#11 Preferred Narratives 🛣
Thoughts on how we might proceed, new podcast, recommendations for TV, movies, books and more
Preferred Narratives 🛣
COVID-19 has brought us into uncharted territory.
In an effort to restore some sense of direction, each of us is constantly updating a narrative in our head that includes: where we were, where we are and where we’re heading.
Since nobody knows for sure what the future holds, the result is a whole lot of speculation. But speculation isn’t a new thing.
We’ve always been engaged in speculation about the future since it’s unknown. And as long as our collective speculation about the future roughly lined up with what actually happened, we felt safe.
Today, however, we’ve diverged so far from our speculated narrative that we’re all experiencing a deep forking of narratives about what happens next.
Each of our narratives is shaped by our respective bias — with a heavy weight on our individual goals and hopes for the future — leading to a polarization in views on how to proceed.
If you own a bar, your preferred narrative is likely one in which we should re-open bars. If you’re the CEO of Zoom, your preferred narrative might be one in which it’s better to keep things closed for the rest of 2020. Incentives drive human preferences.
With an unemployment rate of 14.7% in the U.S., a growing number of Americans are pushing for re-opening the economy. In contrast, almost all policymakers (who are employed by definition) and government officials are continuing to push for extending shelter-in-place orders.
Given that we’re each forming our own view in real-time (and there’s no right answer), I figured I’ll share my preferred narrative.
My views are constantly evolving as new data/facts come to light so treat this as a snapshot with an expiration date of a couple weeks:
Sheltering in place for the last two months was the smart move. It seems we’ve successfully flattened the curve in SF. I don’t think we should have two more months of SIP.
I don’t believe we’re properly balancing the need for protecting our at-risk population with the need to have a working economy. We’ve under-indexed on the latter.
COVID case fatality rate (# dead / # infected) is significantly lower than what’s being reported; the total number of infected individuals is way higher due to asymptomatic people never being tested. Therefore, it’s not as deadly as reported.
Opening the economy back will decrease unemployment (obviously). Lower unemployment stabilizes society. Higher unemployment jeopardizes the stability of society and increases the likelihood of crime/rioting.
There will be a “second wave” when we re-open. I think that’ll be true regardless of whether we open up next week or two months from now. We shouldn’t wait for a vaccine.
The stimulus package was helpful and bought us time. It’s not a sustainable solution. We can’t rely on the government to continue giving people free money.
Neither cure nor vaccine will arrive before 2021.
We should re-open parks and beaches now. Letting people get fresh air and sun is important. Depression and loneliness are health risks too.
Elderly and at-risk individuals should continue sheltering in place. People who live with / are in regular contact with these individuals should continue sheltering in place.
Those who can work from home should continue doing so. Those who can’t work from home should be allowed to seek work outside.
If restaurants are willing to re-open, they should be allowed to do so. If people are willing to dine in restaurants, they should be allowed to do so. Adults should bear the consequences of their own choices in a free society.
We should all be able to send saliva samples to a central testing site, free of charge. We could set an aggressive goal of having the entire U.S. population tested by the end of 2020.
I don’t yet have an opinion about international travel. We have a trip booked to Vancouver for September and haven’t cancelled yet.
We should re-open manufacturing facilities and begin tackling large infrastructure projects as a way of rebooting the economy.
Some of these opinions are surely controversial but my intent isn’t to upset anyone. Like I said, the diverging preferred narratives mean we all pretty much have our own opinions and it’s okay to disagree. The lack of clear facts and data makes it hard to trust anything in the news so we’re each having to piece it together for ourselves.
New podcast 🎙
I’ve been looking for a creative outlet that is a bit more social/collaborative. Writing is a solo sport.
So I started a podcast with my friend and previous colleague Brandon, to give us both something fun to do.
The first episode of Product Therapy is now available everywhere you find podcasts:
In the first “session”, we talk about who we are, why we’re doing a podcast, how we got into product management in the first place, how we’re spending our time during COVID and a bit about why PM can sometimes feel thankless. I also share a job search update for ~10 minutes starting at the 35:45 mark.
We’re planning to release once a week so feel free to subscribe directly in the podcast app of your choosing or follow another newsletter we created that notifies you each time we post here.
Recently, I’ve been spending most of my time interviewing, walking George and hanging out with Carole.
Throughout, I’ve been consuming lots of content. If you’re looking for recommendations, this section is for you.
Devs - “A young software engineer named Lily Chan who works for Amaya, a cutting-edge tech company based in Silicon Valley. After her boyfriend Sergei's apparent suicide, Lily suspects foul play and begins to investigate.” From the director of Ex Machina Alex Garland and starring Nick Offerman and Allison Pill, I thought this was a creative and intriguing take on big tech gone wrong. If you like SciFi, check it out on Amazon Video (only one season so far).
Undone - “A woman discovers she has a new relationship with time after surviving a car accident that almost killed her.” This was incredibly good in my opinion. The animation, the story and the deep philosophy that permeates the plot were fantastic. Starring Bob Odenkirk from Better Call Saul, I loved it. If you like SciFi, check it out on Amazon Video (also only one season so far).
Schitt’s Creek - “When rich video-store magnate Johnny Rose and his family suddenly find themselves broke, they are forced to leave their pampered lives to regroup in Schitt's Creek.” Carole & I tried watching this last year and gave up after a few episodes. We gave it another shot recently and I’m happy we did. It gets better every episode and has a lot of laugh out loud moments. It’s been our go-to comedy during the COVID lockdown and never fails to put a smile on our face. It’s on Netflix.
Unorthodox - “Story of a young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman who flees her arranged marriage and religious community to start a new life abroad.” We binged this 4-part series on Netflix in a couple days. The sets and dialogue in Yiddish are incredibly authentic to the Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish community. It’s inspired by a true story and the main actress Shira Haas (fellow Israeli) puts on an absolutely mind-blowing performance. It’s on Netflix.
Burning - “Jong-su bumps into a girl who used to live in the same neighborhood, who asks him to look after her cat while she's on a trip to Africa. When back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met there, who confesses his secret hobby.” I can’t remember who recommended this to me but they told me it was Parasite before Parasite. It’s a touching Korean film that has elements of psychological thriller mixed with an indie love story. I liked it a lot, Carole didn’t as much. Decide for yourself : )
Good Boys - “Three 6th grade boys ditch school and embark on an epic journey while carrying accidentally stolen drugs, being hunted by teenage girls, and trying to make their way home in time for a long-awaited party.” It’s funny, fun and a light way to pass 90 minutes. It has elements of Superbad and Booksmart. Streaming on Amazon.
Books / Audiobooks
The Obelisk Gate - the second book in the science fantasy The Broken Earth trilogy has not disappointed. I’m almost done with it and will definitely order the third book to finish the series. Each book in the trilogy won the Hugo award for best novel. This middle installment is building nicely on the first and opening new questions while answering questions from the first. If you’re looking to get into the series, start with The Fifth Season.
Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality - “The heart of Anthony de Mello's bestselling spiritual message is awareness. Mixing Christian spirituality, Buddhist parables, Hindu breathing exercises, and psychological insight, de Mello's words of hope come together in Awareness in a grand synthesis.” I listened to this in audiobook and loved it. Read by de Mello himself, it’s infused with storytelling and energy. Highly recommend if you’re craving something deeper for your soul.
The Making of a Manager - I’m early on in this book by tech exec Julie Zhuo about her path to being a manager after being an individual contributor and lessons learned along the way. I’m looking forward to continuing to digest this over time since I’m ultimately interested in managing people later in my career.
America Before: The Key to Earth's Lost Civilization - As I wrote about in the 2nd post of this newsletter, I’m fascinated with pre-history and the idea of a lost civilization from the last ice age. I’m a big fan of author Graham Hancock and finally started listening to the audiobook of his latest book on the American piece in the lost civilization puzzle. Turns out, humans have been in America a lot longer than previously thought with archeological digs revealing artifacts, structures and carbon-dating results that are re-writing the story of humanity. Serpent Mound (image below) in Ohio is one of many ancient sites in this thought-provoking inquiry into our past.
Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - I’m continuing to watch John Vervaeke’s lecture series in which he factors in shamanism, ancient philosophy, psychedelics, 20th century psychology, and more into a cohesive thesis on how we derive meaning. As the series has gone deeper, it’s become denser but if you’re intrigued I recommend starting with the first lecture and going where your interests take you.
Joe Rogan Experience #1470 - Elon Musk - In the midst of one of the strangest times in history, Elon Musk joins Joe Rogan for the second time and cover many topics including Elon’s new baby, selling most of what he owns, Neuralink, COVID response and more. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Musk has done a lot of good for humanity and I enjoy hearing his thoughts.
Sprint 2020 MAPS Bulletin - I’ve been following the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for the last 6-7 years and am extremely impressed with what they’ve been able to accomplish. They’re working closely with the FDA to create evidence-based studies on the potential benefits of MDMA and other psychedelics. It’s absolutely remarkable. Here’s a talk by MAPS’s founder Rick Doblin about the future of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. It makes me very optimistic about where our mental health system is going.
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