The Hill We Climb


hree of the most interesting things I learned this week:

  1. Climb your hill. 
  2. Systematise your life.
  3. Don't forget the Tetris Principle.

And the most interesting thing I wrote this week: 7 Powers, a review of Hamilton Helmer's excellent business strategy.

1. The Hill We Climb

I’m in awe of Amanda Gorman, the poet who wrote and read The Hill We Climb for Joe Biden’s Presidential inauguration this week.

She found out three weeks before the inauguration that the Biden’s wanted her to address the nation. She read previous inaugural poems, researched important speeches delivered through the U.S.’s history about unity and strength, and began to write a few sentences a day. Halfway through that process, her work was interrupted when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol but their uprising only served to lift her words higher. “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Unsurprisingly, the more you delve into her work, the more light her words shine on life. In a TED talk recorded in November 2018, Amanda said this about poetry, public speaking, and the point of life.

“Most of my life I was particularly terrified of speaking up, because I had a speech impediment,which made it difficult to pronounce certain letters, sounds, and I felt like I was fine writing on the page, but once I got on stage, I was worried my words might jumble and stumble.

What was the point in trying not to mumble these thoughts in my head, if everything's already been said before? But, finally, I had a moment of realization, where I thought, if I choose not to speak out of fear, then there's no one that my silence is standing for…

…The thing about poetry is that it's not really about having the right answers, it's about asking these right questions, about what it means to be a writer doing right by your words and your actions, and my reaction is to pay honor to those shoulders of people who used their pens to roll over boulders so I might have a mountain of hope on which to stand, so that I might understand the power of telling stories that matter, no matter what.

So that I might realize that if I choose, not out of fear, but out of courage, to speak, then there's something unique that my words can become. And all of a sudden that fear that my words might jumble and stumble go away as I'm humbled by the thoughts of thousands of stories a long time coming that I know are strumming inside me as I celebrate those people in their time who stood up so this little Black girl could rhyme as I celebrate and call their names all the same, these people who seem like they were just born to be bold: Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange,Phillis Wheatley, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Joan Wicks, Audre Lorde, and so many more.

It might feel like every story has been told before, but the truth is, no one's ever told my story in the way I would tell it, as the daughter of black writers, who are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world.They call me. I call them. And one day I'll write a story right, by writing it into a tomorrow on this Earth more than worth standing for.”
2. Systematise

The best podcast I listened to this week came from The Tim Ferriss Show, who spoke with Jerry Seinfeld in December 2020. This passage about writing was excellent and made me think about how many other areas of our lives we could improve if we thought about them in the right way.

Jerry’s daughter needed to write something. Here’s what he said to help her.

“My guiding rule is systematise…If you’re going to write, make yourself a writing session. What’s the writing session? I’m going to work on this problem. Well, how long are you going to work on it? Don’t just sit down with an open-ended, “I’m going to work on this problem.” That’s a ridiculous torture to put on a human being’s head.

It’s like you’re going to hire a trainer to get in shape, and he comes over, and you go, “How long is the session?” And he goes, “It’s open-ended.” Forget it. I’m not doing it. It’s over right there. You’ve got to control what your brain can take. Okay? So if you’re going to exercise, God bless you, and that’s the best thing in the world you can do, but you got to know when is it going to end.
“When is the workout over?” “It’s going to be an hour.” “Okay.” Or “You can’t take that? Let’s do 30 minutes.” “Okay, great.” Now we’re getting somewhere. “I can do 30.”

That’s how you start to build a system. So my daughter, I said to her, “You have to have an end-time to your writing session. If you’re going to sit down at a desk with a problem and do nothing else, you’ve got to get a reward for that. And the reward is, the alarm goes off, and you’re done. You get up and walk away and go have some cookies and milk. You’re done.” If you have the guts and the balls to sit down and write, you need a reward at the other end of that session, which is “Stop now. Pencils down.”

So that’s the beginning of a system that to me will help almost anybody learn to write, which is something I’ve kind of wanted to teach in a way, because I think it’s so simple.”
3.  The Tetris Principle

I saw this a few weeks back but it’s stuck with me and has gotten better with age as it’s sloshed around my brain. The Tetris Principle is such a neat way to describe an important feature of humanity. We spend most of our time trying to fit in but when you think about it, it’s the weird quirks we admire most in the people we care about.

May 20, 2021
One more point
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