Issue № 80

Hidden gems

Suppose you wanted to be surprised and delighted (and possibly intrigued and befuddled) in some field. You could start with the Top 10. Today, I’m talking about movies, so find some list of the 10 Greatest Films. This sort of listing is ubiquitous: 10 Greatest Dramas, 100 Films preserved by the U.S. Library of Congress, The British Film Institute’s (BFI) 100 Greatest Films, and on and on.

The following list from BFI is not that sort of list. Not at all.

Each of these films is one of the greatest according to just one voter in our recent Greatest Films of All Time poll; they are some of the hidden gems among the more than 4,300 films voted for by more than 2,000 participants. (For the pedantic reader, the films that got one vote each – more than we can fit in here – are all technically joint 1,956th greatest film of all time, combining the tallies of our critics’ and directors’ polls.)

~ from

Effectively, that’s a list of 101 movies which all tied for last place, in list of the top 2,000-or-so movies. Above, the BFI is showing an entirely different way to be surprised and delighted (and possibly intrigued and befuddled): Find _one person_who is into the thing way more than you, and ask them for a list of the greatest. On their list, it is likely there will be one which they recommend, that no one else would recommend. What is up with that one recommendation?

Any big list is created by many people collaborating and, in the end, averaging out their individual tastes. But if you ask that one really-into-it person, you’ll get a very surprising and delightful (and probably intriguing and befuddling) opinion.


I can do nothing without nature. I do not know how to make things up.

~ Manet

Where’s… everything?

It doesn’t matter how you store things, only that you do. If I know that, somewhere, I know something… and I can find it… that’s success. There are two parts to remembering (aka storing in such a way that it can be later found and used) everything: First, capture it in some form and put it somewhere intentional. Second, when you go for something and it’s not in the first place you looked (it’s instead in the 3rd place you looked), move it to the first place you looked.

These books helped educated people cope with the “information explosion” unleashed by the printing press and industrialization. They were highly idiosyncratic, personalized texts used to make sense of a new world of intercontinental trade, long distance communication, and mass media. Commonplace books could contain recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas, notes from sermons, and remedies for common maladies, among many other things.

~ Tiago Forte from,

Of course, the hard part is getting in the habit of capturing things. Our minds are terrible at holding ideas. Our minds are for having ideas (and composition and creation and more.) The best day to begin capturing your knowledge was yesterday. If you missed that opportunity, today is also good.


No country ever was built by people sleeping in. Austria was not built by people sleeping in. America was not built by people sleeping in. People struggled, people suffered, people worked their asses off to build this country.

~ Arnold Schwarzenegger

The cake is a lie

I’ve tried everything. Lists, timers, project management systems, Pomodoro, time blocking, dashes, scheduling, time tracking… everything. It turns out: There are things I enjoy doing; they get done. There are things I don’t enjoy doing; they are a struggle. This is the way.

This lie is often called “work/life balance.” And it’s a deviously demotivating false dichotomy. A narrative designed to stigmatize work and trivialize what work is really all about. It reduces transformation to a mere transaction.

~ Cierra Martin from,

There’s no need to struggle against my nature. It’s futile and that way lies madness. What remains is to reign in my Idea Monster. I also do not need to attempt everything I can possibly imagine that might be fun or productive. Essentialism is the middle road I steer towards more and more. This is the way.


The root of the word ‘priority’ is singular… It was a singular word—the one thing. In modern times, we’ve turned it into ‘priorities,’ but then all of a sudden it turns into eight, ten, 15 things and that defeats the purpose.

~ Shaka Smart

Open + Curious

I’m excited to share that Jesse Danger and I have begun a new podcast show, Open + Curious. I’ve been writing up my thoughts around conversation, and this podcast is a new part of the Open + Curious project. Please consider subscribing to support our efforts.

Are you looking for ways to bring conversation alive? Then you are in the right place.

In each 15-minute episode we begin with a question, and work our way to a challenge. Some questions we explore have clear answers, and some lead to more questions and further unknowns. The challenge we seek to find, at the end of each episode, is meant to help you explore each question on your own.

Open + Curious podcast

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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