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Critical Linking

👽 2018’s most unexpected pairing? Elon Musk, Grimes, and the philosophical thought experiment that brought them together LINK

💱 What was the last big change that defines you today? LINK

♻ Re-grieving. A must read. LINK

🌹 How a math genius hacked OKCupid to find love. I  appreciate statistics to find love, but this might be is on the creepy side of the fence. LINK

🛀 Famous women on being alone. A very positive read. LINK

💀 Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal on your many lives and the opportunities they offer. I am thrilled to be starting a new one. LINK

🏁 The women who designed the pattern for modern Britain. Enid Marx, Minnie McLeish and Lucienne Day – a generation of revolutionary print creators. LINK


Two nights ago, while sitting in a pub with my ex-partner, a stranger asked if ‘we had children’. The ‘we’ had been together more than seven years and had never considered children… I could only blink and point at the dog. The stranger continued, “So, how long have you and your husband been together?”

I left the pub, my head full of thoughts about the expectations and shame of A WOMAN YOUR AGE, or a woman any age. Marriage, picket fences, children. There’s a complete lack of understanding if you get off the relationship escalator. The escalator is one of many social scripts — customs for how people are “supposed” to behave, and how we “should” think or feel, in certain contexts, situations or interactions. These customs benefit many people, but not always, and not everyone.

This week Emma Brockes interviewed Sheila Heti about failure and self-belief for the Guardian. This was a timely article to read, and it speaks to me so much. As someone who never wanted children, then found myself single and pregnant (via a regretful rebound situation) – only to lose my desperately loved baby, I feel the shame quite keenly. A loser with a foot in both camps, a traitor to both through forces of biology.

There is shame attached to not wanting children, Heti says. But I also felt shame for the fierceness with which I wanted kids. “Maybe there’s a basic shame women feel and it just attaches to anything,” she says, laughing. “It’s kind of how I feel about anxiety; when you’re an anxious person like I am, I realised at a certain point, it’s not the thing I’m feeling anxious about that is making me anxious, it’s that I have a feeling of anxiety and it attaches to whatever it can. Maybe if we both feel shame it’s because it’s shameful to be a woman. Whatever you choose you feel shame.” She pauses and drily adds, “I wonder if it’s ever going to change, or if women will feel that way until there are no humans ever.”

Perhaps though, there is a glimmer of grace in my failure to comply with the expectations of both the child-free and child-bound:

There is a good section in Motherhood about the value of failure, not in the Samuel Beckett sense of fail again, fail better, but in the true wildness of failing in a society that puts so much value on success. “Only in our failures are we absolutely alone,” writes Heti. “Only in the pursuit of failure can a person really be free.” She concludes, “Losers may be the avant garde of the modern age.”

Motherhood is the new novel from Sheila Heti.

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

— Charles Bukowski

Radical feelings

“Radical honesty” is a phrase I’ve been throwing out a lot recently – manifesting as more talk than actions in some cases. Perhaps though, when I first started saying it, I didn’t understand quite the nuance of what I wanted to deliver. Recently I read an interview [Guardian, May 2018] with Amanda Palmer, who talks about this in a compelling way:

I find myself constantly torn between honesty and compassion, because I realise that my ageing teenage style of radical honesty is not necessarily always compassionate. If you want to be a good feminist and a good humanist, your job is not to make people angry and upset all the time; your job is to proceed with compassion.

If we talk about radical honesty in a work or team context, we usually mean giving feedback. The dictionary definition of feedback is the return of information about the result of a process or activity to encourage more active behaviour in the future.

I’ve worked in work environments where we haven’t had feedback for months, for fear of hurt feelings, or pure laziness. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the Bridgewater Associates approach… Led by Ray Dalio, the hedge fund operates on a culture of “radical transparency”, meaning all feedback is open and anyone can critique anyone else – the key element being that it is all done openly. After every meeting and action, people are given the opportunity to be rank and comment upon their colleagues, from the bottom of the org to the top. One example is ranking the top 200 managers, by performance, publically. (To learn more about this, Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast has a revealing interview with Dalio and his team. It also has the best advert I’ve ever heard on a podcast – get out the tissues 😢).

This rough and ready to give approach which is what Kim Scott of Candour Inc calls obnoxious aggression. A gentler, more effective approach could be Scott’s “radical candour”. Radical candour results from a combination of caring personally and challenging directly.

In her book, Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You MeanScott uses a quadrant to teach teams the concept: “The vertical axis is caring personally and the horizontal axis is challenging directly, you want your feedback to fall in the upper right-hand quadrant. That’s where radical candour lies.”

Radical Candour quadrant

Long story short, the radical part perhaps comes from the part it’s innovative or progressive to be honest with one’s opinion, rather than hiding it away. The British nature, in particular, is to clam up once anything gets personal, which is to say, no one wants to seems vulnerable (Dolly Alderton wrote a great piece recently on how gendered it can all get, with men being applauded for showing emotions. Ladies, stop crying, jk.)

So why don’t we ditch radical? Let’s take the compassionate angle to honesty, telling people things they should hear, but coming from a place of caring. Looking at the origins of the word honesty, it means truth, certainly, but there’s also an element of ethics and integrity in there.

Easier said than done of course, but I find the more vulnerability you show, the more others are willing to open up to you. The only way we have growth is by through change and to risk failing. Or, achieve the first attempt in learning. Proceed with compassion for all parties, including yourself.

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Critical Linking

🔮 Find your purpose in five minutes! LINK

🕶 The spectacular power of Big Lens. Essilor and Luxottica are about to merge – but what’s the story…? LINK

💼 A day in the life of Americans – a data visualisation/simulation. Mesmerising. LINK

🍥 A visual guide to writing personal essays. I am fond of the whorl of reflection. LINK

🎺 Four things procrastinators need to learn… Such as confidence comes after you start, not before. Oof. LINK

📝 Māori greetings and sign-offs. My friend Alix shared an email from her mum which had ngā mihi nui in the signature. I’ve taken it for my own use, as a) it connects me with home and b) it has an emphasis on gratitude. LINK

🤷‍♀️ If you want a more innovative company hire more women. LINK

🧠 I’ve been thinking about… ‘solvitur ambulando’, or it is solved by walking. I’ve started running again | Listening to Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones – reflective of my mood and also the fact there’s a new season of Westworld which I love, love, love. This lead me down a sitar rabbit hole.

Feel hope

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

– Barack Obama

My London

“You need to see London at night, particularly the theaters. But not just the night life. London itself looks best in the dark. It’s a pretty safe city, and you can walk in most places after sunset. It has a sedate and ghostly beauty. In the crepuscular kindness, you can see not just how she is, but how she once was, the layers of lives that have been lived here. Somebody with nothing better to do worked out that for every one of us living today, there are 15 ghosts. In most places you don’t notice them, but in London you do. The dead and the fictional ghosts of Sherlock Holmes and Falstaff, Oliver Twist, Wendy and the Lost Boys, all the kindly, garrulous ghosts that accompany you in the night. The river runs like dark silk through the heart of the city, and the bridges dance with light. There are corners of silence in the revelry of the West End and Soho, and in the inky shadows foxes and owls patrol Hyde Park, which is still illuminated by gaslight.”

– from My London, and Welcome to It by A.A. Gill. Beautiful writing, and the very definition of sonder. The world misses you.

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This week I have been consuming:

Helen Thayer

This week I am also thinking about:

  • Unlearning and how to figure out what you don’t know. Tough.
  • Latin. In particular the phrase, res ipsa loquitur, which means “the thing speaks for itself.” As spotted on my BrewDog pint.
  • The Greek word for statue is agalma which means delight. Statue, by contrast, is from the Latin statuere which means to set up. “This indicates different conceptions of art. But is art not the delight of senses and the satisfaction of mind?” [via]

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