The Mythical Mother Month

Clarence wants a baby. Clarence reasons that a baby requires nine months of effort, so rather than one woman spending nine months, he could have nine women spending one month. Since Clarence doesn’t want to wait nine months for his wife to give birth, he gathers eight other women into a room and tells them […]

Cheap, Fast, and Good

People want an excellent product delivered quickly for a low price. But it often becomes a “you pick two” scenario. If it’s good and fast, it won’t be cheap (i.e., luxury cars) If it’s good and cheap, it won’t be fast (i.e., non-profit projects) If it’s cheap and fast, it won’t be good (i.e., fast […]

Alligators & Kittens

A sad woman in Louisiana loves kittens, as their little meows fill her with joy. So, she adopts a dozen kittens and brings them to her house in the bayou, which is crawling with alligators. These slimy reptiles make her sad and stressed, so the kittens are a welcome relief. But after a few days, […]

Don’t be caught by the passive voice

Passive voice is objectively wrong in any writing—business, academic, or artistic. Edge cases exist, but the passive voice is often unclear, imprecise, and disempowering. Language represents an underlying philosophy, so shift language to represent philosophy better. We are not objects acted upon by the world; we are subjects that act upon the world. To avoid passive voice, start with […]

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 […]

Shaving Yaks

A man wants to buy bananas, but his car has a flat. He needs his air pump but remembers he lent it to his neighbor. He can’t ask his neighbor for it because he hasn’t returned his neighbor’s jacket. He can’t return the jacket because he ripped it last week. He can’t fix the jacket […]

Four-Blade Razor

“Razors” are critical thinking tools designed to “shave away” complexity, and some are especially useful. Stay sharp with Turtle’s new four-blade razor! Occam’s Razor: The simplest explanation is often the best. Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to laziness. Hitchen’s Razor: If asserted without evidence, it can be dismissed without evidence. […]

Hairy Arms

Asha is a young marketer pushing the boundaries for extraterrestrial fashion. Little green people have immigrated to Earth, but humans struggle to accept them. To build empathy, Asha wants to promote the green people in her company’s upcoming fall collection. However, her boss is prejudiced and always gives feedback before launching a campaign. So, Asha […]

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 […]

Temperature Check

Weather is the universal small talk. Don’t let your struggles with temperature conversion force deeper conversation! Americans use Fahrenheit. It’s people-based, so 0 feels objectively cold, and 100 feels objectively hot. Everyone else uses Celsius. It’s water-based, so freezing occurs at 0, and boiling occurs at 100. When you speak with people who use the […]

Beware the Bike Shed

Engineers gather to discuss two designs: One for a nuclear reactor and one for a bike shed. The reactor discussion is smooth and short, as people nod in agreement. But the bike shed discussion lasts for hours as engineers sketch layouts, discuss paint colors, and think critically about building materials. Bike-shedding (a.k.a. The Law of […]

The road to hell is sloppily paved in adverbs

Words are alchemy. They transfer abstract thought from your head to another head and can change the material world. Clear writing makes that alchemy more effective and you, the alchemist, more interesting. To make your writing clear: Cut adverbs. Adverbs describe verbs (i.e., quickly, loosely, happily), so beware words ending in -ly. They’re a crutch […]

Color Coordination for Dummies

We’re all designers. Whether we create slide decks, flyers, or menus, it’s helpful to learn design basics—like color. When done right, color elevates content. When done wrong, it tarnishes credibility. A few tips to get color right: Align to values. In Western cultures, blue = trust/safety, green = nature/cleanliness, red = life/energy. Less is more. […]

The Asymmetric Crab

The crab is an interesting model for knowledge work. Building a large Crusher claw—high self-sufficiency—can lead to professional advantages, such as increased productivity, more autonomy, and a unique skill set. A self-sufficient professional could spend 90% of their time on independent work with direct value: research, writing, designing, coding, etc. Their 10% remaining time and energy could be spent helping others.

Two Lists

The Two Lists acknowledge that everything has a cost. Even junk like a free t-shirt takes up real estate in your drawer, saps mental energy as you actively decide whether to wear it each day, incites guilt as you throw it out, or wastes time as you bring it to Goodwill. It’s an easy concept to overlook, but not creating a List B could come at the cost of List A.

Bones Before Flesh

and maybe prosper. Writing is scary because it’s unstructured: A writer has a sheet of paper and twenty-six letters to craft anything she wants. With so much gray area, freedom mutates into uncertainty, uncertainty leads to scariness, scariness leads to avoidance, avoidance leads to procrastination, and procrastination is the death of creativity.

How to Play Euchre

Let’s understand gameplay. Euchre is a trick-playing game, which means players take turns laying a card from their hand, and the highest card laid wins the trick. For instance: If 9 of clubs, 10 of clubs, queen of clubs, and ace of clubs are played, the player with the ace wins.
I have a theory that multimedia—props, images, videos, audio clips—can be a crutch for unclear thinking, like copious salt and pepper masking the flavor of a gross dinner. For instance, slide-decks are often plagued by sloppy thinking but are sneakily digestible due to pictures and flashy charts. Although I’m a visual person, I like the challenge of explaining a complex concept with words alone. So, here it goes.

Don’t Miss Two

This summer, my dad and I visited Carlsbad Caverns. That place is the physical manifestation of cavernous: Cathedral-like ceilings, “bottomless” pits, and rooms the size of city parks. Stalactites and stalagmites decorate these caverns like statues in a museum. Stalagmites (the ones on the ground) are towers that formed one calcium droplet at a time. The plunk, plunk, plunk of the droplets echoed through the caverns—slowly sculpting stalagmites for thousands of years. This commitment was nothing short of awesome. It inspired me: If little droplets could create giant sculptures, why can’t a person write a book?

Pomodoro

A Machiavellian businesswoman answers her own question: “How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.” A middle-school teacher smiles at a poster beside the whiteboard: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” An old writer pens the advice of her deceased father: “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” A book is written one word at a time—nothing novel there. And writing one word isn’t hard at all, yet it’s easy to go days or weeks without penning a damn thing.

Draft One

thought those plants might eat me after I printed all 276 pages at Office Depot. Months of typing into my computer now manifest in the physical world. Lots of paper, ink, and words. I didn’t know if they were good but holding them gave me a sort of validation. My effort produced something.

Doorstops

April 2021. Mount Hood, Oregon – A midnight alarm stirs me from my bunk at the Timberline Lodge. There’s a wall of snow outside the window, making the wood-walled chalet especially dark. A prime setting for a Stephen King novel (and incidentally the exterior filming location of The Shining). I fumble for the sink, and when I turn on the light, I cringe—expecting to find REDRUM scrawled on the mirror. Not today, I think, staring at the glass of murder movies. Not today.

os28

I turned 28 last week. Late-twenties are an odd age—a major fork in life’s road. For some career-oriented urbanites, 30 is the new 20. For other family-oriented suburbanites, the biological clock is ticking. Men’s testosterone declines, s0 the window for fathering healthy kids shrinks. This mindset triggers a domino effect of activities: Marriage, home-ownership, career settling, and so on. While both the Barney Stinson and Marshall Eriksen views on age are valid, it’s a false dichotomy that leaves little room for the nuances that make life interesting. That said, there’s an objectivity to age.

Death of Default

The Palm Springs of Washington… While Miranda Cosgrove didn’t share this view, I appreciated the analogy. Yakima’s a little desert town, a quick weekend escape from a West Coast metropolis. When my girlfriend and I visited the other weekend, we enjoyed hikes on the rolling hills, a farm-based brewery, and the glacier-fed river that cut through town. I especially enjoyed my experience at a local espresso stand.