Seen, Heard, Said

Things I’ve seen, heard, or was told by someone. Item in this category usually originate from the Internet.

Most Problems Never Have To Be Solved

When a problem is presented to me, I typically make a quick determination if needs my personal attention or not. Despite what others may desire of me, I generally let a majority of problems sit for a bit. If the issue does not arise again then I have saved myself from wasting time.

I like the approach David takes with using sticky notes. My fear with sticky notes has been that I would lose one, but that could a non-issue if I assume that most problems never have to be solved and problems that do need to be solved will have multiple contacts points.


Every few days I process these little notes, which means I look at what I’ve written and decide what to do about it. Sometimes I neglect this duty for a while, and end up with a week’s worth (or two) of sticky notes.

I end up throwing most of them right into the recycling bin, because when it comes time to look at it, the thing I wrote down is no longer relevant, or I’ve already done it, or I don’t feel like anything has to be done about it.

Your mind tells you there is a problem whenever it detects a somewhat possible unpleasant future experience, which it can do all day, and it happily will if you don’t call its bluff. Of course there’s an infinite supply of potential disasters. These are just thoughts, but they seem like realities, and any one of them can create an emotional pitfall now no matter what actually happens later.

Each of these apparent problems represents itself as something you will have to act on at some point. Ninety per cent of the time, this is a lie. Thoughts are like little politicians; experts at rhetoric, sensationalism self-preservation, unlimited in number, mostly just noisy and useless but occasionally make important things happen.

The genius, perhaps, of David’s article is he calls out the fact that most “problems” aren’t actually problems for anyone vice not being my problem.


You’ve Just Gotta Fight Your Way Through


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” –Ira Glass

Image via Sawyer Hollenshead


The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done

Michael Dearing is the former chief engineer for Sun Microsystems and has PhD in computer scientist. He gave a presentation on some “common patterns of automatic thought among those who get a lot of stuff done [and/or] create tons of value” in Silicon Valley.

Here’s my distilled version:

  • Definition: cognitive distortions are strong patterns of automatic thoughts.
  • They are important because they act as filters that ultimately influence thinking, shape interpretation of reality, and become the basis for action.
  • The Big Five
    1. Personal Exceptionalism: “I am special.”
      • Definition: a macro sense that you are in the top of your cohort, your work is snowflake special, or that you are destined to have experiences well outside the bounds of “normal;” not to be confused with arrogance or high self-esteem.
      • Benefit: resilience, stamina, charisma.
      • Deadly risk: assuming macro exceptionalism means micro exceptionalism, brittleness.
    2. Dichotomous Thinking: “X is sh*t. Y is genius.
      • Definition: being extremely judgmental of people, experiences, things; highly opinionated at the extremes; sees black and white, little grey
      • Benefit: achieves excellence frequently
      • Deadly risk: perfectionism
    3. Correct Overgeneralization: “I see two dots and draw the right line.”
      • Definition: making universal judgments from limited observations and being right a lot of the time
      • Benefits: saves time
      • Deadly risk: addiction to instinct and indifference to data
    4. Blank Canvas Thinking: “Painting by numbers isn’t art. And I want to make art.”
      • Definition: sees own life as a blank canvas, not a paint by numbers
      • Benefits: no sense of coloring outside the lines, creates surprises
      • Deadly risk: “Ars gratia artis,” failure to launch, failure to scale
    5. Schumpeterianism1: “I am a creative destruction machine.”
      • Definition: sees creative destruction as natural, necessary, and as their vocation
      • Benefits: fearlessness, tolerance for destruction and pain
      • Deadly risk: heartless ambition, alienation

Are you a person who gets stuff done?

  1. Named after Joseph Schumpeter 

The Four Horsemen and The United States

I’m not sure what to say about this article, other than it’s immediately relevant for everyone. I know the author personally, though will respect the authors anonymity.

I believe this will end up being a seminal reading for me as it so expertly addresses and focuses the political feelings and worries I’ve had towards all sorts of things over the years.

If I had to give a teaser, here’s the pull quote I would offer:


“The history of man can be written as an effort by one group of men after another trying to gain power over the life and death of his fellow man, to gain control over the actions and thoughts of his peers, to claim ownership over the fruits of the labors, wealth, and property of his neighbor. And it has worked… for a time… for so many of history’s tyrants… benevolent or otherwise.

Conquest, however, is destined to fail each and every time… because conquest never comes alone.”

And it gets better, or worse.


But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big b…


But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.


The Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

[ted id=848]

Another great video shown at the Emerging Leadership Development Program meeting I was at last week was Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action. The take-away point for me was this part1:

Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? Well, as a result, the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in. It’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.

Ever since learning the “five W’s” — who, what, when, where, why (and how) — in second grade, I’ve thought long and hard about which of them is my favorites question to ask. During college, I finally settled on a split be why and how and I think that this TEDx talk has finally helped me understand why “why” is the most important, followed by how.

  1. which starts at about the two minute mark in the video