Issue № 35

Never say never

Is there a term for applying the Socratic method on oneself? Maybe, autosocraticism? Not simply self-examination or self-inquiry, but rather when you find yourself speaking with someone and realize you’ve just deployed the Socratic Method on yourself? Because this happens to me. I’m explaining something I’m thinking about, and I realize I actually don’t understand what I’m thinking about. (This is very close to “rubber duck debugging” where you can sometimes find the source of a problem by explaining it to a rubber duck. Yes, really.)

Also, a pull-quote is a self-quotation; a selection from the thing itself, presented earlier to suggest reading on is worthwhile.

And of course, I also need the past tense verb-form of that noun, just so I can write the sentence I really want to start with:

The other day I autosocratisized myself into realizing I had no freakin’ clue what the difference is between a pull-quote and a _block_quote.

All of which confirms the (usually unspoken) truism about humans – we’re often wrong but never in doubt. We’re as sure of the future of our relationships as we are that 2+2=4.

~ Bob Seawright from,

Never say never. I’m often wrong and frequently in doubt.

Also, a pull-quote is a self-quotation; a selection from the thing itself, presented earlier to suggest reading on is worthwhile. Versus a _block_quote; something quoted from another source, but which is too large to be just dropped inline wrapped in quotation marks.

Change, please

I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.

~ George Carlin

Just, hard

I spend large amounts of time just thinking. That’s not so terrible, all things considered since there’s lots of actively anti-useful stuff I could be doing. 

People have different personalities, goals, experiences, and levels of chance and serendipity, all of which make universal truths hard to find and difficult to teach. No matter how smart the world becomes, the best answer will always be, “You’ve got to figure it out for yourself.”

A lot of things work like that. Some of the most important topics are the hardest to teach, and real world experience is the only school.

~ Morgan Housel from,

There are certain traps for my mind. One insidious example is when I notice I’ve been doing prolonged thinking. …and then I start thinking about how I was thinking about whatever-it-was. …and might there be some underlying principle or knowledge that I don’t understand? …and maybe I should read more about that? …and maybe I should seek out others who know more about that?

Sometimes, I can manage to shake myself out of that. But usually, I have to simply lean into it for another hour, sometimes even the rest of the day (or week!) “Okay, I’m hung-up on this” and I have to try to go all in. After a real attempt at figuring it out, when I can apprehend just how bonkers-complex it would be, my mind simply let’s go of it.

New associations

Instead of feeling complacent about what you know, you must expand your knowledge to related fields, giving your mind fuel to make new associations between different ideas. You must experiment and look at problems from all possible angles. As your thinking grows more fluid, your mind will grow increasingly dimensional, seeing more and more aspects of reality. In the end, you will turn against the very rules you have internalized, shaping and reforming them to suit your spirit.

~ Robert Greene

Slightly better

An eternal question which I find myself frequently pondering: When to stick with something and when to dramatically pivot (or outright quit)? Pondering this problem is not a recent development. I have countless stories going back as far as I can remember—all the way back to little-kid baseball at, perhaps, age 10.

[…] there’s not a lot of readily available answers to the question of what the meaning of life is. The only answer I’ve been able to come up with for myself is this: to ensure that my presence on this earth makes it better than if I hadn’t lived at all. Whether or not I’ll have managed to achieve that is an unknowable calculation. All I can do is try to love this stupid, cruel, wonderful, gorgeous world I’ve been given through an accident of entropy, and hope that I can give it a better than equivalent exchange.

~ Jenny from,

When I find I’m staring into space, pondering the stick-or-pivot question, a two-part test has been getting me moving again: If I keep doing the thing (upon which I’m pondering sticking or pivoting) are my efforts making the world a better place, and does what I’m doing have a clear end-goal?

The perhaps counter-intuitive part is that while I want a ‘yes’ (obviously!) for the first part of that test, I want a ‘no‘ for the second part. When I have a clear end-goal things don’t work out well. I find I generally misunderstand in the beginning of a thing what would be a good end goal, and worse, I lose interest once I understand what done looks like for the long-arc of the thing. Far better it seems to point myself in a makes the world better direction, and wonder onward.


Learning never exhausts the mind.

~ Leonardo da Vinci

Setting and scene

Lately I’ve been struggling with setting. As many people have noted, excessive fiddling with getting things ready, or “just so”, before feeling one can begin to do something is simply a form of procrastination. It’s a form of hiding from doing the work. Steven Pressfield describes this as the “resistance” which shows up just when you are finally facing the real work that you are called to do.

I tell this story not because I think a method approach, in which you inhabit your characters and their behaviors, is the best way to write fiction. (If this were true, a lot more authors would take a swing at romance novels.) But instead because it’s an extreme example of a more general point that I’ve been emphasizing recently: when it comes to cognitive work, setting makes a difference.

~ Cal Newport from,

Setting is real, and it is important. But there’s a second part to finding (or creating) the optimal environment: Scene. Where are the others who are also doing the same work? It could be the other painters or authors like you, and you’re all living in a neighborhood and regularly gathering and conversing at the local cafes. (The archetypical writers scene of the 1900s was in Paris.) If I’ve imagineered a certain niche of work that I want to do, how do I find (or create) the scene?

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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