That parking spot

I was looking for a parking spot the other day. As I turned in, I noticed folks get into a car nearby.

Assuming they’d be getting out, I decided to wait.

However, they decided to take their own time.

As I continued waiting, I noticed a car pull into an empty spot just 5 or so cars away.

That gave me pause.

A great example of the pitfalls of overusing a good thing – in this case, a single-minded focus on a parking spot.

When the list gets long

Whenever the list gets long and overwhelming, I find myself reminded of
Anne Lamott’s wonderful story.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day.

We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.

Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’” 

Bird by bird indeed.

Tools and utility

My grandmom felt some discomfort in her mouth. She found the source of the discomfort – a white spot.

She decided to run some Google searches and stumbled on some article that explained this was a cancer symptom.

Cue: worry.

It turned out to be a small infection.

The dentist asked her to go straight to a doctor next time.

Aside from inspiring a chuckle, it was a good reminder that having access to all the information in the world doesn’t guarantee utility.

Like any tool, we need to know how to use it productively.

Privilege and long-term thinking

The ability to think long term is a powerful marker of privilege.

As I reflect on the privilege I’ve accumulated over the years, the biggest change has been a sense of security – both mental and financial. That sense of security, in turn, enables long term thinking and investment.

That long term thinking and investment, in turn, has inspired more privilege.

The interesting question that then arises is – can we invest in the long term without accumulating privilege? Can we reverse this chain of events?

I think it is hard to do this because of the absence of said security.

But (and there’s always a but :-)), if we do manage to do it as often as possible, we’ll likely find the return on investment on that thinking to be positive.

3 truths about fixing things

3 truths about fixing things:

(1) It generally takes longer than you think.

(2) You develop a deep understanding of the dysfunctional nature of large organizations (if you deal with customer service) or of user manuals.

(3) You develop a lot of appreciation for how smooth things are when they do work. If this emotion is channeled well, you might just walk out of the experience a more grateful, and thus a happier, person.

Clear copy – renewal reminders

I get renewal reminder notices from a few services.

The best such email is from WordPress. In the first paragraph, they highlight – “You don’t have to do anything – this is just a reminder.”

Then, they go on to tell me what I should expect.

Truth be told, that one line ensures reading the email is a stress-free experience.

With other emails, I find myself attempting to parse the rest of the email to figure out what I should be doing. In some cases, I end up making the payment in advance – just in case.

Clear copy goes a long way in improving a customer’s experience.

The Ikea effect – with a twist

The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created.

The Ikea effect posits that we disproportionately value furniture we assemble.

I only find that loosely true in my experience. I don’t have a strong attachment to furniture I assemble. In fact, if the assembly is complex and the equipment is expensive, I prefer having an expert do it.

But, I nevertheless find myself assembling things/furniture from time to time. And, when I do, I inevitably cut or bruise myself.

Every time that happens during the assembly process, I find myself looking at the cut or bruise with a warmth that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. That warmth is a result of the halo effect that accompanies a DIY project.

A badge of honor, if you will.

Such events are a reminder of just how much our perspective shapes our life experience.

The Ikea effect – with a twist.

Innovation and basics

A winner of the award for America’s “most innovative winemaker” explained that there was nothing innovative about his approach. He has simply emphasized natural, ecologically sustainable farming, and fermentation for decades.

In a sense, his approach is all about going back to the basics.

But, he’s done that long enough, well enough, and consistently enough to be regarded as among the most innovative folks in his profession.

That idea applies well beyond wine-making.

Stimulus and response

I first read about the space between stimulus and response in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” nearly 12 years ago.

I’ve attempted to study the “7 Habits” a few times over the years. And, while I think I’ve made progress over the years and learnt a few things along the way, I often stumble upon reminders that tell me how much farther I have to go.

For example, I recently had one situation where I succeeded in separating stimulus and response. Just as I was feeling good about resisting the temptation to react, I remembered 3 other situations where I failed to do so.

On the bright side, a 25% hit rate is much better than what it used to be.

I’m hoping to continue to improve it in the coming months.