Finding Your Superpower

"Now you wanna get nuts?! Come on. Let's get nuts!" - Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), Batman

A metahuman being born
AI generated 'birth of a superhero'

In what seems a long time ago, when my kids were little, one of the "fun" things I started to do with them occasionally was to find some device/toy/appliance they were used to seeing - and just broke it.

No, I'm not suggesting that I run around the kitchen with a sledgehammer, but rather, if I were going to toss out an old phone or hard drive, we'd get around a table and take it apart.

Try to explore what made it tick.

  • Getting rid of that old phone? Let's see what it's made of.
  • Got a hard drive to dispose of? Holy crap, there are some wild magnets in there (ironically, probably the safest way to dispose of that)
  • What the heck is in a TiVO anyways?

Crack it open. Bust it .. find cool stuff. What's more fun than just breaking shit?

Lots of times, piles of junk would end up going straight into the trash. Others, we'd have a cool discovery: A super powerful magnet. An 'aha!' moment. Or just a conversation about the order to disassemble something to get to its inner workings.

They loved it. The secret was, so did I. It was certainly more fun to teach them a different way to discover things and the polar opposite of traditional parenting children to "don't touch" things.

Kind of real-world LEGOs. (side note: thinking about that while I write this, it's probably why my last three cars have been Jeeps - there are so many parts, you can create your unique vision of your vehicle for different needs).

I was thinking about this later during a conversation with someone seeking early career advice: finding your superpower.

Creativity is simply a matter of visualizing something, breaking it into pieces, playing with those pieces, and building them into something new - Jeffery Baumgartner

Early on, I learned that one ability I had was this odd "art of discovering things through taking things apart." My self-proclaimed 'superpower' was tuned to understanding how things were built, being able to break them down and reassemble them in different ways.

At first, it was software and systems, but eventually, more significant architecture and cloud infrastructure. Then privacy and cybersecurity, which came at a point in my career when just writing software became.. almost boring?

But wow - if you wanted to hack things, you must understand how the bits and bytes flow through the air.

Ultimately this made my philosophy on running cybersecurity teams was to be more 'pirate'; it wasn't about adhering to some corporate policy. If you want to secure something, you must think about how a bad actor would—understand the parts. Be creative about reassembling them. Finding weaknesses.

This is what distinguishes them from other forms of rebels, punks, and rogues, and makes them more akin to unconscious artists, architects, and creators than chaos merchants. And it is their gift to you: being more pirate permits you to find creativity through destruction. - Be More Pirate

Perhaps it comes with age, but I've been trying to spend more time thinking/understanding/decomposing how people and organizations think these days. Or, it's more about how they should think. Which shouldn't be too shocking if you look back at my journey; the theme has constantly been deconstructing things — my 'self-proclaimed' superpower.

Have you figured out your superpower yet? You may be surprised by what you already know about yourself, or what you have yet to discover. Harness it, learn from it, and let it be a foundation for something new.

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Mind Benders


Maniac Mansion exists because Gary and I were too stupid to know it couldn't be done. As I get older and more experienced I am losing the ability to be too stupid to know things can't be done. Experience can be a curse.
- Ron Gilbert (grumpygamer)

Working with people who trust and support you is more valuable than most pay raises when you switch jobs.

This is one lesson I’ve seen people learn the hard way over and over again. - Dare Obasanjo (@[email protected])

Brain Dump

Here are a few articles and videos that resonated with me over the last week:

  • Saying no to people. One of the hardest things to do. This article explains the 'Tom Hanks Rule,' and how 'every time you say yes to something you don't really want, you're actually saying no to the things you do.' Words to live by, my friends. — [via Emotionally Intelligent People Use This Brilliant 5-Word Phrase to Say No With Confidence (and Stop Talking) — Inc.]
  • I am done with notetaking app nirvana and trying to capture discrete knowledge with interconnected thoughts. I once prided myself in the ability to capture all sorts of things, and it took me scorch-earthing my PKM to free me. I'm back to basic notetaking in Apple Notes, and these two articles echo similar sentiments. — [via I am in an Abusive Relationship with Note Taking Apps] and [Is Something Wrong With My “Second Brain”?]
  • Look, we all fuck up now and again. Don't let it destroy you - 'recognizing the bad judgment is a step towards demonstrating good judgement.' — [via We can't let our mistakes define us.]
  • 'Prodigal tech bro stories skip straight from the past, when they were part of something that—surprise!—turned out to be bad, to the present, where they are now a moral authority on how to do good, but without the transitional moments of revelation and remorse.' — [via The Prodigal Techbro]
  • It's been a long time since I've considered the 'landscape' Home Screen on an iPhone. But wow, after seeing these mockups, I want it back in the upcoming iOS 17. — [via Reimagining a Landscape iPhone OS]
  • While this one is more focused on product research, I enjoyed the theme of 'can you describe' and 'tell me about a time' in the lens of using that to understand intent and goals. Ask yourself: 'are you soliciting stories, or just generalizations?' — [via Collect Stories, Not Generalizations]
  • I loved this post (and it's responsible for this week's mind-bender) on just listening to your gut. 'I listen to the world and try to tell which way the wind is blowing. When I say "plan," I mean creating the possibility of opportunity. I till the soil to try and grow my luck. I create options. And I invent things relentlessly. I am solidly a second-division writer, at best, by any model and definition. But I'm still here because I work and think a lot to make and try new things. Giving the fuck up is not on the menu.' — [via On Winging It: Work, Planning And Growing Your own Luck]
  • A nice retrospective on the 30th anniversary of the launch of the World Wide Web. Funny sidebar, I remember showing the Web on Mosaic to an executive of a company I was working for at the time, and having my excitement squashed as his response was 'no business is ever going to do business on this web thing.' How'd that work out? — [via 30 years ago, one decision altered the course of our connected world]
  • Ian Sanders, whom I highly recommend connecting with if you're interested in understanding the power of storytelling, referred to a great article featuring writer Enuma Okoroon on 'what recharges you.' 'I'll put my hand on my heart, and I'll take a deep breath and I will ask myself, "What do you need? What do you need right now?" And then I'm quiet and I try to listen.' — [via On prioritizing yourself and your work]
  • Fascinating read from Scott Galloway on the differences in how men and women view friendships and how you are the 'sum of your friends.' The decline of true friendships is truly staggering. — [via Friends]

This Weeks Vibe

Things are getting a bit better, and the chaos is lessening. And I just saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 (which this song features at the end of the film).

Happiness hit her like a train on a track
Coming towards her stuck still no turning back
She hid around corners and she hid under beds
She killed it with kisses and from it she fled
With every bubble she sank with her drink
And washed it away down the kitchen sink
The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are coming
So you better run

Be well. ✌🏻

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Jamie Larson