Personal Fearlessness

Try playing with not being immediately identified as the thing you most like being identified as. If your identity is true – you like being seen as smart and you are indeed smart – it will be revealed in time. By getting there RIGHT NOW, you (a) close off the possibility of being other things and (b) pay less attention to your surroundings.

(a) Again, you still are what you are, but by aggressively leaning into your favored identity, other parts of your self are left underdeveloped. Those underdeveloped parts will induce some fear and discomfort. You’ll want to run back to the sanctuary of what has worked well for you. Hence the bravery of this experiment. The upside is a world expansion that comes from uncustomary perspectives and positions.

(b) When you are comfortable, you don’t have to pay much attention. You can hum along smoothly hitting the same beats you always hit. Your mind can wander. You’ve done this before. No big deal. When you jump out of a plane for the first time, your attention is razor-sharp.

Four Levels of Thinking

You are a stud … and I’m unsure if you really believe it. Let’s find out by venturing through four levels of thinking that I just made up.

The lowest level is Regurgitation. Here, the best one can do is identify brilliant people to copy, and copy them with a bit of rhetorical flourish. Do this well and, at minimum, you’ll be seen as “competent.”

Not good enough, right? So climb the ladder hidden behind the mist and you’ll arrive on Error Detection. There was certainly some identification of troubled thinking on L1 in determining who to emulate, but here you realize there are mistakes in damn near everyone’s thinking. Mistakes that you, standing on these gorgeous marble floors (much better than the dirt on Regurgitation), can proudly correct with answers that appear in your mind. This thinker said X, but it’s actually X+.25, or I think this person straight missed that footnote on page 15 which renders much of this strategy dumb. On and on. Always something to find. Sit back, let others throw stuff out there, and then pick it apart. In the same way that editors are necessary for successful writers, a company without occupants on L2 will fail. Still, right or wrong, those occupants are not viewed as studs; authors get million-dollar advances, not editors.

Since a million dollars sounds cool, how about climbing that brick wall over there? Don’t worry, many of the bricks jut out just enough to count as footholds. Yes, I know your fingers are bleeding, but I promise it’s worth it. See, you have a nice rhythm now. And for just a second look up and observe the destination in the form of that human-sized hole in the ceiling. Motivating to spot your destiny, I know. I’m here for you. Your destiny, for now, is What Matters. Small children never make it to this floor. Think of those precocious, pugilistic 8-year-olds who are so good at finding the tiniest mistakes adults make only to be laughed off with Yes, I guess you are technically correct, but that’s about it. You fail to see what’s going on here. On What Matters, one has a comprehensive understanding of the mission, the players, and the incentives. No longer is time exhausted gaining status points by pointing out trivial mistakes when the overall intent is generally clear. The error can still be corrected, just with a smoothness that largely skips over right vs. wrong. You probably meant X instead of Y. Cool. No biggie. Let’s talk about X. This skipping is vital since time is ticking and L3 residents focus on cost/benefit calculations. Risks are everywhere, and there is always a cost to mollifying them. Thus, “we gotta do whatever we can” should almost never be uttered. Many times the costs outweigh the risks. Many times the costs grow as unintended consequences appear. And because of these realities, What Matters residents accept that you must tolerate certain risks, errors, and technicality violations in properly directing limited resources to areas yielding the largest returns.


  1. Lie
  2. Be laughably hypocritical
  3. Pretend you can read minds and generally project a level of certainty you don’t deserve, especially considering there are some fairly obvious questions you are ignoring.

We Are All Hypocrites

There you are with your shoulders a little too upright and a smile that’s a little too preening. This self-assurance stems from a belief that you are on THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY. Like, you’d never kill a black man or grope a coworker. You know how to choose right and you do … at least in hypotheticals that will almost certainly never occur. Congratulations!

A rectangular sign. It’s not complicated like tax codes or quid pro quos. Three English words shine clearly in bold, black print. With a faux aura of naïveté, you slip the collar off your dog and prove to everyone you are the fraud we thought you were.

The point is to write as much as you know as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, while I am undertaking these tasks I will refrain from indulging in such remarks as “Shit,” “Goddamn sonofabitch,” and similar vulgarities, as such language is nerve-wracking to have around the house when nothing more drastic is taking place than the facing of Necessity.

I’d like to develop as a writer, but who’s got the bar-bells and the gymnasium?

“No,” Hellers says, “because I have something this man will never have.”

“What’s that?”

“I know when I have enough.”

Whenever you are aware of a nice moment, even a small one like having a glass of lemonade under a tree, you say to yourself, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

I am so tired of people who examine their pasts and find nothing but mortal woundings….

There is a snide saying: “The big dreams go to New York the little dreams stay home.” The biggest dreams, in fact, stay home. They build cities like this one with hospitals and universities and libraries and theaters and concert halls and supremely civilized gathering places like the Athenaeum. I say to all stay-at-homes, “Congratulations.”

Dream on, dream on!



Love simply means

caring about someone else as much as or more than oneself.

These, of course, are the kinds of vows young people feel comfortable making when they have no idea what life has in store for them.

Sam hated being told to “fight,” as if sickness were a character failing. Illness could not be defeated, no matter how hard you fought, and pain, once it had you in its grasp, was transformational.

Long relationships might be richer, but relatively brief, relatively uncomplicated encounters with interesting people could be lovely as well. Every person you knew, every person you loved even, did not have to consume you for the time to have been worthwhile.

It is to acknowledge that love is both a constant and a variable at the same time.

You couldn’t be old and still be wrong about as many things as she’d been wrong about, and it was a kind of immaturity to call yourself old before you were.


Alexis de Tocqueville:

submitted to complete isolation; but this absolute solitude, if nothing interrupts it, is beyond the strength of man; it destroys the criminal without intermission and without pity; it does not reform, it kills

Victor Hugo:

The entirety of hell is contained in one word: solitude.

Ippolit Terentyev

Oh, you may be sure that Columbus was happy not when he had discovered America, but when he was discovering it; you may be sure that the highest moment of his happiness was, perhaps, exactly three days before the discovery of the New World, when the mutinous crew in their despair almost the ship back to Europe, right around! The New World is not the point here, it can just as well perish … The point is in life, in life alone – in discovering it, constantly and eternally, and not at all in the discovery itself!


Culture Creation

One can endlessly recite “Do as I say, not as I do,” but it won’t change the underlying reality that once there’s an alarming chasm between words and actions, one’s ability to persuade becomes negligible. And so it is that corporate slogans and values frequently turn laughable after being revealed as little more than a random amalgamation of benign, positive words inconsistent with actions on the ground. It’s less a bluff than wishful thinking. Good corporate culture is a worthy goal; achieving that type of environment is definitely challenging; designing corporate values feels like doing something to this difficult end; and maybe if the words are repeatedly emphasized, the desired culture will magically appear.

Of course that won’t work. Of course the foundation of any culture is actual behavior. Of course how leaders act sets the tone for everyone else. So of course being a member of your team was constantly enjoyable. It begins with your geniality. When you are, say, in the office, everything is just a bit better. I would be genuinely disappointed if meetings with you were cancelled, as I always had a feeling of Nice! I get to talk with xxxxxxxxx (in stark contrast with the many who are condemned to having to talk with a boss).


Remote work

is yet another instance where we opt for convenience over all else. It has become both our culture’s master value and its greatest temptation. “Productivity” and “getting back time” and “making my life less stressful” and “enjoyment” are the most common defenses for convenience: all reasonable defenses. But then what with all the time? You never have to leave the house so you can do what exactly? Are you actually more capable of filling that time well when your creative skills have eroded from all the external creative solutions? Isn’t something ineffable being missed?