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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

Loving-kindness

Happiest day in seven years. And what did it take to achieve that? It took 10 seconds of secretly wishing for 2 other people to be happy for 8 repetitions, a total of 80 seconds of thinking. That, my friends, is the awesome power of loving-kindness.

~ Chade-Meng Tan

 
 — original post, tagged Chade-Meng Tan, Meditation, Quotes



Reflection

[…] if you applied this approach, there’s not a strengths-weaknesses binary. It’s, “is this particular skill where I need it to be or not?” […] That could be a skill—if I’m understanding this correctly—that you’re identifying, “I need to get this even farther to get where I want to get.” You might be at a skill level there that everyone would say that’s a strength of yours, you’re really good at that. And so it seems like the strength-weakness binary, is not that useful, at least in this framework. It’s just where you’re trying to get, and what skills are not where they need to be to get you there.

~ Cal Newport ~1h9m from, Deep Questions episode 39 with David Epstein, https://www.buzzsprout.com/1121972/6035176?t=4140

David Epstein is, most recently, the author of Range. Newport and Epstein’s conversation ranges—sorry—widely, and nearer the end they get into talking about reflection as a mastery tool. Epstein mentions a particular reflection process as something he had included only in passing in his first book, The Sports Gene.

Newport’s point, quoted above, changed how I think about skill level. Epstein had been discussing how he’d learned of Marije T Elferink-Gemser‘s research. Based in the Netherlands, a team had been running these things called the Groningen talent studies for over a decade studying skills, proficiency and mastery in Soccer athletes.

These were questions that, the first time I asked, she sent and said, you answer these at least every month. What’s your goal has to be as clear as possible, but it doesn’t need to be realistic at this point. …dreaming is allowed at this point. Do you have any idea of what’s needed to perform at the level you aim for? How do I make sure how do I make sure that I get an even better idea of what’s needed to perform at that level? How am I going to arrange that? Who are the people I need to reach that goal? And how can I make sure that they’ll help me to reach that personal goal? Am I sure I want to reach the goal and why? Those were the original set of questions that I received.

~ David Epstein, ibid.

That’s a tremendous set of questions for self-reflection!

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 — original post, tagged Cal Newport, David Epstein, Marije T Elferink-Gemser, Podcast episodes, Reflection, Self-improvement



Words and actions

An able man shows his spirit by gentle words and resolute actions.

~ Chesterfield

 
 — original post, tagged Chesterfield, Manhood and Honor, Quotes



Who is really in charge?

In democracies, policies are correlated with public opinion, but why? The obvious explanation is that people choose representatives, and those representatives give them what they want. But maybe the causal arrow points in the other direction—maybe elites choose policies, and the public gradually figures that since that’s how things are, it must be right.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/death-penalty/

The death penalty is usually a third-rail—touching it means instant, well, death to reasonable discussion. In this case, the death penalty happens to be a rare topic for which good data exists, and is one upon which nearly everyone has a strong opinion. That combination enables the discussion in that article. It’s not about the death penalty being right, wrong, good, nor bad. Rather, the discussion is asking: Who indeed is really in charge in a democracy.

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 — original post, tagged Democracy, Dynomight, Society



Choices

What has this unfeeling age of ours left untried, what wickedness has it shunned?

~ Horace

 
 — original post, tagged Evil, Horace, Literature, Quotes



Evolution and six actors

With our six actors all on stage, the play begins and my story ends. As an epilogue to the performance, I add some brief remarks about the practical lessons that we may learn from the story. Our species faces two great tasks in the next few centuries. Our first task is to make human brotherhood effective and permanent. Our second task is to preserve and enhance the rich diversity of Nature in the world around us. Our new understanding of biological and cultural evolution may help us to see more clearly what we have to do.

~ Freeman Dyson from, https://www.edge.org/conversation/freeman_dyson-freeman-dyson-1923-2020

Arranged as a pleasant conceit, Dyson lays out a sweeping and crystal clear history of our understanding of evolution. That alone is worth reading. The real gems however, are to be found in his commentary in the final paragraphs; Don’t skip to the end.

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 — original post, tagged Evolution, Freeman Dyson, Society



Three great things

The three great things of life are: Good health; Work; And a philosophy of life. I may add, nay, must add, a fourth—Sincerity. Without this, the other three are without avail; And with it you may cleave to greatness and sit among giants.

~ Jack London

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



Freeman Dyson

Remembering Freeman Dyson, assembled by John Brockman, is long read. If you know who Dyson was, you’ll be excited to discover the collection at the other end of that link. It contains a wide array of voices. Buried way way way at the end is an hour-long essay read by Dyson himself, (which I confess I’ve not yet listened to.)

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 — original post, tagged Freeman Dyson, John Brockman



Excellence is a moral act

… excellence is not a law of physics. Excellence is a moral act.

You create excellence by deciding to do so, nothing more. It doesn’t matter if you went to the wrong school, or were born on the wrong side of the tracks, or working the wrong job.

You go into the situation and you go the extra mile. Your decision. You own it. You own the potential downsides as well.

~ Huch MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2020/02/03/why-excellence-is-a-moral-act/

 
 — original post, tagged Excellence, Hugh MacLeod, Quotes



B-e-a-utiful

Stone isn’t naturally malleable, and yet, Japanese artist Hirotoshi Ito (previously) carves his sculptures to make the material appear as if it can be unzipped or sliced with a butter knife.

~ Grace Ebert from, https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2022/06/hirotoshi-ito-stone-sculpture/

I’ve only just recently learned of This is Colossal. Only a few weeks into following them—RSS for the win!—and they are definitely living up to their self-assessment.

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 — original post, tagged Creativity, Grace Ebert, Stone



In summary

The chronological summary of a man’s life is of all composition for students perhaps the most futile. […] “What of it?” remains to be asked at the end; And if the student begin there, not rewriting the annals, but seeking throughout the characteristic traits, the typical activities, the expression of individuality, he will find no better practice. Thus not only the reader, but far more the writer, gains by the abandoning of the order of chronology.

~ Charles Sears Baldwin

 
 — original post, tagged Charles Sears Baldwin, On Writing, Quotes



So many paths

In early January, I started regular co-working sessions with a friend, Sumana Harihareswara. She read that post from 2013 about wanting to write more, and emailed me to see if I wanted to form an accountability team to work on our writing together. She’s making progress on her book, and I’m writing more here: we’ve been able to get a lot more done together than trying to work solo and power through.

~ Jacob Kaplan-Moss from, https://jacobian.org/2021/mar/9/coworking-to-write-more/

There are many paths to the top of Mt Getting Stuff Done. If you find yourself currently off the beaten path, this article is a nice trail map. It mentions cadence in the sense of “don’t break the chain” or “routine is your friend.” I want to talk about a recent epiphany I’ve had about a different way to look at cadence.

There are several things I’m currently doing which require ongoing, incremental effort. And for a long time, each of them to varying degrees, just wasn’t getting done to my satisfaction. I had repeatedly set goals, blocked out time, etc. Recently—unrelated to my points here about cadence—I’ve been making superlative progress on these things. (Because, reasons.) And I find that now I can see the cadence is much faster than it needs to be to reach my long-term goal. When these things weren’t getting done at all, I had an idea of the amount of work that was required to make meaningful progress. Now I can see that I can actually slow down. I’ve known, for these projects, just a teeny-tiny amount of work, would work. But I didn’t really believe it, until I had a cadence, and truly apprehended how teeny-tiny I could actually scale my efforts and still make meaningful progress.

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 — original post, tagged Getting Things Done, Jacob Kaplan-Moss, Systems



Poverty

For a generous and noble spirit cannot be expected to dwell in the breast of men who are struggling for their daily bread.

~ Dionysius

 
 — original post, tagged Dionysius, Poverty, Quotes



Oblivion

So begins her obsession with dominating the mind by dominating the body, which would follow her throughout her life in various guises — running, karate, yoga, cycling, skiing — always ambivalent and self-conscious, until it finally resolves into a glimpse of the larger truth beneath the mechanics of illusory perfectibility: that we exert ourselves so violently on keeping the package of the body intact in order to keep it from spilling its immaterial contents — the soul, the self — into oblivion.

~ Maria Popova from, https://www.themarginalian.org/2022/01/01/the-secret-to-superhuman-strength-alison-bechdel/

Ah yes, “oblivion.” Good stuff. Popova is referring to a graphic artist, and midway through the article is an exquisite cartoon example; the author drawing, figuratively and literally, a metaphor for life involving a hill and a bicycle. Reading that cartoon brought to mind my beloved practice of meditating on death. (Try this explanation.) Closely related I often call to mind the impermanence of things. Sometimes I mix the two, thinking…

This is my last sip from this [my favorite, morning coffee] mug. (Knowing it will one day be broken.)

This [regularly scheduled weekly] conversation with this person is our last one. (Imagining when priorities change and we’re no longer working together.)

This conversation I’m recording for a podcast is my last one. (Because I will die.)

This dinner with this person [my mom, my spouse, etc] is my last one. (Because one of us will die first.)

The goal is not to be morbid and depressed; The goal is to maintain a realistic perspective to enable wringing the absolute maximum enjoyment and appreciation from every single waking moment.

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 — original post, tagged Apogee, Cartoons, Maria Popova, Meaning of life, Stoicism, Zen




 
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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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