The final episode

To Be And To Last #47

Welcome to the end of season one. After a wonderful run of 47 weekly episodes, I’m taking an indefinite hiatus to spend more time with my family. 😉

Joking aside, I’ve begun to find myself reading and viewing through the eyes of this newsletter, which has to a certain degree co-opted and changed my normal learning patterns. I’ve found myself consuming (or not consuming) because “I need something for Monday”. That’s not something I wish to do to myself.

Learning should be fun, and curiosity unhindered.

So, at least for now, this will be the final email of season one. Thanks for participating, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

— Nate

This week we walk through America, take a peek into psychology, and browse the library shelves of a dedicated reader.

👟 Walking from DC to NYC

I’m a tremendous fan of long walks, and frequently average 150 miles (240 km) a month. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks while walking, and other times I find the physical act of walking frees my mind to clearly think through complex decisions.

But perhaps most of all walking exposes us to the random beauty of the world around us, away from all the algorithms constantly offering a curated, personal high.

I’ve enjoyed following Craig Mod’s explorations around Japan, and more recently Craig’s writing introduced me to Neil King’s ongoing walk from Washington, DC to NYC in the US.

👷 You are not your work

“The hard-to-admit reason was this: my sense of identity was deeply tied to my job.

Julie Zhuo

I’ve been reading the thought provoking book The Courage To Be Disliked, which explores the works of psychologist Alfred Adler - a contemporary and opponent of Freud’s more popular theories.

Lots worth thinking about, but one piece that stood out to me was the extent to which we can naturally attach our sense of self-worth to external things - jobs, people - and in so doing unintentionally become addicted to unhealthy affirmation.

Another powerful tidbit: as seemingly positive an act as commending someone can actually irreparably damage a relationship, unless done with care. In the very act of commending someone’s work or act (coworker, child), we can subtly establish a vertical relationship (it is the better who commends the lesser). Adler’s theory holds that the only healthy form of commendation is that given between equals - something that can be very tricky to do properly.

📚 Books worth reading

“I promised myself a long time ago that if I saw a book that interested me I’d never let time or money or anything else prevent me from having it. This means that I treat reading with a certain amount of respect.”

— Ryan Holiday, in the footer of his monthly email

Since long before newsletters replaced Facebook posts and became more common than MySpace design updates, Ryan Holiday has been sharing monthly reading lists that spark joy on a regular basis.

Many of my favorite books have come from these emails (especially the mind blowing works of Robert Caro), and you can check out Ryan’s top reads of 2020 here.

With season one of my newsletter ending, you might perhaps enjoy following Ryan’s reading list.


To Be And To Last: Thinker Nate Desmond’s weekly roundup of long reads, contrarian thoughts, and hidden jewels that aren’t getting enough attention.

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Got thoughts? nate+newsletter@natedesmond.com.