Naive passion, which promotes work done in ignorance of obstacles, becomes — with courage — informed passion, which promotes work done in full acceptance of those obstacles.” (David Bayles, Ted Orland, Art & Fear)
We are all collection of ideas:
“I realized that I could lose myself in a character. I could live in a character. It was a choice. And when I finished with that, I took a month to remember who I was. ‘What do I believe? What are my politics? What do I like and dislike?’ It took me a while, and I was depressed going back into my concerns and my politics. But there was a shift that had already happened. And the shift was, ‘Wait a second. If I can put Jim Carrey aside for four months, who is Jim Carrey? Who the hell is that?’ … I know now he does not really exist. He’s ideas. … Jim Carrey was an idea my parents gave me. Irish-Scottish-French was an idea I was given. Canadian was an idea that I was given. I had a hockey team and a religion and all of these things that cobble together into this kind of Frankenstein monster, this representation. It’s like an avatar. These are all the things I am. You are not an actor, or a lawyer. No one is a lawyer. There are lawyers, law is practiced, but no one is a lawyer. There is no one, in fact, there.
Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.
Theodore Isaac Rubin
Tools and gear for the distributed:
Lots of good stuff (published by the company I work for) from folks that have been working in a fully-distributed fashion for years.
Also very-related and useful is this summary for headsets and advice for online meetings.
One heterodox recommendation I have for audio and video calls when you’re working in a distributed fashion is not to mute, if you can help it. When you’re speaking to a muted room, it’s eerie and unnatural — you feel alone even if you can see other people’s faces.
Approaching your computer time (or phone time) intentionally:
A good reminder, because this topic always needs reminding.
Ultimately this is about you. You need to approach your computer, and other devices, as a tool for accomplishing a specific job, then be intentional about using it for that job. It’s a skill, and learning it takes time.
What if aliens visited in the midst of coronavirus?
A book excerpt i enjoyed:
“Work hard, work passionately, but apply your most precious asset-time-to what is most meaningful to you. What are you willing to do for the rest of your life? does not mean, literally, what will you do for the rest of your life? That question would be absurd, given the inevitability of change. No, what the question really asks is, if your life were to end suddenly and unexpectedly tomorrow, would you be able to say you’ve been doing what you truly care about today? What would you be willing to do for the rest of your life? What would it take to do it right now?” (Randy Komisar, The Monk and the Riddle)
Some words of wisdom to ponder:
From a recent Recomendo newsletter, these have stuck with me.
“If all you did was just looked for things to appreciate, you would live a joyously spectacular life.” ― Esther Abraham Hicks
“Let go or be dragged.” — Zen Proverb
“Be messy and complicated and afraid and show up anyways.” — Glennon Doyle Melton
Giving thanks travels well: Celebrating Thanksgiving outside of the US is a bit different. Thanksgiving travels well, even if your neighbours don’t have the Thursday off to drink and eat all day. It’s a holiday about gratitude, which everyone can get behind. I was fortunate to spend it with great people this year. I’m also grateful for all the sources of inspiration this year, such as Austin Kleon, Cal Newport, Haruki Murukami, John McPhee, Tyler Cowen, Shane Parrish, Seth Godin, Sam Harris, Ben Franklin, Jason Fried, Steve Martin, Tim Ferriss, and Paulo Cohelo…to name a few.
Book excerpt I was thinking about last week:
“What veteran artists share in common is that they have learned how to get on with their work. Simply put, artists learn how to proceed, or they don’t. The individual recipe any artist finds for proceeding belongs to that artist alone — it’s non-transferable and of little use to others.” (David Bayles, Ted Orland, Art & Fear)
I love the first part. And, while I think there is an important point in the second part (you need to figure out things for yourself), I find the individual recipes of others an endless source of inspiration and of much use.
Another book excerpt that made me think about my current work and what I spend the most amount of my time doing (albeit as a novice at the moment):
“An untrained observer will see only physical labor and often get the idea that physical labor is mainly what the mechanic does. Actually the physical labor is the smallest and easiest part of what the mechanic does. By far the greatest part of his work is careful observation and precise thinking.” (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
I think a lot of us are like a mechanic in how we work, or at least it would be helpful to think of ourselves in that way.
What it’s like when a distributed company gets together: I missed “the grand meetup” this year but a recent Distibuted podcast covered this years’ get together in detail. I’m looking forward to it next year!
It can be especially difficult to foster a company culture when workers aren’t co-located. It can’t be forced into existence in an employee handbook. The people who make up the company have to live it and embrace it.
The GM addresses this challenge in several ways, including a number of traditions that have developed over the years. For example, the all-company photo — this year, it included so many people that resident photographer (and Automattic’s first employee!) Donncha Ó Caoimh had to take it from a roof overlooking the crowd. Each event ends with a big party, where an all-Automattician band provides the soundtrack. Matt Mullenweg holds an hours-long Town Hall where anyone from across the company can ask the CEO a question directly. These highlights help to cultivate a sense of togetherness and shared values.
Don’t believe everything you read: I learned that previously boiled water isn’t really any different than fresh water, at least as far as my coffee is concerned.
I should make more time for poetry: Away messages made me think this.
Whenever an old poet — an old poet — dies, I can’t get too upset.
This is what they’ve been training for! I think. It’s go time!
Quote that I was thinking about:
People are most vociferously opposed to those forces they have to resist most fiercely in themselves.
Today, Texas Instruments still sells a dozen or so different calculator models intended for different kinds of students, ranging from the TI-73 and TI-73 Explorer for middle school classes to the TI-Nspire CX and TI-Nspire CX CAS ($149), an almost smartphone-like calculator with more processing power. But the most popular calculators, teachers tell me, include the TI-83 Plus ($94), launched in 1999; the TI-84 Plus ($118), launched in 2004; the very similar TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, also launched in 2004; and the TI-89 Titanium ($128).
“As a former teacher, I was appalled at the pricing, not only for educators but for the families who were forced to pay inflated prices for the damn things,” she told me. “The margin is incredible. I can’t verify the exact numbers, but the margin was like 85% 90%.” In comparison, PC manufacturers like HP, Lenovo, Dell, Asus, and Acer have profit margins below 3%. (Texas Instruments did not return a request for comment for this story.)
Tool I discovered: Droplr. Since starting work at Automattic I have been getting to know and love this tool for taking and sharing screenshots and screencasts. It uploads your files automatically for easy sharing, has a bunch of surprisingly great options, and it’s fast.
Documentary I enjoyed: The Game Changers. Since going vegetarian over a year ago, Kav and I have been getting into it more and more and have no desire to go back. This made me want to go farther.
Tumblr site that made me laugh: Catalog Living. There have been a few of these floating around the office. Too funny.
Gary threw down his napkin in disgust when he realized tonight would be yet another Giant Pear dinner.
This highly synchronous way of working would be understandable if it produced results, but there is more and more evidence that all the real-time communication overhead makes it hard to focus, drains employees’ mental resources, and generally makes it more difficult to make meaningful progress on work.
To see what we’re up to, check out our now page. The featured image is another one I colored in with some Tombows from my small notebook: