Saturday Grab Bag of Links | #131

✌ An exploration of life, work & what matters

March 6th, 2021: Greetings from Taiwan. We had some people over our new apartment last night and it felt a bit weird to be doing such a normal thing after a year of avoiding making plans with most friends.

I also finished my first week of Chinese class which was more fun than I expected. I was a bit stressed about 15 hours of class per week but NTU’s approach of learning the character in addition to speaking has seem to have unlocked something in my learning with Chinese. Excited to keep going.

This week’s newsletter is a grab bag of various links and things I’ve been thinking about. I made a decent amount of progress on my book which is a continued slow grind that I’m enjoying. You can pre-order here.

If you would like to subscribe you can do that here:


#1 Secrets Of Management

I don’t think managing people is hard its just that the behaviors needed to help others thrive go against many of our normal emotional responses to the work and since companies overlook poor management in practice, many people avoid trying to get better at managing people.

The hardest thing to learn as a manager is that you need to coach the person not the mistakes. Sounds easy, but is hard in practice. This thread offers a lot of wisdom from someone that clearly gets it in terms of how to manage people.

I wrote an essay covering a fascinating 12-second video from Steve Kerr a few years ago in an exchange with Draymond Green. Here is the breakdown of his exchange with Green:

“you know what’s exciting for me?” — Kerr likely already has a good relationship with Bell, but he establishes the fact that he loves what he does — he genuinely cares about being a coach. Great leaders often make you feel the same — wow they are really putting a lot of energy and commitment into continuing to be a great leader.

“you’re already really good” — After establishing that he is excited, he lays a foundation of respect, saying that Bell is already a really good player, but he is hinting that there is some potential for improvement…

“…and you can be so much better” — Kerr is direct, after establishing his level of excitement about the feedback he is going to give he gets to the point — you have room to improve.

“So many little things” — He gets to the point. There are many things to work on, but he does not make a big deal of it — he calls them “little things.” Bell is likely thinking That’s all? Only little things? When do we get started on working on them?

“You’re doing so much great stuff. Man you’re killin’ it, killin’ it” — Again Kerr is so excited about the good things that Bell is doing and reinforces this again. Who isn’t ready to go work hard for Kerr at this point?

“That’s awesome…you’re gonna get better” — Again, Kerr points out that there is still room for improvement, but shows confidence that he will definitely get better. Notice the parallels with earlier where he said, “you can be so much better” and then he closes it out with confidence about where he is headed — you will get better.

You can watch the video here in my full writeup of the post.


#2 The Beginning Of The Decline of Business School?

I wrote a few weeks ago about how networks like On Deck will slowly replace the top-tier MBA. I think you’ll see this sentiment spread fast over the next year and within 5 years you’ll see MBA programs try to compete by offering their own iPhone SE versions of the two-year full-time MBA


#3 John Luttig has a great post on how finance eats culture

From his newsletter:

But financialization is no longer purely institutional; it has seeped into our culture. A combination of low interest rates, a historic tech bull run, and the resulting torrent of fomo has tethered us to our monitors to watch candlestick charts. The financialization of culture has manifested in two primary ways: lottery culture and equity culture.


#4 Who The Hell Are We?

From Andrew Taggart’s final chapter on his Total Work book he’s been sharing on substack.

If we’re not Workers and if we’re not conspicuous languid Lotus-eaters (or, for that matter, spandex-wearing Burning Man-meets-Wanderlust pseudo-spiritual seekers), who, damnit, are we?

The question indeed.


#5 Sabbaticals Every Seven Years

In the bible, every seventh year is a year of rest:

“You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”

If someone can do some math and let us know when our next 7th year is that would be excellent.


#6 Good Interview with Austen Allred on the reality of “upskilling” people

From The Pull Request:

The problem in the United States, the people who are making the laws and deciding how the funding rolls out, are from that aristocratic class. There are no welders in Congress. If there were, we would have Title IV for trucking school. Why can’t you get a Pell grant to become a trucker? Why only university? That’s because the people who make the laws, and decide what ought to happen to the rest of America, all went to Georgetown or Yale. If you look at Congress, it's literally something like 90% of the people come from six schools. It's not an exaggeration to say it’s aristocratic; the Supreme Court even more so, they’re like from two schools. The people making the laws are not making laws for themselves, they’re making laws for everybody else thinking that they [the lawmakers] live the optimal path, and that everybody ought to do the same. And that's just not true.

…and their new program of placing students for free first, before they are hired.

Interviewing to determine who gets a job is a very suboptimal way to determine who should work for you. It's one of the best options that we have, but it's still not good. It's so hard to tell what it's actually going to be like to work with someone by sitting across the table from them and asking them a bunch of questions. I think there is a path where, in the future if you go to Lambda School, you don't have to interview for your first job ever; I think we can replace the interview with something far better.

Here is more, Austen doubling down on this:


#7 Are Professors Obsolete? - Marginal REVOLUTION

Alex Tabbarok predicted in 2003 that professors will start facing pressure in 10-20 years through online education:

I think that we faculty will manage to beat back these ideas for another ten to twenty years but eventually the benefits of the technological approach will become overwhelming. When this happens teaching will become more of a winner-take-all superstar market and wages for the rest of us will fall.

I went from thinking I should try to work in a University two years ago to thinking that’s probably a bad idea. I have mixed feelings on the state of Universities. They still offer incredible physical environments for creativity and ideas but the business model and culture of these environments seems to be in decline.

I think it’s still early days in online learning but I could see universities that go out of business become spaces that these superstar professors come together for a semester of intensive learning and exploration around various niches.


#8 How Amazon Eliminates Communication

The worst project I was ever involved in during my career involved five or six of the senior most people at the company who worked in different groups, many other “stakeholders” and then two people (one was me) doing the work. It took more than a year to “launch” our project which was one of the least impressive things I’ve ever been involved in.

The best project I was ever involved in was the Sloan Sports Analytics conference while I was at MIT. It was led by two competent leaders, Daryl Morey and Jessica Gelman, and the work was done by 50 students working in separate functions that did not need to communicate with the other groups.

It seems Amazon tries to cultivate this approach of eliminating communication within it’s company too. From the book Working Backwards:

In my tenure at Amazon I heard him (Jeff Bezos) say many times that if we wanted Amazon to be a place where builders can build, we needed to eliminate communication, not encourage it.

He suggested that each software team should build and clearly document a set of application program interfaces (APIs) for all their systems/services. An API is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications and defining how software components should interact.

In other words, Jeff’s vision was that we needed to focus on loosely coupled interaction via machines through well-defined APIs rather than via humans through emails and meetings.

This would free each team to act autonomously and move faster.


#9 “A final blow to “destiny implications” for the marshmallow test?


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