Timebox it

We’re allowed to feel bad, sad, disappointed, annoyed, or out-of-it.

It helps to take the time to accept what we’re feeling and to even sit with these emotions for a while.

The only accompanying requirement is that we timebox it.

That constraint forces clarity and progress.

Comfort in solitude

“I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.” | Blaise Pascal

There is no amount of love or money that can help us if we’re unable to enjoy the time we spend with ourselves.

Our ability to make peace with ourselves, to find comfort in solitude helps us act from wholeness instead of our wounds.

Two more stories

I heard two stories recently of folks we knew who were suffering from severe health conditions. One of these is brain-related and the other is lung cancer. They’re both in their late 40s/early 50s.

Every time I hear one of these stories, I’m reminded of the sheer randomness that defines this life and this universe. Today, we hear of things happening to someone else. Tomorrow, we might be the subject of these stories.

More than ever, these stories drive home a simple idea. If you wake up tomorrow with a reasonably functioning body, make the most of that blessing.

Do good work, be kind, laugh, do what you said you would, be generous with hugs, and, most of all, be grateful for what you have.

Life might be shorter than you think.

Purely for the reward

The challenge with doing something purely for some reward is that the rewards for doing something are often different from what we expect.

These rewards can be better – but no amount of better can make up for rigid expectations.

Writing habits of successful academics

Robert Boice, a psychological professor, spent his career studying the writing habits of fellow academics.

His conclusion was that the most productive and successful among them made writing a smaller part of their daily routine than others. They wrote in brief daily sessions – sometimes as short as 10 minutes and never longer than 4 hours – and religiously took weekends off.

They cultivated the patience to tolerate the fact that they probably wouldn’t be producing very much on any given day, with the result that they produced much more over the long term.

(H/T – Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks)

Attitude and responsiveness

Average service providers can get the job done.

Good service providers get the job done well – in a way that minimizes rework and potential issues.

Great service providers, however, stand out thanks to a mix of positive attitude and responsiveness.

After a threshold amount of skill, it is the soft skills that make the difference.

Prosthetic limbs, carbon fiber, and trade-offs

The Quartz newsletter had a fascinating article on prosthetic limbs and Carbon fiber. Here’s the excerpt.

In 1976, a young undergraduate named Van Philips got into a terrible water-skiing accident, losing his leg below his left knee. The prosthetic limbs available at the time were blocky replicas of real legs, so Philips set about designing a new one: the Flex-Foot, inspired by the springy hind leg of a cheetah. It was the first model of the Össur running blades we see today.

When Philips was searching for the right material for his invention—something strong, light, cheap, and heat-resistant—he lit upon carbon fiber. The first filaments of carbon were created more than a century ago, for use in light bulbs, but its properties were refined only in the 1960s. By itself, a single strand of carbon isn’t very strong, but when thousands of fibers (each thinner than a human hair) are woven and compressed together, the material gets up to 18 times stronger than steel.

Among the first companies to use this space-age material was Rolls-Royce, which made jet engines out of carbon composites in the late 1960s. Since then, carbon fiber has made its way into practically everything except the food we eat. It’s in airplane and car components, motorcycle racing gloves, wind turbine blades, power lines, microchips, spectacle frames, clothing, and skis.

It’s a marvel—except that it comes with a cost. Carbon fiber, despite its organic-sounding name, isn’t biodegradable, so landfills are brimming with the stuff. Recycling it is difficult, because that helpful imperviousness to heat makes it difficult to melt down and reuse. The development of carbon fiber was a true revolution, but as with so many other wondrous technologies, it now requires a second revolution, one that determines how we can use it without letting it ruin the planet.

An idea that has stuck with me after reading “The Wizard and the Prophet” is that there is no perfect strategy – there are only trade-offs.

The story of Carbon fiber is the story of most innovative solutions we’ve created. It has resulted in both awe-inspiring positive effects in our lives while causing challenges for future generations thanks to how difficult it is recycle.

There are no simple answers to problems like this. For example, natural gas supply is tenuous in these times – but we can’t simple wean ourselves off natural gas in a few months.

We need a long-term strategy that emphasizes both innovation and considered use. These are AND problems, not OR problems.

As are most of the challenging problems we face as humans.

System glitches and a personal finance takeaway

I experienced a couple of financial system glitches recently. In one case, I was inaccurately charged for something I didn’t use – this may have been a manual glitch (hard to say). In another, I didn’t get back a refund for a hotel booking I canceled.

No, the system wasn’t out to get me. But system glitches happen from time to time.

The refund system at that particular hotel may be 99.99% accurate. But that doesn’t matter if you or I constitute the 0.01%.

The takeaway? Assume financial systems will break and that the break won’t be in your favor. Take a few minutes every week to review credit card charges, keep track of any outstanding refunds, and so on. And definitely stay on top of large transactions and payments.

The return-on-investment on those few minutes spent reviewing our finances every week is high.

Besides, better thorough than sorry.