The Disadvantages of an Elite Education and Producing Artifacts of Your Work
💌 The Roundup // 024
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I’m seven weeks away from fatherhood.
For those curious about my mental state, I’m balancing two emotions:
Anxiety that I’m going to lose control of my systems and goals
Excitement that I’m about to unlock a whole new part of the human experience
In some ways, having a baby feels like prematurely increasing the difficulty level of the game of life, before I’ve managed to beat it on easy mode.
But, ultimately, that’s the wellspring of personal growth.
A few books I’ve been reading:
The Courage to Be Disliked – Based on the title I assumed this book was for jerks who wanted to rebrand their jerkish-ness as “courage.” Boy, was I wrong. Instead, it’s a profound exploration of Adlerian psychology – a philosophy that helps people take radical responsibility for their lives.
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership – I decided to re-read 15 Commitments after getting a lot out of Living from a Place of Surrender. As I suspected, these two books paired really well together, and have really changed the way I’m showing up at work these days.
Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood – This book was a good reminder that it takes practice to become a good dad.
A new social platform I’m using:
I recently started curating content on a new social platform called Faves. As someone who consumes and shares a lot of reading material, I’ve noticed that few social networks are set up to reward curation.
Faves seems to have cracked this in a pretty clever way.
When I share and editorialize content, the network rewards the engagement I generate by showing users an ad for this newsletter, which keeps me motivated to share more.
Thus far, I’ve found the network surfaces quality content recs and features a set of impressive curators. If you want early access I have a limited number of invites to share with readers of the newsletter.
As of yesterday, The Jungle Gym passed a big milestone: 3000 subscribers!
To those of you who supported this newsletter by reading and sharing it – thank you. I have plenty more interesting topics in store for the coming months. Excited to have you all along for the ride.
Now, let’s get into it. In this issue of the Roundup, I’ll be riffing on:
🎓 Disadvantages of an elite education
⚙️ The purpose of upskilling
🎨 Content versus art
👏 The risks of building an audience
🧵 Drowning in quality content
🗓 Producing artifacts of your work
Riffs & Recommendations
Some reflections on the best content I’ve been consuming lately.
24-minute read from William Deresiewicz
Anti-elitism is in the air these days. As the Left lashes out against those holding “too much wealth” the Right maligns those who serve as “gatekeepers of the culture.” To avoid aspersions, anyone who might be identified as elite is furiously bolstering their populist credentials.
As a holder of a fancy MBA degree, living in San Francisco, I don’t pretend I can throw off the yolk of my own elite-ness. But, I do hope I can rid myself of some of the less desirable traits that have been instilled in me by elite institutions. Deresiewicz names some particularly salient ones including:
The belief that intelligence is a measure of value
Addiction to success and fear of failure
The sense that we are entitled to and deserving of power
Doing things for recognition and reward rather than for the sake of the activity
Instead of trying to conceal our elite roots, perhaps we should try to make ourselves more deserving of the label?
3-minute read from Annie Lowrey
Another bad trait of elites is a tendency to dub those who aren’t telling computers what to do as “low-skill.”
Cooks, factory workers, and retail employees often possess plenty of hard-to-build skills. The problem is that these skills aren’t rare or valuable enough to command a high salary.
This is why upskilling is important. Not to take workers from “low-skill” to “high-skill” but to bring them from “low-wage” to “high-wage.”
10-minute read from Thomas J Bevan
What’s the distinction between content and art?
Unlike art, content wants something from you.
Tweets want to be retweeted. Podcasts desire downloads. Whitepapers require your email.
Content is simply an infomercial for itself, for its creator, perpetually and forever. Which is why content binges bring about this vague unease and sensation of being trapped in a mirrored maze where you and your chosen content guru are shouting affirmations at your own refracted and distorted reflections.
5-minute read from Jacob Greenfeld
Long-time readers have probably encountered my take that an engaged audience makes for a good career moat. But that doesn’t mean building an audience isn’t without its costs.
Those seeking fame as a means to accomplish something important would do well to remember that the rewards of recognition are seductive. If you aren't careful, fame can transform from the means to achieve your goal into the end goal itself.
5-minute read from Oliver Burkeman
The challenge of navigating our information ecosystem isn’t filtering out low-quality content– it’s not having enough hours in the day to absorb the overwhelming volume of high-quality content.
My challenge, information-wise, isn't about finding a needle in a haystack. It's that I'm confronted on a daily basis by "haystack-sized piles of needles."
For those wrestling with this challenge, I’d suggest timeboxing your content consumption. Start with whatever seems most interesting and allow anything you miss to get buried in your feed. If it’s life-changing, assume it will resurface at some point in the future.
17-minute read from Patrick McKenzie
Knowledge workers typically spend their working hours in one of three ways:
Doing the work (completing tasks, meetings, etc.)
Performing the job (socializing accomplishments, managing expectations)
Career navigation (external networking, professional brand building)
While doing great work is a prerequisite to success– it’s rarely sufficient. To benefit from your good work, you also need to market your output to people whose opinions matter.
Internal marketing mostly involves making sure your boss and your boss’ boss have some visibility into your output. External marketing can be much trickier but is no less important. Patrick McKenzie advises software engineers about how to accomplish this:
Establish an expectation early that you're simply going to talk about what you're doing. I think at Fog Creek / Stack Exchange they call this "producing artifacts" -- conference presentations, blog posts, OSSed software, and the like, centered around the work. Even at very open companies there exists lots of secret sauce, but most of the valuable work of the company is not particularly sensitive, and much of it has widely generalizable lessons. Write about those lessons as you learn them. If at all possible, publish what you write. Even if it is published to an audience of no one, you will be able to point people back to it later.
Producing public-facing artifacts of your work is a good idea no matter what function you are in. Increasingly, as companies turn their brands into platforms, I expect we will see more opportunities for employees to make their work legible to the outside world.
Friends of the Newsletter
Some great projects and pieces of writing from friends of the Jungle Gym:
Good Slides Reduce Complexity (by Tom Critchlow) if your job involves communicating complex ideas in visually engaging ways, I’d highly recommend giving Tom’s newsletter a read.
On Deck Investing Fellowship (with Tom White and Kyla Scanlon) is a 10-week fellowship to learn from some smart people about the public markets, investor psychology, and how to create long-term wealth. Having gotten to know Tom and Kyla over the past year, it’s hard to imagine two better people to lead this fellowship.
Stuff from me you may have missed
Here’s what I wrote about since the last Roundup:
The Learning Loop of Knowledge Work was a good primer for individuals or companies that are trying to navigate our overwhelming information ecosystem.
Spotting trends in a fast-changing world profiles David Mattin who shares some trends that he expects will play a big role in shaping our shared future.
Understanding Value is a “tweet syllabus” that shares some of the best resources I’ve found on understanding the topic of value.
Thanks for reading. Do you have a friend or a co-worker who would enjoy this issue? I’d be honored if you shared this with them or amplified it on one of your social networks.
Until next time,