Medley 260: Alternative State, Politics, Basecamp, Nirvana, Workplace, Solopreneurs...

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

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Happy Monday!

One exciting update: I'm putting together a comprehensive course on "SEO for Solopreneurs" focused on anyone trying to grow a site organically without having to spend insane amounts of time on it.

Pre-orders are open right now, and I'll be periodically raising the price as I ship the finished videos starting with the first content on Wednesday.

The whole preliminary curriculum is listed out on the landing page if you're curious, and let me know if you have any questions!

Alright, on to the Medley.

The World of Nirvanas

🔮 Zak Slayback wrote a great article last week on "The Nirvana Fallacy." In it he points out a common and deceptive argumentation tactic he calls the "Nirvana Fallacy" in which we imagine some perfect future to compare an alternative to, when that perfect future doesn't really exist:

"Not to be confused with status quo bias... the nirvana fallacy is a function of painting a wonderful counterfactual that doesn’t actually exist. Sometimes this is the status quo, but sometimes this is just an alternative proposal that isn’t actually realistic based on the resources and opportunities currently on the table."

💵 I like this idea a lot because you can see how often we fall victim to it, imagining we're in some ideal state when we consider alternative tactics or decisions. A classic example of this is when discussing financial decisions. Those decisions are often made on the assumption that we're rational actors and no surprises will happen in the future, when both are often false. This is why I tend to think budgeting is a waste of time and find it more effective to trick myself into thinking I'm making less money than I am.

🤔 The Nirvana Fallacy exposes you to a certain amount of fragility by assuming your current state is better than it is, and that alternative states are worse than they are. The reality may often be that you're in less good of a position than you think, and alternative decisions might be much better than you think.

🎓 We can see this with college too. Most parents probably assume the "Nirvana" state that their kid will graduate with a high paying job in a lucrative field and it will have all been worth it, and that not going to school would be throwing their life away. In reality, it may be that sending them to college is more likely to just saddle them with debt for life, and by not going to school they could at least start out by making money instead of losing it.

✍🏼 Zak concludes the article with good advice for considering reality:

"the point of recognizing the nirvana fallacy is to make clear just how much better things could really be if we tried. It’s too easy to nay-say by painting up realities that don’t exist or by airbrushing the current world to make it seem like things are actually pretty okay."

⚖️ Maybe if we discount our current situation and past choices a little bit, we can see how many opportunities really lie before us.

The World of Basecamp & Company Politics

🙅‍♂️ Last week Basecamp tried to follow in Coinbase's footsteps by publishing their own declaration of "no more politics at work."

👎 It went poorly, to say the least. About a third of employees resigned, with supposedly more on the way. Casey Newton had a good writeup on it, and what stood out was how it started with such a small trigger: a database of funny customer names that had been added to for almost a decade.

💼 It's hard to know what the answer is to the "politics at work" debate. I'm definitely more on the Coinbase side, but there's also a lot of value in people on a team feeling like they share certain beliefs and values.

Nick Dewilde put together a really good piece on the three strategies a company could take.

☝️ He argues, and I agree, that any of the three could work, the problem is when employees think you're one kind but you try to enforce another. In particular, if employees think you have a unified workplace, but then you try to be apolitical, you can run into issues.

📊 A company like Coinbase which had a strong underlying belief system in crypto probably had most employees unified around that mythology more than a political one, so calling themselves "mission focused" was not a big deal.

😦 But Basecamp, which just makes project management software, likely did not have any strong underlying beliefs that employees were mutually committed to and so there was more unification around political beliefs. Then saying "we're apolitical" naturally alienated a ton of people.

💬 I'd be curious to see a "Forum Workplace" in action. In theory that's my favorite model, but it seems very difficult in practice. My ideal work environment would be one where you can have basically any belief system and argue about it (respectfully) publicly and not get reported to HR, but perhaps thats its own kind of unification? It's hard to say.

⏩ Anyway, I think it's going to be very interesting to see how company cultures continue to evolve in response to this. Or maybe in a couple years we'll all be less politically amped up than we are right now coming off the Trump mania, and this won't be a concern anymore.

End Note

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Have a great week,

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