Remembering training wheels

I shared a post about training wheels three years back.

Training wheels sound so great in concept. After all, they remove all the risk from learning to ride a bike.

But, they don’t work.

It turns out that removing all the risk of losing balance doesn’t teach us the most important ability required to ride a bike – how to balance. And, that, in turn, also means we don’t actually learn to ride the bike. Worse, it hinders our ability to learn without training wheels.

Risk and reward go together. Falling down is an important part of learning. And, we only make progress when we embrace the possibility of a fall.

Why, then, do we use training wheels? Fear of failure.

And, that’s thanks to a misunderstanding. You see, failure is not the falling down, it is the staying down.

I remembered this post as we began teaching our kids how to ride bikes 3 weeks ago. We used training wheels just to show our older child how much fun pedaling a bike could be.

We then took away the training wheels, pedals, and let her use her bike as a balance bike. She started by walking with it, progressed to quick strides, and soon figured she could rest between strides by balancing.

A few days later, we added the pedals back today and away she went.

Risk, doing, falling, learning, progress.

They all go together.

Fewer meetings – short and long term solutions

Advice posts/columns recommending fewer meetings often tend to emphasize the importance of saying no, mandating quiet hours, and using asynchronous channels to minimize meetings.

While these are helpful as short term band-aids, they do little in the long term because they don’t solve for the root cause – a lack of clarity within the working team.

The most effective long term solution I’ve found is to learn to write better documents, build better spreadsheets, and create crisper slides.

One clear and concise doc or slide deck typically saves 100+ hours (sometimes even 1000+ hours) of meeting time.

Competition and abundance

One of the fascinating truths about life is that competition exists in everything we do.

If we’re running a business, we have to deal with competitors.

If we’re attempting to find a job, we have to compete with other applicants.

And, of course, dating is a competitive sport too.

So, competition is an ever present – in all the areas that tend to count anyway.

And, yet, the other side of this truth is that we are significantly better off when we ignore its existence.

The intent here isn’t to deny reality. Instead, it is to view it with a different frame – a frame which focuses on the fact that most games are not zero sum games.

And, choosing to focus on the abundance makes us happier people and, often (perhaps surprisingly), better competitors.

Control in theory vs. practice – consumer product research

Every once a while, I observe myself using my iPhone and realize how much control I would want on my phone in theory/if I was asked and how little I need in practice every day.

It speaks to the challenge of getting predictive insight from conversations with users in consumer products where so much of the behavior is subconscious.

By asking questions that draw attention to a particular action or need, we unintentionally move it from the subconscious to the conscious.

And, in doing so, we lose its predictive value.

Schrodinger’s cat.

Solar’s future is insanely cheap

Clean Energy Investor Ramez Naam shared an excellent post on his blog recently titled “Solar’s Future is Insanely Cheap.” He made 4 points in this post –

1. Solar cost dropped 5x over the course of the last decade – that was a whopping 25% of what the International Energy Agency forecast in 2010. It was also 50% less than his own optimistic forecast from 2011

2. To understand this drop, we must understand Wright’s law – the cost of a technology drops exponentially as a function of cumulative scale of production. So, as we produce more of a certain technology, we learn how to better optimize its production.

In solar energy’s case, every doubling of cumulative production has resulted in a 30%-40% decline in prices.

3. Even with very conservative forecasts, it is likely that even medium cost solar plants will be cheaper than the cheapest fossil power plants within a decade.

This doesn’t mean the journey will be straightforward – but, we continue to make progress at a pace that exceeds any previous expectation.

4. Of course, the presence of cheap solar energy isn’t going to be a panacea until we make significant progress on cheap energy storage. We will need to combine solar with the likes of wind, hydro, and nuclear power to de-carbonize places that get little in the way of sunlight. And, we’ll need all the solar we can get as we transition toward Electric vehicles.

But, we’re making a lot of progress and there are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic.

7 billion people and the one person

Every once a while I’m reminded of the quote – “There are over 7 billion people on the planet and you’re going to let one person ruin your day?” 

It doesn’t always fix my response to the situation at hand. But, it does considerably improve the situation each time.

Here’s to more of that.

Michael Lewis and stories we tell ourselves

“As I’ve gotten older—I would say starting in my mid-to-late 20s—I could not help but notice the effect on people of the stories they told about themselves. If you listen to people, if you just sit and listen, you’ll find that there are patterns in the way they talk about themselves.

There’s the kind of person who is always the victim in any story that they tell. Always on the receiving end of some injustice. There’s the person who’s always kind of the hero of every story they tell. There’s the smart person; they delivered the clever put down there.

There are lots of versions of this, and you’ve got to be very careful about how you tell these stories because it starts to become you. You are—in the way you craft your narrative—kind of crafting your character. And so I did at some point decide, “I am going to adopt self-consciously as my narrative, that I’m the happiest person anybody knows.” And it is amazing how happy-inducing it is.” | Michael Lewis

This note made me think about the narrative I’ve crafted about myself. My hunch is that the narrative I share revolves around the three words that I think of as my cultural tenets – integrity or doing what I say I’ll do, learning or attempting to find growth in every situation, and hunger or the constant push to move things forward and contribute positively.

I’ll be mulling this some more, however. Powerful idea.

(H/T: James Clear’s newsletter)