Why is Everyone Meditating? (Alexandria Issue #029)

The best content related to design, technology, and productivity. Sent every month.

Adam Sadowski
6 min readOct 18, 2020

Featured Article


Why is This Interesting? The Meditation Editionwhyisthisinteresting.substack.com

“The problem, the Buddha taught, was that humans crave things. We seek pleasure (sex, ice cream). We avoid pain (breakups, brain freeze). But the gratification of getting that pleasure or the gratification of avoiding that pain doesn’t last. So we want more pleasure. We want less pain. Biologically, this is a great system for creating offspring or avoiding sabretooth tigers. Capitalistically, it’s a great system for developing dating apps and oxycontin. Emotionally, however, it seems best suited for remaining in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction. The Buddha’s lesson was that you can sidestep this cycle of craving by regulating, through meditation, how you respond to your own desires.”

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

More Amazing Reads

The Four Quadrants of Conformism


“One of the most revealing ways to classify people is by the degree and aggressiveness of their conformism. Imagine a Cartesian coordinate system whose horizontal axis runs from conventional-minded on the left to independent-minded on the right, and whose vertical axis runs from passive at the bottom to aggressive at the top. The resulting four quadrants define four types of people. Starting in the upper left and going counter-clockwise: aggressively conventional-minded, passively conventional-minded, passively independent-minded, and aggressively independent-minded.”

Expiring vs. Permanent Skills


“Expiring skills tend to get more attention. They’re more likely to be the cool new thing, and a key driver of an industry’s short-term performance. They’re what employers value and employees flaunt. Permanent skills are different. They’ve been around a long time, which makes them look stale and basic. They can be hard to define and quantify, which gives the impression of fortune-cookie wisdom vs. a hard skill. But permanent skills compound over time, which gives them quiet importance. When several previous generations have worked on a skill that’s directly relevant to you, you have a deep well of relevant examples to study. And when you can spend a lifetime perfecting one skill whose importance never wanes, the payoffs can be ridiculous. Anything that compounds over decades usually is.”

Be Impatient


“Now that I’ve confessed to the sin of impatience, I’m going to spend the rest of this post trying to convince you that it’s actually a good thing. (The good part is the habit of frequently asking yourself “how could this thing take less calendar time.” I don’t recommend manifesting it in annoying ways like ditching your partner in an Ethiopian airport.) Being impatient is the best way to get faster at things. And across a surprising number of domains, being really fast correlates strongly with being effective.”

Dorking (How to Find Anything on the Internet)


“Use advanced Google Search to find any webpage, emails, info, or secrets. Software engineers have long joked about how much of their job is simply Googling things. Now you can do the same, but for free. Below, I’ll cover dorking, the use of search engines to find very specific data.”

How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Fogg Behavior Model


“Sometimes we have the ability to do something, and even have a trigger like a time window and a to-do item, but we don’t feel motivated. We stare at a list of tasks, and stare, and stare, and none of them seem particularly exciting. So we do something else — procrastinate. The thing is, motivation doesn’t come out of the blue. We often have a fantasy in our heads of ourselves, sitting down to work, feeling inspired and tearing into work with a smile on our faces. That’s often not how it goes. On the days when we don’t feel motivated, we need to build motivation. So how do we build motivation?”

Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find Because of the Burden of Knowledge?


“Bloom, Jones, Van Reenen and Webb (2020) document the productivity of research is falling: it takes more inputs to get the same output. Jones (2009) provides an explanation for why that might happen. New problems require new knowledge to solve, but using new knowledge requires understanding (at least some) of the earlier, more basic knowledge. Over time, the total amount of knowledge needed to solve problems keeps rising. Since knowledge can only be used when it’s inside someone’s head, we end up needing more researchers. And that’s precisely the dimension that Bloom et al. (2020) use to measure the declining productivity of research — it does take more researchers to get the same innovation.”

Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT): The Power of Thinking Inside the Box


“Based on TRIZ, SIT was designed as a more practical approach to innovation. One key change makes SIT a powerful creativity tool: instead of thinking outside the box, using the SIT methodology requires you to think inside the box. The “closed-world condition” means that, when addressing a problem or trying to improve a product, you must use only elements already existing in the product or problem, or in the immediate environment. Thinking inside the box necessitates a shift in mindset: one that states that all the building blocks for innovation are right there in front of you, and that the solution only requires the reorganisation of existing elements.”

The Three A’s Method for Learning From Other Creators


“Listen carefully — and many times — to the piece that inspires you (the “source”). Study it, element by element and layer by layer, until you can write down a catalog of its attributes. Once the catalog feels complete, set aside the original source, instead referring only to the catalog as a template for your own new work (the “target”).”

A Tapestry of Tools

I doubt that any single design tool will ever bring us reliably into the realm of “production-ready” products. Even with the advent and advancement of “no-code” tools, declarative frameworks like SwiftUI, and advanced prototyping and collaborative design tools like Framer and Figma, there will always be obligations for designers and engineers to communicate around ambiguity. Whether it’s unforeseen internationalisation issues, accessibility considerations, or feature changes, if my experience is anything to go by, the best way to resolve these challenges is with a curious mind, a tapestry of tools, and an aspiration of “something like this”.

The UX of LEGO Interface Panels


“What could cause 400 WWII pilots to raise the landing gear on their B-17 bomber just before touchdown? Catastrophic pilot error, or something more fundamental? It was the psychologist Alphonsis Chapanis who first suggested that the high rate of crash landings might be the fault of poor interface design. The adjacent landing gear and flap control knobs were identically shaped. The pilots never stood a chance.”

Accordion Icons: Which Signifiers Work Best?


“Users tend to click fairly equally on both the accordion icon and the accordion label, so avoid dissociating those by assigning them different functionalities. Use a caret icon to designate an accordion, whether on desktop or mobile — our study found that of the standard set of icons used in this context, only the caret performed better than either no icon or a nonsense icon at indicating that than it was an accordion.”




“Omatsuri, which translates to «festival» from Japanese (お祭り) is a small “festival” of open source browser tools and applications.”

Say goodbye to painful email reading and writing


“Magic Email is your AI-powered email assistant that summarises your emails and generates professional emails from brief one-line descriptions. Get through all of your emails 5x faster so you can free up more time for your important work.”

Trip — Expand your mind


“Blending modern neuroscience with the wisdom of psychology, Trip takes you on a self-guided journey to help you make the most of your consciousness-expanding experiences.”