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My hope is that you use these emails to practice reflection.

My vision is a world where everyone can flourish. My mission is creating better conversations to spread understanding and compassion. Drop by https://constantine.name for my podcasts, writing and more.

~ Craig Constantine

Mud

Never throw mud. You may miss your mark: But you must have dirty hands.

~ Joseph Parker

 
 — original post, tagged Joseph Parker, Quotes, Society



Pathways

It’s the relative appeal of the two paths that determines which one you take. You can equalize these by improving the intended path (making public transit better), obstructing the desire path (making driving worse), or a combination.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/paths/

This article starts with a simple concept and then iteratively goes far into the weeds to see where else it can be applied. I love minds which explore that way. I have so many habits, idiosyncrasies, and ancient brain quirks that it’s a miracle I ever get anything done. Everything figuratively within my reach is wearing down and coming undone, (entropy wins in the end.) I’ll take any opportunity—as this article suggests—to tip things towards my desired path.

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 — original post, tagged Dynomight, Life Balance, Process



Nobody will understand

It’s pretty safe to say, that when you finally come up with your million-dollar idea, nobody is going to understand it at first. They many not laugh in your face outright, but they’ll probably scratch their heads, at least.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2018/05/15/great-ideas-lonely-childhoods/

 
 — original post, tagged Creativity, Entrepreneur, Hugh MacLeod, Quotes



The second payment

But then, in order to make use of the thing, you must also pay a second price. This is the effort and initiative required to gain its benefits, and it can be much higher than the first price.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/01/everything-must-be-paid-for-twice/

This is such a clear and important point! I’ve never seen it put in just this way, but it will be forever how I talk about the true costs of things, experiences and opportunities. There’s what feels like a variation of Occam’s Razor here too: Even if you understand the second price, don’t buy things, (through payment of money, time, or allocation of storage space,) unless you are also ready and able to make the second payments. If not, leave those opportunities for someone else.

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 — original post, tagged David Cain, Minimalism, Time Management



Extraordinary

Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process. The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home. A blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. It is literally that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose. Once the decision is made, simply refuse to budge. Refuse to compromise.

~ Christopher Sommer

 
 — original post, tagged Christopher Sommer, Goals, Motivation, Quotes



whup

For millennia, we have considered language — the magic-box of words — the hallmark of our species. Only in the last blink of evolutionary time have we begun to override our self-referential nature and consider the possibility that other types of channels might carry the magical energy of creatures telling each other what it is like to be alive, in the here and now of a shared reality.

~ Maria Popova from, https://www.themarginalian.org/2022/01/22/cetacean-communication/

It never ceases to amaze me how my brain—I’d write “our brains” but I can only hope yours works at least slightly like mine does—finds salience in the chaos of everyday life. I found Popova’s short piece a couple of weeks ago, and more recently saw a special about humpback whales; the whales that save humanity in a Star Trek movie, if you recall.

In the documentary, one scientist is trying to understand exactly how Humpbacks use sound as language. She’s literally hoping her research enables the beginning of a conversation, (between humans and whales.) And she found this sound, she calls a “whup.” It seems that each humpback’s “whup” is unique the way our voices are said to be unique. So she composed a “whup”… and supposed it was how they say, “hey what’s up”. Seriously, it even sounds like a mumbled, “wassup.” Her question was, if whales say “whup” to announce themselves, what happens if I say “whup”?

Turns out, they say “whup” in response.

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 — original post, tagged Cetaceans, Language, Maria Popova, Michelle Fournet



Moderate

The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often acquires more reputation than actual brilliance.

~ Rochefoucauld

 
 — original post, tagged Moderation, Quotes, Rochefoucauld



What is intelligence

What do we mean when we say the word “intelligence”? The immune system is the fascinating, distributed, mobile, circulating system that learns and teaches at the level of the cell. It has memory, some of which lasts our entire life, some of which has to be refreshed every twenty years, every twelve years, a booster shot every six years. This is a very fascinating component of our body’s intelligence that, as far as we know, is not conscious, but even that has to be questioned and studied.

~ Caroline Jones from, https://www.edge.org/conversation/caroline_a_jones-questioning-the-cranial-paradigm

I often think of my conscious self as the only part of me that really matters. But when I read articles like this one I’m reminded of the rider-and-elephant metaphor. A case can even be made that our entire body, consciousness, and societies at large are just very clever ways for all the non-human things that live in our guts to get moved around… a sort of human-body-as-spaceship, for microbes.

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 — original post, tagged Brain and Mind, Caroline Jones



Strike at the root

There are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

~ Henry David Thoreau

 
 — original post, tagged Evil, Henry David Thoreau, Quotes



Friction and process

Picasso observed that, “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Inspiration has to find you in the midst of your practice.

Let’s say that I enjoy painting. When I find myself painting, I usually find myself happy. I love the feeling of setting down my brush after having worked out some little problem in a painting. And so, I decide I’m going to paint regularly.

Or let’s say I enjoy sailing. I love the adventure, or the wind in my face. And so, I decide I’m going to sail regularly.

Or, running, writing, movement, music … your choice.

But without concrete plans, and clear processes, I will never actually do the practice. Friction, followed closely by excuses, will sap my momentum. If I’m to be a runner, my shoes, clothes, music or whatever I need— Those things must be in place. For any practice there are some things which you will feel must be in place.

The processes that I’m imagining, which remove friction and enable my practice, have a steady state. For my process, what does “done” look like? It looks like me sailing so often I can’t even remember not sailing all the time. Or it looks like me running and jumping and playing so often that my body is a comfortable place for my mind.

Matthew Frederick, the author of 101 Things I learned in Architecture School, makes this point:

True style does not come from a conscious effort to create a particular look. It results obliquely—even accidentally—out of a holistic process.

This point about a holistic process—the idea that mastery isn’t some higgledy-piggledy mish-mash of throwing things together—is an idea I’ve held dearly for a long time. Every single time that I’ve decided to take a process, and repeat it in search of understanding, the learning and personal growth has paid off beyond my wildest dreams.

I’m a process process process person. The second time I have to do something, I’m trying to figure out how to either never have to do that again, or how to automate it. (And failing those two, it goes into my admin day.) Random activity, powered by inspiration works to get one thing done. But inspiration doesn’t work in the long run, and it won’t carry me through my practice.

Instead, I want to know what can I intentionally do to set up my life, so that I later find myself simply being the sort of person who does my chosen practice? I want to eliminate every possible bit of friction that may sap my momentum.

There’s a phrase in cooking, mise en place, meaning to have everything in its proper place before starting. The classic example of failure in this regard is to be half-way through making something only to realize you’re missing an ingredient and having to throw away the food. Merlin Mann, who’s little known beyond knowledge workers, has done the most to improve processes for knowledge workers and creative people. I’m not sure if he’s ever said it explicitly, but a huge part of what he did was to elevate knowledge workers and creatives by cultivating a mise en place mindset.

And don’t confuse “process” or a “mise en place” mindset with goals. Forget goals. Focus on the process, and focus on eliminating friction.

To quote Seth Godin:

The specific outcome is not the primary driver of our practice. […] We can begin with this: If we failed, would it be worth the journey? Do you trust yourself enough to commit to engaging with a project regardless of the chances of success? The first step is to separate the process from the outcome. Not because we don’t care about the outcome. But because we do.

And I’ll give my last words to Vincent Thibault, author of one of my favorite books:

That is how we are still conditioned socially as adults: Do, achieve, produce results, instead of be, feel, enjoy the process. Quantitative over qualitative. We are obsessed by performance and “tangible” results. But that is one of the great teaching of Parkour and Art du Déplacement: That the path is just as enjoyable as the destination; That sometimes it is even more important, and that oftentimes it is the destination.

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 — original post, tagged Apogee, Matthew Frederick, Process, Seth Godin, Vincent Thibault



Truth

Remember that truth is the greatest thing in the world. If you will be great, you will be true. If you suppress the truth, if you hide truth, if you do not rise up and speak out in meeting, if you speak out in meeting without speaking the whole truth, then are you less true than truth and by that much are you less than great.

~ Jack London

 
 — original post, tagged Jack London, On Writing, Quotes



Not just organizations

When this happens, I’ve found a useful model for understanding what’s going on. I like to ask: is the organization stuck on vision, strategy, or tactics?

~ Jacob Kaplan-Moss from, https://jacobian.org/2021/apr/16/where-is-your-team-stuck/

Just a few years ago, I was lacking vision. At the time, I didn’t understand that was the problem. I had a feeling of diffuse frustration arising from not knowing how to decide what to work on. I’ve always had so many ideas, combined with so many opportunities. I had figured out that I needed to learn to say ‘no, thank you’ to basically everything in order to create the ability to focus on a small number of things; That’s the only way to be effective. I could not figure out how to decide on which things to focus and that led to a downward spiral. It’s taken me years just to convert to an upward spiral, and my recovery continues.

What I’m wondering today, as I write, is whether knowing what I know now about vision, would be useful to my long-ago self. Learning about, and clarifying, vision helped greatly a few years ago. But would it have been useful farther back. Would it have been useful when I was 30? …20? …16?

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 — original post, tagged Jacob Kaplan-Moss, Self-awareness, Vision and Mission



Going full circle

No matter where your adventure takes you, most of what is truly meaningful is still to be found revolving around the mundane stuff you did before you embarked on your adventure. The stuff that’ll be still be going on long after you and I are both dead, long after our contribution to the world is forgotten.But often, one needs to have that big adventure before truly appreciating this. Going full circle. Exactly.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2008/06/25/meaning-scales-people-dont/

 
 — original post, tagged Hugh MacLeod, Life Balance, Quotes, Self-awareness



Guilt and efficacy

Accepting that “accidents happen” requires an acceptance of limitations to the control we have over our own lives. The philosopher Bernard Williams describes the hazy area between intention and outcome, where factors outside of one’s control can influence the course of events and our reactions to them: “anything that is the product of the will is surrounded and held up and partly formed by things that are not.” This thought may be unsettling, but constitutes the first step in letting go of guilt and moving forward along the path of healing, both for those who have caused unintentional harm and for any who are struggling with trauma.

~ Peter Attia from, https://peterattiamd.com/how-do-you-move-forward-after-making-a-fatal-mistake/

I am lucky in that I do not have any self-assigned guilt of the magnitude Attia is describing in this article. (I was pleasantly surprised by this article, it being different than his usual hard medical science.) But I do have a life-crushing pile of self-assigned, paper-cut-sized guilt for countless things I see in hindsight that I could have done better: Why didn’t I learn some particular lesson sooner? How did I not see that situation as it was developing? What if I had let go of that thing sooner? Perhaps you have occasion to ask similar questions.

I’ve verified that there’s nothing I can do to change the past. (Perhaps you’ve also.) But I have learned to tack faster: I flippantly made a silly tall joke—”how’s the weather up there?”—to a very tall friend as we passed at a busy event. As the day, and the next day, wore on I realized I was repeatedly thinking that had been inappropriate. The next time I saw him, I told him so, “dude, my joke was inappropriate and I apologize.” Radical honesty, as it’s sometimes called.

And for the things which end up one way, for reasons beyond my control, I deploy one, two, or all three of: 50,000 years from now, what difference will it make? Did I do everything within my power, (aka the dichotomy of control.) Memento mori.

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 — original post, tagged Efficacy, Memento Mori, Peter Attia, Stoicism




 
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Since August of 2011, I have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars keeping my personal blog going. It has remained free and ad-free and alive thanks to patronage from readers like you. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant—it's just one maniac with a keyboard. If this labor of love makes your life more livable in any way, please consider aiding said maniac's sustenance. You can subscribe at $50/year, subscribe at $5/month, or make a one-time contribution of any amount you like.

just the quotes?
My collection of ~1,000 quotes, (and growing,) figures prominently in these weekly emails. You can also get a daily, random quote by email from my Little Box of Quotes.






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