The Improving Mentality
The Invention of Copper Plate Engraving (Source:

The Improving Mentality

We find what we’re looking for. This is a consistently under-appreciated truth, one that applies to so many of life’s circumstances. I admit that some searches take longer than others, but our minds are like unrelenting bloodhounds. They have a powerful ability to find evidence, insights, or ideas once they’re trained on a goal. Whatever we’re intent on seeing—the good or the bad in anything or anyone—we’ll be sure that, in the end, it’s all we see.

Hence the need to train our minds to look for the right kinds of things. Here’s one approach that’s worth your while. Historian Anton Howes (upcoming guest of the How to Help Podcast) shares a fascinating discovery about the British Industrial Revolution. It turns out that all the inventors during that time, thousands of them, had a high likelihood of having been connected to other inventors. These innovators were not toiling away in isolation towards their Eureka! moment. Instead, they were rubbing shoulders and sharing ideas.

In the process they shared something more, something Dr. Howes calls “the improving mentality.” I love this concept. It’s the perspective that something can always be made better, even if in some small way. An improving mentality is a universal perspective for innovators. And its illumination spills into every dusty corner of life, revealing small tweaks or momentous inventions that are sometimes hiding in plain sight.

Since my interview with Dr. Howes—publishing on July 5—I’ve thought often of the improving mentality. There are so many moments of our daily routine that have room for some new, better way. It’s an eye-opening perspective, one that we ought to spread as much as we can. In the spirit of that, Dr. Howes and a coauthor have recently proposed a new chivalric order, just for innovators. (An idea I would love to copy here in the U.S.)

I’ll have other insights by Dr. Howes to share in future newsletters, but in the meantime I’ll close with this question:

What’s something in your everyday that could be improved with a better way of thinking?

Things to Read

Ethics, AI, and Our Future

Fascinating report on the contours of AI Ethics from Pew Research: "Experts doubt ethical AI design will be broadly adopted as the norm within the next decade"

Building a More Honest Internet

This article made me uncomfortable for two reasons. One, it's scary how much of the Web is so dishonest. Two, the ideas for building a more honest Web can be just as scary.

Circles of Friendship

Here's a useful and interesting way to think about your relationships. We're not good at being everything to everyone, but maybe we don't really need to be. There’s much we can do close by.

Impact Highlight

Blockchain—the digital ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies like BitCoin—has many more uses than making sudden millionaires. One such use is in supply chains of the products we buy every day. From the time a farmer plants a seed to the moment you throw away food packaging for its trip to the dump, there are critical decisions made by thousands of people.

BanQu is using blockchain technology to track supply chains so we can have more equitable outcomes for all involved. By creating more transparency at every step, producers can get more efficiency and will have more accountability to their customers and their environments. BanQu was recently included in the Circulars Accelerator, hosted by the World Economic Forum.

Promotional Stuff

Does everyone have a right to a job they love?

This is a hard question to answer because if we should all have work that we love, then humanity is falling far short of this responsibility. This week on the How to Help Podcast, my guest is Dr. Andrea Veltman, philosopher and author of Meaningful Work. Her book was one of the most thought-provoking books I read in the last year, and I found our conversation to be uniquely enlightening.

I promise this episode will change the way you think about your work.

How to Help Podcast • Meaningful Work • Prof. Andrea Veltman


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Written by

Aaron Miller

Aaron Miller

Provo, UT