Friday, 19 August 2016

Tip from a Dad to his sons

Recently on Medium (an online blogging platform), Rufus Griscom decided to write a piece that gave some unsolicited advice to his sons.

A few pieces of his advice resonated with me:
Collect words the way other people collect stray cats, tropical birds, or Pokemon Cards. Words are pixels, they are units of thought; just as you can render more precise images with more pixels, you can communicate ideas more powerfully — and maybe even think more efficiently — with more words. This is why vocabulary is among the metrics most highly correlated with success. But don’t be pedantic — use big words sparingly, only when they are the perfect fit.

Respect science. It’s not an ideology; it’s a system for limiting our crazy human inclinations towards bias and misperception, borne out of humility. Every time you get in a commercial airplane, you are betting your life on the scientific method. If a collection of science skeptics build an airplane and offer you a ride, don’t get in.

When you are young, poverty = freedom; when you are older, if you have kids, money = freedom. It makes it possible to do things you used to take for granted like sleep, read the newspaper and see a little bit of the world. I am not saying money should drive your career decisions, quite the contrary, it’s not what matters in life. But it’s good to understand that your relationship to it will change.

Always tell the truth. Not because it’s written on a stone tablet, but because it’s a better practice. I used to occasionally find myself bending the truth, but I decided to stop about twenty years ago for four reasons: humans have highly evolved abilities to detect dishonesty, even when they don’t understand how; sharing vulnerability and imperfection connects you to people; the truth is generally good for people even if it’s hard to say; and as it turns out, it’s less work— if you always tell the truth it’s easier to remember what you have said.

Lead with your weaknesses. Make fun of yourself. Not compulsively — this reads as insecurity — but in an honest, playful, friendly way. This makes people comfortable, creates trust, and counter-intuitively, it comes across as confidence.

Failure — whether it’s a failed jump shot, a failed relationship, a bankrupt company, or a scoop of ice cream falling off the cone — is a data point. Aspire to love data the way a father loves his sometimes obstreperous three boys: because of, not in spite of, imperfections.

Nice work, Rufus.

To that list I would add:
  • Don't worry about your appearance: because in the long run, what you miss out on is more important. Wear the platform shoes, the swimsuit, the Serenity trenchcoat, get the mohawk, dye your hair lime green. Even when you feel too fat/too thin/too pregnant/too old, go swimming with the crowd and don't let self-shame limit you.
  • Don't points score off others. Being right is not important in the long run - in a 100 years no one is going to give a crap about whether you were right or not. No one alive will remember. But getting along, by being part of a supportive community is important, and will probably be remembered.


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