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Posts about qotd (old posts, page 4)

epictetus-books

“Don’t just say you have read books.
Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person.
Books are the training weights of the mind.
They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.”

— Epictetus, The Art of Living

Want to do Great Things?

Then be willing to look like an idiot.

(Claude) Shannon had courage. Who else but a man with almost infinite courage would ever think of averaging over all random codes and expect the average code would be good? He knew what he was doing was important and pursued it intensely. Courage, or confidence, is a property to develop in yourself. Look at your successes, and pay less attention to failures than you are usually advised to do in the expression, “Learn from your mistakes”. While playing chess Shannon would often advance his queen boldly into the fray and say, “I ain’t scaird of nothing”. I learned to repeat it to myself when stuck, and at times it has enabled me to go on to a success. I deliberately copied a part of the style of a great scientist. The courage to continue is essential since great research often has long periods with no success and many discouragements.

From Farnam Street’s article on doing great things.
There’s plenty more to do, than just be willing to look like an idiot though.
Go read the entire article.


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Tim Cook on Computers & AI & the Humanities

Tim Cook’s entire commencement address to the MIT class of 2017 is lovely (with enough fluff), but this is the part that struck a nerve:

Technology is capable of doing great things. But it doesn’t want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything.
That part takes all of us. It takes our values and our commitment to our families and our neighbors and our communities. Our love of beauty and belief that all of our faiths are interconnected. Our decency. Our kindness.

I’m not worried about artificial intelligence giving computers the ability to think like humans.
I’m more concerned about people thinking like computers without values or compassion, without concern for consequences.
That is what we need you to help us guard against.
Because if science is a search in the darkness, then the humanities are a candle that shows us where we’ve been and the danger that lies ahead.

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Trying to Be Perfect Is a Waste of Time

“I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.”
— Charlie Munger

That quote opens Shane’s post on the work required to hold an opinion, which remains one of the mental models I use most often.

Which is why I had my ears and my mind open, when Shane began one of his latest posts with,

“Trying to be perfect is a waste of time.”

I’ve inherited dad’s sense of perfectionism, and I always thought that should be something I ought to aspire to, at every skill I attempted to learn.
And for someone to come and say it isn’t so makes me squirm in my head.

But like Anne Lamott writes in Bird by Bird,

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.
I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die.
The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Shane too, using Taleb-ian ideas of optionality and antifragility makes a wonderful case for why good enough trumps perfect.

The post ends with a swift kick in the rear, to go forth and do …

Don’t be afraid of a challenge.
Don’t be afraid of not being the best.
When you routinely put yourself in situations where you aren’t the most skilled, you learn, you grow, and eventually you adapt.
You build your repertoire of traits and talents, so when change hits you have a wide array of skills.
This flexibility can also give you the confidence to seek change.
The mammal could explore and find new opportunities, but that bird was never going to leave the trees.

Read the whole post here. Will you be as convinced as I?

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When Death Comes

I want this glorious verse from Mary Oliver’s poem to be my eulogy, when, you know, my death comes.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

— via Austin Kleon’s touching eulogy to Mary Oliver.

P.S. Also love her instructions for living a life.

  • Pay attention.
  • Be astonished.
  • Tell about it.

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Be Persistent

More Gaiman truisms for me.
He talks about writing.
Holds true for all of my endeavours though.

lazynoodlepuff asked: Hi Neil, I wonder what could tell not native speaker like me. I struggle with writing anything. Words don't flow in my native language and in English it's even more difficult. Sonetimes I struggle with every sentence. But I really want to create things in English and be a part of English-speaking culture. Is this too much to try learn not only to write but also write in another language? I feel like I am so far behind everyone and have to try so hard just to keep up (I moved to the UK to study)

Two of the finest writers of English – Nabokov and Conrad – were not native speakers.
So I would not worry.
It’s okay to struggle.
Just have patience with yourself, and keep learning.