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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#27)

Quote I most wanted to share:

The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying “I don’t know”, and being kind.

Charlie Kaufman

Favorite book excerpt from last week:

The most dangerous tradition we hold about work is that it must be serious and meaningless. We believe that we’re paid money to compensate us for work not worthwhile on its own. People who are paid the most are often the most confused, for they know in their hearts how little meaning there is in what they do, for others and for themselves. While money provides status, status doesn’t guarantee meaning. They’re paid well because of how poorly work compensates their souls.

From The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun

For a good laugh, make sure you read the replies: The long thread that accompanies this 20 things we’ve learned from TV tweet is magic.


An endless source of inspiration (and desktop wallpapers): NASA makes their entire media library publicly accessible and copyright free. Like Lego, NASA is in the upper-echelons of cool organizations.


A great explanation on color: As someone who is really into art and design (but doesn’t have a ton of technical training), this article on How to Not Suck at Color was a really useful and interesting read.

To really know what color is, we need to understand its ingredients. Every color breaks down into three fundamental attributes: hue, saturation, and value. You might recognize these characters from your favorite design app, though sometimes they’ll be referred to as HSB.


The behind-the-scenes story of NBA team branding: The story of How the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies Revived the NBA is an interesting read and includes a tidbit about team naming contests that raised my eyebrow.

Without the hype and critical praise that accompanied the Steven Spielberg’s film, it’s unlikely Raptors would have been a unanimous selection. Instead, we might have be cheering for the Toronto Huskies against the Warriors — prior to the NBA, the Huskies represented in the city in the Basketball Association of America in the 1940s. “The pop culture context made us predisposed to following that direction,” says Mayenknecht.

That April, The Star and radio station CFRB 1010 organized a team naming contest. Several dozen potential names were nominated, a list which included the Lakelanders, the Trilliums (Ontario’s official flower), and the Canadian Eh’s, but O’Grady claims that despite the ten names that were shortlisted, the franchise already knew which direction it was headed. “They were going to be the Raptors all along, [and the naming contest] was a smoke screen to let people believe they were part of the decision making process.” Even though Bitove and others were considering the possibility of naming the team the Toronto T-Rex, O’Grady says the franchise was driven by the notion that raptors, like birds of prey, travel in packs. “If Raptors barely registered, then that may have swayed Bitove a bit — ‘Let’s do another focus group’ — but those are all about sanity checks, to make sure not making colossal mistake,” he says.

Categories
Parenting

Good mornings

Mornings are my favorite part of the day, and I typically protect them fiercely, to the point where I have been reflecting on whether I’m being well disciplined (my intention) or overly rigid (definitely not my intention). I’ve learned the hard way that morning routines are made to be disrupted, especially with young children in the mix. Add in moving to another country, leaving work and selling all belongings, including the bed you sleep on, and the idea of holding tight to a morning routine seems like a perfect recipe for unhappiness. So yeah, I’ve been trying to take a softer approach as of late.

The week before last, I spent a rare Friday morning with Sam because Kav wasn’t feeling good. She usually gets up to watch the kids on work mornings (she’s the best) but this morning I had the rare sense that I ought to forgo my routine to help out. I made coffee (for me) and poured milk (for Sam) and put on some music (Damien Jurado in this case) and we sat on the couch in mostly silence, he on my lap, watching the birds in the trees out back. The only break in silence between us being when a new bird flew into view, Sam pointing and saying, “Daddy Nick that birdie go high!” or “Not sunny Dad, cloudy”.

Eventually, Sam and I started in on some important topics, like which one of the Paw Patrol was his favorite (Marshall), which was mine (Chase), and the same for his Mom (Rubble) and sister (Sky). Vivian came down after a while and joined us, and they both pretended I was a pillow instead of a person, and tried to find ways to “get comfortable” on me that involved poking, prodding and wrestling me as much as possible. Once that slowed I got up to make breakfast, only to have them quickly grab on to my legs and hold fast while I walked around the kitchen, pretending to be some type of growth that couldn’t be easily shaken off.

Later, Sam followed me upstairs into the shower (he would stand in the shower all day if you let him), and we sang a few songs and used our fingers to draw fruit on the foggy shower door until we were wrinkly. In time Kav was able to take over and I resumed my regularly scheduled programming and went to work.

Fast forward to the past week. I got a surprise visit from Vivian just after 6am while I was starting my workout, and I subsequently spent the morning in my garage doing pull-ups (and other exercises) while Vivian took notes on how many reps I did and then made the numbers into animals in between sets while I rested. I varied the number of reps in my sets so that we could get different numbers and make interesting animal number combos. Instead of 10 reps each time, I did 8, then 12, then 9, then 13.

When I did my push-up sets she joined in too, doing 3 or 4 push-ups alongside me. She thought it was funny how my nose touched the mat each time and cracked up, making me also laugh in mid-rep, which surprisingly added to the challenge and seemed like it made for a better work out. When I reached for my towel to wipe off the sweat from my brow she told me her friends at school get really sweaty and sometimes “they come in from recess with their hair soaking wet.” Burpees were her favorite. Both because of the name (“It sounds like buuuuurrrp”) and because it had to be done “fast” (her own conclusion after watching me for a few minutes). During my cool down she flipped to a blank page of my notebook and drew a horse, and then a fence, and then I drew a cowboy and a squirrel, and we made up a story about what they were all doing together and going to do together next.

Eventually I resumed my regularly scheduled programming and went to work.

With all of the craziness of moving to another country, resigning from a place I’ve worked for 13 years, saying goodbye to a place I’ve lived for 27 years, and doing all the usual stuff that comes with trying to be a good husband, father and son, I would expect that I might not only be more stressed, but also be letting more of the smaller moments in life go unnoticed, and I’m trying to not judge myself to harshly for this. However, quite the opposite has happened, and I’ve found that my appreciation for the magic of everyday moments has grown right along with the craziness increasing.

As life has gotten more fluid and less predictable, my approach to my routine, and my mornings, is softer and more malleable. I am finding a lot of magic in it all. I’ve thought about both of these mornings every day since, and I’m paying attention to the one I am having right now.

Categories
Moving to Scotland

Negative thoughts be gone!

The fear of the unknown and our crazy human brains can be stifling!

As I think about the kids, and the ‘imagined’ negative impact on them, I get a little frozen.  Frozen in those negative and sad thoughts, frozen in the fear that we are going to completely F them up and that they’ll be lonely, bullied, sad, angry and won’t fit in.

Breathe.  Get over those thoughts Mama!

Here’s the deal.  They are going to feel those emotions regardless of this move or not.  Its part of life to experience negative emotions.  Right now the kids are the HAPPIEST when they are with us, and the four of us keep each other feeling stable, loved, happy and we fit in.  So perhaps we just need to focus on the family unit, the love, the fun, the adventure together – so that they have that core stability and love?  So moving TOGETHER and staying solid together is more impactful for kids?  And that every other experience will provide them with other skills to navigate life positively in the future?

Cue negative thought.  Except if one of us dies.  Or worse, both of us die.

Oh then my thoughts on the kids happiness would be totally screwed.

Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#26)

Good way to think about apologies (and relating to others in general): I thought Seth Godin’s Defective apologies post was spot on and I think the model of Empathy -> Connection -> Trust is very simple and powerful.

Consider that an effective apology has a few elements to it:

1. You know what sort of apology you’re offering.

2. You share your story with the aggrieved as well as hearing their story, thus becoming human, and then taking the time to help them feel seen by you.

3. You engage with the person who was harmed and find out, beyond being seen, what would help them move forward, noting that it’s impossible to make complete amends.

Thinking about digital minimalism and parenting: I recently listened to a 10% happier podcast with Cal Newport (a lot of it was about his new book, Digital Minimalism). On a recommendation I also checked out his blog, which is fantastic, and this article on how The Arizona Cardinals Now Give Their Players Phone Breaks every 20-30 minutes during team events caught my eye.

Many concerned readers sent me this article, and with good reason. It’s an extreme case of a techno-philosophy that I facetiously call the kids these days mindset, in which parents, educators, bosses and (it now seems) coaches shrug their shoulders when confronted with the impacts of highly addictive technology on young people.

Yeah, we can’t just shrug…

Most coaches would never tolerate a habit that was clearly harming their players’ physical fitness, regardless of how popular it was in the general public. The same standards should hold for their players’ cognitive fitness.

The broader point here, however, is that these standards should also extend to less obvious applications of this mindset, such as when a teacher concedes to student demands to replace written book reports with YouTube videos, or a parent shrugs off a child’s Fortnite addiction.

Reinforcement for wanting to follow a creators path: Following the Cal Newport-tip above, I read this piece from the great Derek Sivers on How to change or build your career. In it he links to So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, which is going on my list along with Deep Work.

Looking for your passion, purpose, or calling is an example of the fixed mindset. You’re assuming that this is an inherent and unchanging thing inside of you, like trying to read your DNA or blood type. But you won’t find passion and purpose there, because that’s not where those feelings come from.

Passion and purpose are emotions that come after expertise and experience. The way to get them is to commit to the path of mastery, get great at something, and do great work.

A great career isn’t something you find — it’s something you earn when you’ve got rare and valuable skills to offer in return.

The new album from Flying Lotus is on point: This album has been my close companion for a bunch of work over the past week: Flying Lotus – Flamagra.
 

Favorite quote from the week:

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.

Herbert Spencer
Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#25)

The benefits of small teams: At Minecraft I’ve been working on a new features with a small team of 5 people (including me) and we’ve all noticed how we’ve been more effective and better organized in getting work done than any time in the last 9 months (when we were working as a team of 10). I recently learned that the military organizes this way as well, using fireteams. Teams of 4-6 seem to be the magic number by which people’s egos are able to coexist and individuals feel invested in the team instead of themselves.

A fireteam or fire team is a small military sub-subunit of infantry designed to optimise “bounding overwatch” and “fire and movement” tactical doctrine in combat. Depending on mission requirements, a typical fireteam consists of 4 or fewer members; an automatic rifleman, a grenadier (M203), a rifleman, and a designated team leader. The role of each fireteam leader is to ensure that the fireteam operates as a cohesive unit. Two or three fireteams are organised into a section or squad in co-ordinated operations, which is led by a squad leader.

Military theorists consider effective fireteams as essential for modern professional militaries as they serve as a primary group. Psychological studies by the United States Army have indicated that a soldier’s survivability and the willingness to fight is more heavily influenced by the desire to both protect and avoid failing to support other members of the fireteam than by abstract concepts or ideologies. Historically, nations with effective fireteam organisation have had a significantly better performance from their infantry units in combat than those limited to operations by traditionally larger units.

A Food Pyramid for Kids’ Media Consumption: I love the framework of this and think it makes a lot of sense. I want to create an infographic for it and hang it on the wall. 

The crazy ways that cars will change: The videos included in this article about how cars will change more in the next decade than they have in the past century are pretty cool. My daughter just turned 6, and she’ll be just at driving age when the year comes that they refer to most of this happening by (2030) .

Sun visors will become a thing of the past, with smart glass allowing us to control the amount of entering daylight at the touch of a button. The Mercedes F015 concept car’s doors even have extra screens that can function as windows or entertainment systems.

Many cars will be fitted with augmented-reality systems, which will superimpose computer-generated visualisations onto the windscreen or other suitable display areas, to ease the passenger’s nerves from relinquishing the wheel by showing what the car is about to do.

Favorite book excerpt:

Leaving some things undone is a necessary tradeoff for extraordinary results.

From The ONE Thing by Jay Papasan