Who Can We Turn To?
“On the web, there’s a certain kind of encouragement to never ask yourself how much information you really need,” Merlin Mann says. “But when I get to the point where I’m seeking advice twelve hours a day on how to take a nap, or what kind of notebook to buy, I’m so far off the idea of lifehacks that it’s indistinguishable from where we started. There’s no shell script, there’s no fancy pen, there’s no notebook or nap or Firefox extension or hack that’s gonna help you figure out why the fuck you’re here,” he tells me. “That’s on you.”
But see, the thing is that you couldn’t walk into a book store without hitting shelves of authors trying to answer that question. Whether they succeed or fail, there is a concerted effort towards substance and meaning. Even movies – not all of them obviously – make statements or indictments or capture moments in time.
I hate that online we’ve just resigned ourselves to the fact that “it’s on you.” I can’t think of one writer I read who I can honestly say is trying to make my life better – efficient or smarter yes, better no. That’s so shitty because it’s what art is supposed to do.
So I guess the question is, what sites are flying under the radar that are working towards that higher level? Those are the sites I want to read, or better yet, the writers I could sign.
Dude, define your terms. What on earth do you mean by “better”?
Art explains us to ourselves.
Since giving the middle finger to the standard blog business model, Merlin’s blog has become compulsively readable and extraordinarily insightful. If he keeps this up, though, he’s likely to become a lot less in-demand as a speaker. A blog writer and productivity counsellor telling people to shut up and get back to work is tantamount to working oneself out of a job.
Found you through Ferris. Keep up the good work.
I’m on the same wavelength as you Ryan. Actually, this is the very reason your blog is one of the eleven I have in my RSS feed: It adds real value, forces me to think, and helps change my behavior. The result? I become a better person.
While I e-mailed you tonight on an unrelated topic, I’ve been working on an application for Rudius the past couple of days which would focus on this very subject: Making people’s lives better. No masturbation, no efficiency tips, no summaries.
I’ll get it in to you guys tomorrow, with a complementing e-mail to both you and Ben.
Cheers man! Enjoy your night!
To be fair, I think Merlin is a rare and pretty awesome exception. The quote is telling nevertheless.
I’m glad you’re starting to get away from the whole “narrative fallacy is evil and I want no part of it” deal. You just can’t get away from the search for broader meaning and relevance. I think it’s a much more worthwhile effort to try to understand the concepts we use to order our lives than it is to live in the moment, all the time. It reminds me of all those people I meet who do endless meditations in hope of finding enlightenment. It’s a fool’s quest, the target retreats away the harder you chase it.
Ryan, I am working towards that deeper meaning level, I write every day trying to isolate concepts of meaning and glean insights into the worlds we create for ourselves. I don’t consider my writings to be worth the effort of delving into, yet, but I have some broad ideas about how such a topic could be approached. I may put together a package and send it to you in the next month or so. I wouldn’t ordinarily bother you with it now, but your post here rings so close to what I’m trying to capture, that you may be interested despite its terribly verbose and exploratory nature.
To answer your question (was it rhetorical?), TED.com immediately comes to mind.
Maybe craigslist? Or is that too low-brow for this crowd…
I’m wondering about what it would take for a blog to attempt to make its readers better, as opposed to smarter or more efficient. I think the problem is more one of semantics than anything. Smartness, efficiency are words with easily understood and communicable meanings. Better, on the other hand could mean almost anything, and is often used to mean either one of the former. That could probably explain the lack of material in the blog space. Starting a blog to make people’s lives *better* would require a very clear and concise understanding of what is meant by better. Otherwise it will fall into the same trap as the pap referred to two posts prior.
It’s obviously meant in a philosophical context. A possible effort could first explore the philosophy of “better.” The life well lived. There are any number of concepts that could fit under that umbrella. Integrating your logical and creative minds. Knowing when to take action and when to sit. The process of teasing out the truth of a situation. I think a lot of it will require a keen understanding of current advances in EvPsy and CogSci, as well as a broad intuitive understanding of the lives and trials of current relevant “philosophers.” (people who would currently roll their eyes at being called a philosopher, but won’t be able to shy away after they’re dead and gone and people finally realize their genius) People like Tim Ferriss, Hugh McLeod, and Tucker himself.
I think you aren’t seeing what you’re looking for here not because nobody’s tried, but because nobody’s invented it yet. Nobody’s put everything under one roof and made sense of it all.
While your intentions in this post are noble and you want to provide value to those who may just be making our lives better, it will attract a lot of noise and people trying to peddle their own stuff.
I believe that this effort will misfire simply because of the nature of what you are seeking. All the truly life-improving blogs I subscribe to I stumbled upon or found in the deepest crevices of the net.
I didn’t find your blog in the comment section of a post asking for a good read, nor do I expect you to find one here. It will be people coming with their own stuff, or people who have never blogged before.
I do hope, however, that you find something good soon and add it to your impressive roster.
The meaning of life is to give your life meaning. I don’t mean to sound like a fortune cookie but, really, it’s that simple.
Words can’t make your life better. Words are only symbols that represent things which are real. So put down the books and turn off the computer and go EXPERIENCE life. Words are great for the acquisition of knowledge, but wisdom comes from experience.
You’re a runner. You know that the best way to learn what running is all about is to run.
If you want to know life is about, then go live.
Great post, really got the gears turning. It reminds me of a conversation I had with Corman once. He was expressing some distaste for one of those life-hack type websites. Not only was he irritated by the cheating/dishonest elements, but more important I think he was trying to say what’s the point of it all in the bigger picture.
It makes me wonder about the current state of the internet. We’ve got hundreds of new technologies that make interconnectedness easier than ever, yet the vast majority of output is centered around making life more efficient instead of “better.”
Looking at the evolution of blogs, to facebook, to twitter or whatever it seems there’s a trend (and I realize I’m vastly oversimplifying here) in the electronic medium to say as much as possible in as few words as possible. The problem is that life’s biggest questions can’t really be answered in 140 characters.
We have the potential in the coming years to make more sense of the world than ever previously thought imaginable. You’re right that there’s somebody out there in the internet right now doing it much better than most.
I’d love to know what the solution is to getting the larger questions to translate into the electronic medium. Perhaps it’s just a case of us needing to breakdown, analyze and understand all these new tools at their fundamental level, before we build them up into great dissertations that make sense of this new reality.
My money is on this content not existing right now. There are a lot of years between content like that, and the odds are against us being alive during that time. Writing unknown to you is probably unknown for a reason.
Dude c’mon. You think think that meaningful writing on the internet won’t even exist in our lifetime? I guarantee you its already there. I’m just asking, is anyone sitting on anything I haven’t heard of?
I track thousands of books, blogs, and Twitter accounts written by successful people (top entrepreneurs/executives/investors). First I did it as a hobby and now I’m trying to turn it into a business.
The individual who I think best meets your criteria is Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby (http://sivers.org/blog). In many blogs or books, the writer spends a lot of time promoting his ideas or trying to show how smart he is. Sivers, on the other hand, seems to be truly interested in helping people succeed.
Felix Dennis’ book “How to Get Rich” is also excellent. It’s ostensibly about getting rich, but it’s more of a book on how to live. Incidentally, he came close to death after the success of his publishing empire (and before he wrote the book). I don’t know why, but books by authors who had near death experiences tend to be much better than many other books.
I’m not entirely sure what you mean. Words like “good” and “better” are subjective terms at best, and undefinable at worst. There are lots of people on the net that want to make your life better; I’m pretty sure every major religion has a website for starters. There are even websites out there devoted to existentialist thought, which if I understand correctly is all about finding your own individual life meaning. This seems like an easy question, am I just way off the ball or what?
Way off the ball. Too many blogs want to be experts or get the exclusive on some story that will be insignificant 5 days from now. They focus on esoteric, meaningless topics.
As such, there are very few blogs written by people I would describe as “wise.” But when it comes to books, there isn’t enough lifetimes to even begin to crack how much wisdom there is.
That’s a problem. I’m saying that it a valuable spot many people could fill and I’m asking if there is anyone you think who is doing it.
Ryan, seriously: define your terms. I’m willing to take what you’re saying seriously, but you haven’t made a coherent argument here. I don’t know what you mean by “better,” and now that you’ve substituted “wise” for “better” I’m no clearer.
Are you looking for a blogger to tell you how to live a fulfilled life? Merlin is merely saying that there’s no web-based gimmick that will do this for you — despite all the hype to the contrary. You didn’t buy the hype, did you? But just as what’s “better” and “wise” for you isn’t likely to resonate with others, the path to a fulfilled life is, virtually by definition, something you discover for yourself. Do you really want it any other way?
Maybe what you want are tools. In that case, the web is a great source of that kind of thing. Ferris’s blog, for instance, is full of practical, concrete tools for realizing your dreams (albeit obscured by an absurd quantity of self-promotion — do I really need to know that he’s an angel investor now?)
Maybe what you’re looking for is the Epictetus of bloggers. I’d venture to say you’re in the wrong place for that, not because — as Merlin Mann implies — looking outside yourself is the wrong strategy, but because the web is structurally unsuited to thoughtful argument. There is no delay, there is no editor, and the consequences of getting it wrong are trivial, fun even. You had an idea for this blog post and it was launched into the sea of discourse moments later. That’s not how Marcus Aurelius worked. Books are full of wisdom, blogs aren’t: why do you think that is? Why is this blog post not full of the kind of wisdom that you’re looking for from others? Is my life better or not better for having read your post? Are you getting at something important here, or merely complaining? Because that’s one thing the web is GREAT for.
So, you wouldn’t say someone like Tim Ferriss is trying to make our lives better? I can say some of his posts have genuinely helped me make my life better.
Since reading his book and blog I have started trying to chase that lifestyle and my income from my business is already enough for me to stop work… And I’ll be traveling to South America for 3 months starting August. I won’t be returning to my full-time job.
While I think your thinking is sometimes a bit off, at least your blog makes me think about the world in a different way. For me, that’s better, and why you are on my RSS list.
Think about it this way – you’re one of four people to mention Ferriss, out of 16. Let’s call him the exception that proves the rule.
Hey Ryan – long time reader, first time poster.
I agree with you that there is so much twaddle on ‘lifehacking’ and other stuff devoid of real ‘meat’ that it gets a bit tiring to read.
I also agree with a lot of what Gris said too, but I’ll continue at the risk of sounding like a parrot.
Existential concepts of meaning are probably pretty hard to nail down and ‘give’ to someone else in small bite-sized packets with blogs and whatnot. I’m not saying it can’t be done and I think plenty of people try to offer the kind of value that you’re after (Paul Coelho?).
I’m sure it’s really hard to give people usable advice – ‘hacks’ even – to enable them to find meaning and help answer some of the tough existential questions that people battle with in an effort to make their lives better.
Anyway, I’m not sure if this is the stuff you’re after, but I think John Will is a pretty wise dude and I think he offers some great broadly applicable advice and wisdom, built on his incredible life and experiences: http://bjjaustralia.blogspot.com/
A love a ton of writing on the internet. I was just saying that it seems like if there was great, meaningful writing, at least compared to your favorite books (it sounds that’s what you’re looking for) and it existed on the internet, I think it’s very unlikely it isn’t popular or under your radar. I guess the internet didn’t exist in the past and great writing could become way more common in the future, but that just means it hasn’t been written yet. Even still, I guess I see how this post is worth it in that it is possibly directing those people, or people that know them, to you. (or the off chance that that content does exist and just hasn’t quite been recognized yet)
Sorry, I fucked the link up: bjj-australia.blogspot.com/
Here’s a working link for John Will’s blog:
Ok, “exception that proves the rule” is quite different to “I can’t think of one writer I read who I can honestly say is trying to make my life better – efficient or smarter yes, better no.”
I picked Ferriss because I know you’ve heard of him, and I guess the majority of your new readers would have come from his blog.
There’s also locationindependent.com, which I find genuinely helpful in some measure. Chrisguillebeau.com is another part of that community. All are genuinely helpful in that it helps create a community of people with similar mindsets about lifestyle – we can encourage, re-inforce each other, learn from each other, and see how others are managing it.
I agree with the general thoughts about lifehacking though – I could just never get why I have to sit around digging for hours on end to find some marginally useful tip.
This reminds me of the my days in the Seduction/PUA world, nine or so years ago. I came there looking for tips on getting out of my shell and ended up absorbing all of the theories and tricks of the “masters”. I lived, ate and breathed it; eventually I ended up teaching others as well.
I had great success (I’ll spare you the stories) but one day I ended up looking around for the next level, only to find that there wasn’t one. None of these guys had a clue what to do with the women they caught, and very few had a long-term outlook. Here we were, studying and plotting 24 hours a day.. for something that would happen naturally if we were well-rounded human beings. Ridiculous.
The reason why I bring this up is because once I stopped focusing on the minutia of this subject everything else came into focus. Once I figured out that a real relationship with someone you honestly care about is a much harder proposition, I started figuring out who I wanted to be with, and what that person would expect out of me in return. Needless to say, it wasn’t living with mom and working a dead-end job.. I had made the mistake of thinking that sex was a valid form of currency.
I think what we are talking about here is no different- how many people who “lifehack” have written out a set of large, specific goals they would like meet over 1, 5, 10 years? They might have an idea of where they want to go, but they’re probably more worried about optimizing Gmail than actually sending out a real, productive, life-changing email.
Goals, not methods, force you to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses on a minute-by-minute basis. It’s a harder path to take, and considering that these sites are focusing on the ‘quick and easy’ I’m honestly not surprised that we see very little of it.
I’d say Tim Ferris has a blog that definitely makes you smarter. He also definitely makes your life better if you can find an article that captures one of your particular interests.
For instance, you want to learn how to lose 30 lbs in 24 hours (dangerous yes); it’s there. Do you want to learn some serious start up strategy secrets; it’s there. Do you want to learn how to boost your web stats; it’s there.
I’m not receiving any money or endorsements from Tim, but his site has bettered my life. I realize some of his writing contains some subliminal messages encouraging you to buy his products, but overall it’s a site of great value.
My blog on the other hand contains non-sense articles and a radio show. Your brain will probably be diminished if you visit us 🙂
Richard, are you describing to Ryan a man with whom he’s already very close? Do some research and have some sense, man.
Some things that might be relevant or noteworthy that I’d like to share are a few observations on styles of thinking. Thinking can be kind of like an art itself. When we are children, we generally think only in positive desire filled ways. Kids, will see a toy they like, and just keep thinking about it. They’ll get excited and tell all their friends and family every detail of the toy. They genuinely appreciate and focus on that toy. They’ll ask for it for Christmas. They’ll try to borrow it from a friend. They’ll ask for it for their birthday. They’ll save up allowance to get it.
And throughout all that, not once does any negativity, doubt, worry or fear creep into that child’s thinking. They go on playing and laughing not worried about the toy but whenever opportunity presents itself they will certainly express desire for it. And generally, they end up getting whatever they are excited about. Someway or another, unless they change their thinking and stop caring and being excited about it. Somewhere along the way, as we become adults, it’s common for people to try a different style of thinking.
Often adults\’s thinking is on lack, worries about not achieving and on how hard things are to acquire or manifest. Personally, I feel that this phenomena is relatively easy to observe. I think contained within these observations is a powerful factor we can make use of towards getting what we want. So, if we wanted, under the radar’s sites, which are actively trying to make people’s eyes better, it seems that adopting that childhood style of thinking could be very helpful or at least worth some experimentation. I know that I appreciate, focus on, and desire awesome information, websites, people, and experiences in my life and I get more everyday. I also know that no doubt, worry or negativity creeps in regarding that. Of course, these are my own observations and perspectives and I’m just putting them out there. I realize people come to their own conclusions.
“And throughout all that, not once does any negativity, doubt, worry or fear creep into that child’s thinking.”
Are you kidding? Do you have kids?
There’s no reward system in place (yet) for online writers to provision effectual, meaningful words and ideas. Hence the noted categorical absence.
Twitter is degrading into an online marketing circle jerk. It seems to be the best tool, if harnessed appropriately, to find this sort of content. I think our goals are similar, and like yourself, I find myself in an endless search for the exceptional online scribe.
*grin* It was exaggeration to illustrate a point. The gist of it being that the degree or percentage of worry, doubt and fear in a child’s mind is drastically lower than that of most adults. I’d recommend taking stock of one’s own thoughts rather than concerning oneself with the exact amount of fear in a child’s thoughts. But, whatever makes you happy, to each their own. Keep on keepin’ on.
Ryan in terms of blogs flying under the Radar, that identify a purpose to life, the one most helpful to me has been http://dapook.blogspot.com/
It combines finding a purpose though identifying and pursing your talents with understanding the nature of the sexes and reality.
I hope you find it as helpful as I have.
I’ve got a few that match that description for me. Ryan, your blog is near the top of the list. I’ll also put in a vote for Tim Ferriss, and a vote for Roissy.
For an under the radar site take a look at John Spiers blog http://hbhblog.blogspot.com/
As an advocate of “if you consume time add value” Mr. Spiers gives you more value than the time he takes from you reading his blog. Subject matter = free trade, finding what customer want, small business creation vs employee bound. Rare find on the internet! Enjoy!