Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

My Review of Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within Seminar.

What was very interesting is that the words Tony writes are 90% illegible. He is expressing ideas and scribbling with the marker but does not have time for accuracy. For example, on one slide that I remembered, I saw that the word FINANCE was not even slightly legible, SUCCESS looked like a jumbled signature, then there were lots of swirly lines and arrows. Without the context of Tony, it would have made no sense. But the ideas were conveyed better with the aid of these notes.

Preface otherwise banal life wisdom with “My father once taught me…” (or similar) and it then becomes rich with generational credibility.

Laconic (adj.) – Online Etymology Dictionary

I never knew the word was connected with the Spartans. Awesome:

“concise, abrupt,” 1580s, probably via L. Laconicus, from Gk. Lakonikos, from Lakon “person from Lakonia,” the district around Sparta in southern Greece in ancient times, whose inhabitants were famously proud of their brevity of speech. When Philip of Macedon threatened them with, “If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta to the ground,” the Spartans’ reply was, “If.”

One source of this story is Plutarch’s On Talkativeness.

Laconic (adj.) – Online Etymology Dictionary

10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You

6. Read obituaries. They are just like biographies, only shorter. They remind us that interesting, successful people rarely lead orderly, linear lives.

7. Your parents don’t want what is best for you. They want what is good for you, which isn’t always the same thing. There is a natural instinct to protect our children from risk and discomfort, and therefore to urge safe choices.

10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You

Writers, it seems to me, should write, not make speeches. But speeches, like quasi-journalistic writing assignments, can come attached to plane tickets, to hotel rooms in cities one might never have thought of visiting otherwise. In writing speeches, curiously, one sometimes finds out what one thinks, at that moment, about something. The world at large, say. Or futurity. Or the impossibility of absolutely grasping either. Generally they make me even more uncomfortable to write than articles, but later, back in the place of writing fiction, I often discover that I have been trying to tell myself something.

William Gibson on creative transference.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, 3 April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee. Transcript. What an amazing speaker.

How Will You Measure Your Life? – Harvard Business Review

If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.

How Will You Measure Your Life? – Harvard Business Review

College and the Art of Life – David Salesin, Convocation Address, 28 September 2003

College is such an amazing time of freedom. For many of you, this is the first time in your life when it’s completely up to you, and you alone, to decide what you study, what activities you engage in, and how you structure your day. One idea I came up with as an undergrad was to try to maintain balance by making sure I engaged in four different types of activities every single day. These were:

-something intellectual (not so difficult at school);
-something physical (like running, biking, a team sport);
-something creative (like music, art, or writing); and
-something social (like lunch with a friend).

College and the Art of Life – David Salesin, Convocation Address, 28 September 2003

Marginal Revolution: Why do people ask questions at public events?

It matters a great deal if people have to write out questions in advance, or during the talk, and a moderator then reads out the question. That mechanism improves question quality and cuts down on the first three motives cited. Yet it is rarely used. In part we wish to experience the contrast between the speaker and the erratic questioners and the resulting drama.

I like the second commenter’s suggestion: “Take multiple questions at once. The moderator will take say three questions from three audience members before giving the presenter a chance to answer them one-by-one.”

Marginal Revolution: Why do people ask questions at public events?


David Foster Wallace reads Laughing with Kafka, which was later published in Consider the Lobster. Other speakers at the Metamorphosis: A New Kafka symposium included Paul Auster, E.L. Doctorow, Susan Sontag, and David Remnick. (via bibliokept)