Favorite Essays on Life Advice

brown framed sunglasses on book page
Insightful writing is timeless. Quality trumps quantity, and I tend to re-read the same dozen articles often.

Below is a list of my favorite articles read in 2020. I hope you find something you enjoy as well. I’m always looking for great reads, please do reach out.

Growth Without Goals by Patrick Oshag

Man lives by time. Inventing the future has been his favorite game of escape. We think that changes in ourselves can come about in time, that order in ourselves can be built up little by little, added to day by day. But time doesn’t bring order or peace, so we must stop thinking in terms of gradualness. This means that there is no tomorrow for us to be peaceful in. We have to be orderly on the instant.

The Big Lessons from History by Morgan Housel

Carl Jung had a theory called enantiodromia. It’s the idea that an excess of something gives rise to its opposite. When there are no recessions, people get confident. When they get confident they take risks. When they take risks, you get recessions. When markets never crash, valuations go up. When valuations go up, markets are prone to crash. Banning small forest fires leads to big forest fires.

Life is Short by Paul Graham

When I ask myself what I’ve found life is too short for, the word that pops into my head is “bullshit.” I realize that answer is somewhat tautological. It’s almost the definition of bullshit that it’s the stuff that life is too short for. And yet bullshit does have a distinctive character. There’s something fake about it. It’s the junk food of experience.

In Praise of the Gods by Simon Sarris

Disembodied, our environments get simpler. Our every-day objects and art, which have long been personal because our use of them is necessarily personal, become less meaningful. Disembodied, they become “stuff.” Art once surrounded us, our gathering places were the very daemon of art, and we were part of them. These still exist in some cities and villages as the plaza, the “historic” center (if we built more of them we would not have to use that word), the buildings still cared for, the places where people can gather and work openly together. Most people’s experience of art is now much smaller, because their conception of art is smaller.

Time Confetti and the Broken Promise of Leisure by Ashley Whillans

Technology saves us time, but it also takes it away. This is known as the autonomy paradox. We adopt mobile technologies to gain autonomy over when and how long we work, yet, ironically, we end up working all the time. Long blocks of free time we used to enjoy are now interrupted constantly by our smart watches, phones, tablets, and laptops.

Too Busy to Pay Attention to Life by Shane Parrish

Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthy and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next – and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.

Crony Beliefs by Kevin Simler

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to make sense of the terrifying gulf that separates the inside and outside views of beliefs. From the inside, via introspection, each of us feels that our beliefs are pretty damn sensible. Sure we might harbor a bit of doubt here and there. But for the most part, we imagine we have a firm grip on reality; we don’t lie awake at night fearing that we’re massively deluded.

But when we consider the beliefs of other people? It’s an epistemic shit show out there. Astrology, conspiracies, the healing power of crystals. Aliens who abduct Earthlings and build pyramids. That vaccines cause autism or that Obama is a crypto-Muslim — or that the world was formed some 6,000 years ago, replete with fossils made to look millions of years old. How could anyone believe this stuff?!

You and Your Research by Richard Hamming

Let me start not logically, but psychologically. I find that the major objection is that people think great science is done by luck. It’s all a matter of luck. Well, consider Einstein. Note how many different things he did that were good. Was it all luck? Wasn’t it a little too repetitive? Consider Shannon. He didn’t do just information theory. Several years before, he did some other good things and some which are still locked up in the security of cryptography. He did many good things.

95%-ile Isn’t That Good by Dan Luu

Reaching 95%-ile isn’t very impressive because it’s not that hard to do. I think this is one of my most ridiculable ideas. It doesn’t help that, when stated nakedly, that sounds elitist. But I think it’s just the opposite: most people can become (relatively) good at most things.

How to Find Focus by Linus

I’ve been thinking about why it’s easier for me to focus now, and what might have changed. The most significant change in my thinking has been that I have a lot of conviction now that the few things I’m spending my time on – university, writing, side projects – are right for me.

Thanks for reading 🤗

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