“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
Here’s your midweek newsletter — a gentle nudge to make your week more interesting, thoughtful and productive.
The Ideas You Inevitably Lose
I come up with about three ideas on a good evening walk. A page in my notebook or a note on my phone is usually filled with random ideas written in the fastest shorthand possible — phrases I have trouble making sense of later.
As of late, there are about seven ideas that I can not make sense of at all. The point is that I lose a lot of these ideas, which seemed genius when I first thought of them.
It’s not about noting down context as well. If there are details, the gift of hindsight often tells me that the idea isn’t as excellent as it seemed earlier.
However, the thing with ideas (and recording them) is that you capture that moment in time. The idea comes back later, often, in a connection to something else you’re working on.
Ideas are like some mushy mixture running in a system of pipes. You have to keep getting the sludge out to find something worthwhile mixed in between now and then.
It’s a dirty job but it is rewarding, especially when you stumble upon a piece of gold.
The bonus is the trinkets that don’t make sense alone. Once you have enough trinkets, though, something starts to take shape on its own.
The bottom line is that you record ideas not because you’ll lose that thought but to sift out the ones that are worth acting upon from the ones which you don’t know what to do with.
That’s why the practice of recording even the most random of thoughts is worthwhile.
Escaping The Either/Or Of Life
Here’s one of my favourite mental models. I’ve not read it in that form yet, but this helps me think clearly. Most people fixate on the situation being either one way or another.
That’s wrong, in my opinion. It’s almost always wrong.
To phrase it better: the idea is to bridge the two with an “and” between them.
X is happening, and Y is also true.
An excellent example of this is a quote by Hans Rosling (Factfulness):
Remember: things can be bad, and getting better.
Society and even individual life are nuanced. There are often no clear distinctions, and to force upon the presence of those distinctions is to feel miserable for no reason at all.
For example, on a bad day, I might say something like, “It’s a bad day, and I’m still on the right trajectory.”
It’s the idea of acknowledging the present but also understanding the bigger picture at the same time.
Often, the current problems are well on their way to the idea future or desired present.
Acknowledging both of those situations helps align yourself better.
Reading List: Is Life Worth Living? by William James
“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.”
While this is more of an essay and less of a book, I feel this should be read like one. William James takes the question and tries to answer it in his pragmatic understanding of the world.
He starts with the ever-popular pun of “it depends on the liver”. Then, he shifts to the idea of pessimism, and it’s relation to religion and how to go beyond it.
His perspective lands to a straightforward answer: life is worth living if you believe in the fact.
At least, that’s what I understood from my one reading of it. It’s a good read and a short one at that. Once you’re done, reading this essay on Aeon will come in handy too.
Quick Update On Nudge › How
Last Saturday, I wrote on the idea of self-care. Instead of suggesting a list of practices, I decided to talk about the method of self-care itself. To me, I feel there’s a lot of performative self-care everpresent on social media. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. In any case, here’s the article in case you missed it.
Also, I began with the #TuesdayTidbits yesterday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. One-liner motivation or clarity fits well with the idea of social media where you often don’t have time to read. We’re going for the 7-by-7 this week so, wait for tomorrow’s segment as well.
I hope this added some value to your week. Stay safe, stay inspired, and I’ll talk to you next week.