Highlights from the Internet: Part 7
Below you'll find part 7 of my collection of highlights from the internet. I read and highlighted most of it in the Pocket app.
In the long run, I think you’ll find the payoff better if you invest most deeply in self-accountability. You always have yourself, so your inner accountability buddy is with you 24/7 for life.
I like holding myself accountable to my future self. I know that I’ll be my future self someday, so my loyalty is to him. I want to build him up with good habits that enhance his life. I want to complete projects he can look back upon and feel proud of. I feel grateful that my past self put me in a strong position because of his many efforts, and I know my future self will feel the same about my efforts today.
Can you still hold yourself accountable for doing your personal “shoulds” when no one is looking? When no one would know or care, can you still push yourself? Can you go the extra mile when you’re the only one to hold yourself accountable?
Fall in love with the inner rewards of being a kind, generous, and compassionate character. Do you want to embody such a character? If so, then hold yourself accountable to behaving in alignment with that character.
Do you want to spend your whole life being driven by carrots and sticks from other people? Or do you want to empower yourself to build a strong, self-accountable character who can do your should-dos without whining, complaining, or external rewards and punishments?
Business and Meaning
I think carefully about the meaning of the projects I put on my plate and whether they’re purposeful enough to justify the investment of time and energy. I want to feel that my business activities are enhancing my life and those of others. If the meaning isn’t there, however, it makes me feel that I’m spinning my wheels and speeding down the road towards death without enjoying the journey enough. And that realization motivates me to change course sooner or later.
One practice that works well for me is to incorporate meaning into my project designs. When I begin a major new project, such as creating a new course, I write up a design doc for it. This helps me think through the key details of the project in advance and look at the big picture. An important part of this doc is a section on personal meaning. I consider why I want to do the project and what it means to me, and I type up my answers. Even if I expect a project to create some external results, I still ask myself why I should care about those results.
Your Relationship with Failure
Take this idea to heart. You can fail a lot with your projects, but your big picture goal can remain intact and achievable. Some ideas and projects along the way will be dead ends, and you’ll have to let them go. So you’ll need different projects and ideas to help you reach your goal. Don’t equate the failure of your projects with the death of your long-term goal.
Don’t pursue your goals as if you know you can’t fail. Of course you can fail! But don’t make such a big deal out of failure. It will happen. You’ll rack up plenty of failures if you do anything interesting in life. Let each failure be a badge of honor. It means you’re making a good effort. A good failure is a powerful learning experience.
The Surprisingly Narrow Path to Success
What authors, academics and start-up entrepreneurs have in common is that you need other people to believe in you. Hiring committees decide who gets tenure. Editors decide who gets published. Investors need to believe you’ll make them money.
Fun Is a Personal Standard
Earning money can be fun. Spending money can be fun too.
But what if earning money isn’t fun? Then to earn more, you have to push yourself to do even more work that isn’t fun. Your reward is very mixed then – more money perhaps but also less fun. That creates a drag that will likely cause your income – and your ambition – to stagnate.
A lot of the world’s offers for income generation aren’t particularly fun.
What if instead you develop income ideas based around what you’d like to explore and experience? Why rehash the past that you’ve already explored when you could lean into something new and adventurous?
What new challenges fascinate you? What seems a bit out of reach?
Earning decent income isn’t that hard if you’re having fun and enjoying fresh growth experiences from your work. Then it’s largely a matter of finding and testing the right strategies. But it can be really hard to earn good income if you don’t enjoy and appreciate the work you’re doing.
Does your work spark joy for you? Do you look forward to showing up? Do you get excited when Monday morning comes up again, and you get to sink your teeth into some juicy and interesting projects? If that’s not your reality, then why the heck are you still showing up? Are you doing it for the income that will be perpetually held back by your lack of motivation? That’s a lame investment of your time and energy. What’s the long-term payoff? Sadness and regret? Step off!
Work doesn’t have to be a dreadful slog. You can choose to make it edgier and more fun. You can bring more of your playful personality to the experience. If you get fired for that, I’d say that’s a great reason to be fired. If your workplace can’t handle your having fun while doing your work, fuck ’em! Leave those dreadfully dull people behind, and work with fun-loving people instead. They’re out there if you’re willing to look and if you’re willing to rise to that standard and not accept less.
Don’t Let Labels Limit You
What labels do you often apply to yourself that might be limiting you? Why not deliberately violate one of those labels and see what happens? You could have some really interesting growth experiences just by taking a label and exploring its opposite for a while.
Appreciating Your Intelligence and Rationality
Where are you putting your energy these days? What effects do different investments of energy have on yourself and others? Are you investing where the appreciation is flowing well? Even during trying times, can you still feel grateful for the people you get to connect with each day? If not, you can change that, and a good place to start is by making sure you’re practicing intelligent boundary management. $$
The Critical Skill of Boundary Management
When your energy is tied up in dealing with boundary violations, you won’t have much capacity to invest in more mature and supportive relationships. Boundary violations clutter your life with junk relationships, crowding out the more nutritious ones. If you don’t raise your standards and pull yourself out of the swamp of boundary violations, you’ll miss out on so much of the real joy of human connection. If you let that happen, that’s on you. If you don’t say a firm no to the misaligned, you’re saying a firm no to the aligned.
Overcoming Phony Politeness
It’s hard to imagine a mature, functional adult who doesn’t practice good boundary management to ward off other people’s unwanted behaviors. But a lot of people also resist maintaining good boundaries for the sake of politeness. Consider, however, that excessive politeness may simply encourage the unwanted behavior. If you try to be overly polite instead of firm, you’ll invite and incur more boundary violations.
You don’t get what you want here. You get what you’re willing to tolerate.
- How do I really feel about my job?
- How do I really feel about my relationship?
- How do I really feel about my lifestyle?
- How do I really feel about my home?
- What truths have I been resisting or avoiding?
- Where have I been hesitant to look for more truth?
A Game of Giants
In other words, on the ancient landscape—the one we were designed for—the human being wasn’t really the independent life form of the human race. The tribe was.
Of all the factors that affect our emergence mindset, one of the most reliable is conflict.
When my tortoise Winston is scared, he tucks his head and his limbs into his shell. When humans are scared, they form giants. The giant is the human tortoise shell. Typically, the bigger the giant that threatens a group of people, the bigger a giant they’ll form in response.
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt likes to point out an old Bedouin proverb that nails this idea. It goes:
Me against my brothers; my brothers and me against my cousins; my cousins, my brothers, and me against strangers.
So while kindness, in all its manifestations—care, altruism, compassion—was an important survival trait in a world where well-functioning groups were necessary for survival, universal kindness probably wasn’t a great survival trait. Inevitably, other tribes would be selectively kind, shedding all of that kindness when dealing with other tribes. And when a kind tribe faces off against a ruthless tribe, the ruthless tribe usually wins.
The evolutionary sweet spot probably wouldn’t have been kindness or empathy or compassion or cooperation—it would have been to have these traits on a toggle switch. To be micro-kind and macro-ruthless.
The Great Battle of Fire and Light
The Higher Mind is rational, reasonable, and thoughtful. On his staff sits the light of higher consciousness, and when the Higher Mind is in the driver’s seat of your being, the light fills your mind with clarity and self-awareness. Wisdom flows through the Higher Mind’s head, and love and empathy radiate out from his heart. When the Higher Mind is doing the thinking in your head, these rays pass directly into your mind and heart and light them up with the warm glow of high-mindedness.
The Higher Mind spends most of his time on the right side of the control panel with the superpowers, absorbing their energy and feeding them with his consciousness.
The Primitive Mind is software—programmed by evolution to serve the will of your genes. In its hand, the Primitive Mind carries your primal flame—the raw will of your animal genes to survive.
The Primitive Mind doesn’t care about you any more than gravity cares about atoms. It’s just a truck driver delivering precious cargo from one place to another—and you’re just the truck. The only concern it has with the truck is to keep it well fueled and out of accidents during this segment of the eternal voyage. The more prominent the Primitive Mind is in your head at any given time, the less you’re like an independent entity and the more you’re like a truck being driven by automated software.
The human, with smoke obscuring its self-awareness, doesn’t realize its mind has been switched over to software automation, leaving the Higher Mind pretty helpless to take back the controls. This is when humans start trouble, for themselves and for others.
The never-ending struggle between these two minds is the human condition. It’s the backdrop of everything that has ever happened in the human world, and everything that happens today. It’s the story of our times because it’s the story of all human times.
A Story of Stories
Indirect knowledge only works in your favor when it’s coupled with reason. Imagination is why you can become emotionally invested in a horror movie—reason is why you don’t scream and run out of the theater when a ghost appears on the screen. Imagination allows you to consider an outlandish conspiracy theory—reason allows you to reject it as truth.
This is the power of human beliefs. Not only do they produce an endless array of behavioral varieties—a million little evolutionary experiments—they allow for the complete behavioral mutation of any one of them within a single generation. Sometimes within a single day.
Dragons Don’t Care About Lines
What’s really stopping you from experiencing more abundance, creating a fabulous social life, or enjoy wonderful bursts of creative output? What’s stopping you from getting desirable results in any areas of life where you feel blocked or stunted?
Whatever cause you identify, question it. Is it the real cause? Is it the only possible cause? Or is it just a convenient objection you’ve latched onto that prevents you from rationally solving this problem and overcoming this block?
Stop letting the world define your bounding boxes. Stop giving your loyalty to the lines others have painted in your mind. You have more options than that. Notice where you think the dragons are. Then go there deliberately. Dragons don’t care about lines.
Leaning Into Meaning
We often have to abandon what’s unfulfilling and disappointing before we can see where we’ll land. We don’t necessarily have to land anywhere specific either. A journey of exploration can be way more meaningful than a dissatisfying starting point. So a good heuristic is to just move away from whatever disappoints you. If the meaning isn’t there, head elsewhere.
It’s actually meaningful to move away from what isn’t meaningful. If you can’t see the new meaningful stuff you’d love to invite in, put your attention on purging the non-meaningful clutter from your life first. Purging is meaningful.
Meaning is a moving target. What feels meaningful one year may start feeling hollow the next year. I think that’s because meaning and growth go hand-in-hand. Growth experiences feel more purposeful than maintenance activities.