I just started Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War.
Boyd's father died of illness when he was young, and his mother was left to scratch and scrape by desperately with five kids. But Elsie Boyd — John's mother — led her household with such strength and will. I find myself admiring her so much reading this.
The youngest Boyd daughter, Ann, contracted polio, which often consigned the person suffering from it to the wheelchair. Overriding doctors, Elsie insisted her daughter would walk. From the book —
When Elsie brought Ann home, it was clear that neither the operations nor the treatment were of much benefit. Ann wore heavy braces on each leg and could walk only with the assistance of crutches.
Look, look, look. Hold up for a second. Hold on. Wait a moment.
Our ancestors survived for, like, thousands and thousands of years without advanced climate control, 24/7 news feeds, and 10 million modern conveniences.
You won't die if you're a little uncomfortable.
Not only that, but there's this really cool thing your body can do called "homeostasis" — see, your body doesn't want you to die from heat stroke or freeze to death, so if you're out in hot or cold weather regularly, you actually get tougher and more able to withstand it.
Likewise — get this — walking to places makes your legs stronger, running makes your lungs stronger, lifting makes your muscles stronger.
Reader Christopher Williams graciously sent this over. How intriguing:
"People prefer electric shocks to time alone with thoughts"
I think being able to deal with boredom effectively is probably the challenge for hard-driving knowledge workers who work alone and don't have deadlines.
Being able to sit there and be miserable until it passes is critical. Meditation helps with that, obviously.
Thanks Christopher. It's worth reading, that link.
This was a blast. I think there's lots of gold on here. You'll probably like it.
Link to the podcast: "Upgrade Your Operating System with Sebastian Marshall"
Share your comments there with Scott, and here with me too. Let me know what you liked and didn't, what you'd like to see more of going forwards, and so on. I'm going to be doing lots more podcasts and audio type stuff going forwards, so your feedback here helps a lot.
A few weeks ago, I went from sharing general information on the Lights Spreadsheet by week to going to a specific theme.
If you're tuning in new here, it's something I do to stay on track with habits. It works as a great way to both control behavior and a warning for when things are getting off-track. The colors offer a surprising motivational boost: the desire to get one's "green light" and avoid "getting a red light" seem to come universally to people who adopt it.
Now, for a decision I made when I first started:
There are no notes or narratives contained on my habit-tracking spreadsheet.
From Ducker’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship, emphasis added —
“…hamburger stands have been around in the United States since the nineteenth century; after World War II they sprang up on big-city street corners. But in the McDonald’s hamburger chain — one of the success stories of the last twenty-five years — management was always being applied to what had always been a hit-or-miss, mom-and-pop operation.
McDonald’s first designed the end product; then it redesigned the entire process for making it; then it redesigned or in many cases invented the tools so that every piece of meat, every fried potato would be identical, turned out in a precisely timed and fully automated process.
Finally, McDonald’s studied what “value” meant to the customer, defined it as as quality and predictability of product, speed of service, absolute cleanliness, and friendliness, then set standards for all of these, trained for them, and geared compensation to them.”
Interesting. Defining value explicitly, and then managing intensely for that.
The Dutch Golden Age, which lasted just three generations, was 400 years ago. And still, there after-tremors of it are being felt today. The buildings, the canals, the engineering, all the amazing works, the contents of Rijksmuseum — these are the fruits of those generations.
When asking myself why Amsterdam is such a beautiful and well-run city, that was where my explanation stopped. And indeed, this was my answer when asked why any place of grandeur and splendor is grand and splendid.
If a place goes through a Golden Age and accumulates great works of culture, engineering, building, puts up universities and establishes a great tradition of scholarship, and so on — there are permanent gains to that. You could call it capital accumulation.
This was my old explanation. A Golden Age or Imperial Period meant capital accumulation.
The Turks have changed my opinion on this.
"Isolated tactical problems are very rare, and if you are seeing any situation as "how do I respond to this email" or "what do I say in this meeting," chances are, are you misframing a broader problem and heading towards [a disaster.]" — from Venkat Rao's Be Slightly Evil
I see this commonly. Very commonly. My mix of work is with team members on nonprofit projects, collaborators on creative projects, clients on commercial work, and generally being the go-to person in my social circle whenever there's something complex and important that is hard to figure out.
So I see it across the spectrum. Employee-manager, manager-employee, company-customer, company-client, company-supplier, supplier-buyer, interdepartmental rivalries at larger companies, and so on.
I have a rule: Once the same problem happens three times, we must start looking for an upstream solution.
I was flat for a few days last week, flat in a human sense.
Couldn't explain it.
Was working hard, but I like working hard. Was performing my core duties and habits well, good enough... but that joyful spark, that animating force, that bright animation to greater heights?
It was gone.
Where had it gone?
It is very insightful to spend even a short amount of time hitting somewhere close to maximum productivity and effectiveness.
You can't really see or feel opportunity cost when you're kind of screwing around, half-working, not getting much, done, etc. You're not getting as much done as you could, that's true, but the suspects for what's dragging on you are not about the other productive endeavors, but about all the distractions.
As soon as you're near peak production for even a few days in a row, you start to see the interplay of how we all have a single well of time each day, 24 hours deep, and it gets drained systematically as the minutes pass.
There is much to be said about this point, about opportunity cost, about focus, about achievement, about whatever else — but we won't say that now.
Rather, let's talk about the days when the water in your well of time is hard to drink, and not so much is happening.