Busy, busy week and lots of lessons to be learned. Let’s go straight into them.
Make canvases for other people to draw on
The general idea of work is that you are doing things for yourself – for a salary, for a leg up in your career, etc. What if you frame this differently?
What if we look at our work as creating opportunity for others? Now, before this summer, I would have probably scoffed at you and given you some version of a sarcastic “OK”. But much of what I do day to day to make things that allow other people to do their jobs better.
For example, if you build a better shipping policy, it makes the customer service rep’s job much easier. They can then engage with people on things like product development and feedback (things they can actually influence) vs. shipping timelines (which is more or less out of their hands).
I can put down many such examples, but the takeaway here is this: frame this in terms of helping others.
Suboptimal is optimal
I’m an Industrial Engineer, so I get to use the word “optimize” 5-10 times a day in a un-ironic way. But lately I’ve been questioning where optimizing my use of time by filling them with activities is best policy.
This realization when I was trying to start a side project related to learning Mandarin. I’ve studied the language for a few years now and have developed a lot of personalized digital material in that process. Things like Anki flashcards and docs on grammar tricks. I wanted to go through the process of building a simple website and charging a nominal price for these. More than the money, I wanted to learn how to implement a payments backend using Stripe. I also wanted to check out how I could use a small ad fund – around $10-$50 – to promote my site on Twitter/FB/reddit.
Being in an optimization mindset, I tried to fill every inch of my time with something. This left me with no space to work on something that I was excited about. There was no time for serendipity.
This was a big realization. Moving forward, I want to build in some slack into my schedule to work on serendipitous ideas.
Eye on the prize
Over the course of 10 weeks (length of a typical summer internship), it’s easy to lose sight of the objectives.
This is not really a lesson, since everyone knows that this is important. It’s more of a gentle nudge in case you forgot.
Thanks for making it to the end of Week 7 of A Summer of Learning! Next week, the programming will be a bit erratic since I’m moving houses but hopefully I can try to stay on the money and get everything in on time 🙂