Having a Nemesis – Sunday Clippings #13

Hello there,

Last week I wrote a blog post about the difference between the Performance Culture and Learning Culture — and another one on ‘Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50‘, an interesting rule that will help you to quit the books you find boring. I also published my book notes for Wonder by R.J. Palacio last week.

And that’s all of them. Moving on to the newsletter now.

This week’s newsletter issue is inspired by an essay by author and musician, Ted Gioia, who draws attention to the importance of having a nemesis for self-improvement.

A nemesis is someone who challenges you to keep up with them. The nemesis is a rival you’re jealous and inspired of at the same time. The nemesis consequentially motivates you to grow and achieve progress and along the way, the nemesis gets benefitted as well. Gioia writes,

“The first thing to understand is that your nemesis is not your enemy. Or, put differently, your nemesis is more than just an enemy. Rather, the nemesis is an adversary is who is like your dark twin. Even as you battle with the nemesis, you share a kind of DNA. The gaze at your nemesis is like looking into a mirror, but one of those fun house mirrors at the carnival, where everything is both recognizable and distorted.”

One of the greatest rivalries in the art world — between Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse led to many of the most celebrated artworks of modern times:

“Matisse and Picasso didn’t like each other’s paintings at first, but they seemed to sense at once the power each had to challenge and stimulate the other. For the rest of their lives each would keep a keen eye on the other’s new work, provoking each other to paint the same subjects, sometimes even with the same title. There are many ways to describe their relationship. It could be called a rivalry, a dialogue, a chess game – Matisse himself once compared it to a boxing match. But it also became the abiding friendship of two titans who, daring to paint the ugly, transformed our sense of beauty in art.”

Picasso commented, “No one has ever looked at Matisse’s painting more carefully than I, and no one has looked at mine more carefully than he.”

There are many other great examples of how having similar rivals can lead to great work: Beethoven and Daniel Steibelt, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Having a rivalry that forces you to be more creative challenges your ability every day.

Having a nemesis can be more powerful than having a mentor. The nemesis usually gives you negative feedback and this, in turn, gives you the motivation to prove them wrong and use the criticism to your own benefit.

Competent rivals will always have some valid points in the feedback they provide you. There is no winner or loser in healthy rivalries. It’s a partnership in which both constantly try to overpower each other but end up becoming successful together.

Have a great week,

1 – Article – Here’s a great article that helped me understand the difference between the brain and the mind and how we can use one of them to change another and create lasting happiness and well-being. One of the methods that stuck out to me is called ‘Taking in the good’. It’s about deliberately staying with the positive experiences for long durations to get them recorded in our brains. Here are the three steps the writer mentions for taking in the good:

“(1) Let a good fact become a good experience. Often we go through life and some good thing happens—a little thing, like we checked off an item on our To Do list, we survived another day at work, the flowers are blooming, and so forth. Hey, this is an opportunity to feel good. Don’t leave money lying on the table: Recognize that this is an opportunity to let yourself truly feel good.

(2) Really savor this positive experience. Practice what any school teacher knows: If you want to help people learn something, make it as intense as possible—in this case, as felt in the body as possible—for as long as possible.

(3) Finally, as you sink into this experience, sense your intent that this experience is sinking into you. Sometimes people do this through visualization, like by perceiving a golden light coming into themselves or a soothing balm inside themselves. You might imagine a jewel going into the treasure chest in your heart—or just know that this experience is sinking into you, becoming a resource you can take with you wherever you go.”

2 – Podcast – Here’s a clipping I saved after listening to Tim Ferriss’ interview with Michael Gervais from his show Fear{less}:

“The only reason I don’t have any science around this, other than my experiences, the only reason people change is because of pain. So the worst thing a friend could do, or a psychologist could do, or a coach could do is take away pain. Because pain is the impetus to be able to say, ‘I’m done. I’m not doing this anymore.’”

3 – Book – Currently reading Deep Work by Cal Newport. It is a book about the practice of working with intense focus and no distractions. It is full of actionable advice for thriving in the new economy. Would absolutely recommend it! Here’s one of the passages I have highlighted so far:

“To learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction. To learn, in other words, is an act of deep work. If you’re comfortable going deep, you’ll be comfortable mastering the increasingly complex systems and skills needed to thrive in our economy. If you instead remain one of the many for whom depth is uncomfortable and distraction ubiquitous, you shouldn’t expect these systems and skills to come easily to you.”

(This is an issue of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various valuable ideas, learnings, along with my highlights from interesting articles, books and podcasts in a short and skimmable email newsletter. Sign up here to get future issues delivered directly to your inbox!)