Weekly Head Voices #226: Stress practice

Welcome to the 226th edition of the Weekly Head Voices, this one covering the week from Monday June 7 to Sunday June 13, 2021.

Figure 1: Panoramic view from a winter run in Betty’s Bay. I was hoping Google Photos would stitch the pretty clouds together, and it did.

Figure 1: Panoramic view from a winter run in Betty’s Bay. I was hoping Google Photos would stitch the pretty clouds together, and it did.

As I put these finishing touches on the post, it’s Wednesday, June 16 (Youth Day), 16:09. I have just spent about an hour debugging my usually super smooth Emacs Org-mode / ox-hugo blogging machine (read this github issue for more details), which is a small price when you consider all the hours this combination has saved me in the past.

Solstice tipping point is coming!

The last thing we’re supposed to do is to wish even just a little bit for time to pass more quickly, for fairly obvious reasons.

However, when you’re a few days from the darkest point in the year, it’s hard not to.

We currently have 9 hours and 56 minutes of daylight.

That’s just two minutes, and a few days, from the winter solstice on June 21, when we’ll have to make do with 9 hours and 54 minutes of daylight.

I mention this here, because those 6 AM wake-ups feel more and more like the middle of the night.

After the solstice, I’ll start imagining the sun coming up a few moments earlier every morning, and it will.

(Well, it will, eventually. Reader WIMM just pointed out via email that although the days start getting longer, the sunrise will initially become even a minute later, before finally becoming earlier starting from July 11. Read more here (thanks WIMM) or check the tables here.)

It has been … 1 year and 11 months … since the previous mention of winter solstice on this blog.

Avoid the JBL Endurance Run BT earphones at all costs

A month ago I wrote about the JBL Endurance Run BT earphones that I was initially so happy with, which then spontaneously broke after a few hours of running, and which I then returned for a replacement.

Well, the replacement set of proudly sweat-proof JBL Endurance Run BT earphones lasted for about 9 hours of running, at which point they spontaneously broke in exactly the same way.

Out of nowhere, the loud crackling sound started in the earpiece opposite to the site with the control unit.

This crackling sound (similar to the disturbance you hear when speaker wires have a connection issue) did not stop, even after un-pairing and even after switching off the unit.

Connecting the charger after this would result in the charge light flickering and fading in-and-out in a decidedly analogue fashion.

After experiencing the exact same problem with two different units, I am wary wasting more time on a third set.

This was quite a disappointment, because mechanically this design was perfect for me.

I will continue on my search for the perfect (1. secure in my large and sometimes perspiring ears, so needs something in addition to just ear canal fit and 2. durable, i.e. continues working long after the first 9 hours of running) set of running earphones, and I’ll keep you up to date on my findings.

In the meantime, please avoid the JBL Endurance Run BT earphones.

Remote work culture is hard work

During our Tuesday evening meetup, Theunis de Klerk of Noldor (the now fully remote tech company, not the race of elves from Middle Earth, although there is a link here) gave an interesting and inspiring talk on how they have built and cultivate great remote work culture.

This was an insightful look into an organization where the top leadership continuously pours a great deal of thought and energy into maintaining healthy culture, even in a fully remote environment with parts in different timezones.

On the one hand, it’s great seeing working examples like this, on the other, it can be quite a daunting prospect when you start thinking about how to apply this in your own environment.

I believe that the future of knowledge work will not involve highly qualified folks having to spend 8 hours per day at their desk because we still have not learned that work is all about contributing value, and not about the number of hours spent in captivity at one’s desk.

That being said, during the current global remote working experiment, although we are learning how to roll with value-generation, I do miss some of the almost effortlessly and socially generated collaboration glue that at its best gets folks almost instinctively chasing the same worthy goals.

(On the other hand, at its worst, it causes conflicts, grudges and ulcers, so there’s that…)

I would like to wrap this ramble up with one conclusion, and one interesting tweet storm by Steven Sinofsky of Andreesen Horowitz:

Eternal practice vs stress

I do need to note here (for future me) that I was consistently far grumpier than usual for the last few days of the week under examination here.

When I say grumpy, I do mean quite detectably so.

This is definitely not my preferred state, so I’m even meta-grumpy about that.

My retro- and introspection during the weekend came up with “more stress than usual”, which is indeed probably a main contributor (wow, thanks work).

However, being grumpy or not is still fully my responsibility.

Increased stress at work is currently primarily due to new responsibilities and the (often amplified by one’s own imagination) expectations of colleagues, and the unsurprising feeling of discomfort that is associated with finding oneself faced with new kinds of challenges that you are not accustomed to (cf. “comfort zone” and stages 2 to 4 of the creative process).

During the weekend I first resolved simply to be less grumpy (yes, you can do that).

Fortunately, I also had a spot of insight as to how the root cause, i.e. the work-related stress, could be better addressed in my specific case.

You see, I have chosen to be in this situation. I would have preferred the new challenges without the concomitant stress, but that’s unfortunately not how this human normally works.

The realisation that I had was that this too is simply part of my lifelong practice session.

I first talked about the idea of life being continuous pracrtice back in WHV #133, and again later in WHV #144 when I got around to reading a reader-recommended book on the topic, titled “Mastery”.

Something I did not mention back then, probably because I only experience the stress aspect as acutely at this moment, is that this particular framing helps me to approach my current problems with curiosity, with an appetite for learning and experimentation, and with the acceptance that my performance could be far from perfect, perhaps even to the point of failure.

Some days will be good and some days will be bad.

(Even outside of the practice framing, one just has to accept that some days gonna be crap.)

Whatever the case may be, every day is a brand new opportunity to practice the difficult new stuff, and to become gradually better at it, until one day, just maybe, comfort slowly starts overtaking discomfort.