What I learned this week, January, 22, 2021


Human beings find comfort in certainty. We form governments, make calendars, and create organisations; and we structure our activities, strategies and plans around these constructs. These routines give us the satisfaction of knowing that, by having a plan, there’s a means of it coming to fruition.

But there’s another force, constantly at play in life, that often makes the greatest difference to our futures: the ‘unexpected’ or the ‘unforeseen’. If you think about it, you already look out for the unexpected every day, but perhaps only as a defence mechanism. For example, whenever you use a pedestrian crossing on a busy road, you look out for the unexpected driver who might race through the red light. That ‘alertness’ to, or awareness of, the unexpected is at the centre of understanding the science of (smart) luck and exploiting it to your benefit.

How to be lucky

Lucky Dogs cart – Bourbon Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

For others, however, commuting may have been a ritual that was critical for their mental health and work-life balance. Enter the rise of the “fake commute,” wherein people replace that daily transition with walks, runs, bike rides and more.

The rise of the fake commute, and why it’s good for your mental health

My commuter bike

A coronavirus pandemic forced the whole enterprise to announce its priorities, which are even more skewed than we realized. There are thousands of people working in college athletics with excellent priorities, of course—people who value academics, relationships, integrity and personal growth. But those are not the qualities the NCAA system rewards. College sports, purportedly a celebration of amateur athletics, are an exercise in big squashing little: large conferences whipping small ones, and revenue sports hogging resources from nonrevenue sports.

It Took a Pandemic to See the Distorted State of College Sports


David and I looked at each other, simultaneously realizing that the after-school special we thought we were in was actually a horror movie. If the medical industry was comprehensively broken, as Norman said, and the media was irrevocably broken, as we knew it was … Was everything in America broken? Was education broken? Housing? Farming? Cities? Was religion broken?

Everything is broken.

Everything Is Broken

Broken Concrete and Rebar, Dallas, Texas

The next time you’re feeling “motivated” — either right now or later this week to either either write a book, start a business, go to the gym, learn a language, or a skill — use the motivation wave to your advantage.

Make a list of everything you need to get in order to accomplish your goal. Then, sketch out a rough outline of your fail-proof system that’ll help you follow through.

When you put structures in place, you are likely to follow through.

How to Build Better Lifelong Habits


Sculpture by Jason Mehl, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

As it turns out, the science supports a totally different and ultimately empowering message: Trying to predict how a child will turn out based on choices made by their parents is like trying to predict a hurricane from the flap of a butterfly’s wings.

Why parents should stop blaming themselves for how their kids turn out

Nick reading Harry Potter.
Nick reading Harry Potter. Is this the first one?

Never too much Postmodern Jukebox and always good to have more Morgan James

Musings on Some Short TED Talks

Try Something New for Thirty Days

Matt Cutts gave a short little talk titled “Try something new for 30 days.”

He gave a few examples:

  • Bike to Work
  • 10,000 steps a day
  • Take a Picture a Day
  • Write a Novel

 Bike to Work I’m working on it, that’s not something that can be done without proper preparation (at least not in Dallas, and not in the summertime)

10,000 Steps a Day – They gave out pedometers at work, I discovered I was walking about 12,000 steps a day during my workday alone.

Take a Picture a Day – Been there, done that.

Write a Novel (Nanowrimo) – Been there, done that.

How about a blog entry every day for a month… yeah, that sounds tough, not.

Then he gave a short list of examples of things to stop:

  • No TV
  • No sugar
  • No Twitter
  • No caffeine

I don’t find giving something up for 30 days to be so inspiring. If you want to give it up, give it up. If you only need to cut back, then cut back.

So, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. What can I do for thirty days that wouldn’t be too difficult, expensive, or time consuming, starting tomorrow. Let me think about it and go on to another TED lecture.

 Derek Sivers: Keep your goals to yourself

Interesting idea. I have always thought that telling everybody your goals gave you the advantage of using social shaming as a motivating force. Another thing to think about and come back to.

Don’t eat the marshmallow yet

The most important principle for success is the ability to delay gratification. No big surprise. Anyone that has spent a lot of time around teenagers knows how rare and important this is.

Of course, there is another factor that isn’t discussed. Even when I was a kid, I hated marshmallows. I would have hidden the thing to make them think I had eaten it so I didn’t have to deal with another one.

Life Lessons Through Tinkering

I spent an enormous amount of time as a child tinkering. My children never really did this at all. Does that make a difference? I don’t know.

My tinkering spaces (my office room and my half of the garage) are sorely neglected. They are cluttered and inefficient. I miss the tinkering. I have a handful of tinker projects half completed.

Can I put the lessons from all these talks together?

OK, here’s my plan. I’ll work some, every day, a few hours a day, for thirty days, on the half completed tinkering projects I have laying around.

What are they?

I’m not going to tell you. Keeping it a personal secret will help me get it done. I have two projects in mind, both rather small projects, I know I can get them done. The bigger projects, such as redoing my office room, I’ll put off for the next thirty days… or the thirty after that.

Thirty days or so from now I’ll write a couple blog entries on what my projects were. Come back and see.

What about the marshmallow? Well, in this case, delayed gratification isn’t really an issue, the doing is the gratification. Maybe I’ll reward myself in some small, extra way. I don’t know how – there is no extra money laying around…. I’ll have to think about it.

Any ideas would be appreciated.