5 articles you should read, or at least, browse

A high school friend once confessed that he spent 4 hours a day reading the news. Ridiculous, I thought.

Here’s a running list of my readings. It’s not 4 hours – yet – and I avoid the news, but look who’s ridiculous now…

From that list, here are 5 July favorites:

1. David Brooks’ The Service Patch [link]

Young people – particularly the accomplished ones – have a “blinkered view of their options” and don’t think about the kind of person they want to be.

It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero. Understanding heroism and schmuckdom requires fewer Excel spreadsheets, more Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job.

2. Emily Nussbaum’s Difficult Women: How Sex and the City lost its good name [link]

I enjoyed SATC (see, I even used the acronym). Clever, fast, and at times provocative. The show’s weakness is that – while Carrie and friends began energetically against-type – they had a whiff of cardboard-cutout by the end.

Like the Simpsons and Friends, you were watching a magician perform the same card trick for the 37th time.

In contrast, Carrie and her friends—Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte—were odder birds by far, jagged, aggressive, and sometimes frightening figures, like a makeup mirror lit up in neon.

3. Paul Krugman’s Hitting China’s Wall [link]

Krugman takes big public stances that have substance. His ire is usually focused on our economy, but here it turns to China.

China is in big trouble. We’re not talking about some minor setback along the way, but something more fundamental. The country’s whole way of doing business, the economic system that has driven three decades of incredible growth, has reached its limits.

4. Anahad O’Connor’s How the Hum of a Coffee Shop Can Boost Creativity [link]

I prefer working alone, but it can be hard to maintain focus; I’m always looking for hacks and tools to provide a boost. If that sounds familiar, try Coffitivity.

Their results, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, found that a level of ambient noise typical of a bustling coffee shop or a television playing in a living room, about 70 decibels, enhanced performance compared with the relative quiet of 50 decibels.

5. Paul Graham’s Do Things that Don’t Scale [link]

Another PG gem that challenges startup orthodoxy. When you’re early, it’s ok to do things that don’t scale, like Pebble assembling its own watches. You learn, you show grit, and you move your baby forward.

The need to do something unscalably laborious to get started is so nearly universal that it might be a good idea to stop thinking of startup ideas as scalars. Instead we should try thinking of them as pairs of what you’re going to build, plus the unscalable thing(s) you’re going to do initially to get the company going.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.