The List #24

Photo by Len Matthews

After a bit of a hiatus I'm bringing back my weekly link roundup, The List. Kick back with a tasty beverage of your choice and enjoy the best of what I've read recently.

P.S. Did you know you can see everything I love in Instapaper? I only share a tiny segment of everything I thought was pretty great each week. Check out that link for more great stuff to read.

To Stop Procrastinating, Start by Understanding the Emotions Involved - The Wall Street Journal

"Dr. Sirois and Dr. Pychyl also have focused on short-term mood repair as an anti-procrastination strategy. They teach people to recognize that they might have strong emotions, such as anxiety, at the start of a project but to not judge themselves for it. The next step is just to get started, step by step, with a narrow focus."

Amazing how most advice regarding self-development is some flavor of, "Feel the fear and then do it anyway." It's the simplest yet hardest advice to actually use.

Oliver Sacks: Sabbath - The New York Times

"And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest."

With Dr. Sacks recent passing I've been devouring his writing across the internet (and plan to dive into his books soon). This article is profound.

Commuters, unite! Why cities around the world need to design better routes to work - Quartz

"Poor or lengthy commuting has been linked to (in no particular order): weight-gain, neck pain, unhappiness, anxiety, lower life satisfaction, lower sense of worth, divorce, depression, stress, mental health issues, and other health issues from increased exposure to air pollution. A 2014 study of 60,000 UK commuters correlates commuting with depression and anxiety."

I've been extremely lucky in my career so far to avoid lengthy commutes (not hard to do when you are a full-time graduate student living near campus or working for yourself). I've done enough driving in Los Angeles traffic, though, to have my heart go out for everyone who has to sit in that day after day after day.

A Big Little Idea Called Legibility - Ribbonfarm

"Here is the recipe:

  • Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city
  • Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works
  • Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations
  • Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like
  • Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality
  • Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary
  • Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly

The big mistake in this pattern of failure is projecting your subjective lack of comprehension onto the object you are looking at, as “irrationality.” We make this mistake because we are tempted by a desire for legibility."

As someone interested in organizational change this made me pause and think about my assumptions. Meaningful organizational design and change needs to avoid this trap.

A Look at the Painstaking, Intricate Art of Globemaking - The Atlantic: City Lab

"Ask Peter Bellerby, one of the few people left who still makes globes by hand. Nowadays, globes are mostly made by machines, and Bellerby says he knows why. “It’s horrendously difficult. You have to retrain your body to work in a much slower and guarded way,” he says. “They’ve got to want to do it and not be beaten by the process.” It took him more than a year to learn the art."

I never realized I wanted a globe. Now I do. Also, in the realm of people making awesome things by hand, I'm not sure how I wasn't aware of Anthony Bourdain's little web series, Raw Craft. Ignore the product placement and enjoy these short little episodes of craftspeople doing their thing.