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Books, Ego, Ethical Design, and Ted Lasso?
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Cheers,
Jonah

Books and the Ego
Yesrterday at dinner, I was talking with a friend of mine about the books that
had read recently, and the conversation turned to discussing some of the
insights that we gained from our most recent reads. We made mention of
Seth Godin's The Dip, James Clear's Atomic Habits, and a few more self
help/productivity realm books. However, as much as we were reading similar
books, I noticed some significant differences between my friend and I in the
way that we approached, read, and derived value from our reading.

The first point that I found we differed on was just in how we obtained them
in the first place. I explained to him how excited I was to get my kindle, and
he told me that paper books were still the way to goand even after
spending an obscene amount of money on a Kindle with no ads, found
myself agreeing with him. Not out of politeness or to keep the conversation
moving, but in genuine agreement that the physical book is the purest and
least diluted package in which entertainment and informational value is
realized reading words. I understood though, that with the way that I skip
around many many books while looking for specific solutions instead of
reading books all the way through, that an increased number of physical
books would become impractical to store in my college dorm. I am willing to
have my experience diluted for the convenience of an e-reader, and this was
the conversation that made me realize that efficiency isn't the silver bullet
it's sometimes made out to be.

In the process of reading, my friend alternated between one nonfiction and
one fiction book, whereas I have had times where I'd just tear through (but
to be honest maybe not fully comprehend or realize concepts from)
nonfiction, mainstream self help books. He explained that in order to make
everything that he had taken note of in his (physical) book actionable, he
had to stop, analyze, and process the new knowledge which took a
significant amount of time and energy. I likened his explanation to cooling off
after an intensive sprint, where you burn (process) a significant amount of
calories (information) that drives movement (action), after which you need
to stabilize yourself and your ability to get ready for the next sprint (of taking
in new information). Intellectually it's very easy to understand that reading
fiction is important too, and that not every action in your life has to be driven
by its immediate ability to add value or create content out of. But in the
moment, I've felt it much "cooler" or outwardly more impressive to say I'm
reading a book about how waking up early will 20x your productivity (spoiler:
it won't) than to say I'm reading a collection of poetry. I really need to work
on not letting ego get in the way of enjoying what is interesting to me in the
moment.

Speaking of adding value, there were also differences that I noticed in the
way that my friend approached books vs the way I had for the last year or
so. Even after showing me an impressively long list of books that he had
finished, rated, and properly extracted his own parallel thoughts from, he
mentioned that he was still working on building his reading habit, and that it
was a "meta" or keystone habit that could lead to good things and
interesting conversations in the future. Since I've started reading for leisure
again, I've occasionally caught myself blazing through books and tried to
make impressions on people by drawing on their hot-button quotes to give
unsolicited advice to any unfortunate soul who asked how my day was
going. At one point I was definitely reading to impress others instead of
enjoy it for my own sake, and this conversation that had with my friend
tonight has made me seriously reconsider how I talk about myself and show
what I'm reading about to others. I've watched and read so much content
online about the books read that I find it hard to see them as anything other
than something to derive content and sometimes ego fodder from. It's not
the books, it's me.

Even as I remember enthusiastically prompting my friend that he could
publish all of this content on the web and that lots of people would find
value out of his work, in retrospect, he seemed perfectly contented with
what he was getting out of the knowledge that he was gaining in his own
meaningful way. Last night I went in with plans to have a nice dinner, and came out with a newfound respect for my friend and a an ego problem to confront about my own enjoyment of and relationship to reading.

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This week's...

Here's a cool app that lets you follow successful people's routines.
Here's some design eye candy from an agency focused on sustainability and ethical design.
Here's what made me laugh this week (spoiler: it's a pilot video for the concept of Emmy-winning comedy Ted Lasso).
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See you soon,

Jonah
jonahfoss.com