๐Ÿ’Ž On reading your copy out loud and โ€˜where you falter, alterโ€™

Peggy Noonan, who wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan has said: ‘Once you’ve finished the first draft of your speech โ€“ stand up and speak it aloud. Where you falter, alter.’ That applies especially to speeches, of course: in that case you’re trying to produce something that’s hard to stumble over when spoken aloud. Tongue-twisters such as โ€˜red lorry, yellow lorry’ are easier on the page than in the mouth. But it is also good advice to the prose writer. There is a developmental connection between reading aloud and reading silently – and there is a neurological one too.

Excerpt from:ย Write to the Point: How to be Clear, Correct and Persuasive on the Page by Sam Leith

๐Ÿ’Ž On our tendency to explain behaviour too much in terms of personality and not enough in terms of circumstances

The bias runs deep. Few of us, surely, think of ourselves as having a fixed, monochrome personality: we’re happy or sad, stressed or relaxed, depending on circumstances. Yet we stubbornly resist the notion that others might be similarly circumstance-dependent. In a well-known 1960s study, people were shown two essays, one arguing in favour of Castro’s Cuba and one against. Even when it was explained that the authors had been ordered to adopt each position based on a coin-toss – that their situation, in other words, had forced their hand readers still considered that the pro Castro author must be deep down, pro Castro and vice versa.

Excerpt from Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž On how transient our beliefs can be

In a study entitled โ€œAfter the Movies’, some crafty Australian researchers grilled people leaving the cinema about their views on politics and morality; they discovered that those leaving happy films were optimistic and lenient, while those leaving aggressive or sad ones were far more pessimistic and strict.

Excerpt from Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž The friend of creative work is alertness, and nothing focusses your attention like stepping on to unfamiliar ground

In 1958, a young psychologist by the name of Bernice Eiduson began a long-term study of the working methods of forty mid-career scientists. For twenty years, Professor Eiduson periodically interviewed the scientists and gave them a variety of psychological tests, as well as gathering data on their publications. Some of the scientists went on to great success: there were four Nobel Prize winners in the group and two others widely regarded as Nobel-worthy. Several other scientists joined the National Academy of Sciences. Others had disappointing careers.

In 1993, several years after Bernice Eiduson’s death, her colleagues published an analysis of this study, trying to spot patterns. A question of particular interest was: what determines whether a scientist keeps publishing important work throughout his or her life? A few highly productive scientists produced breakthrough paper after breakthrough paper. How?

A striking pattern emerged. The top scientists switched topics frequently. Over the course of their first hundred published papers, the long-lived high-impact researchers switched topics an average of 43 times. The leaps were less dramatic than the ones Erez Aiden likes to take, but the pattern is the same: the top scientists keep changing the subject if they wish to stay productive.

Excerpt from: Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World by Tim Harford

๐Ÿ’Ž Anchoring – even when taken to ridiculous extremes – has an affect on peopleโ€™s judgements

Psychologists Gretchen Chapman and Brian Bornstein tested this idea in a 1996 experiment, when Liebeck v. McDonald’s was much in the news. They presented eighty students from the University of Illinois, U.S.A., students with the hypothetical case of a young woman who said she contracted ovarian cancer from birth control pills and was suing her health care organization. Four groups each heard a different demand for damages: $100; $20,000; $5 million; and $1 billion. The mock jurors were asked to give compensatory damages only. Anyone who wants to believe in the jury system must find the results astonishing.

The jurors were amazingly persuadable, up through the $5 million demand. The lowball $100 demand got a piddling $990 average award. This was for a cancer said to have the plaintiff ‘almost constantly in pain… Doctors do not expect her to survive beyond a few more months.’

Excerpt from: Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It) by William Poundstone

๐Ÿ’Ž People lie on surveys (and in their Netflix queues) both consciously and unconsciously

Netflix learned a similar lesson early on in its life cycle: don’t trust what people tell you; trust what they do. Originally, the company allowed users to create a queue of movies they wanted to watch in the future but didn’t have time for at the moment. This way, when they had more time, Netflix could remind them of those movies. However, Netflix noticed something odd in the data. Users were filling their queues with plenty of movies. But days later, when they were reminded of the movies on the queue, they rarely clicked. What was the problem? Ask users what movies they plan to watch in a few days, and they will fill the queue with aspirational, highbrow films, such as black-and-white World War II documentaries or serious foreign films. A few days later, however, they will want to watch the same movies they usually want to watch: lowbrow comedies or romance films. People were consistently lying to themselves.

Excerpt from: Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

๐Ÿ’Ž On the underrated value of โ€˜interstitial timeโ€™

There’s a popular subgenre of books about writing known informally as ‘writer porn’, in which famous authors describe their daily routines, which pens they use and, especially, the secluded mountain-top cabins where they work each morning for six blissfully undisturbed hours. I don’t think I’ve ever actually met such an author, but for anyone whose job is even slightly ‘creative’, they stir envy: we’d all love such big chunks of time in which to focus. Instead, our lives are plagued with what the blogger Merlin Mann, at 43folders.com, calls โ€˜interstitial time’ – small chunks of minutes spent waiting at the doctor’s surgery, or for someone who’s late, or for a meeting postponed at short notice.

It feels like time wasted. But it needn’t be. The poet William Carlos Williams, for example, wrote much of his oeuvre on the backs of prescription pads during gaps in his workday as a paediatrician.

Excerpt from Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž On life being understood backwards but lived forward – whatโ€™s obvious in retrospect is often hard to see at the time

As the philosopher Sรธren Kierkegaard noted in his journal in 1843, ‘It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.โ€ The day-by-day business of living feels, at this particular moment, spectacularly distant from the ways in which I and others will come to comprehend these events.

Yet this is just an extreme version of something that is always true. Human understanding is always both provisional and belated. Many things that appear obvious in retrospect were anything but obvious at the time, because the clarity we experience when looking back in time is utterly unlike the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds day-today existence. The world is far more complex than any stories we can tell about it; far more mysterious, far harder to predict.

Excerpt from: How to Think: Your Essential Guide to Clear, Critical Thought by Tom Chatfield

๐Ÿ’Ž Why supermarkets change prices: it’s a way of ascertain who is price sensitive

One common situation is for two supermarkets to be competing for the same customers. As we’ve discussed, it’s hard for be systematically more expensive than the others without losing a lot of business, so they will charge similar prices on average, but both will also mix up their prices. That way, both can distinguish the bargain hunters from those in need of specific products, like people shopping to pick up ingredients for a cook-book recipe they are making for a dinner party. Bargain-hunters will pick up whatever is on sale and make something of it. The dinner-party shoppers come to the supermarket to buy specific products and will be less sensitive to prices. The price-targeting strategy only works because the supermarkets always vary the patterns of their special offers, and because it is too much trouble to go to both stores or to order two separate internet deliveries, carefully comparing the price of each good every time we go online. If shoppers could predict what was to be discounted, they could choose recipes ahead of time, and even choose the appropriate supermarket to pick up the ingredients wherever they’re least expensive.

Excerpt from: The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

๐Ÿ’Ž Why failures to act tend to haunt us more than failed actions

But in his book If Only, the psychologist Neal Roese argues that when it comes to real-life choices, ‘if you decide to do something and it turns out badly, it probably won’t still be haunting you a decade down the road. You’ll reframe the failure, explain it away, move on, and forget it. Not so with failures to actโ€™. You’ll regret them for longer, too, because they’re ‘imaginatively boundless?’ you can lose yourself for ever in the infinite possibilities of what might have been. In other words: you know that thing you’ve been wondering about doing? Do it.

Excerpt from Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž Give me the freedom of a tight brief

Joyce uses the analogy of a playground. 12 Researchers found that when you put up a fence around a playground, children will use the entire spaceโ€”they’ll feel safe to play all the way to the edges. But if those walls are removed, creating a wide-open playground, the space the children choose to play in contracts: they stay toward the middle and they stick to each other, because that’s what feels safe. This, Joyce suggests, is what happens in the creative process. When there are no clear limits in the brief itself, we aren’t sure what boundaries to explore and push against. We end up without the necessary focus and passion of which Marissa Mayer speaks. In fact, one of Joyce’s surprise findings was that in the absence of explicit constraints, the unconstrained teams created more conflict, stemming from all the different unarticulated assumptions and implicit constraints that team members created in their own heads, as if to fill the void.

Excerpt from: A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why Itโ€ฒs Everyoneโ€ฒs Business by Mark Barden and Adam Morgan

๐Ÿ’Ž If you can’t make it shorter, make it feel shorter

Indefinite wait seems longer then defined ones, writes David Maiste in his paper “The Psychology of Waiting Lines’, which is why Disney theme parks use complex formulae to calculate and display wait-times. ‘Pre-process’ waits seem longer than ‘in process’ waits, which is why restaurants will seat you before they’re ready to serve you. Customers are happier when queues are acknowledged: when a supermarket calls ‘all staff to the checkoutsโ€™, it’s as much about you hearing it as about staffing. And occupied time passes faster than unoccupied time: mirrored walls are especially effective, apparently because most people love looking at themselves.

Excerpt from Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž Are you communicating to feel good about yourself or to persuade?

Bottom line: it’s hard to change someone’s mind when you feel morally and intellectually superior to them. As Megan McArdle memorably put it: “It took me years of writing on the Internet to learn what is nearly an iron law of commentary: The better your message makes you feel about yourself, the less likely it is that you are convincing anyone else.”

Excerpt from: The Scout Mindset: The Perils of Defensive Thinking and How to Be Right More Often by Julia Galef

๐Ÿ’Ž Talk is cheap. Saying youโ€™re trustworthy or high quality is useless

It’s for this reason that banks always used to build such impressive buildings. In the days before governments began to insure banking deposits and simply let banks collapse โ€“ such days seem a long time ago now โ€“ depositors needed to think hard about where to place their money. If they deposited their savings with a fly-by-night operation, nobody would come to their aid when the bank collapsed. Customers realise that crooks planning to run off with the money or gamble it away do not first clad their branches with bronze and marble: they’re in for the long haul instead. This is one reason, too, why you will pay more at an established shop than at a market stall if you buy a product about which you lack inside information about quality and durability. The established shop will still be there to refund your money in the case of a complaint, and that very possibility gives you an assurance that a complaint is less likely to be necessary.

Other economists have used Spence’s theory to explain enormously expensive advertising campaigns with no informational content.

Excerpt from: The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

๐Ÿ’Ž An explanation as to how groups (and companies) make decisions which are favoured by none of their members

The article is called โ€œThe Abilene Paradox’, and it’s by the management theorist Jerry Harvey; it begins with a personal anecdote set not at Christmas but during a stiflingly hot Texas summer. Harvey and his wife were staying with her parents, and relaxing one afternoon when his father-in-law suggested a trip to Abilene, 50 miles away, for dinner. Harvey was appalled at the thought of driving โ€˜across a godforsaken desert, in a furnace-like temperature … to eat unpalatable food. But his wife seemed keen, so he kept his objections to himself.

The experience was as terrible as he’d predicted. Later, trying to be upbeat, he said, โ€œThat was a great trip, wasn’t it?’ but one by one, each family member confessed they’d hated they had agreed to go only because they believed it was what the others wanted. “Listen, I never wanted to go to Abilene”, Harvey’s father-in-law said. โ€œI just thought you might be bored?”

Excerpt from Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž The happiness benefits of closing down our options

Once, in an experiment, the Harvard University social psychologist Daniel Gilbert and a colleague gave hundreds of people the opportunity to pick a free poster from a selection of art prints. Then he divided the participants into two groups. The first group was told that they had a month in which they could exchange their poster for any other one; the second group was told that the decision they’d already made had been final. In follow-up surveys, it was the latter group โ€” those who were stuck with their decision, and who thus weren’t distracted by the thought that it might still be possible to make a better choice โ€” who showed by far the greater appreciation for the work of art they’d selected.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž On how expectations can become self fulfilling

When the new school year started, teachers at Spruce Elementary learned that an acclaimed scientist by the name of Dr Rosenthal would be administering a test to their pupils. This ‘Test of Inflected Acquisition’ indicated who would make the greatest strides at school that year. In truth it was a common or garden IQ test, and, once the scores had been tallied, Rosenthal and his team cast them all aside. They tossed a coin to decide which kids they would tell teachers were ‘high-potentials’. The kids, meanwhile, were told nothing at all. Sure enough, the power of expectation swiftly began to work its magic. Teachers gave the group of ‘smart’ pupils more attention, more encouragement and more praise, thus changing how the children saw themselves, too. The effect was clearest among the youngest kids, whose IQ scores increased by an average of twenty-seven points in a single year. The largest gains were among boys who looked Latino, a group typically subject to the lowest expectations in California.’ Rosenthal dubbed his discovery the Pygmalion Effect, after the mythological sculptor who fell so hard for one of his own creations that the gods decided to bring his statue to life. Beliefs we’re devoted to โ€” whether they’re true or imagined โ€” can like-wise come to life, effecting very real change in the world. The Pygmalion Effect resembles the placebo effect (which I discussed in Chapter 1), except, instead of benefiting oneself, these are expectations that benefit others.

Excerpt from: Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

๐Ÿ’Ž On knowing how a story ends doesnโ€™t spoil the enjoyment

By promoting one technique, the twist, and one effect, surprise, stories get bent out of shape. They try too hard to counter expectation and resist predictability. The Lord of the Rings is totally predictable from beginning to end, but the series does not suffer for it. William Shakespeare gave away the end of his tragedies by billing them as such and no one seemed to mind (Romeo and Juliet even told the audience the story in a prologue). Columbo, a classic crime serial, reveals who committed the murder at the beginning of each episode and succeeded in making the investigation thrilling to watch. Stories that promote surprise over character end up as mere soap opera, a series of sensational shocks. That corrodes credibility, while some reveals – it was all a dream! – do not so much blow minds as waste time. More significant than all of this, though, is the fact that surprise is overrated. A study carried out by Jonathan Leavitt and Nicholas Christenfeld of the University of California, San Diego, in 2011 found that knowing how the story ends doesn’t hamper enjoyment – it increases it. Fittingly, the researchers announced their conclusion in the title of their me “Story spoilers don’t spoil stories”.

Excerpt from: Unconventional Wisdom: Adventures in the Surprisingly True by Tom Standage

๐Ÿ’Ž The corrupting influence of even a modicum of power

In 1998, Keltner and his team had small groups of three volunteers come into their lab. One was randomly assigned to be the group leader and they were all given a dull task to complete. Presently, an assistant brought in a plate containing five cookies for the group to share. All groups left one cookie on the plate (a golden rule of etiquette), but in almost every case the fourth cookie was scarfed down by the leader. What’s more, one of Keltner’s doctoral students noticed that the leaders also seemed to be messier eaters. Replaying the videos, it became clear that these ‘cookie monsters’ more often ate with their mouths open, ate more noisily and sprayed more crumbs on their shirts. Maybe this sounds like your boss?

Excerpt from: Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

๐Ÿ’Ž On big impacts not requiring sophisticated technology

Did the simple act of painting lines on roads save hundreds of thousands of lives? In their book Reducing Global Road Traffic Tragedies, Gerald Balcar and Bo Elfving argue that it did. The first American centre line appeared near Detroit in 1911; the man responsible for it claimed a leaky milk van leaving a white streak inspired him. Over the next few decades, road engineers began to favour yellow centre lines, which were made reflective by adding glass beads to paint. But edge lines remained rare outside cities.

What changed that were studies from the 195os showing that painted edge lines cut road accidents, especially fatal ones. In the early 1970s Potters Industries (which made the glass beads, and employed Mr Balcar) calculated that driving on a rural road at night was six times deadlier than driving on an urban road during the day. Cars were running off the roads largely because drivers could not see their edges. As edge lines and marked intersections proliferated, and Americans began wearing seat-belts, the takes death rate began to fall.

Excerpt from: Unconventional Wisdom: Adventures in the Surprisingly True by Tom Standage

๐Ÿ’Ž On originality lying on the far side of unoriginality

The final principle is that, more often than not, originality lies on the far side of unoriginality. The Finnish American photographer Arno Minkkinen dramatises this deep truth about the power of patience with a parable about Helsinki’, main bus station. There are two dozen platforms there, he explains, with several different bus lines departing from each one โ€” and for the first part of its journey, each busk leaving from any given platform takes the same route through the city as all the others, making identical stops. Thinly’. each stop as representing one year of your career, Minkkinen advises photography students. You pick an artistic direction โ€” perhaps you start working on platinum prints of nudes โ€” and you begin to accumulate a portfolio of work. Three years (or bus stops) later, you proudly present it to the owner of a gallery. But you’re dismayed to be told that your pictures aren’t as original as you thought, because they look like knock-offs of the work of the photographer Irving Penn; Penn’s bus, it turns out, had been on the same route as yours. Annoyed at yourself for having wasted three years following somebody else’s path, you jump off that bus, hail a taxi, and return to where you started at the bus station. This time, you board a different bus, choosing a different genre of photography in which to specialise. But a few stops later, the same thing happens: you’re informed that your new body of work seems derivative, too. Back you go to the bus station. But the pattern keeps on repeating: nothing you produce ever gets recognised as being truly your own.

What’s the solution? ‘It’s simple,’ Minkkinen says. ‘Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.’ A little further out on their journeys through the city, Helsinki’s bus routes diverge, plunging off to unique destinations as they head through the suburbs and into the countryside beyond. That’s where the distinctive work begins. But it begins at all only for those who can muster the patience to immerse themselves in the earlier stage โ€” the trial-and-error phase of copying others, learning new skills and accumulating experience.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž How empathising can lead to immoral decisions

Take the following study carried out by another psychologist. In this experiment, a series of volunteers first heard the sad story of Sheri Summers, a ten-year-old suffering from a fatal disease. She’s on the waiting list for a life-saving treatment, but time’s running out. Subjects were told they could move Sheri up the waiting list, but they’re asked to be objective in their decision. Most people didn’t consider giving Sheri an advantage. They understood full well that every child on that list was sick and in need of treatment. Then came the twist. A second group of subjects was given the same scenario, but was then asked to imagine how Sheri must be feeling: Wasn’t it heartbreaking that this little girl was so ill? Turns out this single shot of empathy changed everything. The majority now wanted to let Sheri jump the line. If you think about it, that’s a pretty shaky moral choice. The spotlight on Sheri could effectively mean the death of other children who had been on the list longer.

Excerpt from: Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

๐Ÿ’Ž Rather than trying to clear the decks, instead decline to clear the decks and instead focus on what’s of greatest consequence

In my days as a paid-up productivity geek, it was this aspect of the whole scenario that troubled me the most. Despite my thinking of myself as the kind of person who got things done, it grew painfully clear that the things I got done most diligently were the unimportant ones, while the important ones got postponed โ€” either forever or until an imminent deadline forced me to complete them, to a mediocre standard and in a stressful rush. The email from my news-paper’s IT department about the importance of regularly changing my password would provoke me to speedy action, though I could have ignored it entirely. (The clue was in the subject line, where the words ‘PLEASE READ’ are generally a sign you needn’t bother reading what follows.) Mean-while, the long message from an old friend now living in New Delhi and research for the major article I’d been planning for months would get ignored, because I told myself that such tasks needed my full focus, which meant waiting until I had a good chunk of free time and fewer small-but-urgent tasks tugging at my attention. And so, instead, like the dutiful and efficient worker I was, I’d put my energy into clearing the decks, cranking through the smaller stuff to get it out of the way โ€” only to discover that doing so took the Whole day, that the decks filled up again overnight anyway, and that the moment for responding to the New Delhi email or for researching the milestone article never arrived. One can waste years this way, systematically postponing precisely the things one cares about the most.

What’s needed instead in such situations, I gradually came to understand, is a kind of anti-skill: not the counter-productive strategy of trying to make yourself more efficient, but rather a willingness to resist such urges โ€” to learn to stay with the anxiety of feeling overwhelmed, of not being on top of everything, without automatically responding by trying to fit more in. To approach your days in this fashion means, instead of clearing the decks, declining to clear the decks, focusing instead on what’s truly of greatest consequence while tolerating the discomfort of knowing that, as you do so, the decks will be filling up further, with emails and errands and other to-dos, many of which you may never get round to at all. You’ll sometimes still decide to drive yourself hard in an effort to squeeze more in, when circumstances absolutely re-quire it. But that won’t be your default mode, because you’ll no longer be operating under the illusion of one day making time for everything.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž On work expanding to fill the time available

The same goes for chores: in her book More Work for Mother, the American historian Ruth Schwarty Cowan shows that when housewives first got access to โ€˜laboursaving’ devices like washing machines and vacuum cleaners, no time was saved at all, because society’s standards of cleanliness simply rose to offset the benefits; now that you could return each of your husband’s shirts to a spotless condition after a single wearing, it began to feel like you should, to show how much you loved him. Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, the English humorist and historian C. Northcote Parkinson wrote in 1955, coining w became known as Parkinson’s law. But it’s not merely a joke and it doesn’t apply only to work. It applies to everything that needs doing. In fact, it’s the definition of what needs doing that expands to fill the time available.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž There is no moment in the future when you’ll magically be done with everything

The same logic, Abel points out, applies to time. If you try to find time for your most valued activities by first dealing with all the other important demands on your time, in the hope that there’ll be some left over at the end, you’ll be disappointed. So if a certain activity really matters to you – a creative project, say, though it could just as easily be nurturing a relationship, or activism in the service of some cause – the only way to be sure it will happen is to do some of it today, no matter how little, and no matter how many other genuinely big rocks may be begging for your attention. After years of trying and failing to make time for her illustration work, by taming her to-do list and shuffling her schedule, Abel saw that her only viable option was to claim time instead – to just start drawing, for an hour or two, every day, and to accept the consequences, even if those included neglecting other activities she sincerely valued. If you don’t save a bit of your time for you, now, out of every week,’ as she puts it, ‘there is no moment in the future when you’ll magically be done with everything and have loads of free time.’ This is the same insight embodied in two venerable pieces of time management advice: to work on your most important project for the first hour of each day, and to protect your time by scheduling ‘meetings’ with your-self, marking them in your calendar so that other commitments can’t intrude. Thinking in terms of ‘paying yourself first’ transforms these one-off tips into a philosophy of life, at the core of which lies this simple insight: if you plan to spend some of your four thousand weeks doing what matters most to you, then at some point you’re just going to have to start doing it.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

๐Ÿ’Ž Donโ€™t remove a seemingly foolish long-standing custom or institution until you understand its intended purpose

This rule is known as Chesterton’s fence, after G. K. Chesterton, the British writer who proposed it in an essay in 1929. Imagine you discover a road that has a fence built across it for no particular reason you can see. You say to yourself, “Why would someone build a fence here? This seems unnecessary and stupid, let’s tear it down.” But if you don’t understand why the fence is there, Chesterton argued, you can’t be confident that it’s okay to tear it down. Long-standing customs or institutions are like those fences, he said. Naive reformers look at them and say, “I don’t see the use of this; let’s clear it away.” But more thoughtful reformers reply, “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

Excerpt from: The Scout Mindset: The Perils of Defensive Thinking and How to Be Right More Often by Julia Galef

๐Ÿ’Ž Why seeking perfection may be an imperfect strategy (a Golf lesson)

In golf, perfection is represented by a hole in one. I mean, even I know that. But recently I was fascinated to discover that most professional players don’t aim for that particular metric. Instead, they try to leave the ball stiff: a foot or so beneath the hole. This gives them a chance of an easy putt uphill, whereas if they try to be too precise, thereโ€™s a risk they end up above the hole with a more difficult downhill shot.

Occasionally, the ball will go straight in, but this is usually the unintentional result of a bad shot! Likewise, a less accomplished player will sometimes aim for the flag, but any direct hits will be greatly outnumbered by misses. That’s why you’ve never heard of the world record holder for holes in one (Texan player Mancil Davies has achieved 51 but has never got beyond journeyman status because of the erratic nature of his technique).

The point is that the top pros don’t aim for perfection every time. They aim to get 90% of the way there because they know that – over the course of a round, a tournament or a career – this will produce better results than shooting for 100%.

Excerpt from: Go Luck Yourself: 40 ways to stack the odds in your brand’s favour by Andy Nairn

๐Ÿ’Ž An unintended consequence of Uber

Among other things, Uber has made it far easier for party-goers to get home safely. A study published in 2017 found that after Uber’s arrival in Portland, Oregon, alcohol-related car crashes declined by 62%. But at the same time, the spread of ride-hailing apps may have tempted people to drink to excess, knowing that they won’t beat the wheel. A study published in November 2019 by three economists – Jacob Burgdorf and Conor Lennon of the University of Louisville, and Keith Teltser of Georgia State University – found that the widespread availability of ride-sharing apps had indeed made it easier for the late-night crowd to binge.

By matching data on Uber’s availability with health Surveys from America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the authors found that on average alcohol consumption rose by 3%, binge drinking (in which a person downs four or five-drinks in two hours) increased by 8%, and heavy drinking (defined as three or more instances of binge drinking in a month) surged by 9% within a couple of years of the ride-hailing company coming to town. Increases were even higher in cities without public transport, where the presence of Uber led average drinking to rise by 5% and instances of binge drinking to go up by around 20%. (heavy drinking still rose by 9%.) Remarkably, excessive drinking had actually been in decline before Uberโ€™s appearance, giving further evidence that the firmโ€™s arrival affected behavior.

Excerpt from: Unconventional Wisdom: Adventures in the Surprisingly True by Tom Standage

๐Ÿ’Ž Social proof – Rolling Stones style

The original manager of the Rolling Stones, Andrew Loog Oldham, acted out his own form of emotional contagion in 1965 , from the back of the theatre where the band would perform. As the band came onstage, he noticed that if he crouched down to be out of sight and screamed in high-pitched voice, then everyone would would scream with him. The rest, as they say, is rock and roll history.

Excerpt from: Tarzan Economics: Eight Principles for Pivoting through Disruption by Will Page

๐Ÿ’Ž On the importance of an eclectic mix of stimuli if weโ€™re to have an interesting point of view

Talking of which, another strategist called Russell Davies does a talk on “How to be interesting”. And guess what metaphor he uses – albeit in a very different way?

“We need to have lots of random hooks and loops,” he says. “If we read the same old books, we get to know more about the thing we know lots about already. We need to subscribe to magazines that we wouldn’t normally subscribe to; we need to go to places that we wouldn’t normally go to, eat at places that may not be our kind of place. We stay interesting when we don’t just stay in our groove. We keep pushing; we leave what we know behind for a bit. Velcro goes in many different directions in order to make a connection. If we are interested in new ideas so should we.”

Excerpt from: Go Luck Yourself: 40 ways to stack the odds in your brand’s favour by Andy Nairn