What I learned last week (#111)

Watercolor painting of our field where we walk at sunset.

Quote I enjoyed thinking about:

There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.

Thomas Sowell

How to answer questions in a helpful way:

As outlined in the below article, the most important step in delivering a good answer is making sure you understand the question fully and what prompted it. Doing this will also help with understanding what the questioner knows already, which is the second most important thing to delivering a good answer.

Often beginners don’t ask clear questions, or ask questions that don’t have the necessary information to answer the questions. Here are some strategies you can use to help them clarify.

-Rephrase a more specific question back at them (“Are you asking X?”) -Ask them for more specific information they didn’t provide (“are you using IPv6?”) -Ask what prompted their question. For example, sometimes people come into my team’s channel with questions about how our service discovery works. Usually this is because they’re trying to set up/reconfigure a service. In that case it’s helpful to ask “which service are you working with? Can I see the pull request you’re working on?”

Read How to answer questions in a helpful way from jvns.ca

Book excerpt I was thinking about:

“I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.” (Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)

I try to prioritize the big rocks first but often fail.

Another book excerpt about noticing things and taking notes, both of which I think are under-practiced and under-appreciated:

“The first step of emotional psychitecture is to keep a log in the form of a notepad or a smartphone app. Try to take a note of every undesirable emotion you notice – anything from minor annoyance to severe anxiety. The act of keeping a log should cause you to notice many more of these emotions than you normally would. Every time you log an emotion, take a note of the situation which triggered it, and if possible, the chain of thoughts which immediately preceded it.” (Designing the Mind, Designing the Mind.The Principles of Psychitecture)

I try to make a habit of noticing things but am still a beginner.

The beach bum who beat Wall Street:

I like this profile as an example of someone that paid their dues and really put in the work. It also taught me a bit about the whole scenario of shorts/shorting stocks which I don’t fully get still (and I’m ok with that 😃).

There was a steep learning curve. “I remember making $60,000 one day and not being aware that my puts expired the next day,” he says. “And the next day it was all gone.”

Read The Beach Bum Who Beat Wall Street and Made Millions on GameStop from theringer.com

Pointing at things and then falling in love:

“When you write,” says Steven Pinker, “you should pretend that you, the writer, see something in the world that’s interesting, that you are directing the attention of your reader to that thing in the world, and that you are doing so by means of conversation.”

“Which sounds obvious,” says Burkeman, “except that it makes immediately clear how many writers are doing something else.”

“The reader wants to see,” Burkeman says, “your job is to do the pointing.”

It is the same for blogging, says Robin Rendle: “blogging is pointing at things and falling in love.” (I like his ordering: not falling in love and then pointing, but pointing and then falling in love. Loving something by paying attention to it.)

Read Pointing at things from austinkleon.com

Put energy towards organizing and maintaining ideas:

As I think about organizing my work and writing better this is timely. To use the same phrase as the author below does, my habits are still embryonic in many ways, but they work very well for tracking and learning new things as it pertains to helping people build and run websites (my work). I’ve come a long way in two years by trying to maintain a system of storing ideas and things I’ve learned as described here.

If you’re staring at a blank page, you’re doing it wrong. This deserves a longer treatment, but here’s the short version: consider shifting some of the energy you spend on writing away from the creation of finished products (articles, short stories, whatever) and onto the ongoing maintenance of some kind of system for storing and fleshing out your ideas. Sitting down to write an article or story shouldn’t be the beginning of a process, in which you have to decide what to write about, then go do research, think of things to say, etcetera. That’s the arduous path. The easier one is to keep a constantly expanding storehouse of notes on what you’re reading and conversations you’re having, observations on life, shower thoughts, and so on. That way, sitting down to write an article is just the end stage of the process, a matter of bringing together various insights, facts and quotes you’ve been collecting and cross-fertilizing for months.

The hardcore way to do this is to create a “Zettelkasten” system, as outlined by Sönke Ahrens in his book How to Take Smart Notes (which is worth reading even if you don’t decide to implement the whole thing). My version of this approach is still embryonic. But already it’s clear that as it reaches a critical mass, it begins, in an almost magical fashion, to generate its “own” ideas, almost as if it were a human collaborator. At the very least, start keeping an ideas file, and carry a notebook wherever you go. Writing can be hard, but there’s no need to make matters worse by starting each project from scratch.

Read How to make writing less hard from oliverburkeman.com

Climate change and the resulting impact on…architecture:

This is so cool. I’m all for seeing us adopt the spirit of this design into our homes and our everyday living.

Read Gorgeous Floating Research Station Wins the 2020 Grand Prix Award on mymodernmet.com

Other things I was reminded of, or thankful for, last week:

  • After a week of no running due to snow and ice, I was finally able to get out and go!
  • The light felt different this week – there was more of it, it came at a different angle, it gave more warmth that I remembered it could. Maybe it was just the difference between the last few weeks of darkness and cold that I was noticing. Spring is hopefully not far off. 🌅
  • Sam and his damn hair and feet man. I feel like he is a Seasame Street character sometimes. 🐦
Sam wagging his hair in the air back-and-forth. Animated GIF.
  • Started watching Fargo the series (so good), reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with my 7 year-old daughter (so strange), and re-watched Soul again (funny and touching, as Pixar seems to do).
  • Art studio for this week was a good one. Sam was dedicated for the whole time (we even got glitter and glue into a couple of his pieces) and I switched back-and-forth between a figure drawing and a painting.

Last but not least, check out what I’m up to now.

2 responses

  1. Thabo Tswana Avatar
    Thabo Tswana

    >I like this profile as an example of someone that paid their dues and really put in the work.

    He really deserves it. It’s amazing the sacrifices he made. He truly made his own luck!

    Although I wouldn’t try this at home 🙂

    1. Haha, seriously! Losing or making that much money in a day…crazy.

Comments welcome!

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