“Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent.”
Here, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is saying that if we don’t have language to describe something, we can’t talk about that thing — we can’t even think about it. So learning new words to describe aspects of the human experience can help us grow.
One of the most important words I’ve learned over the last decade is “kairos.”
The ancient Greeks had two words for time, and kairos was the second. The first was Chronos, which we still use in words like chronological and anachronism. …
There are two kinds of conversationalists. I call them ‘Interviewers’ and ‘Volunteers’.
Everyone knows about Interviewers. All networking and dating advice is pitched at pleasing Interviewers. These are people who like to be asked lots of questions about themselves. And if they like you, they’ll show it by asking you lots of questions.
I’m not an Interviewer. I hate being asked a tonne of questions — it makes me feel like I’m being interrogated. Instead, I like my conversation partners to offer up information about themselves, and then leave a pause so I can offer up some info about myself in return. …
Do you struggle to get any traction on social media, even when you know you’ve written great content, with a grabby headline and a compelling image?
You’re not imagining things.
There’s a very simple reason why:
When you share your Medium article on Twitter, you’re asking readers to leave Twitter and go to a different website. You think Twitter, Inc. wants that? They do not. So, the algorithm deprioritizes any posts that link to non-Twitter sites.
I have a pretty engaged audience on Twitter, and a very popular newsletter, but whenever I shared an issue of my newsletter to Twitter, it would get a handful of likes and 0 retweets. It was frustrating. …
Like many people, I used to check my phone basically any time there was a lull in activity of more than 30 seconds. If I was having dinner with my partner and he went to the bathroom, my phone would be out in an instant. If I was waiting for a train. If I was waiting for the kettle to boil. If I was listening to a podcast and it got a bit boring. If I was listening to a friend and they got a bit boring — well, I wouldn’t actually take it out then. …
aka “How I stopped my brain turning to soup during lockdown”
At its most basic, a kanban is three vertical columns — To Do, Doing, and Done — with tasks moving across as you progress. Simple.
But as with every other methodology that gets popular, people adopt the surface-level practice without understanding the principles underneath it, and so miss all the value. It’s cargo-cult productivity.
If you know why kanbans have the structure they do, you can apply the same principles to whatever system you use and get more calm, more focus, and more things done.
Teams need a Done column so everyone can see what’s already done, and so they can hold a ‘reflect’ session where they think about what went well and what they should do differently next time. …
I used to be a huge gamer, and I’m not anymore, but I still read a lot of video game news and reviews for some reason. I don’t know if the games have got worse (probably not) or my ability to be enthralled has just waned.
I used to get up at 5 am to try and beat my brother to the Nintendo > Super Nintendo > PlayStation in order to get an hour or two of full, uninterrupted play. I can’t imagine being that excited, that compelled, now. Maybe twice a year, I come across a book that’s good enough to create that feeling, but not much else does. (The perpetual “Is that depression or is that just adulthood?” …
I’m going to tell you about an incredibly useful linguistic concept — one of those things where you’re like “oh there’s a word for that, that’s so useful! Now I have a way talk about it.”
You know how when you say something, sometimes you want the other person to literally hear the content of your message (“pass the salt”) and sometimes it’s a social action that happens to use words — but the words themselves don’t matter (“you’re welcome”). And a whole lot of awkwardness comes about when people can’t gauge whether they’re supposed to listen to the content of the words, or treat it as a social action (“How’s it going?”)
And of course, most things you say operate on both levels. If you message your partner to tell them about a funny thing someone said at work, you’re saying both the funny thing, and “I think about you when you’re not around.”
So backchannel is one of the kinds of speech that’s all action, no content. It’s the mm-hmms, yeahs, right of courses that you say when you’re listening, and it means “I’m still paying attention.”
It’s super important! And different cultures have different ideas about the amount of backchannel that’s appropriate. East Asian people tend to do a lot more of it than Westerners, for example. Too much feels like the listener is bored and trying to hurry you along; too little feels like the listener has drifted off, so cultural mismatches cause problems. There’s also confusion around “Yes” (I heard you, I get what you’re saying) and “Yes” (I agree with you, I’m going to do that).
I often use “that makes sense” as backchannel, and occasionally people respond with annoyance — “I know it makes sense!” …
Scroll down for the alternative dilemmas
Today we are talking Trolley Problems, only we’re not, because I am sick of them and they’re boring. Trolley Problems are basically, you’re a train driver, your train is about to kill five kids, do you divert it so it kills a rail worker instead. Since it’s obviously better to for one person to die than five, the question is around whether you can actually make that decision when it involves pulling the trigger yourself.
But they really jumped the shark and now it’s all “is it better to kill one doctor or five kids, since that doctor might save more than five kids’ lives in his career?” and “is it better to kill a loose cannon who doesn’t play by the rules, or a world-weary detective who’s three days from retirement?” …
I’ve noticed that if someone wants you to try badminton or a party game or trivia or whatever, and you tell them “I’m not good at sports/boardgames/improv” or whatever it is, 9 times out of 10 they will respond, “Nah don’t worry, it’s easy, you’ll pick it up.”
And if you insist, “No, seriously, I’m REALLY clumsy / bad at thinking on my feet” or whatever, they’ll double-down: “It’s basically impossible to fuck up, you’ll be fine.”
THIS IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN SAY TO A NERVOUS PERSON TRYING SOMETHING NEW.
The more you sell how easy it is, the stronger you’re sending the message “you will look like an idiot if you fail at this. I am incapable of imagining how someone could find this difficult. …
Today’s unsolicited advice is that no one likes unsolicited advice, and most people are very bad at giving it usefully. I probably have less tolerance than average, but no one likes it.
Sometimes you have to ask yourself, “is it more important to tell them this thing I know, or more important to not make people feel really annoyed that I exist right now?” (For example: If they are describing the symptoms of ovarian cancer and don’t seem aware of it, then it’s more important to tell them the thing. Or their job application has spelling mistakes in it. …