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....
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A tale of two emails
A couple of weeks ago, I got two emails within minutes of each other. Both had a similar purpose. The senders needed me to do something for them. I should have done both of these things by the time they'd sent these emails and I hadn't because other things had come up and I'd decided these could wait.
I get a lot of similar emails and occasionally even send a few of these, but the contrast stood out as I read these back-to-back. These aren't easy emails to send or pleasant ones to receive.
In this case, both emails had one very simple goal: get me to do what they wanted as soon as possible. Both emails were sent by folks above my pay grade, and while I would over the next couple of days get to both things, I ended up having very different opinions of the both people after the emails.
Thankfully neither used cliches I'm particularly amused by such as "friendly reminder" :), but one email made me respect the person that sent it even more; the other just annoyed me.
From the point-of-view of the senders, the former email definitely took longer to write and was clearly from a more mature person (it explained why it was important that I do X, some constraints and had a tone that reminded me sometimes that I'm just lucky to get emails from these people.) The other was definitely easier to write, had passive aggressive overtones, and was the work of someone who was either stressed or who just operated in that way (ref: the No-Asshole rule)
The lesson to be learned: that even asking someone to do something for you is an opportunity to gain respect. It takes a little more work, and some practice, but in the longer-run is definitely more valuable to do.
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…
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…