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How to Remember What You Read

It happens all the time. You read an amazing book, one so packed with wisdom that you think it’s going to change your life forever. Then…it doesn’t. Why? Because when you’re finally in a situation where you could use its insights, you’ve completely forgotten them. Time is our most valuable resource, so we shouldn’t waste it. The investment we make in...

Why Math Class Is Boring—and What to Do About It

There are two types of people in the world: those who enjoyed mathematics class in school, and the other 98% of the population. No other subject is associated with such widespread fear, confusion, and even outright hatred. No other subject is so often declared by children and adults alike to be something they “can’t do” because they lack an innate...

How Description Leads to Understanding

Describing something with accuracy forces you to learn more about it. In this way, description can be a tool for learning. Accurate description requires the following: Observation Curiosity about what you are witnessing Suspending assumptions about cause and effect It can be difficult to stick with describing something completely and...

Mirror Your Audience: Four Life Lessons From Performance Artist Marina Abramović

Imagine it is a Saturday. You are in New York and decide to go to the Museum of Modern Art. There is a special exhibit on called The Artist is Present. Performance artist Marina Abramovic is sitting in one of the galleries. You wait in line to sit across from her, noticing that hundreds of people are lined up for the experience. Anticipation slowly...

The Method of Loci: Build Your Memory Palace

“When information goes ‘in one ear and out the other,’ it’s often because it doesn’t have anything to stick to.” —Joshua Foer According to legend, the renowned Greek lyric poet Simonides of Ceos was dining at the home of a wealthy nobleman one night when he received word that two young men were waiting outside with a message for him. Simonides stepped...

The Precautionary Principle: Better Safe than Sorry?

Also known as the Precautionary Approach or Precautionary Action, the Precautionary Principle is a concept best summed up by the proverb “better safe than sorry” or the medical maxim to “first do no harm.” While there is no single definition, it typically refers to acting to prevent harm by not doing anything that could have negative consequences,...

Seizing The Middle: Chess Strategy in Business

Chess can serve as an apt metaphor for other areas of our lives, especially business. That’s because the game is a microcosm of the ways we use strategic thinking. There are not many areas where we can quickly assess the quality of our decisions and whether they are likely to have the desired effects. Chess helps us develop strategic thinking because...

The Availability Bias: How to Overcome a Common Cognitive Distortion

“The attention which we lend to an experience is proportional to its vivid or interesting character, and it is a notorious fact that what interests us most vividly at the time is, other things equal, what we remember best.” —William James The availability heuristic explains why winning an award makes you more likely to win another award. It explains...

How to Write Creative Fiction: Umberto Eco’s Four Rules

Umberto Eco (1932–2016) was one of the bestselling authors of all time. In Confessions of a Young Novelist, he shares some unique advice for writing fiction. Umberto Eco wrote Confessions of a Young Novelist in his late seventies. But having published his first novel, The Name of the Rose, only twenty-eight years earlier, he considered himself a newcomer...

Better Thinking & Incentives: Lessons From Shakespeare

At Farnam Street, we aim to master the best of what other people have figured out. Not surprisingly, it’s quite a lot. The past is full of useful lessons that have much to teach us. Sometimes, we just need to remember what we’re looking for and why. Life can be overwhelming. It seems like there’s a new technology, a new hack, a new way of doing things,...

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