On a long drive? What’s one good new idea you can develop on the road

Funny how when you don’t do something, it can feel special.

More than 9 in 10 Americans drive at least once a week and a majority commute daily by automobile. I don’t. One of my first burning desires to make part of my adult life was to not be reliant on a car.

I chose to live in a heavenly walkable neighborhood in one of our country’s few cities that can be truly lived in without a car. I sold my car. I bicycle to work, live near a major subway line and can walk to daily needs like a supermarket, doctor, veterinarian, barber and plenty of nightlife.

Cars are misused in cities and create weird parking culture. But I don’t hate cars. They’re a novelty to me now. So I’ve developed a little game when I’m in one.

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Do not save writing for later, more will come: ‘The Writing Life’ by Annie Dillard

The Writing Life,‘ a 1989 collection of essays from novelist Annie Dillard, is one of the foundational contributions to the canon of teaching modern fiction writing.

A few months ago, I finally tore through the tidy, celebrated, delightful little book, commonly known as the friendly, fiction alternative to the 1920 grammarian guide from Strunk and White. (Interestingly a New York Times book review took a dim view of her collection, but it’s cherished today.)

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Economics terms that help me understand the world

Since my undergrad years, I’ve taken an interest in the pop science of behavioral economics. From books and articles and podcasts aplenty, I’ve found the shallow edges of the social science quite helpful for my worldview.

The clearest result of that has been an entire set of familiar terms that help explain the world. These phrases have been valuable to me. I’d like to share them with you.

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Build the habit of making habits: resolutions of mine that stuck

A friend asked me what I thought is the best skill to develop. Build the habit of habits, I told her.

That’s how you get the most out of yourself and your place. It won’t always work but if you develop the rigor and constitution to choose to add a habit and then go and do just that, you’ll be gold. That is how you develop discipline.

My method for doing this is my near obsessive approach to annual resolutions. Each year, I put forward a dozen of them, many straightforward goals but often several tied to habits I want to add to who I am. I tie them to individual months but in truth I plan to do many of them throughout the year and beyond.

Recently I was considering how many personality traits of mine I believe started as resolutions. I think they’re a good example of building the habit of building habits. I wanted to share.

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Employer Branding is central to your passive jobseeker strategy

I’ve been writing, speaking and thinking a lot about modern talent-attraction strategies.

Not long after speaking at a DisruptHR event to define passive jobseekers, I recently joined an Employee Cycle podcast episode to dive deeper into the conversation. Listen to it here.

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You’re going to get criticized. Learn when to listen.

One effective way to divide the kind of criticism you’ll get for your work is to split the feedback between that which comes from someone who has done the work you’re doing and that which comes from someone else.

It doesn’t necessarily mean one category will always be effective or helpful or productive or not. Those are further distinctions. But when I’m receiving critical feedback —  on something I’ve written or presented or shared — often the first check I make is that one.

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Don’t wait for things you think you deserve

version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

When I think about mistakes I’ve made, one of the common causes of my blindness that led me there is entitlement. I thought something was going to happen because I deserved it.

Not because I had done the crucial work of understanding that outcome was good for all involved. Not because I worked to get a clear agreement or that I negotiated for it by offering something someone else wanted. No.

When I’ve really gotten something wrong, when I’ve been blindsided or made a miscalculation, a lot of times I just plain thought something was coming my way because I perceived I was owed it. Maybe I thought I had put my time in or I thought I was close to the person with power. Sometimes I admire the idea of how good for me it would be if this happened, or my friends tell me how great it would be.

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It’s hard to hate up close

A version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

A mentor of mine said in a meeting recently: it’s hard to hate up close.

It’s really not in our nature, she said. Distance (including the anonymity of the web and the imprecision of written communication) is so often involved in conflict, both big and small. So the message is whenever you’re in conflict, you need to get as close to the source of that conflict as you can.

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