Maria Popova


Maria Popova is a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large. She has previously written for WiredUK, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, among others, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

I Am Driven By | The yearning to learn how to live, how to lead a meaningful life. The fear of not having yet learned how to die.

My Highlights | Being able to rise in the morning excited to face the day ahead and go to sleep at night fulfilled and grateful for the day that just set past the horizon.

The Difference Between Good And Great | A certain clarity of priorities that enables them to be wholehearted about what they do. Creative restlessness that prevents them from ever reaching a place of complacency. Unwillingness to measure their own merit and success by anybody else’s standards.

A Key Talent | Doggedness. Unrelenting commitment to pursuing those directions of growth and self-transcendence that I know are important to me, and  active introspection, an alive inward attention to what those directions are in the first place. At the same time, a willingness to sit with uncertainty and self-doubt, to rest into them and accept them as part of the journey rather than compounding them with futile resistance and denial.
I think we often conflate self-actualization and success – without enough introspection to discern the conditions and ideals of the former, it’s easy to get bogged down in social, cultural, and other external criteria to define the latter. And yet both the most trying and the most triumphant thing about “success” at its most fulfilling is that it’s utterly subjective, utterly private – one person’s “success,” which can only reflect that person’s private definition of it, can never be replicated by another person. No two people have the same desires and aspirations for the day ahead when they wake up in the morning. No two people are grateful for the same things when they go to bed at night. If there’s any secret to success at all, it lies in cultivating one’s own standards for it and unflinchingly protecting their integrity under the pressure of external ones.

Principles I Live By | Kindness. Openheartedness. Curiosity and a capacity for wonder. Not only a tolerance for but an embrace of the unknown, the uncomfortable, the uncontrollable. An active practice of awe and gratefulness – of both absorbing the light of the world and reflecting it back with luminous generosity. More kindness.

Critical Skills I Develop | Reconciling a clarity of aspiration regarding the direction of my journey as a human being with an ability to live with presence, to experience each moment as its own destination.

Dealing With Doubt | When I was younger, I tried to bulldoze my way through them or deny them altogether. But, of course, this never works – suppression only wounds the heart by stuffing it, rather violently, with more than it can hold. Eventually, I came to realize that without recognizing and allowing those feelings, one can never transcend them.

Performing At My Peak | I am as disciplined about my sleep as I am about my work. The two are locked into a tango that ensures the grace of the whole operation.

Advice On Building Wealth | Invest heavily and methodically in finding out what “wealth” actually means, what living richly means, for you. One place to start would be Alan Watt’s famous contemplation of what you would do if money was no object.

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