Attaining the Deathless
Meditating your way to better decisions, the 48 laws of PowerPoint, and expiring vs. permanent skills
Hello, friendly human. Every week (or so!), this dispatch helps you make better creative and strategic decisions. Sometimes that means essays. Sometimes that means resources. Last time it was a deck on content strategy. This time it’s an essay on meditation and decisions. It’s good to see you. -Steve
This essay was originally published in the delightful and popular newsletter Why Is This Interesting
Surely I’m not alone in noticing that meditation—the act of it, the instagramming of it, the performance maximization mindset of it—is, these days, everywhere.
Marc Benioff does it. Ray Dalio does it. Eileen Fisher. Steph Curry. The Seattle Seahawks. Bobby Axelrod meditates in Billions. The show’s three creators practice, too. Don Draper created the most famous Coke jingle in history while om-om’ing on a cliff. Some executives, when about to meditate, say they’re “gonna drop in”, as if visiting some inner conference room where the meeting’s already in progress.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, too and famously, took a ten-day Vipassana course in Myanmar, though it’s left to the reader to decide whether it’s appropriate for a man who launched a billion chatterbots to grant himself the peace of silence.
In other words meditation, to judge by its corporate and power-performer reception, has lately become a lifehack. Nitrous oxide for the noggin. Game theory-optimal transcendence. And while the act of meditation hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 2,500 years—you still mostly sit cross-legged while quieting your mind—its more recent application in pursuit of material wealth is a far cry from its ascetic origins.
Somewhere near Nepal around the 5th century BCE, as the story goes, Siddhartha Gotama Buddha sat beneath a tree and taught his followers to train the mind to withdraw from automatic responses to sense-impressions—that is, to stop reacting to everything happening around them. This is the Buddhist root of meditation.
The problem, the Buddha taught, was that humans crave things. We seek pleasure (sex, ice cream). We avoid pain (breakups, brain freeze). But the gratification of getting that pleasure or the gratification of avoiding that pain doesn’t last. So we want more pleasure. We want less pain. Biologically, this is a great system for creating offspring or avoiding sabertooth tigers. Capitalistically, it’s a great system for developing dating apps and oxycontin. Emotionally, however, it seems best suited for remaining in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction. The Buddha’s lesson was that you can sidestep this cycle of craving by regulating, through meditation, how you respond to your own desires.
In other words, the original idea wasn’t to discipline your thinking so you could get more of what you want. The original idea was to discipline your thinking so you wouldn’t want more…
Continue reading this essay at Why Is This Interesting, where you’ll find, among other things, a delightful meditation chart featuring Chris Pratt.
Have a great week,
Gif by Uno Moralez
Currently working on
Creating sales enablement tools for a healthcare technology brand and developing a content strategy for an insurance brand.
Want to chat? I host Office Hours every weekday to talk with anyone/everyone about strategic marketing decisions, content development, editorial ops, and more. What’s on your mind? Grab a 30-minute meeting. I’d love to meet you.
Last week’s most clicked links:
Steal this content strategy deck—a ready-for-theft client-facing deck template for your next content project
Visual database of brand guidelines (Topo Chico, Lyft, Evernote, more)
The only brands and culture reading list you’ll ever need (good recs on brand strategy, cultural criticism, status signaling, behavioral econ and more)
Delightful and Informative Links
The 48 Laws of PowerPoint
1) Don’t read the screen
3) Use lists
6) Start with a story
7) End with an ask
32) One hour of prep for one hour of talk
…this excellent list is by WIRED contributing editor and all-round-internet guy Russell Davies, who’s writing a book on PowerPoint. Related: The Art of Deckmaking and How social justice slideshows took over Instagram.
Expiring Skills vs. Permanent Skills
There are two types of skills. Expiring skills are tech- and platform-based and prone to diminish over time. Permanent skills will be around 100 years from now. In a very real way, my career has been one long bet on permanent skills (curation, judgment, logic, prose, understanding audiences, etc.). I haven’t bet on too many expiring skills (except Flash, I kinda went all-in on Flash 20 yrs ago, oops). But one key permanent skill I’ve tried to develop, over time, is knowing which expiring skills I need to learn and which I can safely ignore. Anyway, an insightful and brief essay by Morgan Housel, recommended. Related: Writing fiction with GPT-3, which I’m trying (but failing) to ignore.
The Creator Hub of Tech Stacks
I love this idea. Nuton pulls together lists of tech stacks for creative pursuits. For example the newsletter stack has several sub-stacks (infrastructure, payments, design, etc) and each sub-stack lists the recommended tools (e.g., the build a web site sub-stack for newsletters lists Wordpress, Webflow, Ghost, etc.). A great way to collate services. There are stacks for Digital Goods, Music, eSports…)
How to Name Anything
A fabulous list of resources for every stage of the naming process as curated by the guy behind my favorite social shopping site (since acquired) Svpply and the guy who designed … wait, seriously, Google Maps? Wow. Related: Standards, a new way to design brand guidelines.
How to type in Chinese
An amazing episode from Radiolab describes how Mandarin speakers are able to type 70,000 characters using a Western-style QWERTY keyboard (even if you know the answer is Pinyin, you will be amazed at how we got to Pinyin). Related: Goldman Sachs has a new (boring) typeface, following in the equally overwrought and boring custom typefacii (?) of McKinsey and Intel. I love typefaces and fonts. I loathe people talking about typefaces and fonts.
How can I help you?
This 100% organic, free-range, desktop-to-inbox newsletter is devoted to helping you make better creative decisions in marketing and beyond. Delivery at 6pm ET every Sunday, sharp as cheddar. Your host is Steve Bryant, who is for hire. Two big reasons to get in touch:
You work for a brand and you want to develop or manage your brand’s content marketing
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