Medley 225: Shopping, Listening, Shortness, Time, Agriculture, Conflicts, Greatness, Research...

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

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Happy Monday!

Today the self-paced version of Effortless Output in Roam is officially launched! It's a complete overhaul of the original Roam course, with a step by step walkthough of building up your personal knowledge management system to complete a capstone project together.

And Tuesday, September 8th, the Live version will start as well. The live version will no longer be for sale starting September 8th, so if you want to sign up, this is the last week to do it.

I also published an article this week on making podcast listening more productive. It covers using Airr to take audio highlights (so cool), and then having those highlights automatically get saved in your Roam database via Readwise.

Alright, on to the Medley!

The World of Business in COVID

🛍 The NYT did a good analysis on how consumer spending habits have changed during COVID-19. One thing that stands out is how much business changed differently in different states:

"In Mississippi visits to businesses dropped by only 25 percent in March from a year earlier, even as the national decline was nearly 48 percent. Nonessential enterprises were closed for only three weeks, and activity is now 9 percent higher than it was a year ago."

Clearly in some states, they've been able to rebound pretty quickly, meanwhile in others:

"In Massachusetts, which had a severe early outbreak, trips to commercial locations in March fell more than 50 percent from a year before. The state has since moved cautiously: Bars remain closed by law, and business visits over all are down 33 percent."

And some businesses, especially online ones, are doing exceptionally well at replacing what phsyical businesses used to do:

"Despite fewer visits to bars, Americans kept drinking. Companies that offer alcohol delivery, such as Drizly and Minibar, represent a small proportion of overall alcohol sales, but had spending in July shoot up more than 500 percent from last year, according to Earnest Research, which tracks credit and debit card purchases. Molson Coors Beverage said that closing bars and restaurants eliminated all demand for kegs in the second quarter. But demand for 12-ounce cans “went through the roof.”"

📈 This reminds me of what Byrne Hobart said in his article on "V-Shaped Recovery for Me, L-Shaped Recovery for Thee" Businesses in a position to shift to online more rapidly are going to survive and probably come out better than before, vs. businesses that can't adapt.

"large companies were unusually well-equipped to survive, and they’re better able to benefit from monetary interventions—which have been far faster and more effective than fiscal ones. Meanwhile, small companies, individuals, and municipalities just don’t have the cash reserves or flexibility to react."

The World of Slowing Down Time

👴 I love this older article by Paul Graham on "Life is Short." In it, he talks about how important it is to prune out the "bullshit," stuff that won't matter in the future:

"One heuristic for distinguishing stuff that matters is to ask yourself whether you'll care about it in the future. Fake stuff that matters usually has a sharp peak of seeming to matter. That's how it tricks you. The area under the curve is small, but its shape jabs into your consciousness like a pin."

It also talks about a theme we've discussed a number of times in the Medley, lengthening time. PG says kids are particularly good for this:

It is possible to slow time somewhat. I've gotten better at it. Kids help. When you have small children, there are a lot of moments so perfect that you can't help noticing.

🕰 I first came across this idea of lengthening your subjective experience of time in Moonwalking with Einstein:

“I’m working on expanding subjective time so that it feels like I live longer,” Ed had mumbled to me on the sidewalk outside the Con Ed headquarters, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. “The idea is to avoid that feeling you have when you get to the end of the year and feel like, where the hell did that go?” “And how are you going to do that?” I asked. “By remembering more. By providing my life with more chronological landmarks. By making myself more aware of time’s passage.” I told him that his plan reminded me of Dunbar, the pilot in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 who reasons that since time flies when you’re having fun, the surest way to slow life’s passage is to make it as boring as possible. Ed shrugged. “Quite the opposite. The more we pack our lives with memories, the slower time seems to fly.”

💻 Ed Catmull talks about using experiences to extend subjective time, and I think the digital community you expose yourself too has a huge impact on your perception of time, similar to what Aaron Lewis talked about in the Garden of Forking Memes:

"We don’t have complete control over what we remember and when — there’s a subconscious system that “finds” old memories and “projects” them onto our mind’s eye... In many ways, social media’s recommendation algorithms are an externalized version of this mysterious inner search process. But they’re not optimized to help us survive; they have a financial interest in prolonging our state of timeless confusion."

Perhaps spending online time in streams of information that resurface the memories and knowledge you want to use as mental signposts of your experience is a good goal, to reduce the perception that life is short and to reduce the amount of bullshit taking it up.

The World of Regenerative Agriculture

🐮 I learned something this week about the popular study done at White Oak Pastures on how they use regenerative agriculture to offset the carbon emissions of their farm.

🕵️‍♀️ Zach Bitter explained why it might not be the most reliable study, and why we need more of them to understand the extent of how effective regenerative agriculture is.

Epic Foods was buying meat from White Oak and saying the meat Epic was selling was good for the environment. General Mills acquired Epic, and when they did, they wanted to make sure that claim checked out. So General Mills conducted the lifecycle analysis on White Oak to verify that their farming technique was indeed good for the land, and it turned out it was.

Now to be clear, I'm not criticizing the study. I've read it and don't see anything wrong with it. It seems like even the researchers were pretty surprised by their own findings. But the fact that General Mills conducted the study to reinforce the marketing of a product they just acquired does hurt the perceived objectivity of the study, and it'd be great for the RegAg community to have some research without that kind of an asterisk at the end.

And if you have seen any other really robust research on regenerative agriculture working, please send it my way!

The World of Careers

👩‍🍳 I loved this article by Steph Smith on "How to Be Great? Just be Good Repeatably."

I know I have an unhealthy fixation on my own performance, especially compared to whatever peers I choose to fixate on. One thing I've learned and have a hard time internalizing is that it really doesn't matter what level of performance you hit in something, you're always going to be able to find people ahead of you in some way to compare yourself to. Those comparisons make it hard to be motivated to try to be Great sometimes since you can immediately find someone who's already beaten you in some way. So focusing on making lots of good steps is a much healthier attitude.

"Instead of speculating what may make you great, get out there and start doing. Do not look for perfection or even greatness, but instead signs of “good” and start making tangible progress."

📏 Clayton Christensen's speech on "How Will You Measure Your Life" seems apt here. For any highly motivated person, it's hard to balance spending time on things with levels of achievement and things that you can't "win" at but that can be much more rewarding over time:

"People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness."

🏃‍♂️I also had some thoughts related to this this week when it came to exercise, though the idea of mixing it up and finding a more motivating goal can certainly apply to work as well.

Just For Fun

🚢 My friend Kyle shared this funny video on what can get lost in translation. May or may not be related to a future return of Made You Think...

End Note

As always, if you're enjoying the Medley, I'd love it if you shared it with a friend or two. You can send them here to sign up. I try to make it one of the best emails you get each week, and I hope you're enjoying it.

If you want to support the Medley and my other writing, there are many ways you can do that here.

And should you come across anything interesting this week, send it my way! I love finding new things to read through members of this newsletter.

Have a great week,
Nat

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