10 Ideas Worth Sharing This Week

How social media hooks us, storytellers capture our attention, and companies try to make us more ignorant.

Each week I share 10 ideas with my newsletter subscribers. Following is this week’s newsletter — sign up here to get future issues.


“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” — Abraham Lincoln


Today’s your chance to do something you’ll remember tomorrow.

To learn something that makes you better.

To change something that’s held you back.

To decide something that alters your course.

To create something that impacts others.

To experience something new.

To become the person you want to be.

Today’s your chance.

Now, on to this week’s ideas…

1. HOW TO DECIDE WHICH IDEAS TO PURSUE

“Potential results shouldn’t dictate the ideas we pursue. The majority of time we spend on an idea will be spent on the work, so we need to be more drawn to that than the results.”

Since I write a newsletter all about ideas, I wind up with a LOT of ideas floating around my head. That’s great, but it can also be a challenge to figure out which ideas to focus on.

In this post I suggest five ways to figure out which of your ideas are worth your time, including to choose ideas that are both unique and familiar, ideas that will succeed even if they fail, and ideas you can easily explain.

2. HOW SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES HACK YOUR BRAIN

“When these features are being designed, are they being designed to most help people live their life? Or are they being designed because they’re best at hooking people into using the product?”

This 60 Minutes segment (it’s the opening segment in the episode) is a must-watch for anybody that uses social media.

It explains how platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat use advanced brain science to engineer ways to get us addicted to using their services.

Basically, this is why you’re addicted to your phone.

By the way, if you want to learn even more about how these things work, I highly recommend this book.

3. GREAT STORYTELLERS EXPLAIN HOW TO TELL A GREAT STORY

“A story is kind of a black box and you’re going to put the reader in there. She’s going to spend some time with this thing you’ve made and when she comes out, what’s going to have happened to her in there is something kind of astonishing. It feels like the curtain’s been pulled back and she’s gotten a glimpse into a deeper truth. As a story writer, that’s not as easy as it sounds.”

It’s possible there’s no more valuable skill than the ability to tell a good story. That’s why this Open Culture post is a must-read.

It’s a collection of six videos that feature talented storytellers explaining what it takes to tell a good story. The advice comes from people like author George Saunders, Finding Nemo filmmaker Andrew Stanton, This American Life creator Ira Glass, and more.

4. 39 OBSERVATIONS OF A LIFE THAT HASN’T GONE ACCORDING TO PLAN

“Be skeptical of advice offered from people that don’t have the life you want. Unless somebody has produced the results that you’re seeking, take their advice with a grain of salt.”

Unmistakable Creative podcast creator Srinivas Rao has created this excellent bit of reflection and wisdom from lessons he’s learned so far over the course of his life.

His 39 observations of a life that hasn’t gone according to plan include that learning is different than education, that some of what you believe will change with age, that working a job you hate is great preparation for a job you’ll love, and that if you want to change the world you have to see it as malleable.

For more life advice, check out my thoughts on how to figure your life out.

5. AMERICA’S POLITICAL POLARIZATION ISN’T BEING CAUSED BY SOCIAL MEDIA

“Given that older Americans who don’t use social media are polarizing faster than younger Americans who do, it’s clear that this is about more than whom you follow on Twitter.”

It turns out the conventional wisdom that social media has created filter bubbles that push Americans to become more polarized may be wrong.

Vox details new research that finds political polarization is most prevalent among people who don’t use social media.

So what’s actually driving our increased polarization? Two theories have emerged: Income inequality and non-digital media like cable TV and talk radio.

6. HOW TO BUILD UP YOUR RESILIENCE

“Grit isn’t fixed like your height. Rather it’s something you cultivate, more like learning a new language.”

Angela Duckworth, author of the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, believes resilience is a learned skill.

This 99u article features an interview with her in which she shares three things you can do to make yourself grittier including to have “an ultimate concern,” practice deliberately, and think like an optimist.

7. THE 3-WORD ADVICE GEORGE LUCAS HAS FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE

“Being afraid will limit you. And most importantly, it will limit your creativity. If you become afraid of what you are trying to do.”

Don’t be afraid. That’s the advice the creator of Star Wars offered up time and again to a person he mentored over the course of a decade.

Benjamin P. Hardy shares the story and breaks down why it’s important to overcome your fear in order to create something that hasn’t been created before.

8. THE FASCINATING STORY OF “PLACE”

“At its core, the story of Place is an eternal story, about the three forces that humanity needs to make art, creation, and technology possible.”

“Place” was an experiment that happened on Reddit that’s impossible to explain in this summary.

This Sudoscript post describes it as “a fascinating act in the history of humanity.”

That might be a slight exaggeration, but the story of Place is worth checking out because it reveals a lot about how people, technology, freedom, community, and art can collide in amazing, inspiring, and slightly scary ways.

9. HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT TOPIC FOR YOUR CONTENT

“The first thing to consider is that even if you have diverse interests, there is probably one core idea that holds everything together.”

These days just about everybody seems to have a blog, podcast, or video series and the people who don’t are often stuck trying to figure out what they should talk about.

Strategy consultant Mark Schaefer offers advice on how to find the perfect topic for your content, including to choose a theme that connects disparate ideas and to focus on things that address other people’s needs.

10. HOW COMPANIES INTENTIONALLY SPREAD IGNORANCE

“My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more so than we imagine.”

This one was suggested by a reader in our For The Interested Facebook group and it’s a good one.

The BBC profiles several academics who study agnotology, which is the study of willful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favor.

It explains how companies and individuals purposefully spread ignorance, with examples ranging from cigarette companies to climate change deniers.

Their tactics include suggesting there’s two sides to every story (there’s not), and purposefully creating confusion.

For example: “The fight is not just over the existence of climate change, it’s over whether God has created the Earth for us to exploit, whether government has the right to regulate industry, whether environmentalists should be empowered, and so on. It’s not just about the facts, it’s about what is imagined to flow from and into such facts.”

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

MEANWHILE, IN OTHER AWESOME NEWSLETTERS…

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