Why the Internet Is Flat and Remote Work's Narrative War

💌 Roundup // 026

👋 Welcome to the latest issue of The Jungle Gym – the newsletter that helps you build a more fulfilling career by integrating your work and life.

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Last time I wrote to you, I was pretty sure I’d be a dad by now. It turns out that Sprout (our still in-utero son) had other plans. So, we wait…

While I’m really excited to be a dad, I must say these last few days have been a gift. Ash and I are both finally vaccinated and have treated ourselves to some great meals out (for those in SF, we particularly loved Ernest). Meanwhile, I’ve spent my free hours writing, reading and taking walks with friends. The unstructured time feels more precious than I can ever remember.

For those wondering what I’m doing about parental leave, I decided to take 6 weeks upfront and then use the other 6 once our son is 5-6 months old. Guild is super parent-friendly and has been great about helping me navigate the transition.

With that said, the psychology of preparing for parental leave is wild. You are simultaneously trying to ensure your projects don’t blow up while reinforcing your irreplaceability to your colleagues. Is there risk in documenting your secret sauce? What does it say about you if the junior person on your team out-performs you? 

Questions like these definitely demand a dedicated Jungle Gym post, and I’m planning to write one. If you’ve had an interesting experience preparing for or returning from parental leave, I’d love to hear about it (obviously, I will anonymize anything sensitive).

Okay, let’s get into it. In this issue of the Roundup, I’ll be riffing on:

  • 👤 Seeing candidates clearly

  • 💼 Impact-driven career choices

  • 👬 How many friends you can keep

  • 📖 Remote work’s narrative war

  • 🌐 Why the internet is flat

Riffs & Recommendations

Some reflections on the best content I’ve been consuming lately.

👤 What’s going on here with this human?

31-minute read from Graham Duncan

The hardest part about making good hiring decisions is seeing other people clearly. Who is this person sitting in front of me? What is she great at? What does she love to do? These questions are hard to answer about ourselves, let alone strangers.

Experienced managers, who’ve conducted a lot of interviews, aren’t necessarily any better at evaluating candidates than new managers. That’s because humans are hard to read, and it’s easy to get overconfident once you’ve made a few good choices.

The best hiring managers don’t try to figure out whether a candidate they is an “A-player.” Instead, they try to discover what job this person was put on this earth to do and whether it happens to match any of the roles they are trying to fill.

💼 Impact = Environment x Skills: How to make career decisions

8 minute read from Bangaly Kaba

Optimizing your career for compensation isn’t always straightforward. Should you take the lower-paying job for a chance to earn greater upside? Is it worth getting paid less at a well-known company to benefit from its brand halo? 

This post argues that instead of focusing on comp, you should make career choices that optimize for impact. While increasing your impact isn’t always correlated with increasing compensation, it tends to be a good proxy. Employees who are making an impact tend to: 

  • Learn valuable skills

  • Gain useful experiences

  • Impress important people, and 

  • Generate leverage they can use to negotiate for higher comp.

The post takes this simple idea and builds out a robust framework for making impactful career choices.

Impact = Environment x Skills

What this means is:

  1. We need to solve for impact

  2. Impact is the product of our Environment and our Skills

  3. If our skills are great but our environment is wrong (or vice versa), then we aren’t set up for success.

👬 You Can Only Maintain So Many Close Friendships

7 minute read by Sheon Han

You’ve probably heard of Dunbar’s Number described as something like the “cognitive limit to the number of relationships a single person can maintain.” What you may not know is that Dunbar’s number isn’t just a single number. It’s a series of numbers that suggest how many people we can sustain different levels of intimacy with.

The innermost layer of 1.5 is [the most intimate]; clearly that has to do with your romantic relationships. The next layer of five is your shoulders-to-cry-on friendships. They are the ones who will drop everything to support us when our world falls apart. The 15 layer includes the previous five, and your core social partners. They are our main social companions, so they provide the context for having fun times. They also provide the main circle for exchange of child care. We trust them enough to leave our children with them. The next layer up, at 50, is your big-weekend-barbecue people. And the 150 layer is your weddings and funerals group who would come to your once-in-a-lifetime event.

The layers come about primarily because the time we have for social interaction is not infinite. You have to decide how to invest that time, bearing in mind that the strength of relationships is directly correlated with how much time and effort we give them.

📖 A Working Narrative

6 minute read from Rusty Guinn

A lot of airtime these days is being taken up by narrative warfare around the topic of remote work.

On one side are the narratives that remote work is here to stay. On the other are proclamations that the death of the office has been greatly exaggerated. What’s clear is that the former narrative is winning, and the latter is losing.

That’s not necessarily because remote work will be good for the average American knowledge worker (I personally expect that the gains in freedom will be offset by the wage pressure of global competition). Rather it’s because the “remote work is here to stay” narrative has latched on to other emotionally triggering issues like labor exploitation, capitalism, and corporate greed.

As always, just because one side of the debate manages to co-opt a sympathetic narrative doesn’t mean it's on the right side of history.

🌐 The internet is flat

8 minute read by Charlie Warzel

Before the internet overtook our identities, it was relatively easy to distance ourselves from our own outdated opinions. Now and then, a politician’s old college newspaper article might resurface and damage his credibility, but that usually required a dedicated team of opposition researchers. 

But now, in the age of social media, our poorly-aged ideas follow us forever, waiting for any ammature oppo researcher with the time and interest to surface them.

Who you were a year ago, or five years ago, or decades ago, is flattened into who you are now. Time has collapsed and everything is in the present because it takes microseconds to pull up online.

As the article points out, this dynamic leaves little room for the type of personal evolution that is core to the human condition.

Friends of the Newsletter

Some great projects and pieces of writing from friends of the Jungle Gym:

Stuff from me you may have missed

The content calendar is a little off this month so I haven’t written any new posts that weren’t promoted in the previous issue. In lieu of that, I’ll share one of my Tweets that got some decent traction:

You can always explore the back catalog of this newsletter by topic or find a curated list of the best essays I’ve written.

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,