Medley 254: Masks, Roam Workshop, Chores, Schrödinger's Cat, Founders, Cost-Quality...

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Happy Monday!

I somehow published three articles last week. First, an article on "The Founder Trap" that a lot of would-be entrepreneurs don't think of or aren't aware of when starting a business.

Next, an article on Creator Towns and why the original model for how I wanted to do it isn't a good plan.

Finally, I expanded on my Why NFTs are Valuable section from the Medley last week and published it as a new article.

Alright, on to the Medley!

The World of Building Roam in a Day

📆 This Sunday I'm going to do an afternoon workshop on mastering the basics of Roam in one day. It's $100, you'll get access to the "mastering the basics" part of the full course, and you'll get to join for all future "Roam in a Day" sessions if you want.

😊 This is kind of a test to see if people are interested in one-day intensive live courses, so let me know what you think!

The World of Schrödinger Claims

😷 I got into a somewhat silly argument on Twitter last week with someone saying mask wearing is just theater.

💡 I pushed him to provide any evidence to support his argument that masks don't work and he wouldn't, or couldn't, so it wasn't particularly productive. But it did highlight an interesting epistemological challenge we're regularly finding ourselves in: what I'll call Schrödinger Claims.

🐱 Schrödinger's Cat is the famous thought experiment wherein a cat stuck in a box with a randomly activated kill-switch could be considered both alive and dead until we open the box and find out.

👍👎 If someone said "that cat is alive" or "that cat is dead" they would be both right and wrong. We couldn't completely say which until we open the box and look for ourselves.

📦 A Schrödinger Claim is a statement that could be both true, or false, depending on "what's in the box." And once you know to look for them, you'll see these kinds of statements everywhere, especially for making straw man arguments.

🤔 Let's go back to the mask example. When someone says "masks don't work" they could be saying something true, or false, it all depends on what they mean at a deeper level. It's not a descriptive enough statement for us to apply a yes/no evaluation to it.

🤢 If they mean "masks don't work for protecting you from getting sick," that's mostly true. We've seen that in a number of studies now that regular surgical or cloth masks aren't all that effective at protecting you from infection.

☑️ But that doesn't mean "masks don't work." They work really well at reducing how much you spread the virus if you're infected. Even in close contact for long periods of time. I've looked very hard and I cannot find a compelling way to argue that masks "do nothing" to reduce the spread of COVID. They work.

❓ When someone is saying "masks don't work" or "masks work," the temptation can be to jump to "you're wrong" depending on what perspective you're coming from. But we simply don't have enough information in those statements to know. It could be true, it could be false, but we won't know until we open the box and see what they really mean.

🥓 A similar Schrödinger Claim happens with meat. Saying "meat is bad" is not enough. It could be true, it could be false. If you mean "the industrial raised sick animal meat that most Americans have access to is bad" then you're right. It's bad for your health, bad for the environment, bad for the animals, it's bad.

🥩 But if you mean "meat that you harvest yourself is bad" then you're wrong. That's some of the most nutritious food you can eat, it's good for the environment, good for the food system, it's good. "Meat is bad" and "Meat is good" are Schrödinger Claims. We just don't know if they're true or not till we open the box.

💢 Recognizing when we're dealing with a Schrödinger Claim is important because they're a very easy way to create outrage. If someone wanted to make me look bad they could say "Nat said masks don't work in his newsletter." If you know how to spot the sleight of hand, you'll know they've taken a complete statement "masks don't work that well to prevent you from getting sick" and they've shortened it into a murkier statement "masks don't work" which meant one thing in the context of this newsletter, but will be interpreted as a very different thing when stripped of its context. They know what they're doing, but they're technically not misquoting me, and it's an easy way to win outrage points.

🧠 Another time recognizing these beliefs is important is in improving our own knowledge. To be generous to the guy I was arguing with, I'll assume he just over extrapolated from "masks don't work well to protect the wearer" to "masks don't work." They aren't the same thing, but they feel the same, and it's an easy way for our beliefs to slide from being evidence-based to emotion-based.

😼 But the most important takeaway is that when we want to jump to disagreeing with someone, we should start by trying to fully unpack their statement. Look in the box before getting angry about the dead cat. Maybe it's alive after all.

The World of Quality

⬇️ I resonated a lot with this short piece on the "Cost-Quality Curve." Particularly the main image:

One thing I've been very interested in is how to find that "sweet spot" in new areas I'm getting up to speed in, and how to avoid the "Collectors Items" section of things, at least when I'm optimizing for utility.

🌮 I think the analogy expands beyond items, too. Like something I mentioned in my podcast with Brandon Zhang is how I'd argue Mexico City street food is in the top left quadrant for "high quality, low cost," whereas basically everything about Nantucket is in the "high cost, low quality" section.

☕️ What're some other areas where it's worth spending a bit more for really good quality that's not just signaling? Local ethically raised meat, natural wine, Moccamaster coffee makers, there's tons of them.

The World of Parenting

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 I really liked this article on how to raise helpful kids.

"In many cultures around the world, parents don't struggle to raise helpful, kind kids. From ages 2 to 18, kids want to help their families. They wake up in the morning and voluntarily do the dishes. They hop off their bikes to help their dad carry groceries into the house. And when somebody hands them a muffin, they share it with a younger sibling before taking a bite themselves."

🗑 It seems like the key is to try to find ways to involve kids in chores as early as possible:

"If parents purposefully do chores while the child is not there, tell the child to go play or watch TV, or overly manage the activity with many instructions and corrections, young children lose interest— not just in the chores but in helping their parents. At the same time, kids miss out on opportunities to learn how to collaborate and work together with their siblings and parents."

🐢 So one step is to be willing to involve your kids, even if they're going to slow you down:

"in cultures that raise helpful children, parents welcome young children and toddlers into family chores and work — even if the child will make a bit of a mess or slow down the work."

🗒 And another is to ask them to do a subtask of what you're doing, versus going off and doing something on their own:

"... for example, you're in the middle of cooking, and the spoon is just out of reach, so you ask the child nearby to hand you a spoon... requests like, 'Hold the cup' or 'Bring me the machete,'" she says. "Parents involve kids, every step of the way, from the smallest task all the way to the biggest task."

👏 Makes sense to me!


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