A Proud Sad-Sack

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scienceisthecoolest / self reflection

Embracing negativity may also have social benefits. Compared with cheery moods, bad moods have been linked to a more effective communication style, and sadness has been linked to less reliance on negative stereotypes. Feeling down can make us behave more fairly, too. People who saw sad video clips before playing an allocation game were more generous with their partners than those who saw happy clips.


Loved Into Being

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All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. Ten seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time.

Fred Rogers.

Sales Email Copy

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We try a ton of things to spread the word about NOBL.

Last year, we tried a cold email campaign. We emailed complete strangers that we thought might be trying to make radical change in their organizations.

Email No. 1 – We can help, Megan


I found you via LinkedIn and I promise I can make this email worth your time and attention.

Work as we know it isn’t working. 67% of employees are disengaged. 72% of millennials feel their employers aren’t getting the most out of their skills. 1 in every 2 employees quits because of a bad manager. On average, employees waste 31 hours a month in useless meetings.

Organizations such as Levi’s, Taco Bell, Reddit, and Calvin Klein have trusted their teams to my firm, NOBL. In a world of overpriced consultants and endless survey tools, we’re different. We’re committed to being the fastest, most effective, and most affordable way to help your teams be their most creative and capable. If you have an ambition, we can help you reach it.

For established firms like yours, we’ve pushed engagement scores up 12% in just 30 days, meaningfully increased retention in 90 days, and boosted productivity by more than 25% after four months.

I’m sure your inbox is overflowing and your calendar is full. All I need is 30 minutes to show you that we can help you and your teams do more than you even think you’re capable of.

If you have no interest at all in hearing more, please let me know. If you are interested, just reply with a day/time for a call and we’ll make it work on our end.

Sincerely, thank you for the time you’ve already given me.

Email No. 2 – Megan?


Here I am, again, in your inbox.

You haven’t responded yet, likely because:

  1. You’re interested but you’re super busy
  2. You’re not interested and you’re hoping I’ll go away on my own (like when it’s Halloween but you forgot to buy candy for the neighbors so you turn the lights off)
  3. You’re trapped under a piece of office furniture unable to reach help

Which is it? If it’s #3, we’ll dispatch a border collie named Molly to save you. Hang in there!

In the meantime, check out Future of Work – our collection of new ways of working.

Email No. 3 – Megan, are you there?


Ok, we sent Molly to save you but now, well, we’ve lost Molly. This is embarrassing, but have you seen her? She is a cheap Lassie knock-off and has no idea that her name is Molly.

This whole situation reminds me of that time we helped a client discover an immediate $15MM opportunity just by visiting their retail team with them. Or that time we helped one of the fastest growing fashion retailers reach profitability. Well, no, those are actually case studies I could send you if you’re interested.

Or we could just hop on the phone for 30 minutes?

Email No. 4 – Megan, things are getting weird.


Good news! We’ve found Molly!

You see, when we didn’t hear from you or her, we sent a mongoose named Moose after you both. We lost him but then we sent a Bear that’s called Claire, but she was tranquilized when she wandered into a nearby office park. Then came a Koala named Gowalla, a Kangaroo that can play the didgeridoo (but his name’s just Clark), a mouse that once starred in an off-off-off Broadway rendition of Faust, and then, with all of our options exhausted, we asked the intern to take the bus to the dog park Molly likes the most. With all honesty, I don’t know the intern’s name.

But, eureeka!

Yes, this is all an elaborate ploy for your attention.

Did it work?

Email No. 5 – We give up, Megan.

Oh, Megan.

It looks like this wasn’t meant to be.

Molly, Moose, Claire, Gowalla, Clark, that mouse, and the intern (his name was Alex! or was it Andrew?) are sorry that their efforts just weren’t good enough.

They’ve all been fired.

I’m sure it was a good decision, but I’m concerned about how we’ll ever find another mouse that does such an accurate Othello.

No more emails from us, promise.

Self-Observation and Loneliness

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self reflection

I hate that by sharing this video it seems like I’m intelligence-signaling. I’m not. I honestly feel less intelligent by the day (this is partly the side effect of working alongside brilliant people). But there’s truth here. I am a person who spends most of his life in self-observation, wrapped up with self-honesty. It’s a lonely place at times.

I’m sharing this to communicate a simple message. A simple message best said by, of course, Kurt Vonnegut:

“I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”

You aren’t alone. If you ever need community, even momentarily, I’m here.

The Nationalist’s Delusion

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Trumpism emerged from a haze of delusion, denial, pride, and cruelty—not as a historical anomaly, but as a profoundly American phenomenon. This explains both how tens of millions of white Americans could pull the lever for a candidate running on a racist platform and justify doing so, and why a predominantly white political class would search so desperately for an alternative explanation for what it had just seen. To acknowledge the centrality of racial inequality to American democracy is to question its legitimacy—so it must be denied.

Adam Serwer.

Amazon or Scientology?

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orgdesign / quotes

Back at Amazon headquarters or the trailer inside Gold Base, they really care about you. My auditor asked me a lot of questions about my work habits, my life, and family. As it turns out, I need more bias for action. Compromising for social cohesion only stymies progress. Oh, also, I have to disconnect from you. It’s okay, Jeff Bezos says you have to “maintain the culture,” and my auditor said that you are “antagonistic and suppressive to our tenets.” Either way, I guess this is goodbye!


America’s Unchecked Id

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Trump’s appetite seems to know no bounds when it comes to McDonald’s, with a dinner order consisting of two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted.


Insatiable hunger, lust, greed, and dominance. Freud described the Id as primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented.

Remind you of anyone?

Of course, we as a species need our Id. We need our primitive drive to survive and reproduce.

But the Id needs the Ego and Superego. Ceaseless desire, without reason and without a recognition for society’s norms is unsustainable and dangerous.

Yesterday I saw that my nation’s Id-In-Chief is largely unchecked. Likely, it’s even a Republican strategy to ram through unpopular legislation while there’s an unpopular President who can be blamed for it. The Ego shifts the blame to the uncontrollable Id.

Trump is unequivocally unfit for office. Congress is unequivocally unfit to check him.

Our hopes and the very fabric of this union rest now solely in The Courts.

Blockchain Explained 5 Ways

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I love this series and this episode is extremely topical as everyone’s Uncle suddenly wants to get into Bitcoin.

The conversation with the expert also reminded me of the Clay Shirky quote: “Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”

Maybe you can simplify it: “Tools don’t get interesting until they get boring.”


The Art of Monstrous Men

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Hemingway’s girlfriend, the writer Martha Gellhorn, didn’t think the artist needed to be a monster; she thought the monster needed to make himself into an artist. “A man must be a very great genius to make up for being such a loathsome human being.” (Well, I guess she would know.) She’s saying if you’re a really awful person, you are driven to greatness in order to compensate the world for all the awful shit you are going to do to it. In a way, this is a feminist revision of all of art history; a history she turns with a single acid, brilliant line into a morality tale of compensation.

Claire Dederer.

Your Manager as an Algorithm

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If nearly any task can be governed by an algorithm, that means nearly any management role can be performed by software. The white-collar jobs that were assumed to be safe from automation may in fact be even more vulnerable—and your boss’s job might be automated before yours is. Before rushing into this brave new world, managers, employees, and AI engineers should consider the benefits and failings of AI management.

We looked into algorithms as managers for Quartz.

Equal Dignity

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No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Justice Anthony Kennedy

Pixar’s Cultural Turning Point

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Catmull describes a turning point that occurred during the making Toy Story 2. People at Pixar worked long hours, seven days a week over a grueling nine-month period to complete the movie.  By the end of the nine months, one-third of the staff had repetitive stress injuries.  On one occasion, an exhausted artist forgot to drop his infant son off at day care and left him in his car parked in the broiling Pixar parking lot for three hours.  When the child was discovered, he was unconscious (fortunately he was revived). The incident traumatized Catmull and others at Pixar. It forced them to ask the question: What have we become?

Pixar had drifted into dangerous territory by putting the movie ahead of the well-being of its people. The harm done to employees, and what could have happened to the child, was a wake-up call that solidified Catmull’s core belief that people must always come first.  He identifies three reasons.  First, it’s a leader’s responsibility to protect the people he or she leads from pursuing excellence at all costs and it’s irresponsible to do otherwise.  Second, no organization is sustainable that allows harm to come to its people. The best people will not be attracted to nor remain in a culture that ignores their welfare.  Third, ideas come from people so people need to be the priority.


Moral Reflection

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By accepting this narrative of progress uncritically, imagining that technological change equals historic human betterment, many in Silicon Valley excuse themselves from moral reflection. Put simply, the progress narrative short-circuits moral reflection on the consequences of new technologies.


Big Firms Create Big Inequality

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The authors find that the relationship between the growth in the size of companies and the level of inequality holds across the rich world. They looked at data from 1981 to 2010 on wages and the size of largest firms for 15 countries in the OECD, a club mostly of rich countries. The relationship between rising levels of income inequality and the size of firms was strong.
This effect is particularly noticeable in America and Britain, where firms have grown rapidly in recent decades. In America, for instance, the number of workers employed by the country’s 100 biggest firms rose by 53% between 1986 and 2010; in Britain the equivalent figure is 43.5%. On the other hand, in places where the size of firms has not changed much, such as Sweden, or where it has shrunk, such as Denmark, wage inequality has grown much less. Part of what is perceived as a global trend towards greater disparity in wages may actually be the result of the biggest firms employing a greater share of workers.