Hello there 🙂

Welcome to issue ten of Manufacturing Serendipity, a loosely connected, somewhat rambling collection of the unexpected and often delightful things I’ve recently encountered.

Grab yourself a suitable beverage and enjoy…


Part I: Good Things I’ve Encountered Online

“You’re not good enough, and those past successes were just a fluke.”

The little voice in my head tells me this often. It has a tendency to pipe up whenever things aren’t going well, but sometimes it also pipes up when things are.

Maybe the little voice in your head tells you something different; maybe you don’t have a little voice like that in your head at all, but a lot of us do.

Over the years I’ve tried a bunch of different things to quiet that little voice:

I’ve tried to ignore it.

I’ve attempted to argue with it by seeking out hard evidence to the contrary.

I’ve tried to crush it, suffocate it, or otherwise destroy it, and I’ve beaten myself up endlessly for being stupid enough to pay attention to it.

None of those things worked.

Why didn’t those things work? It’s because that little voice in my head is me.

I was trying to ignore myself, argue with myself, seeking to destroy myself, and then I was beating myself up because none of it was working.

This is not a recipe for a happy life, and it makes it much harder to do good work.

This year I’ve been doing a course with Kirsty Hulse called Confidence Now; and Kirsty suggested trying something a little different:

“Listen to that little voice, and think about what it’s trying to tell you”

She suggested that there’s likely a positive intention buried somewhere in there. Most of the time those little voices in our heads are trying to protect us.

And so, I gave it some thought. Here’s what I think my little voice is trying to say:

“You keep on trying to do these things, and they don’t always work out well, and then you feel bad about yourself.

Don’t you think you’d feel better about yourself if you just stopped doing these things?”

That little voice is actually pretty smart.

Because I do sometimes think things like: “Would I be happier if I didn’t do this job?”. But deep down I know that doing something other than what I’m doing right now would actually make me less happy.

As a result of doing this exercise I have a better relationship with the little voice in my head. It’s still not quiet, and I don’t think it ever will be. But now I understand what it’s trying to tell me I don’t feel the need to try to argue with it, or get angry with myself about it.

And being less preoccupied with that little voice has made it easier for me to do my work. If you have a similar little voice, maybe trying that exercise will help you too.

In the course of writing this, it occurred to me that some people might want to share this with others. You can of course forward this whole newsletter to whoever you want (and I’d be delighted if you did so). However, if you just want to share this segment, I’ve written it up as a post on my site, you can find it here and share that if you prefer 🙂


Moar serendipitous finds:

Patrick Cabral’s Papercut Dinagyang Masks

Comprised of two pieces – Lupa and Langit, this work explores the duality of heaven and earth, good and evil, calm and chaos:

Lupa

Langit

Covid-19 inspires more than 1,200 new German words

The German language manages to succinctly describe a range of complex ideas and emotions including weltschmerz (world-weariness), zeitgeist (spirit of the time), and schadenfreude (joy in another’s misfortune), so it’s perhaps not surprising that Covid-19 has inspired quite so many new German words.

I fully plan on stealing abstandsbier (distance beer); and expanding it’s usage to include non-alcoholic beverages too.


There are no functional differences between the brains of men and women:

“The present synthesis indicates that such ‘real’ or universal sex-related difference do not exist… It’s really not appropriate to think of the brain as coming in male-type and female-type, just like we don’t really think of the kidney or the lungs or the heart as coming in male- or female-type.”


What things did you do as a kid that you now realise are extremely weird?

Warning: this is a reddit thread, and should you decide to click on that link you’ll likely find some comments which are either offensive and/or you’d sooner not read, but there’s also some delightfully pure stuff too:

Balance is everything:

“Every time I ever turned a full circle for any reason I would always turn a full circle the other way as well to make sure that it was “balanced” because I didn’t want to turn one way more than the other.”

Weather reports as pest control:

“There were spiders and mice in my room which totally freaked me out so every night before I went to sleep I’d whisper a report of what the weather was outside to encourage them to go outside rather than stay inside and bite me in my sleep.”

The Marvellous Mr Toad Mnemomic:

“Until I was about 11-12, I used to imagine my brain as an endless room, full of filing cabinets for different things; memories, schoolwork, random facts etc. And in the centre of this room sat a toad in a waistcoat, in a rocking chair with a pipe (think Wind in the Willows), under a single lamp. If I couldn’t remember something, I’d ask him to look it up in my filing cabinets and off he’d go, and then I’d remember.”

Thinking that other people can read your thoughts…

“[Whenever] I thought something bad about someone, I’d imagine that they “heard” [and] so I’d start to justify my negative thoughts. Like if I thought someone talking to me looked a bit silly, I’d continue my thoughts to be like “but that’s only because of that awful shirt and you can change that, otherwise you’re a good looking guy”.

I didn’t want to hurt their feelings on the off chance they could hear me. Also, I had to make sure I didn’t accidentally think: “I’m only thinking this because I know you can hear my thoughts and I’m trying to make you feel better.”


Another absolute gem of a page from WikipediaI discovered this via McKinley Valentine’s wonderful newsletter. It’s a collection of vampire traits in folklore and fiction.

(This image has been altered to bring the Sesame Street entry into view, click the page to view the full list, and there are also a bunch of other glorious tables on this page.)


Tracking the progress of Edward Carey’s “determined young man” through 350 days of quarantine:


Part II: Books I’m Reading Right Now

First up, non-fiction: All About Love by bell hooks. Renowned scholar, cultural critic, and feminist, hooks is definitely my kind of woman. In All About Love, she explores the question ‘What is love?’, sharing both her own search for emotional connection and her thoughts on society’s failure to provide a model for learning to love.  

“The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet…we would all love better if we used it as a verb.”

Whilst I’m not sure I agree with everything hooks has written in this book, I definitely agree with her core premise: that love is an action, not a feeling. It’s also made me want to have more conversations about love, about what it is and is not, and how we might start to fix our broken thinking on this topic. It’s a book that I’m glad I’ve read.


Recommendation of the fortnight goes to The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender. In this collection of sixteen short stories: we meet a person whose partner experiences reverse evolution and becomes a salamander; a librarian who seduces man after man in an effort to drive away grief; a mermaid and an imp enjoy a high-school romance; a woman gives birth to her own mother; and an orphaned boy develops an uncanny talent for finding lost things.

I’d acknowledge this clearly won’t be a collection for everyone, but through these contemporary fairytales Bender is able to shine a light on the emotions I suspect that we all feel, but so often seek to hide. These stories are a delight to read, and they’ve lingered since.


Part III: Things I’ve Been Watching

I have mostly been watching X Files (I’ve written a little about this towards the end of this email); but in addition to that, I also watched I Care a Lot (Amazon Prime).

The film tells the story of a scammer named Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike). Hers is a shockingly effective, and mostly legal scheme – she bribes medical professionals to declare older people legally unfit to look after themselves (even if this isn’t the case), and then fools gullible judges into appointing her as their legal guardian. She then places these people in nursing homes against their will, and denies their loved ones access, whilst simultaneously liquidating their assets to line her own pockets.

Everything’s going great, and Marla believes she’s hit the jackpot after she’s appointed to be the guardian for Jennifer (Dianne Wiest)… But Jennifer’s not who she says she is, and the film takes an unexpected turn when powerful crime boss Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage) appears on the scene.

Ultimately the film’s slick and entertaining, albeit shallow, but I enjoyed it way more than I expected to. I’ll leave you with Noel Murray’s thoughts on the film which I concur with wholeheartedly:

I Care A Lot isn’t some brilliantly subversive social satire. It’s a tightly constructed, masterfully acted, lightly stylish little caper picture, which revels in just how mean it can be. It’s not essential, and it’s not for everybody. But for those who prefer their pulp to carry the faint aroma of moral rot, this movie is a real treat.”


Part IV: Things I’m doing

As mentioned previously, this section is here to keep me honest. I’m hoping that by documenting some of the things I’m planning to do, it’ll give me the extra motivation required to actually do them. 

So, here’s what I’ve been up to:

Drink Digital

I did a talk at a meet-up. It was lots of fun and people said nice things. You can view my slide deck here: Difficult Second Album Syndrome, and I promise I’ll write it up as a post (or possibly more than one post) at some point soon.


Women in Tech SEO Festival

This week I’ve had an absolutely amazing time tuning into WTSFest. Thank you Areej for all of the love, hard work, care, and attention you put into this event. You should be very proud of yourself, and I hope you’re enjoying a well-earned rest right now.

Across 3 days I’ve watched six talks, from six incredible speakers, all from the comfort of my sofa. The event was an absolute joy, and being surrounded by wonderful women (albeit virtually) provided me with a much needed lift.

All of the talks were brilliant, and I learned tonnes. Tiffany Da Silva gifted me with a particularly glorious lightbulb moment during her talk – she encouraged us to ask ourselves – “What do you want your legacy to be?”.

I’ve never quite been able to connect with creating audacious goals. At various points, in various companies I’ve been asked to set them, and I’ve duly complied, but for me it was always something I did because I had to. I never once believed those goals were possible, and to be honest, I was never truly certain that they were actually goals I wanted to achieve. But the notion of working towards leaving behind a legacy really appeals. I’ll definitely be thinking more about what that might look like in the coming weeks and months.


So what’s next?

I’ve disappeared down an X Files rabbit hole. My friend Laura has never watched the X Files, and so I’ve been trying to figure out a way for her to watch a selection of episodes without fully committing to the 163 and half hours of viewing time that watching the entire back catalogue would entail.

Last Sunday I spent a very happy 5 hours pulling together data from various sources to try to come up with a good answer.

Dear reader, it should be noted that Laura did not ask me to do this. She is not a monster. I on the other hand might be, but whatever, I’m having a lovely time.

I’m still not quite there yet. But this weekend I’m planning to do some more work on this (alongside re-watching various episodes), and Laura has suggested that I really ought to publish whatever I eventually come up with so that others can see the results too.

So yeah, I’m going to do that.


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