Before I started writing ‘Workthoughts’, I was reading other blogs. Maria Popova, author of my favorite, ‘Brainpickings’, was the 2016 commencement speaker at her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. She challenged the graduates to act as cultural change agents by continually broadening their horizons beyond a specific discipline.
“Today, the soul is in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope — not blind optimism, because that too is a form of resignation, to believe that everything will work out just fine and we need not apply ourselves. I mean hope bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed in identifying what is lacking, in ourselves or the world, but then envisions ways to create it and endeavors to do that.
Whatever your specific vocation, your role as a creator of culture will be to help people discern what matters in the world and why by steering them away from the meaningless and toward the meaningful.”
How do you maintain the discipline of the undergraduate learning experience and diversify your thinking?
In the past, traditional routes to post-graduate learning involved graduate and professional school. In rare cases, employers took on the role of educators, supplementing work with professional development options. Today, educational entrepreneurs are disrupting traditional education, offering countless ways to access knowledge online.
One of the most engaging options is to join folks who are exploring life’s mysteries and sharing their discoveries through blogs and newsletters.
For this week’s Saturday Read, I recommend four blogs/newsletters from contemporary ‘curators of culture’ that you should be reading to improve you critical thinking and supplement your journey of lifelong learning.
“She’s a celebrator,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor and former State Department official. “You feel the tremendous amount of pleasure she takes in finding these things and sharing them. It’s like walking into the Museum of Modern Art and having somebody give you a customized, guided tour.”
Since 2006, Maria Popova has been sharing her cross disciplinary expeditions with a growing audience of readers.
“Brain Pickings — which remains ad-free and supported by readers — is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich our mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful. Above all, it’s about how these different disciplines illuminate one another to glean some insight, directly or indirectly, into that grand question of how to live, and how to live well.”
The next selection comes from the mind of writer and ‘philosopher of everyday life’, Alain de Botton. If you read Brainpickings or Workthoughts, the name should be familiar. The founder of London’s School of Life, publishes a weekly newsletter, ‘The Book of Life’.
“It’s called The Book of Life because it’s about the most substantial things in your life: your relationships, your income, your career, your anxieties. There’s always been a longing to gather the important things in one place. Some of the appeal of a Bible or the collected works of a big name author is the sense that amidst all the chaos and disparate sources of knowledge, someone has taken the trouble to distill, to compress, to say what is essential. In a world overflowing with information, what we most need is curation. The Book of Life aims to be the curation of the best and most helpful ideas in the area of emotional life.”
For those of you technology and engineering gurus who feel a bit insecure when a client conversation turns literary, subscribe to the ‘Lit Hub Daily’.
“Started last year, Lit Hub’s goal is to provide a “go-to daily source for all the news, ideas, and richness of contemporary literary life,” with curated and original content such as interviews, profiles and essays.”
“Literary Hub is an organizing principle in the service of literary culture, a single, trusted, daily source for all the news, ideas and richness of contemporary literary life. There is more great literary content online than ever before, but it is scattered, easily lost—with the help of its editorial partners, Lit Hub is a site readers can rely on for smart, engaged, entertaining writing about all things books.”
The latest newsletter I have added to my daily/weekly routine comes from writer Austin Kleon. His Friday newsletter is an eclectic collection of music, art, design and life. To give you a sample, this week’s edition included George Carlin’s Playboy interview, an HBO documentary on Studs Terkel and the Everything is a Remix series.
What makes Austin’s blog unique is the doodles; his visual interpretation of information.
“I’m a writer who draws. I make art with words and books with pictures. Every week I send out a list of 10 things I think are worth sharing — new art, writing, and interesting links straight to your inbox.”
These four blogs/newsletters provide a customized curriculum of research and shared wisdom, delivered by a faculty of four non-traditional experts. Take a look, you may find one or more will fit with your individualized lifelong learning plan.