The present feels grim, but the future is bright

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The news rarely shows messages of hope, but in 2010, it did so by accident. 33 Chilean miners were buried underground in a mining accident. Camera crews and journalists flocked show the tragedy.

Imagine how the miners felt. One day they headed to work, thinking of their families and friends, thinking of home. Then: a rumble. A shake. A collapse.

All hope of a normal life was quickly buried underneath a pile of rubble. These men couldn’t see the sun. Food was scarce. Rescue seemed a foolish dream.

Despite the despair, the men quickly organized themselves and elected leaders. Supplies were counted and rationed. Someone thought to use electric lights to simulate day and night. They started each day with a prayer. After two weeks, the food situation was so grim each man was only allowed one bite every three days. …

JUST ADAPT — the gurus say you can “create the world you imagine.” That isn’t really true. You can’t “imagine” a rental house into existence, but you can learn the principles of real estate, buy a house, and rent it.

Problems start when the world changes. Congress introduces a new tax law. YouTube tweaks the algorithm. Facebook prioritizes video.

And you must learn again.

And again.

And again.

So, the question is not “how can I change-proof myself?

It’s “how quickly can I change?”

Thanks to Niklas Göke for inspiring this one with this great post.

That’s like saying the secret to having a good haircut is more hair. But a messy head of hair is worse than a bald head. You might as well have never started.

The secret, then, is the same for both. Cutting. Grooming. Shaping. Styling.

In a word: editing.

Are there more than 200 words in your introduction? Are your adjectives precise and accurate? Do you switch from short sentences to long ones that tend to drone on forever, risking the reader losing interest while you use 38 words when you could have used 7 because you wanted to make a point?

Consider this:

Good writing + Bad editing = Bad writing.
Bad writing + Good editing = Good writing.

Save time. Conserve energy. Get more done.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Productive days don’t start when you wake up. If that were true, everyone would have an equal shot at being productive. That isn’t the case.

Instead, productive days are a combination of:

  • Your existing habits
  • Your willpower
  • Your environment
  • The hidden defaults surrounding you.

Habits can be tamed. Willpower is under your command. Your environment partially bends to your desires. (You may have the perfect workspace set up, but if you live in a city where riots are a common response to the result of an election, it won’t do you much good.) Hidden defaults are a different beast. …

Time doesn’t march. It melts.

The seconds sizzle into minutes that burn into hours. Hours roar through days and days grow to a towering inferno of months and years. The passing of time, just like a forest fire, builds exponentially. Life turns to ash quickly.

One question remains — what can you do with this time, today, right now?

There is no other time to possibly be lived except this one. And you have to figure out what to do with the time you have. Yes, your ability to do that varies based on who you are and who your parents were and all that. But no, you can’t control or change that.

You choose where you start and finish each day.

Make good choices.

There will come a day when your body and brain tell you not to do the thing you decided to do.

When that day comes, take a deep breath, and do it anyway.

Much of life is nuanced. Following up on your decisions is not. The Latin root for the last half of the word “decision” (caedere) means literally “to cut.” To decide on a course of action is to cut away all other possibilities.

Feel the fear. Embrace the doubt. Allow the tired. If it helps, pout in the corner and say “I don’t wanna!”

Then, do the thing anyway.

They can be fun. Remember fun?

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Photo: fauxels/Pexels

“Okay, if you can come up with some great keywords about farting, I’ve got to go see if this guy will settle for $500,000.”

By day, my friend is a lawyer. By night, he writes books about farting princesses. He said the words “I want to create a tooting princess empire” last week, and I laughed until I cried.

The children’s book is his side hustle. He has no illusions that it will become a second career. He doesn’t dream that Cindertoot will replace Sesame Street in the daytime television slot.

Do you know what John really wants?

He wants to make enough money on his farting princess book to write more of them. He wants to keep having fun. That’s the first thing people get wrong about side hustles — they don’t have to be a grind. They can be fun. Remember fun? …

Television is mesmerizing. Hypnotic. Very few art forms have such direct access to your motivation center.

I finished The Queen’s Gambit yesterday and (predictably) wanted to start playing chess. Is there anything wrong with that? Not really, until later that evening when I turned The Great British Baking Show. I immediately wanted to swap the chessboard for a cheesecake.

Watching good shows can make you dream of glory. What if you pointed those dream-y feelings toward an area in which you already have momentum? This is opposed to learning what “pawn structure” is.

Don’t mimic main characters.

Be one.

It’s cringy. It’s awkward. It’s bad.

But the Netflix movie The Knight Before Christmas taught me a foolproof way to say “no.” Feel free to steal it.

Stranger: “We’re having a little party tonight. Will you come?”

Goofy knight with awful dialogue throughout the film: “Ah — while I appreciate your asking me, I am afraid must decline because I am previously committed.”

Previously committed to what? The stranger never asks. Nobody ever does.

Half of building a life you enjoy is choosing what goes in it. The other half is keeping out the things you don’t want. The “previously committed” template is a good silver bullet for the latter.

Or you can just say what E.B. White said:

“I must decline. For secret reasons.”

Listicles are not the problem. The problem is chasing meaningless Internet points. Why do any of us participate in social media platforms? One reason — the notifications fire off little dopamine hits. It feels good. You want more.

Making “more” often serves you, not your audience. More isn’t the only way.

Do you know how many of Dan Moore’s posts it took to make me a fan? One. One book made me a believer in Yancey Strickler’s ideas. A single song, and I fell head over heels in love with Angelé.

Sometimes, one is all it takes.

“If you want followers, be someone worth following.”

— Austin Kleon


Todd Brison

An optimist who writes.

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