Amelia

Amelia Earhart wanted to be a great aviator. But it was the 1920s, and people still thought that women were frail and weak and didn’t have the stuff. Woman suffrage was not even a decade old.

She couldn’t make her living as a pilot, so she took a job as a social worker. Then one day the phone rang. The man on the line had a pretty offensive proposition, along the lines of: We have someone willing to fund the first female transatlantic flight. Our first choice has already backed out. You won’t get to actually fly the plane, and we’re going to send two men along as chaperones and guess what, we’ll pay them a lot of money and you won’t get anything. Oh, and you very well might die while doing it.

You know what she said to that offer? She said yes.

Because that’s what people who defy the odds do. That’s how people who become great at things—whether it’s flying or blowing through gender stereotypes—do. They start.

“The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holiday

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and reflecting on that I recalled this story about Amelia Earhart.

I take many lessons from this story.

The idea of making the best play with the hand you’re dealt is something I often struggle with. I often find myself stuck on things that I consider to be unfair, or I can’t do things now because I’m not prepared, or I won’t do things because it’s a matter of principle.

But this is all just my entitlement and my need for control.

Amelia Earhart had a play with a much bigger cost than fairness, feeling prepared, or giving up stubbornness and yet she chose that play because it moved her forward. This is definitely an area I need to practice.

I also found it interesting how the first time I heard this story, I assumed that she was calm when she accepted this offer.

Reflecting on it now, I have no clue how she was feeling. Perhaps she was calm. Perhaps she was pissed that this was the proposition she had to take to move forward. Perhaps she was excited because she finally found an opportunity to move forward.

In any case, I think too often I assume that I need to feel a certain way to act a certain way. I think too often I assume that there is a right way to feel when facing adversity.

Actually, this reminds me a bit about a thought I was recently reminded of in the book I’m currently reading (Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk To Someone).

Feelings don’t dictate your behaviour. They shouldn’t be ignored or discounted. They should guide your curiosity so that they can help to bridge your conscious with your subconscious.

And now I’m wondering whether I often struggle so much in this area because I the way I act despite feelings is by ignoring them. Perhaps this is something I should bring up with my therapist.

Gone

To this day, I wake up at times, look in the mirror, and just stare, obsessed with the idea that the person I am in my head is something entirely different than what everyone else sees. That the way I look will prevent me from doing the things I want; that there really are sneetches with stars and I’m not one of them. I touch my face, I feel my skin, I check my color every day, and I swear it all feels right. But then someone says something and that sense of security and identity is gone before I know it.

“Fresh Off the Boat” by Eddie Huang

A couple nights ago, I was thinking about how I’d mixed up correlation and causation in some of my self-reflection recently.

Previously, I was reflecting on my own and with a therapist on my perceived lack of belonging. Looking back at school, I always felt like I was being pushed away as the “other”.

To my Asian friends, I was always white. To my white friends, I was always Asian. In a majority straight population, I was always different. I was never seen as one of the guys in gym class, but I also stood out when I hung out with the girls.

And I thought this must be why I feel like I don’t belong—because I experienced all these instances of not belonging when I was younger.

I saw a causal relationship.

But that doesn’t follow logically.

Maybe I have it backwards. Maybe something happened earlier that led to my feeling like I didn’t belong, and that is why I interpreted those things that way, and that’s why those things stick out in my memory.

Or maybe they appear to be correlated, but they’re not really correlated at all. Maybe it’s just confirmation bias or something else.

But then taking a step back, maybe it doesn’t really matter. This is probably just another good place to practice nihilism and existentialism.

By nihilism, I refer to recognizing that my feeling like I don’t belong is a feeling—that’s it. It’s a body sensation that I do not find pleasurable. But it’s ultimately meaningless. There’s nothing really there saying that I don’t belong.

By existentialism, I refer to the ability to create belonging. The nihilism has granted that there’s no lack of belonging there to hold me back. So if I choose to see things this way, perhaps I will start to observe things to confirm that belief instead.

I’ve been exercising a lot since moving. Something that I still want to build on is mindfulness and affirmation practices. Perhaps this would be a good thing to start applying those to.

Root

The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.

“The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown

In the recent past, I really started to question my intuition because I would intuit things about people that they would tell me I was completely wrong about. However, more recently, I’ve found out that in some of those cases, those people weren’t being entirely honest. I’ve also had a bunch of people comment on my intuition seeming to likely be correct.

I was able to guess before why people probably told me that I was wrong, even though they later corrected me.

Emotions are complicated.

Today I got a first hand experience myself of something similar going on.

When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they agree, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice. For our own sake, we need to understand that it’s dangerous to our relationships and our well-being to get mired in shame and blame, or to be full of self-righteous anger. It’s also impossible to practice compassion from a place of resentment. If we’re going to practice acceptance and compassion, we need boundaries and accountability.

“The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown

We had an incident at work this morning. In trying to fix the problem, I went heads down into investigating and producing a solution. While I was heads down, someone else working on a parallel solution came over and started bouncing ideas about their solution off me.

I didn’t say anything about it, but if I did, I’m the moment, I would have just said that I was annoyed. I was focused on what I was working on, and I was annoyed that I was being interrupted. I was especially annoyed because we’ve previously had conversations where I’ve stated that I don’t like in person interruptions.

But later when I was reflecting more on the incident, I realized that wasn’t the full story of what was going on.

There was a lot going on in the incident and I felt overwhelmed, so I defaulted to focusing on problem solving in my bubble because that’s where I feel the safest and less stimulated by the chaos. When that person came over, I felt threatened that they were bringing the chaos that I was trying to escape back to me. I felt annoyed that I was trying to focus on something and they were preventing me from doing that (especially since we’d talked about it before). I felt scared that they would come to me with something I couldn’t answer because there was too much going on already in my mind and because I might not have the skills or knowledge to address it.

But I didn’t realize any of this until after time had passed and I had a chance to reflect.

Interesting how my truth in the moment may not have been my truth at all.

All

In this example is the basic value proposition of Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.

“Essentialism” by Greg McKeown

In chatting with a coach recently, I revealed that one of my problem patterns is taking on too much stuff.

Two other things recently happened that also have me reflecting on this.

I had a conversation with my manager recently about long-term career goals. The things I had in mind were all over the map. Perhaps this is just because I want to keep my options open? Or maybe it’s because I don’t yet know what I want to do long term? In any case, there is no one future I’m currently rowing towards–I’m pulling myself in multiple directions.

As for my personal goals, they’re also all over the map. I’m making pretty good progress towards most of them still. However, to achieve all of them in 2020, I’ve realized that I will need to focus pretty hard on them which will leave me little opportunity for other things that may come up throughout the year. This could be fine, but seeing as many of my goals are centred around self-care this year, I don’t think having such a hardcore focus on something I’m not particularly passionate about will do much for me in the self-care area.

So maybe I need to spend some time reconnecting with the why and re-evaluating.

Unchecked

In 2011, Jon Haidt, speaking to an audience of 1,000 social psychologists, noted the lack of viewpoint diversity in their field. He reported that he could identify only one conservative social psychologist with any degree of field-wide recognition. Surveys of sociologists’ professional organizations have found that 85%–96% of members responding self-identified as left of center, voted for Obama in 2012, or scored left of center on a questionnaire of political views. (Most of the remaining 4%–15% identified as centrist or moderate rather than conservative.) The trend has a long tail, but it has been accelerating. In the 1990s, liberals among social psychologists outnumbered conservatives 4-to-1. More recent surveys show that the ratio has grown to greater than 10-to-1, sometimes far greater. A tendency to hire for a conforming worldview combined with the discouraging aspects of being so decisively outnumbered ideologically suggests that, unchecked, this situation won’t get better. According to the surveys establishing this trend toward homogeneity, about 10% of faculty respondents identified as conservative, compared with just 2% of grad students and postdoctoral candidates.

“Thinking in Bets” by Annie Duke

I will admit that when I first read this quote, my instinct was that something was wrong–that it was a problem that there isn’t a more even distribution of political views in the sociology field.

Stopping to think about it more, I started to question if that was actually the case. (And apologies now if this post isn’t completely coherent–I intended to spend more time blogging tonight, but I spent my time elsewhere instead and now I’m writing this up quick before bed.)

Maybe it’s the case that sociological truth just happens to align more with leftist viewpoints, and thus people with rightist viewpoints choose to exit the field? Perhaps more conservative people chose a field based on their values and interests, similar to more liberal people, but their values and interests did not lead them to pursue sociology?

I don’t think that it is necessarily problematic that the political diversity in sociology does not represent the political diversity in the greater population.

I am very curious where this intuition comes from, though.

Could this a be case of the is-ought fallacy? (We see this distribution of political diversity in the general population, so there ought to be this distribution of political diversity in the field of sociology.)

Or is there something else at work here?

I find the intuition very similar to that which many people seem to have about the gender gap in the software engineering field–that it’s a problem that we don’t see close to a 50/50 male/female ratio of developers.

At present, I don’t currently see this as a problem. I do see it as potentially symptomatic of a problem, though.

For instance, if a male and female candidate presented identical resumes and performed equally well during the interview process, and we didn’t see a 50/50 male/female ratio of people getting the job, then there could be a problem. But the problem would not be the lack of the 50/50 male/female ratio–the problem would be that there is something in the interview process biasing towards male candidates.

But it is odd that we have these judgements of things. I wonder how much of it is purely self-preservative as opposed to being rooted in truth at all.

For instance, a couple weeks ago, I was on the bus and it was running super behind schedule. I noticed that the bus driver was taking their time and waiting for people who flagged the bus from across the street to run to the bus stop. I thought the bus driver was doing something bad because they were putting everyone else on the bus behind schedule in their choosing to drive this way.

But then this morning, I was running for a bus when it started to pull away. But then it seemed to stop when it realized I was running for the bus. The bus driver continued to wait for people at other stops who appeared to be running for the bus, even if it wasn’t always the case and sometimes they were just running past the bus stop. But this morning, I thought the bus driver was being kind to people, probably because it had benefited me at the beginning.

I wonder if this all comes down to distinguishing observations from the story/meaning/thoughts we have about those observations.

The human condition is weird.

Mediocrity

Common causes of mediocrity include rearview mirror syndrome (the need to base every choice off of past experience; don’t tie your future to your past), lack of purpose, isolating incidents (assuming choices only affect the present, forgetting that they also continue to affect the future), lack of accountability (accountability to someone else; get an accountability partner), mediocre circle of influence (who you spend your time with may be the single most determining factor in your success), lack of personal development, and lack of urgency (the belief that personal development can always be left to tomorrow).

“The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod

So I had my internet installed earlier today. Looking forward to not having to worry about going over on my data plan for a while.

It’s been about a week and a half since I’ve moved now. Here are some shots I took from my balcony:

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been pretty focused on my goals and unpacking. Regarding unpacking, I’m pretty much down to one more box that I have to process so that will be done soon. And my goals have been moving along pretty nicely as well. Perhaps most notably, I’ve managed to lose 10 pounds since moving in thanks to being back in the gym and running almost every day, being back on meal prep, and sort of getting back into sports.

I say sort of getting back into sports because I’ve realized commuting towards downtown for late-night sports isn’t ideal with two regards–first, it takes longer than I expected, and second, because even late at night, the train so far seems to be infrequent and packed with people. This is true for getting to and from work as well right now.

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to approach some of these things.

I’ve started exploring sport options closer to home. I tried badminton at a closer community centre last night, and I’m trying volleyball there tonight.

I’m exploring the idea of going to work earlier or half-way through my day to try to avoid transit traffic. Some of the things I’m trying to weigh in to this are when I’ll be able to workout (ie. times when the gym isn’t busy) and the likelihood that I’ll get stuck at work due to an emergency.

On that note, I’m reading an interesting book on decision making right now: Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke. It’s an interesting perspective shift on decision making, and I’m interesting in putting some of those tips into practice soon.

Anyhow, I should be back to blogging regularly now. Looking forward to getting back to my reflection practice more regularly.

Develop and Optimize

Form determines function, but the tissues also develop and optimize based on their use. For example, the fibers in a muscle may have a given structural architecture, but the repetitive stresses they see during running may cause adaptations that shorten and excessively bind layers of tissues together that impact their overall function. To restore this, you must fix the tissue properties, but also address the mechanical cause that altered the tissue in the first place.

“Anatomy for Runners” by Jay Dicharry

I missed posting on Monday, and I almost skipped posting this today. In the spirit of not letting the good be the enemy of the perfect, I’m just stopping by to say I haven’t forgotten about this.

I’ve been keeping busy this week unpacking and catching up on my goals. I’m behind on quite a few of them right now, so I’ve gone to the gym twice today and also did a short 5 km run. Just got back now, and I’m getting ready for bed so I can try to get some sleep for tomorrow (the past two nights haven’t been great for sleep).

I’m also hoping to dedicate some more thinking time to blog posts in the near future. I feel like several of the more recent ones were rushed, disorganized, and too spontaneous.

I don’t have internet at home yet (yes, I caved in and I’m gonna give internet a try for the year), but that’s coming next week and will hopefully help with keeping on top of blogging regularly.

Time to sleep.