For this week's What we've been reading, I thought I'd rustle some Jimmies. Why not? It's been one of those sleepy Summer weeks; some of us are still on a Glasto comedown.
Obviously, if you just peddle controversy all the time you start lapsing into 'edgy teenager' territory. I like to think we actually offer constructive advice most of the time. But challenging ideas do have their place. If we read them right and digest them completely, they force us to justify our beliefs.
As entrepreneurs, that's important. So here are some challenging ideas I encountered this week (and one bonus article that's just nice).
“In the past two weeks I’ve taken three naps at work,” writes the New York Times journalist Tom Herrera. “A total of an hour or so of shut-eye while on the clock. And I have no shame or uncertainty about doing it.”
But he’s not only defending the workplace nap, he’s also attacking the idea the perception that you should look and be busy. Idleness, Herrera argues, isn’t inherently bad. Used correctly, it actually forms a key part of a productive workday.
So why does the idea make us so uncomfortable? “Restfulness and recharging can take a back seat to the perception and appearance of productivity,” he writes. “It’s easier to stay on a virtual hamster wheel of activity by immediately responding to every email than it is to measure aggregate productivity over a greater period of time.”
Maybe it’s time to look at what works - and simple human biology - instead of unscientific ideals? Or maybe I’m just a layabout who’s afraid of hard work?
You can’t go onto the internet without coming across some Thought Leader™ telling you how to live, work, have sex, clean your house, walk your dog - whatever.
What’s the harm? These people are dispensing advice and some people are willing to take it. But, as David Sessions writes, it’s a little more complex than this. Are these thought leaders just independent public intellectuals or are they actually shills for monied interests?
It’s a debate worth having. As Sessions notes, this worry over intellectuals isn’t new. The Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci tackled this same issue in the 1930s. “New classes … brought with them their own set of thinkers, which he called ‘organic intellectuals’ — theorists, technicians, and administrators, who became their functionaries in a new society.”
The goal of these functionaries was to establish that class’s ideas as “the invisible, unquestioned conventional wisdom circulating in social institutions”.
Ask yourself: what’s that dude speaking amorphously about globalisation really selling? And do you know you’re being sold to?
Since we’re busy tackling BS, we may as well double-down: the curious philosophy of wellness. It’s everywhere.
Hey, are you eating a raw, vegan, gluten-free diet? Don't you like Kombucha? Do you meditate? What’s your ‘energy’? When are you going on your wellness retreat?
I mean, you get my drift. Amy Larocca’s article is a fascinating, exhaustively reported account of how general wellness advice transformed into a whole industry. “A lot of the wellness movement addresses aspects of our lives previously considered basic and fundamental, like breathing or sleep,” she writes.
But again, like ‘thought leaders’, it’s become a virtue signal. Not only is it built on shoddy scientific foundations, it’s usually incredibly patronising.
If you’re a busy entrepreneur, though, who can’t work out two-hours-a-day, then don’t worry about it. Eat your pizza, maybe do some exercise, cut down on the caffeine a little - just be sensible. That’s all; Gwyneth Paltrow be damned.
I don’t want to completely contradict the anti-elite tone I’ve struck so far by engaging in CEO worship - but this article is legitimately good.
If you’re looking for some new reading material, this list of what some of the world’s top CEOs are reading is actually great. If you’re an omnivorous reader, you’ll definitely get a few ideas here.