Random Notes

The public notebook of some guy named Scott Nesbitt

We live in a world where the superficial seems to have taken control. Sound bites, 280-character messages, short headlines, news briefs.

We graze. We catch only a few drops out of the fire hose of information that is spraying online. We only see the surface.

But rarely do we see deeper.

What do I mean by that? Striving for more depth in what we take in. Depth is what not only gives us greater insights, but also offers context and detail. That depth can lead us to an informed opinion and to stronger understanding. It can help us see what's not readily apparent.

To see deeper, you need to make an effort to dig for that detail. To do that:

  • Avoid relying on tweets, headlines, and summaries.
  • Read analyses, in-depth essays, and listen to or watch in-depth interviews and news stories.
  • Vary your reading, watching, and listening.
  • Challenge yourself and your assumptions.

Most of all, think. Try to understand. Try to move aside or lower your filters. Try to approach an issue or an idea from different angles.

It's not easy. No matter how open minded we think we are, many of us have built up a wall of assumptions, opinions, and positions that we jealously protect. And that wall is the biggest barrier to seeing deeper. Breaking through it, or even just climbing over it, isn't easy. It will not only be difficult, it could be painful. It could cause you to doubt what you know and what you think.

And that's the whole point of seeing deeper. To challenge your belief. To shake up your opinions. To put cracks in your assumptions.

Once you start to see deeper, though, you'll view the world and yourself in a very different and, I'd hazard to say, better way.

Sometime in the autumn of 2005, my wife bought some educational software for our daughter. It looked interesting, and quite comprehensive.

Unfortunately, it was anything but straightforward. Each task or lesson had a lengthy preamble attached to it, setting up the task with a long, convoluted story. And there wasn’t any way to skip the preamble.

My wife got very frustrated with the software. My daughter … well, she got bored, wandered off and picked up a book to read.

While this was going on, I installed some educational software on one of my Linux-powered laptops — specifically, GCompris and Tux Typing. Within minutes, my daughter was using (and I hope learning from) the software. All without the annoying narration and set up. The Linux software that I installed was simple; some would say boring. But it worked.

That taught me a valuable lesson: often, the simple choice is better than the complex choice. Especially when it comes to tools — whether they’re productivity and organization tools, writing tools, or tools for learning.

Simple offers a number of advantages over complex. There’s less overhead, both cognitive and digital. There’s less to distract you. Simple is faster. It’s often more effective.

Simple lets you get the job done. Quickly, easily, and with the minimum of headaches.

Simple keeps you focused on what you’re doing.

Simple just works. And it lets you work. And learn. And play.

Sure, there are people who need a more complex option. Most of us, though, can get by without that complexity. In most cases, I’d say we can do more than get by.

Don’t default to the complex in anything. Consider a simpler option, a simpler path. For most of what you do, simple is more than good enough.

If you spend your entire life only doing things that “have a point,” then by definition your life will be a failure. You'll die in media res, never having fully actualized as much as you could have.

Justin Murphy

I first encountered the idea of the text playlist via Leo Babauta. That idea is simple: the playlist is a set of links to articles, blog posts, and the like that have inspired or moved you, or which made you think.

A text playlist is similar to a set of bookmarks, except that it's very focused — maybe half a dozen or so links. And it's a bit more public. The goal isn't just to have those links at your fingertips but also to share them in the hope that what's at the end of those links will have the effect on others that they've had on you.

Following Leo Babauta's lead, I've added a text playlist to my home page (OK, it's a dozen links not the half dozen or so I recommend). Check it out. And why not add one to your website or blog?

A while back in this space, I wrote about my dismay with a post I'd stumbled across that proclaimed it was time to bring back personal blogs.

That dismay stemmed from the fact that personal blogs never disappeared off web. Those personal blogs might have been eclipsed by so-called pro blogs, but they're still out there. The trouble, though, is finding those personal blogs.

Platforms like Write.as and Bear, for example, have discovery feeds for the blogs that they host. But personal blogging goes beyond Write.as and Bear and similar platforms. So it's a good thing that there are other ways to find interesting personal blogs. Here are a few of them:

Let's start off with The Forest. It's a collection of blogs and websites that various people have suggested. Click the Go For a Walk button and you're taken to one of those blogs or sites. The fun part is that you're never sure where you're going to land.

Similar to The Forest is indieblog.page. Again, it's a a collection of suggested posts from various personal blogs. Click the Open Random Blog Post button and that happens. You never know where you're going to land until you do.

If you're looking for a little more structure in your searches, then check out Blogroll, a curated list of personal blogs, grouped into 18 topics. Each listing comes with a short description, so you get an inkling of what the blog is about before you decide to jump to it.

Continuing on that theme is the newer curated directory on the block: ooh.directory. It's similar to Blogroll, with a dozen or so categories, but with a different and cleaner layout. When you jump to a category, the list of blogs includes a link and a short description.

You can also hop over to PersonalSit.es or Indieweb.xyz, or search for something that might catch your attention using Blog Surf.

Personal blogs are out there. Go find some. You'll be pleasantly surprised at what turns up.

From (again) the always insightful The Architecture of Silence:

Move in silence, only speak when it's time to say checkmate.

In late 2022, my mind drifted back to all of the good (or just plain interesting) opportunities I let slip through my fingers over the years. I occasionally joke that when I try to count those missed opportunities I quickly run out of fingers and toes. Maybe there weren't that many, but I've let more than a couple slip away.

The main reason I let those opportunities slip away was fear. I let fear — of failure, of looking like an idiot, of letting a client or editor down, of not being good enough — take hold. I let that fear control me.


Enter your email to subscribe to updates.