“We must be careful not to confuse data with the abstractions we use to analyse them.”

— William James (American philosopher)

Abstraction is a human superpower. It’s thinking, sideways. The process that enables us to condense complex, multipart objects into simpler blueprints. With abstraction, we can automate the boring stuff under the push of a button. But what happens if the button breaks?

Physicist Paul Dirac’s eponymous equation (the first to predict antimatter) hides the beautiful collision of quantum mechanics and special relativity, each of which are text book topics in their own right. Programmers execute thousands of lines of…

“You are not going to get rich renting out your time…”

— Naval Ravikant (entrepreneur)

Jamey Johnson’s country song The Dollar might just break your heart.

A young boy learns about the working world. He learns that grown-ups exchange some of their true freedom in order to regularly pay the bills, put food on the table, and clothes on our backs.

With this revelation, and watching as his father walks out the door, the boy scrambles to find some loose change in the house:

“Mama tells her little man,
Your daddy’s got a job.
And when he goes to work they pay…

“When we make a beginning, we get out of our own way and allow the angels to come in and do their job.”

— Steven Pressfield (author)

Big ideas need small actions. So, how do we get started on those ambitious goals without being scared off?

Bob Wiley’s life is halted by his phobias and obsessive compulsive behaviours. He is dependent on his psychotherapist and is divorced from his wife…who liked Neil Diamond (when Bob did not). The first glimmer of hope for Bob comes when the egotistical psychotherapist Dr Marvin shows Bob the magic of ‘Baby Steps’. It just…

“It takes more than one human brain to create a human mind.”

— Lisa Feldman Barrett (neuroscientist, psychologist, and author)

Depending on where you’re from, expressing a particular emotion is harder than you might think. It’s even harder to spot that emotion in someone else.

The artist Oskar Zwintscher once painted a woman sitting on an opulent marble bench. She is with her preoccupied bull terrier. A crown of loosely knit flowers rests on her fiery red hair, hair that blends seamlessly with her long, winding dress. Her legs are crossed. Her fingers interlocked. Her eyes are wide and black…

“Don’t be content with things as they are. The earth is yours and the fulness thereof. Enter upon your inheritance, accept your responsibilities.”

— Winston Churchill (author, British Prime Minister)

Whilst remembrance is, first and foremost, a chance to mourn and mend, it is so much more. Remembrance ensures that, when the last of those involved in the event have left us, a timeless opportunity remains.

When ceremonies can’t be attended, they can be recorded. The sorrow that connects us can cross our screens, even if that same sorrow cannot be consoled in a physical embrace.

It’s not all melancholy…

“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”

— Seth Godin (author, marketer, teacher)

Around 4 hours per day.

That’s the average amount of time that we are strapped to a smartphone, scrolling through our screens. And here comes the inevitable projection:

4 hours per day is 28 hours per week, or 112 hours per month.

We all know (nay, convince ourselves of) the pros. These devices connect us and make the world smaller. A social media introduction might just melt the edges of an otherwise cringeworthy meeting in real-life. I’ve been there. I’ve benefitted.


This article was originally published in the October 2020 edition of The Chemical Engineer magazine. As part of Marc’s work at Pre-Site Safety, the article also appears in episode 5 of the Pre-Site Podcast. You can listen along with the YouTube version below.

In the autumn of 2011, a light wind carried my father’s ashes from my fingertips into the sea. It was the cold, bitter end to a long battle waged against his post-traumatic stress. Long before alcohol claimed him, my late father had survived one of the worst process safety disasters the world has ever known. On 6…

“How pleasant is the sound of even bad music and bad motives when we are setting out to march against an enemy!”

— Friedrich Nietzsche (German philosopher)

Diversity of thought is good for innovation, but game-changing ideas don’t come by adhering unwaveringly to one train of thought. Here is why you should never lose the ability to march away from the beat of the drums.

A Familiar Taboo?

How familiar does the following situation sound to you? A sizeable group of people — some whom you know, others you don’t — regularly and vehemently reinforce a particular opinion. They tweet…

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”

— Bertrand Russell (British philosopher)

It’s hard to know where to turn for reliable guidance. The Information Age makes every day a new baptism in the fire of bits and bytes. Trust is scarce, and conviction is in suspicious plenty. What, then, of the ethereal concept of Leadership?

I started this blog in the summer of 2018, amidst a series of life changes, all the while navigating the parallel privilege of…

If you don’t like the current arc in the story of you, what would you rather it be?

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson (American essayist and philosopher)

Macabre walks through graveyards help peel away the stress from our mortal coil. The stories on gravestones can urge us to rewrite our own story before it’s too late.

Kirkoswald is a tiny unassuming village on Scotland’s rugged southwest coast. With a population in the low hundreds, a single restaurant, and sole cab driver, Kirkoswald doesn’t exactly sell itself as a place to inspire life-affirming revelations. …

Dr Marc Reid

Academic Scientist | Author | Entrepreneur

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