The following is an adaptation of New Problems, Old Answers: Practical History for People in a Hurry. This short (<500 words) monthly newsletter consists of two parts: a quick history lesson and how you can apply it today.
Past editions include Would Napoleon disable Gmail notifications? and What would Abraham Lincoln say about sending angry texts?
These stories probably won’t make you rich, quell your fears, or solve your conflicts. But they will refine your strategic thinking — and you can’t solve specific problems unless you’re rooted in principles that have stood the test of time. …
How would you push an elite athlete into peak performance mode?
Maybe you’d scour scientific journals to find the optimal diet or training regimen. Maybe you’d fork up a few grand for a motivational speaker. Or maybe you’d have them put their paycheck on the line.
Jonah Berger, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, has a different theory— one that’s grounded in our evolutionary biology.
In 2011, Berger and his team analyzed 60,000 high-level basketball games, including 18,000 NBA games, to observe how a game’s score influences effort and ultimately performance. …
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. …
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…
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?”
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…
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…
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.
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…
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…