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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#59)

I’ve been listening to a lot of country music this week: Here are some new ones I’ve been enjoying, courtesy of Greg Vandy’s 2019 best albums list:

Daniel Norgren – Wooh Dang

Jake Xerxes Fussell – Out of Sight


No one can explain why airplanes stay in the air:

I had no idea that there were competing theories that attempt to explain how flying works. Even Einstein has had a go at it to no avail:

In 1917, on the basis of his theory, Einstein designed an airfoil that later came to be known as a cat’s-back wing because of its resemblance to the humped back of a stretching cat. He brought the design to aircraft manufacturer LVG (Luftverkehrsgesellschaft) in Berlin, which built a new flying machine around it. A test pilot reported that the craft waddled around in the air like “a pregnant duck.” Much later, in 1954, Einstein himself called his excursion into aeronautics a “youthful folly.” The individual who gave us radically new theories that penetrated both the smallest and the largest components of the universe nonetheless failed to make a positive contribution to the understanding of lift or to come up with a practical airfoil design.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/no-one-can-explain-why-planes-stay-in-the-air/


Favorite book excerpts this week:

Related to the article about flight above:

“…what exists within the area of “not knowing” is so much greater and more exciting than anything any one of us knows.” (Ray Dalio, Principles)

Potential explantation for why I don’t have a lot of close friendships at the moment 😉:

“You must have a good time meeting people if you expect them to have a good time meeting you.” (Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People)


How to not take things personally:


Cal Newport on the differentiation of YouTube as a platform for creatives:

YouTube, unlike its peers in the pantheon of social media giants, really can act like a platform. Though it still offers a purposefully addictive and creepily-surveilled user experience at YouTube.com (few rabbit holes run deeper than those excavated by their algorithmically-enhanced autoplay suggestions), the service also allows its videos to be embedded in third-party websites, enabling it to behave like an actual platform that can support a wide array of non-affiliated communities.

I was thinking about this the other day when visiting Tested.com, a technology-oriented web site, primarily built around original videos hosted on YouTube.

Tested.com is a cool site and an example of how smaller websites (even personal ones like this) can make a big impact by leveraging other platforms.


A reminder that we should treat our elders, and anyone else for that matter, well:


Five of the world’s weirdest auroras:

I had no idea that there were so many different types of nothing lights.


Handy list of icebreaker questions: From Rob Walker’s Art of Noticing newsletter.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1j4rj883slFvh1zZLGedqQFM0wqCrHlIEPE62K0LkKak/mobilebasic


Something I’m grateful for:

The way Kav always includes the kids in decision making. She’s always seemingly able to use deft judgement on how and when to include the kids in decisions large and small that we have to make that effect them. They learn by example.


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

How to help someone new (and also help yourself)

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.

Categories
What I learned last week

What I Learned Last Week (#6)

  • 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.