What if I titled these like YouTube videos?

PALACED #17: Identity, Dual Power, and Attention to Detail

Good morning!

I spent a lot of time this week getting my life re-organized. It seems like every few months I'll get a sudden kick to do everything I say I'm going to do: exercise, read, journal, cut social media, etc. For about two weeks, I'll feel great. I'll genuinely have my life together in every way. And then the momentum dies.

I'm not even sure what kills the streak. I can't tell you that I'm more likely to get back into that groove when I'm more/less stressed than usual or because I have more/less time. It's just a sudden, random burst of energy.

My goal for the next couple of weeks is to work on maintaining it as much as possible. Specifically, I want to learn where the energy comes and where it gets lost, so that I know what to focus on and what to avoid.

Wish me luck — if history tells us anything, I'll need it :)

I wasn't sure what to write about this week, so this issue is going to be more of a quote-drop with some commentary.

Question for you all: what is your favorite format for the newsletter? Do you prefer the longform essay-style stuff? The list-of-links? The top links + commentary? Let me know!

On how identity guides our decisions.

Tim Ferriss sat down with Seth Godin for one of my favorite podcast episodes of the year. There wasn't really a central topic of conversation, but there were a ton of highlights. Here's a quote that I paused to jot down:

We decide that we're runners and runners go running every day. We decide that we're a blogger and bloggers blog every day, and that decision lightens the cognitive load so much because there's no time, no reason to negotiate with ourselves because we already had the meeting, we already decided. Now the question is not, "should we go or not?" The question is, "should we go left or right?" — Seth Godin

I've been reflecting on this a ton in the context of my "maintaining energy" bit from the intro. What Seth is saying makes perfect sense: I never think about whether I should do homework. I'm a student, and students do homework.

Yet, that feels a lot easier than saying "I'm a runner, and runners run" when I really don't feel like running.

I think the missing factor here is social pressure. If everyone knows you're a student and you fail, there's a stigma associated with that — being a student for a large chunk of your life is the expectation. Whereas, if I just stop running, nobody cares as much — the fact that I'm a runner is "bonus," not the baseline expectation.

That said, a better explanation might be that you're less likely to give up on the identity that others are most aware of. For example, everyone who knows I exist knows that I'm a student. Very few people, relatively speaking, know that I write a newsletter every week. Thus, it's much easier to foreclose on writing the newsletter.

(We've landed on the core argument for working in public.)

On dual power.

Socialist movements worldwide have long argued for the strategy of "dual power." From the DSA website:

Dual power is a strategy that builds liberated spaces and creates institutions grounded in direct democracy. Together these spaces and institutions expand into the ever widening formation of a new world “in the shell of the old.” As the movement grows more powerful, it can engage in ever larger confrontations with the ruling class—and ultimately a contest for legitimacy against the institutions of capitalist society.

In short, dual power is the strategy of building institutions that embody the world that you would like to see within the status quo, and then uniting these institutions to build power that counters the status quo.

Regardless of your economic philosophy, this is an extremely useful mental model. Rather than editing a system, build a new one within the old. As the new system gains power, editing becomes a more realistic way forward.

This is the bedrock for my hypothesis on post-capitalist entrepreneurship: entrepreneurs are uniquely situated to build organizations that lead us toward a new economic system because they are the ones currently upholding the old one.

Related: this is me trying my best to make my own mental models.

On storytelling and attention to detail.

I've been a long-time fan of creative non-fiction author Erik Larson. My first exposure was reading Devil in the White City in 9th grade, two parallel stories of serial killer H. H. Holmes and the development of the Chicago Worlds Fair. He's been one of my favorite authors ever since.

I'm currently reading The Splendid and the Vile, which is Larson's take on a Winston Churchill biography. A quote in his introduction stuck out:

“Although at times it may appear to be otherwise, this is a work of nonfiction. Anything between quotation marks comes from some form of historical document, be it a diary, letter, memoir, or other artifact; any reference to a gesture, gaze, or smile, or any other facial reaction, comes from an account by one who witnessed it. If some of what follows challenges what you have come to believe about Churchill and this era, may I just say that history is a lively abode, full of surprises.”

Larson's stories are so gripping because they read like fiction, but you know they are real. I don't mean this in the "historical fiction" sense where everything written could have happened — everything that Larson writes did happen. Yet even his most basic subplots seem far more interesting than anything we actually live out in our day-to-day lives.

My take: attention to and appreciation of detail in our own lives is important. It not only helps us tell our story, but also to feel more fulfilled while it's happening.


As usual, reach out if anything was interesting. Share with your friends. Press the like button on the top. And let me know what format you want to see in future newsletters!

Appreciate you all :) see ya next week.

— Jihad