friday five 12.16.16
I'm starting a new mini-post series! At this point, my blog is pretty much a series of mini-post series because I'm consistently inconsistent with posting.
Everyone has a morning ritual. Not a morning routine, a morning ritual. Something you do to wake up, a kind of primer for the rest of the day. For some people it's a cup of coffee, black, a life-giving transfusion. For others, it's meditation or going on a run, something to get the energy flowing. And for a select few, it's playing Hall & Oates at full volume to welcome the start of a new day.
I like to read Twitter.
People usually think I'm joking when I say this, because I have a well-known distaste for social media, and Twitter in particular is often regarded as little more than an outlet for teen angst. And while I admittedly did take a four-year break from leisure reading (but now that I've graduated, I'm happy to say that this is no longer the case!), I've never stopped reading entirely. I would read different things instead. Lots of news outlets, tech publications, and business journals, but also Medium (for think pieces), Quartz (for global economy updates), Bloglovin' (for baking + travel inspiration), Morning Brew and theSkimm (for business and news briefings), and Reddit (for everything else). Twitter is actually my favorite social media channel, because it's all of these things in one place. To me, it's a great way to wake up: a never-ending feed of stimulating content, a quick-and-dirty snapshot of the current state of the world.
So I'm going to try to post a "Friday Five" every week: five things to read or watch, things that I liked or found interesting or provocative, like a collection of food for thought (don't you hate it when people send you emails with "Food for Thought" in the subject line?)(but I promise that these will actually be interesting). So if you were ever curious as to what I'm always reading on my BlackBerry, here you go.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16TH
My boss and I had a conversation about empathy, and how it's become the topic du jour, especially following the election. The distinction between empathy and sympathy has become a prominent discussion in social commentary circles. But this article that my friend Annie posted on LinkedIn examines the nature of Silicon Valley itself and the things it creates, and details the potential perils of such rapidly-shifting paradigms and a steady outpouring of innovation—it makes the lives of a select fortunate few marginally more convenient at the expense of many less fortunate. I told my boss that it's ironic that we as a modern society are much more focused on the nuances of human interaction and EQ over IQ, but that the mass automation we hope to achieve effectively renders these things irrelevant (think Amazon's cashier-free convenience stores).
These are just...amazing. These remind me that so much wonderful, complex storytelling and endless creativity still exist. I can't even decide which is my favorite. OK Go's and H&M's are stunningly beautiful (now I really want to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel), "Evan" literally made my jaw drop, Nike and Under Armour both kill it with the powerful, energetically feminist "DaDaDing" (I feel a swell of pride every time I watch this one) and the visually awesome "Rule Yourself", and Old Spice's is so exactly my kind of humor that I could have written it (although probably not quite as well).
On the importance of cognitive strain and ideological diversity (thanks Keiks). Nicholas Kristof wrote yet another excellent piece on the latter here, and having attended a very liberal university, it's something that I'm always aware of now. But what I really like about this article is that it puts these things in the context of success and real-world opportunity and privilege, which is especially appealing to me because I just started Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. One of the advantages of an open network is conceptual blending, or the ability to apply concepts learned to new frameworks and problems, in unique and creative ways. It's an idea I've taken a recent interest in, given its track record (the co-founder of Twitter attributes his success to having been an active participant in his high school's theatre program, and it's a technique used by Elon Musk and Bill Gates). And this is the benefit of travel also: it gives you a more comprehensive worldview and many reference points for conceptual blending.
My friend Johnny sent this to me as part of a very long post-election discussion via email on race dynamics, public policy, bipartisanship, and Harry Potter World (which is currently still going on). He's someone whose opinions and political comprehension I greatly respect, and this study was performed by a professor of economics at Harvard. In light of Black Lives Matter, this was very surprising to me. The study isn't completely comprehensive (it only takes into account what happens after subjects have already been stopped by police, a number which shows disproportionate bias toward blacks, and it treats high-profile shootings like Freddie Gray as isolated incidents), but it does really make you think about cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias in the context of the news media. My first thought was, why didn't this receive more media attention? And it's because it's not what the public wants to hear; it goes against the public's perception of rampant racial discrimination, corrupt law officials, and unfairly persecuted black men. Black Lives Matter is still a very valid movement, just perhaps not for the exact reasons we think.
Edit: One of my Facebook friends pointed out that this study was widely criticized for its research methods and its failure to distinguish between "racial bias" and "statistical discrimination," and therefore there is in fact still plenty of evidence in favor of disproportionate racial bias toward black citizens. Essentially, the findings, while accurate, are misinterpreted and misrepresented.
I was introduced to the term "grit" by my mother a couple of years ago, ironically after I had already finished the majority of my fundamental education, through a TEDx talk that she emailed me (I've already cheated so many times in this post by including so many extra links, but just in case you're interested, they're well worth a glance), and since then I've read countless ruminations on the topic of mental toughness and tireless ambition. And it's worth nothing that this model is successful to an extent. But, as a high school classmate of mine writes in this excellent article, about the applications of grit and its problems within the educational system:
Instead of rethinking schools to accommodate this grit-ification, schools used grit to justify old practices ... Grit accidentally perpetuated an outdated system of brute force learning. In the real world, it's important to be able to work towards and achieve long term goals, but you never need to do things for no reason.
Grit will only get you so far, and it has its frustrating share of limitations. It's learning to apply it to useful things that matters most, and makes you a holistic learner rather than a purely academic one.
BuzzFeed, while a notorious black hole of emoji-filled celebrity news and personality quizzes, is a pop culture and trend-watching gold mine, and thus cannot be dismissed as wholly unimportant. And this in particular is something I'm very passionate about; it illustrates the ways in which masculinity is such a damaging concept, to both men and women. Personally, I like guys that embrace fuzzy socks and will do face masks with me. Not needing to prove yourself is always more attractive.
P.S. If you have a morning ritual, or suggestions of things to read, let me know in the comments! I'd love to hear what interests you.