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Why Reading is a Superpower, Leisure as the Basis of Culture, & Remembering the Second Step

Resource: Leisure, the Basis of Culture: An Obscure German Philosopher’s Timely 1948 Manifesto for Reclaiming Our Human Dignity in a Culture of Workaholism


“Today, in our culture of productivity-fetishism, we have succumbed to the tyrannical notion of “work/life balance” and have come to see the very notion of “leisure” not as essential to the human spirit but as self-indulgent luxury reserved for the privileged or deplorable idleness reserved for the lazy. And yet the most significant human achievements between Aristotle’s time and our own — our greatest art, the most enduring ideas of philosophy, the spark for every technological breakthrough — originated in leisure, in moments of unburdened contemplation, of absolute presence with the universe within one’s own mind and absolute attentiveness to life without, be it Galileo inventing modern timekeeping after watching a pendulum swing in a cathedral or Oliver Sacks illuminating music’s incredible effects on the mind while hiking in a Norwegian fjord.” -Maria Popova

“What is normal is work, and the normal day is the working day. But the question is this: can the world of man be exhausted in being “the working world”? Can the human being be satisfied with being a functionary, a “worker”? Can human existence be fulfilled in being exclusively a work-a-day existence?” -Josef Pieper

“The code of life in the High Middle Ages [held] that it was precisely lack of leisure, an inability to be at leisure, that went together with idleness; that the restlessness of work-for-work’s-sake arose from nothing other than idleness. There is a curious connection in the fact that the restlessness of a self-destructive work-fanaticism should take its rise from the absence of a will to accomplish something.” -Josef Pieper

“Idleness, for the older code of behavior, meant especially this: that the human being had given up on the very responsibility that comes with his dignity… The metaphysical-theological concept of idleness means, then, that man finally does not agree with his own existence; that behind all his energetic activity, he is not at one with himself; that, as the Middle Ages expressed it, sadness has seized him in the face of the divine Goodness that lives within him.” Josef Pieper

“The opposite of acedia is not the industrious spirit of the daily effort to make a living, but rather the cheerful affirmation by man of his own existence, of the world as a whole, and of God — of Love, that is, from which arises that special freshness of action, which would never be confused by anyone [who has] any experience with the narrow activity of the “workaholic.” -Josef Pieper

“Leisure, then, is a condition of the soul — (and we must firmly keep this assumption, since leisure is not necessarily present in all the external things like “breaks,” “time off,” “weekend,” “vacation,” and so on — it is a condition of the soul) — leisure is precisely the counterpoise to the image for the “worker.” -Josef Pieper

“Leisure is a form of that stillness that is necessary preparation for accepting reality; only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still, cannot hear. Such stillness is not mere soundlessness or a dead muteness; it means, rather, that the soul’s power, as real, of responding to the real — a co-respondence, eternally established in nature — has not yet descended into words. Leisure is the disposition of perceptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion — in the real.” -Josef Pieper

“leisure is the seedbed of the creative impulse, absolutely necessary for making art and doubly so for enjoying it.” -Maria Popova

“Against the exclusiveness of the paradigm of work as effort, leisure is the condition of considering things in a celebrating spirit. The inner joyfulness of the person who is celebrating belongs to the very core of what we mean by leisure… Leisure is only possible in the assumption that man is not only in harmony with himself … but also he is in agreement with the world and its meaning. Leisure lives on affirmation. It is not the same as the absence of activity; it is not the same thing as quiet, or even as an inner quiet. It is rather like the stillness in the conversation of lovers, which is fed by their oneness.” –Josef Pieper

“Leisure is not justified in making the functionary as “trouble-free” in operation as possible, with minimum “downtime,” but rather in keeping the functionary human … and this means that the human being does not disappear into the parceled-out world of his limited work-a-day function, but instead remains capable of taking in the world as a whole, and thereby to realize himself as a being who is oriented toward the whole of existence.” – –Josef Pieper

Resource: Galileo on Why We Read and How Books Give Us Superhuman Powers
Description: Brief reflections from a historical scientific thinker on the genius of books.


Books are the greatest of inventions because they provide us with the ability to transcend the limitations that space and time impose on conversation. Through books, we can engage the best minds of time present and time past. Telepathy and time travel has already been achieved through books.


“With what admiration the reading of excellent poets fills anyone who attentively studies the invention and interpretation of concepts! And what shall I say of architecture? What of the art of navigation? But surpassing all stupendous inventions, what sublimity of mind was his who dreamed of finding means to communicate his deepest thoughts to any other person, though distant by mighty intervals of place and time! Of talking with those who are in India; of speaking to those who are not yet born and will not be born for a thousand or ten thousand years; and with what facility, by the different arrangements of twenty characters upon a page! Let this be the seal of all the admirable inventions of mankind.”

Resource: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
Description: Filing


How much you keep and how much you purge is relative. If you need or want something, keep it. As long as you have enough space for it and have organized it into it’s proper place, it’s fine. Being organized isn’t about getting rid of everything. It’s about transforming your stuff into clarified items that have been properly filed or stored. People aren’t overwhelmed because they have a lot of data. They’re overwhelmed because important decisions haven’t been made about what to do with that data.

Have an alpha filing system. Keep your general reference system simple. Organize it from A-Z and avoid the temptation of relying on it for all your organizational needs. Make it so that you won’t have to spend too much time looking for something if you forget where it’s been filed.

If it takes you longer than a minute to file something or retrieve something, you need to streamline your system.

Review your files regularly and purge the things you don’t need.

If you don’t clarify and remove the things in your in-tray, you’ll start to ignore your system.

Leave nothing unaccounted for. If it hasn’t been defined or designated, it will occupy mental overhead and inhibit your big-picture thinking.


“You may have a preponderance of digital over paper-based reference material (or vice versa), but without a streamlined system for both, you will resist keeping potentially valuable information, or what you do keep will accumulate in inappropriate places. If it takes longer than a minute to file something in an easily retrievable format, you’ll likely stack it or stuff it somewhere instead. Besides being fast, the system needs to be fun and easy, current and complete. Otherwise you’ll unconsciously resist emptying your in-tray because you know there’s likely to be something in there that ought to get filed, and you won’t even want to look at the papers or your clogged e-mail. Take heart: I’ve seen people go from resisting to actually enjoying sorting through their piles and digital world once their personal filing system is set up and humming. ”

“Whatever you need to do to get your reference system to that quick and easy standard for everything it has to hold, do it. ”

“Filing has to be instantaneous and easy. If you have to get up every time you have some ad hoc piece of paper you want to file, or you have to search multiple places on your computer for an appropriate location for a piece of information you want to keep, you’ll tend to stack it or leave it in its original place instead of filing it. You’re also likely to resist the whole in-tray process (because you know there’s stuff in there that might need filing!). ”

“You should have the freedom to be as much of a pack rat as you wish. The only issue you need to deal with is how much room you have for storage, and how accessible the information is when you need it. One simple alpha system files everything by topic, person, project, or company, so it can be in only three or four places if you forget exactly where you put it. You can usually put at least one subset of topics on each label, like “Gardening—pots” and “Gardening—ideas.” These would be filed under G. ”

“Using an effectively simple and easily accessible general-reference filing system gives you the freedom to keep as much information as you want. ”

“The biggest issue for digitally oriented people is that the ease of capturing and storing has generated a write-only syndrome: all they’re doing is capturing information—not actually accessing and using it intelligently. Some consciousness needs to be applied to keep one’s potentially huge digital library functional, versus a black hole of data easily dumped in there with a couple of keystrokes. “I don’t need to organize my stuff, because the search feature can find it sufficiently” is, from what I’ve experienced, quite suboptimal as an approach. We need to have a way to overview our mass of collected information with some form of effective categorization. ”

“I know almost no one who doesn’t have overstuffed file drawers. If you value your cuticles, and if you want to get rid of your unconscious resistance to filing, then you must keep the drawers loose enough that you can insert and retrieve files without effort. The digital version of this is having any concern about space on the computer or in the cloud. ”

“Things you name, you own. Collected but unnamed stuff owns you. ”

“Perhaps later in this new millennium the brain scientists will give us some esoteric and complex neurological explanation for why labeled files work so effectively. Until then, trust me. Get a labeler. And get your own. To make the whole system work without a hitch, you’ll need to have it at hand all the time, so you can file something whenever you want. And don’t share! If you have something to file and your labeler’s not there, you’ll just stack the material instead of filing it. The labeler should be as basic a tool as your stapler. ”

“In the fire zone of real work, if it takes longer than sixty seconds to file something where it belongs, you won’t file, you’ll “stack.” ”

“Cleaning house in your files regularly keeps them from going stale and seeming like a black hole, and it also gives you the freedom to keep anything on a whim “in case you might need it.” You know everything will be reassessed within a few months anyway, and you can redecide then what’s worth keeping and what isn’t. This applies equally to digital as well as paper-based reference information. ”

“Wherever items of different character or meaning are piled into the same location, it’s too much work to continually think about the nature of the contents, so your brain will go numb to the pile. ”

“Reference materials need to be contained and organized within their own discrete boundaries—physically and digitally—so that they don’t cloud other categories in your system, are available for a specific purpose, and can be accessed efficiently. Because they can be so voluminous, it is critical that they be easily managed for capturing, sorting, and accessing what you need, when you need it, and that they don’t get in the way of the more action-oriented components of your system. I have spent countless hours with some of the most sophisticated professionals in the world, assisting them in cleaning up and setting up a simple and functional reference system, and the results have often been phenomenal in freeing up their attention for the bigger things. ”

Resource: Don’t Forget the Second Step by Seth Godin
Description: Seth Godin on the power of habits


The first step is what you do to initiate a new process or practice in your life. It’s going to the doctor, or signing up for a class, or buying membership at a gym, or making a new year’s resolution. The second step is the day in day out stuff, the little things that we do to gradually build habits that become part of our lifestyle.

Most efforts to create change die after the glamour and initial excitement of the first step. But the second step is where all the magic and power lies. And the best part about the second step is that it gets easier to take the more you take. In fact, if you exercise the effort to take the second step enough times, you’ll eventually forget that you’re taking it. It’ll just become the way life is. And that’s a good thing.


“The first step is learning how to do it. Finding and obtaining the insight and the tools and the techniques you need. Understanding how it works. ”

“But step two is easily overlooked. Step two is turning it into a habit. Committing to the practice. Showing up and doing it again and again until you’re good at it, and until it’s part of who you are and what you do. ”

“Most education, most hardware stores, most technology purchases, most doctor visits, most textbooks are about the first step. What a shame that we don’t invest just a little more to turn the work into a habit.”

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