To Be And To Last #9

This week we explore effective work rules, nuclear fuel safety, and the incredible lives of two Alexandre Dumas’s.

Swimming with nuclear fuel rods?

You may actually receive a lower dose of radiation treading water in a spent fuel pool than walking around on the street.

XKCD’s beautifully serious analysis looks at the science behind swimming in a nuclear fuel rod cooling pool. Turns out water is a very effective radiation shield.

The fact and fiction during the French Revolution

I’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo a few times over the years, and it never ceases to deliver heartbreaking lessons. It is the story of a man who found freedom in prison, but then imprisoned himself once free. A person so dedicated to controlling everything, that he lost the things that really mattered.

The author, Alexandre Dumas, wrote many stirring tales, but few people know that his father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, lived a life more fantastical than any fiction. Born in 1762 on modern-day Haiti to a French noble father and an enslaved African mother, Dumas eventually became a four-star general in the new French Republic, before Napoleon seized power and brought with him a return to racism.

(Note: The Black Jacobins is an incredible read on another hero of this era, Toussaint L'Ouverture, who won Haitian independence and abolished slavery in Dumas’ birth place. It occurred during essentially the same time in history.)

Level up your professional effectiveness

No one cares how hard you worked

When presenting, the temptation is to share what you DID (“talked with 200 customers, realized that internet speed mattered, wrote a 500 line query to identify internet speed on planet Mars”). No one cares.

What people will want to hear is what you LEARNED (“turns out internet speed is critical in Mars for people commuting by space shuttle”). But even that’s just interesting trivia.

What people really want to hear is what you RECOMMEND (“we need to email all Martian commuters who aren’t currently aware of 5G upgrades”).

Just over a year ago, I spent a hours summarizing the essence of effective work. I’ve recently published the 19 work principles that have had a meaningful impact in my life.


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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