- Go to google.com
- Type “How do I learn to”. Don’t hit enter.
- Take note of what the top 6 or 7 autocomplete options are.
Yours probably has some differences because, you know, Google watches you undress and all. But compare a bit closer. Is anything surprising?
I actually cheated and hid a result we have in common.
The cringey one. This one. Sobering when we consider that Google’s search box might be the world’s largest mind mirror. I came across this surprising result via Adam Robinson’s 4-hour interview on the Knowledge Project podcast. The link and my notes are here.
Is Adam just another Cassandra beating the drum of dystopian despair when he reminds us that we remain sad even though “the average person today lives better than the average king a couple of centuries ago”. Several recent bestsellers, notably promoted by Bill Gates, are packed with stats and facts celebrating undeniable measures of progress. Just scan this list and you will find plenty of intellectual antibodies to the pessimism disease going around the developed world.
Whenever humanity is disappointing you just refer to that list for an injection of technophilia straight into the vein.
Unfortunately. That may backfire.
You have just learned 50 more things that you should feel good about but perhaps do not. So if you were down, you can add guilt to your baggage. No wonder we can’t love ourselves. Progress and logic are objectively improving our lives yet emotionally we cannot keep pace. Mental health, opioids, suicide have all been followed by the word “epidemic”. I’ve hinted at the loneliness amongst men in a prior letter, but just this week I saw this article titled “The Loneliness Epidemic Is So Bad, World Leaders Have Been Forced to Intervene”. And to be honest a few friends have been courageously vulnerable about the reach of loneliness. Given its prevalence, you can be certain it is an especially concealed, unaddressed form of pain. As our boomer population ages, I don’t expect the trend to halt.
Adam, a veteran of his own battle with depression and no stranger to the ethical challenges that barnacle technology, offers his thoughts.
- He does not think it’s an accident that Palo Alto has the highest suicide rate in the US. (I have some reservations on that since it’s not fact-checked and for the same statistical reasons as to why extreme cancer rates, both high and low, are always found in smaller population states).
- Technology is engineered to hijack your attention. Incentives are to either confirm what you already believe or enrage you.
- He quotes Gandi, “There’s more to life than making it faster”. You may recognize the modern-retro version.
So what works for him?
The paradox of life: to be happy, to find love, to be successful is to not look for these things. It’s to be fully engaged in your life. Only two places to direct your attention in life:
- the task at hand
- His metaphor is breathing. When he is home he is focused on his work. Breathing in. When he goes into the world, his focus is on others. Breathing out.
- The problem with self-help books is they focus on yourself, but you find yourself in your value to others.
- What does engagement in others mean to him: “Create fun and delight for others”. Lean into the moments. If this is your goal, you turn life into a fun game which holds unseen rewards for you and those around you.
My own thought:
It is possible to feel lonely around your family. You can feel lonely around old friends. You can feel lonely amongst the other parents. Don’t believe you are an outsider looking in at people who are into each other and don’t have room for another. They may not be that into each other. And they all just want the same real sense of connection you do.
Quoting George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Making Friends Offline and Online
Like anything else in life, you get back what you put in. If relationships and connection are our best medicines then chances are, we under-allocate mindshare to them compared to their potential rewards. If you have never thought methodically about relationships, and I don’t mean in some slippery realtor kind of way, here’s the manual: How to Make Friends 2.0.
Nikhil Krishnan’s amazing guide is built for modernity and employs the advances in technology to facilitate our most primitive needs for social connection.
- “Social media is not actually catching up or knowing how someone’s doing, it’s the cherry-picked positive moments of their life. We need to carve out regular time and places to be vulnerable.”
- Friendships require 3 steps: meeting, escalation, maintenance. His guide gives truly interesting, actionable advice for each step.
- He’s also written the definitive presentation to using Twitter to make friends (h/t Taylor) called “Why Twitter is Dope And How to Use It”.
I stand by his Twitter playbook. I have made a host of new friends in real life via Twitter. I speak to several of them in private chats on a regular basis. I have advocated for it before. It has been one of the highest-yielding experiments I’ve undertaken recently. I can probably pull a dozen articles without much effort by others who have called it the highest leverage thing they have done for their careers. And there is definitely a cohort who would argue that their handle is more important than their college degree. This isn’t Instagram. None of these people is monetizing their Twitter handle the way influencers might. In fact, being overtly commercial is a faux pas in the communities I wander (mostly “fintwit”).
It’s not about numbers. I have a tiny following, but the followers are high quality — people with shared interests, talent, willingness to share and openness. You can choose who you select for by how you conduct yourself. Have a give-first attitude and you will be rewarded. You’ve seen my advice before.
A final note on Twitter and relationships. Very recently an anonymous member of the fintwit community passed away. It is an open secret that he was in his late-30s. He was very smart, a straight-shooter in the full sense of the word, and one of my own favorite follows as well as many others. The digital and physical worlds collide in singular ways.
- He was a central figure in a Twitter thread with another anonymous account that led to the launch of a WisomTree fund. Bright people openly sharing commercially viable ideas is an unexpected dividend. WisdomTree clearly had some open-minded staff that was listening to Twitter.
- After news of his passing broke, a GoFundMe for his favorite charity raised 5 figures from the fintwit community quickly after it hit Twitter.
- Despite his anonymity, I was very saddened by his passing because his character really showed through his interactions. The loss of a good person can be felt if you have never “met” just as we can mourn a celebrity whose life improved yours.
“Financial Twitter Loses a Source of Humility and Wisdom, but Good Voices Remain
An account called @Nonrelatedsense showed that some of the smartest minds in investing are learning, and having fun, on Twitter.”
The whole article here.