Today, I spent half an hour setting up a group chat with a few colleagues working on a feature. This task realistically took 5 minutes but I spend 25 minutes questioning if this matched work norms and scouring our company slack to confirm.
Whether it be preparing for presentations or sending out emails or messages to a large group of people, so many tasks - especially ones that are out of my comfort zone - can be done in a fraction of the time.
Now, I try to timebox tasks. Focusmate is great for this. I’ll book a 25 minute session with the goal of writing an email and sending it by the end of the time slot. I don’t have time to hesitate, I only have time to do the damn thing.
Yesterday, I visited an art exhibition hosted by Bistyek. Some of his paintings at the exhibit were titled but others were untitled.
When asked why, he said that if he names a piece “hurt” or “sadness” then this suggests to the viewer what emotions to feel. He said that he doesn’t want to constrain the viewers interpretation of the piece. The painting should illicit the emotions and viewers are free to interpret it however they like.
This reminds me of a piece I wrote previously about how defining means to limit.
Vision, Strategy, and Execution
Vision is where do we want to go?
Strategy is how are we going to get there?
Execution is getting shit done.
Vision, Strategy, and Execution is three step process for accomplishing any goal. As a product manager, this is an intentional process we go through when creating a new product or feature.
But I realized this is the method I use unintentionally with most goals I’ve accomplished.
Studio Ghibli Music Video
Today, I came across this gem of a music video animated by Studio Ghibli and directed by Hayao Miyazaki himself. Miyazaki explains the meaning behind the music video in a 1995 interview. Animation Obsessive’s latest newsletter further analyzes the music video too.
ジブリ実験劇場 On Your Mark - Chage & Aska (1995) from MrLucasdemassy on Vimeo.
Closing the Loop
Say I make an introduction, recommend an essay, or refer a friend to a job, I love it when that person closes the loop. Whether that be updating me on how the intro went, their main takeaways from the piece, or even if they ended up accepting another job offer. When someone closes the loop, I’m more likely to help that person out in the future.
But this is easier said then done. I’m not great at closing the loop but this is something I want to improve.
Stuff I Enjoyed Recently (10.13.2021)
- Instagram Account
- NITCH takes the crown as my favorite Instagram account. Every day they post a quote and a grayscaled photo of a famous artist.
- Canadian Artist
- Bistyek also known as the Canadian Basquiat. The Basquiat Influence is clear from the style of his paintings, the childish font, and the crown motif.
How Sun Ra Taught Us to Believe in the Impossible - Hua Hsu
- New Yorker Profile (8min)
- Sun Ra’s a great musician and quite the character. This opening paragraph from his profile gives a glimpse on what I mean:
When the aliens came for Sun Ra, they explained that he had been selected for his “perfect discipline.” Not every human was fit for space travel, but he, with his expert control over his mind and body, could survive the journey. According to Ra, this encounter happened in the nineteen-thirties, when he was enrolled in a teachers’-training course at a college in Huntsville, Alabama. The aliens, who had little antennas growing above their eyes and on their ears, recognized in Ra a kindred spirit. They beamed him to Saturn and told him that a more meaningful path than teaching awaited him. They shared knowledge with him that freed him from the limits of the human imagination. They instructed him to wait until life on Earth seemed most hopeless; then he could finally speak, imparting to the world the “equations” for transcending human reality.
This weekend I jumped on the hype train and binge watched Squid Game. The show had an interesting premise, exceptional acting, and clever screenwriting to name a few. After the show’s final episode I suffered from post-show depression. Not only did I grow attached to the characters but I was sad the show ended.
A few other shows that illicited PSD for me are Avatar: The Last Airbender, Cowboy Bebop, and Samurai Champloo. If the show is well crafted with compelling characters and superb world building, I can’t help but feel an emotional resonance towards the show. When the final episode ends, it feels like I’m saying goodbye to a dear friend.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to gratefulness. It’s interesting that we have a day dedicated to this. It goes to show that gratefulness is not the norm. If I eavesdrop on conversations in my lecture hall or check out what’s trending on Twitter. I’ll see a lot of people complaining — the antithesis to gratefulness. Generally speaking, we have a tendency to focus on the negative.
I complained a lot early on too. I’d complain about my teachers boring math lesson, I’d complain about not having the latest video game console, I’d complain about anything and everything.
But I learned that while negativity and complaining is easy, it leads to bitterness and resentment. Over time, I learned to be grateful instead. Gratefulness is a choice — I can either see the glass as half full or half empty. Choosing gratefulness helped me see the beauty in everything. Most situations or experiences aren’t objectively bad or good, it’s how we perceive it that makes it that way.
Gratefulness helped me become more positive, more attractive, and more resilient. Its changed my life and that’s something I’m grateful for.
Ratio for Creating the Best Content
Creating content isn’t only about producing, in fact, producing is a small part of the equation. Consuming, reflecting, and curating are also valuable ingredients to creating content.
Remote Work in 2021
Early last year, before the pandemic shut the world down, I wrote about the coronavirus and remote work. Over the course of the year, many workplaces were forced to adapt to remote operations. I suggested at the end of the piece that remote work may be only temporary, but more than a year later, it’s clearly here to stay.
While I didn’t like remote work at first, I’ve gotten use to it. I love the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere —— I can live in any city or even work in different places for short stints. I love being able to get work done when I want to. I love taking power naps during the day, something I wasn’t able to do in person.
Remote work is now the new normal. Especially in the software industry, most companies are either fully remote or hybrid.
This new trend in remote leads to interesting side effects: coworking spaces, remote work towns, the exodus of big cities, remote tools, etc.
Writing is Thinking
Ted Chiang’s The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling tells the story of Jijingi, a young member of the Tiv tribe and their first encounter with European missionary, Moseby. Jijingi, curious of the thick collection of parchment that Moseby calls a book, asks Moseby to teach him how to read and write.
Jijingi eventually comes to an epiphany that I experienced last year, that writing is thinking.
As he practiced his writing, Jijingi came to understand what Moseby had meant: writing was not just a way to record what someone said; it could help you decide what you would say before you said it. And words were not just the pieces of speaking; they were the pieces of thinking. When you wrote them down, you could grasp your thoughts like bricks in your hands and push them into different arrangements.
Joining a Winner vs Making a Winner
Inspired by the Ladder of Ownership tweet thread from Julie Zhuo.
Everyone wants to join the winning team.
Not many people are willing to do the work to make a winning team.
It requires a completely different mindset, It requires a mindset of ownership. How does one develop a mindset of ownership? Julie list three necessary ingredients:
- Confidence - that your opinions are good/useful
- A mindset of agency - that you can create the change you want to see
- An empowering environment - where good, bottoms-up ideas and action are rewarded
Process Knowledge and the Semiconductor Industry
In Dan Wang’s piece, How Technology Grows, he argues for the importance of process knowledge over using the semiconductor industry as an example:
Process knowledge is represented by an experienced workforce. I’ve been studying the semiconductor industry, and that has helped to clarify my thoughts on technological innovation more broadly. It’s easy to identify all three forms of technology in the production of semiconductors: tools, instructions, and process knowledge. The three firms most responsible for executing Moore’s Law — TSMC, Intel, and Samsung — make use of each. All three companies invest north of $10 billion a year to push forward that technological frontier.
The tools and IP held by these firms are easy to observe. I think that the process knowledge they possess is even more important. The process knowledge can also be referred to as technical and industrial expertise; in the case of semiconductors, that includes knowledge of how to store wafers, how to enter a clean room, how much electric current should be used at different stages of the fab process, and countless other things. This kind of knowledge is won by experience. Anyone with detailed instructions but no experience actually fabricating chips is likely to make a mess.
I believe that technology ultimately progresses because of people and the deepening of the process knowledge they possess. I view the creation of new tools and IP as certifications that we’ve accumulated process knowledge. Instead of seeing tools and IP as the ultimate ends of technological progress, I’d like to view them as milestones in the training of better scientists, engineers, and technicians.
The accumulated process knowledge plus capital allows the semiconductor companies to continue to produce ever-more sophisticated chips. The doubling of transistor density every 24 months wouldn’t be possible if these firms didn’t already possess deep pools of process knowledge. It’s not just about the tools, which any sufficiently-capitalized firm can buy; or the blueprints, which are hard to follow without experience of what went into codifying them. The US has many decades of experience in designing and fabricating semiconductors, and it has developed the talent ecosystem that succeeds in pushing Moore’s Law forward. This cluster of talent allows the US to maintain its lead on a critically-important technology.
On a related note, process knowledge is why you’d want to start a software technology startup in the Bay Area. Many engineers in the Bay Area have worked at successful unicorn, decacorn, or hectocorn companies. Their experience starting or scaling these companies are invaluable if they decide to join your fledgling startup. While Bay Area tech workers are notorious for job hopping from company to the next, process knowledge flows freely and this is beneficial to any startup ecosystem.
Bottoms Up B2B Software
Before, B2B software was stereotyped as clunky and unintuitive. Since B2B software was sold top down, where the decision makers are different from the end users, this meant that the incentives weren’t necessary aligned.
Nowadays, B2B software is evolving. For one, many end users of B2B software use applications with great user experiences on their phone and computer like Instagram and Spotify. Great user experiences are normalized, and users expect more. Now, companies learned that user experience is a competitive advantage.
However, I also noticed that some B2B software stands out from the rest in terms of their user experience like Slack, Dropbox, and Intercom. These products are so good that I sometimes forget they’re primarily B2B applications. These products all have a bottoms-up go-to-market strategy. For example, Slack has a free version aimed at consumers. When consumers use Slack for student clubs or for their engineering team at work, they introduce Slack to their companies or colleagues. This bottoms up strategy means that the end users are the decision makers kind of like B2C software. This approach leads to more product focused rather than sales focused organizations.
Stuff I Enjoyed Recently (10.4.2021)
The Risk of Writing Everyday
I’ve written a lot about the benefits of daily writing before. Writing everyday has changed my life and it’s the most important thing I do everyday. I still stand by that claim. However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t downsides or risks involved.
One risk I think about often is what if something I write gets used against me in the future. We’ve all heard about celebrities, politicians, or entrepreneurs having their livelihoods ruined by something they did or said years or decades ago. Additionally, norms change over time. Something that’s normal now might not be in the future.
I acknowledge this risk but all things considered, I still believe that the pros heavily outweigh the cons when it comes to daily blogging.
The Apple Experience
Today, I’m writing my first blog post on my brand new M1 Macbook Air. I used to primarily use Android and Windows products until I first experienced the magic of Apple products through the first generation Airpods. The Airpods blew me away and then I bought an Ipad Air and Pencil less than a year later. The Ipad was a gamechanger for me especially as a student. Next came the Iphone which I loved. Every Apple product left an impression on me and today I complete the transition into the Apple Ecosystem with this new Macbook.
Something that stood out to me about Apple products was the end-to-end experience. Apple understands that a products experience goes beyond just the user experience of the product itself. For example, I don’t recall any other product that I enjoy unboxing more than Apple products. First, they’re easy to open. You don’t struggle to open them or need scissors. Second, the packaging is simple. As soon as I remove the lid of the box, I see my laptop, and when I take the laptop out of the box, I see the charging brick and cable, that’s it. Finally, I can use the product out of the box. When I was a kid, I’d buy a new phone or an MP3 player, and I’d be excited to use my new device. But I couldn’t use it right away because the device wasn’t charged. I had to charge the device first and agonizingly wait in order to use it. Apple understand that you want to use your device out of the box, thus all Apple products come charged and ready to use.
It’s clear that there was so much attention to detail put into this product. I can go on and on about the signature Macintosh startup chime that plays when I first opened the laptop, the ability to copy and paste across devices, or the iMessage and Facetime integration. Apple nails the main components and adds in these little things which compound into a fabulous experience for the user. Before, I didn’t understand why Apple had a cult following, but now that experienced the Apple ecosystem for myself, I can see why.
Litany Against Fear
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, the Bene Gesserits — a class of highly educated and skilled female spies — recite the litany of fear in order to focus during times of danger. It’s a powerful mantra and one of my favorite quotes from Dune.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Thinking in Absolutes
In a nutshell, Web 3.0 is the decentralization of the internet. Web 2.0 companies like Google and Facebook are massive centralized organizations that collect data on its users and captures most of the value. Web 3.0 is about creating apps on a decentralized architecture where users own their data and content.
In Web3 communities, in almost seems as if centralized is bad and decentralized is good. I fell into this thinking trap too. But thinking in absolutes is a fallacy. Centralization isn’t inherently bad nor is decentralization inherently good. Both have their pros and cons.
Centralized apps are able to collect data on users and create a custom experience for end users. But on the other hand, centralized platforms have ad-based revenue models a la the attention economy where companies like Facebook are incentivized to keep you on their newsfeed.
Decentralized apps allow users to have true ownership over their content and capture most of their value. But if users also own their data can Web3 platforms provide the same killer experience for end users as Web2 platforms?
Thinking in absolutes translates to more than just centralized/decentralized. For example, many conflicts were started by painting a group of people as bad. In most cases, in much more complicated than that.
Anyone that watched Marvel’s Black Panther would agree that the movie has a striking aesthetic. Not only was it the first superhero movie to feature a black superhero and a predominately black cast, but it also weaved african culture in a science fiction world.
Black Panther is an example of a subgenre called Afrofuturism. Afrofuturism as described by tate.org is, “a cultural aesthetic that combines science-fiction, history and fantasy to explore the African-American experience and aims to connect those from the black diaspora with their forgotten African ancestry.”
As I aim to broaden my perspectives and diversify my content diet, afrofuturistism looks like an interesting genre to explore.
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