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What I've Been Thinking About Lately #37

How to be Useful?

This week, I was listening to a podcast where Jim Collins, author of "Good to Great, shared a personal story from around the time he was leaving Stanford to create his own education platform. Collins was worried about making it on his own and shared his worries with Peter Drucker.

And I was launching out to try to do this self directed path. And I was genuinely scared. And Peter said to me, he said, “But I do have a request. That you change your question a little bit. It seems to me you spend a lot of time trying — worrying about if you’re going to survive. Well, you’ll probably survive. And you spend too much time thinking about if you’ll be successful. It’s the wrong question. The question is, “how to be useful?” And that was the last thing he said that day. He just got out of the car, and closed the door, and walked away.

I was so struck by this quote because I myself had several thoughts like this during my hour long walk listening to the podcast.

It's a very human thing to worry about survival, but not a very helpful thing in 2024. Virtually everybody with access to basic necessities survives and everybody adapts to their situation. So stress and worries about survival, getting laid off, if you’ll pass a test, etc. are low value because they don't help you attain the thing that prevents you from these outcomes.

To end, here is a good related quote from Nat Friedman,

As human beings it is our right (maybe our moral duty) to reshape the universe to our preferences

You should probably work on raising the ceiling, not the floor

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