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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#64)

Book excerpt I enjoyed:

“Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life—and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree.” (Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)

We gotta keep running.


The story you tell yourself can change everything:

A person who is managing a customer-support team can tell herself that she’s overseeing people who answer customer questions. That’s one story.

Another story is that she manages people who genuinely love helping others; a group that exudes empathy and enjoys solving problems like detectives. This narrative drives her intentions and behaviors. When this is the story she believes about her work, it speaks to her identity and sharpens her work.

While there are environmental forces—such as leadership and workplace culture—that influence what we believe about ourselves, ultimately we are the stewards of our own stories.


This may be silver lining for (non-remote) workers:

More companies might fully embrace remote work after this current coronapocolypse. That’s a good thing.

“We’ll never probably be the same. People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.” Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of human resources, in BuzzFeed News


How should we think about the end:

We may not have arrived at the end, but we have certainly arrived at the thought of it. Medical, environmental, political, economic and military problems seem to have joined forces to remind us that the story of humanity is, at some point, going to draw to a close. That’s a very painful thought to have. It also raises a serious philosophical problem.


Beware the hand dryer:

This is validating what my Dad has been saying for years.

A 2012 analysis of 12 studies over four decades published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings concluded that “[f]rom a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers” and that they should be used in “locations in which hygiene is paramount, such as hospitals and clinics.” Though it could be argued that hygiene should be paramount in the restroom of, say, your neighborhood Panera Bread, too.

https://www.wired.com/story/wash-your-hands-but-beware-the-electric-hand-dryer


Learning more about shoelaces is a powerful distraction:

First, check out this very short TED talk on how to tie your shoes:

The strong form of the shoe knot. Sometimes a small advantage somewhere in life can yield tremendous advantage elsewhere. Brilliant.

Also related is Iann’s shoelace site:

https://www.fieggen.com/shoelace

And finally, here’s what the extra lace hole on your gym shoes is for:


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

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Art

The side of the mountain

Here is some inspiration for a little morning brush pen drawing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this metaphor of the side of the mountain versus the top over the past week.

“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.” (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

This book was not the easiest read, but it keeps coming back to mind for me. I think I could re-read it another two or three times and still find new things within.

Another excerpt in the same categorey and from the same book that gets to the point more succinctly:

“The past cannot remember the past. The future can’t generate the future. The cutting edge of this instant right here and now is always nothing less than the totality of everything there is.” (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

Finally, the only recording I’ve re-listened a number of times on the subject of recognizing that the most important thing is right now:

Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#60)

St Andrews is cold (and awesome):


The power of great feedback:

My notes: It’s all about working out your confusion. What does good look like, get in sync. What’s your experience? Describe it. Find out more about the other persons experience. Then if there’s a gap, figure it out and look at it together. No blame.

Worth a listen


Concierge car buying:

Then a guy called wanting a car. Carroll said he didn’t work at the dealership anymore. And the buyer said he didn’t care. Carroll decided then he would go solo. Not as the usual car “broker,” who tends to charge a direct fee to shoppers, but as a car “concierge” who planned to charge customers $0. He would work on commission.

https://eu.freep.com/story/money/cars/2020/01/23/fired-car-salesman-brian-carroll-dealership/4533934002/

Side note: I had no idea that USA Today has a trimmed down, super fast site special for the European Union which is intentionally bland and simple and fresh air compared to the usual bloat and ads on most news sites:

https://medium.com/usa-today-network/the-tech-behind-the-usa-today-networks-eu-experience-5631e99539fd)


The bad client/clueless boss trap:

There are two secrets to doing great work:

1. Persuade the client to let you do great work.
2. Get better clients.

They dance together every day.
You get better clients as soon as you act like the creator who deserves better clients.


The intelligence coup of the century:

For more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers and diplomats secret. The company, Crypto AG, got its first break with a contract to build code-making machines for U.S. troops during World War II. But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/national-security/cia-crypto-encryption-machines-espionage/


Are people getting worse at the price is right?

Americans are worse at The Price Is Right than they used to be. On the game show, which has been running since 1972, four contestants are asked to guess the price of consumer products, like washing machines, microwaves, or jumbo packs of paper towels. The person who gets closest to the actual price, without going over, gets to keep playing and the chance to win prizes like a new car. In the 1970s, the typical guess was about 8% below the actual price. People underestimate the price by more than 20% in the 2010s.

https://qz.com/1740513/why-are-people-getting-worse-at-the-price-is-right/


Favorite book excerpts of the week:

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.” (Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)

Running = life in this context I think.

“Many people think they’ve determined the next action when they get it down to “set meeting.” But that’s not the next action, because it’s not descriptive of physical behavior. How do you set a meeting? Well, it could be with a phone call or an e-mail, but to whom? Decide. If you don’t decide now, you’ll still have to decide at some other point, and what this process is designed to do is actually get you to finish the thinking exercise about this item. If you haven’t identified the next physical action required to kick-start it, there will be a psychological gap every time you think about it even vaguely. You’ll tend to resist noticing it, which leads to procrastination.” (David Allen, Getting Things Done)

Boiling things down to the physical behavior is annoying and hard but makes such a difference. I’m trying to get better at it.


What I’m thankful for this week:

  • Almost every time Sam sits down to go to the toilet he tells me: “Daddy, boys have willies, girls don’t have willies.”
  • Playing cribbage with my Dad in the evening, hadn’t done that in a long time and had forgotten the simple pleasure of playing cards.

Quote I was thinking about:

The way you tell your story to yourself matters.

Amy Cuddy

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

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#59)

I’ve been listening to a lot of country music this week: Here are some new ones I’ve been enjoying, courtesy of Greg Vandy’s 2019 best albums list:

Daniel Norgren – Wooh Dang

Jake Xerxes Fussell – Out of Sight


No one can explain why airplanes stay in the air:

I had no idea that there were competing theories that attempt to explain how flying works. Even Einstein has had a go at it to no avail:

In 1917, on the basis of his theory, Einstein designed an airfoil that later came to be known as a cat’s-back wing because of its resemblance to the humped back of a stretching cat. He brought the design to aircraft manufacturer LVG (Luftverkehrsgesellschaft) in Berlin, which built a new flying machine around it. A test pilot reported that the craft waddled around in the air like “a pregnant duck.” Much later, in 1954, Einstein himself called his excursion into aeronautics a “youthful folly.” The individual who gave us radically new theories that penetrated both the smallest and the largest components of the universe nonetheless failed to make a positive contribution to the understanding of lift or to come up with a practical airfoil design.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/no-one-can-explain-why-planes-stay-in-the-air/


Favorite book excerpts this week:

Related to the article about flight above:

“…what exists within the area of “not knowing” is so much greater and more exciting than anything any one of us knows.” (Ray Dalio, Principles)

Potential explantation for why I don’t have a lot of close friendships at the moment 😉:

“You must have a good time meeting people if you expect them to have a good time meeting you.” (Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People)


How to not take things personally:


Cal Newport on the differentiation of YouTube as a platform for creatives:

YouTube, unlike its peers in the pantheon of social media giants, really can act like a platform. Though it still offers a purposefully addictive and creepily-surveilled user experience at YouTube.com (few rabbit holes run deeper than those excavated by their algorithmically-enhanced autoplay suggestions), the service also allows its videos to be embedded in third-party websites, enabling it to behave like an actual platform that can support a wide array of non-affiliated communities.

I was thinking about this the other day when visiting Tested.com, a technology-oriented web site, primarily built around original videos hosted on YouTube.

Tested.com is a cool site and an example of how smaller websites (even personal ones like this) can make a big impact by leveraging other platforms.


A reminder that we should treat our elders, and anyone else for that matter, well:


Five of the world’s weirdest auroras:

I had no idea that there were so many different types of nothing lights.


Handy list of icebreaker questions: From Rob Walker’s Art of Noticing newsletter.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1j4rj883slFvh1zZLGedqQFM0wqCrHlIEPE62K0LkKak/mobilebasic


Something I’m grateful for:

The way Kav always includes the kids in decision making. She’s always seemingly able to use deft judgement on how and when to include the kids in decisions large and small that we have to make that effect them. They learn by example.


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

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Art Misc

Surrounded by smiles and good humor

Raw Spirit by Iain Banks is a book about Scotch, but there are so many anecdotes and side-stories sprinkled throughout, it’s better described as a book about driving, cars, friendships, getting older, music, war, politics, Scotland AND whisky.

This bit from the book came to mind today and stuck with me:

…when you drive an old car (and in some ways here, the older the better) you drive surrounded by smiles and good humour. In an old car, unless you drive like an utter imbecile, you can generally forget about road rage. People will grin when they see you, they smile, they stop and look and sometimes they wave, and if not they make a digital gesture, it’s a thumbs-up, not a finger.

Part of this may be that an old car is seen as less of a threat, less of a declared, fully-paid up competitor in the day-to-day competition for road space and the battle to reduce one’s own journey time. But part of it, I suppose, is a kind of veneration we feel for the old in general, a feeling that they deserve credit for the fact that they’ve made it to here through all the trials, challenges and vicissitudes that might have ended their existence earlier and so should be indulged and given peace in gentle retirement. (Arguably, nowadays, people feel this more towards old cars that’s they do to old people, which is sad, even shaming.)

Indeed, the fact that any of us have made it this far, let alone well into old age, is worth a hat tip. We’re here, on the third rock from the sun! It’s crazy if you think about it.

Everyone has suffered and everyone has their struggles, let’s try to at least surround ourselves with smiles and good humour when we see each other shall we?