This month I’ve been noticing how some decisions I’ve been making have been based on outdated ideas.
Some things in life are probably eternal truths (“don’t eat the yellow snow”) however others are made about things that update/ improve over time.
It all started when trying to buy a new bike helmet.
eBay doesn’t work..?
Back when I was about 14 I got scammed on eBay. I tried to buy something, the seller disappeared, my money got taken and I could never get it back.
Since then, I’ve never ventured into doing any “peer-to-peer” online purchases again, instead opting only for online stores.
I was looking to buy a bike helmet in Copenhagen, and all the new ones in shops were pretty expensive. After Googling for wear people buy second hand stuff in the city, many were recommending an online listings website called The Blue Newspaper.
… wait, maybe it does?
After searching for a bit, I found some helmets that looked fine and sent a message.
A few minutes later I started receiving replies and an hour later I was cycling over to someone’s apartment to buy a bike helmet.
The “buying experience” began on the sofa at around 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, and by 6.30pm I had a helmet that was 5x cheaper than one bought in a store.
In short, peer-to-peer had worked.
Holding on to past ideas
What I found quite interesting is the persistence of the one bad experience I had 15 years ago.
So much has happened to smoothen peer-to-peer marketplaces, however I was still holding on to notions of how it worked before you could reliably do online payments.
This led me to think about other things I decide to not to do (or have opinions of), and whether these are based on outdated information.
Nuclear reference points
Earlier in the month I was speaking to an engineer (who actually repairs engines, which seemed quite novel) about his work on shipping vessels.
The amount of oil they get through and on-board toxic waste they dump is a huge, unseen environmental hazard he was saying (he also no longer eats fish).
A solution, he said, is to have small nuclear reactors that cleanly produce more than enough energy to power the vessels.
The idea of nuclear reactors crossing the oceans in an everyday manner gave me cause for concern.
Part of the resistance to the idea, he was saying, is that most people’s reference point of nuclear technology is the tragic nuclear disasters. Whilst somewhat valid, the technology that nuclear sites like Chernobyl were built on was developed in the 1960s, and tons of innovation in nuclear power has developed since.
It’s like trying to decide whether office workers should start using laptops by evaluating the benefits/ costs of typewriters.
Updating your reference points…
The big takeaway from all of this has been to try and identify when I am relying on personal experience to make a decision, and whether that in fact needs an update.
It’s of course completely valid to not believe everything one reads, but if the rationale is based on personal experience, and that personal experience is a long time ago, then perhaps it’s worth revisiting it.
.. making the first one good
The second point is the importance of giving a good first impression. It’s probably the basis that a lot of people will hold of you for a long time.
A lot of talk in start up land is about getting customers using your product whilst it’s still scrappy/ has defects. Whilst this is definitely important in validating ideas I feel it can sometimes be overdone as companies treat “MVP” as an excuse to present something pretty lame to potential customers.
If the first experience these potential customers have is really bad (and not given context) then even if there are tons of improvements made, it might be tricky to shake that initial reference point they have.
🤔 What do you think?
- Are there any outdated reference points you think you might have?
- Are there any you’ve updated recently, and if so, what happened?
Now we’ll move on to some recommendations of things I’ve been listening to, reading etc.
- Popcorn | Have You Heard George’s Podcast?: after listening to the host (George) on another show I felt compelled to go back an relisten to George’s podcast. It got rave reviews a couple of years ago and is hard to put a genre around it. George is the son of Ugandan parents and grew up in a rough area of North West London. He got into Cambridge and turned his interest in rapping into spoken word. I’m normally one for poetry, but think this is really great.
- Permission to Feel | Unlocking Us with Brené Brown: in an effort to be a bit more in touch with my emotions (my default is to let logic do the talking) I’ve been reading up on how to improve my empathy. Most blog posts are a bit vague (“meditate”), however this interview was able to put into words some of the things I’d been struggling with. The author has a process for improving EQ which begins with being able to name and define emotions. For example, what’s the difference between anger and disappointment? The former is about injustice, the latter about unmet expectations. The book is here
- Too Much English? | The Compass: as a monoglot I’m always in awe of people speaking multiple languages, but do sometimes wonder if things would be better if we could all just speak one (and if it’s the one I can personally already speak, that’d be great, thanks). This however put forward some solid arguments against it, as well as how language use is often a lagging indicator of cultural power (see last month)
- Women creating computer games | The Conversation: I like the format of the show (two women from different countries discussing an area of expertise). Despite being fairly predictable (“it’s a male-dominated industry”) it was a good thing to hear about
- Charlie Brooker on Airplane! | Rule of Three: I discovered this one through the British Podcast Awards (great list, if looking for inspiration). It was good fun listening in on three mates geeking out about a funny film
- Why your ‘weak-tie’ friendships might mean more than you think | BBC Worklife: one thing about living in Denmark is that people have a few, very strong friendships, rather than many “shallow” friendships. This article is quite a nice reminder about the benefits of having relationships with many people in your life, even if they don’t all become BFFs
- How Amazon writes Press Releases before launching a new product | Inc: it’s a great way to clarify thoughts you might have about a new business idea. I’ve started doing it with the various new podcast projects I’m working on
- Against Environmental Pessimism | Matt Ridley: going back to the main piece this month, there are various opinions about how to tackle climate change that may not factor in technological, or other improvements. For example, articles about the environmental damage of the fashion industry are often based on dubious sources, even if the greater narrative of “cleaning up the industry” is probably a good one. Anyway, I find Matt Ridley to generally be fairly level-headed on the environment, even if his opinions (or presentation of information) is at odds with many headlines about how to tackle climate change
- Why companies should use podcasts to recruit top talent: after last month’s comment about the WeAreNetflix podcast I wrote a blog post about it. It ended up getting passed on to the Head of Employer Branding at Netflix and we’re now ̶f̶r̶i̶e̶n̶d̶s̶ LinkedIn connections
- How to delegate: I’ve been testing out a newsletter about how to delegate. The blog posts behind the newsletter are here (and you can subscribe to it here)
👬 Feedback from last month
Thanks for people who got in touch after last week’s post about whether there will be another world superpower. The Soft Power Index is an official look into how different countries rank based on culture, education etc.
This post originally featured in the newsletter I write. If you’d like to sign up to receive it at the start of each month, you can do so below: