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Want to Write for a Living? The 7 Things I Wish I’d Known

Many people dream of becoming professional writers. Getting paid to share your thoughts with strangers is a pretty good gig. I’ve been a full-time writer for over a decade, and in the spirit of my last post on college advice, here’s what I wish I had known before I started writing. First, though, some caveats. Writing is tough. Few who write regularly...

The 7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before College

We live in a bizarre culture. We expect teenagers to commit to a field of study that will often shape their entire future career. And we ask them to choose their path based on whether they liked their freshman class in that subject. This is absurd. Work is utterly unlike an intro class. Liking your psychology class doesn’t necessarily mean you should...

Is Modernity a Myth?

The biggest sin a book can commit is to be boring. A wrong book that makes you think is still worth the journey. With this in mind, I read French philosopher Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern during a recent vacation (you know, for some light summer reading). I found the book fascinating, even if I’m not quite sure I agree with it. In this book,...

Learning as Investing: 7 Skills That Pay Off in Any Job

It’s common to talk about learning as an investment. Economists talk about human capital, assuming that skills and knowledge, like machines or factories, are primarily things we can use to earn money. Of all the reasons to learn, solely making money is hardly the best. I spend most of my learning time on things I don’t expect to earn me a penny. Yet,...

Why Aren’t There More Apprenticeships?

I’ve argued before that we mostly learn by doing. Yet, if this is true, it creates a puzzle: why has school largely replaced apprenticeships as a mode for learning? The common answer is that apprenticeship works great for smithing and weaving, but modern work is mental. We need years of dedicated training inside the classroom before we can perform...

I’m 33

Today’s my birthday. Every year I share a birthday post with some personal reflections. Since this is now the fifteenth year I’ve been doing this, I won’t break tradition. The idea I’ve kept returning to this year is one of consolidation. Some of this is simply the changes imposed by parenthood. As I wrote previously, becoming a parent involves...

Book Recommendation: Uncommon Sense Teaching

Why read a book on the science of instruction? We are all teachers, even if most of us aren’t professional educators. Even if you don’t manage a classroom every day, teaching is an essential part of life. At work, you need to give presentations, coach new hires or explain the merits of a proposal to your boss. At home, you want to help your kids grow...

Is Life Better When You’re Busy?

Why is everybody so busy? Nearly a century ago, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted we’d only work fifteen hours a week. Incomes would grow and so would our free time. Except that hasn’t happened. Income rose, but we kept working long hours. Why? One answer is that people like to be busy. This paper argues that people dread idleness and are...

The 10 Best Tools to Stay Mentally Sharp at Work

How can you maintain peak concentration during difficult tasks? (Besides just chugging coffee, of course.) Staying sharp can be tricky. Even when you desperately need to focus, it can be hard to stop a wandering mind. You might get stuck, unable to push past what ought to be a simple problem. Persisting through these moments of frustration can require...

Metrics: Useful or Evil?

Last week I read John Doerr’s Measure What Matters and Jerry Muller’s The Tyranny of Metrics back-to-back. Needless to say, they did not agree. Measure What Matters is a peppy business book about the importance of setting clear goals and backing them with metrics. Acronyms and buzzwords abound. These sentences, found on page 186, might go down as the...

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