Feb 21, 2021

You're Probably Right

The best response is often 'You're probably right.'

Nothing is gained by arguing with someone over something that doesn't matter.

- Shane Parrish

I could have avoided many, fruitless arguments if I had applied this tiny bit of wisdom sooner.

Feb 19, 2021

What's NOT Going to Change

"I very frequently get the question: ‘What's going to change in the next 10 years?' And that is a very interesting question; it's a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What's not going to change in the next 10 years?' And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time …

In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that's going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It's impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,' [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you'd deliver a little more slowly.' Impossible. […]

When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it."

- Jeff Bezos

Not much to add here. It's clear why Bezos became one of the richest people in the world. His superpowers include the ability to see the future and engage in 'inverse thinking,' an interesting form of 'out of the box' thinking.

Feb 16, 2021

Guarded Reading

"When I read the [the New York] Times and similar websites, I read with suspicion, constantly alert for narrative spin and rhetorical trickery."

- Kenneth Pike, Quillette

In scuba diving, there is a technique known as “guarded breathing” — putting your tongue up when at the surface to avoid accidentally inhaling seawater. Pike describes something metaphorically similar: Call it “guarded reading.”

Sadly, this is what we must do now when consuming mainstream media. An unguarded mind is susceptible to manipulation, and manipulation seems to be the most common aim of today's journalism. Keep your guard up.

Feb 9, 2021

Life is an Endless Unfolding

One of the enemies of sound, lifelong motivation is a rather childish conception we have of the kind of concrete, describable goal toward which all of our efforts drive us. We want to believe that there is a point at which we can feel that we have arrived. We want a scoring system that tells us when we’ve piled up enough points to count ourselves successful.

So you scramble and sweat and climb to reach what you thought was the goal. When you get to the top you stand up and look around and chances are you feel a little empty. Maybe more than a little empty.

You wonder whether you climbed the wrong mountain.

But life isn’t a mountain that has a summit, Nor is it — as some suppose — a riddle that has an answer. Nor a game that has a final score.

Life is an endless unfolding, and if we wish it to be, an endless process of self-discovery, an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our own potentialities and the life situations in which we find ourselves. By potentialities I mean not just intellectual gifts but the full range of one’s capacities for learning, sensing, wondering, understanding, loving and aspiring.

Perhaps you imagine that by age 35 or 45 or even 33 you have explored those potentialities pretty fully. Don’t kid yourself!

The thing you have to understand is that the capacities you actually develop to the full come out as the result of an interplay between you and life’s challenges –and the challenges keep changing. Life pulls things out of you.

There’s something I know about you that you may or may not know about yourself. You have within you more resources of energy than have ever been tapped, more talent than has ever been exploited, more strength than has ever been tested, more to give than you have ever given.

You know about some of the gifts that you have left undeveloped. Would you believe that you have gifts and possibilities you don’t even know about? It’s true. We are just beginning to recognize how even those who have had every advantage and opportunity unconsciously put a ceiling on their own growth, underestimate their potentialities or hide from the risk that growth involves.

Source: "Personal Renewal" by John Gardner, a speech delivered to McKinsey & Company in November of 1990

Feb 5, 2021

In Your Own Words, Prove It

Regarding how to break people out of tribal political thinking, Bari Weiss writes: “If people insist on spouting back headlines and talking points, make them prove it, in their own words.” 

I’ve used this approach in debates online. People like to assert things without evidence or even bothering to craft a proper argument. This is no doubt because, to them, the proof of their claim is self-evident. Everybody knows X is true. 

When challenged about X, they then rely  on what I call “copy & paste” arguments — or what Weiss calls “headlines and talking points.” Her suggested challenge is a clever next move: In your own words, prove it

What’s nice about this move is it bypasses the typically inevitable exchange of “facts.” As the saying goes, “you are entitled to your own opinion but not  your own facts.” Except: Everyone collects their own facts anyway, and many debates devolve into fighting over whose facts are correct. “Prove it” alone would invite this sort of pointless back-and-forth. Everyone has a ready supply of “sources” that back up their beliefs. 

No, you asked them to prove it in their own words. How do they do that? Well, they have to craft a cohesive argument (i.e. go deeper than headlines and talking points) AND subject their reasoning to the laws of logic. This is the arena where silly thinking is easily exposed and people become much less sure of themselves. This is where filter bubbles burst and people find middle ground. 

Or not. Persistence of illogic is too common a thing. My belief is that it’s only outward, though. Inside, illogic made plain sticks in people’s minds like a stone in their shoe (HT: Greg Koukl). When no one is looking on, they work to get it out — and that can change minds over time.