Why did it take so long?

I’ve added to my compilation of devices that need a USB based charger over the years. After dealing with a mess of plug points and chargers, I finally got one of these.

It’s been a game changer.

That begged the question – why did it take so long for me to do this?

The answer, as is so common with these kinds of questions, is that I went about the motions unconsciously. I simply assumed that I’d have to deal with the problem instead of waking up to it.

I saw but did not observe.

The first step to solving problems is being aware of them in the first place.

The extreme weather side-by-side

The western world has experienced a series of extreme weather events in the last month.

More than 60% of the United States was hit by severe cold waves/”bomb cyclones“. Many Western States has been hit by record storms – with more rain/snow than many have seen in decades.

Meanwhile, South America was hit by a brutal heatwave – with temperatures 10 degree C warmer.

And here is a side-by-side comparison of conditions at a ski resort in the French Alps. The picture on the left was taken in 2018. The picture on the right is from last week.


This side-by-side illustrates just how fast things can change. Climate change felt like a “tomorrow” problem not too long ago. It isn’t anymore.

That means it is going to get harder and harder for everyone – myself included – to compartmentalize this and get on with “normalcy.”

Sooner the better.

Maturity

“Maturity is the balance between courage and consideration.” | Stephen Covey – inspired by Prof Hrand Saxenian

Emotional maturity implies we are able to express our feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others.

A beautifully concise articulation.

The 3 year exercise construction project

In Jan 2020, I decided I wanted to be significantly fitter. We now had a 1.5 year old and a 3 year old and were getting out of crisis mode. As I looked for ways to hold myself accountable, I decided to buy an Apple Watch. I wanted to track my activity and use the move + exercise + stand rings as motivation. That went okay for a couple weeks. Then COVID-19 lockdowns hit. Cue: a repeat of crisis mode.

As we got into a routine in the latter part of the year, I realized that the Watch buy was a success. The 3 rings were motivating and I could see myself committing to this.

In 2021, I renewed my commitment to closing the rings. My challenge was to do so during weekdays. I didn’t need a watch during weekends as we led fairly active weekend lives. And I didn’t have any specific criteria beyond hitting my 400 calorie/30 minutes/10 hours x 1 min stand goal. As long as it got done, I was good. It had its ups and downs in 2021. But, by the end of the year, I was structuring my day such that I got a good 20ish minute walk (often during a call) and closing those rings on most days.

I still wasn’t feeling fit. But I was beginning to see the light.

In 2022, I wanted to do better and decided to commit to at least 5-10 minutes of strength training. A 30 minute walk to close my exercise ring didn’t cut it anymore. This time, I decided to try Apple Fitness+ and got myself a few dumbbells. Again, this worked well. I used Apple Fitness+ in the first half of the year and kept the habit of an 8-10 minute strength workout throughout the year.

I felt fitter than I was last year. A win.

As we enter 2023, I think I’m finally ready to go after that original goal – get significantly fitter. I spent a bit of time exploring options for a personal trainer at a gym nearby. This would cost more – but I felt ready to make the commitment. However, with young kids and everything we have going on, that idea flew out of the window quickly. Instead, I ended up signing up for Future’s app based personal training service. My goal for this year is to complete 4 x 30 minute strength training sessions during the week. The very early signs are positive. Let’s hope I can keep it up.

3 reflections –

(1) I shared all this to emphasize just how hard it is to build a “simple” habit – exercise. I approach building such habits as 3 year construction projects. I start by doing something. Then I learn to do it better. And, by year 3, I begin to step up my game. I’m in year 3 of this journey… and hopeful.

(2) I also prefer focusing entirely on a combination of directional goals (feel significantly fitter – a sign would be toned muscles for example) and process (4 x strength training sessions) vs. outcome goals. I think that combination keeps things focused and positive.

(3) This focus on exercise hasn’t been without trade-offs. For example, I read significantly lesser than previous years in 2022. I just mentally prioritized exercise after sleep and family + work. I’d like to rebalance this a bit this year and read more than I did last year. I’ll definitely give it a go – but exercise will be higher priority. Every strategy has trade-offs.

That in turn gets to why doing the simple things right is hard. I have so many other skills/habits I want to build. I want to eat better, listen better, communicate better, keep a sense of humor more often, and so on. But I have no illusions that they’ll come easily.

The good news, however, is that once they’re part of your life, they’ll stay in some shape or form. I worked on reading regularly many years ago. And while I didn’t read as much as I used to, I still read. Just slower. And that’s okay for now.

Simple is hard.

LinkedIn jobseeking experience feedback

Hi everyone, if you’ve used LinkedIn in the past year to find a job, I’d appreciate 2 mins of your time for feedback. I work on the team building the jobseeker experience + a “Skills first” marketplace that enables everyone to be hired based on their skills.

What is one feature you’d like to see us build/improve in 2023?

And an additional question if you have an extra minute: What is a feature you’ve found very useful?

If you receive these posts over email, please just reply to this email/email me on rohan@rohanrajiv.com.

Analyzing the Southwest meltdown

My Operations Professor* from graduate school shared a neat analysis of the recent Southwest Airlines meltdown.

Southwest has been a darling of many strategic textbooks over the years thanks to a unique strategy. For example, they only use Boeing 737s (standardized!)), avoid large/busy airports, have a bags-fly-free policy, and have no assigned seating. They’re also famously a “point-to-point” airline vs. using the more common hub-and-spoke system.

As a result, this is Southwest’s network

That looks very different from United’s.

That difference is central to Prof Allon’s argument – “I would argue that the point-to-point system, paired with a specific route for each plane (where they don’t just fly back and forth, but rather follow a circular route) is not suitable for a situation of correlated shocks, such as simultaneous bad weather in Seattle, Buffalo, Chicago, and Denver. For such situations, a hub and spoke system seems better, since there are more resources located in the “pooled” hubs, allowing the airline to recalibrate quicker. In particular, a fully centralized system (which hub and spoke is closer to) that can pool the issues and re-route people based on where they need to go, would be better in a situation like that, since passengers fly through a hub anyway.”

Southwest’s utilization rates are also very high compared to the rest – their popularity compounded the problem.

He concludes with two simple and powerful ideas – “No competitive advantage is long-lasting since firms are constantly forced to grow and put pressure on what brought them their initial success. No single solution hedges against all risks. For the risks you are not hedged against, think about how they can be mitigated when they happen. And finally, never check in your luggage … Never.”

The first idea that resonated deeply is – no single solution hedges against all risks. Trade-offs are inherent in every strategy. Be aware of them.

And the second is one that applies just as well to our lives – what got us here won’t get us there.

*My favorite educational experiences in graduate school revolved around incredible teachers. Prof Allon was one of them – he role modelled intensity, an awe-inspiring work ethic, and held a relentlessly high bar. For what it’s worth, I can totally picture his family never checking in luggage. :-)

You don’t belong here

We overheard a person of Indian origin behind us on a queue vent about an incident they just experienced. Their family had been waiting for a parking spot in the middle of a snowstorm for 20 minutes. And just as the other car backed out, someone else took the spot.

When they tried to signal they were waiting, someone from the other car shouted – “Go away. You don’t belong here.”

Their rough experience turned out to be a learning moment for all of us. We ended up having a conversation about privilege, bullying, and kindness. We talked about the fact that few have the privilege of getting the kind of education that truly opens their mind.

We remembered the Michelle Obama idea – “bullies are scared people hiding inside scary people.” And we also talked about how hard it is to be kind.

The hard truth is that our kids are likely to experience incidents like this a few times – if they’re lucky (many times if unlucky) – in the coming years. It is part and parcel of not being in the majority where you live – a part of the human experience sadly.

And I’m hopeful they’ll remember these conversations when they do.

Doing the simple things

As time passes, I have a growing appreciation for folks who manage to consistently do the simple things right – sleep well, work effectively, prioritize, exercise, read, eat nutritious food, engage in meaningful conversations, listen, cultivate strong relationships, keep a sense of humor, and remember to be grateful.

Simple is hard.

I hope to make the most of this chance to reset my attempts at doing more of these “simple” things right this year.

I’m grateful for another year around the sun. Grateful that I get the opportunity to begin again.

And grateful for all of you. Thank you for all your notes, feedback, and support.

The first 10 versions

A helpful operating assumption – the first 10 versions of the system we design will not work.

Our exercise plan will require many tweaks before it becomes part of how we operate.

Our travel/packing checklist will take multiple iterations before it becomes comprehensive.

Eating better will be much harder on Jan 25th vs. Jan 3. That’s because our well intentioned plans will have over-estimated how much time we’ll have to prepare meals.

That recurring meeting we really need to be highly effective won’t be. Not at first.

The good news is that very few things in this life need to go perfect on first try. Mistakes are normal. Iterations are part of the game.

We need to iterate on our systems just as we iterate on life.

Make the most of today. Then, reflect, learn, and do better tomorrow.