Dean Clough

January 1, 2024

Portico Darwin: Closing 2023


<3 Minute Read

Happy New Year and welcome to the year of the Say Hey Kid.
And what better topic on the first day of a new year than closure, and its importance?  And specifically, the Zeigarnik Effect


Today's inspiration came from a spin-off podcast I heard last week from Freakonomics, called No Stupid Questions.  I heartily suggest you give it a listen or read the transcript.

Freakonomics:  Do You Need Closure

Or, you could just read the following where I summarize the Zeigarnik Effect, its importance, and then - shocker - bring it to life with some personal stories.

Zeigarnik Effect Explained
It's quite basic and boils down to how the brain deals with complete vs. incomplete tasks.  A pioneering, although still controversial, study in the early 20th century by Bluma Zeigarnik demonstrated a person's mind "clears out" processing space for new things when tasks are finished.  The brain holds in short-term memory things that aren't finished, and releases (forgets) others when it knows something's done.

The podcast - and I couldn't agree more upon further reflection - connects this to closure.  We all know that word, but now it makes more sense why it's so important, and why bad things happen to your brain when you don't "finish" something.

To illustrate, I will traverse from the sublime (normal life) to the ridiculous (my life).

Some Classic Examples
  • Phone Number
    • This is the Zeigarnik Effect at its most basic.  One can remember a new, important phone number for quite a length of time, until immediately after the call to that number is completed.  Try to remember that phone number - assuming it has no further use to you - a few weeks later.  You almost certainly won't be able to.

  • Class Material, Post-Test
    • We've all been there, done that:  You cram or even diligently study for a major exam, and do well, or well enough.  But if you're like me and many others, your knowledge of calculus didn't age well.

  • Buying a Lotto Ticket
    • This is fun, because it illustrates how this dynamic can be used to extend pleasurable feelings about things that are not finished.  It also brought a smile to my face, because I know I absolutely buy Lotto tickets when the jackpot goes much beyond $500 million, knowing full well I will not win.  But oh those dreams of complete Diamond Certification until my losing ticket is revealed.

Some Personal Examples
If you watch this space, you know I make the occasional attempt at bettering myself, typically in terms of mental health.  Much of it has been an effort to reach closure about various "unfinished" items.

I always understood it was about moving on, but now I fully recognize the criticality.

  • OMG, He's Talking About His Mother
    • I won't belabor the point, but my mother, despite her many qualities, was never satisfied.  With herself, nor especially with the efforts of yours truly to make her so.  My formative years therefore generated a lot of unfinished tasks revolving around making her happy.  It was only the podcast that made me realize where my anxiety and drive to finish things originate.

  • Planning and Program Management
    • But thanks, Mom, because from this came my never-ending quest for complete control of basically anything in which I'm involved, because I never felt like I had much as a kid.  So I owe a lot of the success I've had in the realm of project management to her.  It's true.

  • TEECOM and Presidio Trust
    • Jeez, no, I'm not dredging this stuff up again, other than to say I now know why both failures ate at me for so long:  I never completed either task.

  • Relationships
    • I'll conclude with one of the more powerful messages from the podcast, especially for those in longer-term relationships.  This whole task-finished thing applies - big-time - to arguments and disagreements between a couple.  Left to fester unresolved, the troublesome topic never really leaves the brain, and therefore remains in memory.  You know, in the resentment compartment.  So I guess that cliché don't go to bed angry has some basis in fact.

The End
The podcast, and thinking/talking about it later, brought me closure on closure. 

And that pun seems like a good way to kick off 2024.


Because who doesn't want to smile on New Year's Day?

For the record, this was from the very fun Best in Show exhibit I attended at the Killer Fotografiska last week in Manhattan.

Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


Featuring Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and to kick this year off with a singular and epic guitar roar, here is my collection of the 34 best songs from Boomer/Gen X fave AC/DC, followed by its track listing. 


Paging Bob Scarf:  Am I missing anything?

About Dean Clough