What we've been reading: Blocks, life skills and myths

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Francois Badenhorst
Deputy editor
BusinessZone and UK Business Forums
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In this week’s What we’ve been reading, we have four fresh pieces of our favourite writing for you to enjoy.

It has it all: time, life skills and Ikea. But I’d like to make a special note of our last piece on conspiracy theory. If you’re a connoisseur of the pop culture conspiracy theory, please enjoy. But if you’ve never really paid attention: boy, you’re in for a treat.

All of them are nonsense (or are they?), but it’s not just about the wonderful stories. These urban legends are a tribute to the human imagination. I hope you’ll spend an hour or so familiarising yourself with our shared, modern folklore.

100 Blocks a day

At his trial for impiety, Socrates defiantly told his accusers: “An unexamined life isn’t worth living.”

Socrates had a point: how much do we analyse our waking lives? The hours that you are awake are usually a flurry of routine and the odd unexpected occurrence. But it’s rarely segmented and studied.

Tim Urban suggests breaking the 16 to 17 hours we’re awake – about 1,000 minutes – into blocks. “Let’s think about those 1,000 minutes as 100 10-minute blocks. That’s what you wake up with every day.

“Imagine these blocks laid out on a grid. What if you had to label each one with a purpose?”

Urban’s blocks turn our time into currency. What are you willing to spend it on? Urban’s not being judgmental: beers with an old friend could well be worth it – but that’ll be 10 blocks, please!

“You’d have to think about everything you might spend your time doing in the context of its worth in blocks,” writes Urban. “Cooking dinner requires three blocks, while ordering in requires zero—is cooking dinner worth three blocks to you?”

Three important life skills nobody ever taught you

The blogger Mark Manson has perfected the intricate art of tough love.

Doing what Manson does always has an element of funambulism: lay it on too thick and people will stop reading; walk on eggshells and no one will ever listen.

This latest article is the archetype of Manson at his best. For entrepreneurs (and leaders anywhere), it’s not just about his very good advice. It’s also about how Manson delivers it.

We’re often told to accept constructive criticism, but we’re rarely taught how to actually give it. Consider Mark Manson an education, then.

The weird economics of Ikea

The Swedish flat-pack giant Ikea has become the interior design equivalent of a meme. Instantly recognisable, ubiquitous and a defining aspect of modern apartment living.

This article by Oliver Roeder dives a little deeper into the economics of this retail phenomenon. Perhaps most interesting is the discrepancies in the pricing of Ikea products in different markets.

“They’ll sometimes reduce prices in the United States and make them go up in Canada, which makes even Canadians mad,” an economist tells Roeder. The article explains: Ikea seems to create a “unique competition profile” for each market that influences how the company prices its goods.

It’s a behemoth with an obsessive interest in details.

The 70 greatest conspiracy theories pop-culture history

I’m sorry for sharing this with you, I really am.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the article itself is incredible: a reader’s digest of popular myth. But it is also a rabbit hole into which you will disappear for a long time.

Conspiracy theories are our new folklore; stories that have taken on new resonance in the internet age. This article by Vulture catalogues the best ones.

The Beatles never existed! Michael and La Toya Jackson were the same person! Lewis Carroll was Jack the Ripper! Hell, while we’re at it: Chaucer was murdered!

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