Thinking Caps

Are we anything but the roles we play? Be it at home, work, or play, we wear a dozen hats: Parent, friend, volunteer, manager, peer, runner, stamp collector. We might be more than the sum of our roles, but the hats we wear determine our perspective. Thinking about our roles as hats lets us change […]

A Square Sees a Sphere

I have this strange little book on my shelf called Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott. It’s not a particularly good book, but I keep it around because I love the premise: A square sees a sphere. The square’s perception of the third dimension is limited to the bounds of his reality in the […]

Lindy Effect

“Older is better.” When I lived in California, I drove a 19-year-old truck with electrical issues. I took it to a few mechanics, but they all refused to fix it since the car wouldn’t meet emissions standards. Ironically, if I could keep the truck alive for another year, it could become a “classic,” immune from […]

Locksmith Paradox

“Faster value is perceived as worse.” I once slept in a Walmart parking lot in West Virginia. Late that night, I arose to use the restroom and locked myself out of my car, sealing my keys, phone, and wallet inside. I wandered into the store, and a cashier was kind enough to call me a […]

Potemkin Village

To impress Empress Catherine II during her journey to Crimea in 1787, Grigory Potemkin supposedly built fake, portable villages along her route. His people would disassemble the structures after she passed and re-assemble them farther along her path, making his village appear larger than it was. A “Potemkin village” is a vanity display to make […]

The Tokyo Effect

Tokyo has ~14M people, making it the largest city on Earth. It has thousands of unique stores, like Ma-suya Azabu-Juban—a shop that only sells salt. A store like this couldn’t exist in an average city (like my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan) because the place wouldn’t get enough foot traffic to find customers interested in its […]

Stonecutter vs. Mechanic

The other week, my friend and I went skiing on Mount Baker—a glaciated volcano near the Canadian border. We cruised along gravel roads until I hit a pothole and broke the undercarriage cover off my Prius. I needed to hold up the cover to return home, so I kept adding duct tape until nothing moved. […]

The Overton Window

What is tolerable to the public? What will 80% of people tolerate? The Overton Window defines the answer to these questions as it sets the acceptable range of ideas in culture. Both sides of the political aisle and major media companies—no matter how different they seem—share ideas within a relatively narrow scope. The public (or […]

In What Context?

You pass an old mare at pasture as you approach the farmhouse-style tech office. You enter the office and head to the conference room. “We should kill it.” You hear. “Yeah, it’s old, and no one uses it anymore, and it wastes resources keeping it live.” “Agreed. Becky, let’s kill HORSE.” “Don’t kill the horse!” […]

Inversion is Not

Inversion is not thinking forward. It’s thinking backward. Inversion is not pursuing positive outcomes. It’s avoiding negative inputs. Inversion is not converging. It’s diverging. Inversion is an approach to solving problems by flipping the direction. Let’s say a company wants to increase employee output. Their first approach is to mandate office attendance to better monitor labor. An […]

Cosmic Insignificance

I once set Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” as my phone background because I thought the grainy photograph would put my problems into perspective. Then I deleted it because it was ugly. Cosmic insignificance therapy is an idea by Oliver Burkeman that follows a similar line of thinking. By broadening your perspective on the cosmos, everything in […]

Six Blind Folks

Six blind folks bump into a mysterious thing. Out of curiosity, they grope it. Person 1 feels its trunk: “It’s soft and long. It’s a snake!” Person 2 feels its ear: “Feels flat and floppy to me. It’s a hand fan.” Person 3 feels its leg: “Nah, it’s tall, round, and rough. It’s a tree […]