The tree in front of our home

We have a big tree in front of our home.

As a result, we get less light than we would otherwise in our living room. And, it also means our living room and home is cooler than the temperature outside.

This was wonderful in the summer.

It won’t be as wonderful in the winter.

But, that’s how most things in life work. The best of things can be the worst of things in different situations.

We can’t have it both ways.

Writing short sentences

“There’s nothing wrong with well-made, strongly constructed, purposeful long sentences.
But long sentences often tend to collapse or break down or become opaque or trip over their awkwardness.
They’re pasted together with false syntax
And rely on words like “with” and “as” to lengthen the sentence.

They’re short on verbs, weak in syntactic vigor,
Full of floating, unattached phrases, often out of position.
And worse – the end of the sentence commonly forgets its beginning,
As if the sentence were a long, weary road to the wrong place.

Writing short sentences restores clarity, the directness of subject and verb.
It forces you to discard the strong elements of long sentences,
Like relative pronouns and subordinate clauses,
And the weak ones as well:
Prepositional chains, passive constructions, and dependent phrases.

Writing short sentences will help you write strong, balanced sentences of any length.
Strong, lengthy sentences are really just strong, short sentences joined in various ways.”
| Verilyn Klinkenborg in “Several short sentences about writing”

A beautiful reminder of the importance of starting from the basics.

Upload speed

Internet service providers focus our attention on download speed when they advertise their plans.

Download speed is important. If you’re attempting to stream or download a movie, for example, download speed will ensure it happens quickly.

But, if you’re using the internet for video calls as so many of us are, it helps to pay as much attention to the upload speed.

We felt the effects of this recently as we realized our upload speeds were resulting in blurry videos for our parents. And, it was a fascinating journey to figure out how to get to a plan with a higher upload speed as the Xfinity/Comcast page on internet plans had no information on download speed.

After a call to the customer service number, we learnt that their tiers are 100/5 MBPS (Download/Upload), 300/5, 600/15, and so on. As we were on the 100 MBPS plan, this means an upgrade to the 300 MBPS plan would have done nothing for us. The 600/15 plan was the solution as a result.

And, it has made a massive difference in video call quality.

Win. :-)

We will make mistakes

No matter how hard we try, we will make mistakes.

Little good comes from attempting to prevent mistakes. All we end up with is fear and inaction.

Instead, the way forward is to know that we will make mistakes and be prepared to respond in a manner that is constructive, corrective, and, where possible, creative.

This focus on action and thoughtful responses helps us internalize the lessons we take away from these mistakes. Those lessons, in turn, help us avoid making the same mistakes in the future and often help us do better preventing bigger mistakes.

And, that is as good an outcome as any we can hope for.

Furniture assembly and brute force

One of the things you learn assembling furniture that comes disassembled is that you rarely, if ever, need to use brute force.

Instead, all you need to do is be patient, pay attention to the details, and keep at it for as long as it takes. If you have good tools, you may shave off some time. But, there are few shortcuts available otherwise.

And, if you do find yourself resorting to brute force, it is a sign that you’ve made a mistake somewhere. Hammers are rarely useful in ensuring the right pieces fall in place.

When pieces fall into place, they do so because of accuracy and finesse.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

The marketing email checkbox copy

I was on the California Parks website the other day and noticed different copy in the checkbox near the submit button.

Instead of some version of “I’d like to receive xx newsletter and yy marketing emails,” it said “It’s okay to contact me in the future.”

Your Information 
Email * 
Your receipt will be emailed here. 
It's okay to contact me in the future. 

It made me smile.

It also changed my behavior – I left it checked for a change.

Good copy is powerful.

Sleepy kids and complex systems

When kids get sleepy, a number of things tend to happen at once.

For example, they might get more cranky, emotional, and impatient. And, if they’re engaging in physical activity, they also lose their balance easily. So, an ensuing fall further elevates level of crankiness creating a snowball effect of sorts.

Whenever I witness this, I am reminded of the power of interwoven complexity. It is hard to predict the behavior of complex systems because of the many interactions between the various components. If our human bodies alone are so complex, just imagine the futility of attempting to forecast short term stock market movements.

It is also a good reminder of the importance of getting sleep. It helps.

Arise solutions – missing ethics and misplaced incentives

Propublica was the first ever publication to win a Pulitzer prize for a piece that was never printed. Its reputation for investigative journalism has grown since – with five Pulitzer prizes in the past decade. I came across a recent article on Arise solutions that illustrates why they have such an outstanding track record.

The entire article is worth a read. So, I hope you take the 7-10 mins to read it. It describes the pain the customer service agents we speak to go through on a daily basis.

Power, privilege, misplaced incentives, a legal system that favors the powerful, missing ethics – the article has plenty for us to reflect on.

Thank you, ProPublica team, for your outstanding work.

Coming through when it counts

There’s been a resurgence of the “Is the greatest basketball player LeBron or Michael Jordan” debate after Lebron James picked up his fourth championship ring.

I don’t care much for such debates.

But, it did make me reflect on “The Last Dance” documentary about Michael Jordan again. One of the ideas that inspired me was the level at which Michael Jordan performed throughout the season. But, then, somehow, he raised his game in the knockout stages. And, then further in the NBA finals.

Every time the Bulls landed in the final, he came out as the Most Valuable Player. 6 times out of 6.

I’ve had many sporting heroes over the years. Every one of them has had occasions when they didn’t come through. So, I was admittedly awestruck at MJ’s record.

He was far from a perfect human being. “Winning has a price. Leadership has a price” – in his words.

But, there’s something to be said for coming through when it counted.

Every time.

Find the energizers

I came across a post from Erika James – the new Dean at the Wharton School – about lessons learnt in her first 90 days. Her third lesson was “Find the energizers”

Even under the best of circumstances, assuming a new leadership role can be draining in the first few months. The need to be introduced throughout the organization, sift through myriad issues while simultaneously trying to prioritize people and projects, and respond to an endless amount of stimuli from electronic media (not to mention the actual work of thinking, planning and strategizing) can be relentless. I would say that identifying the people who energize you rather than drain your energy (inside and outside your new organization) is not just important; it’s necessary.

A well-timed conversation with the right “energizer” can both invigorate me and contribute to my overall sense of purpose – two things leaders need as they establish themselves in a new role. Seek out time with these people. Intentionally find time to interact with them rather than leave it up to serendipity. These exchanges may be the exact fuel you need to overcome the hurdles you will most certainly face. Conversely, I’ve learned that limiting my time with people unable or unwilling to provide me that mental “boost” is equally important for keeping me motivated to achieve my biggest goals.

It resonated.