Random ruminations as I figure out and deal with life, grad school, being an engineer and a product manger; learn more about technology, marketing, economics, news, writing short stories and other stuff that distracts me from doing whatever I'm supposed to be doing....
Quick reviews: The Dip, The Black Swan, Capitalism: a Love Story, and Ajab Prem...
Living in NYC and taking the trains now means I actually might have time to get some reading done! Woohoo!
So let's start with the books: I finished "The Dip" by Seth Godin (really slim) The message (or more accurately what I remember):
First, know when to quit; second, remember there is disproportionate reward for being the "best"; third, being the best requires having the will and determination to power through "The Dip".
Great examples, and fun and useful read in a psychology-for-people-who-re
ally-want-to-over-achieve kind of way. I definitely recommend it.
I'm about two-third's of the way through Nassim Taleb's "The Black Swan" It a very engaging read. The book goes over a number of biases we humans have and the fallacies and errors in judgement we perpetuate. Lot of great examples of how we don't really know how much we think we know, how we try to force logic and ill-fitting explanations on situations and most importantly, how we're just terrible at considering random events in our thinking and planning. Lot of great stuff (i.e. rants and commentary) on philosophy and the theory on knowledge thrown in there for good measure as well. The take-away for me was not just to reduce the biases/error I have, but to watch out for it in others arguments and not be taken in by them.
People try just a little too hard to explain everything! :)
Capitalism: A Love Story. I disagree with the premise; and think the ending takes things too far. However, a lot of what's in between is extremely powerful and compelling. The level of corporate greed and machination is shocking. Greed may be good, but the people who're greedy are also evil and arrogant (which they often are) and that's where the tragedy lie.
And finally, the wife and I caught Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani the weekend before the last. It was fun... and pretty funny too. It was good to see Raj Kumar Santoshi direct a comedy again and a pretty young one at that... and holy crap, it looks like Ranbir Kapoor is heading for super-star territory already!
I've been really enjoying the Freakonomics podcast of late. This episode and the lesson we should take a away from it, was a stark reminder of one of the most important things we should be doing - but often don't - in building products or making any decisions: measuring the impact of absolutely everything we do, including the things that seem obviously good.
I recommend listening to the podcast if you have the time, but here's the summary. Stephen Dubner describes the Cambridge Sommerville Youth Study. The impact of social intervention programs in general is hard to measure and so they seldom are. This was the first attempt at measuring the impact over a long period of time.
It's a great story and there are a few good take-aways, but here's the main one: troubled or at-risk youth that received mentoring (good mentoring!) had worse life outcomes across every dimension than the kids that were left alone. Despite the recipients saying that the mentoring was incredibl…
Every once in a while, I'm reminded that humans can be completely lacking in humanity.
My wife had the following experience yesterday on her ride back home. She got on the train and found a seat. The train was unusually crowded and it looked a lot of people had to stand for a long ride. An elderly Asian gentleman carrying a few things in both hands, was looking for spot, started to complain smilingly about the train being so full and stood in the aisle at the back of the carriage some seats away from her.
She expected someone closer to gentleman in the aisle (lots of younger people on the train) to give him their seat.
No one did.
The train started, and it was clear the man was having a lot of trouble standing up. Then at the next stop there was actually an announcement saying the train was full so please give up your seats to people who needed them.
Still nobody moved.
My wife got up walked to the end of the train and asked the gentleman to go over to her seat. She still couldn…
One of the things I've really enjoyed doing over the last year is teaching and presenting on the work I do more. I do it mostly because I enjoy doing it, but once in a while you hear back about the impact it had and feel better about the fact that you're taking the time to do it.
Last year, I conducted a workshop on Product Management (write up about it here). Within the last week, 2 people got in touch to tell me how that workshop actually helped them - one who used it to have a better summer internship and the other on how it helped him interview better and get a job offer because of it. 3 others also got in touch over the last month to ask about the materials since they're conducting trainings of their own.
The materials themselves aren't perfect (my slides are really meant for presenting and not great reading material in themselves), but I figured if it might actually still help some folks - either to prep themselves or conduct these kinds of workshops.