Wisdom From a Harvard Cognitive Psychologist

Courtesy of a brilliant man on Reddit in response to the question, “Do you find your understanding of the mind negatively affects your own happiness? I mean does your deterministic outlook sometimes make life seem arbitrary and pointless to you, and elation just some chemical reaction.”

Quite the opposite — I find a naturalistic understanding of human nature to be indispensable to leading a wise and mature life, and it is often exhilarating. Wisdom consists in appreciating the preciousness and finiteness of our own existence, and therefore not squandering it; of being cognizant of what makes people everywhere tick, and therefore enhancing happiness and minimizing suffering; of being alert to limitations and flaws in our own judgments and decisions and passions, and thereby doing our best to circumvent them. The exhilaration comes from understanding that we are a part of natural world; that deep mysteries can be explained; and that the world — including our own mental lives — can be intelligible, rather than a source of superstition and ignorance. Yes, mortality sucks, but given that it exists, I’d rather know that than be kept in a childlike state of delusion.

It’s Not Shit.

A friend shared this post by Julie Zhuo today and I love it. My favorite portions (which I know is most of her already short post):

Where is the empathy? That meeting was not scheduled for the sole purpose of wasting your time. Executives do not sit at their desks stroking hairless cats, murmuring Yes, Percival, yes… We’ll stun them with a decision so bad, so unfathomably awful they won’t know what hit them!

Now, clearly, some things are a better use of your time than others. Some people’s opinions you’ll weigh more heavily. You won’t always agree with all the feedback you get, and progress won’t always be like a puck sailing over smooth ice.

Take a deep breath. It’s not Shit. It’s the energy and chaos and spirit of People Doing what they Honestly Believe is the Best Thing They Could Be Doing. It’s trying and sometimes failing and learning in the process. It’s not perfect but what person or job or life is? Close your eyes and trust.

And if you find you can’t, if it’s simply impossible to muster the belief that you’re not surrounded by shit, then maybe it’s time to seek greener pastures. Because why on earth would you insist on staying somewhere that rains feces all the time?

Who hasn’t been on both the giving and receiving end of perceived shit at one time or another? Given the nature of my work, I often feel like I’m on the giving end of  it. Those in the legal/policy/safety space often have a bad rap, and I get it. However, while it might suck to have to spend a bit more time than intended hammering out the details of a feature, I promise it’s for good reason. If it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t bother. Usually we’re looking out for the product and its users (preventing abuse) as well as the company (mitigating risk). Bottom line: it’s important to remember that we’re all part of the same team with the shared goal of kicking ass!