What I learned this week, December 3, 2021

How we uncancelled Jordan Peterson

Aristotle called man a ‘political animal’. Perhaps he should have said a ‘censorious’ animal. Some people’s urge to shut others up seems to be as strong as the baser drives to eat, drink and copulate. That is why, in the war for free speech, victory is never permanent, though you can sometimes win a local battle or two. Jordan Peterson’s visit to Cambridge this week was such a win.


Why a toaster from 1949 is still smarter than any sold today

My colleague Tom once introduced you to a modern toaster with two seemingly ingenious buttons: one to briefly lift your bread to check its progress, and another to toast it “a bit more.” I respectfully submit you shouldn’t need a button at all.

That’s because in 1948, Sunbeam engineer Ludvik J. Koci invented the perfect toaster, one where the simple act of placing a slice into one of its two slots would result in a delicious piece of toasted bread. No button, no lever, no other input required. Drop bread, get toast.


Sleep
Sleep

The seven types of rest: I spent a week trying them all. Could they help end my exhaustion?

When we feel fatigued most of us focus on sleep problems. But proper relaxation takes many forms. I spent a week exploring what really works


The crowd milling around in the Winspear Opera House, sipping their wine

How to Tell If You’re Oversharing (and How to Stop It)

Being authentic and personable is great! Constantly unloading on everyone around you is not.


A tough choice.

Want to Build Unbeatable Mental Toughness? Here Are 5 Surprisingly Effective Ways

Beating cancer made Yale Law grad Seun Adebiyi rethink his fast-paced life and become an entrepreneur.


Chapel, Thanksgiving Square, Dallas, Texas

How to Be Thankful For Your Life by Changing Just One Word

You don’t “have” to. You “get” to.


Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It)

I used to be able to understand 99% of the dialogue in Hollywood films. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve noticed that percentage has dropped significantly — and it’s not due to hearing loss on my end. It’s gotten to the point where I find myself occasionally not being able to parse entire lines of dialogue when I see a movie in a theater, and when I watch things at home, I’ve defaulted to turning the subtitles on to make sure I don’t miss anything crucial to the plot.


It Exists Absolutely More Than Anything Else

But witches don’t exist, and they don’t live in swamps, I say.

“Yeah, they do. They do exist. They just don’t exist the way you think they exist. They certainly exist. You may say well dragons don’t exist. It’s, like, yes they do — the category predator and the category dragon are the same category. It absolutely exists. It’s a superordinate category. It exists absolutely more than anything else. In fact, it really exists. What exists is not obvious. You say, ‘Well, there’s no such thing as witches.’ Yeah, I know what you mean, but that isn’t what you think when you go see a movie about them. You can’t help but fall into these categories. There’s no escape from them.”
—-Jordan Peterson

St. George and the Dragon
John Mills, Bronze, orig. Plaster
Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans

What Your Myth Is

Deep Ellum, Texas

“Everybody acts out a myth, but very few people know what their myth is. And you should know what your myth is because it might be a tragedy and maybe you dont want it to be.”
—-Jordan Peterson

Almost every important thought – definitely every decision I make – takes the form of a conversation. I’ve been paying attention – this is really true. But if it is a conversation, which person is me?

And if I can figure that out – who is the other guy?

Choose Which Poison

“You’re going to pay a price for every bloody thing you do and everything you don’t do. You don’t get to choose to not pay a price. You get to choose which poison you’re going to take. That’s it.”
Jordan B. Peterson

Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

I am working on a list of “Bill’s Rules” – hopefully coming up with a list of useful, yet pithy, statements that I, more or less, came up with on my own. I’m up to four, but have serious doubts about the fourth – probably goin’ to give that one up.

At any rate, Numero Uno:

The key to creativity and innovation is to embrace failure

This seems obvious at first – of course if you are to be creative and innovative you have to be willing to fail. What I’m saying goes beyond that – you have to embrace failure. You have to crave failure. You have to have failure as your primary goal.

To illustrate, I’ll give an example from that white-hot furnace meant to burn away all and any trace of creativity and innovation (and joy, and human-ess, and anything else worthwhile) – the world of the modern giant corporation. It is a world of metrics, and goals, and people scurrying like ants to meet those metrics… and the world be dammed. Not meeting goal, having that dreaded red box on the monthly PowerPoint metric presentation – projected on that screen in that sterile conference room – , is the worse thing in the world and a source of executive shame.

And they don’t understand why other companies (usually very small) always come up with the new ideas.

Here’s my idea – everyone should have on their annual review goal list – “I will initiate at least six major projects in the coming year that will fail… preferably fail in a spectacular and embarrassing manner.”

That would spur some creativity and innovation. And what happens if your projects all succeed in wild and unpredictable ways? Well, you weren’t innovative and creative enough – if you manage to hold on to your job you better try harder next year.