ButWhatFor? Four for Friday | No. 041

Resources, Bad Habits, Foster Homes, and Britain did a Genocide

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ButWhatFor? Four for Friday

One Quote

We will benefit from that helpful precept of Democritus, showing us that tranquility lies in not undertaking tasks, either in public or private, that are either numerous or greater than our resources.


A trap I often fall into is trying to do too much. I think many others have the same problem. It seems to be a mental disease of some sort for the anxious or motivated.

It is easy to look at 24 hours in a day, say that is nowhere near enough time to do everything you want to do, stuff your time full of idealistically optimized tasks, fail miserably at roughly all of them, and then feel bad for about it.

The ancient Stoics had the same problem - so Seneca had to remind them that life is about prioritization. It's hard because most of the time the person telling us to do that incremental thing is the person staring at you out of the mirror. That person tends to be a terrible taskmaster if you aren't careful.

To quote Ryan Holiday of the Daily Stoic: "Each of us needs to take the time to set our priorities straight and to understand our limits... The key isn’t to always do more, more, more, but sometimes to do less so that we can do more of what we care most about."

One Long

Picasso was walking through the market one day when a woman approached him.

She pulled out a piece of paper and said, “Mr. Picasso, I am a fan of your work. Please, could you do a little drawing for me?”

Picasso smiled and quickly drew a small, but beautiful piece of art on the paper. He handed it back to her.

“That will be one million dollars.”

“But Mr. Picasso,” the woman protested, “It only took you thirty seconds to draw this little masterpiece.”

Picasso smiled, “On the contrary, it took me thirty years to draw that masterpiece in thirty seconds.”

Sahil Bloom recently shared an email in the spirit of thinking backwards / thinking through inversion - but more specifically about how habits can tear apart your future more easily than you can build it.

Some of the "bad habits" that caught my eye:

  • Saying yes to everything

  • Comparison traps

  • Obsessively optimizing your time (see Quote above)

  • A persistent desire to be right

  • Multitasking is simply fake productivity

  • Waiting for the perfect moment

One Short

Rob Henderson writes about a variety of topics all tied into human nature on Substack. He also has quite the Twitter following and recently posted about things he learned growing up and dealing with a less-than-stable childhood.

Some things that stood out to me - though the entire thread is a quick, interesting read - and apparently I have a thing for bulleted lists this week... but:

  • You are what you do. Not what you say or what you believe.

  • Have friends outside of your profession.

  • Getting punched in the face once permanently reduces your fear of it happening again. It’s not fun. But it’s not as bad as you think.

  • Read at least ten pages of a book every morning. It doesn’t have to be the same book. Just start by building the habit.

  • Envy knows many disguises.

  • Don’t be the smartest person in the room.

  • If you have a good idea or an interesting thought, always write it down

  • At funerals, people don’t talk about the accomplishments of the deceased. They talk about their character.

One Extra

I think most people know of the Irish Potato Famine - the mid-1800s period of mass starvation and disease that lead to over a million deaths and two million people leaving the country.

What I think a lot of people don't know - I was completely unaware, at least - is that but for the British's colonization efforts and the related taxes on the Irish, the famine could have been avoided.

In effect, the cold approach the British government and landowners took towards the plight of the starving Irish was, in effect, a genocide of a people they viewed of lesser value than their "true" citizens.

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Have a great weekend,

— EJ

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