Category: Random

Buckets

I love analogies. Good ones make it easier to share ideas. Great ones latch on the memory. Even bad ones are useful, if only to be made fun of!

For time management, I love imagining a big pitcher of the water, representing available time. There’s a fixed and finite amount in that pitcher, not an endless supply. It’s not a faucet or fire hose. 24 hours in a day, no more!

With this water pitcher comes a bunch of buckets, representing projects or areas of focus for time. Work, kids, wife, personal projects, exercise, sleep, reading, education, yard work.. all the different areas I can spend my time.

Time management is about being intentional with which buckets get filled up and how much they get filled up. You can’t fill up any single bucket without taking water away from the others. There’s no “work-life balance”, there’s just intentionality about your buckets!

A lot of times we pour all put water in the “loudest” or most urgent bucket and deprive the rest from their share. That’s not to say they should all be equal, just that we should be intentional with the allocation.

For me, this visual image helps me remember that my time is finite and can’t be stretched out. But, I can pick which buckets get filled up!

DKT

100 Days

After leaving my last position, I received the incredible advice to take a 100-day sabbatical before jumping back into the workforce. I wasn’t convinced at first, but what are mentors for if you don’t trust them? I’d been pouring my heart and soul into a single adventure and rightly needed some time to focus back in on the priorities of life. Our second child was born exactly a month before this retreat and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. These 100-days have provided amazing reflection. If you care to ask, here’s what’s been on my mind:

  • We’ll start with the obvious – my family is incredibly blessed to be able to afford a 100-days without my spouse or me working. Even among those of us living in this relatively affluent country, most substantial breaks from a paycheck would lead to constant stress and domestic budgeting. We’ve received an outsized share of luck and fortune.
  • Being a stay-at-home-parent is no joke. Corporate life is a daycare compared the battleground that is a toddler missing his nap. Our 4-month-old has zero respect for my Outlook Calendar and published “do-not-disturb” hours. Our 2-year-old believes destruction of employer property is part of his job description.
  • I’ve always preached about and encouraged “Family First” but haven’t really been living it. It’s one thing to work occasionally excessive hours. It’s another to browse email on the couch at night and allow work-thoughts to distract from real conversations. Be where you are.
  • The “scruffy” look does not work well on me. It’s a bit more homeless-looking than rugged-looking.
  • Cell phones and the always connected mindset of this age will be the ruin of our happiness. We have instant digital access to the knowledge repository of generations and are more “connected” as a society than ever. So why don’t we have increased happiness, global productivity and education to show for it? Why does a blinking notification light on my phone give me an endorphin hit substantial enough to distract me from my laughing child or smiling wife? You don’t need a 100-day sabbatical to take this advice: drop your cell phone in a drawer the second you come home and forget about it until the morning.
  • It’s hard to properly recognize unhealthy habits and relationships without stepping outside the framework they exist in.
  • It is possible to wear only cargo shorts and comfy hoodies for 100 straight days.
  • Spending uninterrupted months with my two little kids, at this age, has been the greatest and happiest time of my life. I say this from an incredibly lucky background; I’ve traveled the world, been to private concerts and met my heroes. Not a single promotion, election or accomplishment I’ve ever received even remotely compares to my joy of this dedicated time with family. I will remember this time whenever I set the priorities in my life.
  • You probably shouldn’t wear only cargo shorts and comfy hoodies for 100 straight days.
  • Sleep and exercise are preventative maintenance for the mind.
  • If you don’t pursue your own dream, you can get paid to help someone else pursue their dream. We call this employment, but not necessarily fulfillment.
  • Experience without reflection is just an event. Personally, I need to do a better job building reflection into my daily routine. If you’re driving for three hours with two screaming babies, you’re stuck just chatting with yourself in your own head – would you like who you’re stuck with?
  • There are folks with integrity and folks with money. And folks with both and folks with neither. And folks who will compromise the first for more of the last. I sincerely believe in the best of people but reading the newspaper every morning makes it more difficult.
  • Why is getting a hood haircut so hard to find?
  • Fear holds us back far more than hope moves us forward. Nearly the best thing a leader can do for their people is balancing those scales.
  • Have I mentioned that stay-at-home parents have one of the most difficult and under-appreciated jobs on the planet? My wife and I have a long-standing agreement to never compare our daily difficulties – nothing good ever came of one-upping someone else’s problems. Still, these 100-days have given me an appreciation for her work that I couldn’t possibly have entirely empathized with before.
  • It’s time to wrap this list up.
  • The world is an amazing place and we’re lucky for every moment we get here. Spend every minute intentionally, ‘cuz you’re never getting ‘em back!

DKT

Hey Flying Object! It’s okay to be Unidentified!

I’m a bit of a skeptic by nature. I don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster, psychics or UFOs that travel from light-years away just to leave hidden mysteries in farmer’s cornfields. Though, I’d delight in a universe where any of those are proven true!

Now, there are a number of ways I could take this opening – but I’ll stick to sharing two competing arguments that wrestle in my mind.

It is folly to measure the True and False by our own capacity.

Montaigne (ESSay #27)

I’ve been reading Montaigne’s essays (based mostly on their witty praise/lamentation in A Gentleman in Moscow) and this chapter hit my hard. I can’t possible rewrite his thoughts with any improvement, so I’ll share a bit more direct quotation:

The great Saint Augustine testifies that he saw a blind child restored to sight upon the relics of Saint Gervaise and Saint Protasius at Milan… and several other miracles at which he says he himself was present. Of what shall we accuse both him and two holy bishops, Aurelius and Maximinus, whom he calls upon as his witnesses? Shall it be of ignorance, simplicity, and credulity or of knavery and imposture? Is there any man in our time so impudent that he thinks himself comparable to them, either in virtue or piety, or in learning, judgement, and ability?

It is dangerous and presumptuous, besides the absurd temerity that it implies, to disdain what we do not comprehend.

Montaigne, “essays”

That last sentence resonates well with change management and leadership, but it also helped temper some skepticism in my personal life. A mathematical outlook can remove the romance of life and some mysteries are best accepted, or at least not blithely rejected.

But, in case we pendulum too far, let’s remember that society isn’t logical and that blind acceptance is dangerous. Let’s combat Montaigne with another great recent read:

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

Charles Mackay in “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the madness of crowds”

This 1852 book is fun from an economic or marketing perspective… But it’s a little depressing from a human one. Mackay makes the point that folks are imitative and illogical – that facts won’t persuade us half as well as a crowd’s belief. You don’t have to look any further than your crazy uncle’s Facebook feed to see it in action.

So, we’ve got to balance it all! Build our opinions based on facts, but also accept our ignorance of the full workings of the universe. Maybe there is a giant ape running around the Cascade’s – who am I to judge? I haven’t invested enough energy to canvas the mountains and search for myself, so why should my disbelief be dis-proportionally stronger. I blindly accept atoms and the existence of black holes, but haven’t seen them myself.

I guess what I’m sharing isn’t about what we might believe in, but about challenging why we believe certain things and discount others. We won’t get far without accepting the knowledge and expertise of others, but we should at least think about it ourselves – and think about it often. In today’s environment, with political season coming up and more media consumption thrust upon us than ever, it’s so important to exercise critical thought and introspection. Even if I haven’t changed my own original beliefs, it’s certainly been worthwhile reflection.

Then again, maybe this is all just my brain searching for a philosophy that will help it cope with the blind faith required in being a Mariners’ fan…

DKT

Legends

Kate and I went to Felix Hernandez’s “last game” yesterday. In a season with little else to celebrate, Felix roaring and pointing to the crowd with every “K” was the memory we needed.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the beginning of the sixth inning, as he walked alone to the mound – the rest of his team remaining in the dugout to give him his well-earned moment. Somehow the field didn’t feel empty, with #34 alone in a white jersey warming up for his last battle. Certainly the city filled it up with cheers for the most ferocious player to never make the playoffs.

That he stayed in Seattle through the Mariners most dismal years is incredible. Nowadays players switch teams so often it’s hard to track which team you’re rooting for.

It got me thinking about all this “churn” in the workforce, where 5+ years at a single company is a lifetime. It’s a sad fact that the easiest way to get a raise is to find a new company. What’s that say about the respect shown? Is it laziness or arrogance that allows a organization to compensate their own less than others happily will. And, by not taking care of their own, companies invite employees to treat the organization as disposable in return. The smartest (or perhaps most money-driven) will bounce from employer to employer, chasing the opportunity to renegotiate their earnings entirely instead of just receiving a 3% bump.

How many folks and how many organizations will stay loyal to each other and treat each other with enough respect to earn the sort of goodbye that Felix received last night?

I’ve worked for three different employers and was lucky enough to find two that believed in this loyalty and found it, for the most part, reciprocated. Only the middle organization, nearly ten years ago, didn’t exercise this opportunity to build trust and their workforce showed it. With the job-market what it is now, I can’t imagine the mindset of the executive who doesn’t obsess over how to better take care of their people.

But, back to baseball! There’s no such thing as storybook ending and Felix didn’t get a win. His last out was a pop-up to left field, not some wicked changeup to catch a guy swinging. But it didn’t matter. Felix will be a legend for his resolute loyalty. His fidelity somehow more tremendous than even his pitching.

All in all, I think that’s how a fellow would prefer to be remembered.

Thanks for some great memories!

DKT

Subscriptions

There are so many great places to get information, news and to learn more. Here’s the ones I subscribe or read regularly:

  • Wall Street Journal. Print subscription, because there’s something romantic about reading the paper in the morning.
  • NextDraft. A daily list of the top news. Hilariously curated, though with a heavy liberal tilt.
  • HackerNewsletter. A Friday digest of news, projects and tips from the Tech sector. Most of the code is over my head, but fascinating to browse.
  • Arts and Letters Daily. A newsletter of thoughts, essays and books.
  • Letters of Note. Unpredictable schedule, but fun to read these historical or notable letters.

DKT

Ethics at Scale

Interesting article from WSJ this morning: Amazon Changed Search Algorithm in Ways That Boosted It’s Own Profits.

You don’t have to read the article to get this gist. Some thoughts in no particular order…

  1. The first principle listed on Amazon’s site is Customer Obsession. Specifically, “work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust.” It seems a stretch to find integrity with that value in this situation.
  2. It appears that the search team was told to modify the algorithm to increase profitability, leading to this dilemma. But… we’re going to make the very small assumption that this algorithm was built with machine learning and trained to optimize a set of metrics. The algorithm team added profitability to the desired outcomes, but the specific nuances of the algorithm (by nature of machine learning) we’re probably unknown to the team before and after this change. There’s a good chance the previous search function brought similar detriments to the customer, but were unknown to the designers. In dealing with software of this kind, you can analyze the outcome, but seeing how the sausage is actually made is, I believe, impossible. It’s amazing, it’s beautiful, but we’ve got to be careful with unintended consequences. The obvious example is social media feeds that are optimized for engagement. Unfortunately, seeing radical ideas (whether you agree with them or not) increases engagement time and conscious-less computers happily promote them.
  3. How much different is a grocery store that preserves it’s best shelf space for their own brands. For example, if Costco placed Kirkland brand batteries front and center, but Duracell’s batteries required a forklift to reach. It’s not as extreme as that example, but most retailers promote their profitable products in some manner.
  4. Continuing off above, is the scale of Amazon as a distributor enough to make a reasonable antitrust argument? Does their position as the #1 retail search engine mean that any manipulation which meaningfully detriments competition is illegal? Searching Google for a new phone pulls up their Pixel first. I didn’t expect otherwise, but is that an issue?
  5. As we outsource more and more of our decisions to algorithms, these sort of issues are only going to get harder.

DKT

Some good reads!

I’m always looking for some great books to pick up. If you’ve got a good recommendation – shoot me a note! (David@DKTraub.com)

Here’s a list of books that really stuck with me. Perhaps this is a better “about me” than any paragraph I could write.

Operations / Manufacturing

  • A Study of the Toyota Production SystemShigeo Shingo
    • The infamous green book! Equal parts dry and captivating.
  • 2 Second LeanPaul Akers
    • Not the deepest book, but a great example of actual implementation which is refreshing in a sea of “theory”!
  • All I Need to Know About Manufacturing I Learned in Joe’s GarageWilliam Miller
    • Or simply, Joe’s Garage. Like 2 second lean, a great introductory book for the enthusiastic learner.
  • The GoalEliyahu M. Goldratt
    • The classic that introduced the Theory of Constraints. I find the fictional narrative a little clichéd, but the focus on flow is spot on.
  • The Checklist ManifestoAtul Gawande

Leadership / Development

  • American IconBryce G. Hoffman
    • Just read it.
  • The Fifth Discipline Peter M. Senge
  • The Power of HabitCharles Duhigg
  • Most of Patrick Lencioini’s books.
    • I’m partial to the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, but his writing is easy to breeze through and contains straightforward and actionable ideas.
  • Leadership and Self-DeceptionThe Arbinger Institute.

Non-Fiction

  • Emperor of MaladiesSiddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Vital QuestionNick Lane
  • Sense of StyleSteven Pinker
  • Steve JobsWalter Isaacson
  • The Death of Common Sense Philip Howard
  • The Power BrokerRobert A. Caro
  • The Smartest Guys in the RoomBethany McLean

Fiction

  • The Count of Monte CristoAlexandre Dumas
  • Name of the Wind / Wise Man FearsPatrick Rothfuss
  • The Once and Future KingTH White
  • SevenevesNeal Stephenson
    • Also, Anathem
  • The Way of KingsBrandon Sanderson
    • (also, pretty much anything this guy!)
  • Master and MargaritaMikhail Bulgakov
  • The Old Man and the SeaErnest Hemingway
  • A Wild Sheep ChaseHaruki Murakami
  • The RoadCormac McCarthy
  • The Three-Body Problem (Trilogy) – Cixin Liu

Eclectic

  • Understanding PhysicsIsaac Asimov
  • Commentaries on: The Gallic WarJulius Caesar
  • What Is the Name of This BookRaymond M. Smullyan
  • Tilings and PatternsGrunbaum & Shephard
  • QED: The Strange Theory of Light and MatterRichard P. Feynman
  • Godel, Escher, BachDouglas R. Hofstadter

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