Required Reading: "Better" by Merlin Mann

Required Reading is a series of articles, videos, podcasts, etc. that I consider to be unmissable. These are the things that have inspired me the most, and they’re the things I keep coming back to for repeated readings, viewings, and listens.

Speaking of self-improvement, today’s Required Reading is Merlin Mann’s 2008 essay, “Better”:

To be honest, I don’t have a specific agenda for what I want to do all that differently, apart from what I’m already trying to do every day:

  • identify and destroy small-return bullshit;
  • shut off anything that’s noisier than it is useful;
  • make brutally fast decisions about what I don’t need to be doing;
  • avoid anything that feels like fake sincerity (esp. where it may touch money);
  • demand personal focus on making good things;
  • put a handful of real people near the center of everything.

All I know right now is that I want to do all of it better. Everything better. Better, better.

There’s something hugely inspiring about watching one of your heroes strive to improve. Someone who has already had success and is already great, but still isn’t content with resting on his laurels.

For example, Neil Peart, despite decades of fame as the drummer for Rush, decided to study with Freddie Gruber and learn an entirely new style of drumming. He could have decided he had nothing left to learn, but he didn’t. Because he wanted to get better.

Merlin’s essay is an exercise in course-correction. Even when we set out to be awesome, over time we become vulnerable to complacency. I reread “Better” every couple of months, and it always helps remind me to aspire to be great.