Blog

All posts are my own opinons and do not repersent any organization I am affiliated with.

Work Backwards

David Brown reminded me of a great piece of advice a couple weeks ago. Advice that in and of itself is totally obvious, in retrospect. It is: work backward. Start with picturing the result you want and in your mind work back to the present. Visualizing the path and thinking "what can I do now, to get closer to this goal?"

The mental exercise can result in many possible paths for achieving an outcome. I believe it is important to not just pick one of those paths and stick to it without any deviation. As new information is learned the best path always changes. Dynamism is important. The exercise is more useful to get a range of possible ways to achieve an outcome.

When I can visualize realistic paths to a goal, something that once seemed impossible and lofty feels attainable. This helpful for me to establish confidence in the things I am doing today.

Small World

I work at an organization that operates all over the world. Which means that whenever we read about a tragedy, no matter where it is, our thoughts immediately go to "are all of our people ok?" There is almost nowhere in the world where reading about an event doesn't evoke the question and a nagging sense of worry. It is kind of profound to have this sort of connection to the greater world.

Think about this: You hear about a tragedy that directly affects a hundred people across the world. What is the chance you know somebody involved? Probably not all that high. But what is the chance that you know somebody, who knows somebody involved? Much higher. There is this idea that everyone in the world is connected to everybody else with a maximum of six degrees of separation. Meaning you would very likely know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone involved.

As the world becomes more connected the estimate of six degrees of separation is lowering. Research from Facebook in 2016 shows that the number may be as low as 3.57 degrees. The days of a big world where problems are too far away or don't affect *us* are gone. Everything now affects everyone, with the degree of directness increasing. I'll probably find myself in conversations saying "what a small world!" more and more often.

What is going on in your world?

Greetings have always been interesting to me. They are the starting point for communication. Good greetings provide a basis for meaningful and rewarding conversations. While bad ones more often lead to transactional interactions or unengaging small talk.

For a while, the two most common greetings I have used are "What's up?" and "How are you?" My favorite, at least in theory, being "How are you?"

It is a wonderful thing to know how the people in my life are actually doing. Though for whatever reason casually revealing how you are doing, unless you are doing great, is against the social norm in the United States. Additionally, because the greeting is so common, the question is usually given no real thought and the response is a rehearsed "Great! How are you?" Just a pushing back of the underlying socially uncomfortable question to the person who asked it, with neither side intending to give an answer.

Because I find this unsatisfactory, lately I've been trying out new greetings. With the goal of finding one that more often leads to meaningful conversation.

A greeting that I have found particularly satisfying is "What is going on in your world?"

This one often works well because, while we are not very comfortable casually talking about emotions in the United States, we are comfortable talking about the good and bad things going on in our lives right now. This is a great starting point for having a discussion about things that actually matter. In contrast, the starting point when asking "How are you?" is an emotional question. Because of the stigma attached to casually discussing emotions, an honest answer is often avoided and the conversation redirected to a petty chat.

"What is going on in your world?" is also a partly empathetic greeting. By asking about what is happening in *your world* it is recognized that the person has an entire universe of things going on in their mind and conveys an honest interest in hearing about some part of that world.

Moving On

I stopped writing every day a few weeks back. The decision to stop was fueled by a couple different things.

  1. Writing daily was much more frequent than the cadence I was at before. Resulting in quality, direction, purpose, you name it, getting lost.
  2. It stressed me out. I don't like talking unless I have something to say. Some people might disagree with this statement about myself :)
  3. Burnout. With lots of other stuff going on I didn't have the mental energy to keep up.

So, I'm moving on from that resolution and not going to write every day. Instead, I'm going to write like I did before about once every week. Only about things I think are worth sharing.

Default No Filter

I prefer to be the filter in incoming communication. I like to take in as much information as possible and filter it myself for what is important. I don't like it when others filter information for me. In addition to making more work them, they might miss something that I would deem important.

This also works the other way. When I am communicating information I prefer to give out the full set of information and let who I'm sharing it with being the filter for what pieces they think are important. Many people don't like this because it creates more work for them. We all assign different priorities to different pieces of information. Since it is inconceivable keep track of how important everyone else thinks different pieces of information are I believe I should not apply a filter to information that I share with others.