Discover more from The Comma Project by Devin Baker
💡🧐 Curiosities | Round 4
On Techno-Optimism, honor, design, and more
Welcome back to The Comma Project - where it’s all about helping fuel leaders further, faster along their path. It’s a space to ask the questions that matter of life, leadership, and connection.
I’m back with round 4 of Curiosities - a digestible download of ideas and stories for leaders.
Here, I unearth gems of insight on the art of seeking, becoming, and building a life of significance.
I hope you enjoy - and if you do, I’d be grateful if you pressed the little ❤️ button at the top left corner of this piece, and shared it with a few people you think would also enjoy it.
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We believe in adventure. Undertaking the Hero’s Journey, rebelling against the status quo, mapping uncharted territory, conquering dragons, and bringing home the spoils for our community.
We believe in the truth.
We believe extrinsic motivations – wealth, fame, revenge – are fine as far as they go. But we believe intrinsic motivations – the satisfaction of building something new, the camaraderie of being on a team, the achievement of becoming a better version of oneself – are more fulfilling and more lasting.
We believe in what the Greeks called eudaimonia through arete – flourishing through excellence.
What world are we building for our children and their children, and their children? A world of fear, guilt, and resentment? Or a world of ambition, abundance, and adventure?
An unabashedly optimistic vision of the future, but one that I largely am compelled and inspired by. There are lots of gems for guiding principles in a world that’s moving forward, ever faster.
Joseph Ellis on honor in the time of the founding of the United States
Honor mattered because character mattered. And character mattered because the fate of the American experiment with republican government still required virtuous leaders to survive. Eventually, the United States might develop into a nation of laws and established institutions capable of surviving corrupt or incompetent public officials. But it was not there yet. It still required honorable and virtuous leaders to endure.
This quote felt magnetic and triumphant as I read it.
It’s easy to think now that they were bound to succeed, but to see the world from the perspective of those in the early days of our country is to see that their desired future was entirely unclear, and in fact, unlikely.
I am fascinated by this time and these people. People who no doubt had flaws and moral contradictions, but believed in the nobility of and need for integrity, honor, and character.
So many of the most important events in history balance on a knife’s edge. I believe in the power of leaders with integrity to keep us on the right track.
I’m also struck by how central the pursuit of goodness, virtue, integrity (many other words could fit here) was for notable leaders of our past history. I find myself asking if this is something that we’ve lost today. Regardless of the answer, I believe it’s something worth striving for.
The Local Project
Probably my favorite channel on YouTube.
The Local Project is an Australian group highlighting stunning and epic residential architecture and design with beautiful videography.
I was scrolling to find one of my favorites, but honestly, they’re all stunning.
Just pick one and feel the real estate envy.
Paul Graham on superlinear returns
There are many variables that affect how good your work is, and if you want to be an outlier you need to get nearly all of them right. For example, to do something exceptionally well, you have to be interested in it. Mere diligence is not enough. So in a world with superlinear returns, it's even more valuable to know what you're interested in, and to find ways to work on it.
Choose work you have a natural aptitude for and a deep interest in. Develop a habit of working on your own projects; it doesn't matter what they are so long as you find them excitingly ambitious. Work as hard as you can without burning out, and this will eventually bring you to one of the frontiers of knowledge. These look smooth from a distance, but up close they're full of gaps. Notice and explore such gaps, and if you're lucky one will expand into a whole new field. Take as much risk as you can afford; if you're not failing occasionally you're probably being too conservative. Seek out the best colleagues. Develop good taste and learn from the best examples. Be honest, especially with yourself. Exercise and eat and sleep well and avoid the more dangerous drugs. When in doubt, follow your curiosity. It never lies, and it knows more than you do about what's worth paying attention to.
There's another more subtle lesson in the list of fields with superlinear returns: not to equate work with a job. For most of the 20th century the two were identical for nearly everyone, and as a result we've inherited a custom that equates productivity with having a job. Even now to most people the phrase "your work" means their job. But to a writer or artist or scientist it means whatever they're currently studying or creating. For someone like that, their work is something they carry with them from job to job, if they have jobs at all. It may be done for an employer, but it's part of their portfolio.
So many gems in here, I could’ve filled this whole edition with his quotes alone.
I appreciate the nuanced, insightful, and sometimes surprising perspective on work and rewards.
As I’ve shared before, I’m fascinated in searching for work that’s worth doing.
There is something to be learned or at least observed from the fearful part of your mind trying to convince you that you’re not ready. It is a well-intentioned part of you that wants to protect you and itself. It has good intentions, but flawed context. It should be approached gently. Because that part of you isn’t trying to sabotage you, it isn’t trying to kill your potential or be cruel in some way. It is trying to do what it perceives to be its job: to protect you from social rejection, from failure, from risk.
The fears of modernity are usually about social perception and external judgement. But many of these fears are unfounded: others often admire things we do before we think we are “ready” more than they judge or criticize them. And even when that isn’t true, who really cares? Isn’t the metric of success that matters most making ourselves proud? Living a life aligned with our values? Actualizing our unique potential? Even if they judge, scold, or reject us—might that be… okay? Might that be worth the risk of doing what feels right to us?
I came across Isabel on Twitter/X in a rare feat of the algorithm presenting me with information that actually conveys humanity, depth, and nuance, and I’ve been diving into some of her writing since.
I’ve really been resonating with her questions and musings, and since you’re here, I figured you might as well.
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