The 24 best Quartz Ideas stories of 2017

In 2018, be the eagle, not the drone.
In 2018, be the eagle, not the drone.
Image: Reuters/Regis Duvignau
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The Ideas section of Quartz has as broad an ambit as Quartz as a whole. (The section exists on Quartzy and Quartz at Work, too.) Ideas articles are usually (but not always) written by outside contributors, and they tend to take a deep dive into an aspect of our world—or a new way of thinking about it—that gives readers a deeper understanding, beyond whatever story or angle is dominating the day’s headlines.

Here are a few articles that show what Quartz Ideas was all about in 2017:

As Juicero gets publicly shamed, let us not forget that juice itself is a lie

Remember Juicero? The company that sold a $400 wifi juice press and pre-mixed bags of fresh ingredients—that it turned out you could just as easily squeeze into a glass with your own two hands? Fresh, cold-pressed juice signals health for a certain kind of elite, noted Sarah Todd. But, she writes, “there’s just one problem: When it comes to health benefits, fresh-pressed juice isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” Speaking of elites…

I finally stepped out of my progressive bubble—and now I understand why people hate “the liberal elite”

From New York, Annalisa Merelli struggled with her social media “blue feed” as a referendum ballot in her native Italy became just as contentious an issue as anything American voters have encountered in the days since Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for the US presidency. “Liberals may be heavily represented in the media, the centers of culture (popular, and otherwise), and in academia,” she concludes. “But unless we are able to start learning how to talk to people unlike us, we’ll likely keep losing. It is not the only reason for the current political polarization—but it is one we can all work to address.” Staying on politics…

Philosopher Slavoj Žižek settles the “Is it OK to punch a Nazi?” question once and for all

“Most respectable types said no, while others, including many on the so-called “Dirtbag Left,” pointed out that punching Nazis is a time-honored American tradition,” writes Taylor Wofford, in his interview with the delightfully cantankerous Žižek.

A warning to the American media from a Russian journalist who covers Putin

Alexey Kovalev sends the White House press corps a prescient message from the future: “Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him.” And if you’re wondering why any journalist friends you have are looking a little worn down this time of year…

The silent killer of workplace happiness, productivity, and health is a lack of basic civility

“Stress stemming from incivility can silently kill productivity—and people,” writes Georgetown business professor Christine Porath. “Those who unleash on others, belittle subordinates or undermine colleagues may leave a wake and create ripple effects.” Sound like anyone you know? 

The secret to office happiness isn’t working less—it’s caring less

Philosopher Andrew Taggart thinks part of the solution isn’t just to be nice at work, but to check out a bit from it—especially the psychodrama—in order to make room for other, more important things: “By caring less about work, we open ourselves up to caring more about other dimensions to life—about what matters more. But that’s easier said—or written on a to-do list—than done.” If you’re not the checking-out type though…

The 15-minute weekly habit that eased my work anxiety and made my boss trust me more

Khe Hy explains how to manage up: “I created my own standardized, habitual communication with my boss. My goal was to make sure that we would always be in sync, and that he had an up-to-date understanding of all my projects—which meant that we could cut down on phone calls.” Still feeling like we live in the era of “total work?” You won’t be surprised to read:

It took a century to create the weekend—and only a decade to undo it

Katrina Onstad discovers how workers came to have two days off, thanks to Henry Ford and enterprising 18th century laborers who made Mondays the original weekend: “Between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries in England, vast numbers of employees didn’t bother to show up on Monday, playing the religious-holiday card by saying they were “keeping Saint Monday” (there is no Saint Monday, it turns out). ” Unfortunately, those precious 48 hours are under attack. For Americans at least, is it all actually a culture problem?

The secret to Germany’s happiness and success: Its values are the opposite of Silicon Valley’s

Rebecca Schuman argues it is: “To most of Germany, the hagiography of bootstrap capitalism is not just morally wrong; it’s incomprehensible. Thanks in part to a general leftward tilt on economic issues after the student revolutions of 1968, most of them view the collective good, and the comparatively high taxation that accompanies it not as a sacrifice, but as a fundamental component of civilized society.” Want to avoid getting caught in the rat race for too much longer?

My husband and I are living off 35% of our income so we can retire before we’re 40

This strategy isn’t about becoming a “rich jerk,” writes Catherine Baab-Muguira. Rather, she believes, “the dream of financial independence is worth chasing because I’m convinced that freedom is one of the worthiest goals around. If you’re a person with big-time creative dreams, it would be a tragedy straight out of Arthur Miller to spend your life working for someone else—or waiting around for the world to change.” If you’re stuck at your desk though, please remember:

Single workers aren’t there to pick up the slack for their married bosses and colleagues

Social scientist Bella DePaulo explains: “Too often, employers believe that single, childless people are emotionally untethered and financially untroubled, which means they ought to be free to stay late, travel on weekends, show up on holidays, and take whatever vacation slots married employees haven’t already claimed—all of which puts singles in a highly unfair (not to mention undesirable) position. It’s time that employers stopped taking advantage of single employees—and started recognizing the truth about their lives.”  All important, but if you’re unintentionally flying solo:

How do we know when we’ve fallen in love? My informal survey reveals three big patterns

Emily Tamkin explains how her informal survey revealed that moments of recognizing when like became love, “were almost always pegged to some display of tenderness or kindness on the part of their partners…One of my best friends said she knew she loved her boyfriend when he excitedly told her he wanted to use his bonus to take her on a trip to the Ben & Jerry’s factory. Her sister knew she truly loved her now-husband when, two and a half years into their relationship, she saw how he took care of her and her family as they were sitting shivah for her grandmother.” Now that you know what to look for in a partner…

A leading happiness researcher says we’re giving our kids bad advice about how to succeed in life

Emma Seppälä sums it up rather succinctly: “What we tell our kids: Focus on the future. Keep your eyes on the prize. What we should be telling them: Live (or work) in the moment.” Read the entire article to catch the other fallacies we often repeat to the next generation.

Google’s most-searched “how-to” questions capture all the magic and struggle of being human

Annalisa Merelli: On Sept. 1, Google shared a list of the most-searched “how-to” questions around the world. It’s a moving portrait of all the beauty, bewilderment, and struggle of human existence…At first glance, it seems people are seeking Google’s help with concrete tasks. But don’t let the specificity fool you. These aren’t really questions about kisses, French toast, and belly fat. These are questions about how to give and receive love, and other weighty matters. I took the opportunity to translate.

Conscious consumerism is a lie. Here’s a better way to help save the world

“According to the lore of conscious consumerism,” writes Alden Wicker, “every purchase you make is a ‘moral act’—an opportunity to ‘vote with your dollar’ for the world you want to see. We are told that if we don’t like what a company is doing, we should stop buying their products and force them to change. We believe that if we give consumers transparency and information, they’ll make the right choice. But sadly, this is not the way capitalism is set up to work.”

Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLaRoe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis

This year, Wicker also reported a deep exposé into the desperate lives of housewives trying to sell tights to their neighbors and Facebook friends: “Joining a MLM is appealing to women who find hope in their promises of a better life: freedom, economic independence, and an endless supply of cheery trinkets. Despite professing quick-income prospects though, it’s difficult for MLM consultants to earn more than pocket change. When glitzy recruitment videos yield to the reality of suburban cul-de-sacs, people selling for MLMs can be plunged into debt and psychological crisis.”

Switching to men’s clothing taught me that the world doesn’t want women to get too comfortable

Staying on clothing for a bit, Lucy Rycroft-Smith made a surprising discovery when she switched to menswear: “The biggest revelation for me was the huge difference in my physical and emotional comfort. I’m a forthright, intellectual woman who’s never had a problem with confidence. But I’ve spent 20 years wearing clothes designed to make me feel ill at ease—in both my body and mind.”

Women are flocking to wellness because modern medicine still doesn’t take them seriously

“It seems that privileged women in the US have created their own alternative health-care system—with few of its treatments having been tested for efficacy, or even basic safety,” writes Annaliese Griffin.” It’s easy to laugh at the dubious claims of the wellness industrial complex, and reasonable to worry about the health risks involved. But the forces behind the rise of oxygen bars and detox diets are worth taking seriously—because the success of the wellness industry is a direct response to a mainstream medical establishment that frequently dismisses and dehumanizes women.”

What kind of person makes false rape accusations?

Sandra Newman reports and explains the important differences between rape victims and exceedingly uncommon false accusers: “The evidence suggests that even in the rare case where a man is the subject of a false rape complaint, chances are that the charges will be dropped without him ever learning about the allegations. This raises an obvious question: Why would false accusers go through the trouble of making a report to police, only to instantly withdraw it?”

To earn an opponent’s respect, speak—don’t type

In our polarized society, Juliana Schroeder and Nicholas Epley explain the simple way to effectively reach your opponents—whether they are coworkers, friends, or family: “Fortunately, the psychological processes that create dehumanizing perceptions also suggest a way to reduce them: listen, very literally, to the opposition’s voice.” Maybe part of the problem is not having common ground to draw from:

The most forward-thinking, future-proof college in America teaches every student the exact same stuff

Peter Marber writes: “But perhaps instead of reinventing higher education, we can give students what they need for the future by returning to the roots of liberal arts. Consider St. John’s College, America’s third-oldest institution of higher education, founded in 1696. With fewer than 700 students between two campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe, St. John’s is a bit under the radar. But it’s emerged as one of the most distinctive colleges in the country by maintaining a strict focus on the classics of the Western canon.” With 2018 around the corner, here are two pieces of advice for those seeking motivation to change their body, if not their minds:

I went from sedentary academic to 100-mile marathon runner—thanks to the science of self-control

“This is the story of how I use the science of self-control to run ultramarathons,” writes psychology professor Nathan DeWall. “I believe that self-control is our greatest human strength, and the easiest thing that we can improve upon. By mastering the three components of self-control, you too could run 100 miles—or conquer other, seemingly unreachable professional and personal goals.”

These seven words changed my whole perspective on working out

Kira Bindrim writes: “That insecurity slideshow has for years guided my approach to exercise: Things that cannot definitely be done should not be attempted, thus avoiding all potential embarrassment. Except that there’s no judgment in The General’s implication that I might not be able to do what he’s asking me to do…In other words, The General’s verbal instructions contain the actual key to working out: the phrase, ‘I want to see if you can…’

How to make 2017 the year you finally read more books

It’s almost a year later, but Sarah Todd’s advice and practical tips for turning more pages still holds true. 

Your Ideas editors are Paul Smalera, Sarah Todd, Georgia Frances King, and Jackie Bischof. Leah Fessler also joined us as a fellow before becoming a reporter for Quartz at Work. Our thanks and appreciation to the many millions of you who read Ideas stories on Quartz this year. Best wishes for a happy and productive 2018!