Tag Archives: Shane Parrish

Charles Darwin and his way of thinking

Charles Darwin achieved the most important breakthrough in the annals of scientific thinking with the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859. But Darwin did not see himself as a great intellect or even a particularly clever person.

His self-awareness was not the product of humility, as Shane Parrish points out in a short but insightful article on his blog Farnham Street. Rather, it came from a devotion to understanding reality.

He had possibly the most valuable trait in any sort of thinker: A passionate interest in understanding reality and putting it in useful order in his head. This “Reality Orientation” is hard to measure and certainly does not show up on IQ tests, but probably determines, to some extent, success in life.

Parrish highlights Darwin’s way of looking at the world, his method of knowledge acquisition, and his attitude toward himself as the reasons for his ability to achieve the scientific breakthrough of natural selection.

Darwin, with a passion that was extraordinary, sought information that would challenge his beliefs and impressions. He welcome evidence that would change his mind or refine his beliefs.

Parrish’s article takes about six minutes to read and is well worth it. If you read it, you’ll be thinking about it for a while.

girl reading

A pointed, provocative post: Why You Should Stop Reading News by Shane Parrish

Shane Parrish, creator of the Brain Food newsletter and the Farnham Street blog, has published a pointed and provocative essay on why should stop reading the news.

Source: Why You Should Stop Reading News (This article takes about five minutes to read.)

Parrish has a large following of people who are trying to make the most of their time and who need to make good decisions. The news, he says, is very little “signal” and mostly “noise.”

The point is, most of what you read online today is pointless. It’s not important to your life. It’s not going to help you make better decisions. It’s not going to help you understand the world. It’s not going to help you develop deep and meaningful connections with the people around you. The only thing it’s really doing is altering your mood and perhaps your behavior.

Parrish wisely makes the distinction between “news creators” and “journalists.” News creators simply want to gain your attention and hold it for as long as possible. He doesn’t spell it out, but I assume that in his view journalists report information that adds value to your life.

I agree.

Much of what you see, hear, and read today — particularly online — is designed to peak your curiosity rather than to make you a more informed citizen and a better decision-maker.

Avoid the noise because it messes with the signal. Your attention is valuable, so why spend so much time on stuff that will be irrelevant in a few days? Read what stands the test of time. Read from publications that respect and value your time, the ones that add more value than they consume. Read what prompts you to think for yourself. Read fewer articles and more books. Read books that have stood the test of time, those that are still in print after 20 years or so.

Good advice.

Philip Yancey on reading and building a ‘fortress of habits’

Read. Think. Meditate/Pray. Listen.

Who among us does enough of these vital activities? Who has the time?

Who has the power to turn away from our Facebook feeds, tweets and texts, television ads, sidebars and come-ons — even our Distractor-in-Chief — to do the things we know would nourish us emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually?

Religious writer Philip Yancey (What’s So Amazing About Grace and many other books) has an interesting and perceptive take on all of this in a recent article published by the Washington Post.

The death of reading is threatening the soul – The Washington Post 

Yancey cites the many distractions of modern life, especially those brought on our technology:

We’re engaged in a war, and technology wields the heavy weapons. 

Yancey quotes Warren Buffett on the need to build a “fortress of habits,” writing:

Willpower alone is not enough, he (Buffett) says. We need to construct what he calls “a fortress of habits.” I like that image. Recently I checked author Annie Dillard’s website, in which she states, “I can no longer travel, can’t meet with strangers, can’t sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can’t write by request, and can’t answer letters. I’ve got to read and concentrate. Why? Beats me.” Now that’s a fortress.

People such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Mark Cuban have such a fortress, and their fortresses are devoted reading. Buffett says he reads 500 pages a day.

Technology is a problem, but it is not The Problem. We make the choices of how we spend our time. Technology often helps us make the wrong choice.

Hat-tip to Shane Parrish and his Farnham Street’s Brain Food newsletter for pointing to this article.