By far the most substantial piece of content I read recently is from Jay Rosen. He is a press critic who writes about the media and politics. He is a professor at the School of Journalism at New York University.
Here is how it starts:
"When in doubt, draw a distinction."
Not sure where he got it, but in grad school one of my teachers told me that. Some of the best advice I ever received.
This THREAD is about some of the key distinctions I draw on to do my work. If you're into that kind of thing.😎
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) February 22, 2021
And here are some of the distinctions he draws in this Twitter thread:
- Public vs. audience
- Journalism vs. the media
- Truth-seeking vs. refuge-seeking
- Political vs. politicized
- Issues vs. troubles
- Ritual vs. transmission
- Expect vs. predict
- Subscription vs. membership
He says that
For distinctions to work, the terms have to be sufficiently close that prying them apart clears space for thought. If I write, “bending is not the same as breaking,” well, who said it was? That one is going nowhere. But “naked is not the same as nude” is an idea with legs.
It’s not just semantics. Well, it is, but it’s more than that. It’s a show of clarity of ideas in your field of endeavor. In his case, it’s media and politics.
And it occurs in all fields.
Just last week, I bumped into a few more instances:
- My friend and colleague Ed Carvalho invited us to draw a distinction between intelligence and intellect;
- And then this one in the Harvard Business Review between habit and routine:
When we fail at forming new patterns of behavior, we often blame ourselves, rather than the bad advice we read from someone who doesn’t really understand what can and cannot be a habit.
A habit is a behavior done with little or no thought, while a routine involves a series of behaviors frequently —and intentionally— repeated. A behavior has to be a regularly performed routine before it can become a habit at all.
The problem is that many of us try to skip the “routine” phase.
There are other distinctions that Rosen does not discuss in his thread, including
- Lying vs. bullshitting
- Experience vs. expertise
- Exit, voice, and loyalty
- Information overload vs. filter failure
Anyone who took part in one of my leadership development programs will have heard me discuss exit, voice, “loyalty”/conformity, and sabotage as a way to distinguish how different people react differently to finding themselves in conflict situations.
The take-aways from this piece?
- When in doubt, draw a distinction;
- Doing so is a way to manifest that you are a thinker – that you don’t take things at face value but you do reflect on them and come out with your own thoughts;
- Drawing distinctions is also a manifestation of where you put your attention, that is, what your field of endeavor really is.
And since a lot of readers of this newsletter are managers then it begs the question: are your distinctions mostly about the domain of expertise that preceded your becoming a manager or are they about management itself?
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