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 for my podcasts, writing and more.

~ Craig Constantine

Just the quotes?

New thing: You can now receive a daily quote by email from my Little Box of Quotes.

While this weekly email includes the quotes as I add them to the collection, the daily email is a random choice from the entire set of ~1,000.


 — original post, tagged Little Box of Qutoes, Meta


Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.

~ W. H. Auden

 — original post, tagged Discipline, Quotes, W. H. Auden


The end for self-discipline is personal improvement; the end for discipline lies beyond the self. This distinction helps explain why individuals can be incredibly self-disciplined and yet see very little external achievement as a result. Sure, they never miss a day writing in their journal and never lose their temper, but those displays of self-mastery don’t automatically lead to outward success.

~ Brett McKay from,

There are lots of ways to talk about this distinction; the particular way described by McKay comes from an author he’s interviewed. I’d never thought about is as “discipline” versus “self-discipline.” I’d always thought of discipline as a thing, and then the “self-” prefix in “self-discipline” means that thing done to myself. And I’m not going to change how I use the words, “discipline,” and “self-discipline.” I see why they’re using “discipline” and “self-discipline.” I think I’d prefer to use, “inward-directed,” and, “outward-directed,” discipline. Everything I do to myself is self-discipline, but when my goal is to change myself, then it’s “inward-directed,” and when my goal is to change the world, then it’s “outward-directed.”

But the point of the distinction is very interesting. Do I actually have goals which are the, “why?” behind my self-discipline? Are those goals an appropriate mixture of inward- and outward-directed?


 — original post, tagged Brett McKay, Discipline, Goals, Self-improvement


The superior man wishes to be slow in his words and earnest in his conduct.

~ Confucius

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

Screens and screen time

I read and hear a lot about how excessive “screen time” is bad. But there’s a distinction that has to be made: Is the “screen time” tool-use to accomplish something meaningful? …because tool-use is not bad for you. We don’t begrudge the time a mechanic spends wielding his tools; we call that “working.”

Today I spent nearly every waking minute in front of one of four different computer screens. For reasons of sanity and physical health, sometimes I was sitting, sometimes standing, sometimes indoors and outdoors for long stretches too. I also take intentional “vision breaks” to allow my eye muscles to relax—literally relax to infinite focusing distance, which they would otherwise never do facing a screen, or anywhere indoors.

What did I do? I did an enormous number of things. Here are a few examples from today: I submitted a presenter application for an in-person event in September. I worked on my presentation notes for a different, in-person event in 2 weeks. I researched and experimented with exporting the contents of a WordPress site, and then read and interpreted the massive data which was output, to verify that I could later write a program to parse it. I then planned out the work needed to disassemble the project, of which that WordPress site is but one piece. I estimate I spent three hours reading text articles I’d previously queued up to read later. I helped a member of a community sort out a problem they were having.

I, truly, don’t know about you. I however, am an excellent mechanic, with the finest tools, and there remain far more things worth doing than I can ever get done. My problem is not, “screen time.”


 — original post, tagged Goals, Internet Tech, Process, Productivity

On the edge

Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center. Big, undreamed-of things—the people on the edge see them first.

~ Kurt Vonnegut

 — original post, tagged Dreams, Kurt Vonnegut, Quotes

Screens and self-discipline

And quite often, I’m not using screens at all. My journal writing recently rolled-over into volume 18, and in recent years I’ve been copying my oath into the front of each new volume.


 — original post, tagged Discipline, Journaling

The specific outcome

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.

~ Seth Godin

 — original post, tagged Process, Quotes, Seth Godin

Reaching the end isn’t the point

Much better is to rebuild the skill entirely with a different approach, one that directly addresses your perennial snags. Instead of slowly getting better at your familiar, limited way, you embrace the awkwardness of learning an unfamiliar but stronger method, as though you’ve never done the thing before at all.

~ David Cain from,

In the article Cain mentions spending as much as 10 minutes in reading one page as part of his larger anecdote from which he’s drawing this lesson. Sometimes it takes me a long time to find enough tranquility in my mind just to feel ready to read. I always have so many thing on the to-do and should-do lists. By the time I get enough of the urgent items beat back into the shadows, often, another days has passed with too little reading. I should do something about that…


 — original post, tagged David Cain, Reading, Self-improvement


All our progress is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 — original post, tagged Progress, Quotes, Ralph Waldo Emerson

The second time

This one’s for Mike, who’s been waiting very patiently after reading about the first time.

At any golf course there are people known as the greenskeepers. There are different roles, and it’s a massive undertaking. There’s one superintendent who oversees everything, with different people working on specialized tasks. There’s one person—or I suppose a team at a really important course—who is responsible for the pins.

I am not a golfer. I worked one loong summer at a golf course and 35 years later I might… no, actually, I’ve still no urge to go even near a golf course. Back then, I had no idea what “the pins” were at (on?) a golf course, and perhaps you’re in the same boat: The “pins” are the cylindrical metal “cups” with the big flags sticking up, which the golfers are ultimately aiming for. The bottom of the cup has a recepticle that holds the base of the flag. The cups are set into the ground exceedingly neatly and regardless of any slope where the pin is set, the flag must be perfectly vertical. The specially bred grass, mowed super short, with special mowers, grows right up to the edge of the hole, and the top of the cup is an inch below the level of the ground. The golf balls roll on the grass, and then fall perfectly into the cup. (“Nice putt, Bob!”)

And like me, if you’ve never played golf, it will never have occurred to you that the pins are periodically moved to different locations on each green. This is called “setting the pins” generally, or “setting a pin” if you’re moving the pin on one green. At the course where I worked we had one greenskeeper who was responsible for the pins; a college dude, (so a few years older than me at the time,) who was always in a college-dude baseball cap that had nothing to do with baseball, which led me to guess he was in a fraternity, but who was none-the-less nice enough as far as I was concerned. I can’t recall his name. He probably still wakes up from a recurring nightmare, screaming my name.

Setting a pin is tricky to do well. If you don’t do it perfectly all sorts of crap goes south. First, you have to do this when the course is not open to play. You use a special tool with a big T-handle top and a cylinder bottom; remember punching holes in cheese with straws? …it’s that, but for a lawn. You carefully push that into the green—right into that gorgeous, perfect, green grass—you just punch this gaping hole. And you have to hold the tool perfectly vertical, even if the green is sloping where you’re doing this. (It had a bubble-level on it.) You push it down with some twisting, and pull the core sample out. In the tool is now a plug of dirt with a perfect head of perfect grass on it. Leave that in there. Go to the current pin, pull the cup out of the ground; there’s a simple rod with a hook that you just reach into the hole for the flag and pull the cup out.

Now you swap! You push the cup down into the new hole. And you better have made that hole perfectly vertical. The 8-foot flag pole really magnifies any off-vertical error. Then you take the plug which we left in the tool. You push the tool down into the old hole. Then you push this lever arm, (which I didn’t mention before,) and it pushes the plug into the ground as it pushes the tool out! Since you put the plug in a hole you previously made with the same tool, it fits perfectly. Except, the plug has grass on it. If it’s too high, or too low, you have to extract it, fiddle with dirt, and put it back in so the plug’s grass-top seemlessly matches. If you do it wrong leaving it too high, when the green is mowed, the moved-plug’s grass gets scalped short and you get a dead brown circle. If it’s set too low, you get a dimple that makes golf balls roll funny. It’s fiddly. There’s also a minimum distance that pins had to be from the edge of the green, and you couldn’t put a pin back in an area where it had recently been. It turns out that moving the pins around is a huge part of what makes the whole game interesting, (for golfers who play the same course regularly.) So as I said: It’s fiddly.

And this sort of fiddly crap is right up my OCD alley. I set a couple of pins on the testing green, (we had our own, out of the way, extra, green for testing things like mowers and people who set pins,) and our pin-setter was like, “okay, yeah, you can do this. Nice, bro’!” Which was great because he was going to be away, pin setting must continue, and there was absolutely no way our boss, (recall that superintendent,) was going to get off his stool in the barn let alone get down on his hands and knees…

Just like that, I was a pin setter. It doesn’t take very long to move a single pin once you get the hang of it. One morning, as instructed, I went around shortly after sunrise, and reset the pins on all 18 holes. I did a really neat and tidy job of it.

…and around lunch time, the guy who owned the course, (literally, it was one person, who lived adjacent to the course, of course,) showed up at the greenskeepers’ homebase barn livid, screaming, and foaming at the mouth. (I missed this because I was out doing other greenskeeper jobs.) My boss actually thought it was funny, (after his boss left of course,) but it turns out the golfers had been bitching up a storm all morning at the club house. It turns out they live, die and base their self-worth, (or so I’m guessing,) upon their golf score, and some asshole had apparently raised the par-for-the-course by about 9 strokes.

You see, no one told me that there’s a method to deciding where you put the pins. It turns out you’re supposed to mix things up and there are rules about how to place the pins. Ideally, with each resetting of pins some holes get harder and some easier. And overall the par stays the same, while the course is still different to play.

I went around, thinking golfers like challenges, and intentionally put the pins in the most mischevious places I could imagine. This one under the overhanging tree so you can’t chip onto the green. This one on the steepest slope into that sand trap. This one close to the near-side trap so you come up short in the sand or roll right across the green into the other sand trap. I put all 18 holes into challenge mode! And no one appreciated my hard work.


 — original post, tagged Snark, Writing


What I tell young people is if you identify your goals, and have the willpower to overcome difficulties—there will always be certain difficulties—and you find the right people to help you, you will be successful.

~ Reinhold Messner

 — original post, tagged Goals, Quotes, Reinhold Messner, Willpower

How you play

If life is a game, how do you play it? The answer will have a huge impact on your choices, your satisfaction, and how you achieve success.

~ Shane Parrish from,

There are of course some games simply not worth playing. (For example, Global Thermonucler War, which is, “[a] strange game. The only winning move is not to play.“) For most of my life I’ve thought of games as something I first decided to do—”let’s play a game!”—and then sorted out what sort of game—board games, tag, charades, etc.. Even sports games worked this way; “I feel like playing baseball…” and then round up my friends, or “I feel like getting good at baseball and playing a lot…” and then join a league. In all the cases, the game itself was the point.

Then, back around 40 when I was busy rediscovering movement, I realized that one could start by having a goal, or an idea one wanted to explore, and then one could deploy games as the vehicle for accomplishing that. On the one hand, it’s still fun to simply play for play’s sake, but it’s empowering to have fun playing while intentionally accomplishing something of your own choosing.


 — original post, tagged My Journey, Play, Shane Parrish

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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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