what are some of the most common misperceptions about vitamins?

catherine price:

My biggest pet peeve is that when we hear the word “vitamin,” we automatically think of pills instead of food — and then use “vitamin” to refer to all dietary supplements. This is incorrect. There are only 13 vitamins, which are essential for health, compared to over 85,000 dietary supplements for sale in America. Also, we assume that scientists know exactly what vitamins do in our bodies and how much of each we need, but they don’t. We assume that all vitamins and dietary supplements are required to be tested for safety and effectiveness before they’re sold. But they’re not.

how to write well

#29 – On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Principles of Writing

Transaction

Writing is an exchange between writers and readers. Readers give writers their time and attention. What do writers give? Themselves. Their humanity and warmth, on top of clarity of language and thought.

Think of writing as an intimate exchange between the writer and the reader.

Simplicity

The enemies of good writing are clutter (unnecessary words) and inflation (the use of jargon and pretentious words to sound important).

“But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.”

An example of a good, simple sentence from Walden:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

To avoid clutter, we need to think clearly. Writers must always ask: what am I trying to say?

It takes hard work to write simply and clearly.

Clutter

Eliminate useless words. Examples: “up” in “free up” and “personal” in “personal friend”.

Replace “laborious phrases” with simple ones. Examples: “physicians” with “doctors” and “currently” with “now”.

“Clutter is the official language used by corporations to hide their mistakes… When an Air Force missile crashed, it “impacted with the ground prematurely.”… Companies that go belly-up have “a negative cash-flow position.”

“…every profession has its growing arsenal of jargon to throw dust in the eyes of the populace.”

“Beware, then, of the long word that’s no better than the short word: “assistance” (help), “numerous” (many), “facilitate” (ease), “individual” (man or woman), “remainder” (rest), “initial” (first), “implement” (do), “sufficient” (enough), “attempt” (try), “referred to as” (called) and hundreds more. ”

“Beware of all the slippery new fad words: paradigm and parameter, prioritize and potentialize. They are all weeds that will smother what you write. Don’t dialogue with someone you can talk to. Don’t interface with anybody.”

“Don’t inflate what needs no inflating: “with the possible exception of” (except), “due to the fact that” (because), “he totally lacked the ability to” (he couldn’t), “until such time as” (until), “for the purpose of” (for).”

Style

A “fundamental rule” – be yourself.

To be yourself, you need to relax and be confident.

Thinking that your opinions do not matter is a huge mistake.

Don’t be afraid to write in the first person.

“Believe in your own identity and your own opinions.”

The Audience

A “fundamental question” – who am I writing for? The answer – yourself.

“You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.”

Writing is both a mechanical and creative act. Mechanical – “Simplify, prune and strive for order.” Creative: “the expressing of who you are. Relax and say what you want to say.”.

Words

Care deeply about words. Take time to find the right ones. Use a dictionary and a thesaurus.

Readers hear words in their inner ears. So choose words for their sounds. Rhythm and alliteration make reading more enjoyable.

“I write entirely by ear and read everything aloud before letting it go out into the world.”

Methods of Writing

Unity

Good writing is orderly and feels like a complete and pleasing whole.

Unity in pronoun, tense and mood.

“Therefore ask yourself some basic questions before you start. For example: “In what capacity am I going to address the reader?” (Reporter? Provider of information? Average man or woman?) “What pronoun and tense am I going to use?” “What style?” (Impersonal reportorial? Personal but formal? Personal and casual?) “What attitude am I going to take toward the material?” (Involved? Detached? Judgmental? Ironic? Amused?) “How much do I want to cover?” “What one point do I want to make?”

Avoid the definitiveness complex – when the writer feels like they must have the last word. Think small. Think one instead of three or five. Think about the one thing you want to leave in your reader’s mind.

The Lead and the Ending 

“The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead. ”

Example of a good lead: “I’ve often wondered what goes into a hot dog. Now I know and I wish I didn’t.”

How to end: “when you’re ready to stop, stop. If you have presented all the facts and made the point you want to make, look for the nearest exit.”

Bits and Pieces

Use active verbs – “Joe saw him” is strong. “He was seen by Joe” is weak.”

“Short is better than long” –  “Of the 701 words in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, a marvel of economy in itself, 505 are words of one syllable and 122 are words of two syllables.”

“Verbs are the most important of all your tools.” “Use precise verbs” – “resign” or “retire” instead of step down.

Adverbs – mostly unnecessary. “Don’t tell us that the radio blared loudly; “blare” connotes loudness. Don’t write that someone clenched his teeth tightly; there’s no other way to clench teeth.”

Adjectives – mostly unnecessary. Only use them to convey useful information, not decorative indulgence.

“make your adjectives do work that needs to be done. “He looked at the gray sky and the black clouds and decided to sail back to the harbor.” The darkness of the sky and the clouds is the reason for the decision.”

“Prune out the small words that qualify how you feel and how you think and what you saw: “a bit,” “a little,” “sort of,” “kind of,” “rather,” “quite,” “very,” “too,” “pretty much,” “in a sense” and dozens more. They dilute your style and your persuasiveness.”

“Don’t say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be confused. Be tired. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don’t hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident.”

“The large point is one of authority. Every little qualifier whittles away some fraction of the reader’s trust. Readers want a writer who believes in himself and in what he is saying. Don’t diminish that belief. Don’t be kind of bold. Be bold.”

“Keep your paragraphs short. Writing is visual—it catches the eye before it has a chance to catch the brain. Short paragraphs put air around what you write and make it look inviting, whereas a long chunk of type can discourage a reader from even starting to read.”

“Don’t annoy your readers by over-explaining—by telling them something they already know or can figure out. Try not to use words like “surprisingly,” “predictably” and “of course,” which put a value on a fact before the reader encounters the fact. Trust your material.”

Writing well means rewriting (“a lot of tinkering”). The tinkering includes: removing unnecessary words and phrases; replacing “a humdrum word with one that has more precision or color”; strengthening the transition between sentences and making sentences sound more rhythmic and pleasing.

“it was the rewriting, not the writing, that won the game.”


Mark Zuckerberg inspired me to start an nnual, personal project – read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. Subscribe to my newsletter.

dying is no big deal

William Zinsser:

“Red Smith, delivering the eulogy at the funeral of a fellow sports-writer, said, “Dying is no big deal. Living is the trick.”

probably the most useful book I read during this project

#28 – Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit by the same author was amazing and this is the same – well-written, useful and has great stories.

The book is about being productive and each chapter has a different focus.

This is probably the most useful book I read during this project.

Motivation

Motivation is a skill. We can learn to be more motivated.

To motivate our ourselves, we must feel like we have control over our actions and surroundings. Application: e.g. when you are procrastinating over a reply to a meeting invite as you do not want to go, write that you have only 20 minutes for the meeting and will have to leave after that. Application: when you are facilitating a workshop or meeting, give people choices to make them feel good, it could even be choices for drinks or snacks. Think of giving people choices or making them feel empowered when working with them.

Make chores meaningful. The Marines always ask each other why they are doing what they are doing. Despite the fact they have very low salaries, their career satisfaction rates are one of the highest. Affirming people of their values and goals is a great source of motivation. Application: when tasked with something difficult, remind yourself why you are doing it. Do it by writing it down, for example, on your child’s photograph, why you need to start saving money.

Teams

Google wanted to know what makes teams efficient. They conducted a study called Project Aristotle and this is what they found: HOW teams work is more important than who is on them. The most important thing for teams to work well is psychological safety. It means team members feel safe to speak up and that they have a voice. And team members are sensitive to how one another feels. Application: team leaders are crucial to modelling psychological safety – don’t interrupt; admit that they don’t know; encourage every member to speak up; encourage team members to respond in nonjudgmental ways and resolve conflicts through open discussion.

Focus

People who know what to focus on and what to ignore are very good at creating pictures in their minds on what they expect to see. i.e. they create robust mental models. “These people tell themselves stories about what’s going on as it occurs. They narrate their own experiences within their heads. They are more likely to answer questions with anecdotes rather than simple responses. They say when they daydream, they’re often imagining future conversations. They visualize their days with more specificity than the rest of us do.”

A study on top performers in a firm found that: “They loved to generate theories—lots and lots of theories, about all kinds of topics, such as why certain accounts were succeeding or failing, or why some clients were happy or disgruntled, or how different management styles influenced various employees. They were somewhat obsessive, in fact, about trying to explain the world to themselves and their colleagues as they went about their days.”

Application: tell yourself stories and paint vivid pictures in your head so that your mind knows the important things to focus on. When you go see a client, imagine the conversations that will take place, the difficult questions that you have to answer and the answers that you need to give.

Goal setting

I think many people know about SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timeline) goals. They are very useful but they do not address how correct or ambitious the goals are. In order words, people can be obsessed about the wrong goals even though they may be SMART.

This is where Stretch goals come in the picture. Stretch goals are ambitious and audacious goals that promote new ways of thinking. A huge Stretch goal can be broken down into proximal goals which can be tackled using the SMART methodology.

Application: don’t just have SMART goals, have a Stretch goal to make sure you are focused on the right thing.

Managing others

A 15 year study on 200 Silicon Valley technology firms found that firms that had a commitment culture were the most successful – none of them failed, were the fastest to go public, had the highest profitability rates. These firms were more hesitant in layoffs, spent more on HR, spent more resources on getting culture right and had values that prioritise slow and steady growth.

The Toyota Production System inspired the Agile methodology and both demonstrate the importance of pushing decision making to the person closest to the problem. People managed and organised themselves. They knew mistakes wouldn’t be held against them and they trusted one another.

Application: if I build a company, I must build a culture of trust.

Decision making

“training in how to think probabilistically—significantly increased people’s abilities to forecast the future.” We must envision various futures.

We can make good predictions even with very little information but we must start with the right assumptions.

We pay too much attention to success, not enough to failures.

 

 

Application: I need to study probability.

Innovation

New ideas and products are often built on combining existing ones in unusual combinations. “Historians have noted that most of Thomas Edison’s inventions were the result of importing ideas from one area of science into another. Edison and his colleagues “used their knowledge of electromagnetic power from the telegraph industry, where they first worked, to transfer old ideas [to the industries of] lighting, telephone, phonograph, railway and mining.”

“Creativity is just connecting things,” Apple cofounder Steve Jobs said in 1996. “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”

If you want to be more creative, “be sensitive to your own experiences. Pay attention to how things make you think and feel. That’s how we distinguish clichés from true insights. As Steve Jobs put it, the best designers are those who “have thought more about their experiences than other people.”

Application: pay attention to my feelings by writing them down to generate insights.

Absorbing data

Our brain craves easy answers. To prevent that from happening, use a formal decision-making system “such as a flowchart, a prescribed series of questions, or the engineering design process”. This forces us to slow down and to consider alternatives.

“When we encounter new information and want to learn from it, we should force ourselves to do something with the data. It’s not enough for your bathroom scale to send daily updates to an app on your phone. If you want to lose weight, force yourself to plot those measurements on graph paper and you’ll be more likely to choose a salad over a hamburger at lunch. If you read a book filled with new ideas, force yourself to put it down and explain the concepts to someone sitting next to you and you’ll be more likely to apply them in your life. When you find a new piece of information, force yourself to engage with it, to use it in an experiment or describe it to a friend—and then you will start building the mental folders that are at the core of learning.”

Application: I need to force myself to do something with data – sharing it is probably the most useful.

 


I’m inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s annual projects and decided to have one of my own. Read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. Subscribe to my newsletter.

why are writers important?

james baldwin:

His importance, I think, is that he is here to describe things which other people are too busy to describe.

meet my imaginary friend

#27 – The Essential Drucker by Peter Drucker

Did you ever have an imaginary friend when you were young?

I didn’t. And I thought: it’s not too late to start.

So meet my imaginary friend – Peter Drucker.

THE Peter Drucker.

The father of modern management, etc. etc.

Today, Peter asked me many simple questions, some which I struggle to answer.

They don’t teach you these in school.

Peter:

Are you doing the right things (efficient) or are you getting the right things done (effective)?

How do you know the things you are working on are the right things?

Are you like the great majority of the people who focus on efforts rather than results?

You may be producing output. But are people using it? How can more people make use of your work?

How can you help your organization do less?

How do I perform – do I like working with others or alone? Do I work well under stress or do I prefer a structured environment? Am I better at making decisions or advising?

Am I trying to change myself even if it’s probably going to fail or am I working hard to improve the way I perform?

Quotes

“the knowledge worker is, first of all, expected to get the right things done. And this means simply that the knowledge worker is expected to be effective.”

“Knowledge workers cannot be supervised closely or in detail. They can only be helped. But they must direct themselves, and they must do so toward performance and contribution, that is, toward effectiveness.”

“What happens inside any organization is effort and cost… There are only effort centers. The less an organization has to do to produce results, the better it does its job.”

“What seems to be wanted is universal genius, and universal genius has always been in scarce supply. The experience of the human race indicates strongly that the only person in abundant supply is the universal incompetent.”

“I soon learned that there is no “effective personality.” The effective people I have seen differ widely in their temperaments and their abilities, in what they do and how they do it, in their personalities, their knowledge, their interests—in fact in almost everything that distinguishes human beings.”

“Effectiveness, in other words, is a habit; that is, a complex of practices. And practices can always be learned.”

“The effective person focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward toward goals. He asks, “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?” His stress is on responsibility.”

“The great majority of people tend to focus downward. They are occupied with efforts rather than with results. They worry over what the organization and their superiors “owe” them and should do for them. And they are conscious above all of the authority they “should have.” As a result, they render themselves ineffectual.”

“Effective people find themselves asking other people in the organization, their superiors, their subordinates, but above all, their colleagues in other areas, “What contribution from me do you require to make your contribution to the organization? When do you need this, how do you need it, and in what form?”

“The man who asks of himself, What is the most important contribution I can make to the performance of this organization? asks in effect, What self-development do I need? What knowledge and skill do I have to acquire to make the contribution I should be making? What strengths do I have to put to work? What standards do I have to set myself?”

“We know very little about self-development. But we do know one thing: people in general, and knowledge workers in particular, grow according to the demands they make on themselves. They grow according to what they consider to be achievement and attainment.”

“Like one’s strengths, how one performs is individual. It is personality. Whether personality be “nature” or “nurture,” it surely is formed long before the person goes to work. And how a person performs is a “given,” just as what a person is good at or not good at is a “given.” It can be modified, but it is unlikely to be changed. And just as people achieve results by doing what they are good at, people also achieve results by performing how they perform.”

“Again, do not try to change yourself—it is unlikely to be successful. But work, and hard, to improve the way you perform.”

(Dear readers, I failed at reading and writing last week. I will move on “toward the light”.)


I’m inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s annual projects and decided to have one of my own. Read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. Subscribe to my newsletter.

 

these are not pretty things, but they are true things

#26 – tiny beautiful things: advice on love and life from dear sugar by cheryl strayed

If someone tells me he is struggling, I listen to him and tell him to read this book.

If someone tells me she feels lost, I would listen to her and tell her to read this book.

If I have a young relative reaching maturity, I would give him this book.

And the reasons for this:

1. She gives bloody good advice – there are no pretensions about what life is – painful and occasionally beautiful.

2. Her advice comes from a real place, not off-the-shelf, not word of god, but a place of grace, forgiveness and real-shit-happened-to-her.

An example of the real shit is how she started off one column:

“Dear WTF,

My father’s father made me jack him off when I was three and four and five. I wasn’t any good at it. My hands were too small and I couldn’t get the rhythm right and I didn’t understand what I was doing. I only knew I didn’t want to do it. Knew that it made me feel miserable and anxious in a way so sickeningly particular that I can feel that same particular sickness rising this very minute in my throat.”

She reveals herself in every answer and much of it are ugly truths about life.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of lies, face tuning, self promotion, useless generalisations and other deceitful things. It’s why I cherish the book.

I am going to share some excerpts that will give you a sense of the advice she gives but bear in mind excerpts offer only a glimpse of the entirety of her wisdom.

To a woman who was struggling over the miscarriage of her 6.5 month baby

“Don’t listen to those people who suggest you should be “over” your daughter’s death by now. The people who squawk the loudest about such things have almost never had to get over anything. Or at least not anything that was genuinely, mind-fuckingly, soul-crushingly life altering. Some of those people believe they’re being helpful by minimizing your pain. Others are scared of the intensity of your loss and so they use their words to push your grief away. Many of those people love you and are worthy of your love, but they are not the people who will be helpful to you when it comes to healing the pain of your daughter’s death.
They live on Planet Earth. You live on Planet My Baby Died.”

“And stop pretending with your sweet boyfriend too. Tell him you’d like to punch him in the head and explain to him precisely why. Ask him what he has to say about the death of your daughter and do your very best to listen to his experience without comparing it to your own.”

“That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it. ”

To a 21 year old gay man living a double life so he can continue to live in his parents’ house. They think he has overcome his “gay lifestyle”.

“There is something I can offer that will help. I can tell you to get yourself out of that house. You mustn’t live with people who wish to annihilate you. Even if you love them. Even if they are your mom and dad. ”

“We are all entitled to our opinions and religious beliefs, but we are not entitled to make shit up and then use the shit we made up to oppress other people. This is what your parents are doing to you. And by choosing to pretend you’re straight in order to placate them, you’re also doing it to yourself.”

“In your question you write that you feel “suffocated by the expectations of those on both sides,” but there are not two sides. There is only one and you’re it. The real you. The authentic you. The gay you.
Be him.”

“There is a middle path, but it goes in only one direction: toward the light. Your light. The one that goes blink, blink, blink inside your chest when you know what you’re doing is right. Listen to it. Trust it. Let it make you stronger than you are.”

“…love based on conditions such as those set forth by your parents is ugly, skimpy, diseased love. Yes, diseased. And it’s a kind of love that will kill you if you let it.”

“I think I cry (at gay pride parades) because it always strikes me as sacred, all those people going by. People who decided simply to live their truth, even when doing so wasn’t simple. Each and every one of them had the courage to say, This is who I am even if you’ll crucify me for it.
Just like Jesus did.”

 

To a young woman writer who was struggling with her “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude”

“I’d finally been able to give it because I’d let go of all the grandiose ideas I’d once had about myself and my writing—so talented! so young! I’d stopped being grandiose. I’d lowered myself to the notion that the absolute only thing that mattered was getting that extra beating heart out of my chest. Which meant I had to write my book. My very possibly mediocre book. My very possibly never-going-to-be-published book. My absolutely nowhere-in-league-with-the-writers-I’d-admired-so-much-that-I-practically-memorized-their-sentences book. It was only then, when I humbly surrendered, that I was able to do the work I needed to do.”

“We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor.”

“The unifying theme is resilience and faith. The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It is not fragility. It’s strength. It’s nerve. And “if your Nerve, deny you—,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “go above your Nerve.” Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

“So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

To a young person who asked “what would you tell your twentysomething self if you could talk to her now?”

“ You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life. Say thank you.”

“It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again.”

“You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.”

“You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule.”

“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be.”

“One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin, you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.”

Other beautiful advice

“You aren’t afraid of love. You’re afraid of all the junk you’ve yoked to love. And you’ve convinced yourself that withholding one tiny word from the woman you think you love will shield you from that junk. But it won’t.”

“Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s (the pen name of Cheryl Strayed) golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.”

“The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply in a new, more fractured light. Look hard. Risk that.”

“These are not pretty things, but they are true things.”

“Another thing that the best, sanest people on the planet do is they have the guts to tell the truth.”

“I suggest you forget about forgiveness for now and strive for acceptance instead.”

“Walk without a stick into the darkest woods. Believe that the fairy tale is true.”

“That when it comes down to it, you must trust your truest truth, even though there are other truths running alongside it—such as your love for the partners you want to leave.”

“Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there.”

“There’s a poem by Adrienne Rich I first read twenty years ago called “Splittings” that I thought of when I read your letter. The last two lines of the poem are: “I choose to love this time for once / with all my intelligence.”

“The entire premise of your healing demands that you do let go of expectation.”


I’m inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s annual projects and decided to have one of my own. Read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. Subscribe to my newsletter.