Summary of “The Tail End”

Most of the things I just mentioned happen with a similar frequency during each year of my life, which spreads them out somewhat evenly through time.
I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days.
Since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time.
If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.
When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life.
After living in a house with them for 10 and 13 years respectively, I now live across the country from both of them and spend maybe 15 days with each of them a year.
Now, scattered around the country with totally different lives and schedules, the five of us are in the same room at the same time probably 10 days each decade.
If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Leo Tolstoy on Love and Its Paradoxical Demands – Brain Pickings”

In one of the most poignant chapters of the book, Tolstoy examines our gravest misconceptions about love – what he bemoans as “The confused knowledge of men that in love there is the remedy for all the miseries of life,” which stems from our insufficient curiosity about the true meaning of our lives.
Tolstoy turns to the central paradox of reconciling our inherent solipsism with the ethos of universal love.
Nevertheless the conditions of the welfare which he desires for the different beings loved, in virtue of his love, are so intimately connected, that every activity of love for one of the beings loved not only hinders his activity for the others but is detrimental to them.
In the name of which love should I act and how should I act? In the name of which love should I sacrifice another love? Whom shall I love the most and to whom do the most good – to my wife, or to my children – to my wife and children, or to my friends? How shall I serve a beloved country without doing injury to the love for my wife, children, and friends?
The demands of love are so many, and they are all so closely interwoven, that the satisfaction of the demands of some deprives man of the possibility of satisfying others.
If a man decides that it is better for him to resist the demands of a present feeble love, in the name of another, of a future manifestation, he deceives either himself or other people, and loves no one but himself.
The man who does not manifest love in the present has not love.
Complement it with Tolstoy on personal growth, human nature, how to find meaning when life seems meaningless, what separates good art from bad, and his reading list of essential books for every stage of life, then revisit the great humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm on what is keeping us from mastering the art of loving and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s timeless experiment in love.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What I Do When I Can’t Focus”

I have to admit that I can’t maintain my focus all the time.
What can you do to improve your focus? Here are 2 things that I always do when I find myself not being able to focus on what matters.
“What thing(s) should I eliminate to make my life so simple that it’s easy to focus?”.
If you find yourself struggling to focus, try this strategy.
Here’s why serotonin matters to your focus.
When your serotonin activity goes down, it can lead to a lack of focus on the long-term.
To improve your focus, boost your serotonin activity.
Go Deeper Do you want to hear more about improving your focus? Listen to my podcast episode about it.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis”

Part of the answer likely involves what researchers call selection bias: unhappier people tend to die sooner, removing themselves from the sample.
A common hypothesis, and one that seems right to me, is alluded to by Carstensen and her colleagues in their 2011 paper: “As people age and time horizons grow shorter,” they write, “People invest in what is most important, typically meaningful relationships, and derive increasingly greater satisfaction from these investments.” Midlife is, for many people, a time of recalibration, when they begin to evaluate their lives less in terms of social competition and more in terms of social connectedness.
In my 40s, I found I was obsessively comparing my life with other people’s: scoring and judging myself, and counting up the ways in which I had fallen behind in a race.
Carstensen told me, “When the future becomes less distant, more constrained, people focus on the present, and we think that’s better for emotional experience. The goals that are chronically activated in old age are ones about meaning and savoring and living for the moment.” These are exactly the changes that K. and others in my own informal research sample reported.
“As people perceive the future as increasingly constrained, they set goals that are more realistic and easy to pursue.” For me, the expectation of scaling ever greater heights has faded, and with it my sense of disappointment and failure.
He used a German longitudinal survey, with data from 1991 to 2004, that, unusually, asked people about both their current life satisfaction and their expected satisfaction five years hence.
To his own surprise, he found the same result regardless of respondents’ economic status, generation, and even whether they lived in western or eastern Germany: younger people consistently and markedly overestimated how satisfied they would be five years later, while older people underestimated future satisfaction.
What’s more, Schwandt found that in between those two periods, during middle age, people experienced a sort of double whammy: satisfaction with life was declining, but expectations were also by then declining.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Day Dostoyevsky Discovered the Meaning of Life in a Dream – Brain Pickings”

One November night in the 1870s, legendary Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky discovered the meaning of life in a dream – or, at least, the protagonist in his final short story did.
The piece, which first appeared in the altogether revelatory A Writer’s Diary under the title “The Dream of a Queer Fellow” and was later published separately as The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, explores themes similar to those in Dostoyevsky’s 1864 novel Notes from the Underground, considered the first true existential novel.
The contemplation at its heart falls somewhere between Tolstoy’s tussle with the meaning of life and Philip K. Dick’s hallucinatory exegesis.
The story begins with the narrator wandering the streets of St. Petersburg on “a gloomy night, the gloomiest night you can conceive,” dwelling on how others have ridiculed him all his life and slipping into nihilism with the “Terrible anguish” of believing that nothing matters.
Exactly the same in the moral sense: if anything very pitiful happened, I would feel pity, just as I did before everything in life became all the same to me.
Sometimes I see him in a dream: he takes part in my affairs, and we are very excited, while I, all the time my dream goes on, know and remember perfectly that my brother is dead and buried.
It happened as always in a dream when you leap over space and time and the laws of life and mind, and you stop only there where your heart delights.
Complement it with Tolstoy on finding meaning in a meaningless world and Margaret Mead’s dreamed epiphany about why life is like blue jelly.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Make Peace with Your Unlived Life”

The idea of a “True self” and a “False” or “Shadow” self has long preoccupied psychologists.
Donald Winnicott elaborated on the idea of the “True self” and “False self.” He explained that beginning in infancy, all of us, in response to perceived threats to our well-being, develop a defensive structure that may evolve into a “False self.” He suggests that if our basic needs are not acknowledged-not mirrored back to us by our parents-we may presume they are unimportant.
In our efforts to please others, we hide and deny our “True self,” which in turn leads to self-estrangement.
If that’s the case, the “False self” will get the upper hand.
If there is too great a discrepancy between the “True” and the “False” self, it will make for a vulnerable sense of identity.
In her case, the tension between “False self” and “True self” came to a head, contributing to a renewal of the confusion she had experienced at an earlier stage of life.
Not living a full, complete life-not integrating these other parts of herself, call it her shadow or negative identity-turned out to be extremely draining, contributing to life choices that didn’t accommodate her real needs.
Although a person might view these parts of herself as a representation of her unlived life, a delayed identity crisis can also contain the seeds of psychological renewal-the motivation to enter new directions in life.

The orginal article.

Summary of “A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read by 121 of the Most Inspiring Humans in Our World – Brain Pickings”

If eight years ago, someone had told me that A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader would take eight years, I would have laughed, then cried, then promptly let go of the dream.
The gesture is inspired in large part by James Baldwin’s moving recollection of how he used the library to read his way from Harlem to the literary pantheon and Ursula K. Le Guin’s insistence that “a great library is freedom.”
Growing up in communist Bulgaria, the daughter of an engineer father and a librarian mother who defected to computer software, I don’t recall being much of an early reader – a literary debt I seem to have spent the rest of my life repaying.
Some of my happiest memories are of being read to – most deliciously by my grandmother.
Very notion of reading – of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual surrender to a cohesive thread of thought composed by another human being, through which your own interior world can undergo a symphonic transformation – was becoming tattered by the fragment fetishism of the web.
What better way of doing that than by inviting people cherished for having such lives – celebrated artists, writers, scientists, and cultural heroes of various stripes – to share their stories and sentiments about how reading shaped them? After all, we read what we are as much as we are what we read. So began an eight-year adventure of reaching out to some of the people we most admired, inviting each to write a short letter to the young readers of today and tomorrow about how reading sculpted their character and their destiny.
From these micro-memoirs and reflections by lifelong readers who have made extraordinary lives for themselves emerges a kind of encyclopedia of personhood, an atlas of possibility for the land of being mapped through the land of literature.
I invite you to enjoy A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader and gift it to every reader in your life, young and grown, knowing that each copy will contribute to the thriving of the public library system that ensures equal access to books for all, and that the letters and art on these pages will – I hope, I trust – long outlive us all, delighting and inspiring generations to come.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What Kind of Happiness Do People Value Most?”

What kind of happiness do people want? Is it happiness experienced moment-to-moment? Or is it being able to look back and remember a time as happy? Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman described this distinction as “Being happy in your life” versus “Being happy about your life.” Take a moment to ask yourself, which happiness are you seeking?
While happiness scholars have long grappled with which form of happiness should be measured and pursued, nobody has simply asked people which version of happiness they seek.
For Westerners, the happiness most people said they wanted for the next day was different from the happiness they said they wanted for their lifetime, even though one’s days add up to one’s life.
In one study, we asked 1,145 Americans to choose between experienced happiness and remembered happiness for either a longer timeframe or a shorter timeframe.
The majority of participants chose experienced happiness over remembered happiness when choosing for their life or their next year.
In both cases, these treatments didn’t change the pattern we saw: when choosing for their life, most people chose experienced happiness over remembered happiness; but when choosing for an hour, half chose remembered happiness.
Like Americans, when choosing for their life, the majority of Europeans chose experienced happiness over remembered happiness; but when choosing for their next hour, the Puritan work ethic appeared even more strongly with a majority choosing remembered happiness over experienced happiness.
The majority of Easterners chose experienced happiness over remembered happiness regardless of whether choosing for their life or their next hour.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why I Hope to Die at 75”

So I am not talking about bargaining with God to live to 75 because I have a terminal illness.
I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75.
The claim is that with longer life, an ever smaller proportion of our lives will be spent in a state of decline.
It tells us exactly what we want to believe: that we will live longer lives and then abruptly die with hardly any aches, pains, or physical deterioration-the morbidity traditionally associated with growing old.
Although he didn’t die from the heart attack, no one would say he is living a vibrant life.
At age 75 we reach that unique, albeit somewhat arbitrarily chosen, moment when we have lived a rich and complete life, and have hopefully imparted the right memories to our children.
Certainly if there were to be a flu pandemic, a younger person who has yet to live a complete life ought to get the vaccine or any antiviral drugs.
Is making money, chasing the dream, all worth it? Indeed, most of us have found a way to live our lives comfortably without acknowledging, much less answering, these big questions on a regular basis.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think”

Society has evolved to accommodate this mammoth-feeding frenzy, inventing things like accolades and titles and the concept of prestige in order to keep our mammoths satisfied-and often to incentivize people to do meaningless jobs and live unfulfilling lives they wouldn’t otherwise consider taking part in.
You know those people who react to being criticized by coming back with a nasty low-blow? Those tend to be severely mammoth-run people, and criticism makes them so mad because mammoths cannot handle criticism.
Some people are born with a reasonably tame mammoth or raised with parenting that helps keep the mammoth in check.
The most obvious way to find the mammoth is to figure out where your fear is-where are you most susceptible to shame or embarrassment? What parts of your life do you think about and a dreadful, sinking feeling washes over you? Where does the prospect of failure seem like a nightmare? What are you too timid to publicly try even though you know you’re good at it? If you were giving advice to yourself, which parts of your life would clearly need a change that you’re avoiding acting on right now?
The second place a mammoth hides is in the way-too-good feelings you get from feeling accepted or on a pedestal over other people.
Step 2: Gather Courage by Internalizing That the Mammoth Has a Low IQ. Real Woolly Mammoths were unimpressive enough to go extinct, and Social Survival Mammoths aren’t any better.
If you’re happy and they still don’t come around, here’s what’s happening: their strong feelings about who you should be or what you should do are their mammoth talking, and their main motivation is worrying about how it’ll “Look” to other people who know them.
Mammoths are all the same-they copy and conform, and their motives aren’t based on anything authentic or real, just on doing what they think they’re supposed to do.

The orginal article.