• “Solitude and Leadership.” A lecture delivered at West Point in 2009 by William Deresiewicz.

    Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube.

    I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea. By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise. And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very good. I need time to think about it, too, to make mistakes and recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, to defeat my desire to declare the job done and move on to the next thing.

    A fascinating read on the loss of leadership in America, a trend the author ties to an absence of solitude. (via Mike Industries)

  • Thoughts on solitude always bring to mind the following, from the John Graves masterpiece Goodbye to a River, published back in 1960:

    We don’t know much about solitude these days, nor do we want to. A crowded world thinks that aloneness is always loneliness, and that to seek it is perversion. Maybe so. Man is a colonial creature and owes most of his good fortune to his ability to stand his fellows’ feet on his corns and the musk of their armpits in his nostrils. Company comforts him; those around him share his dreams and bear the slings and arrows with him….

    But there have always been some of the others, the willful loners. And out alone for a time yourself, you have some illusion of knowing why they are as they are. You hear the big inhuman pulse they listen for, by themselves, and you know their shy nausea around men and the relief of escape. Or you think you do….

  • Somewhat related to the first bullet: to-do lists don’t work.
  • Singer/songwriter Darrell Scott is better than macaroni and cheese. His newest release, Long Ride Home, isn’t due out ’til next Tuesday, but an early stream is available over at Folk Alley.
  • This SlatGrill went on the wishlist, but the presentation photos with the butcher block table in the woods gave me a chuckle.
  • An annual review of typefaces. Lots of good stuff here. A2 Beckett, Detroit, Dane, and Abril all caught my eye upon first glance.

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