Tag Archives: quotations

“Everything Is Raw Material…But Without Proper Preparation, I Cannot See It”

“Everything is raw material. Everything is relevant. Everything is usable. Everything feeds into my creativity. But without proper preparation, I cannot see it, retain it, and use it.”

–Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

When People “Can Never Satisfy the Insatiable Appetites of Their Souls”

“For dealing with the blessings which come to us from outside we need a firm foundation based on reason and education; without this foundation, people keep on seeking these blessings and heaping them up but can never satisfy the insatiable appetites of their souls.”

–Plutarch, Fall of the Roman Republic

Guess: What Are the “Two Types of Perfect,” According to B. J. Novak?

“In my opinion, there are two types of perfect. The first is the type that seems so obvious and intuitive to you and everyone else that in a perfect world it would simply be considered standard; but, in reality, in our flawed world, what should be considered standard is actually so rare that it has to be elevated to the level of ‘perfect.’ This is the type of perfect that makes you and most other people think, ‘Why isn’t everything like this? Why is it so hard to find…’ a black V-neck cotton sweater, or a casual non-chain restaurant with comfortable booths, etc.–‘that is just exactly the way everyone knows something like this should be?’ ‘Perfect,’ we all say with relief when we finally find something like this that is exactly as it should be. ‘Perfect. Why was this so hard to find?’

“The other type of perfect is the type you never could have expected and then could never replicate.”

— B. J. Novak, “Sophia,” in One More Thing

I can’t resist quoting, too, from the last paragraph of Novak’s Acknowledgements. I thought this was so lovely. He has two pages thanking various people, including Mindy Kaling of course (I always think of these two together), and concludes:

“Josh Funk and Hunter Fraser: we haven’t been in touch in years, but you made me feel like the funniest kid in the world. I would stay up late on school nights to write things to try to make you laugh the next day in class, and you inspired the one piece of writing that I’ve ever felt qualified to give: write for the kid sitting next to you.”

This beautiful acknowledgement made me think of many things, but in particular, it reminded me that we never know how our actions and our words will affect other people. These two guys! Their enthusiasm may have been a crucial catalyst for Novak’s career.


Fill in the Blank: “The Mind Is Rarely So Disturbed But That __ Will Restore It to Tranquility.”

“The mind…is rarely so disturbed, but that the company of a friend will restore it to some degree of tranquility and sedateness.”

–Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Agree, disagree?

Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: strong relationships are a key to happiness. We usually get a little lift from engaging with other people.

Can a Vine Behave like an Olive Tree? No.

A vine cannot behave olively, nor an olive tree vinely—it is impossible, inconceivable. No more can a human being wholly efface his native disposition.

–Epictetus, Discourses, 2.20.18

This is what has struck me most in my study of habits. We can’t change our fundamental nature. We have to form the habits that work for us.

An Owl shouldn’t bother trying to form the habit of getting up early to exercise. A Moderator shouldn’t bother trying to form the habit of giving up sugar. A Sprinter shouldn’t both trying to form the habit of doing a little work each day, well before a deadline.

Those are great habits for Larks, Abstainers, and Marathoners. But there’s no magic, one-size-fits-all-solution for habits. Unfortunately.

An olive tree can’t act like a vine, and an Obliger won’t form habits the way that an Upholder will.

When we know ourselves, and figure out how to shape our habits to suit our native disposition–that’s when we succeed.

How about you? Have you ever found it much easier to form a habit when you changed your approach to be better suited to your nature? Your love (or dislike) of competition? Your love (or dislike) of spare decoration? Your love (or dislike) of bold changes?

You can pre-order my book about habit change, Better Than Before, here–but don’t worry, that’s not the actual cover of the book. Pre-orders really help a book, so if you’re inclined to buy it, I really appreciate a pre-order.