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Miles Davis, So What, and being in accord no matter the chord

This story that opens jazz great Herbie Hancock’s memoir, Possibilities, is profound: I’m onstage at a concert hall in Stockholm, Sweden, in the mid-1960s playing piano with the Miles Davis Quintet. We’re on tour, and this show is really heating up. The band is tight—we’re all in sync, all on the same wavelength. The music […]

The only competition that matters

“Oh my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible.” –Pindar “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” –Seneca “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” –Robert Louis Stevenson The only competition that […]

Energy crisis

“To preserve hope in our world makes calls upon our intelligence and our energy. In those who despair it is frequently the energy that is lacking.” –Bertrand Rusell The know-how may be less crucial than the want-to and the get-up-and-go. The will to action can be tough to summon. But it’s often the first step—the […]

Things fall apart: The Second Law and the meaning of life

I keep coming back to this feature I read last year on the scientific term or concept that scholars think ought to be more widely known. Here’s the scientist Steven Pinker’s response explaining why more people should understand entropy as described by the second law of thermodynamics: Why the awe for the Second Law? The Second […]

On not aiming for fame

I saw this New York Times column by Emily Esfahani Smith last fall and filed it away to reference later. I ended up reading her book, The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness. She makes the case that a good life is one that most likely looks quite ordinary and […]

On noticing when you’re happy

From a 2003 speech to college students by the author Kurt Vonnegut: And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other […]

By-the-way happiness

“Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.” […]

Defying gravity

I get The Daily Stoic daily email. Today’s email quoted this passage from Walker Percy’s book, The Moviegoer: “I don’t know quite what we’re doing on this insignificant cinder spinning away in a dark corner of the universe. That is a secret which the high gods have not confided in me. Yet one thing I […]

Wired for story

“After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” –Philip Pullman Humans are wired for story. It’s what knitted us together into a tribal species and ended up being a key to our eventual dominance of the planet. We built our culture on stories, useful fictions that allowed us […]

Raw materials

I routinely forget to celebrate the arrival of unwanted circumstances that are beyond my control. I need to remind myself that external events which I perceive to be happening to me are actually raw materials that I can use in my endeavor to craft a more excellent life. I can utilize events out of my control to […]

If this is it

What if this life is the paradise we were promised, and we're just squandering it? — Naval Ravikant (@naval) August 14, 2016 What if this is it?  Paradise—right here, right now. As far as we can see in this vast universe, there is no place like this planet, no place like our home. It’s filled […]

Beware of advice

“Beware of advice, even this.” –Carl Sandburg via Scott Berkun Learn all you can from the experience and wisdom of others, but ultimately you have to live your own life as best you can on your own. Or not.

Career goal: Spark more smiles

There was a person in my meeting that everyone was looking forward to seeing because they make everyone smile. That is my career goal. — insooutso (@InsoOutso) August 3, 2016 I laughed with delight when I first saw this tweet.  It made me think fondly of people I know who light up a room with […]

Relax already: David Letterman on ego and perspective

David Letterman reflects on no longer having his television show: “We did this television show—my friends and I—for a very long time. It’s probably like anyone else’s professional pursuit. When you are doing it for so long, and for each day—I have always likened it to running a restaurant—because you get response to the day’s […]

A student, not a teacher

The great Greek philosopher Socrates is a character in the novel I’m reading, and in it he refers to himself as a student, not a teacher. The best teachers and authors I’ve encountered have had that mindset. You are learning with them, not just from them. The wiser you become, the more you realize how […]

Don’t find yourself. Create yourself.

A conversation I heard yesterday reminded me that so many of us think there is some inner kernel inside that is the “true” version of ourselves. If only we keep digging and searching we will eventually, hopefully, uncover what or who we are somehow meant to be. It’s my experience, though, that the search to find yourself is […]

Don’t wobble

Sit, sit. Walk, walk. Don’t wobble. –Zen proverb Kevin Kelly shared this wisdom in his most recent interview on Tim Ferriss’s podcast. When you sit, fully sit. When you walk, make walking the thing. When you’re in conversation with another human being, let all else fall away except for that conversation. Don’t wobble. Don’t drift from […]

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