Impressive Futures In The Past | #160
📖 A few interesting things I stumbled upon this week
November 6th, 2021: Greetings from CT! Thanks for all the responses to last week’s post on our relationships to places and time. I was run down a bit from jetlag and my 2nd vaccine this week but will get back to all of you as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the foliage has been epic, haven’t seen these wonderful colors since 2017!
🌟 Group Coaching: After requests from several people, I’ve decided to experiment with doing some small 5-person group coaching groups kicking off sometime in the next month. If you’d be interested, please fill out this form
#1 Company Values Aren’t Predictive
In a comparison between employee Glassdoor reports and an assessment of 689 companies, the research found “no correlation between the cultural values a company emphasizes in its published statements and how well the company lives up to those values in the eyes of employees”
Company values tend to be driven by wishful thinking rather than an in-depth examination of which assumptions people use to make day-to-day decisions. Focusing on the underlying assumptions that guide decisions was the focus of Edgar Schein’s work for decades, something I explored in this essay.
#2 As Seen on LinkedIn
This post was making the rounds on LinkedIn. I don’t think you would have seen something like this a few years ago.
#3 Climbing The Wrong Hill
Chris Dixon wrote this post in 2009 arguing that people should embrace more randomness in their work and careers.
But the lure of the current hill is strong. There is a natural human tendency to make the next step an upward one. He ends up falling for a common trap highlighted by behavioral economists: people tend to systematically overvalue near term over long term rewards. This effect seems to be even stronger in more ambitious people. Their ambition seems to make it hard for them to forgo the nearby upward step.
I saw this a lot in consulting because of how tracked the promotions are. “Why not just stick around for a couple of years?”
#4 On Looking Stupid
If you want to take a path that most people are not taking, you’ll have to deal with feeling and looking stupid. When I told some people in 2018 that I had decided I would only work on remote projects, even if they were for clients in the same city, people thought this was quite silly.
This short essay and list of example from Dan Lu was fun:
The benefit from asking a stupid sounding question is small in most particular instances, but the compounding benefit over time is quite large and I've observed that people who are willing to ask dumb questions and think "stupid thoughts" end up understanding things much more deeply over time
#5 NFTs for Content
This video shows the potential of pairing NFTs and personal wallets with paywalls. The tech behind this is still annoying but I imagine we’ll start seeing a lot more of this in the creator world in 2022.
#6 Organizational Friction (h/t @VGR)
I thought this slide deck on organizational friction and complex systems was fun and a good way of thinking about the drivers behind organizational friction.
I went deep on complex adaptive systems and organizations last year in this piece, arguing for the need for several roles to help organizations overcome these issues such as a “chaos injector,” and “emergence architect.”
#7 “All Rhodes Scholars had a great future in their past”
I was looking through Zero to One a couple of weeks ago and thought this quote was worth sharing about Peter Thiel’s failure to land a supreme court clerkship:
And it gets worse as students ascend to higher levels of the tournament. Elite students climb confidently until they reach a level of competition sufficiently intense to beat their dreams out of them. Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school get stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking. For the privilege of being turned into conformists, students (or their families) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in skyrocketing tuition that continues to outpace inflation. Why are we doing this to ourselves?
I wish I had asked myself when I was younger. My path was so tracked that in my 8th-grade yearbook, one of my friends predicted—accurately—that four years later I would enter Stanford as a sophomore. And after a conventionally successful undergraduate career, I enrolled at Stanford Law School, where I competed even harder for the standard badges of success.
The highest prize in a law student’s world is unambiguous: out of tens of thousands of graduates each year, only a few dozen get a Supreme Court clerkship. After clerking on a federal appeals court for a year, I was invited to interview for clerkships with Justices Kennedy and Scalia. My meetings with the Justices went well. I was so close to winning this last competition. If only I got the clerkship, I thought, I would be set for life. But I didn’t. At the time, I was devastated.
In 2004, after I had built and sold PayPal, I ran into an old friend from law school who had helped me prepare my failed clerkship applications. We hadn’t spoken in nearly a decade. His first question wasn’t “How are you doing?” or “Can you believe it’s been so long?” Instead, he grinned and asked: “So, Peter, aren’t you glad you didn’t get that clerkship?” With the benefit of hindsight, we both knew that winning that ultimate competition would have changed my life for the worse. Had I actually clerked on the Supreme Court, I probably would have spent my entire career taking depositions or drafting other people’s business deals instead of creating anything new. It’s hard to say how much would be different, but the opportunity costs were enormous. All Rhodes Scholars had a great future in their past.
I am focused on building a life around exploring ideas, connecting and helping people, and writing. If you’d like to support me directly the best way is to consider becoming a paid supporter of the newsletter.
Alternatively, I use and love all of the following services and they give me 30% of all revenues from people that sign up. If you plan on launching a course or e-mail list and you end up using my affiliate code, I’ll gladly spend an hour helping you get set up and answering questions. Just let me know!
Teachable - 14-day free trial
ConvertKit - First 1k subscribers for free
A reminder: I don’t check unsubscribe alerts and never look at my subscriber list. So if you feel like unsubscribing, you can do so below.