September 21, 2020
My favorite career advice is to develop a “personal moat.” A personal moat is a set of unique and accumulating competitive advantages in the context of your career. Like company moats, your personal moat should be a competitive advantage specific to you that's not only durable, but compounds over time.
September 9, 2020
The modern world firmly equates the intelligent person with the well-read person. Reading books, a lot of books, is the hallmark of brilliance as well as the supreme gateway to prestige and understanding. It’s hard to imagine anyone arriving at any insights of value without having worked their way through an enormous number of titles over the years. There is apparently no limit to how much we should read.
September 6, 2020
I’m an instinctive skeptic, so the widespread claim from sports psychologists that the semi-random babble of words bouncing around in my head can influence my 10K time has always seemed… improbable, to put it politely.
September 1, 2020
Paywalls are justified, even though they are annoying. It costs money to produce good writing, to run a website, to license photographs. A lot of money, if you want quality. Asking people for a fee to access content is therefore very reasonable. You don’t expect to get a print subscription to the newspaper gratis, why would a website be different?
September 1, 2020
Human beings have an astonishing evolutionary gift: agile imaginations that can shift in an instant from thinking on a scale of seconds to a scale of years or even centuries. Our minds constantly dance across multiple time horizons. One moment we can be making a quickfire response to a text and the next thinking about saving for our pensions or planting an acorn in the ground for posterity.
August 31, 2020
Even though mathematicians have spent over 2,000 years dissecting the structure of the five Platonic solids — the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, icosahedron and dodecahedron — there’s still a lot we don’t know about them. Now, a trio of mathematicians has resolved one of the most basic questions about the dodecahedron.
August 30, 2020
The Japanese Zen term shoshin translates as ‘beginner’s mind’ and refers to a paradox: the more you know about a subject, the more likely you are to close your mind to further learning. As the Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki put it in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (1970): ‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.’
August 24, 2020
When I got my first apartment in Manhattan in the hot summer of 1976, there was no pooper-scooper law, and the streets were covered in dog crap. I signed the rental agreement, walked outside, and my car had been towed. I still thought, “This is the greatest place I’ve ever been in my life.”
August 20, 2020
The word narrative is bandied about a lot today, so that it's almost become a cliché. But cliches are born from insight. In this case, it is about the power of the stories that we tell about ourselves, each other, and the world to cohere us in a common purpose.
August 17, 2020
The Twitter feed of Eric Topol, with nearly 300,000 followers, has become one of the go-to places for reliable updates on the COVID-19 pandemic. Topol is the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, professor of molecular medicine, and executive vice president of Scripps Research.
August 17, 2020
It was a balmy week in September, and in gleaming office buildings in Beijing's Central Business District, startup employees hunched over their computers putting in the long hours customary in Chinese tech culture. Nearby, I was hunkered down with eight Chinese entrepreneurs, also working 12-hour days. But we weren't working on a startup, we were working on ourselves.
August 13, 2020
Four months ago, employees at many U.S. companies went home and did something incredible: They got their work done, seemingly without missing a beat. Executives were amazed at how well their workers performed remotely, even while juggling child care and the distractions of home.
August 4, 2020
On May 4, a slick, 26-minute video was released, alleging that the coronavirus was actually a laboratory-manipulated virus deployed to wreak havoc so that a resulting vaccine could be used for profit. None of that was true, and Plandemic’s claims were thoroughly, repeatedly debunked. Still, it went viral, getting liked on Facebook 2.5 million times.
August 1, 2020
I envy voracious book readers. They seem worldly and wise. Also, whatever is happening in their lives, they’re never completely on their own – they always have their books. My mother is one of these life-long devourers of literature, for whom books are a constant companion.
July 29, 2020
Serendipity, the accidental solution to a problem the problem-solver isn’t consciously trying to solve, is credited with some of science’s most important discoveries, from penicillin to super glue. One classic example occurred when Swiss engineer George de Mestral noticed that the microscopic teeth by which burs became attached to his dog’s fur when they were walking in the woods could be adapted to hold other things together, too—in the form of Velcro.
July 11, 2020
Happy endings are common in the movies, but rare in real life. Sometimes they do happen. And sometimes they happen because of the movies. That’s the only way to describe Carl Reiner’s final curtain call.
June 14, 2020
I met that elderly monkey in a small Japanese-style inn in a hot-springs town in Gunma Prefecture, some five years ago. It was a rustic or, more precisely, decrepit inn, barely hanging on, where I just happened to spend a night.
June 10, 2020
I want to spend an essay talking about tacit knowledge, and why I think it is the most interesting topic in the domain of skill acquisition. If you are a longtime Commonplace reader, you’ll likely have come across this idea before, because I’ve written about it numerous times in the past.
June 10, 2020
Now is not the time to go to the grocery store, to restock the pantry, to get fresh milk and eggs. Yet I need to replenish my food supplies. Well then, I should go. Wait, is everyone else thinking this same way? Then everyone would go. I shouldn’t go.
June 9, 2020
Chris Anderson opens his 2012 book, Makers, with a story about his maternal grandfather, Fred Hauser. Anderson recalls a childhood experience spending a summer with his grandfather at his bungalow in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. “He announced that we would be making a four-stroke gasoline engine and that he had ordered a kit we could build together,” Anderson writes.