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January 2024

Post image for The Two Ways of Doing

Imagine two friends, Steve and Fred, chatting at a New Year’s party. Both of them resolve to abstain from alcohol for January, and attend the gym regularly. They shake on it.

They don’t want to let each other down, and they both fulfill their commitments. Afterward, Steve keeps up his routine, and Fred soon drifts back to too much beer and not enough exercise.

Even though they accomplished the same thing, an astute third-party observer might have noticed a difference in how each man went about his goal. It was definitely hard for both of them; they both woke up at dawn, drank club soda while others were having a beer, and did lunges and squats until their muscles burned. For Fred this work felt like a battle against gravity (although a worthy one) and for Steve the change seemed strangely freeing.

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Post image for When You Go Straight Towards Your Kryptonite

The first time I tried an oyster, I was six or seven and my parents had company over. I immediately gagged and spit it out on the plate. It was the worst thing I ever had in my mouth.

A few months ago, at a restaurant, my friend ordered some oysters and offered me one. I said thanks but I don’t like oysters, and then realized that I wasn’t sure if that’s true, because I had only ever tried one, in 1987, for one second.

So I tried it. It was fine. I get why people eat them, but I’d rather order something else. Mostly I felt silly for steering clear of them all this time, based on barely an eyeblink of real-life experience.

The fact that I let thirty-five years pass before giving the oyster a proper second look is an example of what I call the “kryptonite effect.” The moment you become averse to something, you begin to avoid engaging with that thing, so you never actually get to learn what it’s all about, including any affinity you might have for it. It becomes like kryptonite to you. Ease and comfort around it can never develop.

Learning the ins and outs of something requires that you let yourself experience it, but with this thing you have a rule that you don’t do that. So it remains entirely in the mind, as this withering, radioactive entity that you never get near and never look at closely, even while people around you handle it freely and enjoy it completely.

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