“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
~ John Lennon
Greetings from LA and Hawaii.
This week we explore why a certain Australian beetle tries to mate with a certain Australian beer bottle, provide some tips for novices to working from home, muse about writer’s block (and insecurity), share our favorite modern-day stoics, and discuss why perfectionism can be fatal.
Our challenge is for you to read before bed for 15-30 minutes every night!
Above is a photograph of a certain Australian beetle — Julodimorpha bakewelli — attempting to copulate with a certain Australian beer bottle; “brown ones with bobbly bits on them,” Jonathan Amos writes over at BBC News.
Here’s how Debbie Hadley at Thought Co. explains it:
“In August and September, male Julodimorpha bakewelli beetles fly over these arid areas, looking for mates. Female Julodimorpha bakewelli beetles are larger than the males, and don’t fly. Mating occurs on the ground. This female buprestid has large, shiny brown elytra covered in dimples. A male flying in search of a mate will scan the ground below him, looking for a shiny brown object with a dimpled surface. And therein lies the problem for Julodimorpha bakewelli…
To the male Julodimorpha bakewelli beetle, a beer bottle lying on the ground looks like the biggest, most beautiful female he has ever seen.”
This is an example — albeit a hilarious one — of how perceptions don’t necessarily match up with reality. So it is for beetles. So it is for humans.
And in 2015, Donald Hoffman gave a TED Talk where he explained how humans don’t see reality as it really is, what that means, and what we should do about it — it’s well worth 20 minutes of your life.
Working from home used to be only for the lucky few — but “thanks” to Covid, it’s become normal. According to Pew Research, 71% of people whose jobs can be done from home are now working from home. And 54% would like to continue doing so.
Of course, working from home isn’t all cream and peaches — it also presents new challenges. So here are 20 tips from PC Mag that’ll help you be more effective during your “home-work”.
There are our favorite tips:
- Set Ground Rules With the People in Your Space
- Take Breaks in Their Entirety
- Keep a Dedicated Office Space
- Socialize With Colleagues
We thought about writer’s block this week — and the deeper things that cause our insecurities — here are our musings:
Writer’s block is just insecurity.
This won’t be good enough, we think. This isn’t worth writing. It has no purpose. I’m not a great writer.
So before we start, we stop.
We think that maybe some people are born writers. We think that maybe we weren’t born special, but normal, average, basic.
And normal people don’t write. Not well, at least. Nothing groundbreaking. They certainly don’t make a living from it.
So we wonder what would be the reason to do something that we’ll never master — so instead, we do things that don’t require mastery: television, video games, things that don’t challenge us, things that don’t make us face our insecurities.
It’s silly reasoning — if we can call it that — to worry that something like writing (or building a business or starting a podcast) isn’t worthwhile and to instead do things that are most definitely not worthwhile.
But there’s safety in knowing that nothing will ever come of it. Sometimes it feels better to never try and never fail — to do things that don’t require failure to master.
Why are we afraid?
Rejection. What if we work hard — really hard — and we never become good enough? What if people think we’re bad at it? What if we discover that we’re not special?
The antidote to those questions is honesty. We’re not special, you or I. We are rather insignificant. So too are the people who do remarkable things — write better, jump higher, last longer. They’re not special, either. They’re just normal, average, basic.
So what’s the difference?
They just worked hard.
But you can do that.
I can do that.
We can work hard.
But should we?
And that’s when we arrive at deeper-rooted fear: What if it turns out to not be worth it? What if we work hard and nothing comes of it?
That is, we’re afraid of not getting the reward. Like a kid being promised two marshmallows instead of one if we only wait an hour, we wonder if the wait will be worth it.
Will I actually get a second marshmallow? Or will I just end up losing the one in front of me?
So we eat the marshmallow in front of us. And wonder what could have been.
Delayed gratification is a difficult thing.
Humans only do things for two reasons: to avoid pain or to get pleasure. When we do something — writing or exercising, for example — we do it because we expect a hit of dopamine afterwards. Our natural reward system kicks in and says “Woohoo! You did good!”
For better or worse (usually, worse), we also get this dopamine hit (and the anticipation of the dopamine hit) when we watch a movie, play video games, scroll on social media, view porn, etc. And we get it much faster and with far less effort.
That’s why doing those things feels less risky — we feel that we’re guaranteed a hit of dopamine and with so little effort.
It’s like being offered a million dollars from the lottery or 10 million dollars from years of hard work — you might go broke after winning the lottery, but it’s so much easier than working hard for 10 years.
Sadly, we forget that life is hard work.
And it doesn’t matter which path you take — the left path requires you to endure diabetes and back pain and the right path requires you to work out and eat healthy. Both paths hurt, just in different ways.
But one path offers long-term joy, the other short-term pleasure.
One path is an upward slope that starts with challenges and gets easier and more rewarding with time. The other is a downward slope that starts easy but becomes harder and more painful with time.
We know this.
It makes sense.
So let’s ask an even more important question: knowing that the cards are stacked against us, that today’s products and services have been built to short-circuit our brain’s reward system and make us choose short-term highs over long-term joys, how do we relearn delayed gratification?
We have to practice.
We start small — by doing things with rewards that don’t immediately pay off — and we slowly work our way toward larger long-term commitments.
- Easy Intermittent Fasting — Don’t eat from 8am to Noon every day
- Read For 30 Minutes Before Bed
- Take Cold Showers
- Meditate for 5 Minutes
- Start The Day With The Biggest Priority
In that way we can slowly rebuild our discipline and recapture our potential.
Our Favorite Stoics
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Alec and I are both big advocates of stoic philosophy — we believe that a measured approach (rather than an extreme one) is where the solution to just about any problem lies.
Fortunately, there are people forging ahead for the rest of us, bringing stoicism into the modern era — and creating a much-needed respite from the strong opinions and emotions found all over social media.
Here are some of our favorite modern-day stoics to follow — at least, we consider them to be stoics (the hyperlinks go to their Twitter profiles):
The Sweet Spot
Are you a perfectionist?
In his recent article, Casualties of Perfection, Morgan Housel draws a parallel between evolution’s methodology for creating species that are fit to survive and the personal importance of not trying to be perfect.
“There is no perfect species, one adapted to everything at all times. The best any species can do is to be good at some things until the things it’s not good at suddenly matter more. And then it dies…
A species that evolves to become very good at one thing tends to become vulnerable at another. A bigger lion can kill more prey, but it’s also a larger target for hunters to shoot at. A taller tree captures more sunlight but becomes vulnerable to wind damage. There is always some inefficiency…
Nature’s answer is a lot of good enough, below-potential traits across all species…
Evolution has spent 3.5 billion years testing and proving the idea that some inefficiency is good. We know it’s right.
So maybe the rest of us should pay more attention to it.
In a world where many of us try to “optimize” every second of every day, Morgan offers counterintuitive advice:
“Nassim Taleb says, ‘My only measure of success is how much time you have to kill.’ More than a measure of success, I think it’s a key ingredient. The most efficient calendar in the world – one where every minute is packed with productivity – comes at the expense of curious wandering and uninterrupted thinking, which eventually become the biggest contributors of success…
Just like evolution, the key is realizing that the more perfect you try to become the more vulnerable you generally are.”
Check out the full article over here — it’s worth the read.
This Week’s Photo
“Members of the Chamonix Guides Company take part in a special hike between France and Italy near Mont Blanc on July 10, 2021, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the high-mountain association.” via The Atlantic
Here are some other articles that caught our attention this week…
- The Mournfulness of Cities by The Paris Review
- The New Recruits by Tampa Bay Times
- Why Are People Being So Nice? by e-flux
Do you read before bed? Reading reduces stress and makes it easier to fall asleep. Try it! Allow 15-30 minutes to read before bed every night this week and see how it affects your slumber.
Until next week,
Mike & Alec