October Newsletter

This is the newsletter sent out to my mailing list at the start of October 2020. If any of these topics interest you and you’d like me to go more in-depth, let me know!

Slow Burn at the Buffer

After watching Tiago Forte and Ali Abdaal’s deep dive into the “second brain” concept I read Tiago’s posts on the Theory of Constraints and started exploring the intersection between “slow burn” and a “buffer before the bottleneck”.

In short, the Theory of Constraints states that the only way for a system to work at full capacity is for the bottleneck — or lowest capacity stage of a system — to always be working at full capacity, regardless of how little capacity other stages are working at. This involves optimizing not just the bottleneck itself but the entire system around the bottleneck’s abilities and role. For stages “upstream” or leading to the bottleneck, that means allowing work to accumulate before the bottleneck so that it remains active at all times.

Merging this with the idea of “slow burn” or incremental work, instead of working on projects from start to finish, we allow ideas to accumulate slowly and spontaneously by creating and keeping “containers” for those ideas and topics of interest. When there’s an opening within the bottleneck to accept new work, we can then pick from any of these containers full of content and ideas and push it through to the next stage.

The bottleneck will be different for each person and each type of work, but it will usually be whatever stage in the process is the most time/energy consuming. It’s the unavoidable “heavy lift” or deep work which requires our full attention. But the more we can do before that stage, the easier it will be.

Community Learning

Imagine the collective learning power our communities and interest groups could have if we were a bit more intentional about our consumption and our sharing of knowledge.

This time it was Tiago’s guide to summarizing books that got me thinking about the possibilities of “crowdsource learning” and creating cumulative and curated knowledge within our communities.

The idea is simple. Within groups that share specific interest, individuals take on the “job” of consuming different pieces of media that are of interest to the group. Each individual then crafts a summary of that piece of media and shares it with the group. Now the whole group can benefit from that piece of media without having to engage directly with it. From there each individual can make informed decisions about whether or not it would benefit them to engage with it directly (and write their own summary), or consume some other related media (and write a summary on that instead).

We live in an age where there is too much information for any one person, or even a group to consume. This way, the collective knowledge of the group can increase very quickly and they can engage in much more interesting and constructive discussions.

Fleeing is Not the Answer

Ever since @CriticalBard‘s #BLACKAF Roundtable Part 3 aired on his Twitch channel, I’ve been thinking a lot about,

  • what it takes to improve communities,
  • the internal work that needs to be done in existing communities, and
  • having or lacking the privilege to walk away from communities that are toxic or problematic.

(This was originally in the context of the struggle Black people face constantly and is still very much about that. But the same applies to other marginalized identities and communities, so this is written more broadly.)

Too often, marginalized public figures are reproached or shamed for staying within a space that has shown itself to be toxic or problematic. But we forget that the presence of those marginalized people in those spaces is itself a hard-earned win. We often don’t have the luxury of walking away because we need those positions, contracts, jobs, etc. just to survive.

And then there’s the very important question of “if marginalized people who represent and carry a challenge to the status quo vacate this space, who will fill it? The answer is, as we’ve seen repeatedly, privileged people who seek to uphold that status quo. Nothing will change.

Plus there’s the difficulty of creating our own spaces outside of those mainstream ones where we’re often competing directly with long-established powerhouses. It’s simply not always an option for us. But it is the job of those more privileged to reject and leave those spaces, and create newer and better ones that don’t require marginalized people to put themselves at risk.

It may be necessary at times for marginalized individuals to leave those spaces for the sake of safety and well-being, but it cannot always be the answer and we need to accept when it isn’t. There has to be someone left within the spaces to push for change. We cannot abandon them all to the “tyranny of the majority.”

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