A couple ways we may see life through a lens of scarcity or abundance

I noticed that a lot of what I’m consuming recently is being processed through a lens of scarcity and abundance.

I recently started reading The Infinite Game for a book club at work. In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek differentiates between finite and infinite games:

Finite games are played by known players. They have fixed rules. And there is an agreed-upon objective that, when reached, ends the game.

Infinite games, in contrast, are played by known and unknown players. There are no exact or agreed-upon rules. Though there may be conventions or laws that govern how the players conduct themselves, within those broad boundaries, the players can operate however they want. And if they choose to break with convention, they can. The manner in which each player chooses to play is entirely up to them. And they can change how they play the game at any time, for any reason.

Infinite games have infinite time horizons. And because there is no finish line, no practical end to the game, there is no such thing as “winning” an infinite game. In an infinite game, the primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game.

Finite games remind me of a scarcity mindset. Both see the world as if there’s a winner and a loser. Both fear change and uncertainty (and thus drive a need for control). Both feel stuck playing within the rules that have been described to them.

Infinite games remind me of an abundance mindset. Both see the world as if there will always be more. Both are welcoming to change and uncertainty. Both look for ways to push boundaries and challenge the status quo.

One thing in my life that reminded me of an infinite game is running.

On the Bare Performance Podcast, Jeff Cunningham shares this idea:

It’s more important to be consistently good than occasionally great.

Being consistently good reminds me of an infinite game. It’s not about a race. It’s not about a training session. It’s about being a runner.

(Note: I suspect this isn’t strictly an infinite game by Sinek’s definition because your being a runner ceases to exist when you die, but I thought some of the parallels were interesting.)

Being occasionally great is a finite game. There is a race you can win or lose. There is a personal record (PR) you can break (or not).

Again, in The Infinite Game, Sinek warns us that:

To complicate matters further, finite games are seductive; they can be fun and exciting and sometimes even addictive. Just like gambling, every win, every goal hit releases a shot of dopamine in our bodies, encouraging us to play the same way again.

It may feel good to win the next race or set a new PR. But constantly pushing can lead to ignoring the need for rest. It can lead to overuse injuries. (It can also lead to using too much energy at the beginning of a run.)

This is something that Sinek describes:

Because finite-minded leaders place unbalanced focus on near-term results, they often employ any strategy or tactic that will help them make the numbers.

And it’s not only the drive for that next dopamine hit.

It’s also the fear of failure. As Sinek writes:

Because they are playing with an end point in mind, [James] Carse tells us, finite-minded players do not like surprises and fear any kind of disruption. Things they cannot predict or cannot control could upset their plans and increase their chances of losing.

This fear can drive a need to predict or control things such as food, water, shoes, weather, heart rate, race route, body temperature, competitors, etc.

(To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with planning. But not all planning is fear-driven.)

Another book I’ve started reading recently is Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. Burkeman writes:

If I could get enough work done, my subconscious had apparently concluded, I wouldn’t need to ask if it was all that healthy to be deriving so much of my sense of self-worth from work in the first place.

This made me think about how the drive for productivity and efficiency is often symptomatic of a scarcity mindset.

We feel that we need to be productive and efficient to prove our worth, earn our right to belong, demonstrate our competence, etc.

In The Culture Map, Erin Meyer shares something revealed by her host on a trip to India:

Because we grew up in a society where currency wasn’t always stable and governments could change regulations on a whim, we learned to value flexibility over linear planning.

Meyer then shares her reflection:

I was learning that flexible-time cultures, like India, tend to emphasize leaving many boxes open and working on all of them simultaneously.

This makes me think that multi-tasking may also often be driven by a scarcity mindset. People may not feel comfortable working on just a single task because they don’t know that that task will still be valuable when they finish.

So this is something I’m starting to be more conscious of lately: where am I viewing my life through a lens of scarcity? What perspective aligns me more with an abundance mindset?

The beauty of uncertainty is infinite possibility. You don’t even know what you’re capable of. And anything is possible, y’all, so let’s fucking go.
Erika Royal

A quick tour of my notes

I thought it would be interesting to give a quick tour of my Obsidian vault this week.

To start, here is the current graph of my vault:

My Obsidian graph

Red nodes are source notes, blue nodes are temporal notes, and purple nodes are quotes.

In my left sidebar, I have my habit tracker and PARA structure pinned (filled with dummy data for illustration and privacy purposes):

A redacted version of my Obsidian sidebar

Here, I rely heavily on the Dataview plugin and transclusion.

I show a week’s worth of habits to keep my eye on overall trends. I have a lot of work to do here, though, as there’s a lot of red going on. I’ve probably got too many habits on the go right now.

I like to have an annual note for each of my projects, areas, and resources (i.e. Habit tracker2022 Projects2022 Areas, and 2022 Resources are each notes that are transcluded in my 🏡 Home note). This is useful for record-keeping and allows me to start from a blank state (and be super intentional) when the new year rolls around.

Here is an example of a source note for Building a Second Brain:

Source note for Building a Second Brain

As seen in the metadata section, I usually fill this data in on a just-in-time basis. I haven’t filled this out yet as I haven’t had a use for it; plus, it will be easier to grab it all at once after the course ends.

I also wanted to point out the tags in the metadata. I try to tag my source notes with a tag that correlates to one of my 12 favourite problems. I’m hoping this can help speed up project kick-offs in the future by allowing for the faster gathering of potentially related materials.

I struggle a lot with non-written materials. This has made note-taking from movies, podcasts, and audiobooks difficult for me. My current approach is very brute force–I try to find a written version of the material.

As seen in this source note, I have timestamps next to my notes. I quickly captured these in the transcript that accompanied the course recording. Similarly, I also can get these timestamps when using the transcript feature in Youtube videos.

Here’s an example of a source note for The Body Keeps the Score:

Source note for The Body Keeps the Score

I included this note in part because it illustrates some progressive summarization. I don’t bold or highlight nearly as much as I take original notes. I still have to work on tuning in to what resonates with me.

I also included this note because it better shows how I try to keep the structure of the source in my notes. As you can see in the various headers, the different parts, chapters, and section headings are all preserved in my notes.

I’ve been trying this ever since reading How to Read a Book. I’m not following all of the suggestions, but this is one that I found particularly useful.

Here’s a section of my source note for The Culture Map:

Source note for The Culture Map

I thought this illustrated the inclusion of figures in my source notes and my additions to these notes (in square brackets) to clarify things such as the name of who was speaking in the passage. (In this case, the author, Erin Meyer, was quoting Hirotake Tokunaga, and I thought it might be helpful to keep that clear in my notes.)

This is an example of a note I use to gather all my source notes of a specific type:

Map of source notes for courses

These notes are generated using the Dataview plugin, which parses the metadata fields you saw at the top of the source notes. I mostly use them as a quick reference when looking for specific materials.

Finally, here is an example of an atomic note:

An atomic note on the Zeigarnik effect

There’s a lot of experimenting going on in these notes right now.

I used to use footnotes to reference my source notes, but I’ve recently switched to using the callouts feature because I find they’re easier to parse and add a nice visual effect to the notes.

I’m using the drafted tag as an experiment to indicate that a note has been drafted sufficiently to be a potentially helpful atomic note. This allows me to identify notes that need further development quickly. I’m also planning to use it in some experiments with the graph view and an alternative approach to a zettelkasten implementation.

So lots of experimentation is happening and lots of change. But I’m still having lots of fun with my notes and looking forward to seeing what comes of them in the coming years. 🙂

The subconscious messages I’ve been sending to myself about emotion

Initially, I had planned to share some notes from my vault this week.

But this morning at the gym, I was thinking about something else. So I’m going to write about that instead.

Last week, Alex and I watched Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. It’s an excellent, entertaining, thought-provoking movie, in my opinion. I will try to be very vague about it to avoid spoiling anything.

One of the big themes of the movie has to do with paradoxes and dualities juxtaposed with each other.

This brought me to a paradox in my life.

I’ve been working to become more comfortable with my emotions. But then, this morning, I started reflecting on all these ways I’m subconsciously pushing them away.

One thing that popped to mind was how I tend to find happy people attractive.

(I think I was initially reflecting on how this doesn’t make any sense sustainably. People experience a range of emotions, so if I’m only attracted to happy people, I will find them unattractive as I get to know them better.)

In any case, I don’t know why I find happy people attractive, but I have two hypotheses:

  1. I found comfort in kindness. Kids can be mean, and I suspect I developed my first crush because he was kind to me when others weren’t.
  2. I sought out a balance. When my depression was much worse years ago, I can see myself looking for a source of stability to balance out my own experience of things.

Looking at these now, I realize that they’re both attempts to experience one emotion to avoid feeling another. I still do this today when I eat a whole box of cookies to try and get rid of my anxiety.

In doing these things, I’m communicating to myself that “happy” is a good emotion; “sad” and “anxious” are bad emotions.

Another thought I had this morning was regarding my relationship.

Sometimes, my partner doesn’t say anything, but I feel he is experiencing something emotional.

And even though he’s not doing anything from my perspective except experiencing that emotion, it bothers me.

I’m not reacting to his behaviour. I’m responding to a thought I have about his experiencing non-happy emotions.

(Usually, I think I’ve done something to annoy him. Or that something terrible is going to happen because he’s angry.)

And again, I’m telling myself that emotions like “angry” or “annoyed” are bad.

I don’t think I’m the only one who subconsciously communicates these ideas.

I also thought about all the times I hear people say things like:

  • Don’t worry. Don’t feel anxiety. It’s bad.
  • Don’t be sad. Don’t feel sadness. It’s bad.
  • Calm down. Don’t feel anger. (Or excitement.) It’s bad.

When we communicate these types of things, they snowball.

How?

I recently finished reading Mel Robbin’s The High 5 Habit.

In it, she talks about the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is a part of your brain that determines the data that your conscious mind gets to process. Because there’s so much data coming in from our external environment, it has to filter out a lot.

What does it allow to pass through?

Things that we think are important.

And for a species that has evolved to focus on surviving (especially as part of a group), it is imperative to avoid things that are wrong (and potentially dangerous).

So the RAS feeds us information that reminds us that we get in trouble when we’re angry; that relationships can be damaged when someone is sad; that we create more problems for ourselves when we feel anxious about things.

This strengthens our belief that emotions are bad. (As per confirmation bias, we tend to see the things that confirm our existing thoughts.)

Returning to Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, it’s apparent that emotions are bad in one universe. In another universe, it’s obvious that emotions are neutral.

Both seem to be true in my universe.

I get that emotion is neutral intellectually. But evidently, this isn’t understood by my entire brain. Part of me gets that emotion is bad.

So how am I trying to deal with this duality?

  • Exposure. I’m trying to increase my awareness of my emotions. Furthermore, I’m trying to avoid doing things to avoid them (e.g. eating boxes of cookies) when I can. I’m hoping that I don’t feel the same impulse to push them away automatically through this form of exposure therapy.
  • Distancing. I’m trying to notice the separation between my self and my experience. My therapist told me about an analogy that came from the Dalai Lama. When experiencing emotions, he would imagine himself sitting on the sand under the water. He could look up and see the waves crashing about, but where he was, the water was much calmer. I’m trying to notice this separation between my thoughts, feelings, etc., more often.
  • Perspective. Instead of just jumping to the label, I’m trying to pay attention to the body sensations underlying an emotion. And I’m trying to be more curious about what my body may be needing at the time to produce those body sensations.

This is a life.

What I learned from Ship 30 for 30 regarding how to use statistics, the performance of my writing, and ideas for moving forward

In Ship 30 for 30 (affiliate link), the class has two phases.

The first phase is all about making noise. This means talking about a wide variety of different topics and writing in different styles. Experimenting.

This sets us up for the second phase.

The second phase is about looking for a signal. This means looking at what your readers liked most. You can’t know what will resonate with people without testing.

In looking for signal amongst the noise, Ship 30 for 30 talks about five big data points:

  1. Views
  2. Likes
  3. Comments
  4. Shares
  5. Peer approval

Below I’ll share my results, a little bit more about the significance of each of these data points, and some hypotheses I’m currently looking at given the data.

For transparency, I’ve bolded titles that ranked high in two categories and highlighted titles that ranked high in three categories.

(And if you’re interested in seeing the rest of the 30 pieces I published during the cohort, please click here.)

Views (a.k.a. Impressions)

Views are the least important metric because they’re passive.

However, they can provide a quick way to get a sense of which topics might be resonating with people.

MY TOP PIECES RANKED BY VIEWS

  1. What does it mean to organize for actionability? (5,492 views)
  2. 5 Tips to Avoid Overwhelm in Ship 30 for 30 (2,282 views)
  3. Why write everything down? (1,980 views)
  4. 10 reasons I chose Obsidian for my PKM system (1,915 views)
  5. How I do my weekly reviews (1,822 views)
  6. Think a Map of Content Is Just a Table of Contents? Here Are 3 Benefits You’re Missing Out On (1,680 views)

Likes

Likes require action from the reader, but that action is minimal.

Like views, they provide a quick way to get a sense of audience resonance.

MY TOP PIECES RANKED BY LIKES

  1. 5 Tips to Avoid Overwhelm in Ship 30 for 30 (40 likes)
  2. How I do my weekly reviews (35 likes)
  3. What does it mean to organize for actionability? (33 likes)

Comments (a.k.a. Replies)

Comments require more meaningful action from the reader because they require some thought.

They are critical to consider if you’ve asked a question or encouraged participation in some form.

Sometimes you don’t prompt your audience, yet you receive many comments. This usually means your readers have either many questions or a lot of opinions on the topic.

MY TOP PIECES RANKED BY COMMENTS

  1. 5 Tips to Avoid Overwhelm in Ship 30 for 30 (11 replies)
  2. How I do my weekly reviews (11 replies)
  3. Why write everything down? (9 replies)

Shares (a.k.a. Retweets)

Shares are arguably the most valuable data point.

When someone shares your content, it means they’ve taken action. But even more than that, they’ve attached the piece to their digital identity. (For non-Twitter users, it appears on your feed/profile page when you retweet something.)

This is a stamp of approval.

MY TOP PIECES RANKED BY SHARES

  1. What does it mean to organize for actionability? (8 shares)
  2. 10 reasons I chose Obsidian for my PKM system (4 shares)

Peer approval

Peer approval refers to when someone with a large audience, someone with high credibility, or someone you look up to engages with your writing.

This metric doesn’t seem to be as easy to automate.

I think the mark of this would probably be the feeling of excitement when you get the notification of their engagement.

Current hypotheses

Admittedly, I still struggle with the data analysis part of this process. There are a lot of variables, and determining which ones are meaningful is difficult. This will require further experimentation.

In terms of broader observations, I have two:

  1. People seem to prefer focused pieces instead of broad pieces. I noticed a drop-off in likes on my What does it mean to organize for actionability? post after I finished my summary of PARA. I also got feedback from two people that staying focused instead of incorporating additional content would be better.
  2. People seem to like lists. Every piece I mentioned above incorporated a list in some form. At the same time, I’m wondering if this is true of every article I ended up publishing… …maybe this is more of a “Tyler likes lists” hypothesis…

In terms of topic areas, my pieces that performed the best statistically fell into three camps:

  1. Personal Knowledge Management (PKM). 🎉
  2. Productivity. 🎉
  3. Ship 30 for 30. I admit I was playing to the audience when I wrote this piece. In Ship 30 for 30, you’re encouraged to engage with the writing of your fellow Shippers, and I knew this was something a lot of people would be struggling with.

In terms of more specific areas, I picked out a bunch that might be good topics for the future. I hypothesize these might resonate with people based on the number of likes and the number of comments I got that mentioned these:

  • Unreliability of memory
  • The Obsidian community
  • What is a Map of Content?
  • Focusing on noise over signal
  • Processing your download folder and phone photos weekly
  • Freeing up your brain to do things by writing other things down
  • Benefits of your weekly review being an evaluation rather than a checklist

A review of the first quarter of 2022

We’re already 25% through 2022. 👀

It feels like time goes by so fast.

At the same time, looking back so much has already happened this year.

Work has been a rollercoaster.

Sometimes I help other teams solve problems. Other times, I answer people’s questions. And I’ve been able to take some time to create some documentation that people had been asking for.

So the highs have all been when I feel like I can help other people.

And the lows?

I’d planned to catch up on work only to have more stuff dumped on me last minute. I had to help plan and answer questions about a project that didn’t have defined boundaries. And it always feels like people feel free to demand things to be done on short notice because it’s in the spirit of “velocity.”

The lows all surround the chaotic aspect of work.

And now I’m wondering if these are two sides of the same coin.

I get anxious when I think about the chaos. I wonder if I’m good enough. And feeling like I can help people allows me a moment where I feel that I am good enough.

So maybe the rollercoaster of work is just a reflection of the ebbs and flows of my anxiety levels.

On that note, I’ve gotten some terrific feedback this quarter.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone with poor self-awareness.

A couple of months ago, my therapist pointed out that my self-awareness has improved since we started working together. And I’ve gotten feedback from multiple coaches that my self-awareness is quite developed.

It was great to hear that feedback because I don’t think I would have noticed that change on my own.

Similarly, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten more comfortable listening to recordings of my voice.

Doing this before left me feeling nauseous and jittery. This quarter, I listened to many recordings of my voice from CBCs and coaching sessions where I was the coachee. Initially, I had to force myself to listen to the recordings.

Now, there’s much less of that discomfort.

This quarter, I also finished Ultraspeaking and Ship 30 for 30. (Well, I’ll be finishing Ship 30 for 30 today. 🤣 Also, note this is my affiliate/discount link.)

The hardest part of Ultraspeaking was the first week when I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad of a speaker I was. The hardest part of Ship 30 for 30 was publishing something every day, reading and engaging with other participants on their essays, and keeping up with the live sessions. It was a lot more work than I expected.

But I got a lot out of each of these classes.

Ship 30 for 30, in particular, exceeded my expectations.

I put off signing up for Ship 30 for 30 for almost a year. I thought I was going to be paying for accountability. But there was so much more content than I expected. The community was very supportive.

It was fantastic to immediately put the lecture material into practice in an iterative way.

Switching topics now to my notes…

I finally started using Obsidian community plugins this quarter.

Previously, I had resisted the allure of these for security reasons. But then I thought about how engaged the Obsidian community is. I thought about how my stuff isn’t valuable enough for anyone to want to steal. And I thought about all the things I’d be able to automate by using the plugins.

So I decided to dive in.

So far, they’ve been fantastic. Some things are much, much more streamlined.

I am now one of the Obsidian moderators for cohort 14 of Building a Second Brain (BASB).

Being selected as a moderator caught me off guard. I know some very talented and experienced people in the BASB community. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I would be helping out as a moderator.

I’m hoping I’m able to help people in this cohort.

And then on the people side of things…

Alex and I spent a day with the family in the woods in front of a campfire. Some friends came over to start marathoning Rupaul’s Drag Race. And I caught up with a bunch of friends over calls.

I love being at home with a book. However, these connections always seem to be highlighted in my reviews.

I was also excited to connect with several people from CBCs and this newsletter.

Zoom has undoubtedly made the world smaller.

Some more new connections as well: I joined a new volleyball team. And I hosted a couple of Twitter Spaces with Alessandra White.

So as much as 2022 is going by super fast, much has already happened.

Taking notes effectively from movies and TV shows

I’ve been thinking this week about taking notes from movies and TV shows effectively.

This is a challenging medium for me.

With books, I usually read on my Kindle. It’s easy to highlight things and then export those highlights into my Obsidian using Bookcision.

With articles, it’s a similar setup. I can highlight articles in my browser using Readwise and then export those highlights into my Obsidian.

I can highlight using a similar setup with articles using the built-in transcript feature, even with Youtube videos. (On Youtube, if you click the three dots next to the “Save” button, there’s an option to “Open transcript.” This opens an interactive transcript next to the video with timestamps, and it highlights the transcript as the video progresses. The timestamps can be removed if you click the three dots in the “Transcript” window and select the option to “Toggle timestamps.”)

Movies and shows seem to disappear faster and more unexpectedly than other media. But some of these inspire a lot of thought, so I don’t want to lose them.

This past weekend, I started experimenting a bit.

As we watched Inventing Anna and Attack on Titan, I had a paper notebook and kept relatively detailed notes on critical events.

This was quite a bit of work. It’s easier to re-watch something because then I know what to look for. It’s also easier when things are in English or when the show is dialogue-driven (otherwise, I miss too much when I look away from the screen to write down notes).

I also haven’t figured out what’s the most effective thing to record:

  • Direct quotes? This is most familiar as it’s what I use most from my other forms of media.
  • A brief plot summary? This would be most efficient both to create and to consume later.
  • A detailed plot summary? This could help me distinguish when specific events happened, especially for shows that follow multiple characters or span numerous timelines.

(This also has me wondering if I’m looking for a silver bullet. 🤔 Maybe my notes will vary on a case-by-case basis.)

As much as I love direct quotes, I have a few concerns.

Are they as effective with fiction as they are with non-fiction? Most of the direct quotes I use are related to non-fiction. I’m not sure I can apply fiction quotes in the same way.

Also, some quotes stand on their own. For example, I recently posted a Twitter thread as part of Ship 30 for 30 (my discounted/affiliate link) with many quotes from Arcane.

But not all quotes stand on their own. Many quotes require the context of the plot, the situation, the characters, etc., to be meaningful.

I recently finished reading The Body Keeps The Score. I’d love to take some time to do a bunch of writing about trauma, and a lot of my thinking about it draws connections to shows such as:

It would be great (and more efficient) if I could create notes for those shows instead of re-diving into each of them whenever I want to reference something from them in my PKM.

Reflections on applying Ship 30 for 30 principles to my newsletter content

As I mentioned last week, I’m currently taking Ship 30 for 30 (my essays can be found here).

I’m learning a lot in this cohort-based course–there’s way more material than I had expected going into it.

Some of the things I’ve learned so far include:

  • It’s important to write for a super-specific audience. It’s almost like you should be writing for a single individual. Because of the scale of the internet, many people will relate to that individual. But by writing to that specific individual, you allow your reader to feel like you’re writing specifically to them.
  • It’s important to know what you want your reader to take away (and tell them that in the headline). People are more likely to read your stuff if they see the value they will get from reading it in advance. Some ways to provide value include explaining how to do something, providing a new perspective, motivating the reader to do something, or explaining the why behind something.
  • It’s important to establish your credibility with the reader. If you’re borrowing credibility from other experts, people will read to get the perspectives from those other experts. But if you’re using your credibility, people need to know why your experience with this topic will be valuable to them. If you don’t establish some form of credibility, people aren’t likely to invest the time to read your writing.

I’ve seen how these ideas work well for essays and threads on Twitter. So I started thinking about applying these to my newsletters.

And I had very mixed feelings towards this thought.

Part of me is concerned that I’m too black-and-white with my writing.

The principles from Ship 30 for 30 are designed for publishing on Twitter. When you’re writing on Twitter, many of your readers are strangers. They don’t know who you are or what you write about.

This isn’t the same case with my newsletter. Almost all of my subscribers know (of) either me or my writing. If you aren’t interested in what or how I write, I assume you’d unsubscribe.

But at the same time, part of me wonders if something is interesting here?

I like many of the suggestions they make in Ship 30 for 30. I’m assuming many other people like them, given the popularity of many of the atomic essays and threads produced during and after the course.

So maybe there are some things I can adopt into my newsletters?

One thing I’m still reflecting on with regards to this is content.

Many of my newsletters are very experiential/stream-of-consciousness regarding what I’ve been learning and thinking about throughout the week. I don’t know if there’s a place for that type of content in the Ship 30 for 30 framework?

But maybe that type of writing is better reserved for my notes in Obsidian? 🤔

If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them! ❤️

Authenticity and the Complexity of Experience

I’m currently doing Ship 30 for 30, a cohort-based course known for its focus on producing 30 atomic essays or Twitter threads over a month.

In addition to writing, I’ve also been trying to read other essays to know others in the community better. In reading some of those essays, I noticed that one of the thoughts I had a few times was around the idea of the complexity of experience.

Usually, it’s pretty straightforward when I see people sharing their experiences.

I feel happy.

I support vaccination against Covid-19.

I want to go to Hawaii.

But experience isn’t always this simple. Here are a few examples I’ve encountered recently.

One of my coworkers retired last week. I was happy because I knew they’d been preparing for this for a long time. I was excited because they would have the opportunity to de-stress and spend more time on restorative activities. Yet, I was sad because they’ve been a fantastic co-worker and support at work, and the whole company will be feeling their absence.

Another example is a new project we’ve been working on at work. I’ve been disappointed with how certain pieces of the project came together. I felt confused and overwhelmed with this project because it isn’t in an area I’m very familiar with. At the same time, I know this project is important because I see the value it will provide our customers. I don’t want to complain about things–I want to focus on solutions. I want my team to be able to tackle this project successfully. And I don’t want to get hung up on these things that have been draining me emotionally as the project kicks off.

Finally, a more simple example. I had a box of oatmeal raisin cookies on the counter earlier this week. I didn’t want to eat the cookies because I wanted to be healthy, and I’m trying to lose weight. And I did want to eat the cookies because cookies are delicious, and I wanted something to make me feel better when I was feeling a bunch of anxiety with work and Ship 30 for 30. (Spoiler Alert: I ate the box in a single afternoon.)

So experience is complex.

What does this mean about authenticity?

There is one theme I seem to encounter in conversations about authenticity commonly. Your whole self. Your full experience. Being utterly true to you.

When I think about the moments where I see other people as being really authentic, I’m not usually hearing them juggling conflicting thoughts, feelings, or desires. Usually, they’re being very vulnerable about a specific experience they had. It’s cohesive and lacks that complexity.

When I think about that new project at work, I could focus on driving forward for a successful project. But to me, this wouldn’t feel very authentic. It would feel like I’m faking it.

I’m clearly still trying to figure this authenticity thing out. It doesn’t seem to be revealing your entire experience, nor does it seem to be revealing only part of your experience.

What the heck is authenticity? 🔍

Solutions that produce the problem they intended to solve

I’m entering week four of my time-boxing experiment.

It’s funny because part of me seems to be aware of the nature of my current struggle: I’ve dubbed it my denial of reality. I want to do so many things, yet there are only 168 hours in the week.

One of the things I’ve liked about time-boxing is that it makes it real what will get done that week (and what is not going to get done that week). At the same time, I feel anxious when I see important things that aren’t going to get done.

This feeling of anxiety is uncomfortable.

So to address this feeling, I push myself to schedule those critical things.

However, this has two side effects.

First, my schedule becomes full with back-to-back events. In other words, I have to be super strict with sticking to the scheduled time and starting the next thing on time. It also means I only get to rest/recharge when I plan it. Otherwise, I end up eating into my sleeping time.

Second, when I’m able to schedule all the important things, I see room for me to take on more things. I’m interested in personal growth. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s easiest to interpret “do better” as “do more.” (And that can be a dangerous thought to default to.)

Well, these side effects tend to leave me feeling anxious about things. This feeling is the exact thing I was trying to avoid in the first place.

So the drive for instant gratification (i.e. avoiding the feeling of anxiety) led me to ignore the bigger picture–that the solution I was choosing would produce more of the same.

I’ve performed this exact pattern before in my life.

Since childhood, I’ve had a fear of people disliking me for a myriad of reasons (probably related to worthiness). So to avoid feeling disconnected, I often tried to be invisible. (After all, if people can’t see you, they’ll have no reason to reject you.)

But looking at this from an external perspective, it’s clear that being invisible inevitably leads to disconnection. People can’t connect with you if they don’t see you.

So in these ways, the solutions I came up with for my problems became double-edged swords.

I scheduled everything to avoid feeling anxious, but this made me uneasy about other things.

I avoided being seen to prevent disconnection, but this prevented me from connecting with others.

Seeing these patterns makes me curious about how often I do these things without realizing it.

I’m also curious if there’s a better term for this pattern than “double-edged sword” and how common this phenomenon is.

They prevent us from seeing new data

I had an experience of mismatched perspectives when I was a kid. Some of my relatives I only saw occasionally–once every year or so. Every time I saw them, they’d tell me how I changed so much. But to me, this never made any sense. I saw myself in the mirror every day and I always looked the same.

This reminds me of homeostasis. Our bodies try to maintain a steady physiological state. I think our minds have a tendency to do so as well. (I imagine the world wouldn’t feel so safe or in control if our minds didn’t have this same tendency.)

However, this can present some challenges. I’m writing about both a personal challenge and a social challenge that I think this poses.

The personal challenge is that we sometimes struggle to see our progress. This makes it difficult to celebrate our successes.

Our perspective seems to become normalized to our present growth rate. Perhaps this is just hedonic adaption in action. This can make setbacks feel worse than they actually are.

I saw one example of this recently in a tweet from Tony Dinh. Assuming I’m extrapolating the net MRR movements (ie. new/increased subscription value minus decreased/lost subscription value) from previous months accurately, it looks like Tony had a higher net MRR movement in December and January compared to February.

It looks like his growth rate decelerated in February. So he reflected on February by calling it “brutal”.

However, the positive net MRR movement means that his business was still growing. It wasn’t shrinking. It wasn’t maintaining the status quo. It was still growing.

I don’t know the full extent of Tony’s reflections on his month of February. However, I’ve seen patterns in myself and others where we fixate only on the areas where there’s room for improvement. This is negativity bias in action.

So when reflecting on things, I find it useful to start by celebrating the things that went well. Negativity bias will make celebrating a lot of these things seem mundane, but don’t let it pull you in. If you start by reflecting on the areas you can improve, it can become more challenging to see those worth celebrating. This isn’t usually the case vice versa.

Here are some of the things that are potentially worth celebrating:

  • (partial) results
  • luck
  • effort
  • choice of (in)action
  • mindset
  • perspective
  • mood

Now it’s time to return to the social challenge I mentioned before. Just as we sometimes struggle to see our progress, sometimes we also struggle to see other people’s progress. (And sometimes they struggle to see our progress as well.)

We often apply labels to the people we know. The more often we see someone and the better we think we know that person, the more strongly these labels tend to stick.

Sometimes these labels may be negative.

They are bossy. They don’t listen. They’re selfish.

Sometimes these labels may be positive.

They are helpful. They unconditionally love me. They’re organized.

We anchor the perspectives we take to those labels for better or worse. This affects how we perceive reality.

Maybe that bossy person has been trying to stop telling people what to do. Maybe they’ve been working on their interoception with a therapist to get a better sense of when they feel unsafe and when they’re driven towards control. Maybe they’ve started asking for suggestions before giving suggestions. Maybe you never noticed any of it because you think they’re bossy.

Maybe that helpful person has been feeling lazy and disengaged at work. Maybe they aren’t so generous with people of certain demographics. Maybe they only volunteer for things when they know they’ll get acknowledged for it. Maybe you never noticed any of it because you think they’re helpful.

If you feel like someone isn’t acknowledging growth that you’ve been working towards, perhaps it would be useful to share your experience with them. One tool that could be useful for sharing this is Gervase Bushe’s experience cube. By using this tool, you can share why you think you’re not being treated fairly, the changes you’ve been making, and the impact it has on you when you don’t think those changes are being acknowledged.

If you want to avoid having your labels skew your perspective of your relationships, perhaps it would be useful to reflect on what labels you’re applying. What labels are you applying to that person? Back to Byron Katie’s The Work, is it true and can you absolutely know that it’s true? What is the potential impact on your relationship that you limit yourself to seeing this person through this label?

Being able to see patterns is a remarkable tool, but that doesn’t mean it needs to become Maslow’s hammer. Those patterns are useful data, but they become dangerous when they prevent us from seeing new data.