#32: Learning to listen better, things to watch and do--and more AI
Susan, Dion, and Kevin talking at a TechStars gathering during Summer, 2008.
This week: A reflection on something personal and reflective. Like learning to listen better (and ask questions)
I read a recent post on LinkedIn by my TechStars start-up colleague, Eric Marcoullier, that set off buzzers in my head. In the post, Eric looks back at his 30 years of building companies and says he would have done A LOT better if he’d just been able to ask people questions, versus thinking he knew it all.
“Belatedly, I have learned that when I feel the strongest about something, that’s the exact moment I’m probably silently punching myself in the face. In those moments, I try to take a deep breath and a step back and ask, “What does the other person know that I don’t?”
Reading that, I realized that was pretty much the same way in the earlier part of my career. I liked to brag that I trusted my gut and that served me well, but in truth, I missed out on opportunities because I was insecure, had trouble listening, and wanted to prove I was the smartest person in the room. (And usually, I was not.)
I don’t think I turned that thinking around until I was a lot older, like 50, and I moved from tech into non-profits. The culture was different, there were no rewards for cutting people off and interrupting them to share a “brilliant” idea, and lots of people were afraid to take risks, and suspicious of people who wanted to (like me.) Trying to succeed in that environment meant I had to unlearn so many tech company entrenched behaviors, and it was hard. Finally, someone, someone told me about The Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, by Edgar H Schein. When I ordered my copy and started to read it, I almost wept with joy.
It’s a simple book, by an organizational development psychologist-type person who offered simple actionable guidance on how to just shut the fuck up and listen. (read more about this on my blog, here, if you’re interested).
Interesting things to read, watch, cook, and do
I’m assuming you’re following–and having feelings about–everything related to the state of the world, and I am going to hold off for now on sharing articles or taking a public personal stance on Israel/Hamas. If you can turn your attention in other directions, here are some interesting things.
The Golem of Brooklyn by Adam Mansbach, Random House, September 2023
Adam Mansbach’s latest offering is both magnificent and impeccably timely. When an aging art teacher crafts a Golem, he couldn't possibly anticipate the ensuing saga. The story that unfolds rivals the epic journey of Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses but with a more humorous twist. A must-read.
Rainbow Rainbow by Lydia Conklin, Catapult Press, May 2022
Lydia Conklin's debut collection of short stories is a profound reflection on experiences of queerness. Her narratives resonate with authenticity, capturing emotions and insights that have often remained elusive in words. The characters, many of whom identify as trans or nonbinary, are depicted with originality and poetic grace, each sharing powerful and quixotic tales. I eagerly await Conklin's future works.
A Place Called Home by David Ambroz, Grand Central Publishing, September 2022
In his moving memoir, David Ambroz recounts his childhood, marked by homelessness and a mentally ill mother, leading to his entry into the foster care system. The narrative is strikingly vivid, evoking deep emotions. Ambroz skillfully weaves his personal journey with that of his siblings, using their experiences to shed light on the urgent need for foster care reforms, compassionate policies, and enhanced support for transitional-age foster youth. This book stands as a testament to Ambroz's resilience and his dedication to advocating for those who have walked in his shoes. A truly inspiring read.
Small, original movies that are either written and directed by women or focused on female relationships. For me, each one was worth a watch:
Margot at the Wedding Noah Baumbach’s 2007 film, starring Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh, among others, might not be a totally successful movie, but it’s a great watch about a judgemental, self-absorbed writer who has no idea how she affects anyone else, including her teenage son. Netflix
MAKING: Exploring Generative AI: ChatGPT (OpenAI) & Claude (Anthropic)
Over the past 10 months, I've been experimenting with these platforms, among others, and have found immense value in various tasks, including:
Crafting travel plans
Inquiring about medical conditions and treatments
Seeking popular recipes or food pairings
Summarizing research reports or white papers with highlighted quotes
Refining blog posts and written content
Structuring marketing documents from initial outlines
Writing and editing proposals
For fellow generative AI enthusiasts, I'm eager to learn more about your experiences. Whether it's innovative uses, challenges faced, or success stories, please share.
Because you made it this far: Macklemore’s 2011 video, Thrift Shop, is still a foot-tapper. (We went to Seattle this past weekend, so I had to play this before we left.)
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All best, Susan