- 1 Most of the Mind Can’t Tell Fact from Fiction
- 2 Forgive and be free
- 3 While Everyone Is Distracted By Social Media, Successful People Double Down On An Underrated Skill
- 4 The Bitcoin Paradox
- 5 You want people to do the right thing? Save them the guilt trip
- 6 Why Earth's History Appears So Miraculous
- 7 How to Make Your Arguments Stronger
- 8 The ‘mega monk’ who wants us to slow down and embrace our imperfections
- 9 ‘Success Addicts’ Choose Being Special Over Being Happy
- 10 The Undisciplined Pursuit of More (The Art of Limiting Yourself to Only The Essential)
- 11 Have you caught the remote-working bug?
- 12 Why We Procrastinate
- 13 Muddling Through
- 14 The Role of Cognitive Dissonance in the Pandemic
- 15 Is a red apple proof that all ravens are black? A paradox of scientific logic
- 16 You’re Not Just Imagining It. Your Job Is Absolute BS
- 17 Why time feels so weird in 2020
- 18 Designed to deceive: How gambling distorts reality and hooks your brain
- 19 How busyness leads to bad decisions
- 20 The Four-Letter Code to Selling Just About Anything
- 21 How to engage with life when you feel down
- 22 The Psychological Importance of Wasting Time
- 23 Stupefied: You don't have to be stupid to work here, but it helps
- 24 Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health
- 25 This Is Your Brain on Silence
- 26 13 Lessons to Make You Really, Truly Happy. Maybe.
- 27 Closed borders and ‘black weddings’: what the 1918 flu teaches us about coronavirus
- 28 Let Game Theory Tell You When It’s Time to Go Shopping
- 29 Be Like Water: The Philosophy and Origin of Bruce Lee’s Famous Metaphor for Resilience
- 30 The Psychological Comforts of Storytelling
- 31 A Commencement Address Too Honest to Deliver in Person
- 32 A Simple Acronym Sums up What’s Wrong With Social Media
- 33 You Are Not ‘Working From Home’
- 34 Is this the end of productivity?
- 35 The trolley problem problem
- 36 When to Trust Your Gut
- 37 Vice dressed as virtue
- 38 How to Grow Old: Bertrand Russell on What Makes a Fulfilling Life
- 39 I Don't Feel Like Buying Stuff Anymore
- 40 Who should you trust? Psychologists have a surprising answer
- 41 Why Doing Good Makes It Easier to Be Bad
- 42 If work dominated your every moment would life be worth living?
- 43 The Art Of Letting Go: How I Learned To Stop Procrastinating
- 44 Sooner or later we all face death. Will a sense of meaning help us?
- 45 Invisible Manipulators of Your Mind
- 46 How to rethink your idea of success in the new year – according to ancient Stoic philosophers
- 47 Stay in the Game
- 48 Most Dictators Self Destruct. Why?
- 49 To Tell Someone They’re Wrong, First Tell Them They’re Right
- 50 Your Flaws Are Probably More Attractive Than You Think They Are
- 51 The Case for Professors of Stupidity
- 52 Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?
- 53 Why willpower is overrated
- 54 The dangerous downsides of perfectionism
- 55 Time alone (chosen or not) can be a chance to hit the reset button
- 56 ‘Let’s Reset’: A Career Social Distancer Mends Some Fences
- 57 Standing on the Shoulders of Solitude: Newton, the Plague, and How Quarantine Fomented the Greatest Leap in Science
- 58 What know-it-alls don’t know, or the illusion of competence
- 59 The Zen rule for becoming happier: Change one thing
- 60 Gunnison, Colorado: The Town That Dodged the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
- 61 The Peculiar Blindness of Experts
- 62 A Nobel Prize-winning psychologist says most people don’t really want to be happy
- 63 Honestly, it’s fine!
- 64 'The story of a weird world I was warned never to tell'
- 65 Don’t take life so seriously: Montaigne’s lessons on the inner life
- 66 A Billion-Dollar Scandal Turns the ‘King of Manuscripts’ Into the ‘Madoff of France’
- 67 30 years, 30 lessons in Leadership
- 68 The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness
- 69 This chart of the 1918 Spanish flu shows why social distancing works
- 70 How Does It Feel To Get Everything You Ever Wanted?
- 71 The Bus Ticket Theory Of Genius
- 72 Speed Matters
- 73 The simple maths error that can lead to bankruptcy
- 74 The Decoy Effect: How You Are Influenced to Choose Without Really Knowing It
- 75 Marcus Aurelius helped me survive grief and rebuild my life
- 76 How Schopenhauer’s thought can illuminate a midlife crisis
- 77 Time goes by faster as you get older—but there’s a way to slow it down
- 78 The dark shadow in the injunction to ‘do what you love’
- 79 15 Practices for Staying on the Path of Mastery
- 80 Humans aren’t designed to be happy – so stop trying
- 81 What Medieval People Got Right About Learning
- 82 How to Live Better, According to Nietzsche
- 83 5 Zen Principles To Live By
- 84 Why So Many Americans Are Turning to Buddhism
August 15, 2020
Jim Davies | Nautilus
Philosophers have long concerned themselves with what they call “the paradox of fiction”—why would we find imagined stories emotionally arousing at all? The answer is that most of our mind does not even realize that fiction is fiction, so we react to it almost as though it were real.
Nathaniel Wade | Aeon
Forgiveness, of others and one’s self, can be a powerful, life-altering process. It can change the trajectory of a relationship or even one’s life. It is not the only response one can make to being hurt or hurting others, but it is an effective way to manage the inevitable moments of conflict, disappointment, and pain in our lives. Forgiveness embraces both the reality of the offence and the empathy and compassion needed to move on. Forgiveness encourages a deeper, more compassionate understanding that we are all flawed in our different ways and that we all need to be forgiven at times.
Michael Simmons | Medium
Right now, somewhere out in the world is a paragraph, chapter, or book that would change your life forever if you read it. I call this kind of information “breakthrough knowledge,” and mastering the ability to find breakthrough knowledge in our era of information overload is one of the most important skills we can develop.
August 8, 2020
Simon Dedeo | Nautilus
It’s easy to become enchanted with the dizzying profits being made with Bitcoin, and with the elegance of the mathematics beneath it. But it’s dangerous to forget that the point of these systems is to bring the political power of common knowledge into the Internet age, together with all of its potential for disruption and conflict.
Claudia R Schneider | Psyche
It’s important to distinguish here between guilt that arises internally, and guilt that’s externally induced. If we feel guilty about failing to recycle our plastics or adopt a vegetarian diet, we might be motivated to engage in reparative action. But if someone buttonholes us over dinner and tries to make us feel bad about our lifestyle choices, the picture might look very different; we might become defensive and try to justify our actions, which drives us further away from changing the way we behave.
Peter Brannen | The Atlantic
As Allied officers studied the pattern of bullet holes in returning aircraft for vulnerable parts, it was natural for them to think that the bombers needed more armor where (it appeared) they were taking the most bullets. But Abraham Wald and his colleagues at the Statistical Research Group at Columbia University, have a novel, if counterintuitive, prescription. Don’t protect the planes where they were taking the most damage. You put armor where there are no holes, because the planes that got shot there didn’t return to the home base. This is known as an observer selection effect, and the same sort of bias might apply not only to perforated planes, but to whole worlds as well.
August 1, 2020
Niro Savanthan | TED Ideas
Have you ever been in a heated discussion and wanted so badly to show the other person just how wrong they were? If you’re like most of us, you tried to overwhelm your opponent with sheer quantity, to barrage them with every scrap of evidence you could think up. As it turns out, piling on the proof is an unwise approach. That’s because when we double down on our arguments, we’re setting ourselves up to be undone by the so-called “dilution effect”.
Anna Moore | The Guardian
Often, one of the hurdles for loving and accepting yourself is the idea of how you should be, how your life should be. But that picture of perfection resides only in your imagination. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to be good at something or have a good life, but if you’re dissatisfied and want to change things all the time, you are going to find yourself very unhappy. So the trick is, how can you make peace with what is? That’s the recipe for happiness.
Arthur C. Brooks | The Atlantic
Success in and of itself is not a bad thing, any more than wine is a bad thing. Both can bring fun and sweetness to life. But both become tyrannical when they are a substitute for—instead of a complement to—the relationships and love that should be at the center of our lives.
July 25, 2020
Thomas Oppong | Medium
For too long, we have overemphasized the external aspect of choices (our options) and underemphasized our internal ability to choose (our actions). When you don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus your energy and time, other people will choose for you, and before long you’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important to you.
Rory Sutherland | The Spectator
The reason change may happen slowly, then fast, then more slowly — before sometimes reversing — is because the adoption of new ideas and behaviors spreads much like a virus: by contagion. Behavior is contagious because we catch it from other people. Much of what we do results from unconscious mimicry of others around us. As in virology, people’s susceptibility varies. You will see similar ‘sigmoid’ patterns in everything from drink-driving behavior, to attitudes to homosexuality, to the use of new technology.
Alisa Opar | Nautilus
It turns out that we see our future selves as strangers. Though we will inevitably share their fates, the people we will become in a decade, quarter century, or more, are unknown to us. This impedes our ability to make good choices on their—which of course is our own—behalf. That bright, shiny New Year’s resolution? If you feel perfectly justified in breaking it, it may be because it feels like it was a promise someone else made.
July 18, 2020
Matthew Sitman | Commonweal
There are those who want to build a world where lives bend but do not break when sickness or strife hits, and then there are those who are serenely confident that their prosperity and position are the outcome of their striving, and that they are beyond the reach of such afflictions. Perhaps what puts someone on one side of that divide or the other is how much they can truly imagine losing. By sharing his struggles in How To Be Depressed, George Scialabba has provided not just a profound account of depression, but a reminder of how precarious our lives can be, and how much we need each other.
Elliot Aronson and Carol Tavris | The Atlantic
Cognitive dissonance is a motivational mechanism that underlies the reluctance to admit mistakes or accept scientific findings—even when those findings can save our lives. The minute we make any decision—I think COVID-19 is serious; no, I’m sure it is a hoax—we begin to justify the wisdom of our choice and find reasons to dismiss the alternative. This nasty, mysterious virus will require us all to change our minds as scientists learn more, and we may have to give up some practices and beliefs about it that we now feel sure of.
Wireless Philosophy | Aeon
Can we learn anything about what makes a raven by looking only at apples? The German-born logician Carl Gustav Hempel (1905-97) thought that, using the inductive logic that scientists rely on to prove or disprove hypotheses, you ought to be able to – but in such a way that clashes mightily with human intuition. This peculiar ripple in reasoning, which became known as ‘the raven paradox’ due to the example Hempel used to elucidate it.
July 11, 2020
Miranda Purves | Bloomberg
Huge swathes of people spend their days performing jobs they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The rise of automation has meant that fewer humans are needed, but instead of this freeing up our time, we’ve seen those jobs replaced by bulls--- jobs. Very loosely, a bulls--- job is one that could be erased from the Earth and no one would be worse off. It’s also phenomenological. If you feel your job is bulls---, it probably is.
Feilding Cage | Reuters
Some days seem to pass very slowly while some weeks, and even months, fly by. Clocks were invented to help us track the passage of time - and yet in some moments when staring at a clock, we’re made aware of just how long a second can feel. 2020 will not be forgotten as the year of the pandemic anytime soon, but there is a high probability that we will misplace exactly when some events occurred. As you find yourself looking back on this year, be aware of the illusion of time.
Mike Robinson | The Conversation
Why do people keep gambling even when it stops being fun? Why stick with games people know are designed for them to lose? Are some people just more unlucky than the rest of us, or simply worse at calculating the odds? When you engage in recreational gambling, you are not simply playing against the odds, but also battling an enemy trained in the art of deceit and subterfuge. Games of chance have a vested interest in hooking players for longer and letting them eventually walk away with the impression they did better than chance, fostering a false impression of skill.
July 4, 2020
Brigid Schulte | BBC
When we’re stressed and feeling pressed for time, our attention and cognitive bandwidth narrow as if we’re in a tunnel. It can sometimes be a good thing, helping us hyper-focus on our most important work. But tunnelling has a dark side. When we get caught up in a time scarcity trap of busyness, a panicked firefighting mode, we might only have the capacity to focus on the most immediate, often low-value tasks right in front of us rather than the big project or the long-range strategic thinking that would help keep us out of the tunnel in the first place.
Derek Thompson | The Atlantic
Why do people like what they like? It is one of the oldest questions of philosophy and aesthetics. The father of industrial design, Raymond Loewy, had an uncanny sense of how to make things fashionable. He believed that consumers are torn between two opposing forces: neophilia, a curiosity about new things; and neophobia, a fear of anything too new. As a result, they gravitate to products that are bold, but instantly comprehensible. Loewy called his grand theory “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”—maya. He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.
Lucy Foulkes | Psyche
When you feel low or fed up, it’s tempting to shut down and do very little. You might cancel activities and social events, and choose passive options instead, such as staying in bed or watching TV. It’s easy to understand why this happens: when you feel down or depressed, even simple tasks take a lot of effort and energy. It can also be distressing if things aren’t as enjoyable as they used to be. Withdrawing from activities you enjoy is both a product and cause of low mood, and you can break the cycle with behavioural activation.
June 27, 2020
Olivia Goldhill | Quartz
There will always be an endless list of chores to complete and work to do, and a culture of relentless productivity tells us to get to it right away and feel terribly guilty about any time wasted. But the truth is, a life spent dutifully responding to emails is a dull one indeed. And “wasted” time is, in fact, highly fulfilling and necessary.
André Spicer | Aeon
While functional outcomes dominate in the short term, collective stupidity can create disfunction in the longer term, including a lack of learning and an imperviousness to mistakes. Perhaps management thinkers need to stop clinging to knowledge-based theories of organisations and start developing a stupidity-based theory of how organisations are run.
Angela Watercutter | Wired
Doomscrolling will never actually stop the doom itself. Feeling informed can be a salve, but being overwhelmed by tragedy serves no purpose. The current year is nothing if not a marathon; trying to sprint to the end of one’s feed will only cause burnout and a decline in mental health among the people whose level-headedness is needed most. Amidst all of the pain, isolation, and destruction of the past six months, it’s not worth it to add on to the strain with two hours of excess Twitter every night.
June 20, 2020
Daniel A. Gross | Nautilus
In a remote and quiet place, you can discover thoughts and feelings that aren’t audible in your busy daily life. Freedom from noise and goal-directed tasks, unites the quiet without and within, allowing our conscious workspace to do its thing, to weave ourselves into the world, to discover where we fit in. That’s the power of silence.
Brad Rassler | Outside
Outside’s favorite curmudgeon completed UC Berkeley’s ten-week Science of Happiness online course. Did it make him happier? Not really. But he still came away with some important, if obvious, rules to live by.
Laura Spinney | The Guardian
Plagues – or, to use a more modern term, epidemics of infectious disease – pluck at our most primal fears. We have lived with them for at least 10,000 years, ever since our ancestors took up farming and built the first semi-permanent settlements. And they have always had the upper hand. They know us intimately, preying on our strengths – our sociability, our love of gossip – and turning them into weaknesses. They are always a step ahead, and once they are out, like the genie, we can’t get them back in. All we can do is limit the damage. So here we are again.
June 13, 2020
Thomas F. Bersson & Jonathan S. Bersson | Nautilus
As the pandemic continues, we are all trying to figure out when it is our turn to use the resources and services we are so used to. I think many of us have changed our focus from our needs, to our health, to how our health affects others’ health. The better decisions we each can make, the less the decision-making burden will be on strained governments around the world. We can learn to apply good recommendations, wisely, with a little help from math and game theory.
Brain Pickings | Maria Popova
The passages from the Tao Te Ching illustrate to us the nature of water: Water is so fine that it is impossible to grasp a handful of it; strike it, yet it does not suffer hurt; stab it, and it is not wounded; sever it, yet it is not divided. It has no shape of its own but molds itself to the receptacle that contains it. When heated to the state of steam it is invisible but has enough power to split the earth itself. When frozen it crystallizes into a mighty rock.
Cody C. Delistraty | The Atlantic
Humans have been telling stories for thousands of years, sharing them orally even before the invention of writing. In one way or another, much of people’s lives are spent telling stories—often about other people. Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They allow people to see patterns where there is chaos, meaning where there is randomness. Humans are inclined to see narratives where there are none because it can afford meaning to our lives—a form of existential problem-solving.
June 6, 2020
David Brooks | The Atlantic
In something he calls the “theory of maximum taste,” David Brooks says that each person’s mind is defined by its upper limit — the best content that it habitually consumes and is capable of consuming. This theory is based on the idea that exposure to genius has the power to expand your consciousness. If you spend a lot of time with genius, your mind will end up bigger and broader than if you spend your time only with run-of-the-mill stuff.
Ephrat Livni | Quartz
Social media platforms need us to keep coming back, so they’ve designed tools that accumulate data about us, then give us more of what moves us most to create wealth for the platforms. Since the business models of these platforms rely on a negative feedback loop, the result of engagement with the platforms we do use now is ever-worsening disease, an anxious, angry, and divided culture.
Kelli María Korducki | Forge
Advice about working from home has been plentiful lately. But let’s make one thing clear: At this moment, you are not just “working from home.” You are “at your home, during a crisis, trying to work.” The Canadian federal agency Parks Canada created guidelines for working remotely, these guidelines highlighted something that millions of people around the world are feeling: Everything is hard right now. None of us is working at 100% or being our best self. Each of us is dealing with a different set of challenges, and our ability to “cope” varies widely. Now is not the time to insist upon business as usual.
May 30, 2020
Sam Blum | Vox
What this pandemic shows, though, is that we can stop everything in a moment’s notice. I hope that rather than panic and try to rush back to normalcy, people will reflect on what it is we should leave behind, rather than resume.
James Wilson | Aeon
Pre-theoretical ethical ‘common sense’ is subject to distortions brought by prejudice, power and many other factors, and the reason why we turn to philosophical ethics in the first place is that it’s unclear how to resolve competing ethical duties that arise at a pretheoretical level. Ethical thinking is hard, and even our best tools for doing it are not very good. Humility should be the watchword.
Alden M. Hayashi | Harvard Business Review
Truly inspired decisions seem to require an even more sophisticated mechanism: cross-indexing. Indeed, the ability to see similar patterns in disparate fields is what elevates a person’s intuitive skills from good to sublime.
May 23, 2020
Paul Russell | Aeon
Moralisers present the facade of genuine moral concern but their real motivations rest with interests and satisfactions of a very different character. When these motivations are unmasked, they are shown to be tainted and considerably less attractive than we suppose. The basic idea behind vain moralism is that the agents’ (moral) conduct and conversation is motivated with a view to inflating their social and moral standing in the eyes of others. This is achieved by way of flaunting their moral virtues for others to praise and admire.
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings
Russell places at the heart of a fulfilling life the dissolution of the personal ego into something larger. Drawing on the longstanding allure of rivers as existential metaphors, he writes: “Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.”
Anne Helen Petersen | BuzzFeed News
In many ways, the pandemic has functioned as a great clarifier, making it impossible to ignore the dilapidated state of so many American systems. It’s highlighted whose work is actually essential, which leaders actually care about people who aren’t like them, and whose lives are considered expendable. The supply chain is broken; the social safety net is in shambles. And a whole lot of things we thought of as needs have revealed themselves to be pretty deeply unnecessary.
May 16, 2020
Leah Fessler | Quartz
We typically think about guilt as a signal that someone did do something wrong, which is why it’s seen as a character flaw. But feeling guilty about wrongdoing is a good thing, whereas doing something wrong and not feeling guilty would be problematic, as it suggests a lack of remorse and no intention to repair your transgressions.
Abbas Panjwani | Nautilus
What makes people who seem so good in public act so bad in private? Humans are very good at finding reasons to be bad and making “mountains of morality out of molehills of virtue.” Studies have shown that trivial acts, including buying environmentally friendly cosmetics, can give consumers a moral license to behave badly.
Andrew Taggart | Aeon
The burden character of total work, is defined by ceaseless, restless, agitated activity, anxiety about the future, a sense of life being overwhelming, nagging thoughts about missed opportunities, and guilt connected to the possibility of laziness. Hence, the taskification of the world is correlated with the burden character of total work. In short, total work necessarily causes dukkha, a Buddhist term referring to the unsatisfactory nature of a life filled with suffering.
May 9, 2020
Leo Babauta | Fast Company
The end of procrastination is the art of letting go. I learned that distractions and the false need to check my email and news and other things online … were causing me problems. They were causing my procrastination.
Warren Ward | Aeon
Despite all our medical advances, the mortality rate has remained constant – one per person. An awareness of our mortality, of our precious finitude, can, paradoxically, move us to seek – and, if necessary, create – the meaning that we so desperately crave.
Tamsin Shaw | The New York Review of Books
The behavioral techniques that are being employed by governments and private corporations do not appeal to our reason. It is possible to envisage behavioral science playing a part in the great social experiment of providing the kind of public education that nurtures the critical faculties of everyone in our society. But the pressures to exploit irrationalities rather than eliminate them are great and the chaos caused by competition to exploit them is perhaps already too intractable for us to rein in.
May 2, 2020
John Sellars | The Conversation
The Stoics insisted that, for something to be good, it must always benefit us. And they suggested that there’s only one thing that always benefits us when we have it: a calm, rational and consistent mind. This is where real value lies. So try to forget the external ambitions that you can’t control and instead focus on cultivating the right frame of mind, such as the desire to do whatever you’re doing as well as you can, simply for the satisfaction of doing it well, without any thought for further reward.
Drew Dickson | Albert Bridge Capital
This is going to be an uncharacteristic departure for me. This story is deeply personal, for our family, and for our oldest son in particular. But it is a story he’s letting me tell, because it is a story he wants people to hear.
Leonid Bershidsky | Bloomberg
Sooner or later, people tend to get tired of regimes in which they have little say. Then, it only takes a misstep from the one person at the center of such a regime. Dictators often overestimate the external danger to their power, the plots of foreign or exiled enemies. In the final analysis, they are the biggest threat to themselves.
April 25, 2020
Olivia Goldhill | Quartz
The 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal is perhaps best known for Pascal’s Wager which, in the first formal use of decision theory, argued that believing in God is the most pragmatic decision. But it seems the French thinker also had a knack for psychology. Pascal set out the most effective way to get someone to change their mind, centuries before experimental psychologists began to formally study persuasion.
Emily Esfahani Smith | The Atlantic
Psychological research suggests that fear of rejection or shame can be overblown in people’s minds. Often, there’s a mismatch between how people perceive their vulnerabilities and how others interpret them. We tend to think showing vulnerability makes us seem weak, inadequate, and flawed—a mess. But when others see our vulnerability, they might perceive something quite different, something alluring. A recent set of studies calls this phenomenon “the beautiful mess effect.” It suggests that everyone should be less afraid of opening up—at least in certain cases.
Brian Gallagher | Nautilus
Stupidity is not simply the opposite of intelligence. Stupidity is using a rule where adding more data doesn’t improve your chances of getting a problem right. In fact, it makes it more likely you’ll get it wrong. Intelligence, on the other hand, is using a rule that allows you to solve complex problems with simple, elegant solutions.
April 18, 2020
Heather A. Butler | Scientific American
Intelligence and improving intelligence are hot topics that receive a lot of attention. It is time for critical thinking to receive a little more of that attention. Heather Butler’s research pitted critical thinking and intelligence against each other to see which was associated with fewer negative life events. People who were strong on either intelligence or critical thinking experienced fewer negative events, but critical thinkers did better.
Brian Resnick | Vox
Psychologists increasingly think effortful restraint is not the key to the good life. In a specific situation, sure, you can muster willpower to save yourself from falling back into a bad habit. But relying on willpower alone to accomplish goals is almost like relying on emergency brake when you are driving your car. You should focus on things that drive you toward your goals rather than stopping things that are in your way. What’s more, the human “emergency brake” that is willpower is bound to fail in some instances, causing you to crash.
Amanda Ruggeri | BBC Future
Many of us believe perfectionism is a positive. But researchers are finding that it is nothing short of dangerous, leading to a long list of health problems — and that it’s on the rise. And the rise in perfectionism doesn’t mean each generation is becoming more accomplished. It means we’re getting sicker, sadder and even undermining our own potential.
April 11, 2020
Thuy-vy Nguyen | Aeon
Time alone is an opportunity for us to hit the reset button, to calm our high-arousal emotions. During the time we spend alone, we also have the option to seek complete solitude, to drop our daily activities and find a space to attend to our thoughts and emotions. Time when we are unexpectedly alone can be difficult but, at least for some of us, it can also be a blessing in disguise.
Sari Botton | Longreads
Coronavirus inspires Sari Botton to reach out to family and friends she’s fallen out with. "Months ago I could not have seen this shift coming, and if someone had predicted it, I would have insisted they were crazy. But here I am, living through a horrible crisis, finding solace in these unexpected reconnections. It’s no small thing. I feel grateful, and lucky."
Standing on the Shoulders of Solitude: Newton, the Plague, and How Quarantine Fomented the Greatest Leap in Science
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings
When Cambridge sent its students home, a young man obsessed with mathematics, motion, and light, whose illiterate father had died three months before his birth, who worshipped a “God of order and not of confusion,” and who had begun his university studies by performing servants’ work for wealthier students in exchange for tuition, bundled his prized books and headed back to his mother’s farm. The plague year was his transfiguration. Solitary and almost incommunicado, he became the world’s paramount mathematician.
April 4, 2020
Kate Fehlhaber | Aeon
Sometimes we try things that lead to favourable outcomes, but other times our approaches are imperfect, irrational, inept or just plain stupid. The trick is to not be fooled by illusions of superiority and to learn to accurately reevaluate our competence. After all, as Confucius reportedly said, real knowledge is knowing the extent of one’s ignorance.
Cassie Werber | Quartz
Any decision to change one’s life, in such a complex context, needs to be extremely simple and easy to follow. It should be small; not a goal, but a tiny first step. The beauty of the method is that its smallness removes the problems that result from many self-help recommendations and resolutions: too often they leave people quickly overwhelmed by the task in hand, or swamped by a sense of failure.
Rory Carroll | The Guardian
In late 1918 the world’s greatest killer – Spanish flu – roared towards Gunnison, a mountain town in Colorado. The pandemic was infecting hundreds of millions of people in Europe, Africa, Asia and across the United States, overwhelming hospitals and morgues in Boston and Philadelphia before sweeping west, devastating cities, villages and hamlets from Alaska to Texas. What happened next is instructive amid a new global health emergency a century later as the world struggles react to the emergence of a new coronavirus.
March 28, 2020
David Epstein | The Atlantic
In a 20-year study, Philip Tetlock and Barbara Mellers found that credentialed authorities are comically bad at predicting the future. Some made authoritative predictions that turned out to be wildly wrong—then updated their theories in the wrong direction. They became even more convinced of the original beliefs that had led them astray. The best forecasters, by contrast, viewed their own ideas as hypotheses in need of testing. If they made a bet and lost, they embraced the logic of a loss just as they would the reinforcement of a win. This is called, in a word, learning.
Ephrat Livni | Quartz
Kahneman contends that happiness and satisfaction are distinct. Happiness is a momentary experience that arises spontaneously and is fleeting. Meanwhile, satisfaction is a long-term feeling, built over time and based on achieving goals and building the kind of life you admire.
Rebecca Roache | Aeon
Passive aggression is both offensive and a poor way of expressing feelings. This can be harmful: as psychologists recognise, by expressing our negative feelings indirectly and denying them if challenged, we miss out on the benefit of having those feelings acknowledged and discussed sympathetically. If we must convey what is potentially offensive, we would do well to allow ourselves a choice between expressiveness and offensiveness. Sometimes we might choose both. But there is rarely a need to choose neither.
March 21, 2020
Sarah McDermott | BBC
Pauline Dakin's childhood in Canada in the 1970s was full of secrets, disruption and unpleasant surprises. She wasn't allowed to talk about her family life with anyone - and it wasn't until she was 23 that she was told why.
Dorian Rolston | Aeon
In his celebratory portrait of Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837 comments that: ‘His writing has no enthusiasms, no aspiration; contented, self-respecting, and keeping the middle of the road.’ Not taking life quite so seriously – the pursuit of happiness notwithstanding – might then be Montaigne’s key to dying well. After all, there might be no surer inner peace in one’s final days than not needing it so badly.
David Segal | The New York Times
A company named Aristophi built one of the largest collections of rare books, autographs and manuscripts in history — some 136,000 pieces in all. It turned its Gérard Lhéritier into a full-fledged celebrity. But six years ago, the French authorities shut down Aristophil and arrested Lhéritier, charging him with fraud and accusing him of orchestrating what amounts to a highbrow Ponzi scheme. Take a look inside this bizarre, literary, billion-dollar scandal.
March 14, 2020
Dan Greene | Medium
You don’t always win by winning. Sometimes you win by losing. Learn to negotiate, influence and compromise. It’s not always about winning and losing anyway, most of the time, the best outcome is when everyone gets what they need.
Darius Foroux | DariusForoux.com
One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing. And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing. Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t overthink it. Just do something that’s useful. Anything.
Michael J. Coren | Quartz
Social distancing, which is being called for by global health agencies to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus—kept per capita flu-related deaths in St. Louis to less than half of those in Philadelphia. Once a virus can no longer be contained, the goal is to slow its spread. Exponential growth in infections leaves health care systems struggling to handle the surge. But with fewer people sick at once (and overall), services aren’t overwhelmed and deaths diminish. This buys time for doctors to treat the flood of patients and researchers to develop vaccines and antiviral therapies.
March 7, 2020
Ryan Holiday | RyanHoliday.net
You work so long and hard to accomplish what feel like crazy pie-in-the-sky dreams, then when the opportunity knocks, you answer, and success comes flooding in, you expect the high to last. You thought that doing important or impressive work will make you happy. This was precisely wrong. It’s that being happy will help us do important and impressive work, quite possibly better and more pure work.
Paul Graham | PaulGraham.com
The paths that lead to new ideas tend to look unpromising. If they looked promising, other people would already have explored them. How do the people who do great work discover these paths that others overlook?
James Somers | The JSomers.net Blog
I’ve noticed that if I respond to people’s emails quickly, they send me more emails. The sender learns to expect a response, and that expectation spurs them to write. That is, speed itself draws emails out of them, because the projected cost of the exchange in their mind is low. They know they’ll get something for their effort. It’ll happen so fast they can already taste it. The general rule seems to be: systems which eat items quickly are fed more items. Slow systems starve.
February 29, 2020
David Robson | BBC
The “gambler’s fallacy” - which can affect everyone from athletes to loan officers - creates deceptive biases that lead you to anticipate patterns that don’t really exist. Occasional streaks can and do occur in any kind of sequence – and we’d all be more rational if we accepted that our intuition about chance is often wildly off the mark.
Gary Mortimer | The Conversation
Think you got a good deal? Look again. Have you just made the sensible choice, or been manipulated to spend more on a drink larger than you needed?
Jamie Lombardi | Aeon
Losing a loved one is something that could happen to anyone. But not everyone remains unharmed by it. But what we’ve gained is the perspective that ‘true good fortune is what you make for yourself’. And, perhaps most importantly, we learn that, while we don’t get to decide when we get shipwrecked, we do get to decide what we rebuild out of the debris.
February 22, 2020
Kieran Setiya | Aeon
Don’t aim for completion. Find value in atelic activities that are not exhausted by engagement or deferred to the future, but realised here and now.
Steve Taylor | Quartz
Many of us try to make sure we can live for as long as possible by eating good food and exercising, which is sensible. It’s possible for us to increase the amount of time that we experience in our lives in another way—by expanding our experience of time.
Kira Lussier | Aeon
It’s not that work shouldn’t be meaningful, or that pleasure cannot be found in work; but think carefully before accepting managerial ideas of fulfilment through work. Work is work – no matter how many beer fridges or meditation seminars modern workplaces offer, and no matter how many well-intentioned trainers show slides of pyramids.
February 15, 2020
Brad Stulberg | The Passion Paradox
The best — be it athletes, entrepreneurs, or business professionals — have at least one thing in common: they are all constantly focused on getting better. That’s precisely what makes them the best.
Rafael Euba | The Conversation
We are not designed to be consistently happy. The model of competing emotions offered by coexisting pleasure and pain fits our reality much better than the unachievable bliss that the happiness industry is trying to sell us. If you are unhappy at times, this is not a shortcoming that demands urgent repair. Far from it. This fluctuation is, in fact, what makes you human.
Scott H. Young | ScottHYoung.com
Learning by doing and learning by watching sound obvious, but they’re often obscured in our classroom-focused style of education. We might not bring back apprenticeships, but by bringing back the features that work, we can all hopefully learn a bit better.
February 8, 2020
Becca Rothfeld | The Atlantic
Nietzsche had no stomach for palliatives. As John Kaag reflects in his new philosophical excursion, the German thinker aimed “to terrify rather than instruct us.”
Instead of thinking, spend your life living. Make yourself useful, solve problems, add value, and most importantly: Enjoy it.
Olga Khazan | The Atlantic
The ancient Eastern religion is helping Westerners with very modern mental-health problems.