why don’t we do this instead?

drew houston:

I have always wondered why people put so much energy into trying to have coffee with some famous entrepreneur when reading a book is like getting many hours of their most crystallized thoughts.

one thing that reading haruki murakami’s novels has taught me

“I think of myself as a kind of engineer. I don’t think of myself as an artist…. That would be easier for me to think of it this way.” – Haruki Murakami at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

One of the things reading Haruki Murakami novels taught me and is still teaching me is to see myself as ordinary. Even now, occasionally, I think of myself as special. I am not so special.

Some people have described me as self-deprecating. This is closer to the truth: I sometimes do good work, sometimes bad; I am too often hypocritical, biased, inconsistent and self-centered. I am too often an asshole.

When I started reading Murakami, I was thinking a lot about mental health. I wasn’t depressed but I thought I could be. People are difficult, life can be “difficult” even when you have food on the table and a roof over your head.

I had always been interested in the truth. It’s elusive I know but falsehoods are easier to figure out. And by eliminating falsehoods, one can reach closer to the truth. These are falsehoods – I am unbiased, I am good, I always try my best, I am hardworking, I am clever.

While extraordinary things happen to Murakami’s characters, the protagonists in his novels are ordinary people. They may have obsessions but they live simple and quiet lives and do not have an inflated opinion about themselves.

That is my desire.

At the book festival, Murakami also said that if he sees himself as an artist, “that would be too heavy”.

I desire that lightness – in my slides, my writing, my traveling, my affiliations, my emotions. Sometimes I ask myself if I am aiming too low. I leave the question unresolved. Tension is good if you manage to not let it destroy you. Recognising that I am weak, that I am scared is lightness.

It’s easier for me to think this way.

Quotes from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

He never met anyone he felt like getting to know better, so he spent most of his time in Tokyo alone. On the plus side, he read constantly, more than he ever had before.

You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them.

There are certain thoughts that, no matter what, you have to keep inside.

Jealousy—at least as far as he understood it from his dream—was the most hopeless prison in the world. Jealousy was not a place he was forced into by someone else, but a jail in which the inmate entered voluntarily, locked the door, and threw away the key. And not another soul in the world knew he was locked inside

This might sound rude, but I think it’s an amazing achievement to find even one specific thing that you’re interested in.

I don’t have any set, clear goal like you. I just want to think deeply about things. Contemplate ideas in a pure, free sort of way. That’s all.

“The cook hates the waiter, and they both hate the customer,” Haida said. “A line from the Arnold Wesker play The Kitchen. People whose freedom is taken away always end up hating somebody. Right? I know I don’t want to live like that.”

“Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn’t fear boundaries, but you also should not be afraid of destroying them. That’s what is most important if you want to be free: respect for and exasperation with boundaries. What’s really important in life is always the things that are secondary. That’s about all I can say.”

Something must be fundamentally wrong with me, Tsukuru often thought. Something must be blocking the normal flow of emotions, warping my personality. But Tsukuru couldn’t tell whether this blockage came about when he was rejected by his four friends, or whether it was something innate, a structural issue unrelated to the trauma he’d gone through.

The world isn’t that easily turned upside down, Haida replied. It’s people who are turned upside down.

Apart from whether I like it or not, I don’t reject thinking about things that aren’t logical. It’s not like I have some deep faith in logic. I think it’s important to find the point of intersection between what is logical and what is not.

You need to use the thread of logic, as best you can, to skillfully sew onto yourself everything that’s worth living for.

“I understand, but maybe it only appears, from the outside, that the wound is closed.” Sara gazed into his eyes and spoke quietly. “Maybe inside the wound, under the scab, the blood is still silently flowing. Haven’t you ever thought that?”

Haida liked looking things up at the library. Generally this meant I want to be alone for a while.

Basically a quick, impromptu brainwashing course to educate your typical corporate warriors. They use a training manual instead of sacred scriptures, with promotion and a high salary as their equivalent of enlightenment and paradise. A new religion for a pragmatic age. No transcendent elements like in a religion, though, and everything is theorized and digitalized. Very transparent and easy to grasp. And quite a few people get positive encouragement from this. But the fact remains that it’s nothing more than an infusion of the hypnotic into a system of thought that suits their goal, a conglomeration of only those theories and statistics that line up with their ultimate objectives.

And no matter how close we once were, and how much we opened up to each other, maybe neither of us knew anything substantial about the other.

But it would take a while for his mind to catch up to reality. It was nobody’s fault.

“But I work for a company, so I can’t just do what I like. There are all kinds of boring things I have to do.”

One other thing I learned from working in a company was that the majority of people in the world have no problem following orders. They’re actually happy to be told what to do. They might complain, but that’s not how they really feel. They just grumble out of habit. If you told them to think for themselves, and make their own decisions and take responsibility for them, they’d be clueless. So I decided I could turn that into a business.

Take your time. I can wait, Sara had said. But things weren’t that simple. People are in constant motion, never stationary.

Still, being able to feel pain was good, he thought. It’s when you can’t even feel any pain anymore that you’re in real trouble.

Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language.

And in that moment, he was finally able to accept it all. In the deepest recesses of his soul, Tsukuru Tazaki understood. One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility. There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss. That is what lies at the root of true harmony.

I survived the crisis. Swam through the night sea on my own. Each of us did what we had to do, in order to survive. I get the feeling that, even if we had made different decisions then, even if we had chosen to do things differently, we might have still ended up pretty much where we are now.

Everyone alive has a personality. It’s just more obvious with some people than with others.

No matter how honestly you open up to someone, there are still things you cannot reveal.

It’s just that it’s hard to survive in the real world.

We survived. You and I. And those who survive have a duty. Our duty is to do our best to keep on living. Even if our lives are not perfect.

There are some things women don’t want other people to see.

Don’t let the bad elves get you.

That amazing time in our lives is gone, and will never return. All the beautiful possibilities we had then have been swallowed up in the flow of time.

You don’t lack anything. Be confident and be bold. That’s all you need. Never let fear and stupid pride make you lose someone who’s precious to you.

But months passed, and contrary to his expectation, his heart didn’t stop. The heart apparently doesn’t stop that easily.

Sara said she has feelings for me. He had no reason to doubt it. But there are countless things in the world for which affection is not enough. Life is long, and sometimes cruel. Sometimes victims are needed. Someone has to take on that role.

@neilhimself explains why we read fiction

Neil Gaiman:

Back in the 17th century, back when poisoning used to happen a lot more than it happens now, people would ingest poisons regularly in tiny amounts to build up immunity, so that if someone tried to poison them, they would be O.K.

Fiction allows us to go safely behind other eyes and allows us to look out at the world. We take our little bits of poison and safely ingest them, so when the real thing happens, we’re prepared.

could put them back on again if she wished

“In her Sex and the Office, Brown documented some rather bizarre office practices, none more so than “scuttling,” a group pastime at a radio station where she once worked:

[Men] would select a secretary or file girl, chase her up and down the halls,…catch her and take her panties off. Once the panties off, the girl could put them back on again if she wished. Nothing wicked ever happened. De-pantying was the sole object of the game.


Quotes from The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. — Bertrand Russell

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. — Buddha

“Believing seems the most mental thing we do,” wrote Bertrand Russell in 1921.

Reason is simply a tool to help the brain get what it cares about (and to feel good about it). And a brain cares, first and foremost, about itself—what’s happening in its environment and why, how it appears (to others and to itself), and whether or not it’s safe and in control. These hardwired biases to see patterns and make meaning, craft an acceptable and consistent personal narrative, and exert control over its environment are the irresistible forces that influence the brain’s creation of beliefs.

While delivering the commencement speech at Yale University in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noted, “We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. Mythology distracts us everywhere.”

Our minds crave consistency in our beliefs and behaviors. We want to appear logical, to ourselves and to others. And when faced with evidence which contradicts our beliefs, our minds work to eliminate the psychological discomfort.

Emerson once remarked that there is properly no history, only biography. The stories we create about the past aren’t the Truth (with a capital T). They’re a personal fiction, the mind’s meaning-making apparatus at work. But, like most everything the mind creates, it affects us. How we visualize each role in each scene not only shapes how we think about ourselves, but also how we behave. Who we think we are is why we do what we do.

Desire not only focuses our attention on what’s attractive—on what has the potential to make us feel good—but also on information that supports those feelings. If we desire something, we’ll be attentive to the evidence that supports it and inattentive to conflicting evidence. And we update our beliefs based on that biased data.

Aspiring writers, athletes, actors and musicians ignore the mountain of data that point to frustration in their pursuits of fame and fortune. Instead, they persist by focusing on spoonsful of evidence—recognition, signs of progress and emotionally charged hero stories—which support their beliefs.

Our minds abhor a causality vacuum. We have a deep desire to understand and explain everything to ourselves, including the random twist and turns of our own lives. When no explanation is forthcoming, we will instinctively make one up to suit our situation and disposition, to make us feel good about our decisions and our stories.

Effective leaders know that the essential first step to changing people’s behavior is to understand their perspectives and embrace their desires and beliefs. Everything else flows naturally from there.

Dieter Rams said good designers “must have an intuition for the reality in which people live. For their dreams, their desires, their worries, their needs, their living habits.”

But research has repeatedly shown that rational arguments are not very effective, since people’s behavior is overwhelmed by their reasons—their beliefs and desires.

As Henny Youngman reportedly quipped, “When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.”

There’s a well-known quote, or some variation of it, that is often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, “There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”

Belief requires focus. It demands that we follow the lead of our feeling mind, of our intuition and assumptions. Distractions and difficulties turn on our thinking mind, which undermines belief by overriding our instincts.

Great leaders simplify the belief process by eliminating difficulties and competing options on our attention. They work really hard to make belief really easy.

As the film director Errol Morris recently made clear, “People despise reality, but love verisimilitude.”

As Lao-Tzu wrote in the “Tao Te Ching”:

Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.

Carl Jung noted, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

The great systems theorist and designer Buckminster Fuller put it this way. “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Perhaps it’s why I’m so amused by comedian Mitch Hedberg’s absurd declaration: “I’m sick of following my dreams, man. I’m just going to ask where they’re going and hook up with ‘em later.”

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.”

Face it: We are either breaking out of our spirit-sucking routines and breaking through to new insights and experiences, or we are breaking down.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”