#032 Peeling Back

Happy Tuesday! You’ll see this newsletter peeled back from time to time as I make it more manageable to fit into my overall workload. I get so caught up on sticking to rules and strategy and formats that it can be paralyzing. Longer writing formats are still in the future for this project but showing up is most important to me right now.

Here’s a playlist I’ve been adding music to. That’s all for now!

— Alex

Ideas from me


The paved path with designated lookout points is created to keep you on a straight point from A to B, but as you walk along there’s always additional paths that people have made their own, which typically lead to the breathtaking views.

Curiosity, even when asked to stay on trail, almost always leads to something better.


I’ve found the surest way to guarantee progress is to assign non-negotiables in your life. The things we choose to not get distracted from are the very things we’ll improve at.

Commitment is how we get better.


One of the most intelligent case studies in design is the Chinese tea cup. They’re made without handles simply because if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to drink.

Humans naturally want to add more. Add a cardboard sleeve, add a warning on the outside of the cup, add a handle. The result of all these things never cools down the actual contents. And in the end, you’ll still burn your mouth from drinking too early. It’s not that people don’t see the warnings, we’re just adding more layers of separation between us and the answer.

Simplify until it’s obvious.

Quote from somebody else

I’m sure everyone has read this quote before, but I came across it again this week, and decided that if a single person out there hasn’t read this, then they must do that this week via this newsletter.

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this, and if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on deadline so that every week you finish one piece. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions, and I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take awhile. You just gotta fight your way through."

— Ira Glass

Links worth sharing

I’m typically sharing a lot of articles but this week found a lot of great web based tools and research projects… Click around!

🏃‍♀️ On Motivation by Charles Broskoski, 10 years after founding Are.na

📚 Oku.Club — For tracking, sharing, and reviewing books

🧑‍💻 Constraint Systems might be the coolest thing I found all week. A collection of experimental web-based creative tools.

🎨 Future Materials Bank is a resource for artists that proposes non-toxic, biodegradable or otherwise sustainable alternative materials

😍 Bottom Line is a tool for online research and distribution of information that already exists online.

💭 Photo Requests From Solitary is a participatory project that invites men and women held in long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons to request a photograph of anything at all, real or imagined, and then finds a volunteer to make the image

Thanks for another week!

Common Discourse is a weekly briefing designed to help others (and myself) think through creativity, focus, and intentional work. It hits your inbox every Tuesday at 9:17am.

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