Last week’s deliberate newsletter issue about Tesla, Bitcoin, and Ducks turned out to be a spectacular success, so I have an important update to share with you today. Did you know how flamboyant Northern Rockhopper penguins are? Well, now you do.
Another important piece of information about penguins is that there are penguins in Africa! I had the privilege to swim with them in Cape Town.
Best Advice is what NOT to do.
My mom loves sharing unsolicited advice with me, and my grandpa is a master mansplainer. He would ask me for help on something I do for a living and later interrupt me to explain a detail I just told him. (I think I may have inherited some of this advice-giving enthusiasm since, well, here is another email from me.)
We live in a post-scarcity world of information. The shortage of opinion is not a problem we have to solve. Quite to the contrary – we are bombarded with options and would gladly defer to someone to remove some of the choice.
And yet, people still act as if “just another idea to consider” is something we crave. My personal pet peeve is googling an article full of general non-information ending with “you should act in accordance to your personal situation and consider other sources.”. I know that, but JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO.
If you want to be most helpful, here is my advice-giving algorythm™️ (also on Twitter):
- Ensure that the other party is indeed seeking advice. It’s very likely that they’re seeking support or encouragement. Professional problem-solvers tend to skip this step.
- Good advice is NOT a truckload of other things they could worry about. People seeking advice are overwhelmed already. The best help is curing that overwhelm.
- The best advice is: “at your stage skip all this and all that. Here is the step you should focus on. Here is how you start”.
- The best way to know is to ask “What have you tried?“
- Remember that advice is about helping THEM. Not giving you an opportunity to finally regurgitate all you know about a topic and prove that you haven’t wasted 5 years studying it. Give them a starting point. The simpler the better and don’t overwhelm them with information.
- The best advice is “don’t worry about these 10 things. It’ll sort itself out, or you can look at this later”.
Julia Evans, in her article “How to Answer Questions in a Helpful Way” recommends prefacing the answer with even more prompts:
- Rephrase a more specific question back at them (“Are you asking X?”).
- Ask what prompted their question.
- Ask, “Did that answer your question?
Surprising Consequences of the Internet
The Remote Work experiment of 2020 has caused a massive exodus from the world’s biggest cities. Employers had no choice but to permit working from home, and that has allowed deliberate choice about where this home should be.
Beyond anecdotal accounts of bankers fleeing Manhattan and tech workers saying sayonara to the Bay Area, we have loads of private data to back up the story that superstar cities are in trouble.
Redistributing workers (and tax revenue) to smaller towns is the most exciting consequence of Remote Work. I have been betting on this outcome for a few years and I’m really happy to see it start.
Superstar pain could be America’s gain—not only because lower housing costs in expensive cities will make room for middle-class movers, but also because the coastal diaspora will fertilize growth in other places.
Working From Bed Is Actually Great (New York Times)
Continuing the trend of surprising consequences, it’s now socially acceptable to work from your bed! Mostly because nobody cares. What you do in your bed is your business, even if that means business.
Working from bed is a time-honored tradition upheld by some of history’s most accomplished figures. Frida Kahlo painted masterpieces from her canopy bed. Winston Churchill, a notorious late riser even during World War II, dictated to typists while breakfasting in bed. Edith Wharton, William Wordsworth and Marcel Proust drafted prose and verse from their beds. “I am a completely horizontal author,” Truman Capote told The Paris Review in 1957. “I can’t think unless I’m lying down.”
“Being in bed is great,” he said. “I wish, in general, there were fewer norms and standards around where it is and isn’t acceptable to work.”
Clive Palmer wanted to build a hotel resort in secret, so he disguised it as a “dinosaur park” in documents. He thought he’d get less attention that way.
“…Then, in Paris and London and Frankfurt and Beijing, they started writing these articles to say that we were going to clone dinosaurs here.”
“We had 500 scientists applying for jobs, which got me thinking – there must be something in this dinosaur thing,” he said.
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I write about the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, focusing on remote work, online economy, and cognitive load. Every monday.