July Journal Excerpts: Part 1

Sunday Newsletter
6 min readJul 16, 2020

Throughout history, there have been a large number of geniuses who displayed profound deficiencies. Beethoven was terrible at just about everything aside from composing and playing music. Newton was incredibly anti-social. In his younger years Richard Branson could barely read. So much of life is about finding your niche.

If you struggle to pay attention in class, you can take a pill to help you focus. But before you do so, you might want to consider the possibility that you’re simply taking the wrong class.

If an all knowing entity appeared before you and said that it would answer ten of your questions, what would you ask?

Think of all the heroes and icons who endured months, years, and sometimes even decades, of hardship and unhappiness, before finally achieving their goals.

Why do so many people (myself included) have such a strong aversion to simply sitting and doing nothing?

Consider all the instances in which your fear ended up being unfounded.

Are you channeling your creative energy into something you can share, or simply using it to fuel self-indulgent fantasies?

When it comes to advertising, I believe in going for depth over breadth. I believe in paying ten dollars to make a deep impression on one potential client, instead of spending an equivalent amount to make a shallow impression on three.

Are you capable of finishing the book you are reading before buying another?

There is no sure way out. Not even suicide. There is no guarantee that you wouldn’t come right back into a new body if you destroyed the one that you currently occupy.

You think about that which you observe. If you’d like to spend less time thinking about your self, cut down on the amount of time you spend looking in the mirror.

What is that thing that gnaws at the core of my being? That makes me feel as though something is not quite right? How can I dance with it?

Some people love listening to music, but struggle to read. Some people love reading, but are virtually unmoved by music. What are you closed off to? What are you receptive to?

Just about every comedian that I’ve interviewed, even the very best, usually mentions the fact that they have bombed spectacularly on numerous occasions.

When you write on paper instead of a computer, you don’t have the option to look anything up. This can be frustrating, but overall I’d say it’s a blessing.

Listening to another, providing them with an audience so that they may voice their thoughts to a conscious being instead of simply talking to themselves, is one of the best ways in which to serve.

Do you have the ability to take statistics in context? To ask yourself if the numbers might be misleading you? To ask yourself what additional numbers might help you see the situation more clearly?

Are you more of a skeptic, or a believer? Having spent time on both ends of the spectrum, I can say that there are massive benefits and drawbacks to the former and the latter. But in the end, I think it’s best to be a believer.

Do you have the tendency to make generalizations? Where are you generalizing where you probably shouldn’t be?

I’m a huge fan of evidence, examples, and specificity.

Trying to change the minds of radicals is usually a waste of time.

How can you reduce the amount of time you spend thinking about yourself? By focusing your attention on projects and or others. This may seem trite, but I often find myself in need of a reminder of these truths.

Whenever I start getting a little too egotistical, reality usually finds some amusing way to slap me in the face.

How much space do your collections occupy? A collection of songs can be stored on an iPhone. A collection of clothes often requires an entire wardrobe. A collection of cars requires a large garage. A collection of beautiful memories requires no space at all.

I live for those moments of creativity and insight. Those moments when it all just falls into place.

One of my overarching missions in life is to draw attention to those truths that I feel to be very important.

Have all the causal agents been identified, or are their hidden variables at play?

Which metrics matter? GDP? Levels of cholesterol? Markers of educational attainment? Lifespan? Health span? Which should we strive to optimize?

Value of a job = How many people you meet while doing it *The depth of the connections you forge with these people * How much the job teaches you * How impressive the job will look on your resume * How much money you make while doing the job.

There’s a new trend these days to bag on the being busy. So many people seem to think that being busy is a bad thing, and that everyone should spend a large amount of time reflecting and contemplating. For a good number of people however, I think a healthy dose of busy-ness would do a whole lot of good.

During one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, I was looking out at a beautiful view, and being hit by a barrage of not so beautiful thoughts. I closed my eyes, only to see that menacing faces had appeared on the inside of my eyelids. It felt as though there was no escape. But eventually, I just thought to myself “Bring it on” and the faces instantly vanished.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the way I want to combat racism and sexism is not by talking about privilege, white fragility, the patriarchy, or oppression. In fact, I don’t think talking about such things really gets anyone anywhere. Instead, I’m simply going to draw attention to the African Americans and women who I think are doing beautiful things with their lives, and leave it at that. To me, this feels like an embodiment of that ultimate rule of writing and speaking: Showing is more powerful than telling.

For a long time, I have gone around telling people about my belief that if the U.S decided to reallocate about half of its military budget to foreign aid, we would no longer need a military. That no one would want to go to war with us, because of how grateful the were for the aid they received. The other day, I found myself looking up information online to strength my ability to argue with others about political issues. And then I realized that this behavior was quite similar to that of the U.S military. I decided to stop investing in my intellectual arsenal, and to double my efforts to research and spread only that information that I think will improve the lives of those who see it.

It’s so easy to think about the “right” way to be when you are on your own. To think about how lashing out at people and getting defensive are not great tactics. To think about how it’s good to remain calm when you’re speaking to people with whom you disagree. How you should be kind to everyone. But once you start actually spending time around others, you are quickly reminded that theory and reality are two very different things.

When we look inside brains, we see billions of cells called neurons. They look like trees, with branches and roots, connected by something that is quite analogous to a trunk. The “branches” and “roots” of a neuron can release and detect certain chemicals. If, for example, a chemical called dopamine is released by certain neurons, other neurons that are sensitive to dopamine will release it themselves, triggering a chain reaction of dopamine release. Those neurons that are not sensitive to dopamine will remain inactive. This is quite similar to human societies. A person comes up with a new hit song. People who hear it and have a certain taste for music tell their friends about it. The people who liked the song are the like neurons with receptors for dopamine. Of course, other people, who have a different taste in music, will be entirely unaffected, and not tell anyone about the song if they happen to hear it. This is one of the nearly infinite examples of the fact that there are a huge number of similarities between different spatial levels of reality.

A cell’s ability to absorb, modify, and excrete substances.

A person’s ability to take in information, process it, and express themselves.

A country’s ability to import, manufacture, and export goods.

Curing disease. Preventing disease.

Solving problems. Avoiding problems.

Considering how to win games. Considering which games are worth winning.

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Sunday Newsletter

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