Our ‘tranquilizing drug of gradualism’

version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter a couple weeks back. In its own way, it commemorates African American History Month. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

Dr. King is likely the American thinker who comes to my mind more than any other. Not the populist who was culturally moderated over time into a convenient character for classroom posters. But the difficult and complicated and tortured man, the leader who was flawed and inspiring and masterful in so many ways.

When a MLK quote rattles in my head, it isn’t his iconic, if tired, classic: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Pulled from its context, that’s always seemed to me to be too universal to stir. Instead, it comforts, and I’ve found always found MLK misunderstood when he’s seen as a comforting.

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Punctuation today: notes from the 2006 bestseller “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”

Modern linguistics is based largely on a descriptivist view of language, describing common usage. Many grammarians follow a more prescriptivist view: if we don’t prescribe, language will falter.

I read a host of pop linguistics books this year, challenging my prescriptivist publishing origins with a small library of descriptivist perspective. I also consumed podcasts, articles and other interviews with experts on the matter. (Most recently this conversation.)

Along this exploration, I was familiar with several of the most-cited grammar classics (King’s English and Elements of Style among them). But I hadn’t read Eats, Shoots and Leaves, published by Lynne Truss in 2006. So I changed that late last year.

I wanted to share a few notes below.

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A thank you to my coworkers ahead of Technical.ly’s 10th anniversary

A decade ago this month a couple friends and I started down a pathway that became Technical.ly so in the next couple weeks I am going to do some sharing.

A couple weeks ago, we hosted our inaugural Alumni Ball — gathering both current and former staff at the Pen and Pencil Club — and on February 26th in Philadelphia, we’re hosting a public celebration, conjoined with our largest jobs fair. We’ll also run plenty of editorial mentions honoring this anniversary.

First things first publicly, I wrote a Twitter thread unashamedly showing off about how lucky I feel about the team I am a part of right now. I’m sharing that here, with slight editing.

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Your retirement savings goal to strive for should mean you never dip into principal

Americans are rotten at saving for retirement.

It’s at least in part because of the seismic market change from 20th century-era defined benefit offerings (the pension you might have gotten working at a company in 1972) to today’s climate of defined contribution plans (the 401k you have at work or the IRA you might have with a company like Vanguard). More recently the Great Recession complicated the story more.

Whatever the case, we know one in three Americans has less than $5,000 in retirement savings. Two-thirds of Americans say they’ll outlive what they have saved, including the half of households that have no retirement-specific savings at all. Rules of thumb to the contrary abound: you ought to have the equivalent of a year’s salary by the time you turn 30, and you might want at least 10 times your top earning salary saved by the time you do retire.

When things are stressful, I tend to try to find some way to make them more approachable.

It’s in part why for the last several years, two childhood friends and I have gotten together once a year to discuss what we’ve tried, learned and accomplished on the subject the previous year. With a bit of nerdy glee, we call it Personal Finance Day, and we just held the fourth annual earlier this month.

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A look at the $23 billion Search and Placement industry

The Human Capital Management industry is a big one. Many segment it into Search and Placement, still a $23 billion annual gargantuan that encompasses how companies hire the right people.

In the last several years, we at Technical.ly have continued to focus on how our newsroom can compete in this cluttered industry by leveraging the trust we have and aim to develop with hard to reach jobseekers in the communities we serve. We’re producing more content on the topic, and I’ve begun to do more speaking on the topic.

I’ve also been doing lots of reading and gathering of worldview, particularly in the last year. In cleaning out a notebook, I found a slew of trends and numbers I was poking around, so I decided to share them here.

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What are you working toward?

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

Earlier this year, I took a notecard from my desk and I wrote a short sentence.

It was a reminder, something I look at nearly everyday. This sentence was what I was working toward, in the simplest, most distilled form I could manage then. I then started telling my coworkers what that sentence was, so they knew my motivation, what I stood for.

From my teenage years, I’ve always written these sorts of things, quotes and priorities and reminders. Some are high-minded (I’ve had a Lao Tzu quote in my wallet since undergrad) and others are about working smarter (Your Email Inbox is Not Your To-Do List). I cherish these things. I find they do help transform my mood and habits. They are genuinely for me but, of course, they’re acts of signaling too. I am saying to the world (and therefore reinforcing for me), “Hey, These are my priorities, World!” This comforts me. I have a plan to cope.

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Lessons on “The Messy Middle” of business from Scott Belsky

You know startups. You know exits.

Most of the work of business takes place somewhere in between the very start and the very end. Yet a lot of media attention focuses on those two iconic poles. So you might know a lot less about the space between the two poles.

We need more guidance on the work stage. That’s the approach in The Messy Middle, a new book published late last year from Scott Belsky. He founded Behance, which sold in 2012 to Adobe for $150 million, and has been an active  investor.

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My 2019 Resolutions

These are my priorities for the year for getting closer to being the person I want to be. As in years past, I want to share my resolutions.

Find past ones here.

I was proud of what I accomplished in 2018, which included a trip to Mexico City (and a visit to Paso de Cortes, as depicted above, where the Spanish conquistador entered the valley to attack the people sometimes called the Aztecs). I’m excited for 2019.

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My 2018 Review

In 2018, I found I wanted to go backward to go forward more than I expected.

At work and in my writing and my service, I differently assessed where I was last year to plan for this year. Where 2017 featured many public facing advances (I became CEO! a creative piece of mine was published somewhere! I), my 2018 featured far more internal or private advances.

I am proud of what I’ve done. There’s more to do.

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Art tells us we are important. Science reminds us we are not

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

Art elevates the human experience. Science contextualizes it. Art says we are important. Science says we are not.

I think of this tension often — it’s a theme of a lot of the writing I’ve done for years. High culture is the best tool we have against nationalism and provincialism. The best of what we collectively create tends to come from collaboration and gains interest beyond race or country or tribe. Science is a collection of the facts as best we can see them now. Art motivates us to care, to understand, to act. I’m interested in when we seem to deploy the wrong one for a circumstance.

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