Trust and psychological safety are core elements of high performing teams.
Trust is the willingness of a party to be vulnerable someone else. Trust
implies that you respect your teammates abilities and you respect their
intentions. Psychological safety builds on trust and is more about how you
feel about the team dynamics. What are the risks of blame if you try something
Trust is about individuals and psychological safety is about the team. And
when we build teams that have that trust, where people feel like they can be
their whole selves, and they feel safe enough to raise their hand, to offer
contradicting opinions, to think differently and work differently and
contribute in their own way. That’s when we get a high-performing team.
XOXO was fantastic again this year. Since it wrapped up a week ago, there have
been a number of fantastic posts from the likes of Frank Chimero,
Maciej Ceglowski, and Kelly Kend; you should go read them. I was
particularly moved by the unabashed vulnerability and honesty of the speakers,
and their willingness to recruit the audience to confront the debilitating
effects of impostor syndrome. I expect to write more about the festival in the
future. Or maybe I’ll just create something awesome in the coming year, instead.
One thing struck me after the first day of talks that I’ve not noticed addressed
elsewhere. While women were under-represented in the audience (though far better
than at most tech conferences), but they were pretty well-represented among the
speakers. And the women speakers — oh man. They. Kicked. Ass.
Erika Moen openly shared her quest for sexual identity via comics. Vi Hart
hilariously described how to make money on YouTube — and Andy told her she
could keep going for as long as she wanted. Molly Crabapple raised important
yet seldom discussed issues around the independence of artists and the
availability of capital on the internet. Julie Uhrman humbly shared all the
ways in which Ouya has failed, and in doing so making it better. And
Christina Xu discussed [BreadPig]’s objective to enable artists to make a
living online without exploitation.
These amazing people weren’t at XOXO because they’re women; they weren’t there
to represent women as a separate entity, or to talk about the
under-representation of women in tech. No, they were there because they’ve
created incredible things and wanted to share. Their energy was palpable. They
just came out on stage and totally fucking rocked it.
This is how it ought be. You make something. You’re excited about it. Your
energy infects the audience. And your gender and ethnicity have nothing to do
with it. It’s moving simply to be amazing.
Alas, XOXO is the outlier here. But it points to the future, and I’m excited to
help push it forward.
A simple post. “Something to make you think,” Dustin Curtis wrote. I followed
the link and have hardly stopped thinking about it since.
Sam Harris wants to help non-religious people understand how it feels to be a
believer confronted with scientific rationality. Toward that end, he offers the
fireplace delusion. The idea is simple:
On a cold night, most people consider a well-tended fire to be one of the more
wholesome pleasures that humanity has produced. A fire, burning safely within
the confines of a fireplace or a woodstove, is a visible and tangible source
of comfort to us.
That love is misguided, however. The scientific evidence is compelling:
The unhappy truth about burning wood has been scientifically established to a
moral certainty: That nice, cozy fire in your fireplace is bad for you. It is
bad for your children. It is bad for your neighbors and their children.
So far so good. People like to romanticize fires, yet research shows it to be
anything but wholesome. It’s incontrovertible, and Harris presents the argument
well. I’ve never felt that fires were particularly healthy, so it was no
challenge to convince me.
Yet it seems that my reaction may be unique, to judge by the reactions of the
people with whom Harris has discussed the issue:
I have discovered that when I make this case, even to highly intelligent and
health-conscious men and women, a psychological truth quickly becomes as
visible as a pair of clenched fists: They do not want to believe any of it.
Most people I meet want to live in a world in which wood smoke is harmless.
Indeed, they seem committed to living in such a world, regardless of the
My reaction to such a commitment: Those people are being completely
irrational. Why would anyone argue with such compelling evidence, unless they
are so wed to their belief that it deafens them to the truth. They plug their
ears and over and over shout “I can’t hear you!” These are Harris’s friends:
Of course, if you are anything like my friends, you will refuse to believe
this. And that should give you some sense of what we are up against whenever
we confront religion.
Now, I am not a religious person, and like Harris strongly advocate for the use
of scientific reasoning and rational thought in social, political, and economic
discourse. I have no bona-fides to offer, but personally find the entire idea of
religion to be nonsensical.
But even I think that this analogy — admittedly imperfect, Harris says — to
be entirely disingenuous.
The problem is not that religious people are irrational in their beliefs, but my
reading of The Fireplace Delusion makes exactly that point: Religious people
continue to believe in the face of rational refutation simply because they want
to believe. But that’s a dishonest reading of faith.
Faith has nothing whatsoever to do with rationality.
Nothing. Nada. Faith is not an irrational resistance to rational reasoning and
facts, because it is not subject to rational reasoning and facts. It’s something
different, an entirely other animal. Not irrational, but a-rational.
A better analogy than the fireplace delusion might be something derived from
it. I offer, instead, love.
Love is not rational. It cannot be refuted by rationality and facts. Scientific
reasoning may suggest that my entire biological purpose is to
pass my genes on to my children. Yet my deep and abiding love for my wife
does not enter into it. It might be argued that love evolved to increase the
chances of human genetic success, but such argument neither supports nor refutes
my love the way scientific research refutes the value of fire. It simply is.
It’s not just love and religion that work like this, that are a-rational. Art.
Jazz. Hacking. That which motivates, that drives passion, dedication, and
creation, that embodies culture in the Anthropological sense-including, yes,
the pursuit of scientific research and reasoning-is a-rational. No, better: it’s
extra-rational. That’s part of what makes it beautiful.
You cannot refute love. You cannot refute art. You cannot refute faith. Because
they are not in the domain of refutation, are not subject to the facts. They are
something else entirely. Often-not always, but often — they create beauty.