Saturday, May 29, 2010

Men who write too much

“We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”
Highlighted by 303 Kindle users
Change is hard because people wear themselves out. And that’s the second surprise about change: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.
Highlighted by 292 Kindle users
The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but about the process of reaching the outcome.
Highlighted by 289 Kindle users
“Thin-slicing” refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.
Highlighted by 288 Kindle users
To create a highlight: use the 5-way controller to highlight the content you want to clip and then press the 5-way to save your selection. The clipping is added to a file called My Clippings. You can transfer the My Clippings file to your computer for viewing and editing. To delete a highlight, navigate the cursor over the highlight and press the Delete key. .
Highlighted by 276 Kindle users

Am I right to feel dismayed that the 163rd Most Highlighted Passage by Kindle users is an instruction to create a highlight on Kindle, from Kindle Shortcuts, Hidden Features, Kindle-Friendly Websites, Free eBooks & Email From Kindle: Concise User Guide for Kindle 2 (US & International), DX, 1, iPhone & iPod (Mobi Manuals) by Aaron Steinhardt PhD? One would have thought... oh, never mind. Should I be concerned that Amazon is collecting this information, as is the Guardian's man? Or should I worry that I am not reading enough self-help books? Am I anxious enough?

It is difficult to know. Take, for example, the most highlighted passage, from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers - the Story of Success:
Those three things—autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward—are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.
See -
most people agree, but I don't; I think the most satisfying quality of work is sex in the office with colleagues. Does this make me an Outlier?

I must be an Outlier, because my wish is for effortless reward, simplicity and antinomy. Besides, I would not have highlighted that passage. I would not even have read it.

Yet still, I am worried. I am worried that so many people are reading such crap. Or, at least, highlighting such crap: many more might be reading Moby Dick on Kindle, but nobody would highlight "Call me Ishmael," because is it (a) very easy to find and (b) not very helpful. But I think not. I think most people on Kindle are reading e-books about Getting Things Done.
Here are three basic steps for developing a vision: 1 | View the project from beyond the completion date. 2 | Envision “WILD SUCCESS”! (Suspend “Yeah, but…”) 3 | Capture features, aspects, qualities you imagine in place.
Profit. You see:
Those are the only two choices. Win by being more ordinary, more standard, and cheaper. Or win by being faster, more remarkable, and more human.
Or lose; or don't compete.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and never read literature? You see, I think people should stop worrying and learn to love books. I think self-help books make you helpless, in the way that diets make you fat. Even if that last claim is not true (which probably it is not, since I just invented it; although Diets Make You Fat will be the title of my next book) it seems to have authority, and so makes you worried. "What (you are thinking to yourself) if I am becoming helpless by reading these self-help books?" You are in the Village. "Should I be reading Concerning Architecture: Essays on Architectural Writers and Writing presented to Nikolaus Pevsner?" You should, but you can't, because I have it. "Do I pronounce festschrift correctly?" No, and you spit. And so on.

If I were to write a self-help book (and I still might, one misty morning when I 'm straight) I would advise my readers not to read self-help books. Welcome to Paul Litterick's Antinomy Game, which is a bit like Bruce Forstyth's Generation Game but there are no cuddly toys, no conveyor belt and you have no idea what I am talking about, have you?

It's simple: read books, interesting books. You will become a more interesting person. You will stop worrying. Your colleagues will want to have sex with you in the office. Your rivals will read The Art of War alone.

Angsty but privileged, or so I was described by a woman within twenty minutes of our meeting: people of such perception do exist - or so I read in one of the highlighted passages in one of the books I have not read.


Samuel said...

Was thinking about the Generation Game the other day, almost convinced that nobody else remembered it, and suddenly here it is posted on your blog the same day.

Now officially freaked out.

Hans Versluys said...

The Generation Game was actually based on a Dutch original (as is "Big Brother") hosted by the Netherlands equivalent of the 'mother of the nation' Mies Bouwman. I remember it well.