Good Reads, Booked Edition

BookedI booked a flight. (Or two.)
I’m writing a book. (Or, as I like to call it: “The book.”)

Quite obviously, I had to use these facts for a lame pun in my headline, but it’s 6am and something like 15C (that’s 59F). I haven’t had coffee and my hands are freezing, so I haven’t really reached operating temperature. I still wanted to provide you with a small update.

As announced in How to Live an Interesting Life, I’m back on the road. I’ll be staying a couple of days in Bogotá before heading to the blazing cold lowlands of Hoth Germany. I’ll be living there for a couple of months, and am planning to do a couple of trips to Austria, Denmark and France as well. (Hub Travel FTW!)

Holler if you’d like to meet up somewhere!

Rank Growth

During the last weeks in the Caribbean, I started writing my first book. I originally planned to release it in early February, but I didn’t anticipate the rank growth that accompanies life. This is probably the biggest productivity planning mistake we regularly make: Thinking that everything will go fine. It never will. We will get sick. Friends will need our help. Cooking dinner will take longer than planned. Our fridge will break down. We’ll be invited to a trip to the islands.

Boom. Time’s gone. Rank growth is made of the unplanned things that simply happen – pleasant and unpleasant alike. Generally, these will amount to a significant part of our daily waking time. As we cannot really avoid them, we’ll better welcome them in tempo giusto fashion, learning three essential lessons:

  1. Use the other eight hours, but also be prepared to get used by them.
  2. We’ve all got the same 24 hours a day, so don’t stress out.
  3. Release “the book” in March.

“The Book”

It will be published here on TFA. It will be about friendly anarchism and personal sovereignty. I hope it will be really enjoyable. It will be free in monetary terms, but it will require a lot of effort on your side. It will be a Do Book rather than just a Read Book, and it will come with a free flight to space.

Should I just make this a cliffhanger?

[¶]

Scientists are developing new evidence that helps explain why just writing about fear and depression, or talking with a friend, can help make the pain go away.

It turns out that verbalizing our worries or fears has a measurable impact on various parts of the brain. So does simply sitting on the floor and meditating about such mundane things as breathing.

How talking and meditating change the brain.

[¶]

Go to a bank with your video camera and begin recording the bank interior. When the security guard or branch manager stops you and asks what you think you’re doing, explain that you’re trying to determine how many security cameras they have installed. If they ask “why?” tell them you’re “just doing research” or “conducting a survey of banks” or “interested in security.” Then say, “If you really want to be helpful, you can just tell me how many cameras you have and save me and the boys’ the trouble of watching this recording later and trying to count ’em all.”

This is an exercise in shape shifting, personal transformation, and casting illusions, as well as observing how “authorities” respond to subtle challenges beyond the status quo. The disguise will help empower you to act “out of character;” besides, if you can’t change yourself how do you expect to change the reality around you?

It’s like walking with flowers, but a bit more offensive. Wouldn’t do that in the US.

[¶]

As far as Do Less goes, the online world is all about MORE. More social networking, more resources, more joint projects. Twitter, Facebook, and your RSS feed can start to take over your “one wild precious life.” Often times you must Do Less to accomplish more.

The wonderful Magpie Girl. True words.

[¶]

Every line of work has its charlatans. But the self-help industry is rare in that such characters have come to define it almost completely. (…) This is strange: nothing’s more important than happiness, yet we’ve ceded much of its territory to the kind of people we’d never trust to do our taxes. (…)

Such counterproductive advice has persisted for so long surely partly because self-help exists in a ghetto, separated from philosophy, experimental psychology, and psychotherapy.

Pure brilliance by Oliver Burkeman. I’d like to do a full quote, but you can just click and check it out.

[¶]

“Unlike Napoleon the PR industry has never known retreat.” Interesting article about the history of Public Relations, including anti-corporate PR and political “reputation laundering”:

Bernays’s greatest opportunity came with the outbreak of the first world war. President Woodrow Wilson realised the government needed to bring on board the many doubters who saw it as a capitalists’ war that their country should shun. Bernays and other leading PR men were recruited to a new Committee on Public Information (CPI), a vast propaganda operation. They were to put into practice one of Bernays’s main findings from the studies of mass psychology by Uncle Sigmund [Freud] and others: that the public’s first impulse is usually to follow a trusted leader rather than consider the facts for itself.

From the same piece, consider this quote by Tim Bell, “one of British PR’s leading figures (and a former image-maker to Margaret Thatcher)”: “I am not an international ethics body. We do communications work. If people want to communicate their argument we take the view that they are allowed to do so.”

Sure, they are allowed to do so. But giving a professional platform to such unethical people simply isn’t the right thing to do. It’s as easy as that.

[¶]

The banality of heroism, the “pitfalls of herd mentality,” and how we can rebuild “heroism as habit”:

By diminishing the ideal of heroism, our society makes two mistakes. First, we dilute the important contribution of true heroes, whether they are luminary figures like Abraham Lincoln or the hero next door. Second, we keep ourselves from confronting the older, more demanding forms of this ideal. We do not have to challenge ourselves to see if, when faced with a situation that called for courage, we would meet that test. In prior generations, words like bravery, fortitude, gallantry, and valor stirred our souls. Children read of the exploits of great warriors and explorers and would set out to follow in those footsteps. But we spend little time thinking about the deep meanings these words once carried, and focus less on trying to encourage ourselves to consider how we might engage in bravery in the social sphere, where most of us will have an opportunity to be heroic at one time or another. As our society dumbs down heroism, we fail to foster heroic imagination.

The solution? “We should try to develop our “discontinuity detector”—an awareness of things that don’t fit, are out of place, or don’t make sense in a setting. This means asking questions to get the information we need to take responsible action.”

Friendly anarchistically speaking, be sure to fine-tune your bullshit detector.

Second, it is important not to fear interpersonal conflict, and to develop the personal hardiness necessary to stand firm for principles we cherish. In fact, we shouldn’t think of difficult interactions as conflicts but rather as attempts to challenge other people to support their own principles and ideology.

Third, we must remain aware of an extended time-horizon, not just the present moment. We should be engaged in the current situation, yet also be able to detach part of our analytical focus to imagine alternative future scenarios that might play out, depending on different actions or failures to act that we take in the present. In addition, we should keep part of our minds on the past, as that may help us recall values and teachings instilled in us long ago, which may inform our actions in the current situation.

Fourth, we have to resist the urge to rationalize inaction and to develop justifications that recast evil deeds as acceptable means to supposedly righteous ends.

Finally, we must try to transcend anticipating negative consequence associated with some forms of heroism, such as being socially ostracized. If our course is just, we must trust that others will eventually recognize the value of our heroic actions.

This is basically a blueprint for living a decent life, really. Plus, a procrastination-buster. Take some time for this article, it’s worth it.

[¶]

It seems to me that the desire for the spirt of compassion to pervade the world is fairly universal. It doesn’t matter who you are or who you vote for, chances are you perceive a lot of problems and you’d like to see a bit more compassion floating around.

This wish comes before being Democrat or Republican. So I chanted for compassion and I hoped others would chant with me–or at least quietly share my sentiment in their own hearts–whether they had different opinions from me or not.

Because we need to find a way to come together. To bond over our caring.

And the point is not where the chant comes from or from what religion. If I knew the appropriate Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim or humanist prayer or chant for a compassionate world, that would be just as good (…).

The point is trying to find a common point. A place where we can all agree and begin from there. A place to start. Can’t we just find a place to start?

The No Impact Man on finding a common place to start making things better. Sounds so naive, but it’s also so true.

[¶]

“The moment you start caring, that’s when your work gets shit.” Phil Toledano in an interview with Jonathan Blaustein:

PT: For me, I just like to make art, so…even if you want to be a photographer that’s surprising and have a long career, you have to have something new, you’ve got to say something new, and it can’t be a technique, it can’t be cross-processing or desaturation, or whatever the fuck it is. You know what I mean? It has to be something inside your noggin. It has to be an interesting idea.
That’s my advice. Do exactly the thing you want to do. It’s really hard, to separate yourself from the gravitational pull of the norm, and the gravitational pull of what sells. For me, that’s the only way that you’re ever going to be successful. (…)

JB: I’m hoping with this conversation that we can encourage a bunch of people to figure out how connect to their inner abilities, to their inner risk-taking, so that they can shift. What happens in recessions, the end result of shakeouts like this is that people lose their jobs, they lose their livelihoods, and then out of necessity, out of desperation, they scratch their heads and say, OK, I’ve got no choice, there’s no job being offered to me, how can I make a job, what am I good at, what do I care about, where is my passion?

PT: You know what I say to that, man, is you make a job by surprising people. I know that sounds simplistic, but ultimately, the reason, that “Days with my Father” and “A New Kind of Beauty” are interesting to people is that they’re surprising. They happen to relate to people in a particular way that I never thought they would. It’s originality that surprises people. (…)

PT: But you talk about this fear thing, and what should people do, and I think, you can’t say “Don’t be afraid,” because that doesn’t work. No one’s not afraid.

JB: I think we all have fear.

PT: You have to just say “Fuck it.” That’s the best advice I can give to people is to just say “Fuck it.” Just do the thing you want to do.

[¶]

Lisa Baldwin in an interview with Michael Nobbs:

I spent a great deal of time and effort concocting absurd schedules and reading stuff that was supposed to make me all motivated and get-stuff-done-ish, but it really just made me feel like crap.
Deliciously, I found that I got good stuff done when I was gentler, softer, more curious and less pushy.

[¶]

Without clear guideposts to direct you, it’s hard to know whether or not you’re spending time on the things that matter.
You could easily be flapping away in the winds of chaos. It may look impressive, but you’re not going anywhere.
So it can be useful to have a set of guiding focuses in your business.

These areas of focus help structure your action and act as a filter for whether or not you decide to do something. They also help you achieve balance in your actions, acting as a gauge to determine when you’re lopsided and have been spending too much time and energy in one area. Regularly taking stock of how you’re spending your time helps you realign your course back to a balanced approach.

Jonathan Mead on guiding focuses in business. Also true for life as a whole.

[¶]

Do nothing for two minutes: Do you dare?

Thanks to little-angle for the wonderful photo!

Comments 4

  1. Marco Lee February 11, 2011

    Fabian, I’d be looking forward for that book. Much to say, I guess people who say that they’d be “looking forward” for that book tends to treat it as a “Read Book”; I’d definitely treat it as a “Do Book”. You are giving value here that should not be underestimated.

  2. Steve M February 11, 2011

    Can’t wait to read the book Fabian. Have a great trip in Europe – if you make it to Blighty (England) let me know. Steve

  3. Fabian February 11, 2011

    Thank you, Marco and Steve, I really appreciate your support!
    Steve, I’m not sure if I’ll make it to England yet, but I’ll keep you updated! :)

Comments are closed.