Joan Didion on Self-Respect

“Nonetheless, character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs…

…Again, it is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has its price. People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk that the Indians will be hostile, that the venture will go bankrupt, that the liaison may not turn out to be one in which every day is a holiday because you’re married to me. They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds…

…To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which, for better or for worse, constitutes self-respect, is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent…

…To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.”

-Joan Didion, “Self-Respect.” Vogue. 1961.

While I’ve mentioned this essay before, on re-reading, I thought it deserved its own post. Lovely.

How to Think For Yourself

“It matters a lot who you surround yourself with. If you’re surrounded by conventional-minded people, it will constrain which ideas you can express, and that in turn will constrain which ideas you have. But if you surround yourself with independent-minded people, you’ll have the opposite experience: hearing other people say surprising things will encourage you to, and to think of more.

Because the independent-minded find it uncomfortable to be surrounded by conventional-minded people, they tend to self-segregate once they have a chance to. The problem with high school is that they haven’t yet had a chance to. Plus high school tends to be an inward-looking little world whose inhabitants lack confidence, both of which magnify the forces of conformism. And so high school is often a bad time for the independent-minded. But there is some advantage even here: it teaches you what to avoid. If you later find yourself in a situation that makes you think “this is like high school,” you know you should get out.

—Paul Graham, “How to Think For Yourself.” November 2020.

How Many Summers Are Left?

“I ask Grant Heslov about his friend’s decision to step back from acting, to direct and otherwise live his life. ‘This is how he put it to me when I was trying to do something during the summer recently,’ Heslov says by way of an explanation. He says Clooney proposed an exercise. ‘Let’s sit down and try to figure out how many summers we have left,’ Clooney said. ‘Let’s say we were 55 at the time. So let’s say we have 25 more summers left—25 years, 25 summers. That doesn’t seem like that many if you lose a whole summer, right?’”

-Zach Baron, “George Clooney When We Need Him Most.” GQ. November 17, 2020.

Reminded me of Warren Buffet’s 20 Slot Rule and Wait But Why‘s Your Life in Weeks. Also, there’s this chart from the CDC. If you make it to 65 years of age, you’re more likely to live longer than average. Obvious, when you think about it, but it’s still a point worth remembering.

The Syllabus

“By combining algorithms and human curation, we salvage the most thoughtful intellectual output from the ever-mounting great pile of information — most of which is simply rubbish.

The result? An eclectic selection of the best new academic articles, essays, talks, podcasts, books, lectures, and more, produced for you, once a week.

Led by technology critic Evgeny Morozov, The Syllabus method combines algorithmic filtering, categorisation and systematic human curation – across six languages – to power our various syllabi.

Jumping Rope

I bought a Heavy Muay Thai jump rope from Elite SRS. I’ve never jumped rope before. But, I had heard it is easier to learn with a heavier rope and I wanted more than a cardio workout. Normally, a jump rope is about a half (0.5) pound. A “heavy” rope is one (1) pound. This rope is a pound and a half (1.5) pounds. Using a High Intensity Interval Timer, I set the following:

  • 20 Work (seconds)
  • 20 Break (seconds)
  • 60 Rest (seconds [of rest between blocks])
  • 3 Intervals per block
  • X Blocks

The number of blocks is essentially the number of minutes you are jumping rope. For 3 minutes or 3 blocks, it takes a total of 10 minutes. My immediate goal is to work up to 10 minutes of jumping rope, and develop some kind of jump rope program for 2021.

Why jump rope? It’s inexpensive (<$20). It’s easy to carry. It can be done anywhere. It doesn’t take up much time. It is both a cardio and a whole body workout.

I’m only a few weeks in. So far, so good. Once I have more experience, I’ll share additional thoughts then, probably close to the end of the year and then try to do a year focused on jump rope as a primary form of exercise with some calisthenics thrown in.