Scout Mindset

Julia Galef, an author, shared this about her book “The Scout mindset.”

“The scout mindset — which is my term for the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were. In other words, trying to be intellectually honest, objective, and curious about what’s actually true.

The central metaphor in the book is that we are often in soldier mindset, my term for the motivation to defend your own beliefs against arguments and evidence that might threaten them. Scout mindset is an alternative way of thinking. A scout’s goal is not to attack or defend, but to go out and form an accurate map of what’s really there.

It resonated.

(H/T: Noah Smith’s Noahpinion interview)

Rudolf Abel and would it help

As I make my way through stoic texts, I realize that Rudolf Abel’s “would it help” (from “The Bridge of Spies”) is a line/lesson that would fit in beautifully in stoic philosophy.

“You don’t seem alarmed.”
“Would it help?”

“Don’t you ever worry?”
“Would it help?”

“You’re not worried”
Would it help?”

Three words that manage to be simple, powerful, and riveting at once.

I don’t ask myself “would it help?” as often as I would like to.

I am hoping to change that.

Growth mindset – what it sounds like vs. what it is

The term “Growth mindset” inspires images of a wonderful journey full of positive momentum and learning along the way.

The daily reality of attempting to live it is anything but. It is more likely we come across words like – bump, imposter, dissatisfaction, questions, uncertainty, obstacle, surprise, a punch in the gut, fear, and stretch. Lots of stretch.

A nice illustration of the contradiction is this Doghouse Diaries comic. :-) The Growth mindset in our mind vs. what it really is.

The bad news is that it doesn’t get any easier.

The good news is that we learn to deal with it better, can ask for help when we need it (and we will need it), and that things that come easily are rarely things we value.

The upside point

A perspective I hold and share often is the idea that, after a point, it’s all upside.

To me, that point is when we

  • are healthy – physically, mentally, and emotionally
  • have reliable income or wealth to afford a good roof over our heads, food/daily necessities, and some outlet/fun from time to time
  • love and respect in our close relationships

The interesting thing about this idea is that more of us are at this point than we realize. It’s just hard to recognize that when we’re stuck trying to maximize one of these areas. For most of us, that area tends to be our careers because the rewards are easily measurable.

It is totally fine if we intentionally choose to maximize our careers. Internalizing the upside idea just means we do it from a place of gratitude, security, and kindness.

It changes how we behave on and experience the journey.

And, in the final analysis, the journey is all we have.

Hat tip – Mukesh’s vaccine app

As of today, every adult in California is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. As amazing as this is, the path to finding an appointment means navigating 8+ health systems/vendors. Anything but straightforward.

In response, Mukesh Aggarwal – a software engineer – spent the past month building and refining an app idea. This app looks for appointments across all of the provider websites in the SF Bay Area and sends an hourly update on a Telegram channel (details here). Over the past few days, the number of people subscribed to the channel grew from a few thousand to tens of thousands.

I am one of those subscribers. I turned on the app and my notifications on Wednesday. Within a couple of hours, I had booked an appointment for Friday morning. Smooth.

San Jose Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla contacted Mukesh and requested him to add East San Jose – an area with among the highest infection rates.

In a CBS article, Bonilla later said – “To me, Mukesh is a hero. This is the time to rewrite the rules and aggressively partner up with people like Mukesh in the private sector, to see how they can actually help. Because they’re wanting to, they’re willing to, but counties have to open those doors in order to make that a reality.”

Indeed. Mukesh has done a wonderful service to the community. He’s also offered his code for anybody who wants to build it for their area.

And, Bonilla’s notes on rewriting the rules resonated. Seeing ideas like this come to life do point to the potential of government organizations partnering with individuals willing to pitch in.

I hope we’ll see a lot more of this.

Dan Goodman’s patient

Morgan Housel has been on a blogging tear over the past months. So much so that I was reflecting on why I love his posts so much.

I realized that it was came down to his penchant for telling captivating stories. He had a great post on the idea the importance of telling “the best story.” He clearly walks the talk.

Today, he had another great collection of stories. The one below stood out.


Dr. Dan Goodman once performed surgery on a middle-aged woman whose cataract had left her blind since childhood. The cataract was removed, leaving the woman with near-perfect vision. A miraculous success.

The patient returned for a checkup a few weeks later. The book Crashing Through writes:

Her reaction startled Goodman. She had been happy and content as a blind person. Now sighted, she became anxious and depressed. She told him that she had spent her adult life on welfare and had never worked, married, or ventured far from home – a small existence to which she had become comfortably accustomed. Now, however, government officials told her that she no longer qualified for disability, and they expected her to get a job. Society wanted her to function normally. It was, she told Goldman, too much to handle.

Every goal you dream about has a downside that’s easy to overlook.


Thank you for sharing as you do, Morgan.

Wake up calls

A common theme among folks who made major positive changes in their life is an incident that reminded them of their mortality. A “wake up call” if you will.

It may have been the loss of a loved one, a narrow escape, or a rough health diagnosis. But, something about the incident forced them to reflect on their lives and prioritize the things that matter.

A useful question for us, then, in our lives and careers is – how can we build habits that help us periodically reflect on our lives relative to our priorities without needing that wake up call?