2020-07-26

I'm trying something new. After a conversation with a friend on Tuesday, I've decided that my inability to stick with a "Weekly Reflection" routine has simply because I lacked accountability. Combined with my desire to perform "post processing" on my Roam Notes (which itself is a [[forcing function]] to take better Roam Notes), I'm publishing a set of notes from each week.

They're not meant to be read weekly, but I've got to tidy up my thoughts somehow. This is that somehow. Future posts and essays will likely have their origins in these weekly notes.

Sadly, the backlinks don't go anywhere for now. I'm using Obsidian to write these markdown notes, and there's utility for me to add them. One day, I might build a UI in which readers can jump between these links and explore them - semi-Roam style. In other words, these links are purely for my benefit, but one day, they might be more useful to you, the reader, as well.

In that sense, those broken backlinks are a metaphor for these weekly notes.

Work Clean!

This week I was struck by how important it is to [[Work Clean]]. Every morning I spend so much time rearranging my workspace by wrangling in a cacophony of browser tabs.

For anyone who has tried Mari Kondo's [[Spark Joy]], you know that sentimental items are hard to toss. And in a way, I form sentimental attachments to tabs I have opened, but haven't read. Each of those tabs feels like it has life-changing potential - and that makes them plausibly valuable. I'm excited to read them, perhaps primed by some form of [[social proof]] in the form of a Tweet, or a large number of upvotes on [[HackerNews]], yet I never asked myself, "Is this really worth reading?". In other words, I don't do the important work of [[pre-reading]]. But I should.

And thus, every morning, I start in the red. I clean up after the previous day's irresponsibility - of spawning browser tabs filled with potential, but no certain value. And this clean up is draining.

But what's worse is if I don't clean up. My computer begins to run hot, its fans spinning ever faster as it attempts to dissipate heat, and emitting the sound of exhaustion - its version of panting. And those tabs that my computer is working to maintain, those tabs are black holes for productivity. If I accidentally open one, or see a certain tab, then my brain begins a subconscious context switch, which I have to interrupt, and refocus. That costs mental energy. And if I don't interrupt, well I'm jumping down a 10 minute or so rabbit hole of distraction, thinking about a random topic I had no intention of exploring.

The heat from my computer, the torrent of air emitted by its fan, and the context switches from seeing an unwanted browser tab slowly brings my productivity to a crawl. It's a death by a thousand papercuts.

So yes, it's better to clean up every morning.

But would be better to work clean. Mise en place.

Learning and Drowning

I've been struck by Michael Siebel's observation that successful startup founders are [[formidable]]. Essentially, a person is formidable if they are able to accomplish exactly what they set out to accomplish. "I will sign 10 customers this week" and then go out and do that very daunting task.

Formidable people are forces to be reckoned with. Because they find ways to consistently push themselves and operate at the edge of what is possible, they become super human. But, I believe this is an outsider's view of a successful, productive person.

The inside view of a formidable person is actually the development of [[confidence]] and [[self-esteem]], bordering into arrogance and over-confidence, but not quite. And while I will talk a lot more about self-esteem in the future, I want to touch briefly about the origins of confidence and self-esteem.

Self-esteem comes from a place of believing "I am worthy", regardless of how much I fail or how much society hates me. You must give yourself permission to be. Simply to be. "I am who I am and I am worthy".

For young people, this can come from your parents. I recall [[Kobe]] saying in an interview, that his father did exactly that. He was 10 or 11 at the time and went to a summer camp, playing against other 10 or 11 year olds, and where his father and uncle had played in their youth and done well.

But Kobe scored 0 points, the entire summer. His quote:

And I scored, not a free throw, nothing - not a lucky shot, not a breakaway layup. Zero points. And I remember crying about it and being upset about it, and my father gives me a hug and says, "Listen, whether you score 0 or you score 60, I'm gonna love you no matter what." Now that is the most important thing you can say to a child. Because from there I was like "okay", that gives me all the confidence in the world to fail. I have the security there. But to hell with that, I'm scoring 60. Let's go. From there, I just went to work."

And what's amazing about this is those words from Kobe's father gave him that sense of self worth. To become formidable you need a bedrock of love, that safety net to fail and still be worthy of love. Young people get it from their parents and others. Older people must learn to build that sense of self appreciation themselves.

Kobe was formidable, but had his father not been there for him, who knows what if we would associate the name Kobe with basketball royalty or a type of beef (after which Kobe was named).

Okay, so this is a long winded way to make a point about Learning.

This week I was learning [[Vue]] and made great initial progress. In 7 days, I went from complete noob to a working component that did exactly what I wanted it to do. And then I hit a massive roadblock. I was at the point of packaging my work and putting it on npm as a Vue plugin, and suddenly my momentum crashed as I was stonewalled by an unmoveable object.

Man, it felt like drowning out at sea. All that confidence and momentum was gone. Now, I have to build up my knowledge of bundling (which I have almost none of, because that's almost always abstracted away from me) and slowly piece together the puzzle.

And right now, I certainly don't feel formidable. In fact, I feel the complete opposite - incompetent. It's in this very moment, where this practice of weekly reflection comes in - I'm practicing self appreciation and a giving myself that foundation of worthiness.

The sensation of drowning, of spending an entire summer and scoring 0 points, of spending days on an npm packaging problem with no results, will test your confidence. But to fall back onto a belief that "I'm worthy of being me, failures and all" - well that, as Kobe said "gives you all the confidence in the world".

Upon that safety-net of self belief and appreciation, I'm gonna get this Vue package out.

Mark my words.

Questions

I have always been a somewhat curious person, but I think I've relied on my natural curiosity and haven't developed an intentional "question practice".

Questions are extremely important. They have a way of priming the mind and sharpening focus. They can be used as an attack (i.e. "What do you mean?"). They can reframe a problem (i.e. "What if"). They can be used to challenge assumptions (i.e. "Why do we believe this?"). Questions change the tone. Questions break you out of your normal thinking patterns.

On HackerNews, there was a post this week titled Invert, Always Invert

The core idea is to:

  • Define the problem - what are you trying to achieve?
  • Invert it - what would guarantee failure?
  • Finally, consider solutions to avoid this failure

And it's funny how powerful this can be. Thinking of the same problem from the opposite perspective. Hiking the same trail looks different on the return trip - inversion makes the familiar feel new.

Good questions activate the mind. A new friend of mine (the one who prompted these weekly_notes) asked me "What was the one thing at Uber that you were most excited about or passionate working on?" and it was a good question because I honestly couldn't answer it.

The work wasn't done for passion or purpose, but pragmatism. And perhaps that's why I'm doing what I'm doing now. Writing^1 and building as a way to make sense of the world - flailing (ahem, writing and building) my way to passion.

^1 - (Software Mentor, and now these weekly notes, to go along with the Spacetime Newsletter which is basically just a public journal of what Nick and I are building)