No. 491 — September 25th, 2022
Brain Food is a weekly newsletter with the insights you need.
Paul Graham on finding ideas:
“Great work tends to grow out of ideas that others have overlooked, and no idea is so overlooked as one that’s unthinkable.”
My conversation with Linkedin co-founder and VC investor Reid Hoffman on rapid scaling, the three principles he uses to make better decisions, rituals that make meetings more effective, leading in a crisis, and more.
“One of the difficult things about making decisions is it reduces opportunity in the short-term, but that’s the only thing that really creates great opportunity in the long-term.”
Leonard Cohen on the seduction of inspiration:
“My immediate realm of thought is bureaucratic and like a traffic jam. My ordinary state of mind is very much like the waiting room at the DMV. Or, as I put it in a quatrain, “The voices in my head, they don’t care what I do, they just want to argue the matter through and through.
So to penetrate this chattering and this meaningless debate that is occupying most of my attention, I have to come up with something that really speaks to my deepest interest. Otherwise, I just nod off in one way or another. So to find that song, that urgent song, takes a lot of versions and a lot of work and a lot of sweat.
But why shouldn’t my work be hard? Almost everybody’s work is hard. One is distracted by this notion that there is such a thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work as hard as any stiff, to come up with the payload.”
My high school football coach used to run us like crazy after a bad game. While I’m sure these tactics wouldn’t be accepted today, the lessons I learned in these moments still help me when things are hard.
The most practical skill in life is learning to do things when you don’t feel like doing them. Anyone can do it when it’s easy, but most people drop out the minute easy stops.
Muhammad Ali was asked how many sit-ups would do to prepare for a fight. His reply: “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts.” True to Ali’s mindset, our coach would only start counting the sprints when people started falling over.
Inevitably someone on the team would say they wanted to quit. The coach would shout back a bunch of things that can’t be repeated, but he’d finish with “If you really want to quit, you can quit tomorrow, but you can’t quit today.”
No one ever quit the next day.
The person who is consistent outperforms the person who is intermittent every time. While inconsistent effort works for some things, for the things that really matter you need to be consistent. If you want to be consistent, you need strategies to keep you going when things are hard.
The key to doing something you know you should do when you don’t feel like doing it is telling yourself that you can quit tomorrow but not today.
Max Roser on progress.
“History’s big lesson is that things change. But it is hard to imagine how dire living conditions once were and that makes it difficult to grasp just how much the world has changed.”
“There is room up in organizations to boost performance by amping up the pace and intensity. Considerable slack naturally exists in organizations to perform at much higher levels. The role of leadership is to convert that lingering potential into superlative results.”
“At its peak, the Apollo program was consuming 60% of all chips manufactured in the United States.”
P.S. This is pretty crazy to watch.