Progress is a mindset 

The fear of messing up (FOMU) is precisely what holds people back from getting what they want. 

But if you treat mistakes like an experiment, they become lessons in disguise and teach you how to tweak your approach. 

To err is human, they say. Maybe they should instead say that to err is to learn. As Miles Davis once said, “If you’re not making a mistake, you’re making a mistake.”

It’s not for a lack of trying; it’s our interpretation of endeavor that either makes or breaks the future. Perfection is a false expectation that stymies progress. 

We can plan all we want but the doing is why there’s knowing. 

Stuck in the industrial mindset

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The factory mentality is society’s attempt to numb the weird out of you and replace it with average. It’s easier to mold someone and make them normal than give them the freedom to be themselves.

9 to 5 is a relic of industrialization which has nonetheless persisted through to today’s equivalent of the railroad, the internet.

There’s still incredible value in showing up and conducting face to face meetings. But with Facetime, email, and Slack I don’t see why it’s necessary to be in each other’s presence all the time.

The misalignment between our virtual and physical worlds has the opposite effect: we feel the need to be available all the time. Always on culture is a recipe for burnout, as we work ourselves into inanition.

To escape the industrialization of the corporate mold, we need new rules. Working from home on Fridays is just the start. Digital detoxing on the evenings and weekends should also be a mandate.

We work best in solitude, when we can relax and focus, otherwise our thoughts just perpetuate someone else’s. Stagnancy stifles innovation.

China’s ‘Chabuduo’ Mindset

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via giphy

Done is better than perfect, in some cases, as in updating a web design or app. But in China, ‘almost’ is a pervasive and dangerous mindset. Known as ‘Chabuduo’ or ‘good/close enough,’ can have disastrous effects when it comes to building everyday things, especially infrastructure.

James Palmer is a foreigner living in China and writes about his close encounters with Chabuduo, including everything from shoddy apartment pipes to broken front doors, poisoned food, to half-built parking lots.

Carelessness leads to death; one government official says there’s a deadly explosion every month. State-controlled tv even suppressed the news after the Tangshan chemical plant explosion in March 2014, killing 55 and wounding hundreds.

The Chabuduo attitude may come in handy on a farm when you have to use an old cloth to stop a broken pipe, but its substandard practices fail at scale in cities and at chemical plants where building with modern materials and following safety instructions prevent catastrophes.

For all Trump’s scaremongering on China, he’d be better off pointing to the people’s willingness to cut corners, their attitude of “good enough for government work.” But he’s more concerned about the thing China excels: making iPhones.

Craftsmanship is about care and expertise, not about faking competence and skipping the fundamentals. Half-ass effort yields half-ass results. Poor quality reveals itself eventually.

“In the end, what perpetuates China’s carelessness most might be sheer ubiquity. Craft inspires. A writer can be stirred to the page by hearing a song or watching a car being repaired, a carpenter revved up by a poem or a motorbike. But the opposite also holds true; when you’re surrounded by the cheaply done, the half-assed and the ugly, when failure is unpunished and dedication unrewarded all around, it’s hard not to think that close enough is good enough. Chabuduo.”

Read more: Chabuduo! 

Draining the knowledge worker

The 8-hour workday goes back to the Industrial Revolution. We used to put in 10 hour days before the unions demanded reduction and the Adamson Act got passed.

But now we’ve moved on from hand work to head work, which is mentally draining.

We are told to think all the time, pushing on the brain like we used to push on a machine. It’s draining, made worse by the lack of time we get to step away.

Writes Morgan Housel:

“Tell your boss you found a trick that will make you more creative and productive, and they ask what you’re waiting for. Tell them that your trick is taking a 90-minute walk in the middle of the day, and they says no, you need to work.”

Rest almost never happens in knowledge-based jobs. Vacation is only granted maximum two weeks a year. We can’t even take walks. We run our brains into inanition.

We feel fresh after vacation because we get to step outside the routine. Our operations only become clearer when we stop doing them and hit pause to reflect.

We can’t gain perspective and think creatively when we’re stuck in the day to day, moment to moment, grind. We need some time to be in solitude and think more deeply about our roles.

“the secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”

Make time to relax, unwind, and ponder. It may be the most important shift we do all day.

How to do deep work, China’s ‘Chabauduo’ mindset, Giphy’s art exhibition, NEW beats and more

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Read of the week: Cal Newport explains how to do deep work

Scroll down for ‘tracks of the week’ 🔻


Arts & Culture

China’s ‘Chabuduo’ Mindset

Done is better than perfect, in some cases, as in updating a web design or app. But in China, ‘almost’ is a pervasive and dangerous mindset. Known as ‘Chabuduo’ or ‘good/close enough,’ can have disastrous effects when it comes to building everyday things, especially infrastructure.

“When you’re surrounded by the cheaply done, the half-assed and the ugly, when failure is unpunished and dedication unrewarded all around, it’s hard not to think that close enough is good enough. Chabuduo.”

A GIF art exhibition

Giphy is the new home of the GIFs, dethroning Tumblr and taking them to the next level, even to real life. Giphy recently hosted an exhibition in New York called ‘Loop Dreams,’ showcasing the GIF works of 25 artists “brought to life through holographic posters, projections, VR, and interactive installations.”


Philosophy & Productivity

Fran Lebowitz on Facebook, TV, and Trump

Author and acclaimed New Yorker Fran Lebowitz can’t sleep, can’t write, can’t stand watching television, nor does she like social media, yet she’s still on top of them all or at least, well-informed in her sardonic complaints about them.

“..years ago, I decided reading in bed is too stimulating. Watch TV. It’s boring. You’ll fall asleep.”

Obsessed with productivity

Skip breakfast. Shorten your work week to four hours. Strengthen your focus. The obsession with productivity is getting out of hand. Why do humans want to maximize their output so they can become more like computers? What are we going to do with the extra time, do even more work? Perhaps, but only if the work is purposeful.

“The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work.” – Ira Glass


Social Media & Technology

Your digital eulogy

Artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo is giving people a chance to visit their own digital funeral at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to review the type of social media posts people would see after they pass away. According to BuzzFeed’s senior writer Doree Shafrir who experienced her own ceremony:

“All of my tweets started scrolling on a screen in front of me as though to say, you know, here are some words of Doree’s to remember her by – tweeting about wearing a dress to a wedding with pockets or Justin Bieber. And I thought, oh, my God, if I did die – God forbid – right now this is what people would see.”


New Music

  1. Youandewan – Waiting For L
  2. Hiatus Kaiyote – The Lung (Paul White Unofficial Remix)
  3. Abi Ocia – Running
  4. Arbes – Sun On My Back
  5. Danny Brown – Really Doe

Listen

The paradox of holding high standards

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The irony of holding high standards is that often times they prevent us from taking action.

Perfectionism can be a thought stopper rather than a thought starter.

Sometimes we can only solve a problem if we’re willing to let it go.

It helps to do things with a bit of insouciance.

We should feel free to rebel against our own seriousness time and again.

The only way to work is not to work, to resist the mindset of overtrying and overthinking.

Indecision never gave people more time.

‘Trust that your intuition is leading you somewhere.’

The Love Mindset

“A leaf does not resist the breeze. A goose does not resist the urge to fly down south. Is this not happiness? Is this not freedom? To access this incredible state, we need only one thing: Trust. Trust that, when you are not holding yourself together so tightly, you will not fall apart. Trust that it is more important to fulfill your authentic desires than listen to your fears. Trust that your intuition is leading you somewhere. Trust that the flow of life contains you, is bigger than you, and will take care of you—if you let it.”

— Vironika Tugaleva, The Love Mindset: An Unconventional Guide to Healing and Happiness

Have you forgotten how to read books?

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We need to relearn how to read books in the digital age. Online reading is a different experience than physical print.

For one, the digital experience is stickier because of its dopamine-hitting bells and whistles. We are constantly shifting between articles, apps, and text messages, hijacked by the latest gaze of entertainment. It’s the equivalent of flipping TV channels.

Writes Canadian author and journalist Michael Harris:

“Online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.”

Since physical books lack the immediate stimuli, reading requires an entirely different mindset. It enforces focus and patience. Said Harris: “I do think old, book-oriented styles of reading opened the world to me – by closing it. And new, screen-oriented styles of reading seem to have the opposite effect: They close the world to me, by opening it.”

Screens are for short-term readers; book heads play the long-game. The latter know that great moments in novels are as scarce a goal in a soccer game, but they can also be more exciting.

Books test our attentiveness while creating anticipation. Perhaps they are the only escape we have left from our distracted world. Constricted to one tangible novel of a screen, a paperback can help recalibrate the imagination and slow down time.


The emotional journey of creating anything great

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via Bill Gross

Why is it that every new idea begins with excitement but ends in the ‘dark swamp of despair?’

Writes Angela Duckworth in her book Grit

“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

The key to achieving anything is not necessarily maintaining that excitement but pushing through all the CRAP (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure) and maintaining a beginner’s mindset.

Of course, you’re likely to lose interest, energy, and emotional support from family and friends along the way. That’s why it’s equally important to have a vision of where you want to go and what you’d like to accomplish. Developing habits, a daily practice, also help fight the resistance.

Good things are supposed to take time. Progress ebbs and flows. It’s beneficial, almost necessary, to step away from the work and plan unscheduled time. Even when you’re not thinking, you’re thinking; the brain never turns off.

If innovation were easy, anybody would do it.

Loving the hurdles

Do something that you love and you never have to work a day in your life, they say. But that’s not true. Love is TONS of work. It’s just that our mindset of work should be its evolution rather than its completion. Hurdles are merely sign posts along the way, to push us or encourage us to find an alternative solution.

Read more

Daily Prompt: Lovingly

Question the algorithms

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Photo by David Werbrouck

It is a canard to think that math can’t fail. All you need to do is look at the way society constructs algorithms – from job and college applications to Facebook feeds to find out that sorting can be wrong and biased.

In the case of the 2016 election, algorithms did more harm than good. Facebook fed the internet silos with fake news. As Cathy O’Neil author of Weapons of Math Destruction puts it in a 99% Invisible podcast: “The internet is a propaganda machine.”

We’ve adopted the factory mindset of mass-sorting, leaving the anxiety of decision-making up to machines. Humans are pieces of data, waiting to be organized by the least valuable candidate or customer.

There’s too many of us and not enough time to make individual considerations. But a conversation around algorithmic frailty might do us some good. Making generalizations impedes the magic of a discovering an outlier.

Beware the algorithms

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Six hundred red years ago, there was no such thing as personal identity. Only when people owned mirrors did they start seeing themselves as individuals.

One hundred years ago, all fighter pilot seats were the same size until there became unnecessary deaths. The US Air Force adapted and customized its seating options.

The mass markets ushered in by industrialization standardized our style. The factory mindset kicked in. But then the internet came along and let people shop in niches. The bell curve flattened, and we felt special.

But the algorithms that run the world today have once again undermined our uniqueness.

The machines determine what we wear, listen to, and read.

We have no choice but to partake in an algorithmic world. We get it: There are too many resumes for one job, a surfeit of photos, new music, and so on.

But picking the mathematical best obviates the outlier and the error. It is the spontaneity that makes us human. Context matters.

If we’re already living in a simulation, let’s not be afraid to be random. We know what we like, the rest is thrown at us by optimizing bots.

It’s time to get weird again.

The stimulation of chaos

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Everything binds to each other. It all bleeds and blends. Like interconnected dots, blood coagulates to scab a wound. We stem the flow. Throw on a band-aid. Put a damn up. Anything to thwart the chaos of nature.

Within a controlled environment, we manufacture new freedoms. We the protect the fragility of intention the best we can. But algae grows, and it doesn’t want to move. We max out progress, assuming modernity is the acme of our potential. Indifference morphs into stagnancy and then a reignited desire for chaos.

Pushing onward is a mindset. When the thinking stops, and people resurrect the instincts of past, dipping their toes into the end of history. Time heals all wounds until the default setting becomes stale once again. “We are now condemned to live in exciting times,” writes author Shadi Hamid. How quickly we forget what was worth preserving.

:)