ButWhatFor? Four for Friday | No. 041
Resources, Bad Habits, Foster Homes, and Britain did a Genocide
Welcome to all our new subscribers! ButWhatFor? is about anything, as long as it’s interesting. Thanks for joining!
The Friday email discusses things from others. Original long-form pieces are shared from time to time. If you enjoy the newsletter, please forward it to a few friends/colleagues or click here to share it on Twitter!
ButWhatFor? Four for Friday
One Quote: Greater than our Resources
One Long: Bad Habits
One Short: I Grew Up in Foster Homes
One Extra: That Time Britain Did A Genocide
We will benefit from that helpful precept of Democritus, showing us that tranquility lies in not undertaking tasks, either in public or private, that are either numerous or greater than our resources.
A trap I often fall into is trying to do too much. I think many others have the same problem. It seems to be a mental disease of some sort for the anxious or motivated.
It is easy to look at 24 hours in a day, say that is nowhere near enough time to do everything you want to do but you are going to try anyway, stuff your time full of idealistically optimized tasks, fail miserably at roughly all of them, and then feel bad about it when you are trying to sleep that night.
The ancient Stoics had the same problem — so Seneca had to remind them that life is about prioritization. It's hard because most of the time the person telling us to do that incremental thing is the person staring at us out of the mirror.
That person tends to be a terrible taskmaster if you aren't careful.
To quote Ryan Holiday of the Daily Stoic:
Each of us needs to take the time to set our priorities straight and to understand our limits... The key isn’t to always do more, more, more, but sometimes to do less so that we can do more of what we care most about.
Picasso was walking through the market one day when a woman approached him.
She pulled out a piece of paper and said, “Mr. Picasso, I am a fan of your work. Please, could you do a little drawing for me?”
Picasso smiled and quickly drew a small, but beautiful piece of art on the paper. He handed it back to her.
“That will be one million dollars.”
“But Mr. Picasso,” the woman protested, “It only took you thirty seconds to draw this little masterpiece.”
Picasso smiled, “On the contrary, it took me thirty years to draw that masterpiece in thirty seconds.”
A while back, Sahil Bloom shared an email in the spirit of thinking backwards / thinking through inversion — but more specifically about how habits can tear apart your future more easily than you can build it.
Some of the "bad habits" that caught my eye:
Saying yes to everything (see Quote above)
Obsessively optimizing your time
Multitasking is simply fake productivity
“Comparison is the thief of joy” — Theodore Roosevelt
A persistent desire to be right
Waiting for the perfect moment
“Give them the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late, the best never comes” — Robert Watson-Watt
Rob Henderson writes about a variety of topics all tied into human nature on Substack. He also has quite the Twitter following and a while back posted about things he learned growing up and dealing with a less-than-stable childhood.
Some things that stood out to me — and apparently I have a thing for bulleted lists this week — though the entire thread is a quick, interesting read, but:
You are what you do. Not what you say or what you believe.
Have friends outside of your profession.
This is something that I have shared with friends and colleagues over time as well; I work in banking / investing, and you can get stuck in a fake, little, unhappy finance world with all its associated myopia if you aren’t careful
Getting punched in the face once permanently reduces your fear of it happening again. It’s not fun. But it’s not as bad as you think.
Read at least ten pages of a book every morning. It doesn’t have to be the same book. Just start by building the habit.
This is good for any habit: “Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action” — James Clear
Envy knows many disguises.
Don’t be the smartest person in the room.
If you have a good idea or an interesting thought, always write it down
At funerals, people don’t talk about the accomplishments of the deceased. They talk about their character.
I think most people know of the Irish Potato Famine — the mid-1800s period of mass starvation and disease that lead to over a million deaths and two million people leaving Ireland.
What I think a lot of people don't know — I was completely unaware, at least — is that but for the British's colonization efforts and the related taxes on the Irish, the famine’s deadly impact could have been mostly avoided. There was enough food in Ireland outside of potatoes, but the British land owners and the government continued to forcibly take it from the Irish through taxes and threats of homelessness.
Thus, in effect, the cold approach the British government and landowners took towards the plight of the starving Irish was a genocide. They viewed the Irish of lesser value than their "true" citizens in the UK, blamed these made-up deficiencies for the increasing death toll, leveraged recently popularized and conveniently responsibility-reducing Malthusian ideas about population collapses being inevitable for the unsophisticated, and went on their own merry way.
Robert Evans does a great job with the topic here:
If you made it all the way down here, please take a moment to share it with someone that might find it interesting — I appreciate your support greatly!
🚨📬 IMPORTANT: To make sure my emails hit your inbox and don't get lost in junk/spam, I recommend taking these quick steps:
Gmail users: Move the newsletter to your primary inbox:
On your phone: Hit the 3 dots (...) at the top right corner of the app, click "Move to" then "Primary". If you don't see Primary, you're already set
On desktop: Back out of this email, drag & drop this email into the "Primary" tab on the top left of the screen
Apple mail users:
Tap on the email address at the top of this email (next to "From:" on mobile) and click "Add to VIP"
Everyone else on other email clients:
Follow these instructions
Have a great weekend,
See here for a full archive of But What For? articles
But What For? Because anything can be interesting