I Miss Early Morning Wake-Up’s

I also miss writing. Watching incredible performances during Tokyo 202One it reminded me that for the past year I neglected many of my favourite things to do, including a writing practice. Like many others, I grew tired of looking at a screen all day and instead of building up some wrist endurance writing in a conventional notebook I gave up the practice all together. Tokyo202One awoke something in me to help to continue to raise the bar as I demand excellence in my life.

It was a great joy to wake up early and stay up late to see friends, teammates, former teammates and other Canadian athletes compete on the biggest stage. Compared to Rio2016, where I missed making the Track and Field Team, I was much more at peace with not being a part of Team Canada once again. Hopefully it’s maturity and wisdom that gave me a sense of peace, perhaps it was a different perspective five years later, but it might be a case of denial – the jury is still out on that one!

This week reflecting back on the Olympics I’m ready to start a new chapter. I’m ready to tackle my new job and to get back to elite training with the new team I joined this summer (albeit, after my recent ankle injury heals up). Here are some of the things I’m going to try to do:

  • Write a weekly post to reflect back on the things I learned to try to piece them together, including notable podcasts and books or articles I read.
  • Write and end of month metaphor piece comparing something from engineering or science to life – much like my resilience mini-series from December 2019. Now seems like a good time to go back to revisit resilience.
  • Alongside the students I’m working with this fall I’m going to build an ‘Engineering Handbook’ reflecting on my personal design process, views on engineering and from Charlie Munger and Shane Parrish, the mental models I use in decision making. Once I figure out the platform for this Handbook I’ll be sure to make it public (queue I’m open to suggestions).
  • Seeking feedback from students, colleagues and peers to become a better professor and instructor. I’ll share more on that below from a podcast I recently listened to.

I know that list above is a lot and at this same time it’s not a lot to accomplish. I need to revisit my notes from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit to help me create a routine to embed these as part of my daily practice.

What I listened to

The Knowledge Project Ep. #117 with Kat Cole on The Power of Possible
The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish is a favourite of mine; the podcast is insightful, thoughtful and always leaves me pondering (I’ve had to stop listening in the car because I always want to write down some notes!). This conversation with Kat Cole got me thinking about seeking feedback from students this term so I can improve as an educator, to create a better classroom, to give the students a place to be heard anonymously. When I worked as a ski coach and facilitator, I ended every day asking three things: i) what did you like, ii) what did you learn, and iii) what can I (as the coach and facilitator do better). In sport we also look to fixing things first (the negative) instead of looking at what we do well (the positive) so I tried to change that by asking the positive first. From Kat Cole’s site I found, 3 Questions and a List – Find opportunities and solutions hiding in plain sight. Kat offers the following 3 questions and why she asks these questions:

What do we throw away? This is to identify what we can STOP doing. It will help you identify what resources are being wasted

When do we say ‘no’? This is to identify what we could START doing. If customers or employees are asking for something consistently over time, then there’s a reason and possibly an opportunity there

If you were me, what’s one thing you would do differently to make the business better? This answer helps me gut check the answers to the first two and see where there is more energy or if there are any conflicting inputs

I’m going to take some time this week to think about how I’ll approach this with the students this year. One thing that will be important as I implement this practice into my teaching is to remember what Cole has to say “do I listen and take that feedback and make a decision to change?

(Also consider subscribing to Checking in with Kat Cole. Kat, I look forward to following along Kat; I’ll be adding a subscription once I sort out why my credit card was rejected!)

The Peter Attia Drive Podcast Ep. #158 with Brian Deer: A tale of scientific fraud—exposing Andrew Wakefield and the origin of the belief that vaccines cause autism
This was the first time I listened to Peter Attia’s podcast and I loved his soothing voice, insightful questions and detailed explanations where he thought the audience might get lost. Peter discuses “the infamous 1998 Lancet paper by Andrew Wakefield linking the MMR vaccine and autism” with investigative journalist Brian Deer. As an engineer by trade I do not know much about the scientific rigour and process but this introduction in this podcast was a reminder that I need and want to learn more (Adam Grant’s Think Again, also got me thinking about reading and learning more about the scientific method).

My main takeaways from Deer included: i) when making a decision, instead of trying to prove to myself why it’s right to instead try to convince myself why it’s wrong, which is the basis for hypothesis testing; ii) remember that correlation does not imply causation, and worse consistency as relates to research means nothing; and iii) learning about polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and thinking about it as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic (by now most of us have been tested at least once, and I was curious as to how the test worked).

I placed a hold at my local library for Deer’s book, The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception, and the War on Vaccines, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

In science, courage isn’t about proving yourself right, it’s in your efforts to prove yourself wrong. . .to try and refute your own hypothesis.” —Brian Deer

What I’m Reading

The Reflective Practitioner in Professional Education by Linda Lawrence-Wilkes & Lyn Ashmore
I downloaded this book after a recommendation from a colleague, who also happens to be reading this as part of her PhD dissertation research, to help inform a reflective practice we want to create in the classroom this fall. Following major team deliverables, students will individually reflect back on the experience recording lessons they learned about technical skills and teamwork (well and anything else they choose to think about!). The engineering curriculum is packed and doesn’t afford students much time to critically think about the skills and tools presented. Alongside the students, I’ll be doing the same reflective practice and look forward to sharing my thoughts with the students. 

A few things I’m thinking about from this book to help inform my teaching practice this fall:
– critical thinking is reason, reflection and action. Which means not just abstractly thinking about what you did but how it fits together in your life and what you will do with this new knowledge. 
– reflection is different for everyone and while a daily journal might work for me, reflective dialogue, feedback, a portfolio or concept mapping might be better for others. 
– the goal of reflection is to help students see that “knowing is a process, not a product” and to use the tools and skills presented as mental models for better decision making. 

Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel KahnemanOlivier Sibony & Cass R. Sunstein
I’m only partway through this book but it’s already a favourite. Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, sits in my top 5 non-fiction books so I was very excited to see a follow-up book. With his co-authors, these three tease apart the difference between bias (systematic deviation) and noise (random scatter). As I learn more about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), I need to understand how both bias and noise influence these models. I’ll have to go back to my notes from Brian Christian’s The Alignment Problem – Machine Learning and Human Values to synthesize how these two books overlap. 

Already I see the influence that noise plays in my life, likely more than bias. As I continue to be better working through some social justice issues to try to remove bias in my life, I’ll also need to be aware of the noise that might influence my decision. In any of the mental models I use for decision making noise and bias will be present, but recognizing those and working through their influence should (hopefully) help me make better decisions.