What I learned last week (#22)

Learned last week: The right to repair, the limitations of maps, and doing something kind for yourself.

The right to repair movement: I wasn’t tracking this until recently, but Right to Repair is a National Issue.

All that unfixable stuff doesn’t disappear when we are forced to replace it. It piles up. Electronic waste is the fastest growing part of our waste stream. It is often toxic and poses grave health risks. The increase in this kind of waste is fed both by the growing number of products with electronics in them and the shrinking lifespan of those products. A 2015 study found that “the proportion of all units sold to replace a defective appliance grew from 3.5% in 2004 to 8.3% in 2012, in what [researchers] deemed a ‘remarkable’ increase.”

I love the idea of making our devices serviceable, up-gradable and longer-lasting. I wonder if we’ll look back at the last decade or so as an era of lazy design, manufacturing and business practices as a result.

New blog that I’m reading: I heard about Shane Parrish and the Farnam Street blog (https://fs.blog) from a recent Making Sense podcast and it’s like discovering Wait But Why all over again, I can’t stop reading it. One idea/model that caught my attention was Understanding the Limitations of Maps.

Bill Bryson explains in A Short History of Nearly Everything, “such are the distances, in fact, that it isn’t possible, in any practical terms, to draw the solar system to scale. … On a diagram of the solar system to scale, with the Earth reduced to about the diameter of a pea, Jupiter would be over a thousand feet away, and Pluto would be a mile and half distant (and about the size of a bacterium, so you wouldn’t be able to see it anyway).”

Maps are furthermore a single visual perspective chosen because you believe it the best one for what you are trying to communicate. This perspective is both literal — what I actually see from my eyes, and figurative — the bias that guides the choices I make

Favorite book excerpt of last week:

“…having the intention to meditate is itself a meditation. This practice encourages you to arise an intention to do something kind and beneficial for yourself daily, and over time, that self-directed kindness becomes a valuable mental habit.”

from Chade-Meng “Meng” Tan’s section titled Three Tips from a Google Engineer in Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Quote I’m pondering:

“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”

Paul Coelho

New music I’m listening too while working: GoGo Penguin – A Humdrum Star. Artist info below.

GoGo Penguin are a band from Manchester, UK, featuring pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka, and drummer Rob Turner. The band’s music features break-beats, minimalist piano melodies, powerful basslines, drums inspired from electronica and anthemic riffs. They compose and perform as a unit. Their music incorporates elements of electronica, trip-hop, jazz, rock and classical music.

How to help someone new (and also help yourself)

Helping new team members is one of the many things omitted from every job description. Here’s a few different ways to think about increasing empathy towards new team members and being more useful.

Much has been written about how important hiring is to a team and organization. Indeed, getting the right people into the right roles is probably the most important thing any team can do. But a close second is getting those new people into the mix, feeling welcomed and working effectively (also known as on-boarding). This second step is where a lot of teams struggle.

Sure, some new hires come in to their new role with a nice welcome email waiting, a package of team merchandise and helpful materials at their desk, and perhaps even a suggested 30-60-90 day plan for getting up to speed. But even if that’s done (and that’s a big if), it’s likely that the expectations and plans for the team to help them on-board have not been discussed at any length. As a result of this and many other factors, most people don’t prioritize enough time to help new hires, and assume that they will ask if they need something or that they are “drinking from the fire hose” and that it’s best to not overwhelm them at the start. This is a shame.

Helping new team members is one of the many things omitted from every job description. Here’s a few different ways to think about increasing empathy towards new team members and being more useful.

Act like you are in the middle of nowhere…

Have you noticed how the social norms for interacting with people when you are on a city sidewalk are totally different than when you are on a mountain trail? The expectation in the city is that it’s not rude to pay little attention to each other, and you are justified to not make eye contact or at most give a little smile or hello. But, if you are on a trail in the mountains and you encounter other hikers, it’s generally a rare occurrence and the expectation is reversed. The norm is to say hi, and more than likely you will be inclined (or approached) to chat about your dog, how’s it looking up ahead, or where you are from.

I think we often default to treating new team members like we’re passing on a city sidewalk, and they probably feel like they are out in the mountains, expecting the next person they see will make time to talk about what it’s like up ahead. Act like you are on the mountain with them.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

Fred Rogers

Always give before asking or being asked…

Come bearing gifts. New team members don’t know what they need to know. Telling them you are “here to help” or to “let me know what I can do to help you once you get settled in” is not actually helpful. What is helpful is to put together a list of things you wished you knew when you started, introductions to other people that you think would be useful for them to know, or simply inviting them to lunch.

Be careful with “What do you need help with?”. That sounds helpful but it puts the onus on them. Instead, come to them with something they didn’t ask for that you think they might need. Doing some prep work for them is an easy way to build trust and it has very little downside (you needed to organize those notes anyway!).

Help them write their own stories…

With any new acquaintance there are a lot things you won’t know, which equals a lot of blanks to be filled in. Resist the urge to make up stories to fill these blanks. They are going to make mistakes, ask questions you thought were obvious, and also do a lot of things better than you. It’s going to be tempting to tell yourself stories that start with “They should be doing this…” or “They shouldn’t of done that…”. Anytime you recognize that coming to the surface, try to change the narrative.

The story that you want to write should be one that is about helping them by being generous and useful. The story about offering your expertise on a new issue or partnering with them to start a new project. The one where you improved your work because of something you learned from them. Change the framing from “They should do this…” to “I can help by…”.

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.”

Napoleon Hill

Welcoming a new team member is something to celebrate and enjoy, and on-boarding them should be a serious commitment for everyone on the team. Helping them succeed helps everyone, including yourself.

What I Learned Last Week (#6)

This week: drawing tips, crazy 2018 facts, and good advice from smart people.

  • Everything that Anne Lamott has learned: I’ve been reading Bird by Bird recently (it’s great) and heard about this list she did of everything she had learned to date (apparently thinking about her grandson). I copied a bit below but the full post can be found here.

  • A new inspiration for drawing practice: I’m starting up a habit of drawing regularly (like writing) and my friend recommended Gris and Norm’s Tuesday Tips. Check out their tumblr and Instagram, very cool. I’m going to follow their weekly tips for a few months and see where it goes. I started on Saturday.

  • A good reminder about your responsibility and owning your story: This video from The Fresh Prince is great. “Fault and responsibility do not go together”.
    A good quote: “Whatever you are, be a good one.”– Abraham Lincoln
    There is great pride, quality and art to be found in all occupations.

I started this blog…

Let’s start at the beginning.

I started this blog because I enjoy writing about and sharing ideas. I started it not because I presume to have a wealth of original things to say, but because I am constantly learning new things that are useful to me in the context of my life and there’s something about documenting and rehashing those things  that’s helping them to stick.

I started this blog because I want to be a better writer and the only way to get better at something is to DO IT.

I also started this blog because my wife and I are moving with our two kiddos (age 2 and 5) to another country and I we’ll have a hell of a lot to talk about over the coming year that, at a minimum, will be cool to document and just maybe there will be some things that will also be useful to others. I started this blog to rope my wife and kiddos into contributing to a creative project with me and seeing what happens as a result.

I started this blog and now we write!