I have just finished „The Overstory” by Richard Powers. This delightful book recounts the story of a group of individuals and their relationships with trees and time. The trees are the real heroes of this fiction, and their stories unfold at the speed of wood.
Richard Powers has read over 120 books about trees as research, but his deep insights do not stop at flora. While learning the story of Neelay Mehta (one of the characters that is not a tree), I was immersed by the real and visceral depiction of the early Internet days and the current startup culture of San Francisco. I am sure Nick Hoel from midwest or Patricia Westerford were also true to their respective backgrounds.
I consider The Overstory one of the most compelling, beautiful, and essential fiction books. If my recommendation is not enough, take Hugh Jackman’s or Columbia University’s, which awarded the author a Pulitzer Prize.
Why is this newsletter about the consequences of the Internet devoted to trees? Even in computer science, we have learned a lot from them. Concepts like „branches” and „roots” are used by programmers daily, and it’s impossible to pass any job interview without a question about „tree balancing algorithms”. Trees are the mainstays of human consciousness – mighty Yggdrasil connected the many worlds of the Norse mythology, while the first people of Abrahamic religions did something involving a tree.
What are the lessons for the connected age?
Just like many rings add up to the thick trunk, the real advantage is built with compounding and time, not with viral sensations. On the Internet, it’s always a good idea to own your platform (steady trunk), so you can branch out.
Success may require sending many acorns out there before one takes hold. Somebody’s success may look overnight to you, but in fact, they endured rejection after rejection and kept trying despite unfavorable weather and the barren soil. The Internet makes it easier to send more acorns that ever before.
What inspiration can you take from the trees?
To make this issue (a)cornier, I couldn’t resist including this photo of my wife and me planting a tree at our wedding.
I thing I wrote
„Taking a walk to get unstuck” explores the Japanese tradition of forest bathing to improve mental health, how Plato has screwed us all, how Remote Work can bring us closer to our roots (pun intended), and outside – where we belong.
Tree surprising consequences of the Internet
Climate Strike Software License The things you use daily are based on freely-maintained software. From servers delivering you fresh Instagram photos, to factory equipment protocols that helped machine your sunglasses, to this very blog built on WordPress, the entire economy is running on top of Open Source. Just how all knowledge is built on top of previous discoveries. A group of maintainers had the idea to forbid the companies causing the climate change from using any software licensed under Climate Strike Software License. Quite often, software dependencies resemble trees themselves. If enough projects at the Root adopt this license, seemingly unrelated projects will use it as well, fossil fuel companies will have more operating costs, and renewable energy will win in the open market.
When You Give a Tree an Email Address The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.
Treehouse rentals are booming, according to Airbnb CEO. Not only are people booking rentals outside of cities, but they’re also looking for “something more private, intimate, smaller, unique, special — something that could be a destination in and of itself,” he said. To be honest, I always dreamed of opening a Treehouse resort. I forfeited that plan, when the pandemic hit, concluding that hospitality is risky. But maybe that’s a perfect opportunity to start something unique?
The printing of this issue of Deliberate Internet has not harmed any trees. It was solely focused on a single topic, gathering from different perspectives – what do you think? Do you like that approach or you prefer a medley? Let me know!
My wife (whose handle everywhere is Made In Cosmos) is predictably very interested in seeing the Neowise comet before it leaves the sky. The comet will be visible over the next few days and disappear for another 6000 years of its solitary journey.
On a comet-hunting mission, we have couped up in our summer house and have been hunting for comet sights. Yesterday, the sky was perfect and we were trying to aim our telescope and powerful binocular into that elusive tail of a comet. To no avail.
Sometime after I was getting frustrated – I looked upward and saw a beautiful, clear sky with the Milky Way spread before our eyes – a sight much better than a thousand comets.
What is it that an event like a comet or a deadline gets us all excited and motivated, but we neglect to enjoy what we already have? Humans are such suckers for scarcity.
The creators I help to sell put much effort into their work, and they deserve to be paid. They worry about not having a sales copy compelling enough, or their customers copying and sharing the creations, cutting them out of their rightful compensation. They turn to the protection mechanism – password-protected PDFs or locked-down video players to ensure that it doesn’t happen.
Did you know there is a special shortcut to display a random Wikipedia article? By going to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random, you will be taken on a random journey, but be forewarned – Wikipedia has MANY articles about random villages and 7th-grade celebrities.
Me being me, I immediately thought, „Wait, what if I built a WikiRoulette with this?„. It turns out somebody already thought of that! Check out http://wikiroulette.co/.
Today I learned about Forest Nightshade, Fencing at the 1956 Olympics, and the “List of places in Aberdeenshire”, wherever that is.
The online world revels the idea of meritocracy. Everything is democratized (setting free publishing and commerce is something I contribute to), everyone can participate and, anyone can start something new – they only need a laptop and grit.
However, like in any human industry, connections, and lucky breaks people have gotten in the past matter a great deal. The world is getting meritocratic (with initiatives like Starlink and Remote work), but we are not there yet.
This post is a crash course on Remote Work for a smaller team that is forced into this reality by COVID-19. I am linking some all-encompassing tutorials at the end. This post is meant to get you started with the basic ideas of remote work in 15 minutes.
Switching to a remote environment will take work and won’t be ideal in the beginning. Remote work requires shifting mindsets, and people are not great at that. But you have no other choice. I am using terms “Remote Work” and “Work from Home” interchangeably in this post, because to slow the spread of the virus, your colleagues should stay at home.
Who am I? I am leading a remote team in a company that has been distributed for 10+ years. We have 1200 employees in 76 countries. These are practical tips I learned there.
What’s the deal?
COVID-19 ( / Coronavirus / SARS-CoV-2 ) is an exceptionally infectious virus that can spread „by air.” A long incubation period means that people will infect others before they even realize they are feeling unwell. The virus has already spread to the majority of the world’s countries (a primer on the virus here).
That means a couple of things:
One employee can infect the entire office by coughing into the coffee cup cabinet
In fact, everybody can be infected right now and not show any symptoms
People are stressed with the situation and will be reluctant to work effectively. Most likely, they will be sitting in your office, browsing Twitter, reading up on the virus, and freaking out.
The most effective tool we have available right now to cope with the Coronavirus fallout is to slow the spread.
We are pretty sure that hospitals won’t be able to deal with all the cases once we reach pandemic levels. 80% of cases are relatively mild, but 5% requires intensive care. Approximately 1% of people who catch the virus die.
As The Economist has put it: „Flattening the spike of the epidemic means that health systems are less overwhelmed, which saves lives.”
What can YOU do?
If you are a small business owner or a team lead, you need to get on that Remote Work bus ASAP. The most responsible choice you can make is to let your employees work remotely.
They will minimize the risk of getting infected during the commute in your office
If (god forbid) they get infected, they won’t pass that on to everybody else while sharing a donut
They will be able to take care of the loved ones if it comes to that
You will help slow down the progress of infections in society.
“To minimize risk, stay home if you can. This may mean canceling meetings, working remotely, or skipping a conference (if it hasn’t been canceled already).” – „How to work during pandemic”
How seriously should you take this?
This is a sample of companies that have closed down entire offices in light of the Coronavirus:
I am going to explain to you four pillars of remote work and recommend you another four tools to start doing it ASAP.
If your work happens in front of a computer, it can happen remotely. Yes, face-to-face interaction is the best way to transmit complex ideas, details of the tasks, hilarious jokes, and deadly viruses.
We now have fantastic technology for all of the above except viruses. These tools have been used for a while now – Remote Work was exploding even before the SARS-CoV-2.
4 Pillars of Remote Work.
Remote work is by design asynchronous. People will take tasks, post updates, have discussions, and go to focus on new tasks.
You can try to keep everybody in sync all the time, but this is exhausting, frustrating, and futile. You won’t know what they are doing at their homes or if they are checking Facebook, and you need to make peace with that.
Newsflash: They probably check Facebook at your office as well.
The biggest challenge with asynchronous work is that you may be blocked by someone else’s task. But you can plan around that – think of what you will need tomorrow and have started working on it today.
It’s challenging but worth it. When you see in the same office, it’s easy to hide inefficiency by looking busy. Remote environment strips that facade, and you are left to confront the reality of your management style.
Making sure nobody is blocked is the biggest challenge as a manager. It will take practice and yield exceptional rewards.
The takeaway is:
Instead of worrying about what your people are doing right this second, try to slice the work so that they can work on pieces independently. And let them have their lunch.
You can’t just walk in, scold people and control what they do. When you do that online, they can just run away from the computer. You don’t want that. Instead, you want your people to be challenged by the work or at least see the value of it. It’s surprisingly easy – we all want to be useful, challenged and learn new skills.
Remember to provide enough context and give them input into the details of what you need done. You are not as smart as you think, and your employees may be more capable than you imagine.
They want to do a good job. Let them do a good job.
Communicate a lot. A massive chunk of what you want to say will be lost in text, and even video calls help only to a certain extent. You will say one thing, and your team will understand something completely different. It’s easier to spot that in person.
Double-check, over-communicate, and write things down. If you feel it takes too much time, you’ll save it by having already written it down and being able to re-use previous notes.
Write stuff down in Google Docs. Discuss in Slack and Zoom.
Level playing field
If you are letting people work from home, EVERYBODY has to work remotely. If the situation is not the same for everyone, then co-located people will keep their old communication habits, and remote colleagues will be left in the dark. Companies that „failed at remote work” did a half-assed job of choosing a poor soul to be left in the dark and continued to share information face-to-face.
Either your team is in the same space, or it’s at home. This is not quantum physics, where you can be in 2 places at the same time.
Do or do not. There is no try.
4 Free Tools to set you up for remote success.
Zoom is the new Skype. It’s more reliable, more dependable, and better suited to remote work than any other video-call software. It has taken over the remote companies by storm because it has unmatched quality. There are other tools, just none worth trying.
Since you don’t see your coworkers in the office, meeting them on video helps to transmit all those non-verbal signals that are lost during voice calls or email exchanges. I recommend you do zoom calls frequently at the beginning.
My best tips for Zoom calls:
If you are switching from the office and are on the same timezone, set up a daily check-in call ( say 10 am ). Ask everybody what they worked on yesterday and what they are planning to work on today. Make notes in Google Docs. Use that call to also work on your remote setup. Put that on the Google Calendar and invite your coworkers, so everybody has a link to the call handy.
Zoom has a good enough free plan. You need to start paying if you want to have meetings for 3+ people longer than 40 minutes. You can also stop and hop on a new session every 40 minutes. That is what I do.
Buy your employees good headphones ($20-$45). Take this seriously. Lousy audio from (god forbid) earbuds they got with their iPhones will be disproportionately frustrating.
This will be your primary communication channel. Since you are no longer communicating in person, you need a central hub and email is not suited for that. Slack is for all those situations where you would come over, say something in the shared space, share a joke, or have a look at what your coworker is doing.
Slack is a shared chat, with different channels. Channels help to separate various concerns and make it easier to manage.
Do not require everybody to read everything. Chose one channel with mandatory reading (the typical pattern is „#announcements” ). Every new mandatory thing decreases the chance they will keep up.
Once you make a decision or have takeaways, move to more permanent storage. Google Docs is good.
Remember to goof off. You need to provide an upbeat environment. If it becomes stressful, your employees will just stop working. The common pattern is to have a „#watercooler” channel and post lots of memes.
The free plan will have some limitations. Mainly it has a limited history of conversations. Free is enough.
You need one place which will be the source of truth, and people will refer to when they are confused. Since they will be working asynchronously, you have to make it easier for them to find information that they need. Shared Google Drive and Docs will help you exchange documents and keep track of your decisions. You are also producing work, which most likely has the shape of documents.
My tips on working with Google Docs
Write down as much stuff as possible.
Do make a shared folder in Drive and tidy up the structure frequently
Make sure to have one place where everything is linked – it can be a Google Doc with a list of running projects and links to docs each describing the progress of the project
Update those documents!
„Where is X, what the status of Y” should require no answer – it should be apparent where the information is always.
You can work using the personal Google Accounts. You don’t need paying for GSuite.
I have been failing our company and failing you – personally. I withheld valuable feedback. To say that feedback is essential is an understatement. All human progress comes from experimentation, analyzing results, and tweaking the actions, one small challenge at a time.
I would even identify the most significant societal challenges as breakdowns in feedback cycles:
Obesity would not be an issue if a tasty cookie did not deliver faster ‘positive’ feedback than years of exercise and proper nutrition,
Climate Change is a result of quarterly profit cycles providing more immediate data than decade-long weather pattern changes,
We do a thing that we think is good, we get a consequence three decades later and are surprised what exactly is behind this result. Humanity is not built to work at this scale.
But let’s get back to business and the case at hand. Lack of feedback UP the „chain of command” is how companies fail. On paper, big organizations have every advantage. But as the company grows, „The franchise blinders harden” – as Safi Bahcall phrased it in Loonshots. Ben Horrowitz agrees, and in Hard Thing about Hard things identifies that „The biggest problem is the one that blindsides you.”.
No wonder that effective leaders not only shy away from feedback but crave and ask for it. I know you are the same way. You ask for feedback, you act on it swiftly and everything is better after the exchange. And yet, I haven’t been giving you enough feedback to you, and I find it hard to pinpoint why.
Following reasons come to mind:
I consider myself a competent professional. As such, I pride myself in taking on challenges and solving problems. My default is to take your suggestions as a challenge and run with it.
I noticed it’s easier for me to disagree with “two levels up” than with you. I am not sure what is causing this. Maybe I am afraid of bringing this up so you won’t retaliate on my performance review? I know this is ridiculous!
I am pretty outspoken and have publicly passionately argued with the company direction. Everybody (including you) assumes that I will have the same force in private conversations, but it’s not true. Privately, I tend to concede much faster.
I optimize my career to work with smart people on exciting projects. You can teach me a lot, and I always assume that you know a little more (or a lot) than me and have stuff figured out way better than me.
Lastly, we all work remotely. I know blaming this on the remote environment is a noob move, but it’s tough to catch the misunderstandings early. When we are not on the same page, it’s really hard to see if it’s a communication problem, or we have different points of view.
Because of these points, I have robbed you of valuable feedback. There were situations where we disagreed, and I conceded when I shouldn’t have. I did not want to introduce more tension or come off as stubborn because I have behaved so in the past.
What can I do?
I don’t think being more outspoken is the way I want to pursue. I am plenty vocal already so that I will try a different route:
Whenever the „I don’t think he’s right” thought appears, I will note it diligently and set time before our 1:1 to make sure my opinion still has merit. If that will be the case after a few days, I will bring this up on our 1:1. That’s what they are for.
I know this feedback is valuable for you, and I know you will act on it. I need to be better at giving you the opportunity to improve.
PS: Dear commenter, if you have any tips on how to be better at giving feedback to your manager, please share!
Everything was going fine in my life, and I was miserable.
Five years ago, I had a ‘fine’ job, but I craved a challenge – something I could be proud of. Slacking off at the office, I was browsing Hacker News (a technology-oriented version of Reddit), marveling at the fantastic things everybody ELSE was doing. I could see my future as a cog in the corporate machine, and it was not inspiring.
Ramit’s advice helped me truly level up. During one of those Hacker-News-Fueled ‘breaks’, I stumbled upon this financial blogger with marketing, business, and job-search advice. Despite the scammy-sounding title of his blog – “I will teach you to be Rich”, I found it very helpful and ended up taking the “Dream Job” course.
Fast forward five years, I work remotely for the best company I could ever dream of, making past me very proud. I travel the world with my wife, who also works remotely – thanks to Ramit’s advice. Our company even flew us to India to present at a conference. We never dreamt of going to India, let alone on the company’s dime. We went to a city known for one of the most luxurious hotels in India – in fact, Ramit went there on his honeymoon!
After taking Dream Job, I have attended Success Triggers, Delegate&Done, Mental Mastery and How to talk to anybody. I recommend each one of these courses. They deliver consistent, exceptional quality and are great lenses to organize your existing knowledge.
To answer the title question: Yes, he is legit. Any course you will choose will be the best one in the category.
“Ramit Sethi is very, very legit”
The biggest value I get from these curriculums is what not to focus on at this moment. Ramit claims that he and the team spend the majority of the time on nailing the lesson plan and it really shows. In the world where information is abundant, this curation is the ultimate value.
Ramit is about the “Rich Life”
Yes, he is in the personal finance sphere. But instead of focusing on curbing spending, budgeting, power of compounding in investments – and all the other components of successful financial future, he focuses of the end goal – the Rich Life, whatever that means for you:
Getting rid of credit card debt ( in the “I will teach you to be rich” book )
Getting a better job ( in Dreamjob )
Starting a business (in Earn1K and Zero to launch Courses)
Negotiating a raise (in Dreamjob )
Reclaiming your time (in “Delegate & Done” course about virtual assistants)
5 principles of Ramit
After reading Ramit’s content for years, I have teased out these underlying messages in all of his teachings:
By investing 10% more than others into preparation, research and figuring out the strategy, you can get 10x – 100x better results. This approach is applicable in job search (make connections first), building a business (nail down your target niche first), fitness, dating and other areas of Rich Life.
Strategies, not tactics
The Internet loves gimmicks and listicles like “10 apps to polish your resume, 20 online marketplaces for creators.”. But these are tactics. The important things to internalize are the strategies that help us understand “game being played around us”. Not frantic tactics that will be useless after a year.
You can focus on saving a few hundred bucks a year by cutting back on lattes, or you can get a 30 000 dollar raise. Nuff said. Click here if you want to read one of Ramit’s classic rants on ‘cut back on lattes’.
Psychology is key
The best advice is the one you take and follow-through. Ramit understands that and optimizes his courses, emails, and tips to make help you follow-through. They are not stuffed with every conceivable piece of information on the topic, but meticulously designed to make you succeed. That being said, his courses include “Vaults” that have 10x the amount of tips and tactics as the main material. But as I mentioned, the tactics are never the focus.
Do stuff that works. Take a hard look at what doesn’t. Don’t try to make yourself feel better by confusing the two.
Get his advice for free
Ramit frequently claims that 95% of his advice is free. I don’t think this is accurate. I found that he shared 305% of his advice for free. But you still should take his courses, because they put everything in place.
I would recommend the following path to take advantage of this plethora of resources:
Step 1:Check his Instagram.
It’s hilarious. It’s also a good test if Ramit ‘resonates’ with you.
Step 2: Tim Ferriss interview.
Tim is a world-class interviewer and they are friends.
Step 3: Briefcase technique
The technique illustrates all the principles I laid out above and helped me get my job.
Bonus round: Ultimate guides
Following that, I recommend his free “ultimate guides”:
Sign up to his email list. You don’t have to pay him a dime, but you will get tremendous value out of the emails. They are packed with knowledge.
And I do recommend the courses.
Ramit’s vision of Rich Life has rubbed on me a little bit. Even though he does not sell anything in the space, he convinced me to get a personal trainer, cleaning help for our apartment and I even have a personal VA.
Past me would marvel at a life I built.
And if you want to hear in detail what I learned, and how I adapted Ramit’s advice to suit the Remote work environment – sign up for MY email list. ?
Let’s start from the beginning. Ever since Plato (423 BC), humanity was plagued by this notion of mind-body duality. Dark Ages have really entrenched the idea that the body is only a vehicle to move around our pristine and godly minds. The flesh pursuits are of lesser concern and don’t deserve much attention.
And this particular idea has seeped into western philosophy. We don’t pay specific attention to the link between the way we treat our bodies and mental performance
We try to “save time” by sacrificing sleep, resulting in severely diminished productivity and mental skills,
We sit all day on our asses, getting more and more stressed about some artificial situation, avoiding the solution that our bodies were built for,
We forget to hydrate or eat properly, because – of course – we “don’t have time.”
How taking a walk can help you get unstuck
Japanese, forest bathing: The immersive experience of spending time in nature.
Our bodies evolved in green space, surrounded by trees, shrubs, streams, and rocks. We are familiar with the wild in the core of our souls. This is where our ancestors lived their whole lives, honing their genome to fit the environment. Is life in a concrete jungle so drab? Can a few hours in a forest significantly improve my mood? I set out to answer these questions.
For a few years now, I document my thoughts in a journal. I have an Evernote-based system, where I mostly rate the previous day and recap what happened. I will expand on this in another post, but one of the valuable insights I was able to discover is the answer to the question
“What do my happy days have in common”?
Every quarter or so, I review my notes and try to tease out what consistently made me happy during this time.
Over and over again, spending time in nature (and preferably good swimming) is at the top of the list.
Maybe it is because I was a scout for 11 years, and I am trying to reproduce the conditions of my youth. But perhaps it is because I am a human being, and this is the environment where humanity was thriving in for millennia.
I try to plan my life accordingly, but as you probably know – it intervenes sometimes. Deadlines pile up, work has to be done, and I forget what restorative effect a walk has on my thinking. I forget that it clears my head and allows me to get a fresh perspective. I tell myself: “Tomorrow, I don’t have time today.”
Moving can help our brains via several mechanisms:
Moving means more cardiovascular action, which means more oxygen. Our brains REALLY like oxygen. Brains like oxygen how I like the georgian meat pies. Often and in any quantity.
Moving means neurons firing in the brain. Think of it as a bit of a rhythm. By making the body move, the brain gets into a groove of action, and any cognitive tasks get accomplished easier.
“Your lifetime risk for general dementia is cut in half if you participate in physical activity. Aerobic exercise seems to be the key. With Alzheimer’s, the effect is even greater: Such exercise reduces your odds of getting the disease by more than 60 percent.”
I clicked on your link expecting some insightful comment, and I don’t want to be lectured about such basic things!
I hear ya. But this advice needs repeating.
Intellectually knowing something is not enough. As Derek Sivers says, “If knowledge was the problem, we would all be billionaires with perfect abs.” We can know something is true and still act totally irrationally.
By all means, I am guilty of this as well. I sometimes discard this advice as “not serious enough” and “this is fine for those wellness people, but I have serious work to do.”
Intellectualizing is not the answer. If you care about doing something, you need to build a habit around it.
The Outside Challenge ™️
Do a test! Check if going outside is really for you.
Get your ass outside first thing in the morning, for a week.
Just walk around, notice things. DO NOT STARE AT YOUR PHONE.
After 30 minutes, go back home.
Crush your day.
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I know not everybody has a nice green space near home. But… If you worked remotely, what precludes you from living near a forest? You could even have a view on the trees, getting the benefits of surrounding yourself in nature while you work.
Have you noticed that I post lots of pictures of my laptop opened somewhere in the wilderness?
Because for me, there is no better place to work than surrounded by tress, with wind on my face.
You don’t have to be in exotic place, or wait till the weekend to enjoy time in nature.
You can pick your laptop, hop on a bike (or into a car) and after an hour, you will most likely be in the forest. Yes, I’m pretty certain that they will have LTE coverage.
Remote work helps me see the world, contribute more to our products and lets me enjoy life to the fullest. From the stereotypical Thai Beach office to escaping open space, it’s a clear benefit for my employer and me.
But what gets me most excited about remote work is the environmental impact. If people don’t have to move to big cities, they can stay in their home towns, close to friends and family. Outside of metropolis, it is possible to consume locally grown food, eradicating the need for transport and packaging of perishables. With a smaller density, the housing can be cheaper, and living conditions improve considerably. People working remotely from areas like Kentucky, Idaho or Ukraine can spend their fat tech salaries locally, raising the living standards for the entire community, providing new jobs and example for future generations. According to WWF, the commuters in the USA alone are generating 1786 metric tonnes of CO2. That is 26% of all US emissions that remote work can help curb.
But of course – there is an element of hypocrisy in that grand vision of remote work saving the environment.
I fly a few times a year to meet my coworkers in person, and air travel is a contributor to greenhouse emissions.
Haunted by this fact, I decided to count how much harm did I do. I added up my flights for each year:
2016: 4.4 tonnes
2017: 8.11 tonnes
2018: 5.51 tonnes
That makes a total of 18.02metric tonnes of CO2 emitted due to me flying over the past three years. I do not feel happy about this, but I found a way to ease the impact of lugging my ass all over the world.
CarbonFootprint.com lets you contribute to carbon offsetting projects around the globe. Their air travel calculator will help you figure out how much harm did you do while getting these Instagram photos:
I decided to fund tree planting in Kenya since it will both plant trees and provide work for the local community. I happily shelled out 280 EUR to buy the land, plant trees and help them grow. The trees should consume 20 tonnes of CO2 caused by my air travel, helping me sleep better.
Carbon emissions due to flying is a downside of working for a globally distributed company, but I still can do something about it.
I also believe that long-term remote work can be the answer to the climate crisis we are experiencing right now.