March 6, 2024

You’re always carrying a cannon

This post is a rough recreation of a post from someone else that I saw years ago and now can’t find. If this rings a bell and you know the original, email phildini at phildini dot net.

As a manager talking to your reports, you are always carrying a cannon and promising it won’t go off.

That’s the one thing I want you to take away from this article, and I encourage you to go read it in its entirety one more time. No matter how friendly you are with your team, no matter your relationships outside work, no matter if you were one of the team yesterday and just got promoted, the cannon is always there and your reports can’t know with absolute certainty it won’t go off because they can’t see inside your brain.

The cannon is the inherent power you have as their manager to tank, wreck, or bludgeon beyond recovery their career prospects on your team, at your company, and possibly beyond. The ultimate expression of the cannon is: you fire them. But short of firing them, there are dozens of big and small ways you could make their lives, inside and outside work, extremely difficult.

Whether or not you think about the cannon, the cannon is there. Good managers are aware of the cannon. Great managers are aware of the cannon and aware that their reports are aware of the cannon. Your reports, consciously or subconsciously, go into every meeting with you with some part of them knowing that this could be the meeting where you fire them, take away their projects, or in general make their lives miserable. They may not be able to voice this knowledge, you may have built trust such that they think the chances measure in the microscopic, but that doesn’t change the fact that the cannon is there and that how you behave as a manager influences the trust they have in the cannon not going off.

This is part of the reason why trust building is so important: you need your team to believe that they will get lots and lots of warning before the cannon goes off. How you talk about projects, how you talk about performance, how you respond to suggestions, how you take feedback — all of these change the unconscious mental calculus in your reports’ heads about whether the cannon is going to go off for them.

I’ve spent some time trying to think of a positive spin on this fact of management, but this is, for me, closer to a hard truth than a cloud with a silver lining. With great power comes great responsibility. If a silver lining exists, it’s that you have this power and can choose to wield it to make your team and your reports great, to use some of the cannon’s power to clear a path ahead of your team for the work they want to do, work that they will hopefully find fulfilling.

But the cannon is there, whether or not you acknowledge it, and great managers know it, see it, and interact with their team to build trust around this fact.

Thanks to Jacob Kaplan-Moss and Michael Graham for reviewing this post

April 14, 2023

Key insights from The Art of the Start”

I first read Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start when I was in college, and didn’t really know if startups were going to be my whole career, or if I was going to ever start one. As I look towards going further and further down that path, I revisited the book and took notes on what I found to be the greatest insights. There’s no real order here, this is a reference mainly for me that I’m putting out in the world so I can find it again later.

Getting Started

  1. Make Meaning
  2. Make Mantra (not a mission statement; instead a phrase you can repeat ad nauseum as a guiding principle)
  3. Get Going
  4. Define Your Business Model
  5. Weave a MAT (milestones, assumptions, tasks)

If your org never existed, the world would be worse off because:

Your idea should be polarizing to someone; if it’s not then you probably won’t have anyone passionate about it either.


  1. Prove your concept
  2. Complete your design spec
  3. Finish a prototype
  4. Raise capital
  5. Ship a testable version to customers
  6. Ship the final version to customers
  7. Breakeven

Put these, with expected dates, on your office wall

If three close friends tell you to give up, you should listen

The Art of Positioning

What do you do?”

Answers should be:

  • Positive
  • Customer-centric
  • Empowering
  • Self-explanatory
  • Specific
  • Core
  • Relevant
  • Long-lasting
  • Differentiated

The Art of Pitching

Set a timer to one minute. Give your pitch until the timer goes off. Ask the audience to write down one sentence that explains what your organization does. Collect the answers and compare them to what you think you said.

Pre-pitch questions:

  • What are the three most important things you would like to learn about our organization?
  • What attracted you to our idea and convinced you to give us an opportunity to meet?
  • Are there any special issues, question, or landmines I should be prepared for?
  • How old will the oldest person in the meeting be?


  • Ten slides
  • Twenty minutes
  • Thirty-point-font

Ten Slides

  1. Title (name, presenter name, contact info)
  2. Problem
  3. Solution
  4. Business model
  5. Underlying magic
  6. Marketing and sales
  7. Competition
  8. Management team
  9. Financial projections and key metrics
  10. Current status, accomplisments to date, timeline, use of funds

Setting the stage

  • How much of your time may I have?
  • What are the three most important things I can communicate to you?
  • May I quickly go through my presentation and handle questions at the end? However, please feel free to interupt me if you need to.

The Art of PowerPointing

  • use a dark background
  • add your logo to to master slide
  • use common, sans serif fonts
  • animate your body, not your slides
  • build” bullets
  • use only one level of bullets
  • add diagrams and graphs
  • make printable slides

The Art of Writing a Business Model

  • do not exceed twenty pages in length
  • select one person to write the business plan
  • bind the plan with a staple
  • simpliy your financial projections to two pages
  • include the key metrics, such as the number of customers, locations, and resellers
  • include the assumptions that drive your financial projections

The Art of Bootstrapping


  • low up-front capital reqs
  • short (under a month) sales cycles
  • short (under a month) payments terms
  • recurring revenue
  • word-of-mouth advertising

Negotiate everything. Circa 2004, everything is negotiateable: rates, payment schedules, and monthly fees. Even in good times, don’t be afraid to negotiate — it’s part of the game. Many firms, for example, will delay billing until you’re funded if you have the chutzpah to ask

Morpheus” Questions

  1. When is your product or service going to be ready for market?
  2. What are your true, fully loaded costs of operation?
  3. When will you run out of money?
  4. How much of your sales pipeline is going to convert?
  5. How much of your account receivables is collectible?
  6. What can your competition’s product or service do that yours can’t?
  7. Who are your nonperforming employees?
  8. Are you doing all you can to maximize shareholder values?
  9. What is your org doing to change the world and make meaning?
  10. How good are you as the leader of the organization?


  • Set and communicate goals
  • Measure progress
  • Establish a single point of accountability
  • Reward the achievers
  • Follow through until an issue is done or irrelevant
  • Heed Morpheus
  • Establish a culture of execution

The Art of Recruiting

Ask the candidate who all their important decision makers are. Including spouses! And parents!

Check references early. Earlier than you think.

The Art of Raising Capital

Get an intro

  • Current investors
  • Lawyers and accountants
  • Other entrepreneurs
  • Professors

Show traction

  1. Sales
  2. Field testing and pilot sales
  3. Agreement to field test, pilot, or use prior to shipment
  4. Establishing a contact to pursue a field test

Competition: Table!

  • Row: competitor
  • Column: We can do, they can’t
  • They can do, we can’t

Trick Questions

  • What makes you think you’re qualified to run the org? I’ve done OK so far getting us to this point, but if it ever becomes necessary I’ll step aside.”
  • Do you see yourself as the long-term CEO of the organization? I’ve been focused on getting our stuff to market. I will do whatever is necessary to make this successful–including stepping aside if needed. Here are the logical milestones at which we can make this transition…”
  • Is ownership control of the organization a big issue for you? No, it’s not. I realize that to make this successful, we need great employees and great investors. They all need to have significant stake. I will focus on making the pie bigger, not on getting or keeping a bigger part of the pie.”
  • What do you see as the liquidity path for the organization? We know that we have a lot of work to do before we can even dream of liquidity. We’re the designing this company to be a large, successful, and independent entity. Right now, our heads are down, and we’re working as hard as we can to do this. An IPO would be a dream outcome–plus these five companies are possible acquirers in the future…”

The Art of Managing a Board

  • Save trees
  • Provide useful metrics
  • Send the reports two days before a board meeting
  • Never surprise a board (except with good news)
  • Get feedback in advance

Whatever the first offer, ask for a 25 percent higher valuation because you’re expected to push back.

(Be reasonable and back up the push back)

The Art of Partnering

Partner for Spreadsheet” reasons.

Getting going doesn’t start with a document:

  1. Get together face to face. Discuss the deal points
  2. When you start agreeing, go to a whiteboard and write them down
  3. Follow up with a one- to two-page e-mail outlining the framework” for a partnership
  4. Reach closure on all details via e-mails, phone calls, and follow-up meetings
  5. Draft a legal document

The question for lawyers isn’t Can I do this?”. It’s Here is what I want to do. Now keep me out of jail.”

The Art of Rainmaking

Lead generation:

  1. Conducting small-scale seminars
  2. Giving speeches
  3. Getting published
  4. Networking in a proactive way
  5. Participating in industry organizations

Make prospects talk

  • Create a comfortable environment by asking permission to ask questions
  • ask questions
  • listen to the answers
  • take notes
  • explain how your product or service fills their needs — but only if it does

Provide a safe, easy first step

Learn from rejection!

startups books venture
March 21, 2023

You’re making performance reviews too complicated

I’ve never met a manager who loves perf review season”, and the way most companies run their perfomance reviews it’s pretty easy to understand why. As a company scales, there seems to be an irresistible urge to make performance reviews more and more complicated. I’ve seen processes where the HR team will spend three months defining values, then another month defining the process for reviewing an employee’s performance against those values, then another month training managers on the process, leading up to a month where the managers have to scramble to collect peer feedback, self-feedback, manager feedback, and then synthesize all that into a single document to deliver to a report.

I could go into why I think these processes develop, but we’re going to try and keep this post simple and uncynical. If you want my thoughts on why more complex processes happen, and how to reduce them at your work, email me at .

So what does a simple performance review process look like? Let’s start with some reasons we want to review a report’s performance. This is not an exhaustive list, but these are pretty common in my experience:

  • Your boss wants to know how a report is doing, and you want to give them something more than vibes”, you want a document to deliver
  • You want to give the report direction on where they stand and how to improve
  • You’re evaluating whether the report is ready to move to the next level, or get more compensation

(What’s not on this list is there are serious performance concerns”, ie: this report needs to go on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)”. A PIP is a form of performance review, but that’s a special case. In that case, you’re creating a very specific detailed plan to get a report out of a performance hole, and that’s a separate post.)

You could be writing a performance review for any or all of the above reasons, but knowing your audience will help you craft the right tone. Ok, enough preamble, what do I think are the necessary components of a good performance review? There’s three required and 1 optional components.

  1. Three things the report is doing or has done especially well
  2. Three areas for improvement
  3. The key takeaway
  4. (Optional) How the report is doing against their current level, ranked as one of Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, Not Meeting Expectations”

If this seems simple and straightforward, it’s supposed to be! If this seems daunting, I promise it’s not, and the rest of this post is going to be how to craft a review in this style. If you’re spending more than an hour per report crafting this document, then something has gone wrong.

Philip, what the hell, why am I spending so little time giving a report valuable feedback?” First, this is about writing the doc, not delivering it, that’s another post. Second, because you shouldn’t be crafting this from whole cloth when you sit down to write this review. This should be a summary of what you’ve already been talking about with your reports in their weekly one-on-ones, combined with what their peers say about them in their one-on-ones, and an occasional review of the leveling guide. So ideally, before you’re writing a performance review, you’ve cleared some pre-requisites:

  1. You’re having regular (usually weekly, definitely more than monthly) one-on-ones with the report where you already chat about performance
  2. You’re asking your other reports and peers what they think about the person you’re reviewing
  3. You’ve been doing this for at least three months.

That last one is important. If you’ve been managing someone for less than three months, you should straight-up refuse to write a documented performance review for them. It’s unfair to you and to them to evaluate their performance on less than three months of work.

If you don’t have these pre-requisites cleared, then your job is harder, because you now have to do a bunch of fact-finding to compile the report. This is the origin of peer feedback” sections for formal performance reviews — giving you, the manager, more data to compile the final report with. If you’re having regular one-on-ones with the whole team, peer feedback” is more a formality, because you already know that.

So, you’re going to look at your notes about the report from whatever time period you’re reviewing their performance against, and then list three things they did really well. This could be projects you know they personally made meaningful contributions to, or general behaviors you want to call out as excellent. Ie:

  1. Philip has solid technical acumen, and used that to drive forward the Google Analytics project
  2. Philip has demonstrated technical planning skills through the project plan around the Discovery Email
  3. Philip prioritizes mentorship and lifting up other members of the team

Next you highlight three areas of improvement:

  1. Philip needs to focus on time management, as demonstrated by the delay on the Giving Feedback” blog post
  2. Philip has room for improvement on cross-org relations, especially with sales
  3. Philip needs to expand his awareness around how his work fits into the overall company strategy, and how to take that strategy into account for his solutions.

Finally, the Key Takeaway. This is the most important section if you’re delivering this to a report for their benefit, and crucial for you to know what the report’s guiding light should be going forward. It’s the one sectence that should define conversations between you and the report over the next period.

Key Takeaway: Philip is a skilled technical operator, but should focus on cross-org impact impact to move forward in his career at Galaxy Brain.

That’s sections one, two, and three, let’s talk about the optional section four: performance rank against current level. This section is not optional if you’re reporting up to your boss, or you’re trying to advocate for a promotion for the report. This section should still not be hard! Ideally, you:

  1. Have an agreed-upon leveling guide for your company and team
  2. Have a spreadsheet for each report with all the leveling critera spelled out
  3. Regularly go through the spreadsheet for your report, and mark Exceeding expectations, Meeting expectations, Not meeting expectations” for each row

If you have this, then the fourth section of the review is just a summation of the spreadsheet. If you don’t have this, now is a great time to start! If you don’t have a levelling guide for your team or organization, you’re in a bit more of a pickle. (Btw, this is something Galaxy Brain can help with, and we’d love to work with you). If you have time to make a levelling guide before the performance review is due, great! You probably don’t, so for better or worse you need to go with comparisons between the report being reviewed and other reports at their level. Find the person who you think is setting the standard for the level, the person you would definitely mark as Exceeding expectations”. Then figure out what qualities tell you that. Try your hardest to not make this Vibes”, actually write down work qualities, and then compare the other reports at that level to those qualities.

This is going to be biased! There’s kinda no way around that until you get a real leveling guide in place, and this is where the feedback from their peers you’ve been collecting in one-on-ones becomes valuable. Your goal is to end up with one of Exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, not meeting expectations”, and you want it to be as fair as possible, but it will never be perfect and part of the job is making peace with that.

With all these sections done, you now have a review that is both informative and actionable, complimentary and supportively critical, and which ideally took you an hour tops because of the pre-work you put in.

There’s way more on the subject of measuring and managing performance that could be said, and we didn’t even cover delivering the review to the report but this hopefully gets you started. At Galaxy Brain, we help managers and organizations think better about the whole world of management, including performance, and we’d love to work with you.

management performance
August 21, 2022

Digitizing 55,000 pages of civic meetings

It is very hard for the average resident of a U.S. city to know what’s going on with their civic government. It’s even harder for them to get any sort of historical context on why things are the way they are. Let’s take my hometown, the City of Alameda. Six months ago if you wanted to know which city meetings had discussed rent control, your options were:

  1. Have a friend who is a constant watcher of Alameda meetings / the #alamtg hashtag and could tell you
  2. Go through every meeting minutes on the Alameda Legistar and hope you figured it out

This is pretty common across a lot of civic government. I don’t think municipalities are willfully trying to hide this information from residents, and I don’t think it’s ineptitude. I think most cities, even the large ones, are understaffed, and without a concerted push it’s hard to make visibility of city documents” a priority.

It hurts and helps that many cities use Legistar for both meeting management and the complete historical archive. Legistar is only designed for one of those use cases, and it’s not archiving. But the thing that Legistar does provide is an API, and one that’s reasonably sane for fetching a city’s meeting archives.

Because of that API, there’s two tools that have come online for Alameda (and now Oakland) in the past six months that have made it much easier to answer the question: which meetings in my city have recently talked about rent control?”

The first tool is the Council Data Project. CDP is a truly incredible effort and tool, run by some fantastic people (Hi, Eva!). I’m not going to talk much about it, other than to say you should check out the Alameda and Oakland instances.

The second tool is something I’ve been working on recently: SQL-backed full text search of city meeting minutes. You can see this working for the cities of Alameda and Oakland right now. That’s 18,746 pages of city minutes for Alameda, and 37,172 pages of city minutes for Oakland, now fully searchable by anyone.

So let’s talk about how I did this, and how you can do this for your city, possibly with my help!

Here’s my process:

  1. Figure out where official city minutes are hosted
  2. Write a script to fetch and format those city minutes
  3. Upload all the fetched minutes to AWS S3
  4. Run s3-ocr across the corpus of minutes
  5. Download the ocr’d pages into a sqlite DB
  6. Deploy a datasette instance to with that sqlite DB.
  7. Post to twitter so people know about it.

Datasette and s3-ocr are wildly powerful tools written by Simon Willison that will change the landscape of preservation and archiving over the next few years. I’m focused on civic data, but these tools were developed with historical records in mind, and if you haven’t dug into the ecosystem yet, please do so.

So what’s actually happening, step by step? Let’s take Alameda as an example, because Oakland followed a fairly similar pattern. All the code (and all the PDFs) for both cities are available on Github at phildini/alameda-data and phildini/oakland-data

First we need to find all the city minutes. The Legistar API has an Events endpoint that will give you all the city meetings in Legister. Except not quite, it’ll cap at one thousand, so we need to go year-by-year and fetch all the meetings for that year. For Alameda, that means going back to 2004, for Oakland it’s 2003.

for year in years:
    print(f"Fetching {year}")
    event_listing_url = f"{base_api_url}events?$filter=EventDate+ge+datetime%27{year}-01-01%27+and+EventDate+lt+datetime%27{year}-12-31%27"
    list_response = requests.get(event_listing_url)

Once we have a list of events, we pull the date out of the Event object, parse it a little, and check to see if we’ve already fetched this set of minutes.

for event in list_response.json():
    body = event["EventBodyName"]
    directory = f"./data/{body.replace(' ','')}"
    if not os.path.exists(directory):
    filename = event["EventDate"].split("T")[0] + ".pdf"
    filepath = f"{directory}/{filename}"
    if os.path.exists(filepath):

If we haven’t fetched it, we get the meeting listing url, then fetch the page with BeautifulSoup, grab the link to the minutes, and pull it down.

page_url = event["EventInSiteURL"]
page_response = requests.get(page_url)
soup = BeautifulSoup(page_response.text, "html.parser")
minutes_url = (
    + soup.find(id="ctl00_ContentPlaceHolder1_hypMinutes").attrs["href"]
minutes_response = requests.get(minutes_url, allow_redirects=True)

With the PDF response ready, we write the file and move on.

with open(filepath, "wb") as minutes_pdf:

For Alameda, the script takes an hour or two. For Oakland, about four hours. Those times are both first-run times; because the script is idempotent, we won’t re-download a file we’ve already downloaded. On successive runs, the script completes in minutes or seconds.

With all the PDFs downloaded and sorted, we upload to S3. Because we’re using s3-ocr --all, each city gets its own bucket.

The OCR process takes about half an hour, but that’s again a first run time. All the parts of this process are idempotent, so running s3-ocr successive times will only operate on new files. Each new file that s3-ocr discovers on a run gets a job created for it, and when all the jobs are done we run s3-ocr index city_minutes.db. Indexing all the pages into sqlite databases took about two hours for Alameda, and about four hours for Oakland.

Once the index process is done, we upload a datasette instance with the DBs to, a stunningly good PaaS that makes the deployment as easy as:

datasette publish fly city_minutes.db --app="alameda-datasette"

While (so far) hosting these datasets on is free, the project itself has some costs. The OCR used by s3-ocr is AWS Textract. Running s3-ocr against the 18,746 pages of Alameda city minutes cost about $40, and the 37,172 cost about $80.

With that process and pricing in mind, let’s talk about Berkeley and San Francisco. The Events endpoint for the San Francisco Legistar instance is currently broken, probably because of how far back the San Francisco data goes. I have a lead on how to get around that, but it’ll still cost some processinig time.

Berkeley is a fun case. Berkeley already has full-text search of it’s city minutes, but that search doesn’t return the text, it only returns the PDFs. Using that, I was able to get a huge chunk of Berkeley city minutes downloaded. How huge a chunk? 9700+ documents, in some cases going back to 1905. I would really love to get these digitized, and be able to present this century-long searchable record to the City of Berkeley, but my estimates are that it’s going to cost $350 to run s3-ocr against the full set, and that’s more than I can bear on my own right now.

This is where you, the reader, hopefully come in. If you like what I’m doing here, I’m accepting donations via Venmo (@phildini) and Square Cash ($phildini). These donations will go straight to the AWS cost of processing more city minutes data. If you know someone in Alameda or Oakland or San Francisco or especially Berkeley who wants to see this information be accessible, please share this with them. If you know a political activist or journalist who could use this data, please share it with them. If you think of cool uses for this data yourself, please share them with me.

And if there’s data you want exposed to the sunshine like this, for your city or others, reach out to .

data politics datasette pdfs civics
April 6, 2022

Things that surprised me about golf

The Athleticism

So, it turns out golf is a sport. By which I mean, its a real sport, a competitive physical activity that taxes the body and mind. I’m writing this on a Wednesday, three days after my first golf outing as an adult, and my back and forearms are still feeling the effort it took to complete a 9-hole round.

I may not like it, but I am not what peak performance looks like, and yet I am capable in the things I thought necessary to be good at golf: I can walk for days and I can juggle for hours without feeling too taxed. My surprise stems from the fact that golf is a sport sterotypically enjoyed by old white men, who are not normally associated with athletic prowess. Hell, the 45th President of the United States is famously obsessed with golf, and he seemed like a man ready to keel over in a strong wind. Practice, or knowing the correct way to play golf”, probably helps here, but the amount of workout I got from 9 holes still surprised me.

The Experience

My dad, who was quite fond of golf in his way, had a little plaque that said Golf is a nice walk ruined by a little white ball”. Sometime around my transition to teen”, he tried to take me golfing, and I think utterly despaired after my first 9 holes of ever taking me golfing again, but that quote has stuck with me throughout my life.

Golf is a nice walk! It’s actively pleasant to be out in the sunshine, normally in a little secluded patch of nature, walking with a friend, and the sport itself gives a conversation topic that feels easy. What club are you thinking for the next hole?” That last shot, eh?” Look at that bird over there.”

Around the 6th hole, my golfing partner and I realized why the trope of sales people and executives being obsessed with golf exists. If you think of yourself as a person who is always busy, golf is a nice forced break in your day, out of the office and with some buddies. If you’re trying to sell someone on something, golf gives you at least an hour of time with that person, where you aren’t really competing with them because you’re both too busy competing against yourselves. You now have a shared experience as the basis for a relationship that can turn into something beneficial for both of you.

This realization surprised both of us, I think, because we are both engineers and have our own learned biases around salespeople. I certainly thought the trope existed as just another form of privilege, a sense of I can take off part of my work day and go play around because I’m charming or powerful.” That isn’t untrue, but there is also a core of a good idea around building relationships on the golf course.

And, of course, it’s very easy to make the other person look good by deliberately being a little bad.

The Competition

By competition, I don’t mean competing for a score against whoever you’re playing with”. That drive to be better than my golfing partner existed at the beginning, because I have a small competitive streak, but halfway through the round something changed. With each swing, as I learned from first principles the mechanics of golf, as I moved from absolute ignorance to seeing the foothils of understanding off in the distance, I started thinking about how to consciously improve my skill not because I wanted to be better than my partner, but because I wanted to be better at golf. I wanted to stop landing deep in the rough, then stop just off the green, then start landing closer to the hole.

I realized, somewhere between the 8th and 9th hole, what the real attraction of golf as a sport is. There are few sports we play where you can have anything that resembles a perfect game. Team-on-team sports are right out. There are too many variables for any player to play a platonic ideal perfect game in football or soccer or basketball or hockey. In baseball, only the pitcher can play a game perfectly, and even then they have at least 9 opponents who are there to thwart their attempt. Golf is in a class with only maybe bowling or certain races. The only thing between you and a perfect game is you, your mastery of yourself, the sport, and how those combine to overcome the elements you play in.

Golf is the only sport I’ve experienced that combines true athleticism with a competition that is solely against yourself. I find myself wanting to play the same course again, because I see how I could improve, and the improvement will itself be a reward.

The Issues

Golf is a waste of space. Especially for private golf courses, golf is land that could be better spent on just about anything else, especially in the parts of California that are under a major housing crunch. The public municipal courses are maybe better, because any member of the public can use them, but also maybe worse because they are now using public land for a sport that only a few can enjoy at a time, and using public dollars for the upkeep of that land.

Addtionally, golf is still a deliberately, institutionally exclusive club. We were both surprised at the number of golf courses, even the ostensibly public municipal courses, that don’t rent the equipment needed for using public land. The course in Alameda, where I live and my first thought for where to play, does not rent anything as far as we could tell, and we ended up going deep into the Oakland hills to find a place that would rent us clubs. A football, baseball, soccerball, or basketball can all be had for under $20; the cheapest set of clubs you can find on Amazon is over $100. Golf is exclusionary.

And yet, my biggest surprise of all, knowing the issues around land use and privilege and the long history of weaponized exclusivity, was that I enjoyed it. Every fiber of my being was ready to write off golf as some dumb thing rich white people do. To my chagrin I started really enjoying myself after a couple holes.

If every golf course was tomorrow turned into housing or a public park or some sort of open nudist recreational area, I would shed no tears. But while they exist, I surprise myself by wanting to go golfing again.

golf sports business surprise
April 12, 2021


I have the courage of my convictions, but not the courage of my perceptions. By courage of my convictions”, I mean that my default is strong opinions, loosely held” — I will defend my position, but try to be very open to being proven wrong. Occasionally, I will put a real stake in the ground on something I believe in, because it is fundamental to who I am or because I have done the research or have the experience to have the confidence in the position I’m taking.

Courage of my perceptions is the trickier one, because I’m using perceptions” in two ways. In the first way, perceptions means that which I am perceiving”, and for a lot of topics that’s inherently suspect. I am a white man from California. When I observe events in the world involving people who don’t look like me or have my background, my perceptions are suspect because the society I live in has trained me to view those events in a certain lens. Deprogramming bias from my perceptions of human interactions has been a large part of the background work of my adulthood, and that work will continue until I die.

But I’m also using percepions” to mean how I am perceived”, and this is a facet of my personality that brings me anxiety. When I present something about myself, or when I take a position on a topic in front of people I care about, my anxious brain kicks into overdrive, trying to anticipate and analyze the responses to see how my courage of conviction is landing.

If you’ve ever talked to me, and had the impression that I have used a hundred words when ten would do, then you have seen the effect of this. My defense mechanism is to produce a deluge of supporting information to any position I take, so that I will seem at least reasonable in my convictions and therefore be accepted by the people I’m being vulnerable around.

What do? I’m someone who believes that our minds, if they can be changed, can only be changed through a change in behavior, so I’m attempting to change my behavior. For those of you who know me, this will probably be a net positive: I’m going to try talk less, and smile more.

brain personality anxiety