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Credit: Carl Richards

Why am I distracted?

That’s usually the last question you ask yourself when a deadline is looming. With each passing minute it becomes harder to focus. So you check your email (again), you drink another coffee, you put it off until tomorrow when you’ll “have more time.”

You’ll do anything except ask yourself: Why am I distracted in the first place? In other words, you treat the symptoms, not the illness. And the illness is doing work you hate.

As children, we all had primal inclinations. We were drawn to activities that seized our attention and sparked our curiosity. …

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Author Ryan Holiday

Around 9 a.m. when millions of people are checking sports scores and scouring Twitter, about 300,000 people are starting their day with something different.


This ancient philosophy that emphasizes the values of temperance, detachment, and discipline originated in Ancient Greece, but today it lives in the email inboxes of professional athletes, entrepreneurs, politicians, and working class folks alike.

The catalyst? Daily Stoic: a worldwide community that applies the principles of ancient Stoic wisdom to modern life — founded by a college dropout.

But before we learn about Stoicism’s digital renaissance, we have to go back to the beginning, to the Stoa Poikile. …

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Image credit: TED Ideas

I discovered partisan politics in third grade — October of 2004 to be specific. I sat in my wood-grained laminate desk as my teacher explained that John Kerry was running against the incumbent George W. Bush. I think we had cut-outs of both their faces pinned to a cork board beneath the American flag.

I was just old enough to understand the concept of an election, so naturally I asked my parents at dinner, “Who are you guys voting for?”

One said Kerry; the other said Bush. At nine years old, it didn’t register that a partisan marriage was unusual. Voting didn’t seem any different than choosing a flavor of ice cream. Of course, politics would prove to be more polarizing than dairy products. Not only do Democrats and Republicans rarely elope — there’s evidence that they don’t even want to live near each other. …

How to build a lucrative career as a ghostwriter

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Photo by Viacheslav Bublyk on Unsplash

My family thinks I enable plagiarism for a living.

Well, they used to. When I explain my job, it sounds like something that would warrant expulsion from a university. I spend hours, days, or in some cases, months tapping away at a keyboard — then somebody else stamps their name on my work and takes the credit.

That’s the nature of ghostwriting, which may seem dirty or unfair. But in the words of Don Draper, “That’s what they money is for!”

You might be wondering: How much money are we talking? Not as much as a hedge fund manager on Wall Street or a brain surgeon. But in the world of writing, you’d be hard pressed to find a gig that yields bigger checks. …

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To the tune of dreary piano music, Dr. Deborah Birx gazes into the camera and addresses America in a motherly tone: “We know that we’re asking Americans to do a lot right now, so we’re asking everyone to be selfless for others so that we can protect those who are most susceptible to this virus.”

Next up, Dr. Anthony Fauci clarifies that social distancing means “Not going to bars, not going to restaurants, not going to theaters where there are a lot of people.”

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams wraps up this cinematic masterpiece by reminding us that “We all have a role to play in preventing person-to-person spread of this disease, which can be deadly for vulnerable groups.” …

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Why don’t we learn from history? This is the question B.H. Liddell Hart posed to the world in 1944. In fact, he devoted an entire book to it.

Written during the final years of World War II, Why Don’t We Learn from History exposes one of humankind’s most costly flaws: our willful ignorance toward the past.

Hart, a military historian, understood the danger of allowing novelty and emotion to obscure the lessons our ancestors learned the hard way. …

Most of what they teach you in school is worthless, so this is the least I can do.

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Last summer I published a list of lessons I learned after a full year of working in the real world. Since then I started a new job, moved, made some money, lost some money, and spent time around a lot of interesting people (some admirable, others complete trainwrecks). Like last year, I wrote down the lessons I learned along the way — mostly from people smarter than me. The ones on this list had the most impact:

1. Study the people you don’t want to be like just as much as you study people you admire. A reverse role model tells you precisely what not to do. …

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If you scroll through the barrage of college graduation pictures this month, it will be difficult to point out which students will go on to change the world. It will, however, be easy to point out the students that (probably) won’t.

You can identify them because their gowns are adorned with a myriad of colorful tassels, stoles, pins, ribbons, etc. They spent the past two decades chasing approval from their parents and teachers: memorizing data, regurgitating trivia, and correctly filling bubbles next to arbitrarily selected multiple-choice questions — in other words, playing by the rules.

This is why their careers will end, in the words of T.S. Eliot, not with a bang, but a whimper. …

An interview with Greg Baroth

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Greg Baroth (right) with Antonio Brown (left) and Verne Troyer (center)

If you use the internet, you’ve almost certainly seen Greg Baroth’s work. You probably just didn’t realize it.

Over the past eight years, Greg has orchestrated some of the most popular and provocative online spectacles for brands and celebrities alike. He turned Verne Troyer into a social media superstar, sent butt wipes to an MMA fighter who pooped herself mid-fight, and has landed stories everywhere from TMZ to The New York Times. All told, he’s responsible for upwards of a billion media impressions (38 million of which came from Verne’s Tesla video).

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In the spring of 1802, a Scottish lawyer and aspiring writer named Walter Scott sustained an injury that would ultimately catapult his career. The 31-year-old was kicked by a horse, a tragedy that confined him to his bed for nearly a month. But rather than writing in self-pity, Walter Scott picked up a pen.

The words he wrote in recovery became the first canto of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, his breakthrough narrative poem that thrust him into literary stardom.

“Success or failure,” he said, “is caused more by the mental attitude even than by mental capacities.”

Amusing trivia aside, this anecdote about Walter Scott is a lens through which to see our current situation, which for most people is isolation. Depending on how quickly we can flatten the COVID-19 curve, most of us will spend the vast majority of this spring confined to our residence — much like Walter Scott was two centuries earlier. …


Dominic Vaiana

Storyteller, provocateur, bibliophile. For book rec’s, history lessons, and articles 👉

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