My friend and studio mate Chris Glass shared a thought with me earlier this year that I continue to ponder. We were talking about Netflix binging. Chris said he's not a fan because in a binge there's no room for reflection. I hadn't thought about it that way. In a sense, binging is like auto-pilot. The viewer gets locked into a zoned out, robotic state. It's comfortable and doesn't require much brain power. Time seems to disappear.
I don’t binge much anymore. Maybe once or twice a year on a sick day or holiday. Turning off auto-play helps a ton. If only it were so easy to turn off auto-play (or auto-pilot) in life. It’s second nature to stack the calendar with busyness or to go through life chasing empty carbs (a term I recently learned from Troy Bronsink).
Reflection's hard when we're cruising from one diversion to the next.
Reflection is counter-intuitive in a design environment driven by “sprints” and mottos like “move fast and break things.” To pause means I might not be able to catch up. It often feels that there’s not enough time for contemplation or that it's not a responsible use of billable hours. But what if I'm chasing the wrong carrot? What if I'm taking the easy way out? What if I could be contributing more value?
Reflection's a powerful tool. It helps us connect with new possibilities in our design work (and lives). For instance, I was meeting with writer and “design medium” Meg Farmer to discuss an upcoming collaboration. It was apparent that she had made space to study the client. Her insights were evidence of reflection. She had tapped into a deep project ethos. It was a reminder that beautiful, usable, and impactful design requires consideration.
The links below all connect to the theme of reflection. They've been helpful as I've sought to turn off auto-play in my life and design practice.
Low & Slow (vs. Fear)
Seth Godin uses a metaphor that’s close to home. Sourdough bread making. Meg (my wife) makes sourdough bread every weekend. It's a weekend routine that rose last year. She never baked sourdough bread before that. Patience, along with salt, water, and flour, are the key ingredients. Seth writes about discerning when patience–and impatience–are necessary ingredients in our work.
The Case For Self-Promotion
I hate self-promotion, but as a business owner, it’s a part of the territory. I love the simple heuristic that Courtney suggest we pause to ask ourselves: “Am I sharing or bragging?” The question connects very much to the next link about signaling.
Robin Hanson on Signaling and Self-Deception
Awareness is the first step. This conversation with Tyler episode with Robin Hanson illuminated the idea of signaling to me. It’s those hidden motives behind the things we do or say. For example, I want people to think I’m smart so I write this blog. Which leads me to pause and ask, “am I sharing or bragging?”
How Conversation Dinners Revolutionize The Ways We Communicate
This article connects to the theme of last week’s post about questions. It covers a dinner event that serves thought-provoking queries with each course. Meg (my wife) is an excellent question asker. It’s one of her superpowers (next to making sourdough). At several dinners this week she’s offered questions to the group, not unlike those referenced in the article. The conversations that followed were thoughtful and dynamic. I learned a lot more about the people we were with because of the questions.*
*The questions were "what does your ideal day look like in five years?" and "tell a story about a time a stranger has done something kind for you." Kudos to Sam Wilder for inspiring the first question and Miriam Hodesh the second.
Why I Keep A Diary and Notebook Turducken
Two helpful posts by Austin Kleon on how he reflects on his days. I was motivated by both of these so much that I went on a Moleskine Hunt through downtown Cincinnati.