Never Normal Newsletter

Mozart’s Farts, Becoming a Better Dad, Tensegrity, and American Anarchy

Last week I wrote let’s meme the world a better place. This week I’ve got a new podcast episode and an assortment of related things I’ve been learning, listening to, and thinking about.

It all starts with a tiny push

Even though you know exactly what’s going to happen, it’s still pretty amazing to watch this short video (dripping with high school science class vibes), and see that it actually works.

Beyond the physics, there’s an important lesson here about the power of taking action — even a very small action — that kicks off a chain reaction.

Can you apply this to your life or business? What’s the first domino that you need to knock down on the path to achieving your goal? 🤔

BTW – If you like thought experiments like this, check out Quality Questions. Speaking of asking lots of questions…

Learning from Leonardo

Walter Isaacson has written a bunch of fantastic biographies of people like Steve Jobs, Ben Franklin, and Albert Einstein. Each book is great on its own, but I especially enjoy spotting the patterns between them.

One of the common traits that these men all shared is an insatiable curiosity about the world, as Isaacson explains in this passage from his Leonardo Da Vinci book:

Beyond the basics of love, food, and shelter — I see my main job as a parent as kindling, rather than snuffing out, that flame of curiosity.

Kids are born curious. It’s parents, schools, and society that crush curiosity by telling kids what they should be interested in, instead of letting them follow their own interests wherever they lead.

Mozart’s Farts

Imagine for a moment a graph with “totally uncouth” on one end and “the height of sophistication” on the other end….

Most people would agree that Mozart’s music would be on the sophistication end, whereas something like “poop jokes” would be down at the other end (see what I did there).

But it turns out Mozart himself was a big fan of shitty puns. Wikipedia even has an entire entry dedicated to Mozart and Scatology:

For example, when Margaret Thatcher was apprised of Mozart’s scatology during a visit to the theatre to see Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus, director Peter Hall relates: She was not pleased. In her best headmistress style, she gave me a severe wigging for putting on a play that depicted Mozart as a scatological imp with a love of four-letter words. It was inconceivable, she said, that a man who wrote such exquisite and elegant music could be so foul-mouthed.

Who knows which childhood interests will turn out to be beneficial later in life? Maybe it was a fart in c sharp that sparked Mozart’s interest in music.

Another example: Is limiting kids’ screen time protecting their mental health, or robbing them of the opportunity to develop the skills they’ll need to work in the new economy?

That’s the kind of question parents are struggling with in world that seems to be changing faster and faster.

Helping Dads Become Better Dads

That’s why Kevin Maguire started The New Fatherhood. Almost one year since he launched it, the newsletter is a big hit and Kevin joined me on the Never Normal podcast for a chat.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • What’s missing from the existing advice for dads
  • Writing a book one week at a time
  • The advice new dads need to hear
  • Fatherhood lessons from Bandit the Dog
  • That hardest thing for me about being a parent
  • Why Kevin left Google, one of the world’s best companies to work for
  • Moving away from San Francisco / the US to optimize for family life
  • Advantages of living in Barcelona and Spanish attitudes toward kids

I first connected with Kevin after reading his post on how to chose where to live. That’s an important question these days…

A Shocking Statistic

Parents want to see their kids thrive. That means that each generation should want the next generation to have it even better than they did.

From Occupy Wall Street to “OK Boomer,” much has been said by millennials about the older generation and the world that they handed us.

It’s tempting to dismiss those feelings as a sort of “coming of age” transition that every generation must go though. Kind of like how the Beatles’ music was once the symbol of youthful rebellion, but now it’s only played on the oldies station.

Tempting, but wrong. Check out this graphic from a 2016 New York Times article, The American Dream, Quantified at Last:

People born in 1980 only have a 50/50 shot of making more money than their parents, while those born in 1940 had a 92% chance.

I stumbled on to that graphic from an article in the NYT last week entitled, “Where Are Young People Most Optimistic? In Poorer Nations

“The American dream has often been defined as a belief that those who work hard will live a “better, richer and happier life,” regardless of the circumstances in which they’re born. But this generation appears to have doubts.

Together, these articles touch on something that I’ve felt for years.

I visited Dubai for the first time in 2013. I’m not sure that I’d like to live there myself, but there was something that stood out to me as a refreshing change:

Everyone seemed to be looking forward to the future.

Whatever problems the country had, people were certain that it was going to get better. I would ask about some tall building, only to be told that a bigger, better one was already being built. This was the general attitude people had about everything: “It’s going to be even better soon.”

I hate to say it, but I think we’ve lost that feeling in the U.S. and many parts of Europe. Why are we feeling less optimistic about the future?

The combination of administrations over the last three decades has blown the biggest lead in human history

The Four Hour Oracle

That quote is from Tim Ferriss’ latest interview with Balaji Srinivasan. I’m a big fan of both Tim and Balaji, so this episode was a real treat, but I should warn you: it’s over four hours long.

In that time, Balaji (who does 99% of the talking) goes both broad and deep on how he sees the world changing over the next few decades. There’s a lot of emphasis on cryptocurrencies, the rise of China, the coming “American Anarchy”, and the role of the media.

Highly recommended. Even if you don’t agree with all of it, I promise you will learn a lot.

One of the many things that I learned listening to this episode is the concept of tensegrity (aka tensional integrity or floating compression).

BTW, that’s a real Lego set if you’re looking for gift ideas (hint hint). That’s all for this week. More soon…

PS – Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States! 🍗🥔

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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