Question People & Answer People | #191
July 30th, 2022: Greetings from Connecticut. Enjoy this nice sunsest from earlier this week:
#1 Question People & Answer People
Someone said to me once, “there are things people, people people, and ideas people.” I instantly knew I was an ideas person. I love discovering new ideas, going down strange rabbit holes, trying to come up with better ideas for my life, talking about ideas, and finding others who are wired the same. The modern internet has been awesome for people like me.
It took me a while to realize that expressing this side of me was not only something I enjoyed but something that is a vital part of who I am. When I was younger and long-form writing was starting to explode on the internet in the late 2000s, I read almost everything I could get my hands on. I read 30-50 articles a week, started a 100-person Facebook group for sharing #longreads, and powered through hundreds of blogs each day on google reader (anyone remember google buzz?!). I subscribed and consumed anything I could find.
This led me to essays and books on all sorts of topics - healthcare, politics, history, crime, religions, financial crises, and more. In many of these articles, some lesser-known-to-me facts were revealed and this gave me some mix of a dopamine hit (I like ideas), and a feeling of smartness (how could everyone not know these things!).
In these articles, I found fascinating ideas and I felt compelled to share them. And for a long time, I kept thinking this would be met by excitement by others.
I’m a little wiser now.
I’ve realized that many people don’t want to talk about new ideas, let alone discover new information. Yet some people do, and I call these people “question people.”
A question person is someone that doesn’t mind the uncertainty of not knowing things and gets joy out of finding things out. They like asking a question and continuing to find out. In Boston, I had two good friends who were question people. They LOVED exploring ideas with me. We would have long, far-ranging conversations about everything and anything. They didn’t care about forcing me to take a stand and vice versa. I still find these kind of conversations delightful and these are my favorite people on earth.
It probably wasn’t until the last few years that I realized there is a different kind of ideas person. One that might not actually like ideas at all but is willing to talk about them. These are “answer people.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer people, but they are my kryptonite. They take my curiosity about the world and force me into taking a stand on their imaginary two-sided battlefield. If they detect something careless you say, they pounce. They aren’t interested in new information or don’t get delight out of discovering new information. They already have answers for any questions you may ask.
I remember trying to convince someone in 2015 that there’s pretty interesting research showing that by merely just mentioning opposition to Trump in the media, they were making it more likely he would get positive attention. They didn’t like this idea at all. They already had an answer: Trump is bad. Please stop talking to me about your ideas.
An answer person likes to know where they stand and this rarely changes over time. Ask an answer person their perspective on something ten years apart and you may get the same answer verbatim. It took me awhile to realize that answer people are probably not “ideas people” people at all. They just happen to be in a world where talking about things is something people do. They likely just give a damn about other stuff.
I don’t think there’s anything inherently great about being a question person. In fact, it probably makes life more difficult. If you were a question person you might ask the question, “are there other ways to structure my life?” and then continue to ask until you realize there are hundreds of options and want to try them. You might also realize you desperately want to be around other question people and need to move to go find them. In other words, being a question person might lead you to blow up your life.
An answer person is certain about a lot of things and this is practical. They don’t waste a lot of time reading or going into random rabbit holes. They have simple heuristics of how to arrive at certain “answers” that are efficient and don’t seem to interrupt their lives. Many senior leaders at big companies are answer people and this helps them secure the bag. Answer people probably would be slightly annoyed by my book because the right way to live is obvious to them.
I’m always shocked when people tell me they don’t know what they would do if they quit their job. I could read books and explore ideas until I drop dead. People ask me what I do for fun and I tell them, “I read books.” I know they are not like me when they ask a follow-up, “no, I meant for fun?”
I think question people are kind of rare but the internet has made finding them easier. You can tell you are a question person if you are mystified at others who complain about the internet and social media being bad. For you, its the only place you can find the other annoying people like you who continue to ask, over and over again.
#2 Remote and the Workweek
I stumbled upon a NBER paper on remote work this week that had one interesting finding:
“WFH reduced hours worked on home days but increased it on other work days and the weekend”
I’ve heard a lot of grumbling from the people these days folks that too many remote employees are slacking off. While there is truth to this sentiment and I’ve heard some pretty incredible underworking stories, it seems like remote work is refactoring the traditional workweek.
#3 Immigration & Covid
Due to Covid and other restrictions, the US has an estimated 2 million fewer foreign-born immigrants than they otherwise would if the 2010-2019 projections continued.
This likely helps explain the lower than expected unemployment rate given some of the economic headwinds.
#4 “Be careful what you aim at–your life depends on it.”
I am a writer. I must write.
It took me 36 years to be able to write that last sentence–a full 18 years after I decided to give up on myself. One life lived in the innocent truth of childhood, another in the self-deception of adulthood.
Aim. Be careful what you aim at–your life depends on it.
That’s from my friend Mike. He writes about tea, and life. I usually love his writing:
#5 Curing A Fear Of Flying
Michael Story wrote about the unexpected benefits of trying to cure a fear of flying:
So my project whose goal was just to be able to carry on working without hitting a career ceiling because I wasn’t willing to fly ended up being a significant investment in human and social capital with a substantial payoff. At the end of two years not only was I ok with planes but had a much bigger network and a bunch of esoteric knowledge which directly led to at least two jobs I couldn’t otherwise have got, easily justifying the ticket and time costs in investment terms, but not something I ever would have predicted in advance. It kind of made me conclude that it’s very difficult to make specific life plans if odd side projects like this can end up spilling giant positive impacts into a domain they were never intended to affect.
I love this reflection. I think there is a lesson - if there are people you want to meet, go see them. It might take you in an interesting direction.
Thanks For Reading!
I am focused on building a life around exploring ideas, connecting and helping people, and writing. If you’d like to support my journey, the best ways are to:
Buy or listen to my book, The Pathless Path
Purchase one of my courses on freelancing or reinventing your path
In addition, I recommend all of the following services (affiliate links).
Teachable - 14-day free trial
Skystra - Fast WordPress Hosting
Circle - 14-day free trial
Alternatively, if you want to support this newsletter through a micro-donation, you can do so here:
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.