We all remember days when we did a poor job / failed / got feedback about something we needed to fix. These sorts of moments typically get stuck in our heads – they have a visceral quality.
While these can be helpful in preventing mistakes from time to time, a better approach to shifting our performance up is to take note of what good looks like. What were days when we thought we did well? What did we sound like in those presentations and meetings? How did we feel post-facto?
Once we know what these look like for us, we can both use it to understand how we’re doing at the present moment while also using it to understand what we need to do to level up and set a new bar for ourselves.
Self talk that says – “Don’t do that – remember the last time you failed miserably?” – is limiting. We get more traction when we replace it with – “You were off your best game yesterday. What were a couple of things that didn’t work? How can we do better today?”
While the former inspires fear, the latter inspires forward motion.
Julia Galef, a writer on rationality, had a great spin on how we can better separate processes and outcomes and pick where we want to maximize. When things go wrong, she asks herself – “What policy am I following that produced this bad outcome?”
For example, she shares a policy example wherein you always arrive 1 hour 20 minutes before a flight. However, this policy may result in you missing the occasional flight due to an accident on the road. But, if you over react to the bad outcome and change policy to be at the airport 2 hours earlier, as a frequent flier, you’re going to be spend hundreds of hours waiting at airports.
Similarly, I could spend 2x the time before sending every email to ensure there isn’t any typo or mistake. But, that would be a very expensive policy that would eat in to other productive time. So, it is best I assume that there will be mistakes and repeat sends that fix them from time to time.
There are a few places in life where we need a 100% success rate. It makes sense to choose fail safe, rigorous policies in those cases. But, otherwise, we’re better off picking good policies/processes/decisions that do the job most of the time.
And, in the off chance they don’t work, we must learn to habitually separate bad outcomes from good processes.
(H/T: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss)
I’ve asked myself what makes a good weekend for many years.
A few weeks back, I finally had an epiphany. I realized that my definition of a good weekend involves four actions in order or priority – rest, connect, learn something and building something.
Rest means getting to sleep in for one of the two days and watching a game of football/soccer whenever possible. Connect involves spending quality time with the framily – ideally with some time outdoors. But, a good weekend doesn’t feel complete until I feel I’ve learnt something and attempted to build something.
The best part about these four priorities is that I recognize they are a luxury. There are many on the planet who don’t get to take the weekend off.
So, these two days are a wonderful weekly reminder of the enormous amount of privilege in my life and, as a result, of how much I owe.
Maybe acknowledging our privilege with gratitude is what weekends are all about. We get to define what “good” is. And, in the process of doing so, we are reminded that there is so much to be grateful for.
In 1906, Lee De Forest invented the first amplifier. Until amplifiers were discovered, performers relied on the acoustics of a given space to amplify their voices. Opera artists were expert proponents of this performance genre.
One of the more powerful uses of amplifiers was a political rally. Suddenly, a powerful speaker could command the attention of thousands of people, live. Every great technology has seen uses that are good and evil – the amplifier was no different.
On the one hand, amplifiers were a critical aide in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
And, on the other hand, they also helped Martin Luther King Jr. create change that enabled better lives for millions of African American in following generations.
Similarly, all the technology around us can be used to make things better… or worse.
As always, it is our choice.