(7/20/20) every product you use teaches you how to think

Hey all,

It’s been a while! I took a prolonged break to hit reset in a few areas of life. Excited to get back to writing to you.

I’m currently in the midst of a couple fun (and challenging) endeavors.

First, I’m taking Write of Passage, David Perell’s incredible writing course. David’s key insight: rather than push your career forward (ie present your resumé), you ought to pull it to you (build a niche audience). Embrace your personal monopoly and lead with it.

Second, I’m working with my current employer (KettleSpace) to figure out how restaurants, hotel lobbies, and event spaces in New York are going to re-open indoor activity. This has proved to be very difficult and alerted me to the reality that things may not go back to normal anytime soon.

Lastly, I’m in the early stages of getting a product design & dev studio off the ground. This has been taking up a lot of my time as of late. Very excited to share more with you.

What I’m Thinking About

Every product you use teaches you how to think. Embedded in every product we use are assumptions about how we learn.

Behold: the almighty Instant Pot!

The Instant Pot assumes a learning model, and this model does not suggest poking around to figure it out.

Instant Pot product lead Yi Qin (who previously worked on the Blackberry) claims that all these buttons allow novices to get over their fears of using a pressure cooker: “You put stuff in there and you can cook. It can lead the novice users through the door.”

The Instant Pot's learning model views variables like heat, time, and pressure level as distractions for amateurs. It is much better for a cook to hit three buttons, trust this conjuring, and wait for their food to finish cooking.

How about one of my new favorite tools: Roam Research:

Roam teaches me that thinking is unstructured and only after it is done does it get structured.

What does this mean?

I write every day in here. I use a pound sign to “tag” things that I write— in the above image, you can see I tagged this piece #product.

Behind the scenes, Roam tags every single word, too. Later, when I search for a tag, I see all my notes that reference it neatly organized. This is what my #product page looks like:

Roam teaches me that Thought is Networked. It’s pretty rad.

Last one — built by my favorite design studio 3Drops — Roadmap:

Roadmap teaches me that a task is only as important as its context. When am I planning on getting it done? What (or whose) work is this task contending with? Imagine this workflow on a team.

Roadmap teaches me that the things I do are constrained by time. I shouldn’t try to do too much at once. I can change my plans, move things around as necessary.

Also, just look how approachable and soft it is on the eyes. I learn that productivity can be a cognitively spacious place. I learn that status updates can be as simple as posting a comment.

Every product you use teaches you how to think. Many of the products around us are teaching us strange things. Some of them are making us stronger.

Bullet-Point Summaries

How to Reinvent Yourself

  1. Old Mind: passively receive instruction, memorize concepts, take lecture notes, cram for the exam, and receive a grade not directly tied to accomplishment.

  2. New Mind: actively engage with instruction, play and reconfigure concepts, shadow the practitioner, and gauge understanding through direct accomplishment.

  3. Your Mind: trust your intuitions, verify with your own observations. The long road is the ultimate shortcut.

  4. Play Kill, Fuck, Marry with the mind. Kill the Old Mind, Fuck the New Mind, and Marry Your Mind.

Feminine Energy: What Productivity is Missing

  1. The point of productivity is to do what brings you pleasure and to have more freedom.

  2. If your productivity system feels oppressive and you can’t keep up with maintaining it, it’s too rigid.

  3. Embrace the feminine side of getting shit done: journaling, not task lists; meditation, not time-tracking; rituals, not sprints; body awareness, not self-control; vision, not OKRs.

That’s all for now! Until next time.

Ammar