#35: tools for thought

👋 Welcome to the 35th volume of Out of Curiosity, a weekly newsletter promoting ideas to help get 1% better everyday.

Every week, I go through nearly 100 pieces of content (from books and podcasts to newsletters and tweets), and bring you the best in this newsletter together with what I publish on my blog and podcast.

In this issue:

🧰 Tools for thought

💭 Things I know for sure

🧘 You are doing something important when you aren't doing anything

💼 Hire people who give a shit

🧠 We are what we remember

🧰 Tools for thought

In this week's episode, Nate and I talked about the tools we use to capture information and knowledge (from books, articles, podcasts) and turn them into creative outputs (blog posts, podcasts, newsletters).


Some of the tools we discussed:

💭 Things I know for sure

  • What makes us feel liberated (and consequently more creative) is not total freedom, but rather living in a set of limitations that we have created and prescribed for ourselves.

  • Sometimes, if you can’t change a situation, you just have to change the way that you think about the situation.

  • What you own, owns you.

  • Personal truths are often perceived as universal truths. For instance, it is easy to imagine that a system or design that works well for oneself will also work for everyone else.

  • Thoughts are “designed” just like everything else around us.

  • The easiest way to establish a new desirable habit is by bundling it with an already established habit or pattern.

{4-min read}

🧘 You are doing something important when you aren't doing anything

There’s something to be said for the state of quiet dormancy, where little apparently happens.

We might have periods of furious output; to get there, we require periods of faithful input. With input, there’s a restoration of fertile, vibrant thinking. You might need a monthlong fallow after a big project. Or maybe it’s two weeks. You might even do it in a minor way — a half-day mini-sabbatical.

We need to rest, to read, to reconnect.

It is the invisible labor that makes creative life possible.

{5-min read}

💼 Hire people who give a shit

Over time interviewing, I’ve found that I mainly screen for one key thing: giving a shit.

And this is how to get a check on it:

  • What’s the hardest you’ve ever worked on something?

  • How many hours were you working a week?

  • Why did you work so hard? Why did you care?

  • When were you the most unmotivated in your life?

  • What’s the thing you’re the most proud of?

  • Do you think it was worth it?

{4-min read}

🧠 We are what we remember

The memories we hold on to early on have a huge impact on the ones we retain as we progress through life.

When memories enter our brain, they attach themselves to similar memories: ones from the same environment, or that involve the same feeling, the same music, or the same significant moment in history. Memories seldom swim around without connections.

Thus, a memory is significantly more likely to stick around if it can attach itself to something. A new experience that has very little in common with the narrative we’ve constructed of ourselves is harder to retain in memory.

{7-min read}

The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent.

It’s the lack of a deadline.

Give someone an enormous task, a supportive community, and a friendly-yet-firm due date, and miracles will happen.

Chris Baty

Until next week,




#34: becoming your best self

#33: meaningful careers

#32: my favourite problems