Hiring a personal assistant for admin tasks
I’ve been totally buried with admin tasks for the last few months, between planning two weddings, various personal projects, and daily life.
Trying out the new service fancyhands.com to test out Tim Ferris’ theory that doing so could claw back hours of each day.
Continuing with my attempt to lay out my new “incrementalist” theory of change, I’ll start with my previous definition: “a series of imperceptible changes to highly inter-dependent environmental factors, such that the new absurd world becomes obvious and the old obvious world seems absurd”.
This may sound a little like everyone’s favourite pop-business-management-book-factory, Malcolm Gladwell. While I enjoy his books for his ability to condense something everyone has heard of their whole lives into consumable and quotable morsels, Gladwell is not an original thinker.
There goes the neighborhood
“Tipping point”, for example, was borrowed from Thomas Schelling whose theory started out with a thought experiment in which each family in a hypothetical neighbourhood would have some arbitrary racial comfort level, expressed as the minimum percentage of the neighbourhood they required to be their own race, in order to feel comfortable. Schelling suggested that each new family of a different race that moved in would have only a tiny impact on the overall composition, but that at some point, every family of the original race would simultaneously become uncomfortable and an exodus would ensue. The model suggests that there are three possible outcomes- an all White neighbourhood, an all black neighbourhood, and a very transient and unstable equilibrium in the middle, which could go either way. The all-black and all-White worlds are called basins of attraction, while the state in the middle is called the “Tipping point”. Read more…
I have a new theory which describes the process of how the world experiences significant change, and therefore helps us understand how to change it. I want to call it “incrementalism”.
UPDATE: I subsequently looked up the term on wikipedia and found a concept very similar to mine (just goes to show there’s no such thing as an original idea). They use the concept mainly for public policy deconstruction, but I will continue to apply it more broadly in this series of posts
For people that study change, one of the biggest challenges is dealing with objections or opponents, especially in heavily “contested political arenas”. Most environments are a result of many rounds of continuous bargaining or compromise, leading to an imperfect, but mostly very stable equilibrium. A newcomer can almost never make sense of why things are the way they are. This is especially true in large organisations. Trying to make changes to such an environment is notoriously difficult, and yet large-scale change does happen, especially at the society level (think culture, technology, privacy). It just tends to happen by accident, and over time. Read more…
I met a woman today
A cab driver
Collecting the remnants
Of the the 2am last-call.
“Good morning”, I said
“Oh is it? How, when everyone is fucked” she declared in return.
I met a woman today,
an air hostess
pulling the weight of the world
through the impossibly narrow cabin.
People have opinions about everything ranging from the prosaic to the obnoxious. It’s typically only in outspoken cultures that you are exposed to them, although for the balance you will deal with the inevitable passive-aggressive judgmental stare. For the most part you only have to deal with these opinions around people that are very “confident” or very drunk. Read more…
I try my best to be positive about this place. I really do. But the UK continues to surprise me in how it under-delivers. Right now I am furious.
When I first moved here I had my bike stolen. I placed it outside a coffee shop where I went to buy a coffee, for no less than 2,5 minutes. It took that long for someone to steal it. Somehow I can deal with that. Down in their luck, said erstwhile-bobcat driver saw the opportunity to make a few bob for the family, and took my bike to sell to some complicit Cambridge undergrad. Or at least that’s the story I comfort myself with.
But tonight’s events leave me gobsmacked. My (newish) bike was locked up safely in a well-lit area of Oxford this time. In the pouring rain. As I approached it to cycle home I noticed something was wrong. Perhaps it was the fact that it was upside down. And that the wheel was visibly buckled… I’m not entirely sure. But sure enough, some wretched English youth (or possibly a 20-something parent of 3 kids under the age of 7, who knows…) had deemed it fit to exact their global inadequacy complex on my dear mule. “They” had literally kicked the shit out of it. Read more…
I feel there are two kinds of people in the world: 1) those that believe our world has limitless opportunities and that the best approach of each person is to grow the pie as much as possible, and 2) those that feel the world is a fixed pie, and that they should stomp on, cut up, beat up and do anything possible within the constraints of their limited morality to take as much pie for themselves as possible.
I recently attended the MBA olympics hosted by HEC in Paris. It was a phenomenal event. A huge amount of fun. Thousands of MBA students from all over Europe arrived to compete in a variety of weird and wonderful sports from traditional rugby, soccer, squash etc through to dodgeball, petanque and salsa. One may think that having so many cut throat A-types in one place would be a recipe for disaster, especially in a hyper competitive situation, yet (for the most part) the spirit of the entire event was really inspiring.
Until tonight, I had wondered why, with so many policemen around, our protectors were unable to be anywhere near any serious crimes, ever. Tonight I figured it out.
Being an economist, I had forgotten that people follow incentives. They are rational. This goes for policemen too it seems.
I was driving home tonight (Sunday at 10pm) from a braai with friends. It was by no means a big event. I had not had very much to drink. No more than 4 shots of gin the entire day, since 3pm, which together with all the tonic, a full meal and other non-alcoholic drinks during the day, meant I should be well within the legal range. However this also meant that I could not know for certain whether I was over the limit or not. Read more…
Had a couple of thoughts about the new COPE policy document. They are just my opinions, and I welcome a few healthy disagreements. In fact, I would love to be proven wrong on many of these issues!
See the policy document here: [No longer available]
Overall, I think their policy document is kind of “Obamaian” in it’s ability to wax lyrically about very little. There is a huge amount of potential in the high level thoughts and approaches, which completely fizzles out by the “plan of action”. Read more…
This has been quite a week.
Last Friday, my cellphone was picked out of my pocket while attending a Goldfish concert.
Yesterday, Friday the 13th, I walked out of my office at 7pm, to be met by 3 men, one of whom had a gun. They knew I was alone and the last to leave, and they were waiting for me. They walked me back inside and made me open the office, where they expected to find cash and computers. They made me kneel on the floor, and put a gun in my mouth, while they told me they were going to kill me. There was nobody around to save me. Luckily, the older man seemed to have a bit of compassion, and he controlled his younger, more aggressive partner. This man was not much older than me. He was dressed well, with expensive labels, and had Gucci glasses on his head. He was indifferent to my living or dying. They opted to tie me up instead, and locked me in my office as they left in my car, with pretty much everything that I own that is worth anything (in the boot and laptop bag). Read more…