Market dips and perspective

There has been a lot of news about markets falling in the past two days. So, I looked up the Dow (or the Dow Jones Industrial Average) on Google yesterday.

When you look at a 1 month view, you can clearly see the steep fall.

You see it clearly in the 1 year view as well. However, while the fall is certainly steep, we also notice that it is still higher than the starting point.

When you shift to a 5 year view, however, the fall is barely a blip.

This is not to say it will continue to be a blip. No one really knows how long this will last or if we’ve hit the bottom. We all may have guesses and, in some cases, more informed hunches – but that’s about it.

This post isn’t about all that speculation though.

Instead, as I looked at these views, I realized that they hold a powerful lesson in perspective. When we experience a really bad day, it is worth zooming out and getting some perspective.

Something that feels particularly bad right now may just be a tiny blip on a 5 year time horizon.

Misalignment to alignment – starting with the document

When we try to move a group of folks from misalignment to alignment, we have two primary tools at our disposal – documents and meetings. And, I’ve come to realize that the optimal way to use these tools is to start with the document before attempting to bring people together with a meeting. The optimal process looks something like this.

3 reflections –

1. Starting with the document/memo ensures none of the context setting is left to chance. The document lays out the problem we’re trying to solve and what we need to believe to build a solution that works (i.e. our hypothesis).

2. A good document sets the stage for productive conflict. There is no avoiding conflict – instead, it is important to view the energy that conflict generates as healthy and channel the energy toward creating the best possible solution. Then, document the progress again, meet if necessary, and repeat until all major open questions are resolved.

3. Bringing a group together without doing the work of creating a good document and, on the flip side, keeping the group discussion asynchronous for too long tend to replace the misalignment with mistrust. And, needless to say, it is much harder to recover from mistrust.

The diagnosis that changed everything

I recently heard of an acquaintance on a stellar career path who was diagnosed with a difficult terminal illness.

Of course, everything changed following the diagnosis. The stellar career trajectory didn’t matter anymore.

Most of us are guilty of taking far too many things for granted as we work through our day-to-day.

Good health is likely top of that list.

Notes by Ada and too good to be true

For a while between 2017-2019, I wrote long ~monthly posts on technology as part of a project I called “Notes by Ada.” Inspired by Ada Lovelace, this project prodded me to expand how I thought about technology and the biggest problems we needed to solve.

If it wasn’t for writing for two years, I don’t think I’d have formed the perspective I hold on the importance of solving for climate and employment in a world where the connection between labor and capital is breaking as well as a whole host of other topics. Writing, as always, was both powerful and clarifying.

Over time, however, this project became hard to keep up. Each long form article needed a lot of research and this research was time away from the family on weekends. And, after kid #2 came along, this approach became untenable.

Just as I was beginning to think about winding this project down, my MailChimp subscriber updates email began showing unexpected activity. Suddenly, 30-40 folks were signing up every day for a few weeks. I tried emailing a couple of these folks to ask where they heard about this project. I had shared on Medium and LinkedIn but this felt too good to be true. No response.

So, I finally ended up writing a post on the climate crisis to see whether I’d hear from a few folks. I ended up getting a collection of “I never subscribed. Please unsubscribe” responses.

That hurt.

All my notes are opt-in only for good reason. I have no intention of forcing my notes on anyone. There are no big pop ups on any project asking you to sign up. If you do, you hopefully do so because you believe there’s value. And, if you don’t, that’s also understandable. We only have so much time and attention in a day.

Anyway, it turned out that there was some Russian bad actor who just dumped a bunch of these emails into a Mailchimp form that didn’t have double opt in by default.

It turned out to be the final nail in the coffin for that project. But, it also helped me (re)learn two important lessons.

If you have a project involving a subscriber list, use double opt in. (And, if you don’t, beware of the risks.)

And, second, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is.

Bob Iger and Twitter

There’s a fascinating story in Bob Iger’s excellent memoir about the weekend in before Disney was set to announce it was acquiring Twitter to the world.

They had worked for months to get the deal in place and it all looked ready to go.

Until Bob Iger decided against it.

He shared reasons for his reservations with the board (which included a disappointed Jack Dorsey) – primarily his worries about nastiness/abuse on the platform. But, he also admitted that the decision was less about logical reasons and a lot about his gut. It just didn’t feel right.

I loved Iger’s memoir for its candor. This anecdote was a great example of that. He repeatedly touches on the importance of decisions feeling right. And, in this case, when his gut – one that had decades of training in decision making – said no, he couldn’t go through with it.

It is a lesson I’ve been reminded of time and again in (much smaller and lower stakes :-)) decisions in my life. Our gut knows more than we can parse. And, it is in our interest to pay careful attention to what it is telling us.

Nothing we can say or do

I was in conversation with a friend who lost a loved one recently.

As we exchanged notes, and feelings with each other, there came a moment when we acknowledged to each other that nothing I said or did could help make the situation better.

She was in the cave with the fiercest of demons and no amount of wishing they go away would make that happen.

The only way out was acceptance.

Every once in a while, we’re faced with situations when words and actions only go so far. These situations often tend to involve mortality and loss.

Acknowledging our powerlessness to get to grips with the situation sounds counter intuitive.

But, it is often the best way to move forward and make progress.

Chernobyl

We recently took up a temporary HBO subscription to make sure we watched Chernobyl. I’d read that the show became the highest rated TV show of all time on IMDB and was intrigued.

The five episodes HBO put together to depict the story of the Chernobyl nuclear strategy were – in one word – fascinating.

It tells the story of an unfortunate accident caused by misinformed and reckless ambition whose effects ended up being far worse thanks to a massive attempt at covering up the reality. It speaks to the challenges scientists face when they tell uncomfortable truths. And, most of all, it pushes us to think about the world we inhabit and the interactions at play between the earth, human wants, science, politics, and beliefs.

Valery Legasov had a powerful reflection at the end –

“To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for truth, we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there, whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants. It doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. And this, at last, is the gift of Chernobyl. Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: “What is the cost of lies?”

It poignantly reminded me about the discussion after the scientific consensus around climate change was shared.

We haven’t yet accepted the gift of Chernobyl.