You Aren't Listening

"The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply." - Stephen R. Covey

a megaphone
Your Inner Voice is Calling You - Are You Listening?

I was thinking a lot about the lead-in quote from last week's edition over the previous few days, and I've landed on a personal observation.

"Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?" - Charles Bukowski

It's funny, as humans, we often use the words hearing and listening and mistake them for the same thing when they have two very different cognitive meanings.

Per Webster:

  • The act of hearing, is 'the process, function, or power of perceiving sound.'
  • While listening, is 'to hear something with thoughtful attention, to give consideration.' To absorb the sounds and give them meaning.

You can hear things without applying much focus; look around the next large meeting you are in and notice how many people are just hearing sounds. Groups are entertaining to observe - watch how many mindlessly scroll away on their phone instead of listening to what's being said.

Listening, though, is something entirely different.

It's an optional task that you need to decide to do.

I could go on all day about how important it is to work on having conversations where you can be more of an active listener, which is an excellent topic for another post on teams and leadership that I'll save for another time.

Today I wanted to talk about actively listening to yourself. I intentionally say active because that style of listening requires curiosity, motivation, purpose, and effort. There are always signs that you're spending too much time hearing that little voice inside your head, but you're just not listening to it.

Some of the signs that I've picked up on that tend to indicate that you're not listening to inner voices:

  • Judgment by others. One thing that is hard to come to terms with is that no one is thinking about you as much as you are thinking about you. People aren't judging you as much as you think they are.
  • Labels. Ah, troublemaker, negative thinker, rebel, etc... All I can say on this one is to define your label. If you want to be a pirate, be a fucking pirate. Actions over words. Don't let others tell you what you should be; live to your true self.
  • Being stuck. If you find that you're in a rut and not doing what you need to get out of it, it's a sure sign that you're hearing what your brain is telling you but not listening to it.
  • Believing that others have the answers. This is a hard one, but I see it often when I talk to people about careers. Usually, they know what they have to do, but they are looking for validation of some idea. Trust your gut.

I'm not saying that any of this is easy. It takes a ton of practice, but it's something that I have found if I consistently work on getting better at by watching for signs and shifting into active listening mode, it, like most things, gets easier over time. It's a muscle you need to train. Listening to yourself is one of the best things you can do to improve your mental well-being.

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Mind Benders


Brain Dump

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

  • This was a powerful and a well thought out post. "We are all heroes in our own eyes... You might start out with the best of intentions. You're going to change the world. Make it better. Recapture some of the old glory. But then anger, hatred, greed, fear, and the inability to let go lead you down a dark path until you realize, you're no longer one of the good guys. You work for the evil Empire.". — [via When You Realize You’re the Villain of the Story]
  • Living part-time on an island, where seeing whales is a normal occurrence, I found this read particularly interesting. There's been a recent surge in aggression towards boats off the coast, and now researchers think that 'a traumatic event may have triggered a change in the behavior of one orca, which the rest of the population has learned to imitate.' — [via Orcas have sunk three boats in Europe and appear to be teaching others to do the same. But why?]
  • Almost every hour of the week lately has some new thing regarding AI, some magical way that it will transform the world. But this one was a fresh take I hadn't seen yet- "a framework for thinking about how to attack AI system." An excellent read for what I am sure will become a topic of much conversation over 2023 — [via The AI Attack Surface Map v1.0]
  • The NYC Subway consists of 472 stations across 665 miles of track. The new record for "subway challenge," to travel through the whole system as fast as possible, has just been broken in a staggering 22 hours, 14 minutes and 10 seconds. — [via New record set for fastest trip through entirety of NYC subway]
  • A powerful retrospective on how to fight online abuse. The real question is - why do we keep repeating the same problems and refuse to learn from the past? — [via The Immortal Myths About Online Abuse]
  • Alan sent me this one which is a great read on engineering productivity. The full paper can be found here. — [via A New Approach To Measuring Developer Productivity]
  • As a reformed PKM purist, I still keep up with the space, and I agree with this post on how physical systems are more effective than digital note-taking ones. Always a hot debate. — [via Physical vs Digital PKM]
  • Remember the first time you ate at an Outback Steakhouse? A stomach-filling review of their original menu. — [via Outback Steakhouse Menu from 1997]
  • "Deprecated should be my middle name" is one way to look at a long career in technology; wow. But as I started to think more and more about all the code I've written since I was a kid - the more sobering it becomes. You begin to realize 'how everything slowly rots away over time.' — [via My 20 Year Career is Technical Debt or Deprecated]
  • I love quiet time and really should partake more often in a digital detox. 'Over the past few months, I've recognized an increasing sense of dissatisfaction whenever I've found myself aimlessly surfing the web. It's akin to that peculiar feeling you get when you're craving a snack, yet nothing in your pantry seems to hit the right spot.' — [via Searching for Quiet Time]

This Weeks Vibe

It was an odd week. Typically, I work remotely, so the morning commute is a shuffle from the coffee machine to the home office.

But this week, I had to go downtown for a series of meetings and had the pleasure of sitting in 45 minutes to 1:15 of traffic daily. Six hours of my life I'll never get back.


The only thing that got me through with my sanity intact was the beautiful weather this week in the pacific northwest and cranking my "classic rock" playlist.

Any way you want it
That's the way you need it
Any way you want it
She said any way you want it
That's the way you need it
Any way you want it
Any way you want it
That's the way you need it
Any way you want it

Be well. ✌🏻

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Jamie Larson