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“He’s not young!” said Dad. “He’s old enough to learn the truth about life!” “And you know all about that,” Mom said, with a sarcastic laugh. “I know. Of course I know!” Dad poured another beer and drank half a glass, then turned to me. “Actually, son, it’s not hard to live a wonderful life. Listen to me. Choose a tough, world-class problem, one that requires only a sheet of paper and a pencil, like Goldbach’s Conjecture or Fermat’s Last Theorem, or a question in pure natural philosophy that doesn’t need pencil and paper at all, like the origin of the universe, and then throw yourself entirely into research. Think only of planting, not reaping, and as you concentrate, an entire lifetime will pass before you know it. That’s what people mean by settling down. Or do the opposite, and make earning money your only goal. Spend all of your time thinking about how to make money, not about what you’ll do with it when you make it, until you’re on your deathbed clutching a pile of gold coins like Monsieur Grandet, saying: ‘It warms me …’ The key to a wonderful life is a fascination with something. Me, for example—” Dad pointed to the watercolors lying all over the room. They were done in a very traditional style, properly composed, but lacking all vitality. The paintings reflected the lightning outside like a set of flickering screens. “I’m fascinated with painting even though I know I can’t be van Gogh.”
The Three-Body Problem
Cixin Liu and Ken Liu
#8—What if I couldn’t pitch my product directly? During the 2007 book launch, I quickly found that most media rightly don’t give a rat’s ass about book launches. They care about stories, not announcements, so I asked myself, “What if I couldn’t pitch my product directly? What if I had to sell around the product?” Well, I could showcase people from the book who’ve completely redesigned their lives (human interest); I could write about unrelated crazy experiments, but drive people to my book-focused website (Google “Geek to Freak” to see the result. It was my first-ever viral blog post); I could popularize a new term and aim for pop culture (see “lifestyle design” on page 278); I could go meta and make the launch itself a news item (I also did this with my video “book trailer” for The 4-Hour Body, as well as the BitTorrent partnership for The 4-Hour Chef). People don’t like being sold products, but we all like being told stories. Work on the latter.
Tools of Titans
Here and there a Luddite holdout refuses to open an email account, just as thousands of years ago some human bands refused to take up farming and so escaped the luxury trap. But the Agricultural Revolution didn’t need every band in a given region to join up. It only took one. Once one band settled down and started tilling, whether in the Middle East or Central America, agriculture was irresistible. Since farming created the conditions for swift demographic growth, farmers could usually overcome foragers by sheer weight of numbers. The foragers could either run away, abandoning their hunting grounds to field and pasture, or take up the ploughshare themselves. Either way, the old life was doomed.
Yuval Noah Harari
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