2012 04 02

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Feature Cast for 2012-04-02

(00:00:17.380) Intro

(00:03:17.757) Listener Feedback

(00:14:30.260) Hacker Word of the Week: for values of

(00:16:05.523) Inner Chapter: Feeling Your Oats

  • What does it mean?
    • After a little research online, it can refer to feeling energetic or lively
      • As well as have a surplus of confidence, a strong sense of ability and worth
    • The saying apparently has its roots in farm wisdom
      • That it describes quite literally how horses behave after being fed
    • In thinking through the topic, I think this is slightly ironic for a couple of reasons
    • Horses, like all livestock, are undoubtedly on a very regular schedule for feeding and care
    • If a horse felt its oats every single meal
      • Then why was the observed effect so remarkable as to end up describing
        • What is by implication not something we see in people every day
        • But in special enough circumstances to warrant the comparison
    • When I think back to how this phrase is usually applied
      • It always seems to be with a mild sense of surprise
      • That the subject is feeling some uncharacteristic energy or ambition
    • The mundane act of rationing out oats to horses
      • Wouldn't seem to be cause for this same sort of surprise
        • So perhaps it is the degree, not the happenstance, to which that pep is displayed
    • My thoughts here tend more towards a matter of timing, however
      • So probably speak to causes more so than to specific behaviors
        • Though I do think there is a some value in taking the anecdote at face value
        • As an gauge of how lively and alive we find ourselves in a given situation
    • I was thinking about this as a sort of book end to my thoughts on dis-location
    • My own last change was a year ago so I can still vividly remember
      • How much I felt out of place, not quite at home yet
        • Especially as I have been noticing after right around a year how that has changed
    • After the span of twelve months, I know I feel more confident in my new place
      • Acting on more opportunities to engage with my colleagues
        • And to explore new aspects and adventures that come of the kind of work I am doing
    • Previously I didn't always feel like I had enough knowledge
      • Either of the situation or the people involved
      • Or even of how my views and experience might fit and add some value
    • Lately I feel like I have built up enough personal history and connections
      • To have a pretty good instinct for where my input and effort will be concretely helpful
    • Again, because this shift in my professional life is so new
      • And comes so recently after making this transition
        • I thought it would be an excellent prod to reflect, to tease out some general thoughts
        • Based on my own specific experience
    • I will add that while I don't remember as well this particular moment in past jobs
      • I do know that I've gone through this before, to good effect
  • Capitalizing on this feeling is about timing
    • It relates very clearly to adjustment as I mentioned already
    • A good deal of the time, I emphasize being sure to simply focus on the work at hand
    • I had some experiences very earlier on in my career where many of my peers
      • Were caught up in the boom of the original dot-com bubble but at a personal scale
    • As massive influxes of cash and interest caused may firms to swell at unnaturally accelerated rates
      • Many young hires were thrust into important roles and responsibilities
        • Well before they were ready
    • Beyond the benefit of hindsight, to see how damaging to many of us this was
      • In terms of robbing us of the ability to evolve at a more sustainable pace
      • It also engendered a very strong urge towards promotion for its own sake
    • In me this spurred a reaction the other way, to make sure my current responsibilities
      • Are taken care of first before looking further for more
    • When an opening does come along, I feel this puts one in far more of a position
      • To feel confidence in all of the work already done well
        • Rather than being in an awkward pose of reaching for the next rung
        • With very little purchase of the one below it
    • It is said that in general, past history is a poor predictor of future performance
      • But I think that applies to natural phenomenon, ones subject to complex contingencies
    • For people, before considering someone for a new role as a hiring or promoting manager
      • I want to get a sense of how that candidate has handled responsibility so far
    • I don't think that view is very controversial in that setting
      • But as a job seeker or holder interested in professional development
        • It means taking that to heart every single day, using the work today
        • To build the best possible case for moving onwards and upwards tomorrow
    • There have certainly been times when I have simply felt the need to withdraw
      • Regardless of questions of career advancement or responsibility
        • To renew or garner my strength
    • Most often this has to do with the cycle of projects but also sometimes the move between jobs
    • There are simply times where I feel the need to regroup rather than explore the field of ideas
    • Stretching and growth are inherently uncomfortable
    • In order to pursue them with success, you need to have comfort to spare
    • To me, then, that sensation we label feeling our oats is about knowing when those reserves
      • Are brimming or overly full, that the resulting friskiness is a visceral sign
        • Of the excess resources that growth in whatever form requires in order to succeed
  • Opportunity alone is not enough, you have to know when it is the right time to act
    • In my Tai Chi study, I have encountered this idea of correct timing
    • On one level, it is about the simple mechanics of movement
      • How the limbs move in relation to each other within a sequence
    • It also points to a certain simultaneity that crops up in the form over and over
    • Often one movement flows into the next but at other times
      • A set of movements really happens all at once
    • Some of my favorite sequences right now exhibit this quality
    • They involve a sinking and turning of the core at the exact moment a step is taken
      • And while both arms are tracing out their own intricate paths
    • When done correctly, there is a feeling that everything starts, flows and comes together
      • In a coordinated fashion that lacks effort, that it simply could not happen any other way
    • Of course, the truth is that I have invested years of practice
    • I have cultivated strength in my limbs and a sense of how the movement of my core
      • Helps to generate the power and energy need to move everything else without apparent effort
    • Without that sense of timing on which I am working, though
      • All that practice, that cultivation of the individual pieces and parts simply wouldn't integrate
    • There is one other sense of timing I have only just started to appreciate
    • I have been studying the two person form, sensing hands, for only a few years
    • Much of that practice is about extending awareness into the movements and timing of a partner
    • You could call it sparring except that as with many other martial arts, it is more like a game
      • One designed to cultivate certain sensations and experiences
    • In Tai Chi, it is about yielding and listening but there are moments of decisive action
    • That fine line between listening and action is another form of timing
      • And one where I definitely feel you have to build up some confidence
    • You can gently move your partner to a tipping point in your play
      • Where they are right on the edge of losing their balance
    • If you hesitate in applying a tiny amount of force, a push
      • Then they can regain their balance and counteract your effort
    • If you move to soon, you have shown your hand and potentially put yourself off balance
    • All the practice in the world around how to correctly apply force and to see openings
      • Doesn't in itself cross that gulf between the two
    • A sense of confidence has to be felt to exercise that timing that connects the two together
      • So that you actually initiate action at the right time
        • Without thought for whether you hesitated a bit too long
        • Or have not quite moved your partner where you should have first
    • In many of the other martial arts I have studied
      • That sense of confidence in your own abilities and trust in your partner or opponent
        • Is what has led to the most playful enjoyment of each respective form
    • I think there is a valuable lesson not just for meditation in motion like Tai Chi or fencing
      • But for how to approach timing, action and the confidence to find the best interplay of the two
  • I want to return to that original idea of energy and feeling frisky
    • Remember that counter intuition I noted
    • We use the expression, feeling your oats, to note something unusual
      • Despite the seemingly very quotidian origin of the phrase
    • In the context I've been exploring, that acting on a basis of confidence
      • I think there is something to the idea of regular cultivation of energy
        • Such as the daily feedings of a horse that seems like an odd inspiration
    • My own recent feelings of confidence and energy are not one off, one time moments
    • When I have those experiences where I am brimming with confidence
      • Usually fueled by some sustained success or series of successes
        • It comes with the sense that I have the necessary energy to keep that up
    • I've had the contrasting experience
      • Where I have felt like day after day I have been out of my depth
    • I don't think I have ever intentionally put myself in that position
    • The most recent job where that occurred was a startup that was struggling to grow
    • In an effort to improve their bottom line, they cut back the development staff
      • From several dozen to about half a dozen people
    • The development group may have really been over staffed
      • But that over correction put a huge burden on the remaining folks
        • Well beyond what any sense of past success or confidence would have prepared us
    • Not having the energy, will or resources to have a reasonable chance of success
      • Is an intensely demoralizing experience
    • The lay off is a bit of a false comparison as there wasn't anything
      • Any of us individuals could have done
    • One our own, in the usual course of project, enthusiasms and work though
    • It is important to be able to tell when confidence is warranted by skill and ability
      • Versus simply the desire to pursue an interesting opportunity
        • Regardless of our chances of success
    • I feel my oats the most when I not only have some solid past successes
      • But a very strong and real sense of what new challenges I can handle
  • I have focused on timing and attitude around openings
    • Implying that at most we can prepare ourselves and wait for them to come our way
    • I think feeling our oats can also be about a sense
      • Of self advocacy, acting as our own champions to make that opening
    • What has become clear to me in working through my thoughts on this topic
      • Is that if everything else is tended well, in terms of building ability, accumulating success
        • Those things are far more important than leaping on some random chance unprepared
    • Feeling confident, more important on a rational and with good supporting evidence
      • Can provide fuel for arguing for the chance to do more, to pursue some new course
    • I think it makes sense to have sound footing in arguing for a chance to succeed
      • Than really be scrambling when the time, and more importantly
        • Ourselves and our abilities aren't up to it

(00:31:56.450) Outro

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