Useful feedback

Useful feedback has one or both of two characteristics –

(1) The giver hones into the exact trade-offs that the presenter/receiver is struggling with and adds insightful perspective that helps them navigate it

(2) The giver adds a new dimension that the receiver didn’t consider and thus changes how the receiver views the problem

And, generalized truths/”principles” (often misused – more on this another day) tend to fall into the true-but-useless category.

Rare health conditions

Every once in a while, I hear the story of someone with a rare health condition that prevents them from having a regular life.

Some of these require regular hospital visits, others involve allergies to foods whose availability and consumption we take for granted, and others mean dealing with life threatening situations frighteningly often.

Every time I hear such a story, I’m reminded of the impact dumb luck has in our lives. Being able to worry about things outside of our health – our careers, our hobbies, and the like – is a luxury that is only made possible by good health.

And, if we’re blessed with that luxury, we have much to be grateful for.

The Hymn of Hate

I read about a poem that was taught in German schools at the turn of the century. It was called “The Hymn of Hate.”

Here’s the last the paragraph of the (translated) poem:

Take you the folk of the Earth in pay,
With bars of gold your ramparts lay,
Bedeck the ocean with bow on bow,
Ye reckon well, but not well enough now.

French and Russian, they matter not,
A blow for a blow, a shot for a shot,
We fight the battle with bronze and steel,
And the time that is coming Peace will seal.

You we will hate with a lasting hate,
We will never forego our hate,
Hate by water and hate by land,
Hate of the head and hate of the hand,

Hate of the hammer and hate of the crown,
Hate of seventy millions choking down.
We love as one, we hate as one,
We have one foe and one alone–
(Here’s a blog post from Connie Ruzich with the full poem)

German school students used to recite this hymn in school – that in turn helped the government recruit students for World War I.

The writer of the poem Ernst Lissauer, a German Jewish poet, went on to regret writing it as the effects of the poem lasted well beyond the war.

As Connie details in her post, the story took another tragic turn in the years following World War I. Germany, the country he so loved, rejected him as a Jew and accused him of “fanatical hatred” that was “utterly un-German” and “characteristic of nothing so much as the Jewish race.”

Poignant. Sad. Pointless.

Lessons about the futility of war and hate are lessons we don’t seem to want to learn from the past.

Intermittent fasting update – 7 months in

I started intermittent fasting in the new year. I shared an update 2 weeks in – it was looking positive.

7 months in, I think intermittent fasting (or IF) is here to stay. I have fallen in love the simplicity of eating one fewer meal and feeling healthier.

3 weeks ago, we made a slight change that resulted in a large improvement to an already great experience.

For the first 6 months, we ate roughly in the 8 or so hours between 1 and 9. I say roughly because there some variability in the evening depending on when our kids went to bed. As they’ve been gradually staying up well past 8pm, our dinners gradually got later too.

So, we decided to test eating between 830am-430pm instead.

This has turned out to be a masterstroke as it accomplishes a few things at once. First, it ensures we finish our last meal well before we sleep. We’d attempted to do this by doing our dinners with our kids. With a 3.5 year old and a 2 year old, those experiments turned out to be a bit of a farce. :-) So, after a few attempts, we concluded that we’ll have to wait a couple years before family dinners become a reality.

Second, we get a nicer variety of food as breakfast becomes one of the two major meals. That somehow changes the equation vs. lunch and dinner.

And, finally, we’ve unlocked an extra hour of sleep.

It is amazing how tiny habit changes can unlock so much daily happiness (and productivity). This is definitely one of them – a keeper.

Before Bruno

Manchester United Football Club had two distinct phases this Premier League season – the period before they signed midfielder Bruno Fernandes and the period after.

The difference is stark – until the signing, the team was in 6th place in the league and looked disjointed and out of ideas.

In the 14 games after Bruno Fernandes was signed, the team was top of the league table (and third place overall).

Before he was signed, Bruno Fernandes wouldn’t have been mentioned in a list of the top 10 or 20 or even 50 players on the planet. How, then, was this transformation possible?

It turned out he just brought the kind of skills the team needed at the time with a willingness to work very hard and show up to every game and practice session with a great attitude and the desire to win.

It has been fascinating to watch the transformative effect of this one player’s arrival on a massive football club. And, that he did it with a great combination of skill, heart, and attitude makes it all the more inspiring.

It is a great reminder of the effect this combination can have on any team.

If he can do it, perhaps… just perhaps… so can we.

What great educators do

Good educators ensure we remember and apply one core idea they shared for the rest of our lives.

Great educators make us fall in love with the subject.

Outstanding educators – a rare breed – make us fall in love with learning.

While many associate education with schools, the presence of great educators is not limited to schools. Instead, they’re all around around us – as managers, parents, teammates, friends, coaches, and leaders.

The difference between them and everyone else who attempts to educate is they do so by doing, not telling.

Good days, bad days, busy days, quiet days

Some days are good. Some are bad. Many seem to hover in between.

Similarly, some weeks are busy. Others are quiet. A few hover in between.

It is tempting to over analyze these days/weeks as we work our way through them.

Unless we’re finding ourselves stuck in a rut, a better approach is to put aside any judgment and accept them for what they are.

After all, we never know if a good day is a good day in the moment. The best we can do is keep plugging away in earnest – regardless of whether the currents are with or against us.

In the long run, good processes inspire good outcomes.

Activating teams – the two highest leverage actions

Observation: The two highest leverage actions we can take to activate a team toward a goal:

(1) Share a clear problem statement that explains the problem, who it is for, and the value of solving it.

(2) Create a scoreboard coupled with the ability for teams to measure progress.

Kick off meetings, brainstorming sessions, pitches/speeches/public commitments, et al, can all be useful additions and have their place depending on the situation.

But, if any of them shortchange our ability to craft a clear problem statement and the means to measure success, they end up hurting our ability to activate teams toward making progress.

(Note: I made a scheduling error on Sunday evening leading to yesterday’s post being published this morning – two posts today as a result, apologies!)

Andy Slavitt and the playbook

We caught up with a few friends over the weekend. One of them is based in Germany and was sharing his excited about 100% normalcy starting next week.

After reopening restaurants and bars a few weeks ago, offices started with work on alternate weeks. As new COVID-19 cases have slowed to a bare minimum, they’re now ready for offices to reopen completely starting next week.

It blew my mind.

I found myself wondering if we’d experience that 12 months from now in the US (optimistic case).

Then, I saw an excellent thread by Andy Slavitt – a former Federal government Healthcare head.

He makes the case I’ve been attempting to make over the past weeks in my COVID-19 updates (he just does it 1000x more articulately).

(1) We are 6-8 weeks away from getting to where many countries who experienced bad outbreaks are.

(2) For these 6-8 weeks, we’d need to commit to a) universal mask wearing, b) all hot spots closed (bars, restaurants, etc.), c) prohibit interstate travel or travel into the country, d) enable families with symptoms to isolate in hotels, e) 90% lockdown

(3) We’d need unemployment insurance, will have a rough few weeks (albeit with the ability to enjoy the outdoors). BUT, we’d experience exponential decay and will see new cases become a trickle within 6-8 weeks.

(4) The blessed economy could then restart. We could test aggressively and experience the sort of normal so many countries are already beginning to experience. The risk wouldn’t completely go away without a vaccine but we’d reduce the stress on our healthcare professionals, ensure employers can begin hiring again, and can deal with the occasional outbreak as it pops up.

In his thread, he says “lets not pretend this isn’t an option.”

Another way to say the same thing would be to say – “There’s a fucking playbook out there. Let’s just follow it and prevent thousands more from dying.”

Moments of one-ness

We were in conversation about a few moments today.

Being present with thousands of people singing as one.

Memories from a wonderful two week trip with people we loved.

Cheering for a team along with tens of thousands of people.

All these moments are special because of a feeling of one-ness among large groups of people. We’ve felt it – in concerts, in prayer, in events, on holidays, and in a sports game.

I miss those moments. And, I’m going to appreciate them a lot once we’re able to experience them again.