Copy
Mastering the best of what other people have already figured out.
View this email in your browser

@farnamstreet
"Practical wisdom is the combination of moral will and moral skill."
— Aristotle

Start here.

The most popular article this week was The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

What else was interesting? 

If you missed last week's edition —10 books Bill and Melinda Gates recommended to the TED audience this year, a definition of antifragile you can actually use, the art and science of doing nothing, the default method of problem solving, mindfulness for people too busy to meditate and so much more—you can catch up here.

What I'm reading.

Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil
I'm fascinated by morality. Some people believe that morality is mostly learned. Others think that we are born with a deep sense of good and evil. The truth is we acquire morality from both. We are born with a moral sense — a capacity to distinguish between kindness and cruelty. We are also born with a rudimentary sense of empathy and compassion, fairness, and justice. As we age these are nurtured and augmented by our environments, experiences, literature, and even television. 

The Galápagos: A Natural History
An abbreviated introduction to the Galápagos that left me with more questions than answers. There are quite a few gorgeous 19th- and early-20th-century illustrations. The chapters on the human impact to the islands, something near and dear to the author, seemed to flow better and be somewhat more complete. In the end, though, I was left wanting more. More illustrations. More ecological, evolutionary, and geological principles to explain the islands and their unique habitat. More pictures of flora, fauna, and wildlife. And more of those gorgeous illustrations.

See the big list of what I've been reading.

Links worth clicking.

+ Who Gains From Grit? 
On closer inspection, the concept of grit turns out to be dubious, as does the evidence cited to support it. Persistence can actually backfire and distract from more important goals. Emphasizing grit is usually justified as a way to boost academic achievement, which sounds commendable. Indeed, research has found that more A’s are given to students who report that they put off doing what they enjoy until they finish their homework. Another pair of studies found that middle-schoolers who qualified for the National Spelling Bee performed better in that competition if they had more grit, “whereas spellers higher in openness to experience, defined as preferring using their imagination, playing with ideas, and otherwise enjoying a complex mental life,” did worse. (Pair with the opposite view: Angela Duckworth on why grit is the most important predictor of success.)

+ Big History for Everyone
It’s hard to boil down 13.7 billion years of history into something manageable. But I think the writers, developers and producers who worked on this made an entertaining and informative course. You should be able to finish it in four or five hours.

+ The Limits of Social Engineering
Tapping into big data, researchers and planners are building mathematical models of personal and civic behavior. But the models may hide rather than reveal the deepest sources of social ills. (Physics envy meets behavioural psychology and results in "social physics.")

+ How to be interesting – and why the best bits of life are more than 'interesting'
"A theorist is considered great, not because his theories are true, but because they are interesting." Even in the world of academia, most people aren't motivated by the truth. What they want, above all, is not to be bored. ... Interestingness gives the mind something to chew on – but the best experiences come when you stop chewing. When you're watching a stunning sunset, Tolle asks, "could you say, 'This sunset is interesting'? Only if you were trying to write a PhD about sunsets… Truly look, and then what you're looking at goes beyond interesting… There's nothing interesting about it, and yet it's awe-inspiring."

+ More time is better than more money
Here is what I learned from 40 years of traveling: Of the two modes, it is far better to have more time than money. When you have abundant time you can get closer to core of a place. You can hang around and see what really happens. You can meet a wider variety of people. You can slow down until the hour that the secret vault is opened. You have enough time to learn some new words, to understand what the real prices are, to wait out the weather, to get to that place that takes a week in a jeep. Money is an attempt to buy time, but it rarely is able to buy any of the above.

+ I taught America to beat the SAT. That’s how I know it’s useless
"Between his techniques and my software, we could crack the test. And that’s when we realized the whole thing was a scam."

+ Cognitive depletion impacts even simple and habitual tasks (like hand washing) (h/t @ideas42)
(pair with Do you make too many decisions?)

+ TV a sleep detriment in children
A study following more than 1,800 children from ages 6 months to nearly 8 years old found a small but consistent association between increased television viewing and shorter sleep duration. (Best paired with The Science of Sleep)

+ Schulz on Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014)
That is the magic not in García Márquez’s books, but of them: that the characters he created could return to me as if bearing the sad news themselves—as if once they really had lived; as if they still did.

+ The Science of Older and Wiser
True personal wisdom involves five elements, said Professor Staudinger, now a life span psychologist and professor at Columbia University. They are self-insight; the ability to demonstrate personal growth; self-awareness in terms of your historical era and your family history; understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute; and an awareness of life’s ambiguities. (Pair with The Wisdom Paradox)

Thanks,

Shane Parrish
Share
Tweet
Forward to Friend
+1
Share
unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences