Week 238 in Detroit. Happy Thanksgiving! How’s your weekend? Like many people this year we did not try to travel or visit family. We decided to stay home and, in the process, support our local butcher shop. Marrow Detroit is a restaurant, butcher shop and bar in our neighborhood. We had a wonderful meal kit from Marrow and homemade Apple Pie. The day and the meal were so stress free (at least for me) and relatively stress free (I think) for my wife that it was a great memory. Relaxing and fun way to do Thanksgiving.
One interesting thing we did on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving was host a live, online trivia game for the Downtown Boxing Gym (DBG). DBG is an after-school program for the students of Detroit age 8–18. I’ve written recently about DBG’s efforts to win an Inc.com contest for a new van. Thank you for anyone that voted. It was an exciting win, for sure.
With Giving Tuesday coming up, I figured I’d include some of the trivia questions from the game and then the link to support DBG is below.
Here are a few examples and I’ll put the answers further down so you can see how you did.
1. The candy now known as Starburst was originally introduced in the United States as a “Fruit Chewie” version of what iconic candy from the Mars company?
2. What make and model vehicle is the oldest, continuously produced in the United States dating back to 1935?
3. Which athlete, having completed a successful 17-year athletic career, has been remembered with an arena, a memorial sculpture, and an opera in his honor?
4. Coca-Cola was founded in 1892. What soda, founded in 1866, is widely considered to be the first soda produced in the United States?
5. Which former US President was at birth named Leslie Lynch King, Jr. but unofficially adopted his stepfather’s name at age 4 (and legally assumed that name at age 22)?
Bonus “Did You Know”?
Our friends Mark & Laura are also our neighbors and have been in our very small group of socially distant walks around the neighborhood or the occasional campfire. They provided some amazing trivia that, unfortunately didn’t make it into the game (sorry about that Ollie Bears!), but is worth sharing here:
When you send a letter to the zip code 48222, where does it go?
Answer included below, as well.
If you are planning to support local nonprofits this season, please consider Downtown Boxing Gym. DBG did not miss a day of programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, continued to support students who were unable to attend class in person and needed somewhere to learn remotely, and extended safety protocols in every area of the program & building at considerable expense:
This link will go to the TRIVIA event that we hosted, but the “Donate Now” button will allow for you to give today or anytime through next week: https://www.classy.org/event/dbg-virtual-trivia/e308901
Thank you just for considering.
“What are you trying to be on the cutting edge of?” My father asked me this question the other day. He said it was clear I’m pushing and pushing to always be where there is a cutting edge, where there is new information. I loved the question because it made me step back before answering and the question has stuck with me ever since.
What is the cutting edge mean? What is innovation?
In considering what it means to “think for yourself,” I saw a link recommended in Tim Ferriss’s weekly email. Paul Graham’s essay on independent-thinking. This is something that gets tossed around a lot these days, especially in politics. It’s usually in the context of the media and specifically about politics.
But what about in your work? What about on your team?
How do you think about independent thinking in your company?
Paul Graham writes, “There’s room for a little novelty in most kinds of work, but in practice there’s a fairly sharp distinction between the kinds of work where it’s essential to be independent-minded, and the kinds where it’s not.”
The key to Graham is the approach.
Graham goes on, “It matters a lot who you surround yourself with. If you’re surrounded by conventional-minded people, it will constrain which ideas you can express, and that in turn will constrain which ideas you have. But if you surround yourself with independent-minded people, you’ll have the opposite experience: hearing other people say surprising things will encourage you to, and to think of more.”
I love that line — “hearing other people say surprising things will encourage you to, and to think of more.”
There’s an aspect of independent-mindedness that is recognition. Recognizing the source and how it compares to what you already know or already think. It’s more tying threads together than weaving entirely new yarn. It’s all filtered through our own experiences and worldview. That’s unavoidable. But considering the approach, independent thinking can be curated and expanded.
Independent-mindedness has three components:
1. Fastidiousness about truth
2. Resistance to being told what to think
I interpret #1 to be less around comparing everything you hear to your own definition of truth but rather rigorously asking others for their source. In that case, it avoids “that doesn’t sound right to me” and instead responds with “what is your statement based on?” Key distinction in what happens next.
It’s not to say there aren’t judgment calls but those calls are made with more space between you and the idea. The result should be better ideas.
I found an article this week titled “Rebuilding the Good Society” which aims to understand how to “come together” after this polarizing year (decade?). It brings up some interesting tensions about what incentives exist, if any (!), to taking the high road. It raised the question for me — is winning enough? Is it enough to win and prove the ideas within the campaign or is there value in winning & collaboration?
When it comes to politics, the blessing is also the curse. Winning. Winning is a blessing because it allows, or better yet demands, implementing policies and programs to prove the validity of the idea. Winning is also a curse because it turns the entire thing into a game and insidiously removes accountability, truth and the need for proof from the equation. As we’ve seen, politicians do not believe themselves accountable to ideas or consistency or standards so long as the election results are in their favor.
When the author of “Rebuilding the Good Society” describes the breadth and depth of a “good society” the picture is one of community-orientation, public policy debates and scaling good ideas that help people whether in government or philanthropy (or some healthy combination).
The question it raises for me is one of incentives and consequences. I have heard so many friends & colleagues, not to mention political commentators talking about how polarized this country is. So, when I sent the article above to my dear friend Hailey, her response was — to what end?
I’m paraphrasing, but her sense was that trying to build bridges to the other side is not as effect as showing results. Presidents have a short time to show results. Show results and there won’t be a need for one side to “take the high road.”
When I started writing, my best friend Brad said to me, “Always remember show don’t tell.” (And frankly, I’m not good at it.) But when it comes to Presidential politics and/or electoral politics, it’s all tell with literally zero show.
I’m not looking for some kumbaya moment next year. I simply want government, particularly politics, to reflect my workplace. I do not mean our manners (though that’d be nice); instead, I mean the standard by which our work is judged.
Preparation. Success metrics. Execution. Data-driven insights. Iteration.
It may seem naïve but that’s only because there’s no standard keeper for politicians. Unless the political party has such a visible leader that the leader creates consequences for their own, there’s no such standard.
I’m actually no longer asking for or expecting a higher standard, I’m simply asking for the same standard most working Americans are held to. Every day all over the country we’re asked questions like — “where did you pull that data?” “What’s the date range of that data?” “When did that meeting take place?” “Who attended that meeting with you?” “What’s your conclusion based on?”
Answer well to any and every question.
In reading the article linked above, I came across a fascinating theory. We don’t need fewer arguments, we need better arguments. This website: https://betterarguments.org/ is a joint effort and creating better political discourse.
Candidly, I don’t have high hopes. Much of what I’ve seen is less about finding the best answer or best solution and more about winning. Do you want be right or appear to be right? Seems many people just want to appear right regardless of being right. Not sure better arguments are going to change that.
But here’s to trying.
Now, those trivia answers:
2. Chevy Suburban
3. Joe Louis (Joe Louis Arena, the Joe Louis fist in Detroit, Shadowboxer)
4. Vernors Ginger Ale
5. Gerald Ford
Bonus: Middle of the Detroit River. Your letter would be sent to a post office on a boat in the Detroit River that services the barges and ships moving up the Detroit River between Lake Erie and Lake Huron.
Quote: As I was finalizing SCOJ this week, it was confirmed that the CEO/Founder of Zappos, Tony Hsieh had died at age 46. If you don’t know of Tony from his books or speeches, you probably have heard about Zappos and the culture, innovation and influence the company has had on tech entrepreneurs. So, in his memory, here is a quote from Tony,
“Happiness is really just about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness (number and depth of your relationships), and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself).”
Continued success and continue to answer well,