I was reading Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds from James Clear’s newsletter today and I wanted to apply some of his thoughts to our current situation.

However, truth and accuracy are not the only things that matter to the human mind. Humans also seem to have a deep desire to belong.

For so many people in this time of too much COVID news and misinformation from an orange buffoon with too much power, there is more concern in remaining with a tribe than there is with knowing the truth or accurate information.

Collectively, from the beginning of this outbreak, we (the rest of the world) have been starved for accurate information. Most—at least I hope most—people are looking for the true numbers of infected, what best can be done to prevent the spread, and how to help. Accuracy is up in the air because so many things are being covered up by China and the POTUS.

This desire to belong, to one political party or another, is unquestionably clouding so many people’s ability to care about truth and accuracy. More concerned with being part of the “right” tribe has been such a big focus in politics for the past 3.5 years for one party in particular, and it has divided the country, and no doubt, will cost a number of people their lives.

Understanding the truth of a situation is important, but so is remaining part of a tribe. While these two desires often work well together, they occasionally come into conflict.

In many circumstances, social connection is actually more helpful to your daily life than understanding the truth of a particular fact or idea.

Right now, understanding the truth, or perhaps the Truth, of the situation is of utmost importance. Our daily lives and the social connections that are bound to them have changes dramatically, and in this case, knowing the truth of what we can to do #flattenthecurve is key to making sure we still have a tribe left at the end of (waves hands about wildly) all this.

We don’t always believe things because they are correct. Sometimes we believe things because they make us look good to the people we care about.

I have thought about this a lot recently in relation to COVID and our current political predicament. I remember hearing a long time ago, in the early days of the Trump presidency (and maybe even during his candidacy) that Trump uses the ad hominem attack “Loser” often. The worst thing you can be in his eyes, and the eyes of those who follow him, is a loser. A loser is someone who asks for the facts, who trusts the media, who cares about others beyond those who look like themselves, the list goes on. A loser is anyone who isn’t Trump or his cronies or the people blindly following the jingoistic hate that he so wildly spews. There are so many people out there who desperately do not want to be losers. They will hang on to their pride, resisting the programs that will give them food or healthcare—because welfare is for losers—or continue putting the lives of those around them in very-real-danger—because Corona is a liberal media hoax—all for the sake of not being a loser.

Convincing someone to change their mind is really the process of convincing them to change their tribe. If they abandon their beliefs, they run the risk of losing social ties.

Nobody wants their worldview torn apart if loneliness is the outcome.

The way to change people’s minds is to become friends with them, to integrate them into your tribe, to bring them into your circle. Now, they can change their beliefs without the risk of being abandoned socially.

Here Clear offers us some hope. And in this time of quarantine, social distance, and distant socializing, I think there might be some opportunity for this. I do have some fear that we all might have become too insular for us to step outside of our bubbles and work to change the minds of someone who thinks differently, especially during this time when tensions are so high. No doubt, changing someone’s mind, even by inviting them in and giving them a new tribe, is a lot of work, socially and emotionally.

This is perhaps where our newly-forced forms of connection might be able to help us. Sometimes the physical awkwardness of meeting and talking about these hard topics can make you feel trapped because your only out is walking out. Now, if things get too tense, drop the Google Hangout and blame it on your bad internet connection. Give everyone a minute to cool off and jump back in.

In conversation, people have to carefully consider their status and appearance. They want to save face and avoid looking stupid.

Bring some levity to this insane situation we’re all in and work toward bringing someone into your fold. It’s a lot harder to feel like you need to preserve your status when you’re sitting, trapped, on your living room floor with a quarantine cocktail and your pajamas on.

One day in the future, when we are all mercifully freed from the confines of our shelters-in-place, we can do the work of physically bringing them into our tribes and cement that changed mind for the better.

File under things worth believing in: Plain Text.

Jeff Huang uses a single, plain text file for all of his productivity.

I’ve tried adopting this, with the slight modification to Taskpaper format—mostly for the cool tagging features—and this gives me exactly what I need in a digital productivity system. I still use paper for capturing and brain dumps and even short lists of what must be done today, but having this single text file as a running record is incredibly helpful.

I’ve broken mine into sections (Projects in Taskpaper parlance) with an Inbox at the top, month projects with nested day projects under each, and an archive at the bottom. Taskpaper’s ability to collapse and search or filter for specifc tags is just enough to show me only what I need to see at a given time without being too fiddly and getting into things like Omnifocus’s perspectives (which while great, cost me a lot of time in the past).

The beauty of plain text is its ability to be exactly what you need it to be. As your needs change, your file changes.

Laguna Beach, CA February 2020 55372C53-8032-4172-93D7-E432AC425029.jpg

…there’s a difference between hearing about it and experiencing it.

There’s no excuse for being uninformed when it matters, there’s also no good reason for being inexperienced.

There’s often a piece of glass between us and the world as it’s delivered to us. That glass magnifies the awareness, but it doesn’t have the same impact as experience does. It can’t.

Our awareness has been stretched wider than ever in history, but often at the cost of taking away a lifetime of experiences.

— Seth Godin

Like so many people on the internet, I am trying to figure out ways to limit the power this little brick of glass, metal, and light in my pocket has over my life. As someone who enjoys collecting and sharing knowledge, I sometimes struggle with drawing the line between where I should focus my attention—on the real world or the digital one—at any given time.

I’ve largely left social media, though I still feel the tug of Instagram more than I’d like. I am deleting apps from my phone left and right. In some cases I found ways to do the same actions from my computer when I’m home, or better yet, not do them at all.

While all of this helps in one way or another, it is still easy to become overwhelmed and drown in the infinite river of the internet, thinking that I’m doing yourself a favor by learning—AKA becoming aware—of all these new things. They’re shiny and exciting and they can maybe be used in conversation to teach someone else something, or make me sound more interesting.

The infinite internet is a constant pull, a tidal wave of overwhelming information, and distraction. Seth Godin offers simple advice, “Find your footing and do your work. It’s a choice.” That work he’s talking about, is making sure that your life is filled with experiences and not merely awareness.

It is hard enough turning away from the allure of the ever-growing internet and all the things I can learn from it, but/and now I must attempt to find the experiences I should be devoting my life to having. As with the internet, there are an infinite number of paths, and so many of them seem grand.

I want to have an answer for you, dear reader (and more importantly, for myself). But I do not. At least not right now. I have a list of experiences I want to have, and some experiences that I’ve ruled out, but how to choose the rest of them while avoiding getting sucked down the rabbit holes of merely being aware is something I must figure out. Perhaps learning out in the open, showing my work if you will, can help someone else struggling with this too.

Smartphone as Teleportation Device

Craig Mod continues to be one of the most important thinkers that I read. In the ongoing battle to be less drawn into my phone, this framing is helpful. If you’re not getting both Ridgeline and Roden Explorers in your inbox, you’re really missing out.

A smartphone excels, above all, at teleportation. It takes you from where you are, and places you elsewhere. If not physically, certainly mentally. This is great when you’re where you don’t want to be — on a packed commute for example. You can listen to a podcast, read an article, and be far, far “away” from a squished train. The issue is when this teleportation superpower intrudes on moments when you want to be present.

Craig Mod

My two favorite writing tools. 15471E46-3C8B-411C-9029-CF3B52FDE61C.jpg

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Anything but plain. 8D4DEF0F-1A21-444A-A132-EB855EEE1020.jpg

Sign. 852A0B76-8FCE-46A3-9EA7-FFEA671C4F22.jpg

Work travel means the opportunity for aerial photography. Slow shutters and clouds combine nicely. 17302B2C-60D4-4380-BBA9-2D21C079D51F.jpg

Rainy Austin morning lull. A84C7E1A-1A69-43F6-8DAF-823AC704D711.jpg

Contrast. 1DCF05C8-8C84-41C1-9896-77E4D039209C.jpg

Chance of angry clouds above Austin today? 100% 04A7B8D1-413D-4AEC-B0B1-22E82EBE4B35.jpg

Plant among the flat irons. ACC76F66-6BEB-430D-9B6C-7BD947C9EC12.jpg

Few things better than a hide wrapped notebook for keeping thoughts in. 56298B04-6ED4-4E1D-AC48-3FD8F109D889.jpg

Navy Bean has a favorite coffee spot. A123B249-F511-4EB5-AF0C-B0ED2703AA0A.jpg

Reflect on the yellow wall - have a bee-autiful day. A158B2AB-C2BB-45A3-8B94-6A7B454B7943.jpg

Long sight lines. 0E960A64-D3A3-4D0A-B72B-24BCC37DB5F9.jpg

Open skies in the Flatirons of Colorado. 758923F9-F6B7-484D-AC01-748A8880EBD4.jpg

I was going through my 150,000+ image archive looking for something else and stumbled on some ten-year-old concert photos from college. Grace Potter is incredible live. See her if you ever get the chance.

Short rides. Long shadows.

It felt good to be riding outside again after lots of time indoors on the trainer.

Happy National Handwriting Day! Written for you in my Hobonichi Techo with my beloved Lamy 2000 with Mike Masuyama needlepoint grind.

Do I give up on Field Notes?

I’ve been a devotee of pen and paper my whole life. The only reason I looked forward to “Back to School” season was school supply shopping to pick out pens and college ruled notebooks for my notes. In high school I found craft-store fountain pens with rough nibs and watery ink.

It wasn’t until college, with my own money and a wonderful site called JetPens that I truly joined the stationery world. I discovered the finest pointed Japanese pens and paper that was smoother and more beautiful than the Moleskines I’d been writing in, and fountain pens. I was soon a Pen Addict, reading the blog and listening to the podcast religiously. Through this window to the pen and paper world I discovered brands like Sailor, Leuchturm 1917, Kaweco, and Tomoe River. But I kept hearing about this company in Chicago making pocket notebooks that inspired nothing short of fanaticism.

I’m talking about Field Notes.

Back in 2012 when I bought my first packs—FN Traveling Salesman, FN Expedition, and FN01b Redblooded—they were still a relatively small operation. The Field Notes team printed only 24,000 books. Since then, Field Notes have taken off, with limited editions printed in the hundreds of thousands. Combine that with the one-offs and collaborations and you have a product worth collecting.

I am one of those collectors. I do not have every edition ever printed. My collection was never going to have a pack of every edition. I was late to the game, but more importantly, and wisely, Field Notes got ahead of the insane collecting by creating editions where every single book has a different cover (see the image at the top for an example of this).

I am proud of the collection I have amassed. It is a collection in two parts: half my collection might be anathema to the purists, the filled books, all 132 of them dating back to 2013 and the more traditional pristine-in-plastic, unopened collection, numbering 222.

At my rough average of 18 per year, I have enough blank Field Notes to last me 12 years.

All these words, my history with Field Notes—which contains a good chunk of my personal history, this collection of notebooks, filled and unfilled, are building to some questions that have been troubling me.

Do I give up on Field Notes?

Do I give up on my collection?

I have nothing but love for these little Futura-typeset pocket notebooks. I am an ardent believer in the power of putting pen to paper and there are few notebooks better for capturing thoughts and lists every single day than Field Notes. Hell, this essay began in a Clandestine Field Notes.

Is it okay if my collection stops here after seven years? Can it still be a collection if I have this gap?

Truthfully, my collection was never about keeping these notebooks pristine. I get more value and joy from carrying a Field Notes every day, jotting things down, using them for what they are made for. I have some cool limited editions that I have enjoyed far more by writing in them that keeping them mint.

Of late I feel behind on my Field Notes. Watching the number of unopened or empty notebooks tick upward brings a weight that I don’t like.

Perhaps what my collection needs is refinement. Instead of subscribing and collection my 24(!) plus books a year—and all the cool extras Field Notes creates that I admittedly rarely do anything with—I will grow my collection slowly and deliberately, adding only those Field Notes I’m excited about (I mean c’mon, three colors of gilded edges?!).

Will the gaps this new method creates make my collection incomplete? Definitely.

Should the completeness of my collection matter to anyone but me? Probably not.

Is it still my collection? Hell yes.

Danny Macaskill keeps doing mind-boggling things on a bike. I’ve been watching his videos for more than ten years now and he continues to innovate.

Spent New Year’s Day on the rocks at Enchanted Rock State Park. Climbing outside is a lot tougher than I expected and it made me realize just how much having a big cushy mat under you gives you confidence in a climbing gym.

I think this is true for a lot of things. A safety net of any kind can give you the peace of mind to try something that’s a bit beyond your reach or skill level.