Spells like asshole

There are two different brands of confidence.

Clearly, you can be confident when you think you’re right.

This kind of confidence is focused inward. It’s concerned with how you think you appear and driven by how you think you should appear.

But it also takes confidence to accept a challenge in the face of uncertainty.

This kind of confidence is focused outward. It’s concerned with learning, adapting, and it’s driven by purpose.

I find it a helpful distinction because the “confident” often spells like “asshole,” but they’re not the same at all.

It must've been all the walking

History and science are clear (google it), so here’s some anecdotal evidence supporting the fact that walking—or running—may make you more creative.

Between 2018 and 2020, Marilena and I visited over fifteen countries, rarely spending more than a week in the same place. Workdays were short because there was a lot to see—and a lot to walk—but clients never noticed, and my freelance practice kept growing steadily. How did I pull that off? I have a hunch it had to do with all the walking.

When Covid hit, we figured it would be wise to go back to our family. A few months later, stuck in the house for the lockdown, my productivity hit an all-time low. Even this time, clients didn’t notice but only because I was putting in twelve hours workdays. I just blamed it on the lockdown and kept on grinding away at my desk.

One year ago, we moved to this beautiful corner of Portugal which motivated me to pick up running at the beginning of last spring. And I did! I went from not being able to run for three minutes straight to 5K in a few weeks, then to 10K in just over two months. One month into my new habit, I felt so creative I needed an outlet, so I sent out the first issue of this newsletter.

On August 6th, I go out for my usual run but feel something’s wrong with my right foot. I decide not to force it and head back home. The day after, I can barely walk. I self-diagnose a metatarsal stress fracture due to too much running. I had to rest if I wanted to recover—running too much; self-diagnosing, what’s dumber? Let’s not digress.

You know how it is; it takes months to build a habit, but one glitch in the routine and it’s gone forever. Though I had a full recovery within a couple of weeks, I haven’t been running since the day of the injury, almost four months ago. This time I was better aware of the slow and constant decline in my creativity and productivity. Workdays were inexorably getting longer again; I confess to having pulled a few all-nighters—more than I like to admit—just to keep this newsletter “running.”

This time I subconsciously knew what the solution was. It’s a while I have been feeling like going out for a run. Today I made time for it. I think it worked.

Different socials for different folks

Social media apps features have been converging to the point that you may think they’re all pretty much the same nowadays, but look beyond that, and you’ll discover different crowds living in parallel universes, TikTok being the most distant from the average human experience—The top five most-followed accounts on TikTok do not rank in the top 50 of any other social media network.

Better than pinball

Half of the emails you send out cause at least the same amount of e-mails to come in and vice-versa.

In a perfect world, all email threads are resolved with only one email out and one email in. We don’t live in a perfect world, and so there’s e-mail back-and-forth wreaking havoc on our productivity, but we can work towards it.

Imagine if we all played this game: the one who closes the thread first wins. You can close the thread in one e-mail if you’re really good, and you get bonus points for that. There would be a leaderboard, and the winners would get an award and something filthy luxurious like fewer distractions, less stress, more time, that kind of stuff.

A winning strategy could be to write more thoughtfully, take a little longer to say everything you need to say. Overcommunicate when in doubt, try to anticipate the recipient’s questions. It’d be a bit like playing chess or poker but way easier.

Startup idea: make it an app or a Gmail extension. You could call it Tilt, as in pinball, because it stops the back-and-forth, and it’s also the anagram of the acronym for “Last In The Thread”—I have a gift for naming, I know (among several other things).

I hope this makes you rich and famous.

Thank you for unsubscribing

For every other email I send you, somebody inevitably unsubscribes. I get a notification when that happens and I confess that I always feel a little resentful, but it’s so fleeting, and then I remember my favorite piece of poetry.

A 'Thank You' Note

I owe so much
to those I don’t love.

The relief as I agree
that someone else needs them more.

The happiness that I’m not
the wolf to their sheep.

The peace I feel with them,
the freedom –
love can neither give
nor take that.

I don’t wait for them,
as in window-to-door-and-back.
Almost as patient
as a sundial,
I understand
what love can’t,
and forgive
as love never would.

From a rendezvous to a letter
is just a few days or weeks,
not an eternity.

Trips with them always go smoothly,
concerts are heard,
cathedrals visited,
scenery is seen.

And when seven hills and rivers
come between us,
the hills and rivers
can be found on any map.

They deserve the credit
if I live in three dimensions,
in nonlyrical and nonrhetorical space
with a genuine, shifting horizon.

They themselves don’t realize
how much they hold in their empty hands.

“I don’t owe them a thing,”
would be love’s answer
to this open question.

—Wislawa Szymborska

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