Well explained data

The Our World in Data team put together a well explained visualization (here) of COVID data post-vaccines in the past 6 months.

It starts by explaining the importance of understanding death rates vs. the raw number of deaths to understand vaccine effectiveness.

Once we have that out of the way, we can now look at how the stats have trended. Vaccine performance has been similar to trials – J&J has a higher death rate than the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine. And, the vaccines – on average – reduce the mortality rate between 400%-800%.

It is fascinating to see an even higher delta between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in the UK. This is a combination of the Pfizer and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. I wonder if it is driven by more severe waves driven by a more urban population.

And, finally, we only see a 200% delta in Chile where the vaccinations were done with the Sinovac vaccine (lower effectiveness).

This combination of explainer + chart is a great example of well explained data. It captures the nuance (mortality rate vs. mortality) while still keeping it simple.

If you do enjoy a more complex data visualization, Nassim Taleb had a good one. He explained that COVID isn’t an old person problem. It just acts as a multiplier on existing mortality rates. It is just that the mortality rate for older folks is higher by default.

I think 2022 will be the final year of the COVID-19 pandemic in most countries. With anti-viral pills on the way, health officials won’t need to work on vaccine adoption curves as hard as they do right now. It is futile. If data from over 3B fully vaccinated people doesn’t help, nothing will. :-) When people land up in a hospital next year, they’ll just get the anti-viral pill.

It’ll be interesting to see how long masking lives on though. As an example, folks who traveled a 16 hour flight recently were understandably complaining about feeling suffocated. But, airlines are all about the theatre (security checks, etc.) – so, some effects may linger longer than most of us hope.

Finally, as we head into the thanksgiving long weekend, I got my booster shot yesterday. I walked into a Costco, asked if it was available, filled up a form, and got my shot for free.

That’s a lot of privilege right there.

Much to be grateful for, I have.

The online forum and the kidney donor

Someone I spoke to recently shared a fascinating story. A decade ago, both his dad’s kidneys failed and he had just a few months to live. So, his dad shared a message in an online forum sharing that he had a few months to live and that he was hoping for a donor who’d give him more time with his young son.

They got a call from a taxi driver in Germany a few days later. This gentleman said he wanted to help, flew down for a surgery the next month (his kidney was a great match), and has disappeared since.

His father recovered completely.

We found ourselves marveling at the wonderful insanity of the story. A random stranger who saved a life thanks to a message on the internet – only to disappear since.

Most of us may not experience stories as crazy as this. But, we’ve also been blessed by random acts of kindness in unexpected circumstances.

We have more to be thankful for than we often realize.


A good friend introduced us to a Hindi song – Kasoor – yesterday. We’ve listened to it at least 30 times today. I predict we’ll listen to it another 100 times as it is well on its way to becoming an all-time favorite.

There’s absolutely nothing fancy about this song. It is a guy with a guitar with simple lyrics you don’t even need to understand. You could imagine a friend humming this by a campfire.

Music at its simplest. Music at its finest.

Much like so many things in this life.

Facilitation and urgency

In decision making/strategic discussion meetings, the difference between good facilitation and great facilitation comes down to one idea – urgency. A sense of urgency embodied by the facilitator makes meetings feel vibrant and useful.

While some of this is an art, there are 4 things we can do to increase urgency when we facilitate:

(1) Replace decks with docs + pre-read time: 2 reasons – higher information density and a removal of the dependence on the pace of the presenter.

(2) Replace “round-the-room” discussions for groups >7-8: If you want to hear from everyone, give folks time to type out their notes on a shared spreadsheet and then read each other’s notes. It is at least 3x more efficient and a lot more effective.

(3) Structure brainstorms: Break each brainstorm down to: (a) solo idea generation + input into spreadsheet, (b) Read each others ideas and vote (or discuss in small groups), (c) discussion of salient points in the larger group. The more the structure, the more the value + energy.

(4) Actively stop discussions that involve <50% of the group: Everyone will appreciate it. If it helps, consider keep a rough mental note of the cost of the meeting – it’ll definitely remove any reluctance to stop these discussions. :-)

Urgency is as much about these tactics as it is about a mindset – a mindset that adds a ton of leverage across any team/organization. And, if we’re somehow able to combine urgency with light heartedness/humor, we end up having a multiplier effect on the productivity of those around us.

How to say no

A few years ago, I reached out asking if I could interview someone whose work I admired. He responded with – “Alas, I can’t do this justice right now.”

When we exchanged a few more notes, he offered to do something else that was much lower effort for him instead. But, I was thrilled with the outcome nevertheless.

I learned a few things from that exchange.

First, he had no business responding to me. It would have been justified if he didn’t. But, he did. That meant a lot.

Second, that “no” felt completely reasonable.

And, finally, that offer to do something that worked for him was also lovely.

It is a learning I’ve applied many times over the years. Every time I receive a request for a call, I respond requesting we do email instead. It isn’t perfect/ideal. But, it is often what I can make work with everything going on.

It is one thing to know you need to say no to stuff and quite another thing to learn how to do it. That exchange taught me how. I remain very grateful for it.

But that’s the job

A leader I know shared this store. When they started in a new big role, they faced what felt like a crisis every day.

Just as it was beginning to feel exhausting, this person met with a former friend who knew first-hand what the job was like. After hearing the story, this friend said – “But, that’s the job. It is going to be crisis every day.”

Hearing that turned out to be a relief for this leader. Knowing that was the expectation changed everything.

It’s a story with powerful lessons for all of us. Often, it isn’t the problems that get to us. It is the expectation that we’d be able to get by without those problems that messes with our mind.