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Back to the science before the break
Setting ourselves up for a successful 2023
The holidays are here! Not sure if anybody is reading emails this late in December, but if you are, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to do so. This will be the last issue for the year as I try to actually take a small break as well.
Last week we talked about the importance of reflection and retrospectives. This past session we got quite reflective with students so I thought I would share two things I've learned over the years running retrospectives.
Operationalize the change. It's hard to actually remember to make the change we want with each iteration. We are forgetful, fallible people so there's no saying we won't make the same mistakes next time! If we want to be intentional about improvement, change one of the systems you use. Try to eliminate the need for you to change and instead put the responsibility on something else. Maybe you're adding something to the calendar, asking someone to help you, or downloading a new tool. Whatever it is, it increases the chances of change happening in the future since you don't need to remember.
Just pick one thing to change. Let's be realistic, we aren't going to do a full 180 in our next iteration. Instead of overwhelming yourself with a lengthy list, pick the most important one and be intentional about that.
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Understanding our invisible scripts
I was watching a documentary about Edward Bernays on YouTube and the creation of the Public Relations industry. In it, they talked about all of the different things that he managed to change public perception on. It was eye-opening to understand how many of my beliefs (absorbed from society or those around me) resulted from advertising campaigns. Though it's not exactly what we were focused on, we talked about seeking understanding this week.
There are a couple of different ways you can take this.
The first is with others. One of my favourite principles comes from Ramit Sethi and he calls it "the D-to-C principle", moving from dismissive to curious. I've written about it before so I'll keep it short. So many of us interact with others who we disagree with and immediately dismiss. Reframe these moments as great learning opportunities to better understand their worldview and what makes them believe what they do. Remember: your goal is to understand their view, not convince them of yours. There's no saying your view is the right one.
The second is with our own beliefs. We live with so many invisible beliefs which we don't even think to question. It’s challenging, but I encourage you to get introspective and ask:
Where do my beliefs come from?
What do I gain by holding onto this belief?
Does it still serve me?
It sounds easy, but how do you actually surface these invisible beliefs? I think it takes intense introspection. You need to work bottom-up or dig into your own life and start to question everything about yourself. This takes time. And remember, the intention is not to question and dismiss your beliefs but to understand them. Flipping a single script in your life can have immense effects, but even if they don't change, you can operate more comfortably in them.
Here is an invisible scripts starter kit:
College is a necessary path to success
Success is measured in dollars
It’s important to be liked
I’ll be happier once I do/have insert objective here
It’s important to be unique and stand out
More is better
Rearranging the pieces of our puzzle
Our topic du jour? Gene editing. And let me tell you, the possibilities are cool AF. If you're unfamiliar, thanks to a discovery by Jennifer Doudna called CRISPR. Keeping a 30,000 ft view, this new "technology" (which is just specifically programmed RNA + bacteria) allows scientists to target specific areas of a gene within an organism and alter it. This has wide-ranging implications from improving the health of embryos, and potentially eliminating birth defects to making crops more resistant to disease or weather. Of course, like all ground-breaking technology, these changes are not met without resistance and ethical issues.
I'll include some interesting recent developments in the space that might get you excited about it.
In 2020 a Chinese scientist was imprisoned after creating some of the world's first genetically modified babies. It sparked a lot of discourse on the ethics of gene editing (we had discussions on this in session) and a documentary was just released about it. Watch the documentary.
Want to try to cure heart attacks? Researchers at Verve Therapeutics just started experimenting with permanently lowering a patient’s cholesterol levels by substituting a single base-pair in their liver cells. You can read more about it here.
Where CRISPR is normally used to remove segments of DNA (and attempt to strategically replace it in some cases), Tessera Therapeutics is trying to enable Gene Writing which is far more targeted in its approach. Instead of splitting the DNA and cutting it, they claim to be able to swap in base pairs without making any breaks. Read a profile of their tech.
Thanks to base editing (a type of gene editing), a teenager in the UK was able to survive longer with leukemia. Right now her cancer has been in remission for the last 6 months since the treatment. Base editing is the same approach (it seems) being used by Verve! Read about Alyssa.
There are seemingly endless possibilities and it’s got me excited. I've queued up the documentary for next week!
Having an intentional winter break
I’ll close out with a bit of a personal blurb. We ask students to set intentions for their break so they return motivated and energized. I went through the same exercise. The break is a perfect time to reinforce habits not to shed them (a common practice). I have all the time and space I need to be deliberate about them.
My main intentions:
Learn about a new area (going deep on BCIs)
Instill healthy habits
Prepare for 2023
Have fun and recharge with loved ones
Spend time on personal growth and reading
Get shit done (writing and building)
I’ve never been great at balance but every week is an opportunity to iterate on how I spend my time. I'm just coming off my first 36h fast and am planning another next week before the year is over! It’s on the calendar.
I hope the next couple of weeks are restful, energizing, and productive for you.
This is me operationalizing some of my intentions.