Improving for future generations

Most people spend their lives being dutiful descendants instead of remarkable ancestors. Each generation has the choice to aim to please their predecessors or improve things for their offspring. Many people who were the most positive influences on humanity did not blindly follow in their parent’s footsteps.

In the words of Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the old. Seek what they sought.”

You can strive to make previous generations proud, or endeavor to make the world better for the next.

Concept: Radical Simplicity

As I read through business contracts, health care benefits explanations, and even news stories, I wonder if there’s a way to adopt a concept that seeks to radically simplify what is being presented, perhaps in a way that any could quickly comprehend the most honest yet consequential portion of what we’re explaining.

TLDR; Let’s use as few words as possible to convey information responsibly and with (radical) simplicity.

Simple communication tweaks

AVOID SAYING “BUT” – “You did great work, but…” immediately cancels the compliment.  Better to change it to: “You did great work, AND here’s what we can improve for next time…”

EASE  UP ON SUPERLATIVES  – Describing everything as “extremely”, “remarkably” or “epic” takes away from the things that actually deserve those adjectives.

CONFIDENT SPEAKING HACK – If you are asked what you want for dinner, don’t say “I don’t know…I’m craving pizza.”  You come across as a more confident, assertive person (not aggressive), to simply state what you want.  Especially since you DO know.

Measuring the wrong things when hiring people

A great Software Engineer could be five times more efficient and effective than an average developer with the same years of experience. Deciding who is the best fit for a job using arbitrary requirements like “years of experience” is an attempt to commoditize human performance.

Although it’s harder to measure, try having a dialogue with those you consider hiring by discussing their capability and motivation to do the job, based on their relevant accomplishments and interests, not their education, years, or any other metric that doesn’t predict performance.

Cease or persist?

Our never-give-up culture motivates us to continue doing things that don’t serve us lest we feel like quitters.  But it’s wise to stop doing what isn’t working.

One focusing question when you consider stopping something is: knowing what I now know if I had the choice to start this today from scratch (hire this person, make this investment, choose this partner, obtain an advanced degree…) would I do it?

If the answer is a clear no, don’t fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy – the idea that because you “invested” time in something you should see it through.

A great way to express empathy

When our loved ones find themselves in dire or frightening circumstances – dealing with disease, injuries, grieving a loss – we want to help in some way. We’re not taught how to properly “be there” for those in need, and sometimes we make things worse despite our best intentions.

A close friend who endured all the physical and emotional hardships of chemotherapy to fight cancer taught me a great lesson. It’s natural to want to do things, offer things, or check in and get a health report, but many times this forces them to redirect precious energy on us, rather than healing or processing.

Reaching out to say that you’re thinking of them, praying for them, wishing them well, etc., without requiring their energy to reply and engage is the most helpful thing to some people. The lesson, in as few words as possible is: “express, but don’t expect.”

Just one nugget of wisdom

It’s hard to overstate the value of a useful perspective or piece of advice that comes at the right time. If I read an entire book, listen to a podcast, or even attend a seminar, and all I glean is one great nugget of wisdom, I consider it a worthwhile investment.

It may be easy to scoff at the time-cost of a three-hour book reading session that only delivers one great idea. Until you find that one idea has you starting a new side business (or deciding to bail on the one you have), saves your company money, or stops you from going into a career or Master’s program that you would have regretted.