Namaste! Welcome to this week's digest. This week is a very special "Mind Blown" edition, because we will highlight and embrace the value of alternative view points to gain perspective and blow our minds 🤯.

This week's topics include maintaining inner sovereignty, appreciating alternative viewpoints, perceiving life in moments, and the shortcomings of liberalism, material wealth, and common sense. Enjoy!

Source: Giphy

Did you miss a recent digest? Read recent digests 61, 60 (or dive into the full archive).

"Commonsense at its worst is sense made common, and so everything is comfortably cheapened by its touch." ~ Vladimir Nabokov
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Every day, as part of my morning ritual, I read my "morning wake-up poster". It is a collection of mantras that I find incredibly motivating.

This week's highlighted morning mantra is "Maintain my sovereignty over the moment". The direct line comes from Steven Pressfield's The War of Art (My summary). Additional inspiration for this aspirational way of being comes from a variety of sources, including As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (My summary), The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, How Champions Think by Dr. Bob Rotella (My full Kindle notes), and Learned Optimism by Dr. Martin Seligman (My full Kindle notes). This is an incredibly powerful mantra for me, because it highlights the opportunity we all have in every moment to take full ownership of our reaction to the stimuli that the world brings us, and where we direct our scarce attention. If we can begin to take ownership of our moments and our reactions and our attention, we can take ownership of our minutes, our hours, our days, our years, and, ultimately, our lives. The practices of meditation, post hoc journaling, and therapy help me shine a bright spotlight on just how in control of our internal state that we can be from moment to moment, regardless of what is happening around us.

I complement this concept with compassion and appreciation for my emotional reactions (the full spectrum of them) and ability to get easily distracted, which feel more outside of my control and sovereignty of mind. The more I can distance myself from my emotions and their "rightness", the better I can see their optional, rather than totalitarian / inevitable, nature. We can recognize the emotion swelling up inside of us (anger, love, distraction, etc.), and choose to accept it as it is, or become a curious observer, or breathe through it.

In conversation with a friend this week about the News shared in last week's digest, he made a wonderful point that significantly added to my perspective, and also revealed some of my inherent biases (for example, my more western lens of self-orientation vs. the more eastern lens of community-orientation).  This conversation helped me realize that very little of what I read helps me see major gaps in my current worldview, because many of my content content streams share similar values and biases. I hope to change that with your help!

My quick request of you: Please share your #1 favorite 'devil's advocate' source of content that: (1) Interprets the world through a very different lens from your default value system; and (2) You deeply trust and respect.

For example, I know that I have glaring information gaps on both the far left and far right of the American political spectrum, as well as non-Western values systems. If we generate a robust list, I will share with everyone!

**THANK YOU** for your help and adding valuable perspective to life :D


BLOG POST - Farnam Street: Love, Happiness, and Time by Shane Parrish - Shane's piece clearly articulates an opportunity we all have to fundamentally change how we perceive our everyday experience. The J in me (Myers-Briggs type, not Judaism ;D) desperately wants life to be a series of boxes that I can check - career, check; fall in love, check; house, check. But life just doesn't conform to those permanent states, instead ebbing and flowing from moment to moment. The more clearly we can see the flowing and impermanent nature of life, the more realistic our expectations of the world will be.

One-Sentence Takeaway: When we shift our perception of the world from solid to liquid, from perpetual states to moments in time, we can unlock an appreciation for each moment, as well as an acceptance of the inevitable vicissitudes of life.

Answering The Drucker Question: Bring to mind a time when you 'checked the life goal box' - job, relationship, etc. and recall if there were ever times when your perception of 'having' that ebbed and flowed.

Complement with American BeautyFight Club, and Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron (My full summary) (My TD Digest summary).

My highlights:
  • We can think of the world as made up of things. Of substances. Of entities. Of something that is. Or we can think of it as made up of events. Of happenings. Of processes. Of something that occurs. Something that does not last, and that undergoes continual transformation, that is not permanent in time.
  • If you think of love like a stone—to be fair, we often do—it is a thing that you attain. You may have an expectation that it will persist and continue to exist. So when you and your partner fight, and it seems the love disappears for an evening, you panic. The love is gone! The thing that connects you wasn’t permanent at all... If we change our thinking to love being an event, like a kiss, then a burden is lifted. It’s an event we experience with our partners many times, but not always. And then we can focus on creating the conditions that the event of love requires, even if it might not come to pass every moment of every day.
  • Time, source of much of our anxiety and sadness, can be understood as a momentary holding together of a set of factors that we experience because of how we are built.
  • ...time: a source of anguish sometimes, but in the end a tremendous gift. A precious miracle that the infinite play of combinations has unlocked for us, allowing us to exist. We may smile now. We can go back to serenely immersing ourselves in time—in our finite time—to savoring the clear intensity of every fleeting and cherished moment of the brief circle of our existence.

ARTICLE - Washington Post: Liberalism is Loneliness by Christine Emba - Christine's review of Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen (I have not read the book) highlights a central failure of classical liberal philosophy, the myopic focus on the individual. We (humanity) still have not surfaced a better answer for managing people (in my humble opinion), and I do not want us to forget all of the benefits that liberalism affords. But by being open and honest about liberalism's shortcomings, we have a better opportunity to address the failure points while still reaping the benefits.

One-Sentence Takeaway: Liberalism's myopic focus on individual freedom affords tremendous benefits, but also leaves a gaping void when it comes to living outside ourselves.

Answering The Drucker Question: Identify two opportunities to live outside yourself and really be there for others - family, friends, community, or, as crazy as this sounds, strangers ;D

Complement with 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari (My full Kindle notes), Tribe by Sebastian Junger (My full Kindle notes), and probably every NY Times OpEd by David Brooks.

Alternative Take: Peter Berkowitz was on EconTalk this week (Peter Berkowitz on Locke, Liberty, and Liberalism) and he called Deneen's analysis a "drastically wrongheaded reading of John Locke".

My highlights:
  • But both approaches [left and right ideology] basically converge into the same thing: a headlong and depersonalized pursuit of individual freedom and security that demands no concern for the wants and needs of others, or for society as a whole.
  • ... in the end, we’ve all been left terribly alone. That’s the heart of it, really. Liberalism is loneliness. The state isn’t our sibling; the market won’t be our mate. And the more either the right or left’s solutions attempt to fill in the gaps — “more markets, for you to attempt to buy back what has been destroyed! More regulations, to protect you when you can’t!” — the more obvious it becomes that the entire concept is flawed. The institution of liberalism is caving in on itself, and we each individually feel the crush.
  • Yet the deepest solution to the problem of liberalism is as personal in scale as its deepest quandary. To overhaul liberalism, we will have to overhaul ourselves, exchanging an easy drift toward selfish autonomy for a cultivated embrace of self-discipline and communal responsibility.

ARTICLE - The Atlantic: The Reason Many Ultrarich People Aren’t Satisfied With Their Wealth by Joe Pinsker - A fun and vivid illustration of how more money does not buy happiness, based on a few researchers' summaries of dozens of ultra-wealthy interview subjects.

One-Sentence Takeaway: Material wealth does not buy happiness, as our human tendency is to adjust both the rules of the game and the hurdle rate as our performance improves.

Answering The Drucker Question: Identify the worst purchase you have ever made in pursuit of happiness. Ask yourself, what did I think I was buying? What did I actually receive? What happened to lead to this outcome? Can I update my consumption patterns so that does not happen again? [Editor's note: My worst purchase in pursuit of happiness (so far) is my fancy watch.]

Complement with How to overcome the “scarcity mindset”.

A few 🔥 HOT TAKES 🔥 on this subject:
  1. Via a friend - "Money can't buy you happiness, but you can buy your way out of a lot of potential pain" (Agreed, thank you US healthcare / aviation / Vegas clubs).
  2. I believe the latest happiness threshold is ~$75K annual income (Note: US GDP per capita is $60K).
  3. Per Naval Ravikant on The Knowledge Project: "Socially, we’re told, “Go work out. Go look good.” That’s a multi-player competitive game. Other people can see if I’m doing a good job or not. We’re told, “Go make money. Go buy a big house.” Again, external monkey-player competitive game. When it comes to learn to be happy, train yourself to be happy, completely internal, no external progress, no external validation, 100% you’re competing against yourself, single-player game. We are such social creatures, we’re more like bees or ants, that we’re externally programmed and driven, that we just don’t know how to play and win at these single-player games anymore. We compete purely on multi-player games. The reality is life is a single-player game. You’re born alone. You’re going to die alone. All of your interpretations are alone. All your memories are alone. You’re gone in three generations and nobody cares. Before you showed up, nobody cared. It’s all single-player."
  4. Living by your values and principles will matter more to you than money in the long run. I was reading an article in The Economist this week (yes, the physical magazine) that mentioned how otherwise influential never-Trumpers were not speaking up about their views in public because they had close friends who were after specific US ambassador roles, and they did not want to anger The Donald. I cannot imagine a future where these people are proud of this decision on their death bed.
  5. Fuck proxy variables. As the article mentions, many of us use salary / savings / other money-linked metric as a barometer for something more difficult to measure, like success or safety or happiness or intelligence. I'd rather see us spend our limited intelligence figuring out more direct means of measuring what we actually care about, rather than focusing on improving performance on our proxy variable of choice.

My highlights from the article:
  • [Harvard Business School professor Michael] Norton says that research regularly points to two central questions that people ask themselves when determining whether they’re satisfied with something in their life: Am I doing better than I was before? and Am I doing better than other people?
  • ...people turn to dimensions of comparison that can be quantified. “Money is a terrific one,” Norton says. “If I need to know if I’m doing better than I was, the easy thing to ask is, Am I making more money? or Does my house have more square feet? or Do I have more houses than I used to?”
  • “The problem is, Am I doing better than I was? is only [moving people in] one direction, which is up,” Norton says. And if a family amasses, say, $50 million but upgrades to a neighborhood where everyone has that much money (or more), they feel a lot less rich than if they had stuck to the peer comparisons they were making tens of millions of dollars ago. Hence the ever-shifting goalposts of wealth and satisfaction."
  • “All the way up the income-wealth spectrum,” Norton told me, “basically everyone says [they’d need] two or three times as much” to be perfectly happy.
  • [Novelist Gary] Shteyngart speculates that underneath this competitiveness is a need to seem smarter and more capable than their peers: Managers of hedge funds can sometimes get rich from making one or two bets that had more to do with luck than anything else, which might make them feel like their intelligence is in question even if their money stands as evidence of their professional success.

BLOG POST - Brain Pickings: Against Common Sense: Vladimir Nabokov on the Wellspring of Wonder and Why the Belief in Goodness Is a Moral Obligation by Maria Popova - Maria created an insightful summary of Nabokov's playful take(down) on (of) commonsense.

One-Sentence Takeaway: Commonsense is fundamentally subjective, fickle, myopic, and blinding to our internal truths.

Answering The Drucker Question: Think of one area of your life where your N=1 optimal actions subvert common norms. Identify where commonsense went wrong in contextualizing its standard answer / recommendation for your situation. Then identify one other area of your life where you are currently following common norms, but you have a hunch you might be able to personalize and do better. Dare to experiment (again) ;D

My highlights:
  • ...common sense often blinds us to the reality of our own interior world.
  • Commonsense has trampled down many a gentle genius whose eyes had delighted in a too early moonbeam of some too early truth...
  • Commonsense at its worst is sense made common, and so everything is comfortably cheapened by its touch. Commonsense is square whereas all the most essential visions and values of life are beautifully round...
  • It is instructive to think that there is not a single person in this room, or for that matter in any room in the world, who, at some nicely chosen point in historical space-time would not be put to death there and then, here and now, by a commonsensical majority in righteous rage. The color of one’s creed, neckties, eyes, thoughts, manners, speech, is sure to meet somewhere in time or space with a fatal objection from a mob that hates that particular tone. And the more brilliant, the more unusual the man, the nearer he is to the stake.
  • In a sense, we all are crashing to our death from the top story of our birth to the flat stones of the churchyard and wondering with an immortal Alice in Wonderland at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at trifles — no matter the imminent peril — these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest forms of consciousness, and it is in this childishly speculative state of mind, so different from commonsense and its logic, that we know the world to be good.

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