Sunday Link Dump

Bruce Lee’s Definite Chief Aim 

Dennis Dutton on the Barnum Effect and Cold Reading: How the persistent tendency for people to embrace fake personality descriptions as uniquely their own allows cold readers to defraud not only their clients, but themselves.

Why do we wear pants?  Horses.

How to cure a hangover.

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Unreasonably Remarkable

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw

Most of us live our lives as if we’re in a restaurant.  There’s a menu, with only so many things to choose from.  Sure, you can ask for pasta with olive oil instead of marinara, but what’s on the list is more or less what you can expect to get.

But life isn’t a restaurant.  Yes, there’s a list of things to choose from; you can still pick doctor, or lawyer, or teacher, or construction worker.  But that list is nowhere near exhaustive.  Just think: 30 years ago, there was no such thing as an IT department.  Only 6 years ago, there was no such thing as an app developer.  Those choices were added to the list by people who weren’t satisfied with the other choices.  Now, both those choices are on the list and there are millions of IT specialists and developers around the world.

When someone hands you a list of choices, the remarkable ones are never on the list.  If they were, they wouldn’t be remarkable.

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Of Studies

Sir Francis Bacon was a true Renaissance man.  A lawyer, statesman, an educator, a philosopher, and perhaps the first modern scientist, Bacon is also accused of authoring some or all of Shakespeare’s works.  This fringe theory fits well because of Blake’s prolific writings.

Most of his writings remain relevant, but perhaps none more so than Of Studies:

STUDIES serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight, is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment, and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best, from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning, by study; and studies themselves, do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know, that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend. Abeunt studia in mores. Nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought out by fit studies; like as diseases of the body, may have appropriate exercises. Bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like. So if a man’s wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again. If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the Schoolmen; for they are cymini sectores. If he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study 197 the lawyers’ cases. So every defect of the mind, may have a special receipt.

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You’re Always Allowed to do Big Work

No matter what position you’re in, whether it’s janitor or CEO, a huge part of your day is spent doing “small work”.  This includes the clerical stuff, the scheduling, the filing, the organizing, and all the other things that just needs to get done in order for your business to function.

For most people, it’s hard to find time to do the big work.  The kind of work that improves things and makes a difference.  There’s too much small work to be done, and it’s so easy, and tempting, to fill up our days that way.

Even if you were hired precisely to do the big work, you likely spend only a tiny portion on it.  If you only hope to one day do the big work, you may not spend any of your day on it.

That’s problematic for both of you.  If you were hired to do a job you’re not doing, you won’t last long.  If all you do is dream about the job you want to be doing, you’ll never get there.

The good news is you don’t need anyone’s permission to do to big work.  It’s always there, and since it’s usually hard and scary (since you often don’t even know where to start and the chance of failure is high), there’s usually not a lot of competition.  After all, it’s hard and scary, so most people never even try.  Just by showing up, by sitting down and trying to do big work, you’ll be way ahead of 98% of people.

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On Marriage

From Ronald Regan to his son Mike, via Letters of Note:

Dear Mike:

Enclosed is the item I mentioned (with which goes a torn up IOU). I could stop here but I won’t.

You’ve heard all the jokes that have been rousted around by all the “unhappy marrieds” and cynics. Now, in case no one has suggested it, there is another viewpoint. You have entered into the most meaningful relationship there is in all human life. It can be whatever you decide to make it.

Some men feel their masculinity can only be proven if they play out in their own life all the locker-room stories, smugly confident that what a wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her. The truth is, somehow, way down inside, without her ever finding lipstick on the collar or catching a man in the flimsy excuse of where he was till three A.M., a wife does know, and with that knowing, some of the magic of this relationship disappears. There are more men griping about marriage who kicked the whole thing away themselves than there can ever be wives deserving of blame. There is an old law of physics that you can only get out of a thing as much as you put in it. The man who puts into the marriage only half of what he owns will get that out. Sure, there will be moments when you will see someone or think back to an earlier time and you will be challenged to see if you can still make the grade, but let me tell you how really great is the challenge of proving your masculinity and charm with one woman for the rest of your life. Any man can find a twerp here and there who will go along with cheating, and it doesn’t take all that much manhood. It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow and you will know some very beautiful music. If you truly love a girl, you shouldn’t ever want her to feel, when she sees you greet a secretary or a girl you both know, that humiliation of wondering if she was someone who caused you to be late coming home, nor should you want any other woman to be able to meet your wife and know she was smiling behind her eyes as she looked at her, the woman you love, remembering this was the woman you rejected even momentarily for her favors.

Mike, you know better than many what an unhappy home is and what it can do to others. Now you have a chance to make it come out the way it should. There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.



P.S. You’ll never get in trouble if you say “I love you” at least once a day.


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On Plagiarism

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.

– Salvador Dali

Or, as Mark Twain explains in more fervent prose:

Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that ‘plagiarism’ farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul – let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances – is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men – but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington’s battle, in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone or any other important thing – and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite – that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.

Plagiarized from: Brainpickings

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Earning Trust

Where does trust come from?

Hint: it never comes from the good times and from the easy projects.

We trust people because they showed up when it wasn’t convenient, because they told the truth when it was easier to lie and because they kept a promise when they could have gotten away with breaking it.

Every tough time and every pressured project is another opportunity to earn the trust of someone you care about.

Seth Godin 

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Opportunity Cost

How much does it cost to help your friend move on a Saturday?  What if you had planned to take your son to a ballgame?  What if you had planned to work overtime?

There’s a cost to everything you do, even if that cost isn’t immediately obvious.

Lawyers know this better than just about anybody.  Taking on that questionable case for your buddy may be the friendly thing to do, but it might cost you serious money if it means you need to turn down an important and/or high paying job.  For the same reason, if you charge $100 an hour and are turning away work, it makes little sense to paint your office or mow your lawn, even if you have to pay someone $75 an hour to do it for you.

Now that more and more people are charging for their time, it’s important to realize that saying “yes” to things can cost you just as much money as saying “no”.

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Link Dump

How do good hotels stay always feel so fresh and clean?  Lots and lots of manpower.

How the cast of friends banded together to leverage their per episode salaries into seven figures.  Great negotiating story.  Ctrl+F “breakout”.

7 Useless Money-Saving Tips People Were Paid to Write.  This basically sums up 99% of the advice on the internet.

Aspire not just to be a part of the 1%, but of the 0.1%?  4 out of 10 people who earn more than 99.9% of other Americans each year run a business.

Reinventing the mundane: some fun street art photos.


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Why Your Food Doesn’t Look Like The Ad

Great marketing from McDonald’s, showing exactly how they get their food to look so good in photos:

Instead of ignoring the question, avoiding it, or getting defensive (by say, comparing their products to other fast food chains’), McDonald’s opens up and shows exactly what’s going on behind the scenes.  They show the tricks of the trade.  They show just how much photoshopping is required to clean up the shot.  Then they pick someone who’s warm and friendly to do it.

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Taking Control of Your Life: Concierge Medicine

Dr. Solis was on the edge of burnout after 21 years of running a traditional medical practice.  Trying to see between 30 and 40 patients a day, keeping track of a roster of over 3,000 patients, and dealing with endless insurance bureaucracy will do that.

Instead of letting his practice spiral out of control and pull his career (and finances) down with it, Dr. Solis took control.  He flipped his practice to a membership service, slashing his patient roster by nearly 90%.  This lets him make housecalls and visit the emergency room when his patients need him.  He gets to spend as much time as he wants with each patient, and most patients get to see him the same day they call for an appointment.  All for only $150/month.

It’s easy to lose control of your life.  Putting your education, your career, or your freedom in someone elses’ hands is the quickest way to do it.  Luckily, even if you lose it, it’s pretty easy to take that control back.  As Dr. Solis demonstrates, all it takes is some thought and planning.

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Cost v. Benefit

It turns out, crime does pay.  Just not very much:

The basic problem is the average haul from a bank job: for the three-year period, it was only £20,330.50 (~$31,613). And it gets worse, as the average robbery involved 1.6 thieves. So the authors conclude, “The return on an average bank robbery is, frankly, rubbish. It is not unimaginable wealth. It is a very modest £12,706.60 per person per raid.”

Worse still, the success of a robbery was a bit like winning the lottery, as the standard deviation on the £20,330.50 was £53,510.20. That means some robbers did far better than average, but it also means that fully a third of robberies failed entirely.

(If, at this point, you’re thinking that the UK is just a poor location for the bank robbery industry, think again, as the authors use FBI figures to determine that the average heist in the States only nets $4,330.00.)

That’s not even the worst part:

If a robber keeps hitting banks at a rate sufficient to maintain that modest lifestyle, by a year and a half into their career, odds are better than not they’ll have been caught. “As a profitable occupation, bank robbery leaves a lot to be desired.”

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Changing Tides

Digital delivery and consumption has completely changed the publishing industry.  For thousands of years, reading was something you did by yourself.  Unless you announced it, nobody knew if you even opened a book you bought, let alone finished it.  Now, publishers can know what time of day you read it, how fast you read it, where you stopped, what you highlighted, what you shared, and what you bought or read next.

Most authors probably love this:

Novelist Scott Turow says he’s long been frustrated by the industry’s failure to study its customer base. “I once had an argument with one of my publishers when I said, ‘I’ve been publishing with you for a long time and you still don’t know who buys my books,’ and he said, ‘Well, nobody in publishing knows that,’ ” says Mr. Turow, president of the Authors Guild. “If you can find out that a book is too long and you’ve got to be more rigorous in cutting, personally I’d love to get the information.”

But there’s always people afraid of this kind of change:

“The thing about a book is that it can be eccentric, it can be the length it needs to be, and that is something the reader shouldn’t have anything to do with,” says Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. “We’re not going to shorten ‘War and Peace’ because someone didn’t finish it.”

What these scared publishers don’t realize is that this explosion in data is only going to help them.  The market for a boring book hardly anyone finishes isn’t exactly big.  Trying to market it to the masses is going to waste a lot of money.

The problem most people have is differentiating friend and foe.  It’s easy to fight against new tools, to declare yourself a martyr who won’t bend to the tastes of the unwashed masses.  It’s much harder to figure out how those tools will help you connect with and grow your own audience.  But if you don’t, you’ll get swept away.


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Lazy, Weak and Dumb

People overwhelmingly think they’re smarter, stronger, more industrious and better looking than they really are.  To some extent, this is healthy.  If most of us realized how ugly and dumb we really were, we’d have trouble leaving the house, landing a job, and scoring a mate.  But it hurts us when we want to accomplish something.  We set ourselves up for failure by setting poor goals.

The most successful people I know do set large, ambitious goals for themselves, but they realize that they’re lazy, weak, and dumb.  They realize that simply saying to themselves “I’m going to lose 30 pounds in 3 months” is never going to work.  So instead, they set goals as endpoints, but they use systems to achieve those goals.  They decide, in advance, that they will go to the gym from 6:00 – 7:00 every weekday.  They decide that every morning they will have one egg and one spinach smoothie, and every evening they will have one piece of fish with rice.  They realize that amorphous goals will get them nowhere, so they set up a system they can stick with and let the results, for the most part, take care of themselves.

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How To Succeed (Advice from Seth Godin)

Advice from Seth Godin:

You don’t need all of these, and some are mutually exclusive (while others are not). And most don’t work, don’t scale or can’t be arranged:

  1. Be very focused on your goal and work on it daily
  2. Go to college with someone who makes it big and then hires you
  3. Be born with significant and unique talent
  4. Practice every day
  5. Network your way to the top by inviting yourself from one lunch to another, trading favors as you go
  6. Quietly do your job day in and day out until someone notices you and gives you the promotion you deserve
  7. Do the emotional labor of working on things that others fear
  8. Notice things, turn them into insights and then relentlessly turn those insights into projects that resonate
  9. Hire a great PR firm and get a lot of publicity
  10. Work the informational interview angle
  11. Perform outrageous acts and say obnoxious things
  12. Inherit
  13. Redefine your version of success as: whatever I have right now
  14. Flit from project to project until you alight on something that works out very quickly and well
  15. Be the best-looking person in the room
  16. Flirt
  17. Tell stories that people care about and spread
  18. Contribute more than is expected
  19. Give credit to others
  20. Take responsibility
  21. Aggrandize, preferably self
  22. Be a jerk and win through intimidation
  23. Be a doormat and refuse to speak up or stand up
  24. Never hesitate to share a kind word when it’s deserved
  25. Sue people
  26. Treat every gig as an opportunity to create art
  27. Cut corners
  28. Focus on defeating the competition
  29. When dealing with employees, act like Steve. It worked for him, apparently.
  30. Persist, always surviving to ship something tomorrow
  31. When in doubt, throw a tantrum
  32. Have the ability to work harder and more directly than anyone else when the situation demands it
  33. Don’t rock the boat
  34. Rock the boat
  35. Don’t rock the boat, baby
  36. Resort to black hat tactics to get more than your share
  37. Work to pay more taxes
  38. Work to evade taxes
  39. Find typos
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