We’re into the last full week of summer break, and I’m preparing to head out to the lake one last time with two of our boys. I plan to catch up on a lot of reading and to ponder various thoughts as well as watching these two jump off the dock all day.
May your weekend be a lovely one as well!
Please feel free to skip this section if running is not your thing
Once you begin to run regularly, you discover that you can go through 2–4 pairs of shoes in a year. My last pair of shoes were great — Saucony Clarions that I put on almost 1,000 km. This time around, I decided to get two pairs: one pair for trail running and one for the usual road training.
The trail shoes were another pair of Brooks (the Cascadia 13). I’ve gotten Brooks before and loved them as well. However, I decided to try something different for my road shoes and purchased my first ever pair from On Running.
These shoes are not like any I’ve purchased before. The experience starts with shopping — their website is top-notch and a joy to use. You can choose your shoes based on your focus (road vs. trails), how much support you need, or for training vs. racing. They arrived two days after ordering, and the packaging was far superior to what you’d be used to purchasing at your big box sporting goods store.
And while they cost a good bit, they’re not that much more expensive than other shoes. And On pays the shipping cost to almost anywhere in the world.
What about the experience of running in these? As you can tell from the picture, the design of these shoes is different. The sole is not comprised of all one piece. Maybe other shoes have a similar design inside of what appears to be a solid sole — I’ve never taken any shoes apart to get a look. But these feel a little different.
The build quality feels very solid. During my first session with them, the cushioning felt firm and solid, but not stiff. I felt slightly elevated compared to my other shoes … mini-stilts was the closest description I could think of. But it’s too early to tell how good (or not) these are.
I’ll be curious to see how they feel after a half-marathon or greater distance.
Items of note
The Adults Who Treat Reading Like Homework
Sub-titled, Do People Finish Their Goodreads Reading Challenges?, I understand the premise of this article. Julie Beck shares comments from various people and her own experiences to show how the focus of self-improvement can take the fun out of inherently fun things.
But there’s a difference between trying to better yourself and being a hardass. The gulf between a rigid goal keeper who never notices the joy of the journey and a slothful lout is vast and wide — surely there can be a healthy balance between self-improvement and enjoyment.
I’m glad Beck finishes this piece recognizing some of the truths that are not mentioned earlier in the article:
Ultimately, the people I spoke with who seemed to be enjoying their reading challenges the most were the ones who didn’t seem to care much about completing them. Gosbee thinks he’s not going to hit his goal of 25 books this year, in part because when he reads nonfiction, he reads more slowly to try to absorb the information. But the real goal, he said, is just to spend some enjoyable time reading.
I set a modest goal of 20 books this year. But my reading of fiction, which is nothing but enjoyable, would easily get me to that goal all on its own. Setting a goal is not drudgery.
Goals vs. Systems
Related (somewhat), this six-year-old article from Scott Adams touches on a vital truth. Getting where you want to be is less about the goal and more about your systems (habits).
He gives an example from his own life: writing blog posts. He did not have a clear goal around writing:
Writing is a skill that requires practice. So the first part of my system involves practicing on a regular basis. I didn’t know what I was practicing for, exactly, and that’s what makes it a system and not a goal. I was moving from a place with low odds (being an out-of-practice writer) to a place of good odds (a well-practiced writer with higher visibility).
But that system led to opportunities that would have never come his way if he hadn’t focused on creating a system (again, habit) with no clear goal.
My problem with goals is that they are limiting. Granted, if you focus on one particular goal, your odds of achieving it are better than if you have no goal. But you also miss out on opportunities that might have been far better than your goal. Systems, however, simply move you from a game with low odds to a game with better odds. With a system you are less likely to miss one opportunity because you were too focused on another. With a system, you are always scanning for any opportunity.
Maybe people who join the Goodreads reading challenge understand this very well. A goal of reading X number of books per year may be all about their identity, not hitting a specific number.
Alan Jacobs shares why he likes writing his newsletter each week (emphasis mine):
Since I wrote that post I have started a newsletter, because a email newsletter is also a seasoned technology, and I wondered if I might be able to do some things with it that I can’t do with this blog. I’m still experimenting, still learning, still looking for what will make that project sing — but I am really enjoying it so far, and getting some lovely responses from people, and this morning I realized that one of the reasons I like doing the newsletter so much is that I have (quite unconsciously) understood it as a place not to do analysis or critique but to share things that give me delight.
That’s a great way to put it. Whenever I start to feel a little lost about what to write, I realize my time has been spent on certain activities that leave little time for exploring and discovering. So I’ll go read some Instapaper posts and — hopefully — find some things that give me delight.
He also mentions some truly great examples of newsletters in here. Check them out.
Quote of the week
It’s not just that self-improvement is hard work, which of course, it is. Rather, the specific difficulty is the capacity for self-reflection. It’s not enough to just go out and do things—you need to observe what you’re doing and track the results.
Scott H. Young, “I already know what to do, I just don’t do it.” I disagree.
That’s what I need this trip to the lake: some time for self-reflection.
Reading: Currently enjoying the fourth installment of the Lightbringer series. The fifth and final book is due out this fall, so the timing is perfect.
I also picked up a copy of How to Take Smart Notes. It’s not well named, for the book is about a lot more than just taking good notes. A short read (150-ish pages), it’s a summary of what makes Niklas Luhmann’s system (the Zettelkasten, or slip box, method) so beneficial and how to use it. I’m halfway through, and it’s all about the benefits, and how reading, thinking, and writing are all interconnected. I’m curious to see where it goes with practical application, but I will say I’m enjoying it far more than I anticipated.
Listening: I was surprised recently to find out that Tool’s entire collection is now available in all the digital music flavours (Apple Music profile here). I’m not into metal, but Tool has long been a band I appreciate for their precision. And it’s cool to see a new album coming after a 16-year break.
Also cool: Sleater Kinney released a new album. I can’t speak to its quality or content, but I’ll be giving this a listen.
Drinking: It feels like summer is over before it even started up here in the north. We’ve had a lot of wet, cooler weather this summer (a good break from the extensive forest fires of the past two years, but I like my hot summer days). Some leaves are already starting to turn color.
With that change in mind, I recently picked up something other than wheat ales or hazy pale ales. One of the local breweries finally started canning more than just three of their other options, and I picked up some George St Brown. I had forgotten what a lovely beer this is — I very much enjoyed it!
There’s something so right about the simple English brown ale. It’s smooth and subtle, both in flavour and often, alcohol content. Easy to enjoy!
That’s it for this issue. Have a good pair of running shoes or a book you’d recommend? Hit reply — recommendations always welcome.
Until next time 👋