Remember the Past to Appreciate the Present

I really loved the Mass Effect video game, the whole trilogy in fact is amazing. One thing I still remember clearly is finishing Mass Effect and having this song come on during the credits:

From the start of the guitar to when the lyrics kick in, the song always spoke to me. While I was perhaps slightly better than in the past in 2008, it was still a pretty big mess. The feeling of longing, nostalgia and what I’ll call hopeful despair that I took from the song really made an impact on me at the time.

I identified with the lyrics, I had always up to that point struggled with being able to be a “full” person on my own. That I shouldn’t need anyone else that I used as a crutch. My happiness, my wisdom, my actions, they shouldn’t rely on there being someone else there with me (in particular as a romantic partner).

And I need you to recover
Because I can’t make it on my own

M4 Lyrics

A few books got me to accept the impossibility of that task. That humans were not built to be that way (by this I mean, being alone, not that the traditional concept of relationship is for everyone).

Once in a while the song comes up in one of my playlists. And it reminds me, in an almost nostalgic way, of the times when I really didn’t have my shit together.

Sometimes it’s good to remember the past to appreciate the present.

“What chance has made yours, is not really yours”

While this quote is again from Seneca, (Or Lucilius I guess?) I think it falls inline with the misattribution bias. Something that I think successful people often fall in the trap of. I am successful clearly because I am better, and not because of some random lucky breaks I go (especially including inherited wealth).

While not the same, I find them similar enough and the comic does a good job of explaining it.

Website traffic

So as much as I say that I’m writing for myself, it’s always interesting to see the traffic patterns. I can see why people become obsessed with Facebook’s algorithm and making it happy since it is what drives so much sporadic traffic. It’s kinda like the rats and birds that become superstitious, you just start to think that certain things will cause traffic.

All that to say, that no one seems to care about Seneca, but sadly for you, I don’t have anything more interesting at the moment (that’s probably a lie, but my thoughts on those topics are a bit scattered right now).

I think it’s also bit apropos that the topic of that post was on accepting and embracing helping one person and not many. Facebook and Twitter have conspired to make sure I really appreciate that point.

Think Globally, Act Locally

I’ve been thinking about this duality for a while, many years in fact. But for some reason, it showed up in multiple ways today.

I have a tendency to be a big picture person, I see it, and I want to get us there. The problem is that along that road there are a lot of small victories that need to be had. It’s often demoralizing if you know where you should be, and know how far ahead it still is.

Oddly enough, today’s letter of Seneca I read (#7) had these choice quotes:

“One man means as much to me as a multitude, and a multitude only as much as one man.”

Democritus

“I am content with few, content with one, content with none at all.”

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”

Epicurus

My take away for today is that while there are many big picture items I will strive towards, it’s only by taking small steps, by helping one person, improving one tool, that I’ll be able to achieve them.

The public service is non partisan

As you may know I’ve recently started at CDS. CDS is part of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, making me a civil servant. While I’ve had some fun blogging random, not really useful, thoughts about the current going-ons in politics I’m going to stop. While I don’t think they were partisan in nature ( since they were pretty much all over the place ), the default go to for civil servants is to stay quiet publicly about their personal thoughts on politics. I actually think this is a good, and a very important thing. I think Canadians needs to know that the folks in the civil service are working for the country ( technically the Queen ) and not working for a political party.

When joining the public service you take an oath. Part of it reads:

I solemnly affirm that I will faithfully and honestly fulfil the duties that devolve on me by reason of my employment in the public service of Canada

That oath is no matter what the government of the day is. And I intent to uphold that oath, no matter what the government of the day is. That’s why I won’t be posting any more musings on politics for the foreseeable future.

Refunds as Brand Loyalty

When I started working at Automattic I did 3 weeks of support. One thing that struck me was our refund policy. Basically, whatever the reason, if the client wanted a refund and the credit card processor would let us do it, we would refund. No trying to convince them otherwise (we did try to fix any problems they may of had first, if any), no trying to sell them on another plan etc.

I’ve noticed that when a place offers easy refunds, I’m much more likely to buy things I’m not sure about. Two of those places that come to mind are Amazon and Home Depot. Home Depot is so great with refunds that my default is to buy more and return if I have too many. Now of course, sometimes I don’t return them and Home Depot made more money. Also they’ve become my default store for anything home renovations. Same goes with Amazon. It’s so easy and hassle free to return something that I’m much more willing to take a chance on an item I’m not sure of.

All that to say, if you treat customers right when something went wrong, it’ll probably pay off in the end.

Religion as Community

I was talking to someone who was previously what I’d call a militant atheist. They were very disdainful of religion (something I’ve at times been guilty of in the past). I was talking about how I recently viewed religion in a new lens, the “community” aspect. By that I mean that, for some, the critical aspect of religion is not the specific beliefs, but rather the sense of community you get. The benefit is that you have others who share the same general values as you.

And I say “share the same general values as you” but really, those values are often common to everyone. I’ve rarely met folks who didn’t want to treat others like you’d want to be treated, who didn’t care about others, or who didn’t want to make the world a better place. Maybe I’m being idealistic but I’d attribute those values to a large majority of people.

With a religious community, you’re primed to be kind to others in it. I don’t think this is limited to religious communities. Personally I feel it’s similar to meeting other Franco-Manitobains (and even now Franco-Ontarians), and I would suspect this also extents to other minority groups.

Maybe it’s the big city, maybe it’s the atheism, I’m not sure where, but I feel like we’ve lost that sense of community. Or at least, that it’s less prominent in my life personally.

It’s strange because, let’s say 50% of folks share my values, those of being compassionate, of trying to make the world a better place for everyone, etc. Then why am I not starting from a place where I assume that’s the ones they share and treat them as part of my community?

Why is it that we’re not “primed” for doing the neighborly thing in the city? That without some (somewhat arbitrary) common ground we don’t assume the best intentions, or we don’t lead with compassion. Why are we (or maybe it’s just me) not primed for that outside of our niche community?

I don’t want this post to sound like I’m not critical of many aspects of religion. I feel that many of the religious scriptures of all religions can teach us a lot, it’s just that sometimes it seems like the ground crew implements it in ways that are sub-optimal.

But one thing religion has done well, is bring folks together. Whenever someone was going thru tough times back home, everyone would take turns cooking suppers, babysitting, help with construction after an unexpected accident, etc.

That feeling of community is something I want to focus on in the next year. Of building and fostering a community of friends. If you’re interested in joining, let me know :).

Phone Notifications

I’ve decided to disable all audio notifications on my phone. No more beeps for anything except calendar appointments. Chat, text, email, slack, apps, etc.

All that stuff should really be asynchronous. I don’t need to stop what I’m doing every time someone posts a comment, sends a message etc.

I get distracted way too easily by a beep and it breaks my flow. If something is really time sensitive people can call me (I feel old writing this).

So, if I don’t reply to your message quickly, I’m not ignoring you, I’ve just chosen to shut off all notifications.

If you see suffering, don’t feel sorry

I’ve straight up copy pasted that title from Maria here. I really enjoyed the blog post. I recommend reading all of it, but the tl;dr is this:

If you see someone go through a hard time, don’t feel sorry for them. It deprives them of agency. If you say you’re sorry, you’re saying they’re unable to deal with what is happening.

People are much wiser and stronger than we think. They have the power to use whatever challenge they’re facing as a tool for growth. The best you can do is to be their cheerleader. Say, I know it is hard, but I know you can make it.