Silenzio Bruno

There’s a scene in Pixar’s most recent movie – Luca – where Luca’s best friend attempts to convince him to take a leap of faith.

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Alberto – the friend – explains to Luca that he’s got a “Bruno” in his head. Bruno is that nagging voice that tells him he can’t do it.

So, he asks Luca to scream “Silenzio Bruno.” (Shut up, Bruno!)

A few Silenzio Bruno’s later, Luca musters enough confidence to take the leap.

It is a fun scene and one that led to a conversation with our kids about taking action despite our fears. We agreed to try Silenzio Bruno the next time we’re faced with a scary slide, for example.

I look forward to trying it out as well and doing a better job of “firing the crow.”

Skechers and shoe hacks

For years, I had a routine every time I bought a shoe. I would spend a bit of time upfront tying my laces to meet 2 objectives. It had to be (a) tight enough so it wouldn’t come off and (b) loose enough so I could just slip my feet in and out.

Once this was done right, those laces would stay that way for months – sometimes years.

Then, a few years ago, my wife introduced me to Skechers. Skechers shoes are built on exactly that premise – no laces, slip in and slip out easily.

It was a magical experience. One of those “Where have you been all my life?” situations.

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I think about that moment when I slip into my Skechers from time to time. We often hack together solutions to solve problems. And, it is always magical when we find a product that is designed to solve that exact problem.

Finding those problems is simultaneously the most important and hardest part of anyone seeking to build products for a living.

Being constructive

Early in our marriage, we put up a list of 3 family values on a whiteboard. The third value on the list was “be constructive.”

We’ve moved homes a few times since and evolved our thinking on values (preferring virtues instead). But, that idea – “be constructive” – is one we’ve talked about many times over the years.

It happened again recently. As we were reflecting on reactions to a few recent decisions that we’d shared with folks we knew, we found ourselves – once again – appreciating the power of being constructive.

To be constructive means to build up. Folks who learn to be constructive focus on the facts at hand and work on building the most positive reality they can. And, as optimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy, their energy often helps in creating that reality.

It is the equivalent of the “Yes and” rule in improv. There is no time for “buts” as we construct the next scene.

We aren’t born with the ability to be constructive. It is a skill. And, like all skills, it is result of training our muscles and building in the habit into how we operate.

I hope to train these muscles a lot more in the coming months.

Potential for remote work

The McKinsey Global Institute shared an interesting chart analyzing the potential for remote work within various economies.

As with such analyses, the absolute numbers matter less than the trend.

In the US, MGI estimates ~40% of work can be done hybrid or fully remote. Software/technology, for example, falls squarely within this 40%.

We are still in day 1 of figuring out what the office looks like post COVID-19. Most technology companies are expected to share updated guidance for what they expect over the summer.

A couple weeks ago, I polled about 50 colleagues on one day about how often they expect to be in the office. Nearly every one of them said either 2 or 3 to meet colleagues in person. No one expected to be back 5 days a week again.

For industries like technology, I expect some form of hybrid work to be the norm. Once a few big companies make it the norm, it will be hard for others to require employees to come in 5 days a week.

There will always be exceptions. More companies will be remote than before.

But, if this pandemic results in a change in the default from on-site work to hybrid work, that will be a meaningful change indeed.

The French football team and reputations

The French Football team started the Euro 2021 tournament with an incredible reputation. They were so strong that there were jokes that a team made of French players omitted from the squad could be strong enough to win it.

The reputation was well deserved. The squad seemed to have only grown stronger since their triumph in the 2018 world cup. They also started off with an easy 2-0 victory over Germany. Defeating a German football team in any tournament can rarely be described as “easy.”

There were some signs that things could go wrong in their remaining Group stage games. But, they still reached the Round of 16 with relative ease. They were now leading the Swiss team 3-1 with 10 minutes to go – the quarterfinal place was all but sealed.

Until it wasn’t.

The Swiss came back to tie the game in the next 10 minutes and won on penalties.

There’s a saying that reputations don’t count much in sport. You are only as good as your last game.

Of course, that saying is just as true beyond sport. It works the same way in our careers and lives too.

We are what we repeatedly do.

10 years of a low news diet

As I was getting ready to graduate from university, I attempted a “no news” information diet for a few months. The motivation for that diet was a lack of interest in fueling the traditional hype-driven news cycle with my clicks.

That turned out to be challenging as I started on my first job. I didn’t, for example, know there was an Arab spring while on a project in the Middle East. That situation was untenable. :-)

The next step was to bring back the news – but, to do so with a diet that focused on simplicity. After multiple experiments with aggregators like “The Skimm” and “The Economist Espresso,” I settled on the free Quartz newsletter as my only source of news in 2015. And, while I’ve occasionally tried out an aggregator or two in the ensuing years, my news diet has hardly ever exceeded the 3-4 daily minutes I spend on the Quartz newsletter*.

The Quartz newsletter is good about linking to various sources – beyond their own reporting. And, thanks to their excellent 2-3 line summaries, I have rarely felt the need to click in and find out more.

As a result of the space this creates, I get to spend reading time on blogs I love or newsletters that aggregate interesting content or share interesting analysis about tech or the future – e.g., Stratechery, Exponential View, Insight, and Noahpinion. And, most importantly, it helps me direct any time I’d like to spend obsessing about the climate crisis or, in the past year, the Coronavirus pandemic by working through sources like “Our World in Data.”

When I picked this low news diet, I was clear about the benefit of simplicity. But, I wasn’t sure what the trade-offs would be. For example, would I feel less informed on topics that matter?

10 years in, I can confidently say that I’ve not experienced any cons that I know of. If anything, I’ve experienced benefits I didn’t know to expect – e.g. avoiding filter bubbles – or realized I underestimated the benefits of simplicity.

This sort of diet isn’t for everyone. It also took me some time to get used to. But, I’ve loved the first 10 years. And, I’m looking forward to the next 10.

*Note: and for football/soccer news is exempt from this – my guilty pleasure.

The Packard second act

We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium recently. It was an awe inspiring experience.

As we were walking out, I realized that the aquarium was made possible thanks to the generosity and involvement of David and Lucile Packard (from “Hewlett Packard” or HP). Both David and Lucile were personally involved in designing many of the exhibits.

That led to three reflections.

First, it got me thinking about the power of a great second act. After building HP, David and Lucile went on to create their foundation aiming to improve the lives of children, enable creative pursuit of science, advance reproductive health, and conserve and restore earth’s natural systems.

They made a lot of progress on these goals when they were alive. And, thanks to phenomenal investments like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, their legacy lives on.

Second, it was lovely to see their partnership shine through. In an age where gender equality was far from the norm, they clearly made it a point to ensure Lucile Packard’s contributions were highlighted. The Stanford Children’s hospital they funded still bears her name.

Finally, it reminded me of an idea Twitter cofounder Biz Stone shared about wealth. He said wealth, like power, amplifies who you are. If you are a jerk, wealth will make a bigger jerk out of you. And, if you are a charitable person of good character, wealth will amplify that too.

As I read about the Packard story, that learning rung true.

The Uglified Ducky

We heard our first Maynard Moose story recently and fell in love with his “Moose speech.” A recent favorite was his narration of “The Uglified Ducky.” Below is the ending – applicable in so many aspects of our lives.

“So, if you ever feel you’re a giraffe being raised by a family of gerbils. Or a ladybug raised by a family of elephants. Remember – that does not mean you are uglified.

No no no – that is a common misdeception. Just means you have not found out what you really are yet. So demember, everybody is a beautiful something or other.

Especially you.”

Powerful, beautiful, poignant.

Fires, heat waves, and silver linings

There was a fire on the Gulf of Mexico yesterday after an issue with a natural gas pipeline. This is what it looked like.

This happened just as the Pacific Northwest recorded a once in a millennium heatwave that burnt down, among other things, an entire Canadian town.

It is often hard to find a silver lining from such stories. And, there wouldn’t be if we were residents of that town, for example. But, zooming out, there’s a change in how the scientific community is approaching the analysis of these events.

Not long ago, the burden of proof would have been on a researcher to link these heat waves to climate change. Now, the null hypothesis/starting point has flipped. The consensus view is clear.

Looking at this from a 10-20 year perspective, that shift in global consensus is important as there’s a lag between consensus in the scientific community and the mainstream. Climate isn’t a local problem. It will require more global coordination than we’ve ever managed. And, such coordination can only be made possible once we align on the same set of facts.

That alignment will also make it harder for big oil companies to fund climate denial. Despite the obviously lucrative nature of these studies, fewer scientists will risk trading-off their credibility. This means fewer subsidies, lesser government support, lesser public sympathy and shareholder exuberance – all of this will make it harder and harder to maintain profitability as non-fossil fuel sources of energy become cheaper rapidly.

British Petroleum has already seen that writing on the wall and shared a net zero commitment by 2050. Others will follow and/or become irrelevant if they attempt to continue what they’re doing today.

Fossil fuels have fueled incredible improvements in our lifestyles in the past 100 years. They have also contributed heavily to a crisis that will, in time, threaten our existence on the planet. So, it is time for them to go.

I’m hoping this is going to be one of those transitions where the end happens significantly sooner than we can predict.