Paranoia vs. Planning: Ode to my car troubles

What’s the difference between paranoia and planning? When is it reasonable to live in fear?

My car has started to turn off randomly while I’m driving. I’m going about 25 miles an hour with a small amount of pressure on the accelerator. Each time it has happened, I’ve been able to react quickly by pulling over to the side of the road to restart the car. Nevertheless, it got me worried.

I took the car to a mechanic. But the mechanic wasn’t able to reproduce the issue and couldn’t fix it. But he said to try different gasoline and pay attention to see if it happened again.

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Well, it did continue happening. It’s happened about five times now. It’s hard to predict. But luckily, it’s only happened on small roads, not at high speed on the highway.

While I’m going 20-25 miles an hour, I should be able to coast to a stop if I’ve been paying attention. Given this new risk, I’ve actually become more aware of my surroundings at all times. Imagine if I were texting and the car turned off suddenly. I would lose valuable seconds. At the least, it would be embarrassing to stall in the middle of the road. At worst, it could cause a crash.

In addition to driving un-distracted, I now drive with a game-plan. I’m always thinking, “what if it turned off here? Or there? What’s my exit strategy?”

I’m not a mechanic or a financial advisor or really anyone that should be giving advice. But I think I might keep my car like this and ride it out for a while.

As a result, I will drive less distracted and with an exit strategy plan in mind. I know that this will improve my driving.

If you watch car crash videos, you’ll notice two things: 1. These videos are super addicting. 2. And many of the crashes were caused by distracted drivers.

The easier we make it to drive, the more distracted we allow ourselves to be. Massive innovations in autonomous and self-driving vehicles are coming soon to new car buyers. Even any “regular” car produced in the last few years has so much comfort that it lowers me into a state of relaxation, allowing my mind to wander away from the road.

Paranoia is different than planning. Someone that lives in a constant state of tension and preparation for a zombie apocalypse is paranoid. But a “global pandemic” should move from paranoia to planning to prevent it from happening again.

If I drive with constant fear and attention that my car will turn off, this is planning because it’s happened before and could definitely happen again.

When my car resolves its issues, or when I get a new car, I’ll no longer need to live in paranoia. But I can keep my planning. Maybe I won’t need to spend each moment thinking of an exit strategy, should my car turn off. But why not keep the un-distracted driving instead of going back into the comfort of distraction?

In search of the Lofi aesthetic

This past Sunday morning, we lay in bed listening to Lofi Lofts music and dozing. I felt like I was living out something more than the music itself: some aesthetic of Lofi-ness. We were seeking to embody a life of coziness and stillness.

Something like wanting to be the Lofi Girl.

Instead of listening to the rest of this blog post, instead listen to the Lofi Girl:

Link

The Lofi Girl has been sitting and writing in for over a year now. She was around before then. But she’s been live ever since February, 2020, around quarantine in the USA.

The soundtrack beats onward with different tunes. But the feeling is the same. Here eyes are relaxed, on the verge of drifting into dreaming. Her head slumps into her hand. A bit of writing and turning the page. It’s dark inside, but not gloomy. It’s calming, but focused.

The pieces settle together like they weren’t organized there deliberately. The books are scattered on the desk and shelf. But everything rests exactly where they are without tension.

There’s no activity outside. The sun rises and sets, the seasons change, but the girl and her cat still persist. There’s nothing else she’s missing. There’s nothing else worth doing than what she’s doing right now.

The girl looks up at her cat, and we expect something to happen. But no: its tail swings lazily. The cat is perfectly content where it is.

That’s really it: being content where we are.

We live in a disorganized world. But when we sit still in the early morning, we can gaze outside at nothing in particular. We realize there’s nothing under the bed or in the closet out to get us. There’s nobody waiting to knock on our door and send our life into a tailspin.

In that moment, stillness hangs in the air.

That’s what we felt when we slept in. Like we could wake up, yes. But we’re not missing anything. Why not appreciate the stillness as such. The world will still be there from one moment to the next. Right now is the perfect time to settle into something or nothing. Simple, straightforward, and slowly.

Fighting Against the Current: A Case Study of Daylight Savings Time vs. A Global Market

Daylight Savings Time comes and goes again in the USA. Our representatives again are trying to introduce a bill to stop it. Will this be the year that we break the habit? Or will we kick the can down the road again?

It started with best intentions in mind. The idea was to reduce fuel usage during dark hours. But in the contemporary world, is Daylight Savings Time useless?

Something new for me in recent years is the global element of time zones. For some people living in the Americas like me, our clocks changed on March 14th. For Europe, the Middle East, and some other areas, different changes happen on different dates. The remainder of the world does not alter their clocks. Since one region changes at a time, this means that when the US changes its clocks, most of the rest of the world hasn’t. This causes friction when you talk to people in other time zones.

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As part of my work, I meet on virtual conference calls with people around the globe. Twice a year I have to reschedule my calls to address overlaps caused by Daylight Savings Time. I know it’s not just me. The number of companies working in a global marketplace is rising more with every year. So this issue will only increase.

Let’s estimate the costs of this:

Suppose 15 minutes to find free time to reschedule all my recurring meetings

Suppose 15 minutes more from follow-up scheduling or meetings missed due to miscommunications

Doing this twice a year costs 1 hour of time annually.

Suppose the individuals involved have an average annual salary of $50K USD and work a standard 2,080 hours per year.

That hour costs $24 with those assumptions.

Assuming a global workforce of 1 billion people, let’s assume half are affected by a Daylight Savings Time switch twice a year.

That’s 500M people spending $24 each, which is $12 Billion. Ranking this $12B amount compared to the GDP of other nations would place it at number 132 out of 190, behind Brunei and in front of Armenia and Madagascar (which has a population of 25 Million people!).

$12 Billion from rescheduling meetings due to Daylight Savings Time. My numbers may be off, but by how much? My next question is, what’s the value of the fuel saved from those participating in Daylight Savings Time? Are we saving $12 Billion in fuel per year?

Network Effects and Virality are not the same – Re: Platforms

I’m reading the book Platform Revolution to better understand how platforms change markets. For the longest time, I thought that network effects and virality were the same thing. However, according to the authors:

“Virality is about attracting people who are off the platform and enticing them to join it, while network effects are about increasing value among people on-platform.” (23)

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Listen to this blog post here! Network Effects and Virality

I had assumed that what attracts people into a network is the value they get from the network. But in fact, this oversimplifies the interaction between user and platform. The reason for joining could be the same as sticking around. But often, it isn’t.

Suppose a marketing initiative gives users $10 to refer a friend to join. Or, registering could require the user to input their contact list to the platform, to be used for more invites. These examples show virality to grow a network, but not value creation within a network. Just because a platform has a network and goes viral, does not mean that it adds value to users upon joining. Virality used to get more hype, with value coming from how fast you could grow. But now, the value of platforms comes from how they retain users just as much as obtaining users.

Network effects depend a lot on the platform itself. For YouTube, virality could be sharing a video link. But network effect benefits would be the improvement to the video recommendation algorithm coming from more behavioral data from more users. This recommendation keeps users coming back.

It’s possible that a platform has both virality and network effects, such as Facebook: people joined Facebook because of the viral effect of “Fear of Missing Out.” Our friends were connected, so we wanted in as well. Once online, people stayed on for additional features like Facebook Groups and Facebook Marketplace, which grew more valuable as more people joined. Now, the long-term value of Facebook is “active” users, not just “new” users. And activity comes from those valuing the service and going back for the network effects.

As I continue learning about platforms, I’ll pay more attention to the difference between why to join a network vs. why to stay on it.

Educating the city of the soul – reflections on The Republic by Plato (translated Grube + Reeve) – OGB #7

Plato outlines significant ideas in his well-known work, The Republic. He writes how Socrates, the protagonist, uses the metaphor of a city to summarize the parts of the individual soul. Socrates focuses heavily on education as the way to nurture the parts of the city, and thus the soul. What does education teach us?

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First, Socrates separates the soul into three parts: 1. wisdom, 2. courage, and 3. desire. To better understand these soul parts, consider how we would build a city. At the bottom of the social hierarchy in our city are the craftsmen. They work at individual tasks to survive and follow their desires toward luxuries. In the middle are the auxiliaries, who redirect their spirit into arts that guide those desires of the craftsmen. At the top are guardians who rely on calculation and discipline to lead the rest of the people. They fight against external enemies and quell internal rebellions. A good and just city, and thus a soul, emerges when rational wisdom rules over the spirited courage and desire. Each keeps to its own type and task.

The education that the city and soul need includes music, poetry, and physical training. These activities create harmony between the rational part and the spirited part. Music and poetry nurture wisdom with “fine words and learning” and relaxes the spirit “through soothing stories.” And physical training makes both parts gentle through “harmony and rhythm.” (442a)

The result of this nurturing, soothing, and relaxing is that both soul parts learn their own role better. The rational part governs the appetitive part better, making sure desire doesn’t become too strong.

So, music, poetry, and physical training make the individual part become more into itself. Is this because this education contains the answers on how to become a more complete self? Or, because this education relaxes us into reassurance that leads us to self-knowledge? It could be a bit of both.

In my own life, I can think of songs that lead me to something new by weaving a story and teaching me new ways of thinking. But, I can also think of exercise that yanks my best effort out of myself, teaching me something new about my ability.

I’ll have to wait and read the remaining books of The Republic to find out what Plato says about this.

The four people riding with us on this Gamestop rollercoaster

There’s something happening in the markets.

Note: these are my views and not anyone else’s: not my employer nor future employers nor past employers nor anyone else other than myself. And these names are made-up.

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We are in the middle of something big. There’s been a lot of volatility around Gamestop and other stocks. Sometime soon, movies and blog posts and open letters will emerge summarizing this cultural movement and institutional reactions and the yet unknown end result.

We’re all struggling to explain it. But maybe we just need to not jump to conclusions too quickly. Pay attention to the details. What are the human ambitions behind each action? What connections are bursting at the seams- indicating their fragility to begin with? As we spiral down Poe’s maelstrom, let’s ride it out together and pick the most important things to carry forward and what to leave behind.

I grouped some reactions from the public into a few types for fun.

Today in the market we have:

  1. Rip-it Rocky
  2. Break-it Brad
  3. New-world Ned
  4. Cautious Cameron
Photo by Matt Bowden on Unsplash
  1. Rip-it Rocky: “I fucking love it.” Let’s stick it to the billionaires who do this every day. I’m YOLOing it all. I’m aping it to the moon for my bananas and tendies. This is the first real opportunity to beat the house that always wins. Props to the heroes who donated to charity, bought their parents a home, and paid off student debt. Let’s ride the wave, pump the dip, dump the rip.
  2. Break-it Brad: “They deserve it.” This is a ground-breaking momentum change in our markets, and there’s no going back. The financial and government world were too slow to react, and now the retail investor has broken the system. Already, we’ve seen hedge funds lose significant capital. Institutional investors are running scared. And they should be, because they’ve been able to game the system unhindered for a long time. And now when the tables have turned against them, now they want to change the rules? No way. This is going to be a complete catastrophe for the markets. And it’s about time. It’s time to move forward toward regulation for big investors and decentralization of financial institutions.
  3. New-world Ned: “It’s odd that this hasn’t happened before.” This seems like the first time that retail investors have banded together with so much volume and focus. No longer do fundamentals play a role in the valuation of stocks. In this new environment, the dynamics have changed. The fact that a stock is overly shorted could be the reason to run up the value. Or, some other reason could cause people to buy. With endless information at their disposal, the smartest retail investors predicted the rally. With lightning-fast communication over the internet, investors grouped around a common purpose and became powerful. Now, who can predict the next time this could happen. The group may appear in a different place with a different focus. It seems that big investors can be outsmarted by non-big investors. They’ll need to respect this risk much more now.
  4. Cautious Cameron: “I’m worried about the bubble bursting.” Desperate retail investors are the most at-risk to put more money in than they can afford to lose. Hawkish investors will take advantage of them like prey. And the desperate investor will lose. I’m afraid for my family and friends who bought GME stock just because there was a speculative run-up on the value. The stock price is bound to go back down because the inherent value of Gamestop hasn’t changed even thought the stock price has. As a result of this, there will be loss. And there will be regulation, but I’m not sure that will accomplish anything about what people are looking for since there are already many regulations in place. If anything, we need to prevent this bubble from happening again and affecting so many unknowing people.

We’ve seen holders holding and buyers buying and sellers selling. Who knows what the price of GME will be in two weeks. And who knows what we’ll be talking about then.

One thing is clear: no one can predict what happens next.

Compliment More: September, 2018 Level-Up

The next installment of my monthly level-up series is saying more compliments to friends. In the fall, 2018, I was moving from D.C. to Minneapolis and starting a new job. Life changes like that lead to reflection about what we value. We decide what we want to take with us in the next step of our journey. In this case, I wanted to take my friends and the relationships I had built during the previous few years.

One way to build up friendship is to make others feel better when being with you: for example, giving reassurance and compliments.

Usually, I would compliment someone in a reactionary way. I would notice something different and point it out. Or, I would give a compliment in return for receiving one. But then I tried something new and proactive.

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

I gave compliments by sharing my gratitude: thankfulness toward a shared connection, appreciation for their support, and gratefulness for being a part of my life. It was helpful on phone calls, since phone calls are ways of catching up, not shared experiences. It’s way easier to compliment someone in person or by sharing an experience: “hey you danced well” or “good job crushing those noobs”. But over the phone, I didn’t have those things. Instead, I focused on gratitude for their pure existence.

As a result, I noticed myself thinking harder about why I’m grateful for specific friendships. Genuine caring drove me to enjoy giving compliments. I didn’t do it out of obligation. I felt more motivated to spend time with the people for which I’m grateful. And the little extra effort wasn’t too difficult after some practice. I explained my motivation for continuing to connect with that person. That way, the compliment is genuine, transparent, and positive.

I kept up this improvement for about a month. Then I tapered off. But I still come back to gratitude in my friendships. I now think more actively about how much appreciate people in my life. And for you, dear reader, I learned that a little compliment can move others into hope and joy. I’m grateful for your attention!

Dropping the unnecessary stuff.

As a culture, sometimes we drop words at the start of sentences.

For example: instead of saying “I have a friendly announcement that…,” we say “Friendly announcement that…”

And, instead of saying “I’d be happy to do that,” we say “Happy to do that.”

Wonder why we do that? Interested to find out. Quicker to get to the point. Confused or make sense?

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

What do we do with our stuff?

Losing a loved one is hard. Afterwards, the family must go through all their stuff. They choose whether to keep something or let it go. Where does the value of a material possession come from?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When I faced this issue, I realized that I have to distinguish an item’s unique connection to its owner in addition to utility.

UsefulNot Useful
UniqueAB
GenericCD
The Value / Uniqueness Matrix

D: Generic Stuff that is not useful, like birdseed or towels: Ditch or donate.

C: Generic Stuff that is useful, like leftover food in the pantry: Keep it if I can, but these are replaceable.

B: Unique Stuff that is not useful, like some antique china: Important and valuable to someone else, so give it to that someone who will value it.

A: Unique Stuff is useful, like special mugs: Keep this and cherish the memories.

In both cases, anything with a unique connection to me could provide others with value. Whereas something generic could be useful or could not be. Maybe the true value in possessions comes not in its utility, but in its unique connection to the owner. This value comes from the sentiment and memories that the item provides.


Differentiating items into these buckets helps with moving on.

It also reverses the spotlight on ourselves. What would happen if we looked at our own material possessions with the same level of scrutiny? Because if I don’t, then eventually my loved ones will.

I accumulate stuff that is useful to me. I’m not worried about that.

But what stuff of mine is unique to me versus generic? I’ll think twice next time. I won’t overvalue those generic, replaceable things. Rather, I will protect only those unique items that will provide loved ones with more lasting sentimental, memorial value.

Three Life Lessons From: My second job

My next gig was one-year as a software analyst on a small team for a federal contractor. This was my “big step” job because I finally broke into the IT industry. I knew software was eating the world and I wanted a place at the table.

The differentiator in the hiring process was not my computer science experience. That’s good, because I barely made it through Computer Science 101. Rather, the key was my major in Philosophy, because one huge task would be teaching users how to use our software. My manager thought my communication skills would be a good fit. I am grateful for her trust!

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
  1. I learned what Software-as-a-Service is (SaaS). There are products and services, which are typically viewed separately. However when a software product and corresponding customer support enables a process to happen, the result is SaaS, encompassing the product and services that makes the process happen. This was important to understand because most IT companies seem to be SaaS companies.
  2. I learned about the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). I learned how software goes through a process of creation, from problem to design to requirements to development to testing to delivery to support to training, and repeat. Typically this process happened one at a time as a Waterfall, but the new Agile methodology smushed everything together, reducing scope, time, and cost to bite-sized chunks. Even if I’m in Sales, now I know what I’m selling: not a static widget, but a growing widget.
  3. I learned about the differences in style and work-life balance of other team members. Some people go hard 25 hours a day. Some people clock out at 5pm to spend time on things outside of work. Then there are many people in the middle. I learned that every style is ok, and that the job of a manager is to ensure that a team can operate well together even with all these differences. I also learned that my own style does not work for everyone else just because it’s my style.

These lessons have helped me to develop my career and dive deeper into software advisory projects and teams.