You know what you should do?

Years ago, I would often say, “you know what you should do?” followed by some suggestion. When I started reading various things in the, “having skin in the game,” vein, I realized how useless—annoying even—my suggestion were. (For example, to a café owner, “you know what you should have on the menu?” is not going to be useful.) Over time I came to understand that it’s only in areas where one has deep knowledge are suggestions going to have any chance of being useful. (Don’t confuse that with observations—”the door to your bathroom is broken,” is definitely useful to that café owner.) By paying close attention to when I heard myself say, “you know what you should do,” I slowly learned to keep such comments to myself.

Aside: I wedged in a new behavior, as a sort of software interrupt. When I feel the urge to say such things, instead I find a compliment, swap out that text, and then resume speaking. If you’ve ever heard me seemingly-randomly whip out a compliment—to a waiter, to a shop keeper, a manager—that’s often, (but not always,) what just happened.

Unfortunately, although I made great strides in reducing the advice-giving all I’ve actually done is narrowed the area where I give advice. In too many instances I’m still trying to exert my influence. Then when things invariably, (since it’s not my thing it’s someone else’s that I’m giving advice about,) don’t turn out as I wanted I get frustrated. Go figure.

Note to self: Continue to root out the urge to exert influence.

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Splintering of the Internet

What is new is the increased splintering in the non-China Internet: the U.S. model is still the default for most of the world, but the European Union and India are increasingly pursuing their own paths.

~ Ben Thompson from, https://stratechery.com/2020/india-jio-and-the-four-internets/

Sometimes my blog briefly turns into a technology blog—recall, this blog has a purpose; It’s a vehicle for my process of reflection. Boop! It’s a tech blog.

This terrifically clear overview of how the different Internets work together, and will be working together less in the future, is a must-read for anyone using the Internet. (Hint: That’s you.) We—ok, not me, but I bet you—don’t think about where exactly all the things we interact with are located. This article by Thompson will give you a basic picture. …literally, there’s like a crayon drawing at the end of it.

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Now the work begins

This is the lesser told story about the quest for elite accomplishment. It’s common to hear about the exciting initial phase where you’re terrible but motivated and therefore see quick returns. But so many people, like C. K., soon hit a plateau. They’re no longer bad. But they’re also not improving; stuck in a circle that doesn’t take them anywhere.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2015/09/07/how-louis-c-k-became-funny-and-why-it-matters/

But I’m still left with the question: How do I distinguish, putting in the effort, from, bashing myself on the rocks? Because I’ve got the work-ethic, put-in-the-effort, do-the-hard-work, thing down pat. What I don’t seem to have—in my opinion—is success. I’m certainly not enjoying life generally. It’s just long stretches of hating myself in the form of insanely hard work, with brief windows of relaxation.

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Scrutiny

Being asked to generate this kind of realistic solution requires letting go of the childlike fantasy in which one can have all upside and no downside. It requires really digging into an issue, developing a depth of understanding that goes beyond drive-by feedback. As the officer quoted above observed, by mandating that any critique be coupled with a counterproposal, Ike’s policy “made for more careful scrutiny and analysis.”

~ Brett McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/sunday-firesides-never-criticize-without-offering-an-alternative/

Not long ago I thought that this arrangement—requiring realistic solutions be provided when criticizing current ones—was unhealthy. I thought that it also led to people generally not speaking up when they saw a problem. But I now see that there are two different scenarios: raising issues and providing criticism.

“Always bring me problems,” is an important policy. It encourages people on a team to speak up when they see something they believe is a problem. The team then benefits from everyone’s perspectives, a culture of openness and honesty is created, and even when mistaken less-experienced people learn from their practice at assessment of problems. This is a different scenario than the one of criticism.

One of the hallmarks of constructive criticism is that it provide alternatives. In this scenario it is not sufficient to simply point out flaws or problems. To encourage deeper understanding each person must be challenged to find an alternate proposal. Doing so requires each person to understand the goal and the realities which constrain the possible courses of action. This type of constructive collaboration, where criticism is of the idea and not of the person, is where teams can really multiply the impact of the individuals’ efforts.

To put it as a spin on acting improvisation: Where improv instructs us to avoid, “no,” preferring, “yes, and….” Constructive criticism requires, “no, and….”

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The appropriate inner resource

If you encounter an attractive person, then self-restraint is the resource needed; if pain or weakness, then stamina; if verbal abuse, then patience. As time goes by and you build on the habit of matching the appropriate inner resource to each incident, you will not tend to get carried away by life’s appearances. You will stop feeling overwhelmed so much of the time.

~ Epictetus

Nom nom nom consumption

If wisdom was as simple to acquire as reading, we’d all be wealthy and happy. Others help you but they can’t do the work for you. Owning wisdom for oneself requires a discipline the promiscuous consumer of it does not share.

~ unattributed from, https://fs.blog/2020/07/thinking-for-oneself/

I’m often thinking about the distinction between “consumer” and “producer.” Each of us of course variously take on both roles in our myriad daily activities. But today I want to talk about this—it’s in the above quote—common mistake with the concept of a consumer: Reading does not destroy that which one reads! We are not consumers of media, (books, television, social media, etc..)

Yes, we can get into pragmatic word-play—and I’m pretty durn good at that. But that’s not where I’m going with this thought. I’m fully aware that there’s a softer definition of consumer which colloquially means what one does when aiming one’s retinas at a television. But we have other, and better, words for that. (Such digression being left for another day.) Rather, I want to be specific about the word consumer. Let’s please stop using it in contexts where destruction is in fact not happening. When it’s used specifically, then the word can do more work

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Performing with a safety net

When recording conversations for the Movers Mindset podcast the guests know I’m not going to edit what they say to change their meaning. They know I’m bringing journalistic integrity to the conversation. (I’m not doing strict journalism, but that feature of journalism is present.) I do my best to set up the correct space (physical, emotional and mental,) so that we can co-create the best conversation possible. I’m not digging for dirt, creating tension, nor trying to create any other saccharine artifice. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are performing for an audience. The final necessary piece to facilitating a great conversation is a safety net.

Each conversation… each performance is better if we can reach just a bit farther than we might normally be comfortable doing. That’s why I bring a safety net. I very clearly give the guest a safe word which they can incant at any time to take back what they’ve said.

I don’t include the guest in the post-production process. They’re not invited to review the material, or to give additional thoughts about what to keep or what to cut. In fact, the only people who have time to do that, are wanna-be cooks, who will only mess up the soup if I let them in my kitchen. Instead, I and my team do all the post-production difficult work which is in fact our responsibility. The guest already did the really hard work of being themselves on-mic.

I do also say, “take your time— silence is free and we can easily trim out 30 seconds of you thinking before you speak.” I’ve also a few other little coaching tidbits I share to prep them for being recorded. But it’s the safety net which makes them feel comfortable trying something they might otherwise hesitate about. Part of the magic of a great conversation is how it develops organically, and without the safety net most people dial their caution up a few notches to be safe. With a safety net, most people are delighted to take a leap to see what they can do.

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Context matters

Not only are others blind to the larger context but we are often blind to their context. Only by zooming out and looking at the situations through the eyes of multiple people, can you begin to acquire perspective. And perspective is the key to removing blind-spots.

From https://fs.blog/2011/12/situations-matter/

For example: Knowing who wrote something provides useful context. In this case, the piece has no attribution—which is silly since it’s a useful, concise summary.

One way in which everyone—I can think of exactly one person, whom I’ve personally spoken with, who is the exception to that “everyone”—leaves out important context is by not being clear where ideas have come from. Everyone speaks as if each idea is patently obvious; “the sky is blue,” doesn’t need context when humans on Earth are speaking. But when you start to pay attention, almost everything else does need context. Where in fact did I hear this idea? Why am I repeating it here, in this conversation? Does my personal experience and opinion, agree or disagree with this idea?

A few years ago, I started demarcating ideas with, “I think…,” when it’s an original composition of thought, and “it seems obvious that…,” when that is the case. (And I only spout the third sort of idea—the ones I got from others—when I can recall or track down where I got it.) This forces me to sort my ideas by their contexts. Certain, uncertain, likely, unlikely, etc.. The first thing that happened was I started spouting off random crap far less often. The second thing that happened was that I found, (and have subsequently made a habit of looking into,) a lot of ideas in my head that were of dubious veracity.

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