What I learned last week (#73)

Drawing of Vivian

Quote I enjoyed:

A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes.”

Wade Boggs

Book excerpt I was thinking about:

“Martin Luther King was asked how, as a pacifist, he could be an admirer of Air Force General Daniel “Chappie” James, then the nation’s highest-ranking black officer. Dr. King replied, “I judge people by their own principles—not by my own.”” (Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People)

What is ice swimming?

It all started out as a half-joke deep in the winter of 2014. Race director Phil White, then in his mid-60s, posted a photo of himself on Facebook standing on the ice of Lake Memphremagog with a three-foot circular saw and the now-infamous phrase “Anybody want to go for a swim?” Then Darren Miller, a marathon swimmer and race organizer in Pittsburgh, saw the post and called to ask, “Are you serious?” One year later, 40 hardy swimmers turned up for the first event, and over the next half decade participation doubled with little obvious reward at stake.

While it takes about 30 minutes for hypothermia to set in, you can feel sluggish and winded far faster. To avoid complications, the Winter Swim Festival—where the water temperature is 31—sets the time limit for its longest events at four minutes. But that hasn’t stopped people from going longer elsewhere around the globe. This year’s Winter Swimming World Championships, in Bled, Slovenia, hosted more than 1,000 swimmers from 36 countries and included a one-kilometer (or 1,093-yard) race that took people between 18 and 34 minutes to complete. And as in any sport, there are extremists pushing things even further by completing ice miles, which are about 50 percent longer.

Water that cold doesn’t even register as cold. It’s a not entirely unwelcome prickly sensation, if you think about it. Which I wasn’t really doing, because I was too busy counting my strokes, making sure I traveled far enough to earn the privilege of swimming in water about 10 degrees colder. I came out of the surf after three minutes (about six times longer than I needed), my skin on fire from the cold, my face so stiff I was slurring my words, and I felt it. That thing nobody can pin down. This thrilling, exhilarating, total-body, all-encompassing feeling. All I could think was I get it. I went back the next week.


Encouraging a culture of written communication:

One of the things I enjoy most about my current work is that we follow these rules to the letter. Writing is a great way to clarify thinking and having a culture where you are encouraged and expected to be writing a lot makes our interactions more potent and effective.

The rule of thumb is to prefer asynchronous communication as much as possible, but don’t become too pedantic about it when you notice it starts to break down. It’s better to get on a few video calls and push for more async if you feel it’s appropriate than thinking black-and-white and sketching video calls as completely evil.

If you are changing a configuration option on production, considering to do a database migration, or just noticed something interesting in the performance graphs… post it to the chat. When you are making critical changes, this has the benefit of making the action deliberate. Just like the Japanese train conductors who deliberately point at whatever they are checking, you’re much less likely to make mistake that way. If you’re uncertain about something, or investigated something of interest, but didn’t quite get to the bottom of it… share it in the chat. It gives others a chance to chime in and it builds trust. Posting in public channels can be daunting, if you have to mention you don’t know, or that something might be going wrong, or you think you may have caused an issue but aren’t sure. Encouraging everyone to do this regularly builds up both the team’s level of psychological safety and people’s courage to be vulnerable.


50 principles useful for understanding and making decisions:

I enjoyed this list, worth skimming. Here are some of my favorites of the moment:

Opportunity Cost: By reading this tweet, you are choosing not to read something else. Everything we do is like this. Doing one thing requires giving up another. Whenever you explicitly choose to do one thing, you implicitly choose not to do another thing.

Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available. People don’t want to look like they’re lazy, so they find extra tasks to tackle, even if they’re trivial. If you have six months to complete a project, it will take six months to complete. Set deadlines accordingly.

Hock Principle: Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.


New music to work to:

I recently heard Southern Shores and have been finding it a great accompaniment to work. From 2016:

Toronto production duo Southern Shores stepped up as one of Cascine Records’ earliest acts, helping establish the NYC label’s affinity for a dreamy, summery aesthetic with a pair of EPs at the turn of the decade. Four years since their latest release, they’ve recently resurfaced to unleash their debut album ‘Loja’ that continues to explore a shimmery, tropical, windswept groove for an ideal end-of-summer vibe.

New album coming from the looks of it, but have been enjoying this mix:

Mornings are the best:

I’ve started to wake up a little earlier and earlier this past week, and I was reminded of this post from last year. My favorite time of the day.

Remember: The perfect morning begins the night before.

Lastly, check out what we’re up to now.

Comments welcome!

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