It’s an endless list of little things that you think you’ve forgotten, but you haven’t. You are quite literally built to sense an infinite amount of subtle bits of signal from your fellow humans. We were not built to live alone in caves; we were built to live together in them.

~ Rands from,

As the “online interaction” soared in recent years, I’ve gradually moved away from feeling grumpy about the quality of (for example), video calls online. Through that time I continued to enjoy in-person interaction as much as I ever did, and I had already spent years massively reducing the frequency of those. My feeling is that all the online interaction has expanded—not replaced, nor “attempted to replace” nor anything negative like that—my human interaction. I’ve had multiple conversations with people from other continents I’d never had been able to meet in person.

I’m not suggesting “Rands” has it wrong. No, he has it quite right. I’m simply pointing out that these sense-limited interactions can be an enormous positive addition when we don’t think of them as replacing normal human interactions.


On leadership

Conflicting opinions. Confusing data. Unexpected developments. Interpersonal conflict. We sometimes miss the bliss of the vision and despair. I’m not sure I can do this. You respond immediately, “It seems an impossible thing. Of course it’s hard, but we are going to do this together and I’ll explain how.”

~ Rands from,

There’s an array of skills that a leader has to master to be a good leader. Explaining things is one of those skills. Everyone who knows me even slightly, knows I’m great at explaining things. But as I try to lead more, I’m realizing that no, actually I’m a mediocre—possibly even a poor—explainer. I’ve recently realized that vastly too much of my explanations are about attempting to control other people’s reactions, (or their opinions,) to what I’m suggesting.

“Take this jacket. It’s lightweight, water proof and will keep you dry if we encounter rain. And rain is likely on the mountain we’re setting out to climb. I once went without such a jacket, and I wound up wet and miserable. The color also happens to be one you normally like, and it looks good. It’s got lots of pockets, which are all taped and the design of the flaps keeps water out.” (Alas, a decade ago, that explanation would have also unpacked what “taped” means, and why it’s a desirable feature.)

But that’s way too much information, all intended to convince the listener. It’s a sign of attempted consensus building. It’s all hedging. It’s all me sharing the reasons why you too would make the same decision—to bring this jacket—if you too had all the information and perspective that I have.

A real leader would say, “This is the correct jacket to take, considering the weather we are going to face when we climb that mountain.” Because then, if it turns out it is in fact not the correct jacket, then I’m on the hook for that error. Which is exactly where—on the hook that is—a true leader should be.


The real challenge

The challenge with on-boarding as with most investments in the humans at your company is proving a compelling and measurable return on that investment. Everyone agrees that on-boarding feels like a thing we should invest in, but isn’t the first priority building and selling a product?

~ Rands from,

The answer to that question, by the way, is, “No.”

Winning sports teams, and successful companies, focus on getting the small things right. Do this right. Do that right. Focus on doing the right thing now. The team’s season, and the company’s product, will take care of themselves.

Except for a leader. The team and the company need a leader with vision. It’s true that to build the best wall, you focus on laying this brick as best you can, and the result is the best wall. Except, someone had to determine where the wall was located. Someone had to determine what materials we’re building with. So we need the focus on doing things right, and we need a leader with vision.

The real challenge is to integrate the leadership vision with the team that’s doing things right.


Put it in full-screen mode all the time

Single-task by putting your life in full-screen mode. Imagine that everything you do — a work task, answering an email or message, washing a dish, reading an article — goes into full-screen mode, so that you don’t do or look at anything else. You just inhabit that task fully, and are fully present as you do it.

~ Leo Babauta from,

Whenever I perform a save or equivalent preservation action, I stop and spend a second determining the context that needs to be associated with this artifact. Every single artifact has a bit of context.

~ Rands, from

Another idea: Long ago I cleared the home screens of my devices. I wake my phone and the screen is empty; Just the background image.

This requires a bit of work initially to drag all the applications off that first screen. There’s also a trick with IOS where you can dock your phone, and use iTunes to insert an empty page in the front. Either way, on IOS, once you clear the home screen, it’s smart enough to NOT drop any new apps on your pristinely blank screen.

At first, I opened my phone, a lot, and stared at the blank screen, “wait, why did I…” AND THEN I CLOSED IT. Now I think, “what’s the weather tomorrow?” Wake phone. Swipe down w-e- … touch, read weather, hit home (back to clear), close phone.


We have precisely the same number

First and obviously, I have precisely the same number of minutes of the day that you have. Second, I am ruthless about spending my time appropriately. An individual practice above might only save me 10 seconds, but that’s 10 seconds multiplied by completing that action a thousand times in the next month. That’s around 160 minutes. That’s just under three hours of my life.

~ Rands from,

Sometimes Usually Rands can really wax loquatiously which is a terrible habit for one to indulge in because it wastes one’s readers’ most scarce resource: Time.

Why do you tolerate the thousand paper-cuts that waste your time each day?


Taste the soup

In your career, you’ve had a lot of soup. You’ve had tomato, chicken noodle, potato leek, and countless others. More importantly, you’ve had different variations of each soup. Big huge noodle chicken noodle. Some amazing type of cream on that tomato soup. This soup journey has taught you a lot about soup. Now, when presented with a new bowl of soup, the moment that counts is the first taste. You taste a bit and wonder, “What is going on with this soup?”

~ Rands from,

I don’t intentionally read the room when I’m interacting with a group. (That may very well be a great thing for managers to do. I am not a manager.)

In the last few years however, I have learned to shut up more, and listen more. I feel this has been a huge part of my success at . . . maybe “success” isn’t the right word.

Somewhere in my brain I have the ideas from an article that described interactions between people as boundary/border negotiations between countries; some have walls, some have armed forces, some are open, some are dividing waste-lands, and some have a frequent exchange of ideas. The people on either side of the border can be soft marshmallows (they shape easily to their borders), malleable (they can be shaped by sufficient outside force), etc. I digress.

By learning to listen, I feel people now put up less razor-wire-topped walls to protect their border with me. Less walls means more interaction, and that interaction has been a driver of my progress of self-improvement.

…and reading that linked article from Rands, now I see that it — reading the room, listening, being a person with an open border — is a widely useful skill.


The Guard

The Old Guard does not tell the story of when no one talked to each other for a week because of a disagreement over architecture. They don’t talk about those long 72 hours where if funding didn’t show up, they were done. They don’t tell these stories because they hurt to tell, they are shitty awful stories, but they are as important as the myths because they resulted in the construction of trust within the team. If we can get through that; we can get through anything.

~ Rands from,


An ideal conversation

Ideally, this is going to be an effective conversation. You have a topic you want to discuss that will likely result in a decision or two. You are confident in your version of the truth and you feel no matter what happens in this conversation, you’ll be able to adapt.

Problem is, there is another person in this conversation and from the moment they open their mouth, it’s no longer just about the topic, the conversation is now about how we are having it.

~ Rands from,


Dunbar’s number

Dunbar’s Number is a favorite blunt diagnosis for the pains that affect rapidly growing teams. The number, which is somewhere between 100 and 250 describes a point at which a group of people can no longer effectively maintain social connections in their respective heads. What was simple from a communication perspective becomes costly. What was a familiar family that you saw wandering the hallway becomes Stranger Town.

~ Rands from,

Also, Dunbar’s Number on Wikipedia.


Busy is an addiction

The issue, just like exercise, is that each time you build, the high becomes slightly harder to achieve. Part of your hormonal reward is based on the fact the thing you just built has never been built before. It’s novel and your brain commensurately rewards the new because it has learned after millions of years of evolution that doing so is collectively good for our species.

~ Rands from,