Articles: Wisdom Collected from Interviews, Books, and More

This page shares my best articles to read on topics like creativity, decision making, strategy, and more. The central questions I explore are, “How can we learn the best of what others have mastered? And how can we become the best possible version of ourselves?”

Humankind progresses by adding to our shared body of knowledge. We all benefit from the insights of our ancestors. I like the idea of leaving a great “intellectual inheritance” and I’m trying to add a little bit of knowledge to the pile by curating the best ideas throughout history.

Ready to dive in? You can use the categories below to browse my best articles.

Self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research. No spam. Just the highest quality ideas you'll find on the web.


Thanks for subscribing! You’re all set.

You’ll be notified every time I share a new post.

Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.

30 Days to Better Traction & Results: A simple step-by-step guide for achieving more each day.

  • Take the guesswork out of achieving more. 11 email lessons walk you through the first 30 days of peak performance practices step-by-step, so you know  exactly what to do.
  • Get the tools and strategies you need to take action. The course includes a 20-page PDF workbook (including templates and cheatsheets), plus new examples and applications that you won’t find elsewhere.
  • Learn a framework that works for any goal. You can use this course to help you achieve any goal — from getting fit to daily meditation. Everything I share is time tested and science backed.

Enroll in the free email course.
Get your first lesson today.


Thanks for subscribing! You’re all set.

You’ll be notified every time I share a new post.

Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.

You will get one short email every three days for a month.
You can unsubscribe any time.

Daniel Scrivner

"In the Event of a Moon Disaster" - President Nixon’s Prepared Text in Case the Apollo XI Moon Landing Ended in Tragedy

“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay to rest in peace.”

As July 20, 1969, approached—the day that astronauts aboard Apollo XI were scheduled to set foot on the moon—White House speechwriters excitedly submitted drafts of a triumphant statement and "talking points" for the president of the United States to use in communicating live with the first earthlings on another celestial body.

The euphoria was suspended by a telephone call from Frank Borman, the veteran astronaut selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to be liaison with the White House. "You want to be thinking of some alternative posture for the president," he said solemnly, "in the event of mishaps on Apollo XI." When I failed to react promptly, he dispensed with NASA's euphemistic language and put the problem starkly: "Like what to do for the widows."

He explained that the time of greatest danger would not be landing the lunar vehicle, with Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin inside, on the moon. NASA scientists and engineers were most concerned about the ability of the astronauts to get the vehicle off the moon into lunar orbit, where it could join the circling command module, captained by Michael Collins, for its return to Earth. What if the planned liftoff failed and the men were marooned on the moon? "We would have to close down communication." It would not do for the world watching on television to see the men slowly starve to death or commit suicide.

All euphoria gone, I sent a memo to H. R. Haldeman, the White House chief of staff, suggesting that if such a terrible moment came, "the president should telephone each of the widows-to-be" to offer the nation's condolences. "After the president's statement, at the point when NASA ends communication with the men: a clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to 'the deepest of the deep,' concluding with the Lord's Prayer." But I wondered if submitting a draft of that sorrowful presidential statement would be in order, or would be taken as an ill augury—considered bad luck to be too prepared for the worst.

The thought occurred to me that General Eisenhower had faced that question on the eve of D-Day, and had scribbled down a brief message in the event of disaster. He threw it away the next day, after the Allied forces secured a landing in Europe, but an aide retrieved it. (I had occasion to read the original copy recently: "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.")

With that as precedent, I asked for a copy of a famous poem, "The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke, a sailor in the Royal Navy who was killed in World War I. He had written, "If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever England." (At historic moments, speechwriters turn to poets. In 1986, the world watched in horror as the space shuttle Challenger exploded on takeoff, killing all seven aboard. Peggy Noonan, a writer for President Ronald Reagan, paraphrased lines from "High Flight," a poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American killed flying for the RCAF in World War II: "they prepared for the journey and waved good-bye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'")

But in 1969, the moon-shot euphoria was justified as the moon landing was celebrated as a triumph. Haldeman, who had never handed the draft remarks to Nixon, tossed the memo in a file that went back to NASA. I kept no copy and forgot about it completely. Decades later, the Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Mann unearthed the two-page typescript while doing research in the National Archives and did a column about it pegged to the thirtieth anniversary of the moon landing. On that occasion, NBC's Tim Russert had Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins on Meet the Press and slowly read the tribute to them as the camera panned their faces. Alive to hear their would-be eulogy, the former astronauts were visibly moved.

The National Archives put on a major exhibition in its rotunda in 2001, showing great and small artifacts of American history ranging from George Washington's account book to the Emancipation Proclamation in Lincoln's handwriting, from John Wayne's application to become a spy with the OSS to the scrap of paper on which Eisenhower had taken responsibility for failure on June 5, 1945. (Apparently nervous that night, Ike had misdated it July 5.)

There in the blazon of history's majesties and oddities, in a glass case right next to Lincoln's proclamation, was my little speech. Frankly, its presence there knocked me out. Evaluating it now more coolly, and recognizing that the repeated use of "men" and "mankind" would today be found jarring, I decided it worthy of inclusion in this anthology. Though it is hardly a "great" speech, and one happily never delivered, the short address shows how the context of a dreaded dramatic occasion can make memorable words written to be spoken aloud.

Transcript of the Letter

To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire

July 18, 1969


Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding. They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.


The President should telephone each of the widows-to-be.


A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to “the deepest of the deep,” concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

Originally published in the The National Archives.

Browse more of history's greatest letters →

About the author

Daniel Scrivner is an award-winner designer and angel investor. He's led design work at Apple, Square, and now ClassDojo. He's an early investor in Notion,, and Anduril. He founded Ligature: The Design VC and Outlier Academy. Daniel has interviewed the world’s leading founders and investors including Scott Belsky, Luke Gromen, Kevin Kelly, Gokul Rajaram, and Brian Scudamore.

Last updated
Nov 26, 2023

Thanks for reading. You can get more actionable ideas in my popular email newsletter. Each week, I share 5 ideas, quotes, questions, and more to ponder this weekend. Over 25,000 people subscribe. Enter your email now and join us.


Thanks for subscribing! You’re all set.

You’ll be notified every time I share a new post.

Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.