#59 If you wish to not get stuck, seek to perceive what you have not yet perceived
Lessons on details, deep understanding and communicating clearly
Derek Sivers poses a very fundamental question in the joke that changed my life - Why are some cultures one way, and other cultures another way? What makes millions of people in an area have similar behaviors?
He did not have a satisfactory answer, and neither do I. Do you have any theories Would love to hear from you.
For now, let’s get to today’s finds.
1. Apple’s PACE approach
“Writing for interfaces” from Apple’s design team is a good 101 session on the topic. While this is critically relevant for UX writers and content designers, the lessons are useful for every builder & creator.
An acronym PACE summarizes their approach.
Spare 23 minutes and watch this video. Its lessons are universal and can help you in any kind of communication.
2. How To Understand Things
Nabeel Qureshi’s essay has tonnes on gems on the topic of understanding deeply. He is not talking about ‘reading an expert essay or commentary’ level understanding. He is talking about a level of understanding where you can synthesize any topic in your own version. He claims you can internalize good intellectual habits that, in effect, “increase your intelligence”. ‘Intelligence’ is not fixed.
He has used examples from some of the best thinkers out there to explain his reasoning and shared some really good inputs. An insightful read, absorb it slow and think over as you read through his ideas.
For now, here’s a small snippet of what to expect in his post.
People who have not experienced the thing are unlikely to be generating truth. More likely, they’re resurfacing cached thoughts and narratives. Reading popular science books or news articles is not a substitute for understanding, and may make you stupider, by filling your mind with narratives and stories that don’t represent your own synthesis.
Even if you can’t experience the thing directly, try going for information-dense sources with high amounts of detail and facts, and then reason up from those facts. On foreign policy, read books published by university presses -- not The Atlantic or The Economist or whatever. You can read those after you’ve developed a model of the thing yourself, against which you can judge the popular narratives.
3. Grow the puzzle around you
Louis Pereira’s Read Something Great newsletter shared the following snippet this week.
The message, the name & the title - they all seemed exciting and worth checking out. And it was indeed the case. Thank you Louis for this great recommendation - “Grow the puzzle around you”
My top 2 takeaways from Jessica’s post:
Do what you’re genuinely interested in and try to play to your natural strengths. A startup is so much work that you'll give up if you're not genuinely interested in it.
Focus on making something people want. Everything follows from that.
Finally, this is from the closing lines of Jessica’s post:
You are a jigsaw puzzle piece of a certain shape. You could change your shape to fit an existing hole in the world. That was the traditional plan. But there's another way that can often be better for you and for the world: to grow a new puzzle around you.
4. There’s no such thing as data
Benedict Evans posits the following in a recent post.
Data is the new oil, we are told. Every country needs a data strategy, and all of us should own our data, and be paid for it. But really, there is no such thing as data, it’s not yours, and it’s not worth anything.
Some thought provoking observations. My biggest takeaway is that in most such cases (data & privacy, web3 etc) we tend to miss the context & over simplify everything. The positives become a hype and negative becomes a doomsday scenario. Such is the over-amplified excitement of the new & unknown.
What do you think?
5. Ward Cunningham’s wisdom
The following snippet is from a conversation between Ward Cunningham and Bill Venners in 2003. I did not know who these guys were (I suspect most of you will have the same response as well). But the conversations were really interesting and kept me going through the entire series of 5 posts.
I can't tell you how much time is spent worrying about decisions that don't matter. To just be able to make a decision and see what happens is tremendously empowering, but that means you have to set up the situation such that when something does go wrong, you can fix it. When something does go wrong, it doesn't cost you or your customer an exorbitant amount. It isn't ridiculously expensive. When you get in situations where you cannot afford to make a mistake, it's very hard to do the right thing. So if you're trying to do the right thing, the right thing might be to eliminate the cost of making a mistake rather than try to guess what's right.
From Collective Ownership of Code and Text (Part 2)
Einstein said, "As simple as possible, but no simpler." He was being accused of being complex, and he was saying "Yes, simple is important, but..." He'd taken a body of observable fact that was unaccounted for, and accounted for it. So yes, his theory, his models were more complex than Newton's, but they did more. They were worth studying. He was saying, "Look, I made them as simple as possible, but no simpler."
So today, let's write a program simply. But let's also realize that tomorrow, we're going to make it more complex, because tomorrow it's going to do more. So we'll take that simplicity and we'll lose some of it. But tomorrow, hopefully tomorrow's program is as simple as possible for tomorrow's needs. Hopefully we'll preserve simplicity as the program grows.
From The Simplest Thing that Could Possibly Work (Part 5)
Other parts: Exploring with Wiki (Part 1), Working the Program (Part 3) , and To Plan or Not to Plan (Part 4)
Just to let you know, Ward Cunningham invented the world's first wiki, a web-based collaborative writing tool, to facilitate the discovery and documentation of software patterns. He is also credited with being the primary inspiration behind many of the techniques of Extreme Programming.
In “Reality has a surprising amount of detail” John Salvatier tries to answer why even the best experts in any field can be intellectually stuck. He claims the reasons lie in details - yes in the gory details. And most of the time in those that we were not able to recognize or accept. Here’s how he put this:
Before you’ve noticed important details they are, of course, basically invisible. It’s hard to put your attention on them because you don’t even know what you’re looking for. But after you see them they quickly become so integrated into your intuitive models of the world that they become essentially transparent. Do you remember the insights that were crucial in learning to ride a bike or drive? How about the details and insights you have that led you to be good at the things you’re good at?
This means it’s really easy to get stuck. Stuck in your current way of seeing and thinking about things. Frames are made out of the details that seem important to you. The important details you haven’t noticed are invisible to you, and the details you have noticed seem completely obvious and you see right through them. This all makes makes it difficult to imagine how you could be missing something important.
So true, right? John has a suggestion to avoid such issues. In his words, “If you wish to not get stuck, seek to perceive what you have not yet perceived.”
Think about it.
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
See: Cameras as playful pop-culture mashups (Dall-E 2 at work), A slice of perfection (another rabbit-hole on reddit)
Watch: Missing half of the Roman Colosseum (I wish our history classes were this fun), Sun Tzu's The Art of War: Animated (in the context of wars, and with examples from the history)
Read: Why eating at your desk is banned in France (their labor laws, food practices and style - never cease to amaze me), Andy Warhol and the price of authenticity (all artists are unique in their own ways)
Interact: Get to know the Houston Budget (a very interesting way to share information and excite the constituents to participate in the public services).
Before we sign off, here’s a thought around book summaries from Sajith Pai. They are like cheatsheets from your Maths 101 courses. They contain the summary for quick recall, but you may not do a good application if you started your learning directly from them.
That's all for this week, folks!
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I simply loved this Newsletter. So much food for thought :).