Slack-based interviews…?

Today I learned that Automattic does most of their interview process over Slack. I think this is neat for three reasons…

My body goal

(This is super awkward to blog about. I’m doing it in the spirit of minimizing the the things I don’t want people to know about me).

Planning my dang weekends

I have roughly 12 hours per weekend after I subtract out stuff like cooking, getting kids to bed, taking a shower, sleeping, etc. What am I doing for those 12 hours? A few of them go towards my weekly adventure. As for the rest, I have no idea. I want to fix that.

Use every second of 1-1s with your boss

There are only two reasons to end a 1-1 with your boss early:

1. You hate your boss (in which case, why are you still working for them?)
2. Prod just exploded

If neither of those are true, use that time. Your boss can be many things for you…

Involve me, I understand

Remembering is nothing to scoff at, but understanding, now that’s the good stuff. It’s the difference between seeing a picture of a room and walking around in it.

What kind of kindness?

“You should know that when a message you convey to another person is not understood by him, at least one of the following things is true: what you have said is not true, or you have conveyed it without kindness.”

– Leo Tolstoy

The life bug hunt

“A bug is anything in life that needs improvement. Even if something is going well, if you can imagine it going better, there’s a bug.”

Why waste time?

This one-minute video hit me at the right moment.

Missing the messes

When I switched from an agency to a product company a year ago, one of the things I was most excited about was being able to work with the same team for years. Long term jelling, right? I was tired of watching teams be dismantled right as they got into a groove.

But now I’m discovering that I miss that initial phase when everything is a mess. I miss the people messes and the culture messes and the process messes. Functioning teams don’t have as many. When things are running smoothly, I stop feeling useful and start feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough…

My favorite random 1-1 questions

If the organic conversation dies down and we still have time left in a 1-1 meeting, I like to toss out an open ended question and see what happens.

Brag books and self awareness

I was in a workshop recently that told us all to complete a brag book.

Here’s the template…

When buoyancy becomes annoyancy

I once got some peer review feedback that I should watch my constant positivity. The reviewer said sometimes my “buoyancy can become annoyancy.”

I still think about that feedback a lot, years later. Eventually I discovered the concept of toxic positivity and I felt called out.

Adventure of the week

Ever since I discovered that anticipation is pretty cool, I’ve planned something every week to look forward to.

The Venn diagram of learning

This is one of my favorite stay interview questions:

Imagine a Venn diagram where one circle is the stuff you want to learn and the other circle is the stuff you are learning. That leaves three categories…

Writing that’s meant to be seen and not read

There are two types of internal company docs (think vision docs, roadmaps, strategies, post mortems, etc.):

Type 1: Those which are meant to inform

Type 2: Those which are pretending to be type 1, but are too long and detailed for anyone to actually read them, so deep down they’re meant to impress others (especially leadership).

Before you call me jaded, tell me if this sounds familiar…

“Don’t be nice, be predictable.”

It’s a common rule of thumb for driving. I want other drivers to be predictable, not polite. Don’t stop and wait for me go first if you obviously have the right of way. At best you’re blocking traffic, and at worst someone will smash into you.

I wonder where else this rule could apply.

Be outside

This little rule from the book Reasons To Stay Alive stuck with me:

“If the sun is shining, and you can be outside, be outside.”

If you send the team jerk to another team, you’re the jerk

I saw this a lot in agencies, where teams come and go every few months. You’re on a team with Roy, and Roy sucks. Luckily, after a few months, the team dissolves and Roy isn’t your problem anymore. Easy, right?

Now you’re the jerk. You passed the problem along to someone else instead of fixing it. You could have given Roy feedback. You could have worked with his manager. But you waited it out, and now Roy’s driving another team crazy.

Don’t avoid your problems until they become someone else’s problems.

The paradox of hedonism

“The paradox of hedonism, also called the pleasure paradox, refers to the practical difficulties encountered in the pursuit of pleasure. For the hedonist, constant pleasure-seeking may not yield the most actual pleasure or happiness in the long run—or even in the short run, when consciously pursuing pleasure interferes with experiencing it.”

The 5×5 rule for worry

In 10% Happier, Dan Harris talks about the “is this useful?” rule for worry. When you catch yourself worrying, ask yourself if that worrying is useful. And sometimes worrying is useful. Worrying about a presentation makes you spend more time practicing. But when the worrying stops being useful, cut that crap out.

Of course, that’s easy to say. Stop worrying. Oh, thanks fartface. So I like the 5×5 rule because it gives it a condition and a deadline, which is a brilliant abuse of Parkinson’s Law. If it won’t matter in five years, set a five minute timer. Spend those five minutes stressing out and over-thinking and getting it out of your system. Then when the timer goes off, that’s the cue to move on.

Two months of fiction

A couple months ago, I rambled about being burned out on learning. I decided to stop reading work related books or newsletters or articles for a month.

That month came and went, and I loved it so much that I took another month. So now I’m two months in. I’ve read seven or eight novels and nothing work related at all. Correlation does not imply causation and all that, but my stress level is down.

Write shorter nonfiction books. Please.

Nonfiction authors seem to believe that their books have to be at least 250 pages, or else. Is this a thing that publishing companies force? Do readers not spend money on books with less than 250 pages? The heck is going on here?

My death bed is irrelevant

“On your death bed, you’ll blah blah blah.”

Screw my death bed. Why would I care what I’m thinking about when I have minutes left to live? I’ll spend 0.0001% of my life on my death bed. Why should I optimize for that?

I’ll focus on feeling good the other 99.9999% of the time.

Keep a contractor mindset

What if you were on a contract that could be cancelled at any time? If every month, your company had to consciously decide to renew you or else you were suddenly out of a job? Would you change anything about how you spend your time?

That thought exercise nudges me to deliver smaller units of value more often.

I don’t like solving hard technical problems

There. I said it. I’ve always been surrounded by engineers who need hairy tech challenges to feel engaged. I hate that crap.

Hard people problems, for sure. Hard process problems, all day. But hard tech problems just feel like work. It’s the same feeling I got from doing college level math homework.

Feels good to get that off my chest.

Looking stupid as a rule

Lots of people talk about the willingness to look stupid.

Lately I’ve been trying to take it a step further: when I think “asking or doing X may make me look stupid” then I have to do it.

That’s the rule. I must do the things that may make me look stupid. It’s more than a willingness, it’s a policy.

I like that it takes the choice out of it. I don’t have to hem and haw about whether it’s valuable enough to be worth it. I just do it, or else I’m cheating.

Block off more of your calendar

Open calendars are toxic. But they’re here to stay, so we do what we can. And one of the things we can do is block time off.

If you feel like you’re a slave to your calendar, you’re not blocking enough time off. Double it. Triple it. Shape your ideal week. Do the thing where it auto-declines meetings during those time blocks. Be ruthless about it.

Take back control of your time.

Becoming a visionary of people

It’s scary because people have feelings and tech doesn’t. Building a product vision feels safer and more tangible. But you’re wasting your talent of unreasonableness if it all goes toward making the product better. It’s a lose lose; your people are robbed of chances to improve, and you have to keep putting up with the same preventable annoyances from them week after week.

Always be writing your self eval

My company has an annoyingly thorough review process every six months. Instead of panic-writing my self evaluation when it’s due, I write it a little bit every week.

Creeping normality

If there’s a better tool for pushing radical cultural or technical changes through a company, I don’t know it.

Learning to care and not to care

10% Happier says I should care about the process, but not the results. I should care about the stuff I can control by always doing my best. And I should detach myself from the stuff I can’t control; I shouldn’t get upset if the outcome isn’t what I wanted. I should be sincere but not … Continue reading Learning to care and not to care

Cultivating the habit of being “unreasonable”

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

You’re selfish if you don’t give feedback

You work with Chuck. You see things Chuck could do better. If Chuck did those things better, he’d be more effective. But you don’t tell Chuck, because you’re worried it may be awkward for you or that he’ll get upset with you.

Do you see why that’s selfish? You’d rather Chuck stay worse at his job than experience a few seconds of awkwardness.

Feedback is a gift. Give it, you selfish jerk.

“Kids these days…”

Kids are the same as they’ve ever been. Adults have been complaining about those darn kids for thousands of years. Even Socrates bitched about it.

What does “highest priority” even mean?

We always talk about focusing on the highest priority thing, as if there’s some objective, prioritized list somewhere. How do we know what’s the highest priority? The obvious answer is “whatever will make the company the most money” but that’s an impossible thing to prove.

“Disagree and commit” is scary

“Disagree and commit” is such a beautiful thing. We don’t need to see eye to eye to move forward. Once it’s clear that finding consensus is a losing battle, someone needs to make a call and get everyone to commit. But there are two obvious risks.

Focus on the what, not the how

What you do is more important than how you do it. Doing an important task badly is better than doing a low value task well. Engineers are particularly susceptible to this, because we love the how. That’s why the Eisenhower Matrix is so interesting.

Netflix’s keeper test

I’ve worked with my share of “meh” people (both as their manager and as their coworker). You know the type. These are the okay performers; not solid enough to fight for them, but not bad enough to fire them. Netflix makes “being meh” a fireable offense, and I like the sound of that.

Take staycations just because

I just took a week off for my wife’s birthday. It was glorious. It felt more like a vacation than actual vacations, which are exhausting (hence the old “I need a vacation from my vacation” cliche). My new goal is to take a staycation every three months. Plus, that way I always have something to … Continue reading Take staycations just because

The complimenting habit

Thinking of a compliment is easy; it’s building the habit that’s the hard part.


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