Questions for the end of the day

… to be documented in the journal you should keep.

Where did my eyes linger today?

Where was I blind?

Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?

What did I learn today?

What did I read?

What new thoughts visited me?

What differences did I notice in those closest to me?

Whom did I neglect?

Where did I neglect myself?

What did I begin today that might endure?

How were my conversations?

What did I do today for the poor and excluded?

Did I remember the dead today?

Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?

Where did I allow myself to receive love?

With whom did I feel most myself?

What reached me today? How deep did it imprint?

Who saw me today?

What visitations had I from the past and from the future?

What did I avoid today?

From the evidence – why was I given this day?

– John O’Donoghue, To Bless the Space Between Us

 

 

 

Living with a notebook

I carry mine everywhere and jot down EVERYTHING in it: ideas, meeting notes, phone call notes, appointments, etc. I also use it to outline and draft articles, correspondence and any other writing I do.

As things get done or transferred to permanent platforms, I cross them off. As all items in one page get done, I draw a big X on a page. When both sides of a page have Xs,  I tear the page out. When all notes have been filed and all tasks completed, I throw away the notebook and start a new one.

I don’t keep my notebooks. I have no sentimental attachment to them. They help me keep all notes in one place and get things done.

Inspiration for this post comes from Design Observer.

 

How to write: jot down, accumulate, spread out and dispose

Witwer had an original method of composition. He carried small scratch pads and short pencils in his pockets. If a comic idea occurred to him on the sidewalk, at a party, in conference, in a taxicab, in a speakeasy, or anywhere else, he would thrust his hand in his side coat pocket, make a note on the pad, tear off the sheet, and leave the pad in readiness for the next idea. Whenever he heard a very bright remark or a very dumb remark, Witwer’s right hand would dart into his coat pocket.

From long practice he could scribble legibly and inconspicuously.

After accumulating a hundred of two hundred of these notes, he would seat himself at his desk, cover the floor around him with the slips of paper, and start writing. When his invention lagged, he would lean over and pick up a slip of paper. If the paper failed to suggest anything useful at the moment, he would toss it back on the floor and pick up another. Sooner or later he would find a note which would inspire him. Once used, the slip would be crumpled and thrown into a wastebasket.

Quoted in the excellent blog.pmarca.com.

I follow the very same procedure with a notebook I carry everywhere. I often convert some of my notebook/journal entries into permanent notes for my slip box (zettelkasten).

 

Mintzberg on MBA programs

I describe the MBA in the book as a degree from 1908 with a 1950s strategy. Because the degree was created in 1908 and business schools have had no new degree since 1908 and the strategy was set up based on a couple of reports in the 1950s which made business schools respectable, more research, more theory, more depth. All of which made them much stronger and much more respectable academically but it did not strengthen their managerial side, and to this day there is very little management in most MBA programs and what there is, is distorted.

Let me give you an example. The Harvard case study model (…)

The book he refers to is Managers Not MBAs which he discussed at MIT in this video.

See also Henry Mintzberg on heroic managers.

 

Thomas Schelling – Nobel laureate by ricochet

An author who has had a significant influence on my work (before he won the Nobel prize!) by confirming that the observation of everyday events is a good (though not necessarily “academic”) way to start.

An excerpt from a paper published recently (in pdf format) on his approach:

Schelling is the master of ricochet scholarship. He studies a real-world problem and develops a conceptual model. He then takes that conceptual model back to a dozen real-world problems to see how it applies, and then ricochets back to refine the model. He keeps the process going until he is happy with his model, and satisfied with his insights into the problems that most interest him.
(…) None of us could approach his skill level, but all of us could learn from his example. If you are analyzing a policy, you should consider what your problem would look like in stripped down form. Look for an everyday analogue, and determine in what ways it is the same and how it is different. Go out in the real world to examine the information that participants have, the incentives that operate on them.

I have always been inspired by how he starts with real-world problems and, after all the back-and-forth, lets reality determine the validity of the model. Models are an attempt at understanding reality, an attempt -in some ways- at explaining reality. This is the premise for the idea that there is nothing more practical than a good theory.