With all the noise overwhelming our lives and our social streams it’s easy to miss the good stuff. Content like tweets, in particular, are especially perishable. That’s why I’ve always been a fan of highlighting some of my favorite posts at the end of each month.
This is my effort to provide a little signal by curating some of the best/most interesting posts (of the 100’s I read) during the month of September 2014. I recommend identifying and diving into 2-3 that resonate with you. Focus less on the dopamine rush you get from hopping from article to article and more on how you apply the wisdom in these posts to your own life.
Please use the comments section to recommend and share other posts you found useful and/or your best post from October.
The commentary below the link is typically the author’s own words that I’ve extracted as a key takeaway; however, sometimes I add my own commentary and make connections as well.
[Blog Posts/News Articles]:
The Apollo program was massive in size and complexity. It was executed at an incredible pace (only eight years spanned Kennedy’s pledge to Armstrong’s steps) and it yielded innovations at a staggering rate. And it was all done without e-mail.
Hearing this story induces a key insight: the way we currently use e-mail technology — in which our day is interrupt-driven and quick responses are expected — is not a necessary condition to successfully manage teams and organizations tackling hard problems.
[See also: Most people have 2-2.5 hours of peak productivity per day. Instead of guarding this time for their most important tasks, most people use this time for e-mail. “Most people simply spend too much time in their inboxes to accomplish anything of substance,” writes Eric Baker. Read more on how to be more efficient at the office. And here’s 15+ articles citing the importance of a quiet work environment.]
“If you’re reading a little more & thinking a little longer than your colleagues, over time the gap between you & them grows.”
- Luck is not as important as people think.
- Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest
- Become comfortable with ambiguity
Click the link above to read Cal’s full summary and additional takeaways from Hamming’s address, a talk that is famous among applied mathematicians and computer scientists because of its relentlessly honest and detailed dissection of how stars in these fields become stars.
Lists – get and give – Rohan Rajiv
There are always 2 kinds of lists. The first kind is the “get” list – described best by want, desire, and comparisons. The second is the “give” list – described largely by perspective and gratitude.
The “get” list seems to work great for the short term. The happiness that comes with it, however, isn’t happiness. All you get are fleeting moments of joy. The “give” list, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to do much for you for the longest time. Until it does.
The Empty Container – Leo Babauta
[A nice mental model for ensuring we’re doing the things that matter most to us and not getting distracted by trivial complications and busy work.]
Our lives get so complicated not overnight but gradually. Today I say yes to an email request, tomorrow I say yes to a party invitation, then I get asked to a quick cup of coffee, then I decide to be a part of a project. One yes at a time, and soon my life is full and I don’t know how I got so busy.
Instead of thinking, “How can I get rid of this complicated mess?” … let’s ask, “What if I started with a blank slate?” What would you do if your life was a blank slate? If it were an empty container, with limited space, what would you put in it?
Regular Exercise is Part of Your Job – Ron Friedman
Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work. By incorporating regular exercise into your routine you can expect: improved concentration, sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity, and lower stress.
On days when employees visited the gym (during work hours), their experience at work changed. They reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive, and having smoother interactions with their colleagues. Just as important: They went home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day.
Discussing pay is awkward — at least when you’re talking about your pay with your boss.
That’s why most employees will never say the following:
- We think about our pay all the time; it is the most important number in their family’s budget.
- Great employees are worth a lot more than their pay. You get what you pay for, so pay whatever you can to get and keep the best you can.
- Once pay is reasonable and fair, other things become important: recognition, respect, challenging work, opportunities for development…
Click the link above to read the full list.
What Will it Take to Run a Two Hour Marathon? – Alex Hutchinson
I run about 12-15 miles a week as part of my fitness regimen, but I have never run a marathon. Still, this article kept me completely enthralled, especially with the digital presentation and infographics.
Nine factors will determine the likelihood of a sub-two-hour race—and they’ll all have to align to create the perfect race for the perfect runner.
This is the story of how an unlikely threesome—a girl, a heavy metal band and their fans — pioneered the web at its infancy, bucked the status quo and proved that the Internet wasn’t a fad. As a marketing professional and early believer in the power of the Internet, I found this article incredibly interesting, but I don’t think you have to be either to appreciate the innovation that happened as a result of Megadeth, Arizona.
Why are students in Finland outperforming students in America? – Pasi Sahlberg
- They have less homework than their peers in other countries. A child’s socioeconomic background is less of an impediment to academic performance. And there is only one standardized test, which is administered in the final year of high school.
- Teachers in Finland have time to work together with their colleagues during the school day. The average teaching load of junior high school teachers in Finland is about half what it is in the United States. That enables teachers to build professional networks, share ideas and best practices. This is an important condition to enhancing teaching quality.
- Play constitutes a significant part of individual growth and learning in Finnish schools. Every class must be followed by a 15-minute recess break so children can spend time outside on their own activities. Schooldays are also shorter in Finland than in the United States, and primary schools keep the homework load to a minimum so students have time for their own hobbies and friends when school is over.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Caffeine does not dehydrate you. The diuretic effect of caffeine is offset by the amount of water in the drink.
- Napoleon was not short. At 5’7″ he was actually above average height for a Frenchman of that time.
- Dropped pennies from high places won’t kill you. Terminal velocity of a penny is 30-50 mph, which isn’t fast enough. It would hurt, though.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at Greg Maddux – Jeremy Collins
I don’t know how to describe this longform piece from Sports Nation other than to say it’s one of the best things I’ve read all year.
Jason Kottke captures the piece better than I can:
This not really a story about Greg Maddux. Or sports. It’s about Jeremy Collins’ friend Jason Kenney, demons, self-control, determination, friendship, competitiveness, and loss.
[Thoughts I’m Chewing On]:
- How can I streamline the ways in which I track my life (post on this coming in Novemeber) so that I’m capturing the most important things and ensuring they’re aligned with my long term goals?
- How can I force myself to consume less, clear some clutter and open up more time to read (books), write, think, create and help more people — through this blog or otherwise.
“Competition validates the market. Don’t fear it, be better than it.” – Meredith Perry
“The amount of hysteria one demonstrates isn’t at all related to how much work is being done (or how much we care).” – Seth Godin
“Impressions without transactions is popularity without a date to the dance.” – Olivier Blanchard
“A boss who micromanages is like a coach who wants to get in the game. Leaders guide & support…then sit back & cheer from the sidelines.” – Simon Sinek
“I’m optimistic arguably to a fault, especially in terms of new ideas. My presumptive tendency, when I’m presented with a new idea, is not to ask, ‘Is it going to work?’ It’s, ‘Well, what if it does work?'” – Marc Andreesen (Read the full interview)
If you made it this far and found this post valuable in any way, please let me know in the comments which of these reads caught your attention. Better yet, why don’t you share something you’ve read recently that you think I’d find interesting.
If you like this post, you might also like this year’s previous installments: