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December 2020

Post image for Own the Tools

When I need to look up a word, most of the time I do it in a paper dictionary. 

I’m pretty quick at flipping to the right place, and I try to get quicker each time. However, it will never be as quick as typing the word into Google.

My switch back to paper wasn’t motivated by cantankerousness. It wasn’t a romantic thing or a hipster thing, or an “I love the smell of books” thing. I just found that after years of relying on online dictionaries, a real one offers a better experience in every way except the speed.

The whole experience is cleaner and more purposeful. A paper dictionary contains complete answers for almost any conceivable “What does this word mean” problem — and nothing else. No matter which word has you puzzled, the real dictionary has inside it a small patch of print that will perfectly solve your issue. It exists only to deliver this solution, and has no ulterior motives.

While using this tool, you will not accidentally start responding to political hot takes, or adjusting your fantasy football lineup. The paper dictionary, like a decent pen or an oven mitt, was designed to deliver only what you need in the moment you access it – knowledge of what “obtuse” or “dysphoria” mean — so that you can carry on with your work.

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Post image for News is the Last Thing We Need Right Now

Forget about 2020 and its particular themes for a moment.

Imagine you lived in a small, relatively peaceful town somewhere, a thousand years ago. For the vast majority of each day, you’re focused on your immediate surroundings: your work and the people around you.

However, you do sometimes hear about events that happened elsewhere. The local butcher was reportedly robbed by thugs last night. A boy in another town fell into a well and drowned. Far to the east, fighting has broken out between two neighboring kingdoms.

You didn’t experience any these events, but you understand that they happened. It is unpleasant to hear such accounts, but you’re glad to know a bit more of what’s happening out there. You now watch for robbers when you visit the market. You tell your kids not to play near open wells. When you go to the tavern, you ask for updates on the foreign conflict, in case it worsens.

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Post image for How to Handle the Beast

The Beast showed up around Christmas last year, and stayed till April.

During those months it was difficult to get anything done, or believe getting things done was a thing I could still do.

You might know the Beast too. It has many forms. The Doom-Anxiety Beast. The Regret Beast. The Despair Beast. The Shame Beast. Psychologists have names for some of them.

Whatever the form, the Beast has certain characteristics. It saps your sense of agency and forward motion. It robs you of what might feel like your birthright: the basic ability to function to society’s standards. You lose the sense that you can steer the boat.

The Beast may stay away for weeks or months or years. Then one Thursday afternoon, when one too many things goes wrong, it darkens your doorway again and you know that life might be different for a while.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s a good thing. Many of you do though. For what it’s worth, I’ll share what I’ve learned about tangling with the Beast.  

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