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How we create ourselves through friendship, why competition is good, and why we need to focus on the little picture

Resource: Trailblazing Astronomer Maria Mitchell on How We Co-Create Each Other and Recreate Ourselves Through Friendship
Description: Reflections from pioneering female astronomer, Maria Mitchell, on friendship


No one friend can meet all or most of our needs. The term “friend” should only refer to our circle of beloved alliances, not to one specific individual.

Different friends meet different needs. No one can be all things to us.

Our friends shape our tastes more than we know. They act as a second conscience and a confirming voice for the things we think, intuit, and feel.

Our interdependence on one another is not a weakness, but rather a gift. Each friendship provides us with a new set of eyes with which we can see and a new set of ears with which we can hear.

Through our friendships, we create ourselves.


“A friend is not to be found in the world such as one can conceive of, such as one needs, for no human being unites so many of the attributes of God as we feel our nature requires…. We have therefore a circle whom we call friends, giving a name to the whole, which perhaps in its singular occupation might be used for the combination. Out of the whole circle we may make up a single friend. We love them all but we love the union of all better.” -Maria Mitchell

“The friends with whom we encircle ourselves, Mitchell reminds us, become instrumental in the architecture of our own character — after all, it is through relationships, as Van Gogh wrote to his brother, that we refine ourselves. Our choice of relationships can either reinforce the limiting patterns of thought and feeling that have long governed us, or decondition them by helping us learn new patterns of attachment and orientation of being.” -Maria Popova

“Whatever our degree of friends may be, we come more under their influence than we are aware. Who of us acts and speaks without an eye to the approbations of those he loves? Is not the assent of another a sort of second conscience? … We prop ourselves up with accomplices, we surround ourselves with those who can down for us the uprisings of conscience.” -Maria Mitchell

Resource: In search of competition
Description: Why competition is a good thing


Customers are more trusting of a service or product if it’s offered my multiple competing parties. No one likes to be the test dummy. No one likes to be the first customer. Competition offers people assurance that your product is worth fighting over.

If you don’t have competition, you need to find some.

Competition sends a signal that says “we’re not crazy for offering something like this and you’re not crazy for buying something like this.”


“The busiest Indian restaurants in New York City are all within a block or two of each other. Books sell best in bookstores, surrounded by other books, their ostensible competitors. And it’s far easier to sell a technology solution if you’re not the only one pioneering the category.”
“Competition is a signal. It means that you’re offering something that’s not crazy. Competition gives people reassurance. Competition makes it easier to get your point across. Competition helps us understand that people like us do things like this.”

“If you have no competition, time to find some.”

Resource: Getting Things Done by David Allen
Description: Big picture reviews


Big picture reviews depend on small picture reviews. Unless you get the day to day minutiae of your life in order, you’ll never be able to think clearly and creatively about the long-term big vision projects that are so important to you.

You need to have confidence in your ability to get things done if you want to have access to your ability to generate creative ideas. Managing your workflow is the key to building this confidence.

Being faithful to the system of capturing, clarifying, organizing, reflecting, and executing is the key to freeing your mind from the existential overhead that clogs insight and innovative thinking.


“Yes, at some point you must clarify the larger outcomes, the long-term goals, the visions and principles that ultimately drive, test, and prioritize your decisions. What are your key goals and objectives in your work? What should you have in place a year or three years from now? How is your career going? Is this the lifestyle that is most fulfilling to you? Are you doing what you really want or need to do, from a deeper and longer-term perspective?”

“Trying to create goals before you have confidence that you can keep your everyday world under control will often undermine your motivation and energy rather than enhance them.”

“You need to assess your life and work at the appropriate horizons, making the appropriate decisions, at the appropriate intervals, in order to really come clean. That’s a lifelong invitation and obligation to yourself, to fulfill whatever your unfinished destiny or intentionality happens to be.”

“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” -Albert Camus

“Over the years I have discovered, through my own experience as well as being intimately involved with scores of people in their day-to-day worlds, that getting ultimately grounded and in control of the mundane aspects of life produces a rich field of natural inspiration about our higher-level stuff.”

“It is because of our deeper drives and inclinations that we have embroiled ourselves in the complexities and commitments that often create confusion and the sense of being overwhelmed. You felt a profound need to have children; now you’ve got them, and each one is a major business to manage for at least two decades. You’ve felt impelled to be creative and produce recognized (and monetized) value in the world; so you’ve built a business or committed to a lofty professional career, and you’re now buried in many more things than you feel you can handle. More goals may not be necessary for you now—you need comfort with the ones you’ve already put in motion, and the confidence that you can execute elegantly on any new ones.”

“We can always use a refreshed view of our visions, values, and objectives, indeed. But in my experience you’ll resist that conversation with yourself if you don’t think you’re handling the world you’ve already created for yourself very well!”

“The good news is that getting more control at the more mundane and operational levels of your life and work is immediately available as you start to apply these best practices, and it will likely open up real aspects of your bigger game that you wouldn’t be able to recognize or leverage without it.”

“The world itself is never overwhelmed or confused—only we are, due to how we are engaged with it.”

“Have a vision, do your best to imagine what it might look like, get cranking on producing something as a viably marketable first iteration, and then “dynamically steer,” maturing both your vision as well as how to implement it, based on real feedback from your real world. The message is: positive future thinking is critical and fabulous, but it’s most effectively manifested when it is tied to a confidence of execution in the material world, with responsiveness and course correction built in.”

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