason college educations are becoming so expensive is that colleges are increasingly being run as businesses competing for market share.
Location 990

In fact, it is much easier for a big bank or corporation to declare insolvency and be forgiven for outstanding debts than it is for an individual going through personal bankruptcy to be discharged from a student loan.
Location 1011

America rightfully outlawed debtors’ prisons in the mid-nineteenth century, but some cities and states are issuing contempt-of-court warrants that get around those rules.
Location 1016

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, of which I have long been a member, found that these for-profit schools spend, on average, about 30 percent more per student on marketing and recruiting than on actual instruction.
Location 1035

Not everybody wants to go to college, and not everybody needs to go to college. This country needs carpenters, plumbers, welders, bricklayers, ironworkers, mechanics, and many other professions that pay workers, especially those in unions, good wages for doing very important, skilled work.
Location 1049

In today’s world, that’s not quite the way it works. In opposition to science and what the people want are enormously powerful forces who want to maintain the status quo. They are more interested in short-term profits for fossil fuel companies than in the future of the planet.
Location 1188

Forty percent of energy used in this country goes to heat, cool, and light buildings and run electricity through them.
Location 1213

The great irony of climate change is that American taxpayers are subsidizing the most profitable industry in history, whose products are quite literally killing us, to the tune of more than $ 20.5 billion every single year.
Location 1241

For every dollar of taxpayer funds invested in renewable energy over the past fifteen years, fossil fuels have received eighty dollars!
Location 1245

We should also end all new federal leases for oil, gas, or coal extraction on public lands and waters. Public lands and waters are for the public to enjoy for generations to come—not for the oil companies to exploit for profit in the short term.
Location 1277

The hypocrisy of those who argue that solar and wind tax credits are too expensive or are no longer needed because the industries should be able to stand on their own is stunning. Taxpayers have been subsidizing fossil fuel companies through tax credits for more than one hundred years, and Congress long ago made those incentives permanent features of the federal tax code.
Location 1303

Police officers must be held accountable. In a society based on law, nobody can be above the law, especially those who are charged with enforcing it.
Location 1407

African Americans and Latinos together comprised 57 percent of all prisoners in 2015, even though neither of these two groups makes up even one-quarter of the U.S. population.
Location 1431

The time is long overdue for this country to understand that we cannot jail our way out of health problems like mental illness and drug addiction.
Location 1441

We have around 4 percent of the world’s population, yet we have more than 20 percent of all prisoners.
Location 1454

And we spend $ 80 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxpayer dollars to lock them up.
Location 1458

Private corporations should not be making profits off of the incarceration of human beings.
Location 1460

No one, in my view, should be allowed to profit from putting more people behind bars.
Location 1469

Every effort should be made to have police forces reflect the diversity of the communities they work in. And that must include in positions of leadership and training departments.
Location 1504

We must demilitarize our police forces so they don’t look and act like invading armies. Police departments must be part of the community they serve and be trusted by the community.
Location 1506

We should federally fund and require body cameras for law enforcement officers to make it easier to hold everyone accountable, while also establishing standards to protect the privacy of innocent people.
Location 1509

When policing becomes a source of revenue, officers are often pressured to meet quotas that can lead to unnecessary or unlawful traffic stops and citations. And civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to take property from people even before they are charged with a crime.
Location 1516

Undocumented immigrants are woven into the fabric of our society and our economy. They work in some of the hardest and lowest-paid jobs.
Location 1587

Moreover, the institute estimates that they pay an average of 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes—which, by the way, is 48 percent more than the 5.4 percent paid by the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
Location 1602

All too often, farmworkers are paid horrendously low wages, exposed to pesticides, and deprived of the most basic decent living conditions.
Location 1621

When employers report that they need to bring in foreign labor because there is no one in this country able to do their jobs, what is really going on is that there is no one here willing to do the job for the low wages being offered.
Location 1654

To my mind, the U.S. government should not be in the painful and inhumane business of locking up families who have fled violence.
Location 1684

Immigration reform must allow individuals to apply for relief, even if convicted of nonviolent offenses.
Location 1701

Binding workers to a specific employer or not allowing their family members to work creates a situation rife with abuse and exacerbates an already unequal relationship between the employer and the employee.
Location 1726

Immigration reform means making sure our borders are modern and secure, especially in this era when terrorism can come from anywhere.
Location 1728

The word “government” refers to the way people organize authority to perform essential functions. It usually describes who does what, who has what power, and who is responsible for what. When there is no organized authority, there is no government, and that is called anarchy.
Location 1796

Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Book Notes

The gist of this book is "Social media is making us assholes. Don't be an asshole, stop playing the social media game."

There is merit to this. Social media comes at us uncurated and at ungodly speeds. We are easily manipulated (see 2016 elections and Twitter Outrage du Jour). Having a larger view of life, of issues, of the crisis, is very, very difficult in the moment, and lashing out to destroy is far, far easier than reaching out to build.

Lanier gives many compelling arguments: SM companies mine data about your without your knowledge and sell it, SM is addictive, SM turns us all into assholes.

If I hadn't already cut back on social media for other reasons, I suspect I'd be going through withdrawal trying to be less active on social media. As it is, I have my journals, and this site, and, yeah, I'm pretty okay with that.

This book is worth reading for everyone. Unfortunately, the people who are most likely to listen and agree with Lanier are the people you WANT on social media, because they care, because they are trying NOT to be assholes, because they want social media to be a good place to be. Alas, the sucky people will be the ones to stay. Fortunately, we don't have to stay with them.

The core process that allows social media to make money and that also does the damage to society is behavior modification. Behavior modification entails methodical techniques that change behavioral patterns in animals and people. It can be used to treat addictions, but it can also be used to create them.
Page 10

The addict gradually loses touch with the real world and real people. When many people are addicted to manipulative schemes, the world gets dark and crazy.
Page 11

We know that relevant companies take in an astounding amount of money and that they don’t always know who their customers are. Therefore, there are likely to be actors manipulating us—manipulating you—who have not been revealed.
Page 24

To free yourself, to be more authentic, to be less addicted, to be less manipulated, to be less paranoid … for all these marvelous reasons, delete your accounts.
Page 24

The problem occurs when all the phenomena I’ve just described are driven by a business model in which the incentive is to find customers ready to pay to modify someone else’s behavior. Remember, with old-fashioned advertising, you could measure whether a product did better after an ad was run, but now companies are measuring whether individuals changed their behaviors, and the feeds for each person are constantly tweaked to get individual behavior to change. Your specific behavior change has been turned into a product.
Page 26

As explained in the first argument, the scheme I am describing amplifies negative emotions more than positive ones, so it’s more efficient at harming society than at improving it: creepier customers get more bang for their buck.
Page 26

If we could just get rid of the deleterious business model, then the underlying technology might not be so bad.
Page 27

How about “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent”? BUMMER.
Page 28

BUMMER is a machine, a statistical machine that lives in the computing clouds. To review, phenomena that are statistical and fuzzy are nevertheless real. Even at their best, BUMMER algorithms can only calculate the chances that a person will act in a particular way. But what might be only a chance for each person approaches being a certainty on the average for large numbers of people.
Page 28

One of the secrets of present-day Silicon Valley is that some people seem to be better than others at getting machine learning schemes to work, and no one understands why.
Page 33

To avoid being left out, journalists had to create stories that emphasized clickbait and were detachable from context.
Page 33

I don’t want to be an asshole. Or a fake-nice person. I want to be authentically nice, and certain online designs seem to fight against that with magical force.
Page 43

In the early days, before everyone was doing it, the air was clearer and it was easier to notice how bizarre it is when your inner troll starts talking. It’s like an ugly alien living inside you that you long ago forgot about. Don’t let your inner troll take control! If it happens when you’re in a particular situation, avoid that situation! It doesn’t matter if it’s an online platform, a relationship, or a job. Your character is like your health, more valuable than anything you can buy. Don’t throw it away.
Page 44

The pattern is found whenever people form into groups. Street gangs perceive only pack concepts such as territory and revenge, even as they destroy their lives, families, and neighborhoods. The Pack setting of the switch makes you pay so much attention to your peers and enemies in the world of packs that you can become blind to what’s happening right in front of your face. When the Solitary/ Pack switch is set to Pack, we become obsessed with and controlled by a pecking order. We pounce on those below us, lest we be demoted, and we do our best to flatter and snipe at those above us at the same time.
Page 46

collective processes make the best sense when participants are acting as individuals.
Page 48

Full disclosure: I have a professional connection to LinkedIn that might impair my objectivity (even though I don’t have an account on the site). You should not accept what I say without thinking about it critically, and my disclosure of a conflict of interest is a great starting point to do that. Think for yourself!
Page 49

most people will choose to be something other than an asshole, given the choice. A
Page 50

If, when you participate in online platforms, you notice a nasty thing inside yourself, an insecurity, a sense of low self-esteem, a yearning to lash out, to swat someone down, then leave that platform. Simple.
Page 51

Your character is the most precious thing about you. Don’t let it degrade.
Page 52

Truth, meaning a claim that can be tested or events that are honestly documented—the stuff that all people can hold in common—
Page 54

Leaving aside explicitly fake people like Alexa, Cortana, and Siri, you might think that you’ve never interacted with a fake person online, but you have, and with loads of them. You decided to buy something because it had a lot of good reviews, but many of those reviews were from artificial people. You found a doctor by using a search engine, but the reason that doctor showed up high in the search results was that a load of fake people linked to her office. You looked at a video or read a story because so many other people had, but most of them were fake. You became aware of tweets because they were retweeted first by armies of bots.
Page 55

Whatever you can do, bots can do a million times while you blink. Fake people are a cultural denial-of-service attack.
Page 55

You might think I’m being elitist when I am more appalled that “educated” parents, who are more likely to be affluent, foment dangerous nonsense, but isn’t the whole point of education supposed to be that it diminishes people’s susceptibility to dangerous nonsense?
Page 60

People are clustered into paranoia peer groups because then they can be more easily and predictably swayed.
Page 60

The ability of humans to enjoy our modern luxuries, such as a diminution of deadly epidemics, while even temporarily rejecting the benefits of hard-won truths is a testament to how far we’ve come as a technological species.
Page 61

Public health measures and modern medicine have doubled our life spans. Doubled! The unintended result is that now some of us can believe nonsense and not pay for that belief with our lives. At least for a while.
Page 61

What you say isn’t meaningful without context.
Page 63

The advertisers are the true customers, so they have a voice.
Page 64

The most common extreme examples, however, might arise when women and girls who attempt to express themselves online find that their words and images are sexualized or incorporated into a violent or manipulative framework.
Page 64

These extreme examples occur only because the rules of the game in BUMMER are that you don’t know the context in which you are expressing anything and you have no reliable way of knowing how it will be presented to someone else.
Page 64

We have given up our connection to context.
Page 64

Speaking through social media isn’t really speaking at all. Context is applied to what you say after you say it, for someone else’s purposes and profit.
Page 65

To become a number is to be explicitly subservient to a system. A number is a public verification of reduced freedom, status, and personhood.
Page 65

A news source will keep tweaking what it does until further tweaks no longer yield better results. After that, repetition. That’s why so much clickbait is so similar. There’s only this one weird trick to optimize clickbait. 6
Page 67

Feedback is a good thing, but overemphasizing immediate feedback within an artificially limited online environment leads to ridiculous outcomes.
Page 67

What if deeply reaching a small number of people matters more than reaching everybody with nothing?
Page 68

But when everyone is on their phone, you have less of a feeling for what’s going on with them. Their experiences are curated by faraway algorithms. You and they can’t build unmolested commonality unless the phones are put away.
Page 75

The ability to theorize about what someone else experiences as part of understanding that person is called having a theory of mind. To have a theory of mind is to build a story in your head about what’s going on in someone else’s head. Theory of mind is at the core of any sense of respect or empathy, and it’s a prerequisite to any hope of intelligent cooperation, civility, or helpful politics. It’s why stories exist.
Page 79

When you can only see how someone else behaves, but not the experiences that influenced their behavior, it becomes harder to have a theory of mind about that person. If you see someone hit someone else, for instance, but you did not see that they did it in defense of a child, you might misinterpret what you see.
Page 79

What’s really going on is that we see less than ever before of what others are seeing, so we have less opportunity to understand each other.
Page 80

Yes, of course it’s great that people can be connected, 12 but why must they accept manipulation by a third party as the price of that connection? What if the manipulation, not the connection, is the real problem? 13
Page 82

Since the core strategy of the BUMMER business model is to let the system adapt automatically to engage you as much as possible, and since negative emotions can be utilized more readily, of course such a system is going to tend to find a way to make you feel bad. It will dole out sparse charms14 in between the doldrums as well, since the autopilot that tugs at your emotions will discover that the contrast between treats and punishment is more effective than either treats or punishment alone. Addiction is associated with anhedonia, the lessened ability to take pleasure from life apart from whatever one is addicted to, and social media addicts appear to be prone to long-term anhedonia. 15
Page 83

An insecurity, a feeling of not making the grade, a fear of rejection, out of nowhere.
Page 85

This feeling was coincident with discovering my inner troll, which I described in the argument about assholes, but it could also be felt distinctly. I took an experimental approach to myself. If I felt bad after using an internet design, what were its qualities? How was it different from designs that left me happy?
Page 85

More and more people rely on the gig economy, which makes it hard to plan one’s life. Gig economy workers rarely achieve financial security, even after years of work. To put it another way, the level of risk in their financial lives seems to never decline, no matter how much they’ve achieved. In the United States, where the social safety net is meager, this means that even skilled, hardworking people may be made homeless by medical bills, even after years of dedicated service to their profession.
Page 93

I hate raining on dreams, but if you think you are about to make a living as an influencer or similar, the statistics are voraciously against you, no matter how deserving you are and no matter how many get-rich-quick stories you’ve been fed.
Page 105

The problem is that BUMMER economics allow for almost no remunerative roles for near-stars. In a genuine, deep economy, there are many roles. You might not become a pro football player, but you might get into management, sports media, or a world of other related professions. But there are vanishingly few economic roles adjacent to a star influencer. Have a backup plan.
Page 105

Before the BUMMER era, the general thinking was that once a country went democratic, it not only stayed that way but would become ever more democratic, because its people would demand that. Unfortunately, that stopped being true, and only recently. 2 Something is drawing young people away from democracy.
Page 108

What social media did at that time, and what it always does, is create illusions: that you can improve society by wishes alone; that the sanest people will be favored in cutting contests; and that somehow material well-being will just take care of itself. What actually happens, always, is that the illusions fall apart when it is too late, and the world is inherited by the crudest, most selfish, and least informed people. Anyone who isn’t an asshole gets hurt the most.
Page 111

A year after the election, the truth started to trickle out. It turns out that some prominent “black” activist accounts were actually fake fronts for Russian information warfare. Component F. The Russian purpose was apparently to irritate black activists enough to lower enthusiasm for voting for Hillary. To suppress the vote, statistically.
Page 120

Most of what happened was probably the “redlined” promotion of cynicism, a dismissive attitude, and a sense of hopelessness (“ redlining” refers to a sneaky way that U.S. banks historically biased creditworthiness algorithms to disfavor black neighborhoods). I
Page 120

(As it happens, the individuals who work at BUMMER companies tend to be liberal and are probably mostly sympathetic to black activism, but that’s utterly irrelevant to their effect upon the world so long as they adhere to the mass manipulation business model.)
Page 121

BUMMER is a shit machine. It transforms sincere organizing into cynical disruption. It’s inherently a cruel con game.
Page 121

One activist reportedly said, “They are using our pain for their gain. I’m profoundly disgusted.” That is an informed, reasonable statement, and a brave one, for it is not easy to accept that one has been tricked.
Page 122

Each of the arguments for deleting your accounts is at first glance about a practical issue, such as trust, but on closer inspection, the arguments confront the deepest and most tender concerns about what it means to be a person.
Page 126

So BUMMER intrinsically enacts a structural, rather than an ontological, change in the nature of free will. It will continue to exist, if under a barrage of insults. The important change is that you now have less free will, and a few people whom you don’t know have more of it. Some of your free will has been transferred to them. Free will has become like money in a gilded age.
Page 127

Believing something only because you learned it through a system is a way of giving your cognitive power over to that system.
Page 129

The Enlightenment emphasized ways of learning that weren’t subservient to human power hierarchies. Instead, Enlightenment thinking celebrates evidence-based scientific method and reasoning.
Page 130

Here are some tough truths: We currently don’t have a scientific description of a thought or a conversation. We don’t know how ideas are represented in a brain. We don’t know what an idea is, from a scientific point of view. That doesn’t mean we never will understand these things scientifically, just that we don’t yet understand them.
Page 131

The foundation of the search for truth must be the ability to notice one’s own ignorance. Acknowledging ignorance is a beautiful feature that science and spirituality hold in common. BUMMER rejects it.
Page 132

The purpose of life, according to BUMMER, is to optimize.
Page 132

Facebook has pulled ahead: A recent revision in its statement of purpose includes directives like assuring that “every single person has a sense of purpose and community.” 5 A single company is going to see to it that every single person has a purpose, because it presumes that was lacking before. If that is not a new religion, I don’t know what is.
Page 133

The best way you can help is not to attack those who would manipulate you from afar, but simply to free yourself.
Page 142

You can even still watch YouTube videos, for now at least, without a Google account. Watching without an account and with some privacy plugins will give you access to a much less manipulative experience.
Page 142

You can’t use the internet well until you’ve confronted it on your own terms, at least for a while. This is for your integrity, not just for saving the world.
Page 143

However, unless and until you know yourself, even you won’t have standing to argue about what’s right for you.
Page 144

You need to make sure your own brain, and your own life, isn’t in a rut. Maybe you can go explore wilderness or learn a new skill. Take risks. But whatever form your self-exploration takes, do at least one thing: detach from the behavior-modification empires for a while—six months, say? Note that I didn’t name this book Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and Keeping Them Deleted Forever. After you experiment, you’ll know yourself better. Then decide.
Page 144

How To Be A Stoic

Book Notes

Okay, anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of Classic Stoicism, which is a far cry from Modern Stoicism which is essentially, "Grin, shut the f--- up, bear it," as best represented by the character Spock. Classic Stoicism is more about accepting reality as it is, being neither really happy nor really sad, knowing that pretty much everything but ourselves is outside of our control, recognizing fortune is fickle, and that we are all going to f'ing die so accept it already. There are elements of acceptance in Stoicism, but the acceptance is of things outside of our control, not for things inside of our control nor for things we can affect. As someone with a strong sense of fair play and a large amount of frustration with the lack of fairness in the world, I find Stoicism to be a way to endure the crappiness of being human.

Which is to say, I've been looking for a book that I can hand to people who are curious about Classic Stoicism, without suggesting they read a dozen books to gather the different parts into one cohesive unit, much as I would hand over a copy of Mindfulness in Plain English if asked for a book about mindfulness.

I think this book might be that book, that I recommend for Stoicism. Maybe. It's hard to beat Meditations and many of Seneca's works. I'll reread it at the end of the year and see if it holds up.

Yet, I do strongly recommend this book.

Although public criticism of religion (or of any idea) is the staple of a healthy democratic society, people don’t respond very well to being belittled and insulted.
Page 4

Seneca connected this test to the rest of our existence on earth: “A man cannot live well if he knows not how to die well.”
Page 7

Of course, Stoicism is a philosophy, not a type of therapy. The difference is crucial: a therapy is intended to be a short-term approach to helping people overcome specific problems of a psychological nature; it doesn’t necessarily provide a general picture, or philosophy, of life. A philosophy of life is something we all need, however, and something we all develop, consciously or not.
Page 9

One of the first things he learned from his new teacher was to practice not being ashamed of things of which there is nothing to be ashamed.
Page 18

Like Socrates before them—and unlike a number of other philosophers then and since—they were not interested in theory for theory’s sake. If philosophy was not useful to human life, then it wasn’t useful at all.
Page 22

There are three departments in which a man who is to be good and noble must be trained. The first concerns the will to get and will to avoid; he must be trained not to fail to get what he wills to get nor fall into what he wills to avoid. The second is concerned with impulse to act and not to act, and, in a word, the sphere of what is fitting: that we should act in order, with due consideration, and with proper care. The object of the third is that we may not be deceived, and may not judge at random, and generally it is concerned with assent.
Page 23

Moreover, biologists have systematically been finding that a long list of allegedly unique human traits are actually not unique to us at all. We are not the only animals to live in cooperatively social groups, nor the only ones to use tools. Nor are we the only species with complex communication abilities, nor even the only ones displaying what we would call moral behavior (which can be seen among bonobos and other primates).
Page 50

In the end, it seems that neither biological variation nor cultural diversity can be reasonably deployed to reject what the ancients thought was obvious: we are a very different species from anything else that planet Earth has produced over billions of years of evolution, both for better (our stunning cultural and technological achievements) and for worse (the environmental destruction and the pain and suffering we have imposed on other species as well as on our own).
Page 53

When we consult the belly, or our passions, when our actions are random or dirty or inconsiderate, are we not falling away to the state of sheep? What do we destroy? The faculty of reason.
Page 54

The Stoics perfected this idea of ethical development and called it oikeiôsis, which is often translated as “familiarization with” or “appropriation of” other people’s concerns as if they were our own.
Page 62

First, it is a forceful reminder that they were interested in practice, not just theory: their aphorisms were meant to benefit the prokoptôn, that is, to help the student of Stoicism make progress. Unlike modern bumper stickers, T-shirt slogans, and so forth, which primarily signal membership in a particular group and tend to be used as a metaphorical club with which to beat those who are not like-minded, Stoic stock phrases were employed by practitioners as personal reminders, as aids for daily meditation, or as a guide to behavior when they were in doubt.
Page 63

Being vegetarian, in and of itself, is no proof of superior moral quality, but it is a good thing to do if other considerations do not outweigh that choice.
Page 69

We live in far too intricate social environments to be able to always do the right thing, or even to do the right thing often enough to know with sufficient confidence what the right thing is to begin with. Most of the different demands made on us have an ethical dimension (animal suffering, environmental damage, the treatment of waiters), but some are also more practical (I need to eat, but where is my food coming from? I need to bank, but which bank am I supporting?).
Page 72

Stoicism is about developing the tools to deal as effectively as humanly possible with the ensuing conflicts, does not demand perfection, and does not provide specific answers: those are for fools (Epictetus’s word) who think the world is black and white, good versus evil, where it is always possible to clearly tell the good guys from the bad guys. That is not the world we live in, and to pretend otherwise is more than a bit dangerous and not at all wise.
Page 73

In other words, by all means go ahead and avoid pain and experience joy in your life—but not when doing so imperils your integrity. Better to endure pain in an honorable manner than to seek joy in a shameful one.
Page 75

I would be intellectually dishonest, however, if I did not put forth my own opinion, just as I did during my friendly chat with Epictetus. This is what good philosophers—and reasonable people in general—are supposed to do: listen to each other’s arguments, learn and reflect, and go out for a beer to talk it over some more.
Page 81

Hume’s point is subtle but crucial: he is basically saying that arguments from analogies, of which the one from design is an example, are notoriously problematic because analogies are always imperfect, and in some cases downright misleading.
Page 82

The only difference between human beings and other animals is that we are capable of the highest attribute of God/ Universe: reason. That is why the proper way to live our lives is by using reason to tackle our problems.
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Seneca aptly put it, “That which is true is mine,” meaning that a reasonable person makes truth her own, regardless of whether it comes from friends or foes.
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One of the things that attracted me to it from the get-go is precisely what others may consider one of its weaknesses: given the Stoic ambiguity over how to interpret the Logos, Stoics can build a very large tent indeed, welcoming everyone from atheists to agnostics, from pantheists and panentheists to theists, as long as none of these guests impose their own metaphysical views on the others.
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‘And I am bound to say what seems right to me.’ ‘But, if you say it, I shall kill you.’ ‘When did I tell you that I was immortal? You will do your part, and I mine. It is yours to kill, mine to die without quailing: yours to banish, mine to go into exile without groaning.’
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Conservatives tend to talk a lot about both character and virtue, even when they do not actually practice the latter, while liberals reflexively treat their valorization as thinly disguised tools of oppression.
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The reason why wisdom is the “chief good,” according to Socrates, is rather simple: it is the only human ability that is good under every and all circumstances.
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To be sure, being wealthy is better than being poor, being healthy is better than being sick, and being educated is better than being ignorant (standard pairs of preferred and dispreferred indifferents).
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The Stoics adopted Socrates’s classification of four aspects of virtue, which they thought of as four tightly interlinked character traits: (practical) wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. Practical wisdom allows us to make decisions that improve our eudaimonia, the (ethically) good life. Courage can be physical, but more broadly refers to the moral aspect—for instance, the ability to act well under challenging circumstances, as Priscus and Malala did. Temperance makes it possible for us to control our desires and actions so that we don’t yield to excesses. Justice, for Socrates and the Stoics, refers not to an abstract theory of how society should be run, but rather to the practice of treating other human beings with dignity and fairness.
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Basically, Aquinas kept the four Stoic virtues and added three peculiarly Christian ones, originally proposed by Paul of Tarsus: faith, hope, and charity.
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a set of six “core” virtues: Courage: Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal; examples include bravery, perseverance, and authenticity (honesty). Justice: Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life; examples include fairness, leadership, and citizenship or teamwork. Humanity: Interpersonal strengths that involve “tending and befriending” others; examples include love and kindness. Temperance: Strengths that protect against excess; examples include forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-control. Wisdom: Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge; examples include creativity, curiosity, judgment, and perspective (providing counsel to others). Transcendence: Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and thereby provide meaning; examples include gratitude, hope, and spirituality.
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at the center of the Cynic-Stoic concept of cosmopolitanism: the idea that we ought to extend the sympathy we have for kin to our friends, acquaintances, fellow countrymen, and beyond to humanity at large (and even, some Stoics hinted, to the suffering of sentient animals).
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conservatives insisting that we should go back to emphasizing character in schools, families, and the country at large, and liberals rejecting such talk as a not-so-subtle attempt to maintain white male privilege, patriarchy, and the like.
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In other words, your character is your best calling card, and if you interact with good judges of character, that’s all you’ll need.
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Indeed, what will be needed are exactly the fundamental virtues: the courage to do the right thing under difficult circumstances, the temperance to rein in excesses, a sense of justice in considering how people are going to be affected by his decisions, and of course the practical wisdom that will allow him to negotiate treacherous and always-changing waters.
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Epictetus used an apt seafaring metaphor to make a related point: For the helmsman to wreck his vessel, he does not need the same resources, as he needs to save it: if he turn it but a little too far to the wind, he is lost; yes, and if he do it not deliberately but from mere want of attention, he is lost all the same. It is very much the same in life: if you doze but a little, all that you have amassed up till now leaves you. Keep awake then and watch your impressions: it is no trifle you have in keeping, but self-respect, honor, constancy, a quiet mind, untouched by distress, or fear, or agitation—in a word, freedom. What are you going to sell all this for? Look and see what your purchase is worth.
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And above all, we need to be cognizant of what our integrity is worth: if we decide to sell it, it shouldn’t be for cheap.
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One of the intriguing characteristics of the piece is that it can be (and has been) read either as a tale of misogyny and xenophobia (Medea is a woman and a barbarian) or as a proto-feminist story of a woman’s struggle in a patriarchal society.
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‘Suppose I am in error, my father, and ignorant of what is fitting and proper for me. If, then, this cannot be taught or learnt, why do you reproach me? If it can be taught, teach me, and, if you cannot, let me learn from those who say that they know.
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The point is that nobody errs on purpose. Whatever we do, we think it is the right thing to do, according to whatever criterion we have developed or adopted to establish right action.
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Part of the controversy hinged on the idea Arendt developed that “evil” is often the result of lack of thought, meaning that people usually don’t want to do evil, and certainly don’t think of themselves as evildoers. But they also tend to follow the general opinion without critical analysis, and indeed—as in Eichmann’s case—they are often convinced that they are doing a good job.
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There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing, correct?
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If what we are doing is simply labeling a particularly nasty type of bad behavior, then there is little problem. But not infrequently, when we talk of evil, we slide into a fallacy known as “reification” (literally, making a thing), which means speaking of a concept as if it has some kind of mind-independent existence, as if it is in some sense “out there.”
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It has no metaphysical consistency: it is simply a shorthand for the really, really bad stuff that people do, or for the really, really bad character that leads people to do said stuff.
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“A-gnoia means literally ‘not-knowing’; a-mathia means literally ‘not-learning.’ In addition to the type of amathia that is an inability to learn, there is another form that is an unwillingness to learn.… Robert Musil in an essay called On Stupidity, distinguished between two forms of stupidity, one he called ‘an honorable kind’ due to a lack of natural ability and another, much more sinister kind, that he called ‘intelligent stupidity.’”
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Medea knew it was wrong to make her children suffer to punish Jason, but emotion (vengeance), not reason, drove her to act as she did. Epictetus
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That is, Medea did not wish to err, but was simply convinced that she was doing the right thing.
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Cognitive dissonance is a very uncomfortable psychological state that occurs when someone becomes aware of the conflict between two judgments that he holds to be equally true. People do not want to experience cognitive dissonance, just as Epictetus said that people do not want to knowingly be in error.
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The uncomfortable truth is, again, that people suffering from cognitive dissonance are neither stupid nor ignorant.
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As the writer Michael Shermer has observed, the more clever people are, the better they are at rationalizing away the sources of their cognitive dissonance.
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As far as the rest of us are concerned, remembering that people do bad things out of lack of wisdom is not only a reminder to be compassionate toward others, it also constantly tells us just how important it is to develop wisdom.
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I had moved to the United States from Rome a couple of years earlier, and the whole idea of televised debates as “infotainment” was very new to me.
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When he was asked in an interview who didn’t make it out of the Hanoi Hilton, Stockdale replied: Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh,
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Epictetus’s Handbook
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Stockdale understood an important truth about war that applies to life in general: holding the moral high ground and maintaining self-respect is more important than the facts on the ground, be they the weaponry on each side (in the case of war) or the circumstances of our ordinary lives.
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The results were striking: those who had spent less than two years in confinement said that torture was the worst; those who had spent more than two years in isolation said that the latter experience trumped even torture.
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Stockdale interpreted Rutledge’s finding in the light of Epictetus’s teachings—that it is shame, not physical pain, that truly brings down a human being.
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Observing and imitating role models, then, is one powerful way to work on our own virtue.
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The problem nowadays is that, by and large, we do a pretty bad job of picking role models. We glorify actors, singers, athletes, and generic “celebrities,”
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A similar problem arises with the contemporary, highly inflated use of the word “hero,” especially in the United States. Some brave people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the common good truly deserve that appellative (though they don’t have to be almost exclusively drawn from the ranks of the military or the police). But someone who dies, say, as a result of a terrorist attack is not a hero—he is a victim. He probably did not display courage and other-regard; he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We should most certainly mourn him, but labeling him a “hero” does not do justice to what actually happened, and it does a great injustice to actual heroes, confusing people about the very meaning of the term.
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The other thing to remember about role models—and the Stoics understood this very well—is that they are not perfect human beings, for the simple reason that there is no such thing. Moreover, making perfection an integral part of our concept of role model means that we are setting a standard that is impossibly high.
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For Christians, the model of universally good behavior is Jesus, but that’s a tough role model to actually attempt to emulate, since believers are literally trying to be like gods. Bound to fail, we have to accept the divinity’s mercy as our path to salvation.
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For instance, in 72 bce, he volunteered to fight against the rebel slave Spartacus, clearly not having paused to consider that the revolt might have been a reaction to extreme injustice.
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But that would be exactly the wrong way to look at him, because it would be an attempt to make him a godlike figure capable of doing what no human being can do: completely transcend his own upbringing.
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“Alea iacta est” (The die is cast).
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by hearing about great deeds that we not only become inspired by what human beings at their best can do, but also are implicitly reminded of just how much easier most of our lives actually are.
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Larry’s first point is to realize the importance of agency. It has been crucial for him to feel like an agent in the world, not a patient.
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After you have reclaimed your agency, Larry points out, you are in the same position as everyone else: you have to become good at being an agent. This, he says, requires lining up the following elements: values, preferences, goals, deliberations, decisions, and actions. If these are incoherent, incomplete, or weak, then you are paralyzed no matter what your physical condition happens to be. You can also be paralyzed by indecision, because you are not committed to a particular course of action and wish to keep multiple possibilities open. Facing too many choices on the menu, or too many cars on the dealer’s lot, isn’t a good thing, as modern cognitive science clearly shows. To complicate things, there is the fact that the world itself changes, requiring constant adjustments to our goals, decisions, and actions. In other words, we need to learn how to maintain agency under changing circumstances.
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Knowing our physical and psychological abilities includes knowing our limits. Ignorance, or worse, self-deception about our own abilities can be very dangerous. We need to keep an up-to-date, accurate account of what is possible for us.
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Larry also counsels us to train ourselves to recognize when we have lost a good fit between our abilities and our activities. We must develop what he calls an internal alarm system, which will tell us when it’s time to stop suffering and begin (or resume) taking charge.
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Oh.
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Rather, Larry suggests making a habit of reflecting on what is important to us and on the best way to achieve it, and also to continuously revise our life plan, according to our changing abilities and circumstances. Our dynamic plan should be coherent, ambitious, achievable, revisable, and—ideally—compatible with a generally rising level of life satisfaction.
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Lastly, Larry cautions us to beware of brick walls. We need to recognize them when we hit them; even better is to see them coming before we hit them hard. The
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To begin with, he says that one of the crucial things for people affected by depression is to constantly monitor themselves and their mental condition. If there is anything that Stoicism trains people to do it is to monitor their own reactions and reflect critically on how they perceive and interpret the world.
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suffering from a depression that stemmed in part from the gulf he had gradually realized existed between his expectations about his life and the world, on the one hand, and his life and the world as they were, on the other hand.
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“Depressed people are rather self-aware; in fact, they are too self-aware, and too negatively so, often deriding themselves for small infractions of their own idealized standards, putting themselves down for not being perfect even in a world they recognize as being full of imperfections and human capital squandered.
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For one thing, I have become a collector of insults: On being insulted, I analyze and categorize the insult. For another thing, I look forward to being insulted inasmuch as it affords me the opportunity to perfect my ‘insult game.’
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Think of Irvine’s “insult game”: what someone says to us is his opinion, which may or may not be grounded in fact. Whether we perceive someone else’s remark as an insult or not is entirely up to us, quite regardless of the intention of our interlocutor.
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Well, is it true? At one time in my life it was. In which case, why get offended? What does it even mean to feel insulted by a fact? Conversely, is it not true? Then the fellow who hurled the insult is both childish in his behavior and factually wrong. How is that going to injure me? If anything, he is the one who loses in the confrontation.
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The basic idea, again adopted by modern cognitive behavioral therapy and similar approaches, is to regularly focus on potentially bad scenarios, repeating to yourself that they are not in fact as bad as they may seem, because you have the inner resources to deal with them.
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Now, why would anyone, let alone someone who is depressed, want to imagine the worst on purpose? Well, for one thing there is the empirical observation that it actually works: visualizing negative happenings decreases our fear of them and mentally prepares us to deal with the crisis when and if it ensues. But there is a flip side to visualizing the negative: we gain a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for all the times when bad things do not happen to us, when we leisurely drive down the road on a beautiful day or enjoy the presence of our loved ones because they are very much alive and well.
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Seneca wrote about self-knowledge and suggested that sometimes we are the worst obstacles to our own improvement: we see where we should go, which is where we want to go, and yet somehow we can’t pick ourselves up and begin the journey.
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all the major Stoic authors insist that it is crucial that we reflect on our condition and truly make an effort to see things in a different light, one that is both more rational and more compassionate.
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The second point Epictetus makes is crucial: we are so distraught about the prospect of our own death precisely because, unlike wheat and most other species on earth presumably, we are capable of contemplating that thought. And yet, knowing something does not change the nature of the thing of course—it just changes our attitude about it.
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the fundamental Stoic idea of the dichotomy of control: death itself is not under our control (it will happen one way or another), but how we think about death most definitely is under our control.
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“Will you realize once for all that it is not death that is the source of all man’s evils, and of a mean and cowardly spirit, but rather the fear of death?
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Those around us cannot cure our illness or save us from death, but they can accompany us part of the way, comforting us before we get there.
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“What do you mean by ‘die’?” Epictetus corrected me. “Do not use fine words, but state the facts as they are. Now is the time for your material part to be restored to the elements of which it was composed. What is there dreadful in that?
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If so, how would an already diseased planet sustain the thirst for natural resources of a population that grows so relentlessly and manage its ever-escalating production of waste products?
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Others must come into being, even as you did, and being born must have room and dwellings and necessaries. But if the first comers do not retire, what is left for them?
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Just as, for the Stoics, death itself is what gives urgent meaning to life, the possibility of leaving life voluntarily gives us the courage to do what is right under otherwise unbearable circumstances.
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It is, in other words, our own judgment that tells us whether it is time to walk through the open door or whether we should stay and fight another day.
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he was a flawed man (as he himself repeatedly wrote) who tried his best under nearly impossible circumstances. Seneca succeeded in guiding Nero and containing the damage for the first five years of his reign, even if he eventually lost control of the increasingly unhinged emperor.
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Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther
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It is not in our power to make thievery disappear from the world, but it is in our power to engage in a battle of attention with thieves, if we think that’s worth our efforts and time.
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And Seneca explicitly advised taking a deep breath and going for a walk around the block upon first feeling the uncontrollable rise of rage, which he considered a type of temporary madness.
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The APA tells us to change standard phrases like “this is terrible!” to something along the lines of “I’d rather not have to deal with this, but I can manage it, and getting angry isn’t going to help me at all.”
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Epictetus—reminds us: “Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when it’s justified, can quickly become irrational. So use cold hard logic on yourself.”
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we need to realize that—contra common cultural belief—it just isn’t the case that every problem has a solution. We therefore need to cut ourselves some slack for not being able to solve everything, so long as we have done all we can reasonably do under the circumstances.
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Additional suggestions from professional psychologists include changing your environment, for instance, by taking a physical break from the problematic situation; shifting the timing of your interaction with another person if the present moment seems not to be the best time to handle the problem, but being sure to set an alternative time for coming back to it in order to send the signal that you are not dodging it; practicing avoidance by not exposing yourself, if possible, to the cause of your distress; and finding alternative ways of doing what you need to do that may reduce the opportunity for conflict while still allowing you to accomplish your goals.
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Killeen distinguishes loneliness from similar, yet separate, related concepts, such as alienation (which may be the result, or in some cases the cause, of depression) and solitude (which actually has a positive connotation, more akin to my own behavior).
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The Killeen paper provides a handy summary diagram identifying a series of causes related to our situations and our characters that lead to loneliness, including bereavement, psychological vulnerability, reduced social network, depression, and radical life changes.
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As Killeen says: there is no reason to be embarrassed because (some degree of) loneliness is a natural condition for humanity, and Stoics reject the whole idea of embarrassment, especially with respect to societal expectations, because we have no influence over other people’s judgments, only over our own behavior.
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We may have little or no control over the external circumstances that force us into being alone at some times in our lives. But (save for pathological conditions, for which one needs to seek medical help), it is our choice, our own attitude, that turns solitude into loneliness. We may be alone, but we do not consequently need to feel helpless.
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The point, rather, is that human affection needs to be guided—trained even—by a sound assessment of whatever situation triggers our feelings.
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true friendship, like true love, is revealed when the going gets tough, not when things are nice and easy.
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friendship of the good is that rare phenomenon when two people enjoy each other for their own sake because they find in each other an affinity of character that does not require externalities like a business exchange or a hobby. In those cases, our friends become, as Aristotle famously put it, mirrors to our souls, helping us grow and become better persons just because they care about us.
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Each day reread Epictetus’s words several times, whenever you have a minute, and focus on putting into practice that day a specific piece of advice.
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four Stoic virtues: (Practical) wisdom: Navigating complex situations in the best available fashion Courage: Doing the right thing, both physically and morally, under all circumstances Justice: Treating every human being—regardless of his or her stature in life—with fairness and kindness Temperance: Exercising moderation and self-control in all spheres of life
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1. Examine your impressions.
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stepping back to make room for rational deliberation, avoiding rash emotional reactions, and asking whether whatever is being thrown at us is under our control (in which case we should act on it) or isn’t (in which case we should regard it as not of our concern).
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2. Remind yourself of the impermanence of things.
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we should constantly remind ourselves of just how precious our loved ones are precisely because they may soon be gone. Anyone
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“Memento homo” (Remember, you are only a man).
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I always regretted the way I responded to my father’s illness—until Stoicism taught me that regret is about things we can no longer change and the right attitude is to learn from our experiences, not dwell on decisions that we are not in a position to alter. Which
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None of this made the experience any less hard, since Stoicism isn’t a magic wand. But I tried my best to be present in the hic et nunc, the here and now, as the Romans used to say.
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he is advising us to care and appreciate very much what we now have, precisely because Fate may snatch it from us tomorrow.
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3. The reserve clause.
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I love the “which is impossible if I go all to pieces whenever anything bad happens” bit. It conjures an image of people who are too fragile to withstand even minor challenges in life because they let themselves be fragile. They always assume that of course things will go well, since bad things only happen to other people (possibly because they somehow deserve them). Instead, as Stoics, we should bring the reserve clause to anything we do, and even use it as a personal mantra: Fate permitting.
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There is a nice analogy in Stoic lore meant to explain the point. It is attributed to Chrysippus—the third head of the original Stoa of Athens—and was allegedly recounted in one of Epictetus’s lost volumes of the Discourses. Imagine a dog who is leashed to a cart. The cart begins to move forward, in whatever direction the driver, but certainly not the dog, chooses. Now, the leash is long enough that the dog has two options: either he can gingerly follow the general direction of the cart, over which he has no control, and thereby enjoy the ride and even have time to explore his surroundings and attend to some of his own business, or he can stubbornly resist the cart with all his might and end up being dragged, kicking and screaming, for the rest of the trip, accumulating much pain and frustration and wasting his time in a futile and decidedly unpleasant effort. We humans are, of course, the dog: the universe keeps churning according to God’s will (if you have religious inclinations) or cosmic cause and effect (if your taste is more secular).
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Rather, it is to deploy the wisdom that sometimes things will not go our way even if we do our best, and regardless of whether we deserved to win the match or get the promotion.
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4. How can I use virtue here and now? “For every challenge, remember the resources you have within you to cope with it.
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you cannot control disease and pain, and it will happen at some point or another in your life. But you can manage it, not just with medications (there is certainly nothing in Stoic doctrine that precludes the use of medicine when appropriate), but also by way of your own mental attitude.
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5. Pause and take a deep breath. “Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.
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6. Other-ize.
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Naturally, it is far easier to maintain equanimity (which, again, is not to be confused with emotional impassivity!) when little inconveniences, or even disasters, happen to others rather than to ourselves.
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Accidents, injuries, disease, and death are unavoidable, and while it is understandable to be distraught over them
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we can take comfort in knowing that they are in the normal order of things. The universe isn’t after anyone—or at least, it isn’t after any one of us in particular!
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7. Speak little and well. “Let silence be your goal
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Why should we care at all about what the Kardashians (or any other celebrities of the moment) are doing? To say that an interest in such matters is the hallmark of a rather shallow mind sounds elitist of course, and therefore distasteful to our modern sensibilities, but only because we have been conditioned to think that “serious” talk is boring and at any rate requires more background knowledge and attention than most of us associate with good conversation.
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8. Choose your company well.
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people who are interested in following virtue and cultivating their character.
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Even more generally, this is simply the sound advice that our life is short, temptation and waste are always lurking, and so we need to pay attention to what we are doing and who our companions are.
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we want to be with friends who are better than ourselves, so that we can learn from them. At the very least, we want our friends to be the sort of people who can hold up a mirror to our soul, so that we can look into it frankly and gain a better idea of just how much work needs to be done on it
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9. Respond to insults with humor.
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“If you learn that someone is speaking ill of you, don’t try to defend yourself against the rumors; respond instead with, ‘Yes, and he doesn’t know the half of it, because he could have said more.’”
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I have begun to internalize the concept that an insult works, not because it is intended as such by the person who delivers it, but because the target allows it to become an insult.
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The more you train yourself to endure insults the stronger you feel psychologically, and therefore the more you can react appropriately and effectively, and vice versa: taking a stance against bullying enables you to see it for the infantile attitude that it really is (even, or especially, when engaged in by “adults”), and this insight then leads to the fostering of greater resilience.
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Is this person a friend or someone you look up to? If yes, then it is more likely that she is just offering advice, perhaps in a somewhat pointed fashion, but with good intentions nonetheless.
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10. Don’t speak too much about yourself.
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It feels good because, as we have seen with a number of the other exercises—and indeed as the Stoics themselves clearly recognized—there is a peculiar pleasure in being able to exercise some self-control.
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gym. I don’t know about you, but when I get to my local gym and someone from behind the reception desk smiles and greets me with a loud and cheerful, “Enjoy your workout!” the first thought that comes to my mind is: Who on earth enjoys working out? Yes, I know, some people actually do enjoy it, but most of us don’t. And yet, it is the sort of thing we do because we have reflected on the benefits of doing it and decided that the gain is worth the pain, as they say. But it is also the case that once we get to the end of the workout and head to the shower, we feel a peculiar sort of satisfaction, not only from the physiological benefits of the exercise but also from being able to pat ourselves on the back and say: it was hard, we didn’t really want to do it, but we did it!
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11. Speak without judging.
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The idea is to distinguish between matters of fact—to which we can assent if we find them justified by observation—and judgments, from which we generally ought to abstain, since we usually don’t have sufficient information.
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12. Reflect on your day.
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“Admit not sleep into your tender eyelids till you have reckoned up each deed of the day—How have I erred, what done or left undone? So start, and so review your acts, and then for vile deeds chide yourself, for good be glad.”
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conceal nothing from myself, and omit nothing: for why should I be afraid of any of my shortcomings, when it is in my power to say, “I pardon you this time: see that you never do that anymore”?…
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How To Age

Book Notes

I would argue that this book is less a how to book on aging and more a plea for those who have not yet aged to the point of infirmary or elderly or even somewhat slowing down to be more considerate of those who are aged.

"Aged" has so many different meanings these days. Used to be old was 50, now it's when you stop living, when you give up, when the years of treating your physical and mental health for shit and said years come rumbling back on top of you. If you're still active, if you're still learning, if you move and think and moderate, then the sagging skin doesn't sag as much, the white hair doesn't matter as much, and the joys of living are larger than the accumulated pains of living.

Sadly, I don't know that I'd have been positively influenced in any meaningful way if I had read this book when young. Currently being in the middle, not young, not old, I'd have to say I see the wall of old age that I'm going to crash into, but it won't be head first. I'm going feet first with the intent of jumping off it.

Growing old means "still alive" and what a "privilege" (the book's word) that would be!

This book is worth reading, as many of the School of Life books are, I recommend it.

It sees ageing as a lifelong process, not something confined to its latter stages, and an opportunity to develop –indeed an intrinsic part of life itself.
Location 62

A long life signals that we’re privileged, either through genetic serendipity, affluence or sheer luck.
Location 64

This acknowledgement of ageing involves mourning, because there are inevitable losses associated with getting older, whether in function
Location 66

or the death of friends and family, or the recognition of one’s own mortality.
Location 68

Gina’s fear of ageing is directed at some amorphous, creeping, malign change, which prevents her from appreciating the benefits that she has already derived from the ageing process.
Location 95

The capacity to be surprised, curious and engaged isn’t the prerogative of young people
Location 99

and indeed it can intensify as we age.
Location 101

The man-child holds on tightly to his video games and comics, and refuses to change. He equates being grown up with joylessness.
Location 172

But perhaps it’s less about having a mortgage or a pension and more about learning to take responsibility for your spending; about being able to defer gratification instead of insisting ‘I want it now’; about not saying the first thing that comes into your head and thinking about other people as well as yourself?
Location 173

similarly, we can try to foster in ourselves qualities that deepen and enrich over the years. These qualities differ for each of us, but for most people they include finding enduring sources of meaning –in work, or through relationships, interests or making a social contribution; getting to know themselves; making genuine contact with other people; and developing the capacity to love –whether people, ideas or experiences.
Location 231

But the ability to laugh, like any other emotional facility, develops through use, and finding oneself convulsed with laughter, decades after childhood when it’s so common, is sweet indeed.
Location 237

It’s much easier to adopt this outlook if we don’t take a long lifespan for granted, but recognize instead that it isn’t given to the majority of people in the world, especially the developing world: that to age is in fact to be blessed.
Location 243

Those who age best are those who travel lightest, who can jettison the prescriptive ideas they’ve cleaved to at one stage of their lives when they find them ill-suited to another. A certain suppleness of spirit is needed.
Location 247

Letting go of old narratives can be an extremely painful business: it involves mourning what never happened as well as what did, and admitting failure, wrong-headedness and poor decisions. Most unforgivably, it demands that we recognize that life unfurls beyond our control.
Location 249

For to age is to live and to live is to age, and being anti-age (as so many products proudly proclaim themselves) is tantamount to being anti-life.
Location 257

By embracing age we embrace the life process itself, with all its pain, joy and difficulty. If
Location 258

metaphors). We’re no longer at risk of an invasion of triffids or Martians but of old people –invariably portrayed as a major social problem and a drain on resources, rather than as a resource themselves.
Location 297

What they don’t realize is that they’re banking disgust that they’ll have to draw on themselves –ourselves.
Location 322

this unique feature of ageism: that it’s prejudice against one’s future self.
Location 324

It’s fuelled, as we’ll see, by a refusal to admit that we too will age –by a profound dis-identification with old people.
Location 325

people. Clare Temple in Norah Hoult’s remarkable 1944 novel, There Were No Windows, is a woman aware of her creeping dementia:
Location 329

Older people are rarely referred for psychotherapy
Location 375

because depression is seen as just another inevitable aspect of old age.
Location 376

since third-agers like Sara and Clive have convinced themselves that, with enough discipline and self-control, the body can always be transcended. But it can’t. Perhaps
Location 424

For the truth is that we all have to go into that good night eventually, gently or otherwise –to deny this is nothing more than magic thinking.
Location 428

They encourage you to deal with the prejudice against old people not by challenging it but by trying not to look old.
Location 432

It’s all very well intoning ‘use it or lose it’, but this doesn’t allow for the possibility that you may still lose it despite using it.
Location 463

switch:
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each time we see an older person, we need to imagine them as our future self, and, rather than recoil from their wrinkles or infirmities, applaud their resilience. We need to rehumanize older people, to attribute to them the same rich internal world, set of passions and network of complex human relationships that we assume exist in younger people and in ourselves.
Location 492

At some point or other, age resistance becomes frankly futile –you’ll either die or start to look old –but the energy you use to accept the fact of ageing but refuse its stereotypes will serve you well for the rest of your life.
Location 502

Although it might seem paradoxical, mourning is an essential part of ageing with gusto, because it helps you say goodbye to some features of life, freeing you to welcome in new ones.
Location 538

We’ve learnt to assume that age will bring radical discontinuities to our lives, whether at 4 or 40. But it doesn’t. Perhaps this is one of the truths about ageing that we find hardest to learn.
Location 561

Perhaps the greatest calumny committed against old people –and the one that most frightens the not-yet-old –is the belief that ageing causes us to leech vitality.
Location 572

Cicero clocked this. People, said the Roman orator in De Senectute, his treatise on old age, ‘who have no resources in themselves for securing a good and happy life find every age burdensome.’
Location 578

As Barbara Strauch, author of The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain, observes, for years most research into ageing was conducted in nursing homes, where bodies and brains are rarely stimulated, and this shaped beliefs about what it means to get old.
Location 622

Research at the University of Cambridge challenges the idea of cognitive ageing as a monolithic process of universal, inexorable, progressive decline.
Location 627

One was that they’d never retire –it would be tantamount to retiring from life. Another was that they were highly satisfied with their lives. This suggests that physical activity, work or an absorbing interest of some kind, as well as consciously maintaining social networks, both enrich the ageing process.
Location 655

Lighter can mean not spreading oneself so thinly, monotasking rather than multitasking, learning to say no. Yet in order to do this we may have to let go of a lifetime’s obsessions and grievances.
Location 729

It reminds us that, ultimately, pain can be modified by optimism and love. Why is this so hard to remember?
Location 740

A 100-year-old woman, when she was interviewed on radio, was asked if she had any regrets. ‘If I’d known I’d live to be 100’, she replied, ‘I’d have taken up the violin at 40. By now I could have been playing for 60 years!’
Location 752

It’s not just older people who are scared of ‘getting left behind’ –all of us are having to learn to live with long-term precariousness; we’re all only as good as our last project.
Location 861

This line of thought pits Us against Them and sees public policy as a zero-sum game: whatever They get leaves less for Us.
Location 895

Interestingly, too, the countries that have the fewest inequalities between generations also have the fewest inequalities within them.
Location 929

We’ve age-cleansed our society. Under the banner of welfare we’ve corralled old people into day-care centres and homes; removed them from families, schools, universities, workplaces, general-hospital wards and sports centres, creating age ghettoes. It might soon be perfectly possible to go through life without meeting an old person until you become one. No wonder the prospect of ageing is terrifying.
Location 935

Indeed young people’s lack of contact with old people not only encourages them to believe that they’ll never get old, but also to treat old people as if they’d never been young.
Location 949

Age segregation denies the fact that interests and preoccupations cross the ages: you can love reggae or oppose the renewal of Trident whatever your age –instead of age dividing us, passions can unite us.
Location 967

Homeshare programmes around the world introduce older homeowners who’d value company and assistance to younger people threatened with homelessness. In the USA ‘cyber-grandparents’, aged 60 to 105, are supplied by the Elder Wisdom Circle to provide anonymous advice to people in their twenties and thirties.
Location 988

A skincare company which surveyed a large number of them found that they become anxious about ‘losing their looks’ at around 28.
Location 1080

Clive always thought his own lines and greying hair made him look ‘distinguished’, but he’s noticed a growing number of his colleagues of the same age resorting to the chemical and surgical procedures they’d always dismissed as women’s territory.
Location 1111

And will the sexual older man ever lose the prefix ‘dirty’? The arrival of Viagra has only reinforced this description, confirming them as unreconstructed priapics and libertines. Though what it really demonstrates is precisely the opposite: that male sexuality can be a fragile thing.
Location 1123

It’s easy to understand why we feel flattered when told that we don’t look our age. But basking in compliments like these brings only short-term relief. In the long term they’re dangerous: they only allow us to defer our discomfort until the time when we do look our age.
Location 1135

The classicist Mary Beard, whenever she appears on television, has her appearance savaged on social media by trolls. Retorts Beard, ‘Grey is my hair colour. I really can’t see why I should change it. There clearly is a view of female normative behaviour but more women of 58 do look like me than like Victoria Beckham.’
Location 1144

Whenever grievances about the invisibility of older women are voiced, paradoxically they reveal how older women are becoming culturally more prominent. They’re speaking out because they aren’t prepared to withdraw from public life and debate purely on grounds of their age and gender.
Location 1160

When someone asked the German Princess Palatine in the eighteenth century at what age sexual desire disappeared, she replied, ‘How should I know? I’m only 80.’
Location 1194

Some are resourceful. Jane Juska put an ad in the New York Review of Books that read ‘Before I turn 67, next March, I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works fine.’
Location 1206

There is no template for ageing, or ageing well. The best way is one’s own way.
Location 1214

The first British Older Women’s Cohousing project, set to open in 2015, is a creative new way of maintaining independence while also combating isolation: its first residents, currently aged between 50 and 84, will own or rent their own flat but also have communal areas and will look out for each other.
Location 1222

As with history, so with gender: the more we’re able to understand how ageist assumptions shape our thoughts and behaviour, the less hold they’ll have over us. If you recognize, for example, how far women are judged by their appearance and men by their vigour, you’ll find it easier, as you leave your teens and twenties, to situate and challenge those stereotypes of the woman who’s losing her looks and the man whose vigour is ebbing away.
Location 1230

Since 1951 no one in the USA has died of old age. This was the year old age was deleted as a cause of death from death certificates; from then on you could only die of a disease.
Location 1237

Severing any link between ageing and death is another manifestation of our denial of death –death has to go underground, and not just literally.
Location 1241

Along with gerontophobia, our culture suffers from thanatophobia, an overwhelming fear of death.
Location 1245

more people now die in hospital or a nursing home than in their own home. Such is the taboo against death that children are often excluded from the funerals of relatives on the grounds that ‘it will upset them’, though they often later express regret that they had no opportunity to say goodbye.
Location 1246

In highly individualistic cultures death seems like a personal affront, a narcissistic wound, an attack on our individual subjectivity.
Location 1252

researchers have found, for example, that nursing staff with high levels of ‘death anxiety’ have significantly more negative attitudes to older people.
Location 1258

Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life.
Location 1270

At ‘Death Cafe’ events, people come together in a relaxed and safe setting to discuss death, drink tea and eat cake.
Location 1281

Maggie Kuhn used to encourage people to compile a life line or life review from their birth. When she urged them to also put in the year they thought they’d die, people always gasped. She maintained, though, that this helped raise their consciousness of their own death. For once you start to really take on board the fact that you’re going to die, old age becomes a lot less terrifying: it means you’re not dead yet.
Location 1288

‘Symmetry’, a TV ad for Marie Curie Cancer Care, attracted almost universal praise when it was launched in 2013.
Location 1299

People who live their earlier lives as if they’re never going to age often find retirement and the loss of a professional identity particularly traumatic: they’ve failed to cultivate those qualities that can endure, and without the containing structure imposed by work, even if they complained about it at the time, they’re at a loss.
Location 1325

In addition, researchers at King’s College London have found that twenty-two molecules already present when we’re born are linked to our health in old age.
Location 1330

Henri Nouwen.
Location 1340

In a slim cowritten volume called Aging: The Fulfillment of Life, first
Location 1340

Germany is now ‘exporting’ –some call it ‘deporting’ –thousands of old and sick Germans to retirement and rehabilitation centres in Eastern Europe and Asia because it’s cheaper. This is ‘disowning’ old people literally.
Location 1358

Powerlessness is perhaps the hardest state for us to tolerate today.
Location 1360

We say that we cannot be human all by ourselves; we need each other.
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Psychotherapist Marie de Hennezel has observed many older people entrusting their body to other people’s care with grace, and without embarrassment or humiliation. It’s as if they help their carers look after them.
Location 1379

Yet at every stage of life some attachments need to be given up for others to develop, in order to move forward.
Location 1393

Mourning creates a space in which a sense of gratitude can develop –gratitude for what remains, or for what unfolds in place of what’s been lost.
Location 1399

Maggie Kuhn saw older people in precisely the opposite way. In the vanguard of social change, they’re society’s futurists –testing out new instruments, technologies, ideas and styles of living.
Location 1410

The ones who fare best not only care about what they leave behind for the next generation, but are also able to keep learning from people both older and younger than themselves.
Location 1449

Those who urge us to fight ageing are, in effect, inviting us to stop growing and developing. In so doing, they’re depriving us of the opportunity to carry out and successfully complete the task of being alive and human.
Location 1458

Gina is also coming to realize that growing older is a privilege which, instead of fearing, she might do better to hope for. (Hope I age –what a slogan this would be!) In short, she has started to understand that ageing is a process, and not a crisis.
Location 1482

Or the right for old people to remain embodied: as much as younger people, older people need to touch and be touched; to taste good food; to stretch, move and dance.
Location 1489

Acknowledging death graces us with a sense of perspective: it reminds us that we have only a finite number of breaths; it makes us ask ourselves ‘How will I feel when I get to the end of my life having done/ without having done this?’
Location 1502

For the novelist Edith Wharton it was being ‘unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.’ The cellist Pablo Casals, when asked by one of his pupils why, at the age of 91, he continued to practise, replied, ‘Because I am making progress.’
Location 1518

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Book Notes

I was trying to finish this book before the end of last year, as January is going to be a non-fiction only month for me.

I didn't make it, so this is the first book of the new year that I have finished!

I picked up this book because "by Claire North" and, let's be real, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was a fun read. This was also on NPR's recommended list, so I figured I'd read it.

While I believe I understand the message of the book (that when you put a price tag on people's lives, the system is incentivized to profit off of everything people do, to the detriment of the system), I didn't really enjoy this book. The format of past to present to past was good story-telling, I liked that aspect.

North (a pseudonym) has a number of other books, so I'll likely try another of hers. This book has good reviews from others, so maybe just me?

The man whose name was sometimes Theo Miller had been twenty-two years old when they abolished human rights. The government insisted it was necessary to counter terrorism and bring stable leadership to the country.
Location 301

They wavered, avoiding each other’s gaze. Finally Theo mumbled, looking at some place a few hundred miles above and a little to the left of her forehead, “Are you …”
Location 502

Love this description, "few hundred miles above."

If you’re rich enough, you get to pay less tax if you turn yourself into a company, and if you’re a company you can buy a parole.
Location 509

But as the years went by, anger had faded.

Most things faded, given time.
Location 952

Good rate of return that, decent interest on time spent, I respect that, I understand that, not my language but it’s my song.
Location 1296

[D]reams were for children and she was a grown-up now. Grown-ups just dealt with things. They carried on—that’s what being grown-up meant.
Location 1603

Beyond, the world carries on.
Location 1757

Vagrants could be Tasered on sight in this part of the city—they caused emotional distress, and emotional distress was basically assault.
Location 2027

By night Mala Choudhary practised Muay Thai. She won most of her fights but found those she lost more exciting.
Location 2057

He used to see them sometimes in the snarling boys who liked it when their dogs growled at passing strangers, because the dogs made people scared, and if people were scared of you then you were powerful, and if you were powerful, you mattered. Even if you didn’t know what mattering was good for.
Location 2319

The queen says this country is a slave state. That there aren’t any chains on our feet or beatings on our backs because there don’t need to be. Cos if you don’t play along with what the Company wants, you die. You die cos you can’t pay for the doctor to treat you. You die cos the police won’t come without insurance. Cos the fire brigade doesn’t cover your area, cos you can’t get a job, cos you can’t buy the food, cos the water stopped, cos there was no light at night and if that’s not slavery, if that’s not the world gone mad if that’s not … … but we got used to it. Just the way things are.
Location 3631

I don’t think it matters. We got taught not to care. It’ll pass. It’ll pass.
Location 3679

“Loneliness is a state of mind. You have to want something, to be lonely. You have to need some sort of reassurance, someone to tell you that this is who you are. I’m not lonely. I don’t want anything."
Location 4243

"Our lives exist in many different, contradictory states, all at once. I am a liar. I am a killer. I am honest. I am fighting for a good cause. I am burning the world. We want things simple, and safe, and when they aren’t, when the truth is something complicated, something hard, or scary, we stop. The words run out. Everything becomes …”
Location 4249

“It’s how it happens, of course. The worst of it. Not ‘My neighbour has been taken to be burned alive, their house stolen, their children dead and I am so, so scared to speak of it.’ Just ‘They went away. Just—away.’ And we smile. And everyone else is as scared as we are, and knows what that smile means. Is grateful that you didn’t make the terror real. Thankful that you haven’t caused a stink. Because it would hurt … someone. Someone who isn’t a stranger would get hurt, if we ever managed to speak the truth of things. If we ever had the courage to say what we really think, even if it destroyed who we want the world to think we are. Who it is we think we should be. There would be too much pain. So we say nothing. Things just … trail away into a smile, which everyone understands and doesn’t have to mean a thing. We are grateful for that silence, for the thing that can’t be expressed. To fill it would be a terrible thing.”
Location 4254

There was probably a bit of love left, somewhere. It simply hadn’t been a priority for either of them.
Location 4544

"Then I started screaming too, just screaming, and it felt good. I’d never done nothing like that before but I was crying after, I screamed and then there was nothing left and I just cried and it was the best thing it was … They don’t bother me now. They’ve got this guy, this boss bloke, he goes to the sea every morning and rages at it. Just rages at it, cos of how he was born into this shit, and he didn’t ever find no way to make his life good, and he rages at the sky cos it never helped him, and at the earth cos it never carried him somewhere else, and his raging it’s … it’s sorta good, you know? It’s like going to church, only different like. Sometimes I scream, it’s like praying, but different."
Location 4640

"Is she dead?” An afterthought, a thing which was probable but which the girl hadn’t wanted to ask.
Location 4662

The sea the sky the earth they never carried me I hate them for letting me be born for making me breathe I hate them I hate—but she gotta love ’em. If she’s your daughter you gotta find her, you gotta help her be something which isn’t … you know.
Location 4898

Even thin ice can puncture the hull, can sink a narrowboat. They drown as they sleep they wake the water rushing down their noses it is.
Location 4958

Indecision. Martyrdom. Suspension of all things, a failure to act, the need to look at things from a new perspective, a willing victim a … Neila doesn’t like the word “victim.” If you’re “willing” then how are you a “victim”? Victim is the denial of choice …
Location 4969

Or maybe … maybe that’s unfair. Maybe they care. But caring isn’t the same as doing something, and doing something is hard. It’s very, very hard.
Location 5178

Simon is a shit. I’m not saying this to excuse my son. My son is also a shit. But Simon was the shit that blocked the toilet, if you’ll pardon my saying so. Naturally he assumes he isn’t. Most people assume they aren’t shits. It’s just good business. That’s what it amounts to. Business is good. Good is business it is
Location 5868

I think he hits her sometimes, but she always says … when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, he always says sorry afterwards and that’s how she knows he loves her. I always thought I’d tell her to run away. It’s a very easy thing to say, much easier than anything that matters—but I never mustered the courage.
Location 5877

When my daughter died I spent so long trying to make it my fault, because if it was my fault it wasn’t just luck. It was the action of man, it was fate, it was God,
Location 5996

If you call him terrible you have to ask yourself why, you have to blame yourself and no one wants to do that. It’s the hardest thing in the world to say ‘I am a bad mother, and he is a bad father,’ it is impossible, it is devastating it is … because if I am a bad mother then I am … there is nothing worse.
Location 6321

And she said, “My brother had depression, he had depression and we all told him to get over it, we told him to just try and see the good side of things I mean, the good side it was just …”
Location 6888

“You ask people, when they tell you something terrible, you ask them ‘Are you okay?’ Of course they’re not fucking okay but what else are you meant to say. ‘Oh you must be feeling shit you must be so shit you must be …’”
Location 6892

The Hanged Man is the crossroads, is suspension, a choice that holds you back or will send you forward, a moment where all things stand on the edge.
Location 6908

Sometimes I catch myself making stories from the things that happened in my life, making stories of who I will be, and in these stories I’m always the hero or the villain because that way I made a choice, I made a choice and I chose to be here and there wasn’t ever anything which I couldn’t control, there wasn’t a part of me that is …”
Location 6920

“Do you regret?” she asked. “Do you look back, do you look at—when you think about the time you’ve had and the things—do you regret? Is that what you feel?” Theo thought about it. “I think I would,” he said at last. “If there wasn’t something more important to do.”
Location 6926

“Half the people we ask don’t even know if the queen is real, they can’t imagine it, anything changing. But the idea makes them feel better. That maybe they can do this really small thing, like this up yours to the world and maybe it’ll make a difference, maybe they count.
Location 6994

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