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September 4th, 2013

11:14 pm: Being a good teammate
In which I take some realizations from the volleyball court and extract more general rules on being a good teammate.

January 1st, 2013

07:11 am: I went to India!
I went to India!

The blog post itself is a summary, and then I have links to the detailed posts I made to Google+ while traveling, as well as the hundreds of pictures I took.

November 16th, 2012

08:42 am: Big Data isn't the answer
Latest blog post on why Big Data isn't the answer, especially if you don't know what the question is.  

October 30th, 2012

08:49 pm: Career development in the 21st century
After recently giving the same advice to several different people at the beginning of their career, I decided to write it down and document my advice on career development in the 21st century for posterity. 

October 15th, 2012

08:24 pm: Defending college
I was catching up on my RSS reader, and saw Charlie O'Donnell's week-old post and had to respond to one of his points:
We care more about college than we do about elementary school or high school.  This generation is getting saddled by more debt than they'll ever be able to handle, because we're obsessed with the idea that everyone needs a four year degree from a top school.  I don' t know about you, but I felt pretty smart before I went to college and I don't think my capacity for intellect really changed that much from 18 to 22.  In fact, it's been scientifically proven that your early years do a lot more to determine your intelligence than your late years.  So why are we paying so much for college?  We're afraid to hire someone smart right out of high school or who went to a community college.  College isn't for everyone and we should do more to provide people with usable skills before they turn 18.
My response:
I agree with most of your points, but I'll push back on the college point. College mattered a _lot_ more to me than elementary school and high school. Going to a top school isn't about learning the material - you can get the same knowledge in many places for much cheaper. And the point isn't to make you smarter - as you note, intelligence is already set by that point.

But as you know, intelligence isn't enough to make somebody successful. You also need grit and drive and the social skills to convert that intelligence into impact. And that's what I learned by going to a top college. High school was way too easy for me. I needed the cold water bath of going to MIT and struggling to be even average in my classes. It forced me to raise my game, because the only way to keep up with the firehose was to learn more and learn faster than I ever would have thought possible. What MIT taught me was that I can learn anything quickly if I put my mind to it. And that confidence has enabled me to switch careers and fields several times successfully (physics to biotech to finance to software).

The social connections are also key. And not from an old boys' network standpoint - i've only gotten one job through my connections when I dropped out of grad school. It's because I aspire to do more to match my friends and peers that achieve great things. I don't think to myself "Oh, those people are nothing like me and are out of my league". I think "I know these guys and I kept up with them in classes, so dammit, I gotta go work harder". I'm not uber successful by any means, but I definitely feel that the peer pressure of my MIT classmates gives me a kick in the ass to keep working hard when I might be willing to coast otherwise.

I agree that college isn't for everyone, but for the people it is good for, it's great.

October 7th, 2012

10:07 pm: The Idea Factory, by Jon Gertner
My review of The Idea Factory, by Jon Gertner, tying into the discussion in my last post about innovation principles.  

October 3rd, 2012

08:40 pm: Bragging
This evening, I was taking a break after dinner at work and pushing some balls around the pool table. A coworker I didn't know walked by and asked if I wanted to play. I said, "Sure, why not" - I feel pretty confident in my pool skills, even though it's been, gosh, ten years since I got good at pool during the year that Signature BioScience went bankrupt.

I broke, pocketed one ball, screwed up the next, and turned the table over to him. He sank six balls in a row smoothly, transitioning each shot into positioning for the next. He only missed when he had to go after the one remaining ball that was in the middle of my six balls. I was feeling outclassed, and commented that my only chance in the game was to leave my balls on the table to make his shot harder. He pointed out that wouldn't work for very long, which was true.

But I sank three balls on my turn, and when I got to a hard shot, I carefully left him another difficult shot, and he missed again, so I got another chance. I think I screwed up then, and he closed me out. But he said "Good game - want another?" Given my other option was going back to work, I said yes.

I can't remember the ins and outs of the next game - it was a difficult table, and we both had trouble getting a rhythm going, but I got ahead and beat him (I remember him saying "Man, I can't leave you an opening!" in frustration). And so we had to play a tiebreaker.

On the break, I pocketed two stripes, but given standard 8-ball rules (which he knew and few others do), the table is still open until you sink a ball after the break (as an aside, he also properly played call the shot (and called me on it when I tried to pass off an accidental shot as intentional) and ball in hand on scratches). I tried to squeeze a stripe in to take advantage of the two ball lead and missed. He looked at the table, and thought he had a better chance with solids, even two balls down, but then missed. So I had the choice again, and with where the cue ball was, I agreed that solids were easier - I sank two to even things up, but then biffed my third shot. We went back and forth and ended up with all balls in except the eight ball. I had a reasonable but long shot, but I missed, and left him with a straight shot to win.

It was pretty satisfying, though. I think that's the best I've played since Signature - I nailed one bank shot, and one insane shot the length of the table with a hard angle - competition really does bring out the best in me. And even though he's definitely better than me, he respected me and asked me where I sat so that he could get in a good game of pool. So yay having random competitive skills!

P.S. Speaking of random competitive skills, another coworker challenged me to foosball last week. That was foolish. Even though my foosball skills are twenty two years old, I still crushed him.

September 19th, 2012

08:15 am: Anthropology of Innovation panel
My notes from an Anthropology of Innovation panel last week featuring Genevieve Bell.

Do I need to keep cross-posting my blog posts to LiveJournal given that I'm also posting on Twitter (and funneling to Facebook), plus RSS? Comment if you only see these posts here so I keep on doing the manual cross-post. 

September 11th, 2012

10:39 pm: The limits of rationality
A new blog post on the limits of rationality, where I set up an unsuspecting podcast as a straw man and then explain why I disagree with their position. 

September 10th, 2012

10:52 pm: Principled Leadership
Thinking more about how to make organizations scale, and realizing that one way is to have leaders model organizational principles and giving employees the autonomy to make their own decisions using those principles.  Or something like that. 

More importantly, yay me for actually writing a blog post instead of watching TV or reading fiction or going to bed early. 

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