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.

What I learned last week (#21)

Learned last week: Many of us are late bloomers, mindfulness has pitfalls, and podcasts haven’t killed music (at least for me).

The later in life bloom: I feel like I’m just getting started now, and am about to reach 40. This week I came across The Art of Blooming Late and it definitely struck a chord. First, the set-up:

Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes magazine and author of Late Bloomers, argues that our culture’s obsession with early achievement dissuades us from pursuing our passions. Instead of having varied interests, studying widely, and taking our time—essentials for self-discovery—we’re encouraged to ace tests, become specialists right away, and pursue safe, stable, and lucrative careers. As a result, most of us end up choosing professional excellence over personal fulfillment, and often we lose ourselves in the process.

Then, my favorite part:

The authors of Dark Horse, Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas of Harvard’s School of Education, noticed the negative effects of early specialization in a study of people who came out of nowhere to achieve great success. “Despite feeling bored or frustrated, underutilized or overwhelmed,” the two write, “most dark horses reluctantly plodded along for years before finally coming to the realization that they were not living a fulfilling life.” Then, after a period of restless, quiet ambition, these seemingly average people—administrative assistants, engineers, IT managers—were able to transform their “cravings, predilections, and fascinations” into successful careers as master sommeliers, lifestyle entrepreneurs, and celebrated craftsmen.

I was also reminded this week that the legendary management author Peter Drucker wrote 35 books in his life, two-thirds of them after the age of 65

An interesting perspective on meditation as its popularity grows: The Problem with Mindfulness gives some perspective that mindfulness is a big term and certain aspects of practices put under this umbrella aren’t for everyone.

In a 2014 study, for example, Tim Lomas, a lecturer in positive psychology at the University of East London, and colleagues, found that a quarter of the 30 male meditators they interviewed had troubling episodes—some encountered hard-to-manage thoughts and feelings; some exacerbated their depression and anxiety; and some became psychotic. One guy, a beginner, tried out an advanced method of deconstructing the self. “I crashed, lying on the floor sobbing,” he said. “I had a really strong sense of impermanence without the context, without the positivity. The crushing experience of despair was very strong…You just feel like you don’t exist, you’re nothing. It’s nihilistic, pretty terrifying.” Some negative experiences were less intense. “Doing mindfulness, you don’t like yourself sometimes,” another man said. “You just become aware, ‘Actually, I’m a bit of a shit.’” Lomas and his colleagues concluded, “Our paper raises important issues around safeguarding those who practice meditation, both within therapeutic settings and in the community.”

I love music AND podcasts, but: Are podcasts killing music or just wasting our time? While many of my commutes these days are done with a podcast playing, I still often opt for music and sometimes even 10 mins of silence.

Quote that resonated with me last week: “Music is the space between the notes” – Claude Debussy

New music I’m listening to: Chemical Brothers – No Geography. Great album for doing work or a weekend afternoon with the kids.

What I Learned Last Week (#5)

This week: a new approach to resumes, the art of tidying up, some geography fun, and more.

  • A new way to approach resumes: I’m officially on the hunt for work now, either with a company located in Scotland (or, ideally, in a role where I can work from anywhere), so I’m brushing up my resume and noticed pics of this service making it’s way around LinkedIn. It looks awesome and I think I’ll be giving it a go: http://enhancv.com
  • Marie Kondo, the KonMari method, and the art of “tidying up”: I heard about this method of keeping only things that spark joy before, and as we prepare to downsize significantly and have to decide what to keep, I was trying to find out more. Looks like there is also a Netflix show on it now.
  • I’m liking and listening to Mick Jenkins more and more: I’ve been digging his album from last year, Pieces of a Man, recently and came across this interview. I especially like this portion:

I think that my sanity is the most important thing to my art, and I feel that my relationships are the most important thing to my sanity. My relationship with God, my relationship with my girlfriend, my relationships with the people that are close to me, you know? The people that keep me grounded. And if you focus on all of the many things that you could be focused on to advance your career, while you could be “successful”, I’ve watched people close to me suffer before I was successful, because of that, and that was something I was not going to do.

But like I say, it’s hard work. Because it’s such a self-centered thing, it’s easier to do the other shit, honestly… even though that shit’s hard too. But making sure that you foster, and cater to, and water those relationships, and keep them strong. I think that people are only able to keep you in check if they’re at a certain level with you. If that level starts to fade, then their ability to do that becomes less strong, and I need people to do that for me.

So like I say, you gotta water that, it’s a plant. You gotta keep it growing. It’s something to be spoken about, it’s definitely something that I do a lot of. It’s not an easy thing to break up the environment and put focus into growing your communication and your perspective with the people that are close to you. It takes a lot of work. 

  • Some wisdom I came across while looking back at my notes: I noted this passage from the interview with Soman Chainani in Tribe of Mentors, as it rang true for me:

Meditation has taught me that most of the ideas, opinions, rules, and fixed systems I have in my mind aren’t the real truth. They’re the residues of past experiences that I haven’t let go of. What I’ve learned is that my soul doesn’t speak in thoughts at all—it speaks in feelings, images, and clues.

I had about geography: This article, and particularly the story map, was

Soman Chainani
  • I had some misconceptions about geography: This article from National Geographic, in particular this story map, was eye-opening. Did you know Venice, Italy is as far north as Minneapellos, Minnesota? London is in parallel with Calgary? The map is worth checking out.

What I learned last week (#1)

  • I read Personal Kanban and started using Trello recently (thanks Marcus) and it’s really helped me to be more intentional and focused in my work and life. I have a Work Board and a Personal Board and also one for Project Red Lorry that my wife and I can both use. Is it working because it’s something new or because it’s a fundamental shift? Time will tell.
     
  • I need to try using Calm. Apparently it has a timer that will chime at certain intervals during unguided meditation sessions, which is my biggest gripe with unguided meditations on Headspace. Headspace is still my go-to (and apparently the reason Bill Gates is into meditation) but I’m curious to see how this works.
     
  • I finished The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawandeand thought it was an easy, engaging and thought-provoking read. Reflecting on it, one of the things that sticks with me is the chapter on The End of the Master Builder and the example of the “submittal schedule” in construction that serves as a checklist for communication tasks. This schedule checklist serves as framework for getting the experts together and figuring out problems together, agreeing on a path forward and documenting (“submitting”) what they decided. This got me thinking about similar frameworks in technology work and how important it is to be rigorously collaborative and decentralize decision making.
     
  • “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” – Louis L’Amour. This one was timely. My Dad just retired a couple weeks ago (and my Mom a few months before that) and this comes close to expressing how I relate to the idea of retirement