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Removing meetings, exploratory learning, expectations vs happiness 💡
Monday Ideas — Edition #65
Hey, Luca here! Welcome to the Monday Ideas 💡
Every Monday I will send you an email like this with 3 short ideas about making great software, working with humans, and personal growth.
You will also receive a long-form, original article on Thursday, like the last one:
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1) 🪚 Removing meetings with Shopify’s COO
Shopify hit the headlines earlier this year for dramatically cutting down on meetings, canceling more than 12,000 calendar events across the org, and putting price tags on the remaining ones.
On Thursday I am going to interview Kaz Nejatian, Shopify’s COO, about how they pulled this off!
Here is what we are going to cover:
How tactical disruptions to communication channels—via their own Chaos Monkey—acted as a shock therapy for team productivity.
How to sort bad meetings from good ones.
How to create a good async+written culture that enables plenty of focus time.
How to do all of this at scale, in a public company that employs 10K+ people.
We are doing this in a live, 45min event. These events are usually exclusive to community members, but this time I am making an exception and opening it up to everybody!
You can register for the event below 👇
2) ⚖️ Exploratory vs Targeted Learning
I find it useful to organize learning experiences into two broad categories, based on your goal about them:
🔭 Exploratory — this is serendipitous learning. You learn stuff for the sake of it, driven by your curiosity.
🎯 Targeted — this is learning that is driven by some goal. You learn something because e.g. you need to perform a certain task.
As it is often the case, this is more of a spectrum than a black/white separation:
The geopolitics videos I watch over lunch are 100% exploratory.
The React Native workshop I attended years ago when we had to create our mobile app was 100% targeted.
Me looking into Remix because it looks cool and might turn out useful one day is… kind of in between.
For professional development there is a balance to be found between the two, that, to me, looks like ~80% targeted and 20% exploratory.
In fact, I believe most learning should be directed to specific goals. That’s how you are the most effective and how you should spend the most of your learning coins. However, you also want to keep some slack and encourage casual, serendipitous learning in your life and that of your teammates.
This is similar to the recommendation algorithm of Spotify — actually, I don’t know, I have no idea how it works — but I would like it to 1) 80% double down on things that I like, and 2) 20% make me discover random stuff that is different from what I listen, so I don’t corner myself into my own bubble.
As for learning modes, you want to invest in interactive experiences for targeted learning, while it is ok to go for passive, more laid back ones for exploratory stuff.
So, you wouldn’t do pair programming for learning some new exotic tech that may or may not be useful in the future. At the same time, if you have a pressing problem, reading a book isn’t probably your first choice — you may rather get interactive, personalized help by talking with a peer, or a coach.
You can find more ideas about investing in engineers’ growth in this recent article 👇
3) ☀️ Happiness = Reality – Expectations
I believe the things we have in our lives are just one piece of the happiness puzzle. The other big one is expectations.
We are happy whenever we perceive our reality to be better than how we expected it to be.
If this were an equation, it would be: Happiness = Reality – Expectations
Our brain is constantly evaluating the reality we are in, and comparing it to our expectations about such a reality. The more reality exceeds expectations, the happier we are. Conversely, the higher our expectations compared to actual reality, the more miserable we feel.
As simple as that? Not exactly, for two reasons: 1) expectations change over time, and 2) expectations lag behind reality.
Expectations change over time 📈
The tricky thing is that expectations don’t stay put — they continuously adjust to match reality.
This is both a blessing and a curse. It means that both positive and negative events in life do not necessarily result in a permanent gain or loss of happiness.
Adaptation level theory suggests that both contrast and habituation will operate to prevent the winning of a fortune from elevating happiness as much as might be expected. […] Study 1 compared a sample of 22 major lottery winners with 22 controls and also with a group of 29 paralyzed accident victims who had been interviewed previously. As predicted, lottery winners were not happier than controls and took significantly less pleasure from a series of mundane events.
The fact that our expectations adjust explains why happiness is a moving target. Such an adjustment, however, takes some time 👇
Expectations lag behind reality ⌛
Expectations tend to lag behind reality, so the faster our reality changes, the more this delta can become temporarily large, resulting in spikes or dips in happiness.
For example, winning the lottery—as in the study—results in a big (temporary) spike. Conversely, getting rich gradually, over many years, doesn’t bring nearly the same excitement.
This is like when you lose weight over a long period of time: you don’t see it when you look in the mirror. You see it when you look back at the pictures.
I wrote more thoughts about expectations and how to use them to be happier in this article last year 👇
🐺 QA Wolf
It used to take 2 years to reach high automated test coverage. Not anymore.
QA Wolf offers a cost-effective approach to getting 80% test coverage in just 4 months — even for the most complex web apps. And they include unlimited parallel runs on their testing infrastructure + 24-hour maintenance and triage.
PS: QA Wolf has multiple reviews of customers saving $480k+ on QA engineering and infrastructure costs.
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I wish you a great week! ☀️