Weekly Head Voices #227: Reality bending security blanket

Figure 1: View from a walk by life partner and genetic progenitor unit, photo by partner.

Figure 1: View from a walk by life partner and genetic progenitor unit, photo by partner.

This 227th edition of the Weekly Head Voices looks back at the two weeks from Monday June 14 to Sunday June 27.

Groundhog Lockdown

On the above-mentioned Sunday, president Ramaphosa announced lockdown level 4, one level more serious from where we were.

For us this means that schools are closing a week earlier for the July vacation, and hence will have to open a week earlier, and hence will have a severe effect on the breakaway we had planned, an effect of the cancellation variety.

Although frustrating (some of us really need that precious time away to keep calm and carry on afterwards), we don’t really have anything to complain about if that is our biggest problem.

Gauteng province has been hit really hard by the third wave of COVID, and specifically this new Delta variant.

This modified lockdown level 4 explicitly prohibits travel into and out of the province in order to help stem the disease’s spread.

In other news, our vaccination is making progress, albeit at a slower pace than most people had hoped.

In a few days they are going to start with the over 50s. No, this does not include me yet, although I am close.

Amazon document culture

Last week, Hacker News discussed a really interesting blog post by an Amazon employee about Amazon’s document culture.

In short, at Amazon, a meeting can only happen if a document has been written detailing what is to be discussed during the meeting.

At the start of the meeting, everyone gets from 10 minutes to half an hour, depending on what makes sense for the document under discussion, to read the document, and only then the meeting starts.

This approach has many advantages, discussed in the blog post.

What I personally like about doing it this way, is that the convenor of the meeting has to pay a price for that meeting, namely sitting down and spending time to structure their thoughts on paper well enough so it will satisfy the expectations of the participants.

Furthermore, by dedicating quiet time to reading the document, one has a slightly better guarantee that everyone is up to date with the background, and, more interesting to me, is that it sets a more deliberate and thoughtful mood for the whole meeting.

Of course I tried this out at the first high-level meeting that I could, where I had to present a plan to the participants.

It felt a bit strange initiating this silent reading at the start, but my perception is that it contributed to a higher quality discussion afterwards.

In this case it was easy, because the goal of the meeting was to present a plan that was already a document. However, this is something I will definitely want to repeat.

Maybe one day, the document will be all that is required.

Your choice

In WHV #226 I wrote that I had chosen to be in the situation that was causing stress due to its new challenges.

Friend SvdW (jokingly? chidingly?) commented via private communications channels that that “choice” had surprised him, seeing that we have no free will.

He is right of course, but in this case it is in fact all about the illusion, about being subjectively convinced that one is the agent and the author of one’s current situation.

This did remind me something I wrote in WHV #185 about how this same framing can be effective against procrastination:

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from a book I once read about procrastination (I’ll look up the name later), is that it can make all the difference once you explicitly verbalise, to yourself, that you have chosen to take on difficult task X or Y.

Just saying these words somehow changes one’s perception from being stuck with difficult task X or Y, i.e. passive, to having taken agency, and having decided to commit, i.e. active.

In the cases where you believe that you are probably the agent of your situation, it can really help to verbalise that to yourself in the way described above.

This can sometimes be tricky, because so much of it has to do with potentially subjective-reality-bending framing, which could get in the way of addressing problems external to oneself.

If you apply This One Trick, and you do a great job, how real were those external problems in the first place?

On days like these, I get a feeling, albeit an extremely faint one, for why Descartes constructed the mental security blanket of cogito ergo sum.