Useless Is Useful

Much like every other weekend, I spent several hours cleaning the apartment this Sunday. Although I enjoyed the result of it, I had always looked at cleaning as a tedious task. Yet, I have come to enjoy it over the last few years. This is because I have started to listen to talks, podcasts, and audiobooks while I’m emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming the floor, or scrubbing the toilet. The combination of doing a physical task over and over again, while opening your mind to the thoughts and stories of others, is an intriguing combination for me. It helps me relax and clear my head of the things that occupy my thinking over the rest of the week. I now enjoy it so much that I even forget time while I’m cleaning and am already looking forward to the next weekend, once I am done.

What am I listening to? I really don’t care as long as it seems to provide a fresh perspective on a topic I’m interested in or is about something entirely new. The latest podcasts and books I listened to include Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors, Ted Chiang’s Exhalation, a collection of short stories, Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like TED, Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and interviews with Jenna Levin, Tea Uglow, Derek Sivers, and many more.

To some people, listening to all those interviews and books might appear to be a useless pastime. But I have long believed that there is no such thing as useless knowledge. For one, you simply can’t consume only useful content. How would someone even know what qualifies as “useful” over a longer period of time? But more importantly, new ideas are born from combining existing ideas in new ways. So the more you know, the larger the possibility that two seemingly unrelated ideas connect. What is better than broadening your mind by absorbing the experiences, habits, and dreams of others, then? (Okay, travel might be. But that’s not so easy at the moment – in particular, while vacuuming.)

So I try to read, watch, listen to, and observe as many things as possible, and don’t worry if something isn’t useful at this very moment or for a current project. Your next idea might be hidden in an interview with a physician or a short story about time travel. You never know. So stay curious. What seems useless today might turn out to be useful tomorrow.


This is the 38th post of my 100 days of writing series. You can find a list of all posts here.


1 Webmention