Shafik has joined the campaign against a winner-takes-all business culture that offers the spoils of capitalism only to those that rise to the top, putting her in the company of some of the world’s most prominent political thinkers.
While she has come a long way from her Egyptian birthplace, her questioning of privilege has remained consistent. “The idea that you are successful because you are smart and hardworking is pernicious and wrong, because it means everyone who is unsuccessful is stupid and lazy,” she says. Referring to her friend Michael Sandel, the Harvard philosopher, she says the next phase of history should be characterised by a shared endeavour, ending the extreme individualism of the last 40 years.
“The discussion we need to be having asks: what do we owe each other and what are our expectations of each other?” she says. People who think they have climbed the greasy pole on their own misunderstand how much luck had a part to play and how society, directly or indirectly, also helped them rise.”
In an exquisite case of synchrony, I happened to read this right after Vonnegut’s letter:
I have always believed, always, even when I was a precocious little girl crying alone in my bed, that our purpose in this life is to experience everything we possibly can, to understand as much of the human condition as we can squeeze into one lifetime, however long or short that may be. We are here to feel the complex range of emotions that come with being human. And from those experiences, our souls expand and grow and learn and change, and we understand a little more about what it really means to be human. I call it the evolution of the soul.
It is from a letter Julie Yip-Williams wrote to her daughters before colon cancer took her life.
I love how reading sometimes echo each other.
source: https://lettersofnote.com/2021/03/01/live-a-life-worth-living/, accessed 220104
In 2006, a high school English teacher asked students to write to a famous author and ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut was the only one to respond. And his response is magnificent:
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
source: https://www.timelesstimely.com/p/ars-gratia-artis, accessed 220104
When you read what everyone else is reading, you’re likely to think what everyone else is thinking. And you might only be reading what the algorithms are putting before you. It’s time to rewild your attention.
Big-tech recommendation systems (…) pose a (…) challenge for our imaginative lives: Their remarkably dull conception of what’s “interesting”. It’s like intellectual monocropping. You open your algorithmic feed and see rows and rows of neatly planted corn, and nothing else. (Clive Thompson)
Here’s a simple idea: go to a bookstore or a library, look for a book, and let serendipity (the books around the book you’re looking for) provide surprises and discoveries.
Creativity is not about “being creative”. It’s work. And it doesn’t have to be hard work.
Highlighting content from my September 2021 newsletter.
Do you know?
Have you ever said (or thought), “I’m too old to ____”?
Were you right about that?
Who has taught you the most in the last two years?
Do they know you regard them in this way?
Would it benefit them to know?
Who or what has been an unexpected teacher?
Would you consider yourself an expert?
Are you striving to be seen as one?
Do you wish to unlearn something?
What have you learned from experience that studying could never have conveyed?
What do you know of sensuous knowledge?
What’s a film that made you see the world anew?
When did you last feel a sense of awe?
“Lockdown provided an opportunity to reflect – and help me realise what I want from work. I want a job that suits my life and means I’m not tied to a desk all day, every day. And if I don’t feel happy, I can just quit. There are more than enough jobs out there.”
“Workers are drafting up resignation emails, handing in their notices and heading for the exit door in their droves. The trend is worldwide.
In the UK, job vacancies soared to an all-time high in July, with available posts surpassing one million for the first time.
In the US, four million people quit their jobs in April – a 20-year high – followed by a record ten million jobs being available by the end of June.
A Microsoft study has found that 41 per cent of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year.”
They call it the Great Resignation.
(in Jeopardy fashion) Why do we work so damn much?
Keynes predicted that, assuming no catastrophic events, the standard of living in advanced economies would be so much higher in 100 years that “for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem – how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure.” Most people would then be working a 15-hour week, which would satisfy their need to work in order to feel useful and contended.
As we approach 2030, how did Keynes do? Keynes’ predictions about capital growth, technology advancement and productivity were clearly wrong. “He massively underestimated the speed of advances in those areas,” said Suzman. We passed the thresholds of capital growth and productivity that he said would be necessary to usher a 15-hour week economic utopia in the 1980s. “Yet, here we are. And we’re working pretty much as long hours as people did in the 1930s when Keynes wrote the essay in the first place.”
Why is that? According to Suzman work is no longer driven by what we need. Instead, it’s driven by what we want and how society regulates or encourages these wants. We’ve long been able to satisfy our needs and wants with a 15-hour workweek. “But as we’ve gotten richer and built more technology, we’ve developed a machine not for ending our wants, not for fulfilling them, but for generating new ones, new needs, new desires, new forms of status competition.”
From a podcast with anthropologist James Suzman.
Suzman has devoted almost thirty years to studying and writing about the Ju’hoansi and other bushmen from the Kalahari Basin, who are among the world’s few remaining hunter-gatherer societies. He recently published Work: A Deep History from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots, a book about his research.
You don’t. You never do.
Leading by example is based on a faulty assumption: that people will see only the behavior you want them to see and follow only the behavior you want them to follow.
News flash: the people who work with you see everything.
They see not only what you want them to see but they also see what you don’t want them to see.
They see not only what you do but they also see what you don’t do and what you choose not to do.
They see what you choose to do or not to do and to whom.
They see what you choose to do or not to do and for whom.
As a matter of fact, the more time they spend with you, the more clearly you reveal yourself to them. The longer they observe you, the less what you say matters. What matters more are your actions – and specifically how consistent they are over time.
They see when and how often you tell them what to do.
They see when and how often you ask for their opinion.
They see when and how often you admit not knowing something.
They see when and how often you admit you made a mistake.
They see when and how often you apologize… and when and how often you apologize in public when you offended in public.
They see when, how often, and how well you listen.
They see when and how often you praise in public. And how specific your praise is: not the anemic “good job!” but rather a vigorous acknowledgment of what exactly a team member does well and how that contributes to the good of the team.
In addition to being based on a faulty assumption, “leading by example” might also be caused by attribution bias (you believe that your behavior has caused theirs, that your “leading” has caused their “following”) or by buying into the narrative of the “heroic manager” (what I call the “Gandhi complex”). But that will have to wait for another post.
It’s not about having so much money that you can buy anything you want. It’s about having enough money to buy everything you need.
There are two kinds of quantities in the world. Stock is a static value: money in the bank or trees in the forest. Flow is a rate of change: fifteen dollars an hour or three thousand toothpicks a day. Easy. Too easy.
But I actually think stock and flow is a useful metaphor for media in the 21st century. Here’s what I mean:
- Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that reminds people you exist.
- Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
Flow is ascendant these days, for obvious reasons—but I think we neglect stock at our peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audience and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a treadmill, and you can’t spend all of your time running on the treadmill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: oh man. I’ve got nothing here.
I’m not saying you should ignore flow! This is no time to hole up and work in isolation, emerging after years with your work in hand. Everybody will go: huh? Who are you? And even if they don’t—even if your exquisite opus is the talk of the tumblrs for two whole days—if you don’t have flow to plug your new fans into, you’re suffering a huge (get ready for it!) opportunity cost. You’ll have to find those fans all over again next time you emerge from your cave.
And the real magic trick is to put them both together. To keep the ball bouncing with your flow—to maintain that open channel of communication—while you work on some kick-ass stock in the background. Sacrifice neither. The hybrid strategy.