Issue # 5

In this edition: a fun icebreaker, an insightful question, fixing five things, purpose anxiety, the Reitoff principle, Pixar'd presidents, and more.

Welcome to Idea Surplus Disorder.  I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament, and I’m glad you’re here!

In this edition: a fun icebreaker, an insightful question, fixing five things, purpose anxiety, the Reitoff principle, Pixar'd presidents, and more.

Tomorrow (February 21, 2023), we're reprising our workshop New Skills For Work.  You'll learn how to think differently about your meetings and use Filament's Meeting Canvas to make every meeting better.  It's free to attend, and you can RSVP here.

Ideas + Insights

I love this icebreaker question:

If the story of your life is 300 pages long — what’s on page 283?

Here's another question that will improve your 1:1s:  What are you stuck on?

What happens when a team member says they’re not stuck? Often, nothing to report is an indication that there’s something wrong. Either the employee is not feeling stretched, or they are unwilling to share. In either case, it’s worth having a one-on-one conversation to dig deeper. Engagement comes from stretching, not coasting along. The “stuck” question helps leaders ensure that everyone on their team is growing.

Working on a project where everything seems broken?  Take guitarist Joe Satriani's advice and fix just five little things:

"Pick five little things that really bother you, we'll fix them, and then you can listen to it again." I picked five that he didn't think detracted from the song but he said, "OK, maybe you're right."
So we fixed them. Some were just a half-second long, but they bothered me. And it turned out great. That was a really good lesson. Now, when I'm working on new music, if something is bugging me that I can't articulate, I'll just try to find five things. Maybe a big thing, like a wrong chord. Or a small thing, like bending a note I didn't mean to bend. Instead of starting over, fix a few things that bug you.
Often you'll find those little fixes totally change your perception of the whole.

A reminder:  It is OK to ask for money:

When asking for money, please remember that if someone is going to give you two dollars, they're only going to do it if it's worth more than two dollars to them to tell themselves that story, then not asking for it is stealing that not giving someone the opportunity to find the joy and the connection and the status and the satisfaction that come from contributing to a cause that you and they believe in.

If you fear you'll never find your purpose in life, you might be suffering from purpose anxiety.  Wonder if this is true of organizations, too?

Purpose seems to be a net positive in and of itself. But when the future is uncertain, we may struggle to define what exactly our purpose is. When unfruitful, this search for purpose can lead to existential distress, which the Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl called “noögenic neurosis” — also known as purpose anxiety.

Producer Rick Rubin on how we believe our way into things:

The beauty of belief is it doesn’t matter whether the thing you believe is true or not. It’s your belief in it that gives it its power. It’s not the truth in it that gives it its power. It’s your belief in it.
If you start with the idea that it’s impossible, then it’s impossible. We believe our way into things, allowing them to come into being in the world.

The Decision Rights Worksheet from The Ready is quite good:

As a team grows and evolves, new questions about authority, workstreams and decision rights will emerge. To unblock team members to do their best work, teams need a mechanism for addressing emergent decision rights questions in a regular, flexible, low-lift way. Use this template during times of high change or ambiguity. It will help you clarify decision rights as gray areas emerge.

The robots are coming for the architects next.

Stop adopting other people’s anxiety.

If you remember your high school science you’ll remember that anxiety is conductive. It wants to travel from one person to another person. And once it sees itself in another person, it feels justified in being in that first person... To put it another way: once a client becomes anxious, their primary goal becomes to make you anxious, because that justifies their own anxiety. So if they’re freaking out and they can get you to freak out then OMG WE SHOULD ALL BE FREAKING OUT!

Guilty about not working (during evenings, weekends, vacations, etc.)? Leverage the Reitoff Principle:

The name "Reitoff Principle" is a pithy play on words for "write-off"—an ironic, productivity-framework-sounding name for something that asks you to do absolutely nothing productive.
It's simple: The next time you find yourself slogging to get through some "productive" work that you've convinced yourself is necessary, just stop and give yourself the space to relax.
In other words, write it off.

A Bit of Fun

Perplexity is an AI-powered search engine with a great way of providing results (with citations) to your questions.

Speaking of AI, the Three-Minute Guide to Slaying Your Dinner Convo About AI.

Like father, like son” around the world:

  • The son of a duck is a floater (Arabic)
  • The son of a cat kills mice (Spanish)
  • The child of a snake is a snake (Swahili)
  • Tigers don’t have dogs for sons (Mandarin)
  • Where will the sauce be poured if not on the rice? (Malay)

Pixar'd Presidential Portraits

Words of Wisdom

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer, but wish we didn’t.” — Erica Jong
“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
"Isn’t that the way science works? You present a hypothesis to your peers, you show them all your measurements and observations and data, and you ask them to make you a liar." – John Scalzi
"Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time" — Ruth Bader Ginsburg
"Think of yourself in a concert hall listening to the strains of the sweetest music when you suddenly remember that you forgot to lock your car. You are anxious about the car, you cannot walk out of the hall and you cannot enjoy the music. There you have a perfect image of life as it is lived by most human beings." – A. De Mello
"Whatever inspiration is, it's born from a continuous 'I don't know.'" – Wislawa Szymborska
"Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn." - Gore Vidal
“In a probabilistic environment, you are better served by focusing on the process by which you make a decision than on the outcome” ― Michael J. Mauboussin

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