Thursday, April 13, 2017

There's an emotions-Wookiee riding shotgun in your head

We teach kids (intentionally or not) that they are a "self."

Let's leave aside the question of how to teach them that there is no "self" - what about teaching kids that they have two selves?

Specifically, there's the driver (which is the "you" who you think you are, the cold logical one) and the emotions passenger. They are constantly talking to you and affecting what you do - sometimes indirectly ("pull off at this exit, I'm hungry", "turn the AC onnnnn!!!", "I'm playing music now"), sometimes directly by grabbing the wheel. They are a large, powerful person, can overwhelm you if it comes to a fight, and are sometimes very wise; ultimately you're in charge, but the two of you are a team. I'm calling the passenger a Wookiee because Chewbacca seems to fit all of these pretty perfectly.

When you are born, they speak a different language than you. Your happiness, success, and sometimes survival depends on your ability to learn to communicate with them. This is what "emotional intelligence" and "soft skills" mean.

So many things, especially interpersonal conflicts, would be so much easier to explain if you had this framework. Instead of saying "I ____", replace that with "My emotions/Wookiee _____". Learn when to take the Wookiee's advice into account, and when they don't know what they're talking about. Learn when to tell the Wookiee to quiet down because you've got to drive for a while... and when to let the Wookiee win.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

A few short cranky thoughts

1. Every attempt to manage academia makes it worse. I'm enough of a hippie to think you should actually just pay them without measuring them. Or maybe measure them once per decade or something. I've never met an academic who was anything other than suuuuper driven. These aren't the people you need to be micromanaging.

2. Every time you say "just" (as in "just one thing" or "can you just do this for me"), an alarm bell should go off in your head. (kind of like the bell that should go off when you say "well, actually...") What it often sounds like you're saying is "I want you to do this thing, but I don't want to be indebted to you for it, so I will minimize it. I want it to be easy. I'm going to act like it's easy, even if it's not."

3. As your job gets more intelligible to outsiders, it gets easier to connect it to some values in your life. That is nice. Doing user research is often more intelligible than software engineering, and as a result, it's usually easier to say "yep, this will actually help people." However, it also means other people think they know how to do your job too. See also: bikeshedding.

4. In SF (/the Bay Area, and other large metro areas), you can have anything. Restaurants, bars, shops, coffee, parks, weather, theater, arts, interactive theater, escape rooms, talks, Burning Man hackery, etc. On the other hand, no one human can possibly take all that in, so it sometimes feels a little immature to live here. Like, you haven't figured out what you want and what you don't care about, so you just want it all. There's some maturity in knowing what things you want less than other people.
On the other other hand, you can't say "well, I only care about theater, so I'm going to move to Theater City." Fair point.