Odin Zackman on Slowing Down

My friend and colleague, Odin Zackman, is an incredible facilitator, a deep thinker, and a fantastic collaboration practitioner. He also has a way with words and is always coming up with these brilliant metaphors. Over the years, I have often found myself listening to him, thinking, “Wow! That’s really clever. I should really be writing this down.”

After almost 15 years of hearing these Odinisms and saying this to myself, I figured there was no time like the present. This morning, I found myself reflecting on a conversation we had had last week on the importance of slowing down. Odin said we often confuse slowing down with going slower, whereas he compared it to shifting gears on a bicycle. Here’s my rendition of what he said:

A Special Moment Between Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff

At yesterday’s U.S. Open third-round match, Naomi Osaka — the number one ranked women’s tennis player in the world — beat 15-year old prodigy, Coco Gauff, in straight sets (6-3, 6-0). It was totally expected, and most sports outlets didn’t even bother covering this early round match.

Then Osaka did something wonderful. She asked Gauff to join her for her post-match interview, which is generally reserved for the winner of the match. As Soraya Nadia McDonald of The Undefeated wrote:

“Naomi asked me to do the on-court interview with her and I said no, because I knew I was going to cry the whole time, but she encouraged me to do it,” Gauff said during the televised interview, still wiping away tears. “It was amazing. She did amazing and I’m going to learn a lot from this match. She’s been so sweet to me.”

What a moment — so raw, so genuine, so vulnerable and sweet, made even more so by the fact that Osaka, too, began to choke up as she made a point to praise Gauff’s parents, Candi and Corey.

“You guys raised an amazing player,” Osaka, 21, said. “I remember I used to see you guys — I don’t wanna cry — I remember I used to see you guys training in the same place as us. For me, the fact that both of us made it, and we’re both still working as hard as we can, I think it’s incredible. I think you guys are amazing, and I think, Coco, you’re amazing.”

As McDonald later wrote:

But Osaka’s actions did something else, too. Osaka took the love her hero, Serena Williams, expressed for her in an essay in the July issue of Harper’s Bazaar and paid it forward. Intentional or not, black girl magic became black girl solidarity. And it happened at the site of the ugliest championship finish in US Open history, when Osaka defeated Williams a year ago to win her first Grand Slam, only to have the event marred by boos directed toward official Carlos Ramos.

In a text message to Osaka, which Williams published in her essay, Williams wrote: “I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete. I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan!”

Louisa Thomas of The New Yorker added (hat tip to Mark Szpakowski for the link):

What Osaka did after the match has been called an example of sportsmanship, but that doesn’t do it justice. It wasn’t a nice word of encouragement as she and Gauff hugged at net, or a few gracious comments as she addressed the crowd. It was an act of compassion. It was also unusual, and a little awkward, and brave, in its way. It probably mattered that Osaka had been there herself, standing in Arthur Ashe Stadium in tears the year before, although under very different circumstances, after a controversial coaching violation was issued to her opponent, Serena Williams. It certainly mattered that Osaka was one of the few people alive who knew what it was like to be a young woman of color at this level of tennis in 2019, an outsider in a traditionally clubby sport; to be a young person surrounded by people who want to make money off of her (and wanting to make money herself); to feel the intensity of the spotlight—warmed by it one moment, burned by it the next. She knew what it was like to lose a big match. She knew the tears. She knew the lonely shower. More than once during the U.S. Open, she has said that something about Gauff reminds her of herself. There was a protective solidarity in that moment.

But it was also generous, and it included everyone: the crowd, though much of it had not been cheering for Osaka during the match, and also people hundreds or thousands of miles away watching at home. (I felt it, certainly.) In 2019, kindness feels like a political act, perhaps especially in the context of competition. I thought, as I watched, of something that Gauff had said about Osaka: “I think she shows us how to compete, and the way to be off the court, too.”

Pretty great things happening from some pretty great leaders in women’s tennis right now.

As a little bonus, The New York Times Magazine recently did a great profile on Venus Williams, in many ways the matron of this current generation of exceptional black women tennis players.

Two Seconds a Day in August 2019

I’ve been saying this practically every month, especially when I’m not traveling or when I don’t have any significant events, so there’s probably a lesson here, but I wasn’t sure I was going to do a video this month, and I’m delighted that I did. This little project is such a great reminder of everyday beautiful moments, and how lucky I am in general.

My friend, Seb Paquet, who made an appearance in my June video, decided to do his own video this month. It was intriguing watching all of the wonderful life moments in his video, and it made me wonder about the little moments in all of my friends’ lives. My nephew, Elliott, has also been doing one, and I can’t wait to see what his looks like.

And now, here we all are, two thirds of the way through 2019. Even if I don’t do another video, I’m grateful for the memories I have of this past year. (But I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be a September video.)

Here are my previous videos:

A Happy Information Hygiene Moment (and a Great Explanation of the Backfire Effect)

Yesterday, my sister shared this Oatmeal comic that wonderfully explains the backfire effect, the phenomenon where seeing evidence that contradicts our beliefs hardens those beliefs rather than changes our minds.

I love The Oatmeal for its engaging and often humorous visual explanations of important concepts. (XKCD and Nicky Case are also brilliant at this.) My sister knows this, and asked me if I had seen it before. Even though I loved this one, it didn’t ring a bell.

So I did what I try to do in situations like this. Rather than just file it away in my Evernote (where I have thousands of clippings that I almost never see again), I went to record it on the human perception page under “Confirmation Bias” on the Faster Than 20 wiki. To my delight, I found that I not only had seen it before, but I had already captured it on my wiki!

It’s a practice I call good information hygiene (a term coined by my colleague, Chris Dent). When we do it well, we’re not just filing things away where we can find them, we are continually synthesizing what we’re consuming. The act of integrating it into a larger knowledge repository is not only good information hygiene, but is also a critical part of sensemaking. Doing it once is great, but doing it multiple times (as Case and my colleague, Catherine Madden, have also explained beautifully) makes it more likely to stick.

Here’s another, simpler example that doesn’t involve a wiki and may feel more accessible to folks tool-wise. In my late 20s, I met Tony Christopher through my mentor, Doug Engelbart. We had such a great conversation, when I got home, I wanted to make sure to enter his contact information immediately into my contact database. When I opened it, to my surprise, he was already in there! I had very briefly met him at an event a few years earlier, and I had recorded a note saying how much I had enjoyed that short interaction.

I love when moments like this happen, because it shows that my tools and processes are making me smarter, and it motivates me to stay disciplined. I wish that tool developers today focused more on supporting these kinds of behaviors rather than encouraging more fleeting engagement with information.

iPad as a Production vs Consumption Device

A few years ago, I bought a first generation iPad Pro 9.7 and Apple Pencil primarily as a work device. I was drawing a lot more as part of my work, both as a way to help myself make sense of things and to communicate ideas to others more effectively.

The iPad has been amazing for this. I find myself using it more and more as my primary work device — a few times out of necessity, but often by choice.

I also use it as passive consumption device as well — reading articles, watching movies, etc. One thing I’ve noticed is that using my iPad to create — whether it’s sketching, writing, or annotating something I’m reading — uses far more battery (I’d guess 3-4 times as much) than using it to consume.

Even though it’s a minor inconvenience (the iPad has excellent battery life either way), I find this delightful. When I’ve been sketching or writing for a few hours, and I see that I’ve used up 40 percent of my battery life, I get a little endorphin jolt — a tiny reward for making, not just consuming.