Do hard things; NPS inflation; fake news about book sales: Newsletter 1 May 2024

Tim Tregenza CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED

Newsletter 42: Make an effort or fade away, labelling killer foods, don’t trust NPS braggarts, plus three people to follow and three books to read.

The effort is the point

Everything about our modern world — at least in the prosperous part of it where you probably live — is designed to make things easier.

You don’t need to carry cash, just hand them a debit card.

You don’t need to do research, just whip out your phone and google it — or ask Siri.

You don’t need to call an old friend, you can follow them on Instagram.

Now, you don’t even need to write an email, you can ask ChatGPT or CoPilot to do it for you.

I have no problem with labor-saving conveniences. I use a dishwasher and a power lawnmower. Why do pointless work when a machine can make it easier?

But unless there is effort in your life, you get out of practice. You forget how to perturb things. You become a passenger in your own life.

Why go to the gym and work out? It’s easier to stay at home and binge The Office. (And why, when you go to the gym, do you always park as close as possible to the door?)

Why track down experts and do primary research when you can do a web search, or ask Perplexity.ai to find sources for you?

Why participate in meetings when you can just post emojis on Slack?

Why? Because unless you are regularly exerting effort against resistance, you will become weak and lazy. Use it or lose it.

Sure, you can invent pointless tasks that require effort. Do the Wordle. Walk on a StairMaster. Pluck your eyebrows.

But rather than optimizing your effort avoidance as you pursue pointless tasks, consider for a moment the hard but worthwhile tasks that could help you and make you stronger.

Could you start creating something that will make you famous — or just fulfilled in the act of creation? Like writing a book?

Could you get together with peers at work and identify ways to make the workplace better, and then talk to your managers about it?

Could you start a conversation with your child, figure out something you like doing together — Lego, hiking, community theater — and then enjoy the connection and the time together?

Could you go door to door and meet your neighbors and raise money or awareness for a good cause?

Could you build a garden bed on your property and plant it with beautiful things?

All of these things are harder than just going along. Your body and your mind don’t want you to exert yourself. It’s a lot easier to put in the minimum amount of energy and coast, taking advantage of all the conveniences of the modern world until you cease to make any impact on the inexorable flow of the world.

Do that and soon, no one will even notice that you exist.

In physics, the term for effort exerted against resistance is work.

Do the work.

The effort is the point.

News for writers and others who think

Ron Shevlin writes that you should never trust a company that brags about its Net Promoter Score. Why do corporate press releases only tout how NPS has gone up? Are all companies above average now?

No, it’s not true that half of traditionally published books sell less than a dozen copies. That’s fake news that refuses to die. (Subscriber link at Publisher’s Lunch.)

The FDA is considering putting warning labels on the front of foods that will kill you faster (WSJ, gift link). Given that excessive sugar now likely threatens health more than cigarettes, maybe this is a good idea.

Three people to follow

Jed Kolko, smart economist who is encouraging academics to do economic research that could actually make policy better.

Dan Gaylin, CEO of NORC, a nonprofit research organization contributing to the amount of truth in the world.

David Moldawer, brilliant editor and ghostwriter, principal at Bookitect, and proprietor of the always entertaining and insightful newsletter “Maven Game.”

Three books to read

Connected: Building Relationships to Achieve Success and Make a Lasting Impact by Patricia Bathory (Amplify, 2024). Weaves research, therapy, and business advice into clear suggestions for how to connect at work.

Says Who?: A Kinder, Funner Usage Guide for Everyone Who Cares about Words by Anne Curzan (Crown, 2024). Free yourself from the constraints of grammar! On second thought, please don’t.

Competing on Thought Leadership: How Great B2B Companies Turn Expertise into Revenue by Robert Buday (Ideapress, 2022). Business strategy for highly visible experts.

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