Sunday Wisdom No. 59
When we plan to improve ourselves or grow a business, we pursue dramatic changes like, run 10 km everyday, or grow 10x a month. It’s not sustainable. There’s a better approach.
Hi, I’m Abhishek. Each week I introduce you to multidisciplinary wisdom—in the form of original essays, bite-sized lessons, book reviews, article recommendations, quotes, and more—that gives you an unfair advantage over others. If you are loving Sunday Wisdom, consider buying me a coffee or sharing this newsletter with a friend.
Welcome to Issue 59!
Others are already paying attention to your weaknesses. So you better spend time identifying your strengths and honing your skills. If your weaknesses are crucial, delegate them.
If writing is your strength, but the technical knowhow required to setup a blog isn’t your forte, delegate it. Hire a developer or use a publishing platform. As long as your strengths alone can give you strategic advantage, you should delegate your weaknesses.
How to Make Time Work For You
In this week’s essay I talk about Compound Thinking.
When we plan to improve ourselves or grow a business, we pursue dramatic changes like, run 10 km everyday, or grow 10x a month. It’s not sustainable. There’s a better approach. It’s thinking in terms of compounding returns.
The phenomenon of compounding befuddles a lot of people. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the idea how tiny changes in the present can lead to massive outcomes in the future.
For example, do you know what led to the ice age? Was it long and harsh winters? Do you know that Warren Buffet maybe a skilled investor, but his secret doesn’t lie in his investment strategies? Also, that he may not be the best investor after all?
The counterintuitiveness of compounding is responsible for the majority of disappointing trades, bad strategies, and successful investing attempts. That’s why Compound Thinking is a (rare) skill that is known to everybody, but understood by very few. When mastered, it can give you unlimited and unfair advantage in the long run.
I’m a big fan of Maria Popova. After running Brain Pickings for 13 years, she listed 13 life learnings. Here are my favourites, in no particular order.
Allow yourself to change your mind. It’s good to have an opinion. It’s fatal to have a weak opinion based on superficial impressions. It’s disorienting to say, “I don’t know,” but it’s rewarding to ‘understand’ than to be ‘right’—even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or yourself.
Never do anything for prestige alone. Prestige warps your beliefs about what you enjoy. Prestige causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like. It’s rewarding in the short run, but detrimental in the long run. Prestige distracts you from deeper rewards.
When people, whoever they are, tell you who you are, ignore them. You know more about yourself than anybody else. What they think about you reveal more about them, and nothing about you. Wittgenstein’s Ruler.
Spend your days as you would spend your life. We are measured by how much we work, how much we make, and how efficient we are. Instead we should measure our lives by the amount of joy and wonder we create that makes our lives worth living.
Play the long game. Make time your friend. Expect anything worthwhile and long-lasting to take a long time to come to fruition. Overnight success is a myth. The 250-year-old Great Banyan in West Bengal didn’t occupy ~19,000 sq. metre on the first day, or the first year, or the first 10 years. All good things take time. But if you find joy in the process, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes.
All models are maps. All maps are approximates. They may not be accurate, no matter how common or popular they are. Question your maps, models, opinions, and ideas. Continually test them against reality.
No Room to Grieve
Journalist Anne Helen Petersen talks about how it has become difficult for us to grieve in these times because of the pandemic. Grief requires human touch, which has been replaced by video calls and endless screen time. The process of grieving itself has become exhausting.
Sometimes grief requires solitude. But it also often demands fellowship—and space to linger.
These days it’s almost a privilege to feel physically safe and economically stable. For families that have suffered job losses along with the loss of loved ones, there is a real and existential fear apart from grief.
All these systems that are supposed to protect us from this sort of grief, or at the very least ease it, are broken as shit—and have been for some time. That brokenness has created new inequities, but it’s also exacerbated old ones. The grief is not evenly distributed now, and it was not evenly distributed before.
Although she talks about the US, the sentiment applies to India and several other countries. When there’s scarcity of food (among families who depend on daily wages), grieving for the loss of a member becomes secondary.
It’s a privilage to have a job, food on a table, and a healthy family now—all that we take for granted.
The Future of Journalism
An NYT article talks about the new trend of journalists leaving publication houses to start paid newsletters of their own.
The news media business has been in steady decline. Roughly half of all newspaper jobs are gone, and thousands of journalists are being laid off. On top of that, people who care about journalism have lost faith in the news. News isn’t news anymore. It has become a propaganda engine.
Another possible reason, as mentioned on the Patreon Blog, is the lack of diversity in big publications. Similar stories get told from only a few perspectives that are very similar. “You don’t have the proper perspective and the proper diversity in these institutions to tell the stories that need to be told on the ground,” says reporter Oumar Salifou.
Journalism is no longer a one-way conversation — whether it’s through social media, email newsletters. The days of only knowing a reporter through their byline are over.
The new form of journalism is built on an intimate connection between the writers and their readers. Going solo means journalists can dedicate their time and energy to the stories that matter most to themselves and their audience. As the chief executive of Substack, the newsletter publication platform on which Sunday Wisdom is hosted, Chris Best says, “It’s not about getting the most retweets. It’s about convincing people to part with their money because they trust you.”
As a culture, we rely on journalists, writers, and storytellers now more than ever. When we lack understanding, they help us make sense of the rapidly changing world we live in, and when we need a moment from it all, they help us escape until we’re ready to dive back in.
Journalists are launching solo paid publications because chasing advertisers is a pain. The upside is that going paid means living up to the expectations of the audience, not the advertisers, or a publication, or a political party. This gives them the freedom to become more authentic.
People who pay for good content don’t care about sensational entertainment. Journalists would have to write for the subject’s sake, not for writing’s sake. The quality of content can only get better from here. Demand and supply.
This doesn’t mean that the publication houses would die away. 99.9% of the people would be watching the news for free. In India, news is the most socially acceptable form of entertainment. It’s heavily encouraged by all parents. But solo newsletters would provide the 0.01% minority an avenue to read the real news.
👋 That’s All!
One last thing. Reading this post won’t help, unless you swallow, chew, and digest these ideas. I urge you to become a demanding reader—one who questions the author, seeks answers, and doesn’t shy away from sharing differing opinions.