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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#65)

Quote that I loved:

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

Alice Walker

Ten stories you need right now:

https://www.sciencealert.com/here-are-10-good-news-stories-you-need-to-read-right-now


50 things to do:

Just some ideas between friends.


A great talk on self-renewal:

Hard not to just copy the entire talk here, it’s really good.

We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit. Boredom is the secret ailment of large-scale organizations. Someone said to me the other day “How can I be so bored when I’m so busy?” And I said “Let me count the ways.” Logan Pearsall Smith said that boredom can rise to the level of a mystical experience, and if that’s true I know some very busy middle level executives who are among the great mystics of all time.

Learn all your life. Learn from your failures. Learn from your successes, When you hit a spell of trouble, ask “What is it trying to teach me?” The lessons aren’t always happy ones, but they keep coming. It isn’t a bad idea to pause occasionally for an inward look. By midlife, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.

We learn from our jobs, from our friends and families. We learn by accepting the commitments of life, by playing the roles that life hands us (not necessarily the roles we would have chosen). We learn by growing older, by suffering, by loving, by bearing with the things we can’t change, by taking risks.

There will inevitably many who will find the current disruption a reason to venture out and do something new and scary. At least there is something good there to think about.


It’s normal to feel weird about this:

And so the drunken carousel of wildly-spinning emotions goes on, staffed by octopods, ridden by monkeys, narrated by a short-circuiting robot.

These are weird days, friends. It’d be weird if you weren’t weird about that.

I love Chuck Wendig.


Favorite book excerpt:

“What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here—and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.” (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird)

Writing, drawing, making, doing…the same rules apply. Go make a mess and leave it for awhile. It’s ok.


A gripping story to keep you occupied:

Forty five years ago, eight Soviet women climbers were pinned on top of a high mountain in the USSR in the worst storm in 25 years.

The presentation on this is super cool.

https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2020/01/sport/russian-climbers-peak-lenin-spt-intl


Art projects keep us sane:

Here’s what we did this week. Lots more to come.


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

Categories
Kids Parenting

Get a helmet

I got Sam this race car helmet from the gift shop at the Glasgow Museum of Transport recently (an awesome place to go by the way). Museum gift shops are a guilty pleasure, I always find something I want that’s usually overpriced, and the kids always seem to as well. However, this helmet was only £4! It must have been a mistake, as I’ve seen all manner of plastic items with much fewer parts priced three times as much, so I considered it a purchase worthy of the few hours of fun that we would have with it.

The thing is, Sam barely took it off once over the course of the next couple of days. I think I actually had to tell him that he couldn’t sleep while wearing it on the first night.

That £4 purchase has now given us days and days worth of fun.

But the best part of the helmet purchase is seeing how Sam behaves differently with it on. He’s a race car driver! A superhero! He’s invincible! He pretends that the visor gives him an extra shield to protect him against the sun (which is actually kind of true) and against Grandpa’s robot laser beams and careens about shouting and sliding with wild abandon.

Aside from the huge smiles that we all get and how much fun it is to play with Sam and his helmet, it’s gotten me thinking about the connection between the playing dress-up and pretending to be something versus actually being it. What’s the difference? We all start as pretenders and we all feel like fakes at first. What you wear (and how it fits) can make you feel invincible or invisible. You have to start somewhere.

One of the best pieces of advice I have been given was from a former mentor who would tell people that really wanted to switch what they were doing professionally (i.e. take on a new role doing different work than they are currently doing) to simply find a way to start doing the work now, regardless of whether they had permission. In other words, get a helmet and start pretending.

A £4 helmet gives Sam permission to be something that he might not think he is, but that’s exactly where the path to being a race car driver starts.

Categories
Misc

Books I read in 2019

Here’s my list of books for this year. I counted 21 for 2019, which definitely constitutes a great year of reading for me. I love reading and have been working hard on keeping my throughput high by putting aside books that I don’t enjoy without guilt, freely skipping through books if I feel like it, and not getting stuck on any one in particular. I’d like to keep increasing the number of books I read per year (or at least remain constant) and have plenty on the list to start off 2020.

Here is what I read in 2019 in roughly sequential order, descending from the most recent:

We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider

Great collection of stories and was surprised by the humor and impact of the writing.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

A legendary productivity system I had yet to understand until this year.

⭐️ What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murukami

One of my now all-time faves. Good for fans or running or just those who like a good memoir.

A Guide to the Good Life by William B Irvine

Deep Work by Cal Newport

What if instead we didn’t have to schedule deep thinking time, but instead had to schedule time to be distracted?

The Lessons of History by Will Durant

A short summary of world history. Really entertaining and educational read.

⭐️ Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

One of my now all-time faves. The journey and methods of an artist building their skills until they were the best in the world.

⭐️ So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

One of my now all-time faves. It’s all about deliberate practice.

Remote by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun

⭐️ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

One of my now all-time faves. Cannot recommend enough.

⭐️ Levels of the Game by John McPhee

One of my now all-time faves. Impossible to put down once you start.

Draft No. 4 by John McPhee

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Philips

Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

Will make you think about the tools and processes you use at work or for any project more intelligently.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman by Richard Feynman

Waking Up by Sam Harris

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

A book about writing that’s brimming with wisdom about life.

Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#48)

Book excerpt I loved:

“One other way I keep healthy is by taking a nap. I really nap a lot. Usually I get sleepy right after lunch, plop down on the sofa, and doze off. Thirty minutes later I come wide awake. As soon as I wake up, my body isn’t sluggish and my mind is totally clear. This is what they call in southern Europe a siesta. I think I learned this custom when I lived in Italy, but maybe I’m misremembering, since I’ve always loved taking naps. Anyway, I’m the type of person who, once he gets sleepy, can fall sound asleep anywhere. Definitely a good talent to have if you want to stay healthy, but the problem is I sometimes fall fast asleep in situations where I shouldn’t.”

Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Love this graphic and wrote about it here: A debug mindset.

from a Julia Evans tweet

A great tool for learning (to type!): Keybr.com. Many may think me strange for wanting to learn to touch-type properly, but so much of my work and interest relies on typing words on a screen it’s crazy that I can’t (like most) and I’ve decided that’s no going to cut it any longer. I’ve been doing 30-60 mins a day for just under two weeks now and it’s pretty amazing. It seemed super daunting and undoable at first but it’s been a remarkable experiment.

What Is Touch Typing?

Touch typing is the ability to use muscle memory to find keys fast, without using the sense of sight, and with all the available fingers, just like piano players do. It significantly improves typing speed and eliminates errors. Touch typing simply makes you more productive and it is a skill worth learning. However, many people engage in the bad habit of ‘hunt-and-peck’ typing, even those seasoned professionals with years and decades of computer experience. It is easy to understand, though, as touch typing requires dedicated practice to learn it well.


Quote I was thinking about:

We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.

Carlos Castaneda

On that note, I also wrote about a refreshing change.


Article I enjoyed: The misconception fo the wild. Cool to learn about the shift of focus for the forestry service and how they view the public’s relationship to the land.

The people of the Forest Service do this work not just because of a spiritual connection with nature, but because our world is burning. To begin to confront the impending end of the natural world, we have to redefine our relationship with land — and understand that it does not only exist for our own needs.

Longreads has great excerpts for this one. Worth a read.


Check out what we’re up to now.

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Moving to Scotland Work

A refreshing change

As part of our recent move to Scotland, I resigned from Microsoft after 13 years of being at the company and I recently started new work as a support engineer (aka Happiness Engineer) with a company called Automattic, a company that’s so different it’s hard to see a resemblance past the fact that they are both “tech companies”. I didn’t leave for any single grievance with my prior employer, it was for my own reasons. That’s mostly true.