… unless it’s a cheesecake, of course… and you happen to like cheesecake.
Day to day, I’m not someone who enjoys surprises. I like to know what’s going on, what’s coming up, and to plan ahead. A surprise cheesecake never hurt, though, so there is definitely an important definition here of “surprise”.
I define a “surprise” in this context as “something which happens and which I wasn’t aware of or didn’t plan for”. Coupled with choosing to respond rather than to react to circumstances, I’ve found taking the approach of “no surprises” to be helpful both in and outside of work.
“It’s always easier to swim with the river’s current than against it.” This quote, and others like it, are likely quite common and known to most of us. The sentiment behind this quote is one of collaboration, working together, and embracing change or difference, rather than resisting it. A similar concept which has come up for me in different contexts is one of “embrace” versus “conquest”.
It always seems impossible until its doneNelson Mandela
When reflecting on my day, I find often recurring themes or recurring lessons and advice. The reflection is often clearest when the same themes show up in various spheres of life. The latest such theme is that a task or project seems complicated not purely by the nature of the task, but also by the perceived amount of knowledge and experience I have with the task.
Similar to my recent experience of leaning into my irrational fear of drilling holes into our house, I’ve noticed two instances where I found myself making a task seem more complicated than it is. When describing this to my team or to family, I describe this as “going around the block, when one needs only to cross the street”.
I’ve often advised people to “lean in”, to “eat that frog”, and to focus on addressing the thing that is most troubling them. Whether a conflict, a fear, or something else, leaning into it is far more effective at addressing the concern than is leaning away. I found myself offering this feedback more frequently lately, and found an opportunity to apply the feedback myself as well, to get over a fear. At this point I truly realised the ripple effect overcoming a fear can have, and how it opens ones eyes even more than anticipated.
Continuing the practice of meditating on annual word themes (here’s the meditation for 2021 on “kindness” and “positivity”), below is 2020’s meditation, working backwards to fill in meditations for previous annual word themes.
Our words for 2020 were “health” and “clarity”.
Each year, my partner and I choose one word each. These words combined will be our theme for the year, woven into the fabric of everything we do, and attracted by our thoughts and focus on them. Our words for 2021 are “kindness” and “positivity”.
This year, I decided to evolve our process, and externalize the meditation I do on these words, both to crystalize it for future, and to deeper explore the thought process. These will be streams of consciousness.
As a creative, I like to identify interesting combinations of thoughts, and believe there is a connected-ness to all things. Thus, two seemingly unrelated topics, thoughts, or items can be combined based on the ways in which they are the same, and which they are different. Finding the common ground between two things, to my mind, is the definition of creativity. To this end, two experiences come to mind which I’d like to connect, under the banner of introducing an “open source” approach to things.
By definition, “open source” implies that the source code of a piece of software is visible to those who use the software. Thus, depending on the license the software is released through, the code can be tweaked and modified by the end user, to meet a new need. Open source software is often also developed in the open, which fosters a culture of transparency, collaboration, and trust between those using the software, who are often also the developers of the same. Two ideas in particular resonate for me, when considering open source; the considerations to be made during the development of the software, and the transparency and openness around sharing of ideas, concepts, and approaches.
It seems to be that there are themes and patterns across several areas of life at the same time. What is seen as a recurrence in one area of life seems to come up in others. I’ve noticed this for several months, and this time around the concept of “identifying root causes” is coming up. I’m seeing a gaps which I believe a root cause analysis would fill, as well as sustainable results that would be created as a result of a proper root cause analysis.
Not to belabour what is most likely quite clear, a root cause analysis is the concept of diving deeper below the surface when presented with a circumstance/problem, and identifying the genesis of that circumstance, with the intention to resolve it. This would then prevent the knock-on affects of that root cause, thereby resolving the entire chain of circumstances from the bottom up, rather than from the top (surface issue) down.
Root cause analysis is extremely important in an engineering or product context. When something happens which affects the user of a particular piece of software, it is often more beneficial to identify the root cause and resolve that, instead of resolving the surface-level concern. This is true outside of engineering and product, as well.
There are several techniques one can apply to identify a root cause. One popular technique is the “5-why”. When presented with a statement, ask “why”. When presented with the response to that question, ask “why” again, and so on. Within 5 iterations of “why”, the root cause should at least become evident.
One such opportunity for identifying and addressing root causes came about recently, with the closure of my beloved primary school.
There is an interesting tension for me, between creating something new, and consuming something which exists. I find this in email (the emails I send, versus the emails I read), blog posts (those I write, versus those I read), and in many other areas such as todo list items, code pull requests, etc. The principle applies almost everywhere. Creation versus consumption. Are these two sides of the same coin? Are they independent, and being grouped together by sheer chance? What is the net affect of going in one direction or the other? Ultimately, the driver behind this search is searching for opportunities to quiet and clear the mind, be it of ideas for creation, or the need and desire for consumption.
I hypothesize that we exist between these two states of creation and consumption at different moments in our day. I find I like to create in the mornings, and consume in the afternoons. Often, I end up not fully being aware of this, and split my day between switching between these two paradigms throughout the day. There is surely a net affect there, even if purely from the context switching.
I take a great interest in exploring different schools of thought, different approaches to the same circumstances, and exploring ways to attempt to understand the mind and how we approach the world we live in. Along the same lines as an introduction to self-coaching, I’ve been exploring stoicism.