Welcome to the final Motherf*cking Monday email of 2019. In case you forgot, this is the only weekly newsletter that will remind you that this is the only weekly newsletter that will remind you when you forget that this is the only weekly newsletter that will remind you when you forget that this is the only weekly newsletter that will remind you when you forget that this is the only weekly newsletter…
Shit, I’m dizzy just writing that. Anyway, this week, we’re closing out the year strong with a couple of new articles, some ideas on the compounding effects of learning, and a couple of important lessons you learned in 2019. Let’s get to it.
The most important skill to learn… is how to learn
– As this decade comes to a close, I look back at all I’ve learned and all that’s changed. I’m blown away not only by how unpredictable the course of my life has been, but also how unpredictable the world has been in the past 10 years. Pretty much nothing I expected (nor anyone else expected) to happen this decade is what actually happened. I’m still young enough to be surprised by this. But I suppose I will be less surprised in the ensuing years.
In preparing this week’s content, I spent a lot of time ruminating about the past ten years. For a long time, there’s been a lot of talk about the accelerating rate of change, particularly technological change. Breakthroughs in technology precipitate faster, new breakthroughs which then compound as time goes on.
But there’s a flip side to this accelerating change: the accelerating benefits of being able to learn quickly and efficiently. Processing information and understanding something is not only more valuable than ever before, but the value compounds over time. The lessons you learn today will improve your ability to learn important and useful lessons tomorrow. Similarly, the cost of not being able to learn well is compounding as well. Failure to learn from today’s experiences will be even more costly tomorrow because you will be left that much further behind.
One way to think of the stratification in society at the moment is that there is an increasing gap between those who learn well and quickly and those who do not. That gap comes in all sorts of guises: not just income gaps, but also gaps in health, well-being, divorce rates, addictions, and so on.
The focus of my writing has shifted over the years. I started out writing dating and relationship advice. A few years later, that morphed into general life advice and discussions of human happiness, etc. That later became writing about values, meaning, and purpose.
While I will continue to write about all of these subjects, perhaps the most important subject of all is simply helping people learn how to learn, to develop the ability to develop, to increase their capacity for growth. As we continue to fly up the ever-steepening curve of progress, the mental and emotional skills of mastering yourself will only compound and continue to pay dividends going on through the 21st century. That is my biggest lesson this decade.
I read a crapload of books this year… here are my favorites
– Long-time readers know that I keep notes on every book I’ve read throughout the year, then look back and make some meta comments on my reading habits, as well as take the time to review my favorite books of the year.
It was a good year for books. My own book aside, most of the books at the top of my list came out this year. In a member’s article, I wrote longer reviews for my five favorite reads and left comments on everything I read. I also discussed what happened this year and what I’ll be working on for next year. Check it out:
Your biggest lessons from 2019
– Last week, I asked readers to write in telling me the biggest personal lesson they had in 2019. There were many good ones, but two stood out and I felt worth noting.
The first was, “Like on an airplane, you have to put on your oxygen mask before you can help someone else put on theirs. I learned that I have to take care of myself before I’m even qualified to take care of someone else.”
I loved this metaphor because it clearly communicates what’s often a counterintuitive idea for many people. I’ve written that we often seek to take care of others as a way to avoid the responsibility for taking care of ourselves. But this seemingly noble impulse ultimately hurts both people.
The second lesson was, “Dignity is finite, don’t squander yours.” Many of us trade a little bit of our dignity to cash in on some material pleasures. We lie to get ahead at work. Or we do something we later regret so somebody will like us. In a vacuum, these seem to be harmless little trades. They’re a bunch of little, “Ah, nobody will notice, so what’s the big deal?”
But add together enough “what’s the big deals” and you end up with one big, “what the fuck have I done with my life?”
I’ve written before that dignity is something incredibly difficult to get back once lost, whereas most of the things we trade it for (approval, material success, sex, etc.) are easily recouped once lost. Don’t trade your dignity. It’s one of your most unique and precious possessions.
And speaking of dignity, New Year’s Eve is coming up. Try not to drink so much that you pass out on the floor before midnight and your drunk friends write offensive shit on your face. Think about your dignity, man. This is something that I may or may not have been guilty of in both 2007 and 2009. But that’s a story for another time and another year.
See you in 2020