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Catastrophe, Creativity, & Curiosity (Reading Notes 7.13.18)

Resource: A catastrophe journal


Great idea from Seth Godin about keeping a catastrophe journal. The practice is to have one journal that you use to record 1) any incidents (ie. mistakes you’ve made or mishaps that occur) and 2) your doom and gloom prediction about how it’s all going to ashes.

When you keep a catastrophe journal, it does two things: 1) It builds a record of all your terrible predictions and this weakens the faith you have in your ability to sense when the world is going to end and 2) the process of having to write the details will make you less inclined to exaggerate the details.

I love this idea. It’s the opposite of a gratitude journal, but it serves the same purpose. Just as a gratitude journal makes you better at seeing what’s right about the world, a catastrophe journal makes you better at seeing what’s wrong about your ability to see doom and gloom in the world.


“Every time you’re sure you’ve blown it, completely blown it, that you’re certain you’re going to get disbarred, fired, demoted—becoming friendless, homeless and futureless—write it down in your Catastrophe Journal.”

“What you’ll find, pretty certainly, is that two things happen: 1) You will realize over time that your predictions of doom don’t occur, and 2) As soon as you begin writing down the details, the cycle we employ of making the details worse and worse over time will slow and stop.”

“It’s not really a catastrophe. It simply feels that way.”

Resource: Rosanne Cash on How Science Saved Her Life, the Source of Every Artist’s Power, and Her Beautiful Reading of Adrienne Rich’s Tribute to Marie Curie


Marie Currie was the first woman to receive a Nobel prize and the only person to receive to Nobels in two different sciences: chemistry and physics.

Invented mobile X-ray ambulance units called “little curries” to treat soldiers and civilians.


“Persist and verify… The power that we abdicate to others out of our insecurity — to others who insult us with their faux-intuition or their authoritarian smugness — that comes back to hurt us so deeply… But the power we wrest from our own certitude — that saves us.”

Resource: Make people curious in one sentence.


When describing the work you do, aim for creating curiosity rather than being as thorough as possible. The goal of talking about your work isn’t to say everything that could possibly be said. It’s to make people interested in wanting more.


“Screenwriters in Hollywood constantly pitch their movie ideas to studio executives. Each one has about five seconds to impress. The one sentence they use to describe their story decides whether the studio will read it or not. Same with you. You just need one good sentence to describe your music. It has only one goal: Make people curious. That’s it. It should not try to describe every note of music you make! It should not try to justify your existence on Earth. It only has to make them curious enough to listen. That’s all.”

“I described my band as “a cross between James Brown and the Beatles”. Of course not everything I did sounded like that, but that phrase was enough to make people want to hear it. I would watch them pause for a second to try to imagine what that might sound like. Then they’d say, “Wow — I have to hear this!” Mission accomplished. The shorter, the better. Give them one good sentence and stop talking. Let them want to hear more.”

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