5 min read

39. Paths

Meandering histories, chefs tactics, user research
39. Paths
Photo by Alexander Milo / Unsplash

I could begin this talking about Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken', and how in fact it's not what people think it's about—it's not a 'carpe diem' poem so much as one about post-rationalisation (explained in, of all things, the retired-women-ready-50-Shades Book Club). However, it's a thread in a couple of things I've read this month.

The first is from Fei-Fei Li's The Worlds I See. I'd downloaded the audiobook for some reason and then completely forgotten about why or even what hte book was about, so got a surprise at what ostensibly seemed to be about AI legislation then backpedaled into her childhood in China along with a parallel history of AI). I realised later on that this was a memoir about Li's path to Princeton (buoyed both by a love of physics and the university's connection to that titan of physics, Einstein) then Stanford while edging into AI. What comes through on the book is the long road of twists and turns that can lead to what later feel like a carefully calculated decision.

This is also reiterated in the research of Adam Grant's Hidden Potential, where Grant uses multiple examples to show how people don't so much have abilities but cover a lot of ground to get somewhere. Some good examples from the book were the importance of play and rest (I nearly called this month's update rest as I am in fact taking that now after an exhausting few months), the importance of scaffolding and setting up ways to learn from advisers (though also ignoring when needed - an example being a baseball player creating his own playing style), and knowing how to now being the metaphorical equivalent of a basketball 'ball hog' by asking questions of others. There are many examples of people excelling in a career after setbacks and slow improvements that are heartening to anyone who may feel like they have started behind on a particular career for whatever reason and are trying to forge ahead.

Finally, I read Work Clean by Dan Charmas. Much like the other books, it talks about how chefs often fall into cooking as a career and then slowly and painfully (sometimes literally) work their way up to manage chaos and create beautiful food—and it comes down to mise-en-place, personal organisation and discipline. Some of the tips may be familiar—plan ahead, clean as you go, prioritise—but some were more nuanced, such as separating process work from setup work, measuring if breaks are actual exhaustion or just restlessness, and committing to do some things slowly (even if it’s better than not at all). It’s given me a kick to get back to more start of day organisation

This month in digital government and design


Until next month,