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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.

Categories
Misc Work

How to stop taking things personally

I’ve had this little list next to my desk and stuck in my notebook for the last week and it has really come in handy. I’m susceptible to getting upset at things people say (or in my work, type), eagerly taking someone’s innocuous ping and blowing it up to a personal affront to myself and my family’s security or wellbeing. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens more often than it should.

Of course this is ridiculous and I’m not nearly as important as I think I am. Someone else’s irritation, rudeness or strange behavior is not likely to be about me. To use a shiny new word I recently learned, I am not the omphalos of the world, or even my own house.

Anyway, this is a handy tool for putting things in perspective in any work or personal dealings that start to get under your skin. Credit to Recomendo where I first found it.

How to stop taking things personally

  1. Realise that other people’s rudeness is not about you. It’s a reflection of their own issues.
  2. Ask yourself what else the comment might mean. For example, if someone doesn’t smile or say hello, they might just be shy.
  3. Take comments or criticism in a constructive way. Ask yourself if there’s any truth to it? What could you learn?
  4. Take a different perspective. Ask yourself how an unbiased outsider would see the situation.
  5. Realise that you cannot please everyone.
  6. Know that you are not defined by your mistakes or criticism.
  7. Realise that your self-worth depends on you, not what others say about you.
Categories
Work

A debug mindset

I came across this image (from a Julia Evans tweet) last night and I was thinking about it a lot today. Although it’s about software debugging it’s applicable to hard problems of any kind.

Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#35)

Nope, we’ve not settled yet: Most of the last week was spent partially connected, having no internet service at home yet (along with somewhat spotty plumping service). That’s made for lots of reading and traveling around local spots, which is mostly great despite being spiked with the frequent unnerving feeling of not being able to do something that requires a connection. It’s been a good lesson in accepting and appreciating reality instead of worrying about expectations…hard to do consistently.

Other proof of our settling is the fact that I’ve amassed the following set of Allen keys as a full-time builder of basic home furnishings.

But a few of the tools I’ve amassed from furniture boxes.

Quote I am thinking about:

“Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.”

Tony Robbins

Book excerpt(s) that I loved:
Here are a couple from last week’s read, Born Standing Up by Steve Martin.

At age eighteen, I had absolutely no gifts. I could not sing or dance, and the only acting I did was really just shouting. Thankfully, perseverance is a great substitute for talent.

I related to this to how I’ve been successful in certain areas of my life and career, which I think has been through sheer persistence in doing what I’m interested in rather than any given talent.

Consistent work enhanced my act. I learned a lesson: It was easy to be great. Every entertainer has a night when everything is clicking. These nights are accidental and statistical: Like lucky cards in poker, you can count on them occurring over time. What was hard was to be good, consistently good, night after night, no matter what the abominable circumstances.

The sheer amount of work (we talkin’ about practice) that Steve Martin did being a musician/magician/comedian prior to becoming known for it is both reassuring and intimidating. He spent years doing 2-3 shows a day when he was working, in every kind of condition imaginable. Talk about becoming bulletproof (an leaving a lot of lessons to learn from).

As I finished So Good They Can’t Ignore You and think more about my habits and attitudes towards what I do next in terms of work, the underlying ethos of consistent work, deliberate practice, and (as everyone from Seth Godin to Steven Pressfield writes about), being a professional and a craftsman are what I’m most reading and thinking about at the moment.


Purchase I’m most enjoying since moving: Having a place to write at in the morning, and having the Jarivs adjustable height desk, has had a big impact on my daily routine. Even though I have little structured time to work there (and no internet), having the space primed for standing and writing in quiet is something I didn’t have in our old home and am surprised how much I value it.


New music: The Circle Remains Unbroken by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, picked up from a reference in Born Standing Up, is, I learned, a heralded country blues (triple!!) album from the seventies and superb with morning coffee, evening dinners, and setting up life in another country.


Thing I learned about Scotland: St Andrews is more than a golf course. My wife took us all for a day trip last week and it was spectacular. The cooperative weather certainly played it’s part by providing full sun, but the combination of the bustling restaurants and shops, the castle, the beaches, the university (founded in 1413!) and the golf courses made for one of the most memorable outings since we’ve arrived.

The view of St Andrews castle from one of the beaches.