Study me as much as you like,
You will not know me,
For I differ in a hundred ways
from what you see me to be
Put yourself behind my eyes and see me as I see myself,
For I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see.
Four months of 2022 gone by. That’s eight fortnights. Sixteen weeks.
It’s easy to count days. Have those days counted?
It’s a thought I’m always wrestling with. Impostor syndrome kicks on the doors. Sometimes it kicks the door in.
Today, I came across a talk by Brandy Foster “The Rise of the Generalist”. Her personal story of becoming a Comp Science lecturer with a specialisation in English literature is unusual. She makes the claim that
“professional generalists find themselves in the position of convincing others that their varied experience is as valuable as that of the narrow specialist. In fact, as our economy moves towards even more automation of specialized tasks, the value of a generalist’s perspective is growing. Further, in a world of growing complexity, the advantage goes to the generalist, who may lose to a specialist’s expertise in a single domain, but wins every time when the game continues to span across many domains.”
Leadership skills are primarily about breadth, not necessarily only depth. Some technical expertise helps, I suppose, but more important than that is the ability to “join the dots” across mutliple areas and disciplines. My experiences with true “general” managers has been awe-inspiring yet rare. Like Ms Foster, I hope to see more true generalists blossom in our super-specialised world.
Anyway, I’m rambling.
The reason Ms. Foster’s talk resonated with me is because my impostor syndrome kicks in most often when someone asks me why I, a non-technologist, am in a team of smart technologists/developers. I contribute 9% of the team’s headcount. A measurable thing. What’s fascinating is nearly everyone has the same impostor syndrome about themselves: what value do I bring to this team? won’t I be found out that I’m a fraud?
What would it look like if work was not the only driving force in my life? in all our lives? What would my world look like?
The best arguments in the world won’t change a single person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.
For as long as I remember, taking notes – or making notes – has never been my strong point.
I distinctly recollect a trip I made when I was 8 or so with my grandparents, the first time ever I flew on an airplane. My uncle, who we were visiting, gave me a notebook and said I was to keep a record of my visit. I made a few scribbles, and the only memorable notes I made in that book was puns and poems and quotes that another relative shared with me.
I think I make slightly better notes now. But I do love writing out quotes more.
Sharing what little I know with people who reach out to me is satisfying – when I do have the time to invest with them. Today was one such day and I hope I paid forward a fraction of what I was so generously given when I started my career.
It was also a really long day. I do no like the commute, and the exhaustion made it really difficult to do anything productive on the trip home. I’ve learnt how to do basic whiteboard animation this evening so not all is lost. Writing is hard with a migraine in tow.
There are so many wonderful people I’ve gotten to meet, learn from, build a relationship with over the last few years at work. We shared a common goal in building a nation’s infrastructure, and despite the various strengths and perspectives we each came with, it has been an astounding opportunity to work with some of the best minds that I have known in my life.
There has been a steady march of people leaving, and of late the trickle has been a flood of people I respect deeply. Various reasons of course, but one common thread has been the lack of stimulating work, replaced by the politics and the bureaucracy, and a deep sense of feeling unworthy and disrespected.
What do leaders (new or old) do when they find themselves in a situation like this? Individual decisions to leave are obviously not within their control. What is? And how can they take responsibility for the things within their control and act on them? I will continue to observe and learn at close quarters.
The opportunity to learn from this situation is itself something I’m grateful for.
Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
A startling reminder again during a webinar I joined today: what seems crystal clear in my mind doesn’t translate well into words that other people understand in the way I do. We write to clarify things for ourselves. An added benefit of that clarity is that other people too may see it. Over a 100 people were on the call; a fraction did the work required to help themselves – and were brave enough to share it with strangers.
Throughout the day, I’ve also been reminded of Paul Graham’s astute observation that “people can never have a fruitful argument about something that’s part of their identity.” I found myself thinking about how the way I think about myself (an accountant by training) altered the way I approached a particular conversation, and how it went nowhere quickly.
Beyond that, framing a problem well, and then tackling it within that frame was another learning. Having multiple issues in a single conversation is truly hard, unless there is a great deal of trust and safety with the other person.
Another day to be grateful for learning, time, heartfelt conversations, the opportunity to help a few people, and a break in the rain so we could head out for a walk in the dark.
The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control
Scott Aaronson, with some assistance from GPT-3:
There is a fundamental difference between form and meaning. Form is the physical structure of something, while meaning is the interpretation or concept that is attached to that form. For example, the form of a chair is its physical structure – four legs, a seat, and a back. The meaning of a chair is that it is something you can sit on.This distinction is important when considering whether or not an AI system can be trained to learn semantic meaning.