Plenty to share this week. I got through more podcasts and articles this week than I have in a while. Good ones too.
Articles I Saved
A few themes emerged this week.
The first stemming from the end of The Obstacle is the Way, see below, where Tim Ferriss interviews Ryan Holiday about the book. That lead me to Ryan’s site, to his newsletter, and to the articles you see here.
The second I grouped as Workplace Culture. I don’t really know how to group these three articles, as there is so much in here I find interesting, about mindset and culture. They also stem from the article Forget Technical Debt. I subscribe to First Round’s newsletter, and every now and then a gem like this one appears. I have many saved links from this one article still to read.
And last, but not least, from Anecdotes monthly email newsletter a few articles on storytelling well worth a read.
Reading for Learning
Read to Lead: How to Digest Books Above Your “Level”
By Ryan Holiday
Reading to lead or learn requires that you treat your brain like the muscle that it is–lifting the subjects with the most tension and weight. For me, that means pushing ahead into subjects you’re not familiar with and wresting with them until you can–shying away from the “easy read”.
Great tips in here for anyone who reads to learn. I am definitely going to implement them.
The one I keep thinking about is the recommendation that you read the conclusion of the book first, or after the introduction. By knowing the ending, you can focus on the authors reasoning to get this.
You can focus on the why. You can concentrate on the proposition the author is putting forward, and why they have made the connections they have.
Reading Isn’t a Race: How Speed Reading and Spritz Completely Miss the Point
By Ryan Holiday
Reading is good. So reading faster must be better right?
Of course … not. I wouldn’t be sharing if the answer is that obvious.
As someone who can feel anxious at how much faster my Amazon Wishlist grows than my ability to read and finish a book, this is a timely reminder that the goal is not to complete all the books.
Ryan says it best here:
I like to remind myself that no matter how fast or how many books I’ll read in my life, I’ll never have or surpass a small branch public library. And this thought calms me. Who am I trying to beat? The only thing that matters is if you’re getting smarter and better.
The emphasis is mine.
Reply All? How About Reply Never: Radically Rethinking Email with Dan Ariely and Caroline Webb
Have you ever wistfully imagined all of your emails disappearing in a puff of smoke? Caroline Webb, CEO of Sevenshift, executive coach, and author of How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, recently joined Dan Ariely to discuss the all-too-common onslaught of email overload.
I used to feel the pressure for Inbox Zero myself. More so with my personal email than work email. I made a conscious decision earlier this year to let that idea go.
There are a couple of gems in this conversation. For example, indicating on your own emails whether a response is required or not. I think I am going to add that to my work emails.
Another is having a standard set of responses to use. Dan even goes so far as having a you tube video of him agreeing with you, or disagreeing with you. The sender gets to choose which he wants to watch.
But the one that is most impactful, and not new, is turning off your email. Shut down the notifications, and close down the program. Prioritise your work first, and the senders work second.
I go through periods at work of using the Pomodoro Technique to tackle this. I set myself a goal of doing one pomo of 25 minutes as the first thing I do when I get to my desk. This starts my day on a good footing, and generally it ends up more productive. In that first session I don’t check emails. That comes after.
What do you do to manage your email?
Forget Technical Debt — Here’s How to Build Technical Wealth
“We realized that what we were doing transcended clearing out old code, we were actually remodeling software the way you would remodel a house to make it last longer, run better, do more,” says Goulet. “It got me thinking about how companies have to invest in mending their code to get more productivity. Just like you have to put a new roof on a house to make it more valuable. It’s not sexy, but it’s vital, and too many people are doing it wrong.”
There is so much good stuff going on in this article I don’t even know where to start.
I guess first is that I love any work analogy that uses a house. I have heard a few, and they all work so well.
Second, making the most of what you have, and not getting so focused on the shiny new thing is sage advice. Looking after your own backyard is so important and often overlooked. I am intrigued that she runs a whole company off this one concept.
And last, I like how she thinks about her hiring practices, and who she is looking for. I like the acknowledgement that you need different personalities in different roles. This sounds so obvious. But it isn’t what you see in the workplace.
Engineers, Interruptibility, and Inception
By Andrea Goulet
For years, when I needed to get Scott’s attention, I’d use this question. I thought it was polite. I wanted to honor his time and not bother him if he was busy. At the same time, I was usually blocked. I tried not to disturb him needlessly. The answer could have well been “no” and my response would have been, “No worries. Get back to me when you can.” But it never happened that way. Instead, I got complete and utter frustration.
Project Management 101. If you interrupt a Developer, or anyone in deep thought, the impact is more significant than the 5 seconds it took you to ask and them to answer.
The Inception analogy is great. Again another example from this leader, Adrea Goulet, that inspires.
I want to use this at work as well.
It is a shame that I have only ever worked in open plan offices. Headphones are your best defense, but people still appear in your vision, and you can sense something going on around you.
I think I could be more productive taking a laptop to the Queensland State Library for 6 hours, than I would be in the office.
How We Use Daily Journals
By Nickie McCabe
One of the most important requirements we have for all team members is that he or she keep a daily journal. At the end of the day, each team member is asked to post a link to that day’s journal in our Retrospectives channel in Slack. The format of the journal is free form, and styles vary from journal to journal, but the goal is to document one’s perspective from the day, capture random thoughts, and put ideas in writing so they have a place to grow. Simply writing and reflecting often has personal benefits, but we’ve found the biggest benefits have come from sharing these journal entries with our whole team.
This appeals to me. If this is the culture being instilled from the top, then I want to work there. What a great idea.
The Role of Stories in Data Storytelling
By Shawn Callahan
Back then, I was unaware of the role stories play in the process of making sense of the data and communicating insights the analyst uncovers. But over the last 15 years, my work in business story techniques and my interest in conveying the results of data analysis have merged, and I now see a strong role for story work beyond just telling the story of the results
A great article linking storytelling to data analysis. I would expect this to be the point, but it is not really. Can you look at a graph and find a story to tell?
I also like the reference to finding a better story to overwrite the existing story. This intrigues me from a change management perspective. Can you find a better story to tell about your project or organisation?
Why Should We Care About Mystery Stories
Mystery in a story keeps the listener guessing and waiting to find out where this is going. A great way to think about it in this article.
Just Enough: A Simple Process for Providing the Right Amount of Evidence
When you give a presentation, your goal is to persuade your audience to accept your perspective, moving them to action by using proof points, or key facts, examples, or arguments that support your point of view. But, if you make the mistake of either having too many proof points or too few, your audience could go away unpersuaded, unmoved, and unimpressed with your skills as a presenter.
I am already using the ‘string’ analogy from this article. It helps me thinking about how each point supports the message, and the best order to put it in.
If you are presenting I recommend checking out Nancy Duarte’s work.
Podcasts I Heard
Revisionist History: Episode 08 – Blame Game
In the summer and fall of 2009, hundreds of Toyota owners came forward with an alarming allegation: Their cars were suddenly and uncontrollably accelerating. Toyota was forced to recall 10 million vehicles, pay a fine of more than $1 billion, and settle countless lawsuits. The consensus was that there was something badly wrong with the world’s most popular cars. Except that there wasn’t.
“Blame Game” looks under the hood at one of the strangest public hysterias in recent memory. What really happened in all those Camrys and Lexuses? And how did so many drivers come to misunderstand so profoundly what was happening to them behind the wheel? The answer touches on our increasingly fraught relationship to technology and the dishonesty and naiveté of many in the media.
Worth a listen. Immediate public outrage, and going with the first thing that comes to mind, is worrying. It reminds me of the quote or saying “if everyone is agreeing, no one is thinking.”
If I learnt one thing from this episode it is that brakes are stronger than engines.
I had wondered about that before. Never investigated it. Now I know.
If I am in this situation, I hope not, touch wood, I’ll remember to put my foot on the brake.
Invisibilia: Flip the Script
In this episode we look at situation where someone flips the script – does the opposite of what their natural instinct is, and in this way transforms a situation. Usually when someone is hostile to us, we are hostile right back. The psychological term is “complementarity.” But then in rare cases someone manages to be warm, and what happens as a result can be surprising. The episode starts with a story about a dinner party in DC, when an attempted robbery was foiled by… a glass of wine and some cheese. Then we travel across the pond, to Denmark, where police officers are attempting to combat the growing problem of Islamic radicalization with… love. And finally, we talk to a man who attempted to flip the script on one of our most basic animal functions: finding a mate.
There are two stories in here. The one from Denmark is powerful.
I like that they decided to ask some basic questions and take a different approach. Someone has to take the initiative, and here the Police did. Breaking the cycle that existed.
Treat people with respect, and you will get respect. Treat them like they are an enemy, and you will get an enemy.
HBR Ideacast: The Zappos Holacracy Experiment
I am interested in alternate management styles. We are wedded to the Industrial Age model, but that isn’t the world we actually live in. So this podcast caught my eye.
HBR Ideacast: We Can’t Work All the Time
Anne-Marie Slaughter on (finally) bringing sanity to the work/life struggle.
A great conversation on work-life balance. This applies to all of us, not just woman, not just mothers, but men and fathers and anyone trying to juggle the demands of modern life.
Big Think-Think Again: Podcast #59 – Jacqueline Woodson – Bored Kid Dreaming/Apologies Long Overdue
In this episode: Jacqueline Woodson, the Newberry, Caldecott, and National-Book Award winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming, If You Come Softly and many other works of poetry and literature for children and young adults, has just released Another Brooklyn, her first adult novel in twenty years. Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood—the promise and peril of growing up—and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.
On this week’s episode of Think Again–a Big Think Podcast, Jacqueline and host Jason Gots discuss collective amnesia, organized religion, the power of photographs, and why never being bored is bad for for kids.
Surprise “conversation starter” interview clips in this episode: Lynsey Addario, Sebastian Junger, Maria Konnikova.
Sebastian Junger is the conversation starter at the end of this podcast. He suggests that a mandatory national service for all young adults would be a good idea. Note here that he doesn’t mean military service. He just means national service. It could be anything as long as it is in service of the community and country.
Personally I think it is an interesting idea, and probably a great one. What was interesting here in this conversation was how it diverted away from what I thought was his core message.
Of all the Think Again podcasts I have listened to, this one section is the only one I have ever wished the conversation starter person could explain themselves and facilitate the conversation.
It is a lesson in how easy a message can go off track and become derailed.
Book I am Reading
People Skills by Robert Bolton
This week I almost, almost, finished the chapter on conflict resolution. I like the quote below about needing rules to ensure conflict doesn’t spin out of control.
The conflict resolution method can be thought of as a set of simple rules that govern conflict. We have learned through the centuries that conflict can be too dangerous if it is not governed by regulations. Thus, when burly wrestlers attack each other on the mat, they know they will be protected from certain types of violence by the rules which govern that sport. When the heavyweight boxer climbs into the ring, he has the security of knowing that there are certain things his opponent cannot attempt because the rules forbid it and the referee will enforce the rules. When political parties battle for the privilege of ruling the country, they agree to obey specific laws. Even when nations go to war there are some agreed-upon rules of conduct. But in some of the most important areas of life our conflicts are largely unregulated. For example, when a husband and wife pitch into each other, there are usually no agreed-upon rules designed to protect them or their marriage.
Emphasis is mine.
Watching out for disrespect and stereotyping is another piece of good advice. Think about this the next time you are in conflict at work or in your personal life.
In conflict we tend to descend to meet. There is an interpersonal gravitation that tends to pull us down to the level of disrespect for the other person. There is an inclination to stereotype the other. When this happens we talk at each other or past each other, not with each other.
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
I finished this audio book this week.
The jury is still out for me on audio books. I think this was a good book. But I don’t know. For me the act of reading is more powerful in this medium than listening. Podcasts, because of the two way dialogue, or the way they are produced specifically for audio are different.
I will recommend this book. And I will recommend learning more about the Stoics. I definitely apply, without knowing, some of their lessons. I would like to learn more from Marcus Aurelius and Seneca.
Have a great week.