👋 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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One of the magic things about spending time with a newborn is how invested they are in reality. Babies don’t care about abstractions like what you “do for a living” or drama on the internet. Their attention is fully captured by real activities like eating, sleeping, and, of course pooping.
As someone who often spends too much time online or in my head, Coop has had a really great impact on my psyche. It turns out that when a creature depends on you for survival, silly games matter a whole lot less.
All that is to say, it’s been an exhausting and exhilarating 6 weeks. During feedings and diaper changes, I’ve also managed to get through a few excellent audiobooks, including:
The War of Art – All about how to battle the resistance that prevents you from doing creative work
Breath – It turns out that the simple act of breathing has so many more health implications than I ever realized
Countdown – This book illuminates how the endocrine-disrupting chemicals in our environment are wreaking havoc on human reproduction. This is a must-read for anyone who has or wants to have children
Okay, let’s get into it. In this issue of the Roundup, I’ll be riffing on:
⭕ The Inner Ring of the Internet
⚙️ Designing Good Processes
🤩 The Job Status Cycle
👶 Why you should check up on your team’s kids
🛠 The benefits of having a project of your very own
Riffs & Recommendations
Some reflections on the best content I’ve been consuming lately.
8-minute read from Ali Montag
The internet can be a brutal place to do creative work. That’s in part because the same social platforms that help you share work with your fans are also designed to serve up constant reminders that there are other people in your profession that are racing ahead of you.
These winners of The Great Online Game seem to occupy, what Ali Montag calls, “the inner ring of the internet.”
Who went viral today? Who had the best Substack post? Who landed a book deal?
Those of us watching (outsiders) are driven to emulate those succeeding (insiders.) We can touch their success with our fingertips. We’re drawn to chase after it: How can we do what they’re doing?
This constant reminder of the inner ring tempts us to orient our work toward engagement. Because after all, engagement leads to followers, followers turn into subscribers, and subscribers become financial supporters. All this pressure can make it easy to forget the real reason we devote our time toward creative work in the first place.
5-minute read from Brie Wolfson
Process requires a delicate balance. Too little process makes companies chaotic and unscalable, while too much makes them cumbersome and bureaucratic.
Many large organizations are a web of decaying processes that employees follow out of inertia. As Brie Wolfson points out this can be particularly dangerous for startups, whose main advantage is speed. Her advice:
Have the discipline to remove process as often as you introduce it. Take as much care in extracting it as you do when you inject it. Celebrate what unships as much as what ships.
It might kill you if you don’t.
3-minute read from Karl Yang
CANDIDATE: So, tell me about the job.
HIRING MANAGER: Well, you’ll basically be managing a portfolio of high-level projects.
CANDIDATE: Sounds great. What’s the title?
HIRING MANAGER: I was thinking project manager.
CANDIDATE: Project manager? I didn’t spend $200k on an MBA to be a project manager!
HIRING MANAGER: Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend! What if we called it something like Chief of Staff?
CANDIDATE: Does that mean I’m reporting to the CEO.
HIRING MANAGER: Not exactly, you’d be the Cheif of Staff to the North American Head of Marketing Operations.
CANDIDATE: I’ll take it.
Just a little glimpse into how job titles rise and fall on the status cycle.
4-minute read from Stay SaaSy
Great management is as much science as it is art. The science looks like recruiting, coaching, and motivating employees, while the art is a bit harder to define. The best way I can describe it is: giving a sh*t about the lives of your direct reports.
Employees can always tell if their managers actually care about their lives, or if they are just going through the motions. I’ve been fortunate in my career to work for great managers who actually cared. They remembered the details about my life and the people I care about.
Want to earn real loyalty from your employees? Check up on the people who are most important to them.
10-minute read from Paul Graham
One reason I love writing this newsletter is that it’s all mine. There are no meetings to set the content calendar. No approvals for new posts. Everything I publish is entirely under my control.
For anyone who likes working at a larger company but feels weighed down by the burdens of reporting and collaboration, I highly recommend starting a project of your own. Doesn’t matter if it’s a birdhouse, a podcast, or a garden – just make sure you are in full control over the inputs and completely responsible for the outputs. It’s one of the most powerful steps you can take toward integrating your work with your life.
In Andy Hertzfeld's book on the Macintosh, he describes how they'd come back into the office after dinner and work late into the night. People who've never experienced the thrill of working on a project they're excited about can't distinguish this kind of working long hours from the kind that happens in sweatshops and boiler rooms, but they're at opposite ends of the spectrum. That's why it's a mistake to insist dogmatically on "work/life balance." Indeed, the mere expression "work/life" embodies a mistake: it assumes work and life are distinct. For those to whom the word "work" automatically implies the dutiful plodding kind, they are. But for the skaters, the relationship between work and life would be better represented by a dash than a slash. I wouldn't want to work on anything I didn't want to take over my life.
Friends of the Newsletter
Some great pieces of writing from friends of the Jungle Gym:
Stuff from me you may have missed
Here’s what I wrote about since the last Roundup:
Why the new employer of choice is no employer at all explains why everyone wants to work for the internet and how companies can compete for talent.
Play-to-earn gaming and the future of work was a Tweetstorm about the game Axie Infinity and all the economic opportunity it’s creating.
How Dickie Bush gained 40,000 followers in less than six months shows how it’s possible to build a large audience in a short time frame on Twitter.
Why you are here was my letter to our one-month-old son Cooper about why he was born.
If you enjoyed this issue of the newsletter, I'd really appreciate it if you could forward it to a friend, family member, or colleague who you think might like it too.
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Until next time,