Issue #21

In this edition: doing what can't be copied, shower thinking, rivers of attention, the eleven rules for a better life, workplace jargon, charismatic robots, riskiness at the edge, Mark Twain's email apology, and more.

Issue #21

Welcome to Idea Surplus Disorder.  I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament, and I'm glad you're starting your week with me.  Our team is off today for Juneteenth (and hope you are, too), but thought I'd add a little more to the top of your inbox for when your week begins.

In this edition: doing what can't be copied, shower thinking, rivers of attention, the eleven rules for a better life, workplace jargon, charismatic robots, riskiness at the edge, Mark Twain's email apology, and more.


N.S.F.W. (New Skills For Work) is this Wednesday (June 21st). We're focusing on how to give and receive feedback in ways that will make your organization run better.  Each attendee will get a set of our Feedback cards (a $30 value). Please add it to your calendar and RSVP here.  Oh, and we're also doing our first book club discussion after, in case you'd like to stick around.

Ideas + Insights

Want to pay better attention? Be on the lookout for things you'll never see again:

Take note of something that will never happen again, at least not the way you’ve just experienced it. Maybe I’ll see dopey chickens holding up traffic, but I’ll never have that moment again. And that’s worth appreciating.

When copies are free (and the internet effectively makes that so), you need to sell things that cannot be copied:  

In a real sense, these are eight things that are better than free. Eight uncopyable values.  I call them “generatives.” A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time.

It's hard to do a really good job on anything you don't think about in the shower:

I suspect a lot of people aren't sure what's the top idea in their mind at any given time... but it's easy to figure this out: just take a shower. What topic do your thoughts keep returning to? If it's not what you want to be thinking about, you may want to change something.

Treat your to-read pile (or even back-issues of this very newsletter) like a river and not a bucket:

Treating your "to read" pile like a river (a stream that flows past you, and from which you pluck a few choice items, here and there) instead of a bucket (which demands that you empty it). After all, you presumably don't feel overwhelmed by all the unread books in the British Library – and not because there aren't an overwhelming number of them, but because it never occurred to you that it might be your job to get through them all.
Coming at life this way definitely entails tough choices. But it's liberating, too, as you slowly begin to grasp that you never had any other option. There's no point beating yourself up for failing to clear a backlog (of unread books, undone tasks, unrealized dreams) that it was always inherently unfeasible to clear in the first place.

The best time to schedule a meeting is Monday at 11 am.

If you want some AI-assisted synthesis of a recorded meeting transcript, here's a great prompt:

“Act as if you are my executive assistant. You are compiling meeting minutes using this transcript.” Then paste in the part of the transcript that you want summarized, and the chatbot will automatically format it into a minutes memo.

The advice from every self-help book boiled down to eleven rules:

  1. Take one small step.
  2. Change your mental maps.
  3. Struggle is good. Scary is good.
  4. Instant judgment is bad.
  5. Remember the end of your life.
  6. Be playful.
  7. Be useful to others.
  8. Perfectionism = procrastination.
  9. Sleep, exercise, eat, chill out. Repeat.
  10. Write it all down.
  11. You can't get it all from reading.

Speaking of self-help, this is Helen Keller's advice from a 1923 article:

It all comes to this: the simplest way to be happy is to do good. This is instant and infallible happiness. The surest proof that this is the law of cause and effect is, we may try every other conceivable way of being happy, and they will all fail.

We (still) don't know what we don't know.

This was profound and just a bit scary to think about:  In the future, will the most charismatic person you know be a robot?

Once an AI is perfecting this form of charisma through endless reinforcement and imitation learning, Schuller believes it could become far better at it than humans. “We lose our charisma now and then, because we have our temperament and only so much effort is available,” he said. “But an AI would have no problem controlling expression, tone of voice and linguistics all at the same time. Add that to the fact it’s constantly learning about your likes and dislikes.”
“At some point,” he concluded, “once the AI has established new approaches and achieved success with it, it might become charismatic in ways that humans haven’t even thought about. We might end up picking up charismatic behavior that has originated from an AI.”

I'm going to struggle to eliminate some of this most confusing workplace jargon from my daily vocabulary, particularly "move the needle" and "juice worth the squeeze."

Was Mark Twain thinking about my inbox?

“I am a long time answering your letter, my dear Miss Harriet, but then you must remember that it is an equally long time since I received it – so that makes us even, & nobody to blame on either side." – Mark Twain

People make risky decisions near (literal) edges:

Riskiness becomes activated while standing near the edge of something. And this activation helps people evaluate risky behaviors. In a field study, customers chose risky flavors (e.g., lingonberry, lychee) near the corner of a store, but they chose standard flavors (e.g., mango, coconut) in a central aisle. Perhaps this effect applies to workplace behavior too. Would employees produce more innovative work sitting along the edge of an office?

Manage your day with buckets of time:

One of the most important techniques I've embraced for managing my time is to direct related tasks to a bucket, let that bucket accumulate until full, then empty it all in one go. This in contrast to trying to catch every task the moment it lands from the myriad of interruption pipes that'll drip-drip-drip your day away if you let them. Nowhere is this more evident than with email.

I loved this story from James Clear's newsletter:

"I heard my mom asking our neighbor for some salt. We had salt at home so I asked her why she was asking.  She told me, "They don't have much money and they sometimes ask us for things. So I asked for something small that wouldn't burden them. I want them to feel as if we needed them too. That way, it will be much easier for them to ask us for anything they need."

Fun Finds

AR (Actual Reality) Goggles

Using Stable Diffusion to turn QR codes into pictures.

Gratitude is really, really good for you!

You're getting old.  Apparently, I've had 1,485 total candles on my birthday cakes, and the debut of Ford's first assembly line in 1913 is closer to the day I was born than today is (19,973 days vs. 20,038)!

Words of Wisdom

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” – Howard Aiken
"I believe that if you'll just stand up and go, life will open up for you." – Tina Turner
"We consider the biggest object of any kind that we have seen in our lives or hear about as the largest item that can possibly exist. And we have been doing this for millennia." – Nassim Taleb
"If you want to make the wrong decision, ask everyone." – Naval Ravikant
"The most invisible form of wasted time is doing a good job on an unimportant task." – James Clear
"It's hard to remember that this day will never come again. That the time is now and the place is here and that there are no second chances at a single moment." – Jeanette Winterson
“We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” – Marshall McLuhan
The object isn’t to make art, but to be in that wonderful state where art becomes inevitable.” – Robert Henri

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