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Doing Better Stems from Being Bored of Doing Good Enough

“The result of our approach,is that we end up with a team of people who will quickly become bored by performing tasks by hand and have the skill set necessary to write software to replace their previously manual work.”

Ben Sloss, Google

Google engineers are not afraid of automating themselves out of a job.  They embrace the challenge of finding the next best thing in machine learning, in big data, in medicine, or moonshots like longevity, because of this philosophy.

Are we bored with clicking and measuring things by hand yet?  Spell checking your report manually for semantic (i.e. error of meaning not spelling) errors? Making a differential diagnosis strictly from memory?  We should get bored.  Then we can start to improve it.

It’s when we are satisfied from “good enough” that we forget “doing better” is possible.

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What is delightfulness?

Delight strikes when we recognize patterns but are surprised by them… It’s seeing a beautiful landscape and thinking all is right in the world… A perfectly closed-off plot, with just a couple of loose threads. A picture of a farmhouse, but the paint is peeling. Music that comes back to the tonic note and then drops a whole step further to end on an unresolved minor seventh… It’s like the smile from a beautiful stranger in a stairwell—it’s fleeting. It cannot be otherwise—recognition is not an extended process.

Raph Koster

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The choices we made

“When you are eighty years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices”

– Jeff Bezos, as quoted in The Everything Store by Brad Stone

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The self-narrating animal

“We’re sto­ry­telling crea­tures by na­ture, and we tell our­selves story after story until we come up with an ex­pla­na­tion that we like and that sounds rea­son­able enough to be­lieve. And when the story por­trays us in a more glow­ing and pos­i­tive light, so much the bet­ter.”

– Dan Ariely, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

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A fig­ment of my own yearn­ing imag­i­na­tion

A life story is a care­fully shaped nar­ra­tive that is re­plete with strate­gic for­get­ting and skill­fully spun mean­ings. Like any pub­lished mem­oir, our own life sto­ries should also come with a dis­claimer: “This story that I tell about my­self is only based on a true story. I am in large part a fig­ment of my own yearn­ing imag­i­na­tion.”

– Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

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One reason is plenty, two is too many

If you have more than one reason to do something … just don’t do it. It does not mean that one reason is better than two, just that by invoking more than one reason you are trying to convince yourself to do something. Obvious decisions (robust to error) require no more than a single reason.

– Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

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How to mint gossip-worthy news

Word of mouth, then, is a prime tool for mak­ing a good im­pres­sion—as po­tent as that new car or Prada hand­bag. Think of it as a kind of cur­rency. So­cial cur­rency… So to get peo­ple talk­ing, com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions need to mint so­cial cur­rency… There are three ways to do that: (1) find inner re­mark­a­bil­ity; (2) lever­age game me­chan­ics; and (3) make peo­ple feel like in­sid­ers.

– Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On