Up Is Down

"All that we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." - Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring

Up Is Down
AI Generated "When Up Is Down"

I started noticing a trend this week while reviewing a few previous posts and scouring through my commonplace journal. It was filled with lots of counterintuitive thinking. A pattern was emerging that often, the most impactful learnings I’ve had came from doing exactly the opposite of what I had previously held as a truth.

Perhaps, life needs more of that George Costanza "opposite" approach.

A few examples were around living a more simplified existence:

Do less, so you can fill your life with more.

Or when I reviewed the fantastic book from Greg McKeown, Essentialism:

the ability to make trade-offs of lots of good things vs. a smaller number of great things

The typical idea I keep returning to as I iterate on these trade-offs is that many "opposites" are indeed a path for clearer, more nuianced thinking.

Mark Manson calls this 'the backwards law':

Trying too hard to get what you want in life—like love, respect, and happiness—often has the opposite effect: you end up lonely, dejected, and miserable.

He goes on to talk about SEAL training known as "drownproofing":

Strangely, surviving drown-proofing requires no superhuman strength or endurance. It doesn't even require that you know how to swim. On the contrary, it requires the ability to not swim. Instead of resisting the physics that would normally kill you, you must surrender to them and use them to save your own life. The second lesson of drown-proofing is a bit more obvious, but also paradoxical: the more you panic, the more oxygen you will burn and the more likely you are to fall unconscious and drown.

So maybe the idea I'm trying to tease out here, is that conventional wisdom can be backward or downright wrong.

  • Work until you drop; you'll achieve success. Nope, it's a recipe for burnout.
  • Look at that person or company; they're an overnight success. Nope, they probably have a ton of failures that got them to the right thing.
  • You must use the latest and greatest technology to achieve results. Often choosing boring technology is a better path.
  • Worrying about things you've already lost. Also known as the sunk cost fallacy, but the bad news is that we're wired to dwell on the losses. And the more time, energy, and money you've invested, the harder it is to let it go.
  • Everyone noticed! You made a mistake; everyone is talking about it! Nope, the reality is they're probably thinking about themselves.
  • I shouldn't recognize my weaknesses. Nope, embrace imperfections and celebrate strengths.
  • Ignore that person teasing you or making your life miserable, and they will go away. Nope, we all know how that goes if you don't stand up for yourself.

I don't know where I'm landing with all this; it requires more time to think about. But there's something here that requires a part two. :)

For now, in the spirit of the legendary Jack Sparrow, Up Is Down.

If you enjoy these posts, you can buy me a coffee ☕️, or if you'd rather keep up with my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter or keep reading my posts on this blog.

Forward Thinking

I remember meeting Kathy Sierra back in 2005 (wow, almost 20 years ago) when I was a Software Engineer at Microsoft. She wrote about the concept of "Subvert From Within" - something that I still use today and try to embody in driving significant culture change.

But the day was a string of surprises and challenged assumptions (starting with finding Liz Lawley in my workshop (someone I'd never met but long admired), and ending with meeting some amazing MS guys including Furrygoat's Steve Makofsky, Shawn Morrissey, and Lou (whose-last-name-I-forgot)).

It's so tempting to say that anyone who really cares that much about users ought to get the hell out of the big company. I know, having done my time at Sun. But I'd forgotten how to see Microsoft as something other than a Big Company. I'd forgotten (or never recognized) that it's a collection of individual people, and no matter how entrenched the company's views, policies, practices, values, bureaucracy, etc. are, there are motivated, smart, caring, creative people who work there.

And these folks have a chance to make a Difference (capital "D") on a scale that most of us will never touch.

While she's withdrawn from a lot of the online world due to being harassed, I was reminded this week on what a true badass she was. She nudged everyone to be a Badass at Life. (Check out the book here).

Thought of the week

Latest obsession

Those that have followed me for awhile know that I have long valued the benefits of journaling. I use DayOne and am almost on a 1300-day streak.

For the last several years, I've kept a commonplace journal in DayOne, where I store all sorts of bits and pieces of wisdom I run across. It could be a favorite quote. Or perhaps an inspiring picture. A random story. A doodle. A word.

Whatever goes. The only rule is to make it worthwhile for yourself. - https://makoism.com/i-dont-know/

I just was amused to come across this video of "Dude's Journal" (courtesy of 'the cramped') as a reminder of how awesome of a habit it has become.

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

  • Had an interesting thought today: what if the goal was to get the company to implode, not save it? Lots of takes on what's going on over there, but some are thinking about Life After Twitter, others are just calling it out: "Welcome to hell, Elon" - More
  • It's that time of year again, so this was incredibly timely - "Annual Planning That Works." I liked the themes in this process and going to give it a run as part of getting through some goal planning for 2023 - More
  • I highly recommend the book "Building a Second Brain" from Tiago Forte, and "My Favorite Favorite Problems" is a great read that explores 'one of my favorite things about open questions is that these ideas can freely borrow them anywhere you encounter them.' Some great ones in here - More
  • 'To build things I truly love requires both discipline and motivation'; perfect words when I think about constructing a more meaningful life. Read more in "The magic when discipline meets motivation" - More
  • I liked this simple and to-the-point, "Plan on a Page Checklist." If you need to compactly do any type of project plan that talks about milestones, dependencies, and partners, check this one out - More
  • "Better, Faster, and More" is another fantastic read from Michael Lopp, this time focusing on offers, and job goals. If you're currently looking at offers or thinking about leaving your current position, I'd recommend reading this one; having a job you love goes beyond compensation - More
  • We've heard the alleged quote from Drucker that 'culture eats strategy for breakfast.' Studies confirm that investing time and energy into high-purpose cultures does better for everyone involved. Read more in "CEOs Who Embrace High-Purpose Cultures Make Life Better for Everyone (yes, investors too)" to dig into why "Culture as a Management System" makes more sense than ever - More
  • "10 times Gandalf explained how the personal is political" is a great look at 'killer lines' that Gandalf spoke, and explores how 'emotions become movements via the magic of connection.' - More
  • Always a fan of these retro displays, "Building for the Tidbyt" takes a look at some uses for the Tidbit. Described as 'a new way to keep up with the things you care about,' it looks like a fun toy that I may have to put on the holiday list- More
  • It's always fun to flip fun things you think of a kid into the nightmare from where they came - "Fairies weren't always cute -- they used to drink human blood and kidnap children." Sleep tight. - More


Sometimes we all need to just slow down. Check out slow roads.io, a browser game that just is endless driving zen.

Described as:

A casual, procedurally-generated driving game which lets you disconnect from life for a while and run endlessly toward the distant horizon. Set the scenery to suit your mood, throw on some music, and drive.


Be well. ✌🏻

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Jamie Larson