00:44 – Pandemic Life
13:58 – Jay, Happiness, and Fulfillment
- Personal Development and Self-Discovery
- Gratitude & Daily Journaling
29:09 – Witchcraft & Magic
Mandy: Everyone should journal. Reflect on the past and bring it to the present.
Damien: Bringing magic into non-magical environments.
Aaron: Ritual, intention, reflection, alignment.
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DAMIEN: Welcome to Episode 277 of Greater Than Code. I am Damien Burke and I’m joined with Aaron Aldrich.
AARON: Hi, I am Aaron and I am here with Mandy.
MANDY: Hello, everybody. I’m Mandy Moore and today, it’s just the three of us!
So if you came expecting more than that, I’m sorry.
We’re what you get today, but hopefully, we can have a great conversation and we were thinking that we would talk about all the things. I’m doing big hand gestures right now because there’s been so many things happening since 2020 that are still happening and how our perspectives have changed.
For one, I, myself, can tell you I have grown so much as a person in 2 years. And I’m curious to hear how the two of you have been living your lives since the pandemic.
DAMIEN: [chuckles] Where to begin.
AARON: I know. It’s such a good topic because I feel like everyone’s had so much to change, but at the same time, it’s like, okay, so 2 million years ago at the beginning of this pandemic.
I’m now my third place, third job since the beginning of the pandemic as well and wow, I came out as non-binary in the middle of the pandemic [laughs]. So that was a whole thing, too.
I think the question I asked earlier is how much have you radicalized your politics over the course of the past 2 years? [laughs]
DAMIEN: Yeah, yeah. That’s been bouncing around in my head since you said it off mic.
Every time I hear the word pandemic now, I think about, “Oh man,” I hesitate on how far to go into this. [laughs] Because I look at the techno-anarchist crypto bros and I can I say that disparagingly and I will say that disparagingly because I was like them. [laughs] I filled out a survey today and they asked like, “How do you rate yourself as on a conservative and liberal scale?” I’m like, “Well, I think I’m super conservative.” And I still do and every time I align with any political policy, it’s always an alignment with people who call themselves socialists and leftists and why is that? [laughs] Hmm.
But anyway, that was the part I was trying not to go back into. [laughs]
One of the big realizations in living in a pandemic is that healthcare is not an exclusive good.
DAMIEN: That is to say that I cannot, as an individual, take care of my own health outside of the health of the community and society I live in. Didn’t know that. In my defense, I hadn’t thought about it, [laughs] but that was an amazing realization.
AARON: No, I think that was a big thing. I think so much of the pandemic exposed the way our systems are all interconnected. Exposed the societal things. Like so much we rely on is part of the society that we’ve built and when things don’t work, it’s like, well, now what? I don’t have any mechanism to do anything on my own. What do we do?
DAMIEN: Yeah. It’s so fundamental in humanity that we are in society. We are in community. We only survive as a group. That’s a fundamental aspect of the species and as much as we would like to stake our own claim and move out to a homestead and depend on no one other than ourselves, that is not a viable option for human beings.
AARON: Right, yeah. Even out here in rural Vermont with animals and things, we’re still pretty dependent on all of the services that are [chuckles] provided around. I’m still on municipal electric service and everything else. There’s still dependence and we still rely on our neighbors and everyone else to keep us sane in other ways.
DAMIEN: Yeah, and I feel like people in rural areas—and correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t lived in a rural area in maybe ever—have a better understanding of their independence. You know your neighbors because you need to depend on them. In the city—I live in Los Angeles—we depend on faceless institutions and systems.
DAMIEN: And so, we can easily be blind to them.
AARON: Yeah. I think it mixes in other ways. I get to travel a bit for work and visit cities, and then I end up coming back out into the rural America to live. So I enjoy seeing both of it because in what I’ve seen in city spaces is so much has to be formalized because it’s such a big deal. There are so many people involved in the system. We need a formal system with someone in charge to run it so that the average everyday person doesn’t have to figure out how do I move trash from inside the city outside the city.
We can make that a group of people’s job to deal with.
Here, it’s much more like, “Well, you can pay this service to do it, or that’s where the dump is so can just take care of it yourself if you want.” “Well, this farm will take your food scraps for you so you can just bring this stuff over there if you want.” It’s just very funny. It just pops up in these individual pockets and things that need group answers are sometimes like pushed to the town. You get small town drama because like everyone gets to know about what’s happening with the road and have an opinion on the town budget as opposed to like, I don’t know, isn’t that why we hire a whole department to deal with this? [laughs]
DAMIEN: Yeah, but small town drama is way better than big town drama. The fact that half of LA’s budget goes to policing is a secret. People don’t know that.
DAMIEN: Between the LA Police Department and LA Sheriff’s Department, they have a larger budget than the military of Ukraine. That’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t happen – [overtalk]
AARON: Don’t look at the NYPD budget then.
DAMIEN: Which is bigger still, yeah.
That’s not the sort thing that would happen in a small town where everybody’s involved and in that business.
AARON: Yeah. It happens in other weird ways, but it’s interesting. This is stuff that I don’t know how has, if it’s changed during pandemic times. Although, I guess I’ve started to pay attention more to local politics and trying to be like, “Oh, this is where real people affecting decisions get made every day are at the municipal levels, the city level.” These are things that if we pass a policy to take care of unhoused, or to change police budget, this affects people right now.
It’s not like, “Oh, wow, that takes time to go into effect and set up a department to eventually go do things.” It’s like, “No, we’re going to go change something materially.” It’s hard to compare the two because the town I’m in rents a police officer part-time from the next [laughs] municipality over. So the comparison to doesn’t really work.
DAMIEN: Everybody knows exactly how much that costs, too.
AARON: We do. I just had to vote on it a couple Tuesdays ago.
DAMIEN: So then I think back to how that has impacted – I’m always trying to bring this podcast more into tech because I feel guilty about that. [laughs] About just wandering off into other things.
But I think about how that impacts how I work in the organizations I work in. Hmm. I recognize I’m learning more about myself and how much I can love just sitting down with an editor and churn out awesome code, awesome features, and awesome products. That brings me so much joy and I don’t want to do anything else.
And what we do has impact and so, it’s so beneficial to be aware of the organization I’m in what it’s doing, what the product is doing, how that’s impacting people. Sometimes, that involves a lot of management—I do a lot of product management with my main client now.
But also, in other places, you would look at, “Well, okay, I don’t need to manage the client’s finances”. Not because that’s not as important, it’s because other people are doing it and I trust how they’re doing it. That’s something I haven’t had elsewhere. The advantage of being with a very small organization is that I have these personal relationships and this personal trust that I couldn’t get at one of the vampire companies. What’d they call them? FAANG?
AARON: Yeah, FAANG. We’ve been talking about this because FAANG, but Facebook and Google changed their name. So now, is it just MAAN?
AARON: I mean Meta, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, right?
DAMIEN: I’m all for the right of individuals to choose what they’re called; I don’t know if I’m willing to extend that to Facebook and Google.
AARON: [laughs] Yeah.
DAMIEN: Remember, was it Altria?
AARON: Oh, Philip Morris.
DAMIEN: Philip Morris, right?
DAMIEN: They were just like, “Oh, everything we’ve been doing is so horrible and harming to society for the past several decades, we’ll just change our names and people will forget about it.”
AARON: That was Philip Morris. Altria didn’t do any of that.
DAMIEN: Yeah. Altria didn’t do any of that.
Yeah, I remember that.
AARON: Yeah. I’m curious because I think it’s changed for me a bit over this time, too. But I’m curious for folks that have had a sensitivity change to the types of company, not necessarily types of companies, but like, I’m more sensitive to who I’m working for. I think my list of no, I won’t work for the X company [chuckles] has probably grown throughout the pandemic and I’m definitely much more critical.
Part of it’s probably because as in tech we’re sort of at an advantage, it is high demand right now and we can be a bit picky about where we work, but I definitely have been [laughs] lately. Much more careful about I’m not just willing to work with anyone. I want someone that’s got reasonable values. I interview other companies a lot more and I want to make sure product is not causing harm generally speaking and make sure I get a lot more value alignment out of leadership team and things like that. I don’t know if other people have had a similar experience.
MANDY: Unfortunately, I haven’t had that experience. I’m still working for whoever will give me money.
But I wish I could do that and I’m currently looking. I mean, I’ve been trying to break into a full-time DevRel career for I guess, 2 years now and I guess, I’m actively looking. Oh, here we go. If you’re hiring, let me know.
I guess I am. I’m looking for that job that I’m really feeling fulfilled in is right now I’m not feeling that and I think it’s because of the pandemic, I’ve really stopped to think about what I want in my life and how I want to feel. I want to be happy, I want to be passionate about my job, and I want to wake up and not feel scared to open my computer because – [overtalk]
MANDY: Are they going to tell me they no longer need my service?
MANDY: And it’s been demoralizing really, for me recently, especially because I tried to join a developer relations Slack group just a few months ago and they rejected me flat out and they’re like, “You do not work in dev full time. You cannot be a part of our group,” and I’m like, “Oh.” So now I’m like, “Hmm, what do I do in tech?”
I thought I’d been doing DevRel before DevRel was cool. I’m going to humble brag for a minute, but I have single-handedly put this podcast together and put you people together that you didn’t even know and you love each other. You get that vibe. I can tell who’s going to get – you’re going to love this person and you’re going to like – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: Oh man, you not only put this podcast together, but you are the sustaining force. You are the heart of it. You are the thing where that all the panelists that are connected to. You are one who gets all of the mechanical, everything besides talking in mics. You do everything else and you’re maintaining all these relations with these developers.
MANDY: I never even wanted to be on mic. I just started doing it because everybody was busy and I was like, “I guess I have to step up.” [laughs]
DAMIEN: Whatever it takes to get it done, right?
MANDY: Well, yeah. I feel like the topics on this show that we talk about are important and they’re even important outside of tech that hence, the whole name: Greater Than Code. There are more things out there than our jobs and our work and I just want to be happy. I want to be fulfilled and I want to be passionate about something and so does my dog.
AARON: That was a shift for me, too. That was definitely one of the roles I was in during the pandemic and realized my struggle with it so much was it was clashing with that. It wasn’t fulfilling for me, it was clashing with my core values, and it was just like, “You know what, I can’t do this anymore.” [chuckles] I’m no longer in a place where I have the energy to do a thing I don’t like doing, or don’t have some care for.
There’s always something you don’t like doing. There’s always some crap around every job that like don’t like to do or you have to deal with something, but I’m no longer at a place where I can have a whole job that rubs me the wrong way.
MANDY: Yeah. It’s hard for me. I should feel great about this, but I’m known as the podcast girl. If you have a tech podcast, you should talk to Mandy, but I’m not just a podcast editor! I do so much more than that. I do operation, I do product management, I do writing; there’s so much more that encompasses who I am in tech than the podcast girl.
I feel like not a lot of people know that and maybe that’s my fault because I guess, I haven’t really done a good job of putting myself out there to be like, “Hey wait. But I’m –” because for me, it’s still a hustle as a single mom. I have to pay the bills. So it’s like, I wish I could be more discerning with the jobs that I take and who I work for, but I don’t know. I’m just one of those people of the universe. What will be, will be and if it’s meant to be, it’ll come to me. [laughs] So I don’t ever really actively seek and that’s probably half of my problem.
DAMIEN: Mm. That’s funny because I didn’t know all those things about you. I pitch you as a podcast producer and again, I live in a LA, I’m involved in the entertainment industry at a slight level, and the word producer there is very, very powerful and very important. A producer is an executive. A producer is person who gets things done, who makes it happen. I’m not entirely sure what a producer does, even though I’ve done it.
MANDY: I’m not even sure what a – [laughs]
DAMIEN: Right, because it’s never the same thing.
DAMIEN: It’s whatever it takes and that skill.
DAMIEN: That being able to be know enough about a movie, or theatrical production, or a podcast, to know what it takes, to be able to manage, and sustain and get it done. That’s really what it comes down to: get it done.
MANDY: That’s why it’s so hard for me. Everyone’s like, “Do you have a resume?” And I’m like, “I don’t know what to put on it!” Like, you tell me you need this done, I’ll get it done. If I don’t know how to do it, I’ll figure it out because that’s what I’ve done for 13 years. Like I got hired as Avdi Grimm’s virtual assistant because an Indeed.com ad came out and was like, “I need somebody to answer emails for me,” and I’m like, “Don’t know why you can’t do that yourself, but sure.”
And then from there, he had a podcast and was like, “Can you edit my podcast?” And I was like, “Sure,” and then I’m Googling what is a podcast.
I had no clue. So I got here, I think a lot out of luck from being at the right place and talking to the right person at the right time. But I have busted my ass to just learn what people need me to learn and do what people need me to do. I guess, that’s maybe what I should just put on the resume. I’ll do what you need me to do. I make it happen.
DAMIEN: No, no, no. You put on the resume what your next job is going to be doing.
MANDY: [laughs] Yeah, so, it’s hard when people ask me for my resume. I have like three resumes and I’m like, “This does not, no.”
AARON: It’s almost more a portfolio at this point, right. I made this thing happen. I made this thing happen. Here’s this other thing that I did. Here’s another thing I made happen.
DAMIEN: Resumes are horrific. They’re not good for anybody and the only people who use them are people who need to filter quickly out of large groups and they’re not even good for that. I’ve long aspired to be at a place in my career where I don’t need a resume and I might be there. Steve Jobs didn’t have a resume. Didn’t need a resume. He didn’t send his resume to the board to get that job at Apple back. It’s ridiculous.
MANDY: Well, that’s the thing for me. I get most of my work from word to mouth.
MANDY: So until I really lost a big client and I was like, “Oh, I don’t have a resume. Don’t you know who I am?”
DAMIEN: But like, they should.
AARON: Just say the portfolios level. I mean, it’s kind of the same thing, right? This is…
AARON: [laughs] Kind of the same thing. It’s sort of how my resume is morphed in DevRel proper. It’s gone from I still kind of have the resume that’s like, “Yeah, I worked into these things internally that might not surface otherwise, but also, here’s my speaking portfolio and all the things that I have done over the past 3 years. [laughs] You might know me from all of this stuff instead of what’s on this resume.”
MANDY: Yeah. Of course, once I was getting comfortable enough to want to speak, that’s when the whole world shut down.
MANDY: So I have no videos of myself speaking anywhere whatsoever.
DAMIEN: Well, I think there might be a few podcasts that you appear on.
MANDY: There’s a few episodes as of late that I have ventured to be on out of keeping the show alive.
DAMIEN: And every episode of this podcast, and I think several others, are shits near portfolio, right?
MANDY: Then I’d have a really wrong resume. [laughs]
AARON: We’ll figure it out.
AARON: You just need the highlights.
MANDY: But I don’t know, a lot of other things have changed for me over the course of the past 2 years. Just in my personal life, I’ve gotten sober and that was a really hard thing to do during a pandemic.
MANDY: When everybody else was out hoarding toilet paper, I was like, “Oh my God, I need beer,” [laughs] and actually, I did. While everybody was stocking up on those other necessities, I was buying cases of beer and putting them in my garage because I was like, “Oh great, the world’s ending and I guess, if that’s going to happen, I might as well be drunk.” And then – [overtalk]
AARON: I mean, it’s a fair argument in your defense.
MANDY: But then it became a bad problem because when you’re home all day and I was home, I worked from home before this. But everything is so damn depressing and you keep the news on the television and next thing you know, it’s lunch time and cracking a beer and I’m like, “Whoa, this is… [laughs] where did this come from?”
So no, I got sober and I don’t drink anymore and honestly, I have never felt better. I’ve also become a runner. I got a treadmill and I run a 4, or 5 miles a day and I’ve lost a good amount of weight, probably a lot from alcohol bloat.
DAMIEN: [chuckles] Yeah.
MANDY: But it’s more for me. It’s not even about losing a weight because I don’t even own a scale because it’s more about how I feel.
MANDY: It’s what is about how I feel. So when I went to the doctor’s office for my yearly checkup on Monday and I got on the scale because they make you, I said, “Whoa,” [laughs] because I didn’t even know.
For me, it’s about how I feel and I think that that’s really, what’s brought a lot of things into perspective for me is that at our time here on earth is fine. I want to be here for my daughter especially. She’s 13 and I want to be healthy for her. I want to be here for my friends. I ask myself why I’m still in York, Pennsylvania and I haven’t left because I do have people around here that I care about.
MANDY: And other than that, I could take it, or leave it. But because the people who I love are here, that’s why I haven’t left.
MANDY: So that’s another thing, the things like the pandemic has just really set me into a lot of personal development work and self-discovery. I journal every day. I read self-help books, which is so weird to me because I was one of those people that were like, “Who are those people that read self-help books?” and now I’m one of them.
I want to be Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle’s best friend.
Those two women are my people. Elizabeth Gilbert. I can give you so many names of people and great authors that just inspire the hell out of me and 2 years ago, I was not that at all.
AARON: Yeah, I think there’s a lot to be said for getting at our time on earth is finite and so, in refocusing on what matters to us. Another way I had a friend put it to me, it’s like optimistic nihilism. Look, at the end of the day, we’re all going to be dead and none of this matters. So you might as well do what makes you happy, right? [laughs] You might as well do the things that are fulfilling and meaningful and try to make other people have a good time, too. You might as well.
DAMIEN: I always thought it was ridiculous that nihilism had such a negative connotation. It was like, “No. Okay. I can believe that and be –” [overtalk]
AARON: No pressure. At the end of the day, we’re all going to die so, no pressure. Do what do what you need to do. Doesn’t matter if you succeed, or fail.
MANDY: That’s like, I’m one of those people that would rather spend their money on experiences.
MANDY: Because I don’t care how much money I die with.
I’d rather use it now and take my kid Disney world, which I did 3 years ago.
MANDY: And enjoy those experiences rather than have a bank account full of dollars that I can’t use.
DAMIEN: High score.
MANDY: Yeah, high score.
DAMIEN: Shout out to thriving in hand wavy.
I feel embarrassed about this and I don’t talk about it much because so many people are suffering. People I love are suffering. People I work with and deal with on a daily basis are suffering, and bad things are happening. This is the best year of my life. This is better than last year and last year was better than the year before. I just keep getting better and my life just keeps getting more awesome. I don’t know if I was going anywhere with that, but solidarity with Mandy, I guess. You bought a treadmill. I bought a rower.
MANDY: I feel like honestly, the universe gives back what you put out and I guess, I’ve become real – a lot of people are like, “You’re like, woo-woo witchy now,” and I’m like, “Aha, yeah.” I kind of like that. So I feel like if you manifest things, you can make that happen and yes, there’s things happening. Yes, yes, there are so many bad things happening, but sometimes out of self-preservation, you just have to tune all of that out and just be in your immediate dwell. For me, sometimes I’ll go a week without watching news and I feel guilty about that a lot, but it’s just like, you know what, if something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.
AARON: I think the best way someone put that to me was anxiety is not activism.
AARON: Right, so just sitting around making yourself anxious and stressed out about everything and whatever emotion you have, making yourself feel bad doesn’t improve the situation, it just also makes you feel bad. So it’s okay to take a step back and do the self-care that you need to do because just feeling bad isn’t fixing the problem either. So step back, find what you can do. Maybe there’s stuff you can do here, in your immediate space that you can take action on.
MANDY: Exactly. And also, for drinking other people’s problems away, – [overtalk]
AARON: You can’t drink other people’s – disassociating from other people’s problems isn’t effective.
MANDY: No. Let me tell you, I tried.
DAMIEN: That’s such a great statement. Anxiety is not activism, but also the opposite is true. Joy is activism, rest is activism, thriving in a world that doesn’t want you to thrive is an act of resistance and activism. Shout out, living a good life.
AARON: That’s been a good conversation. I think that’s easy to forget and I’ve seen it come up a couple times over the past couple years of what they have been of taking those moments for joy are really important. They can be radical in and of themselves.
MANDY: Keep a gratitude journal. There are so many great apps that every day before I go to sleep, I just write one sentence and it gives you an option even to have a picture. So you can snap a picture. Even if it’s just like this candle, this candle is burning right here and it smells so good and it’s making me happy today. So I’m grateful for the candle.
DAMIEN: Yeah, I’m up to approximately 2 years of daily journaling.
A buddy of mine got together. We built a daily journaling app based on Morning Pages from The Artist’s Way. It’s called Early Words. Shout out earlywords.io if you want to join and journal with me. But every day, 750 words. I do it first thing in the morning most days. Stream of consciousness. It has absolutely changed my life. It makes me feel good. It made me a better writer. Not because the writing is good, but because it’s taught me to turn off the editor. Writing does have to be good for me to write it.
MANDY: Yeah. Big proponent of journaling.
AARON: I believe in it. I just don’t remember to do it. But that’s my own problem.
DAMIEN: Can we go back? Can we talk about witchcraft?
AARON: All right, I’m in.
DAMIEN: A friend of mine asked me oh my God, maybe it was a year ago. Maybe it was several months ago. I have no idea. She asked me like, “Do you actually believe in witchcraft? Those magic woo-woo stuff?” It’s like, “Well, let me tell you something. Every morning when I wake up in the morning, I make a potion with dried leaves that energizes me. At night, I make a different potion with dried flowers that calm me down and helps me sleep. My literal job is making sand think. Do I believe in witchcraft? I mean, yeah.” [chuckles]
MANDY: I mean, it’s a full moon today so I have a whole jug of water out charging. I do. I literally have a jug of water on my deck charging for full moon water energy and I use it like, I’ll put a little bit in my bath water. I’ll put it a little bit of it – I’ll cook with it. When I boil some water, put it in there. Does it help? I don’t know, but it makes me feel better!
DAMIEN: Okay. Wait. It makes you feel better?
AARON: Sounds like it’s helping.
DAMIEN: Doesn’t that means it helps?
MANDY: Yeah. It does.
AARON: Yeah. I think that’s a good point. I believe in the power of intention and ritual. There’s a reason why humans developed rituals over time and sometimes, it’s just for us to feel the right thing. But like, feelings are important?
DAMIEN: [laughs] But like, feelings are important.
AARON: I don’t want to say something controversial on the Greater Than Code podcast such as feelings are important. But they are. Sometimes, while you go through a certain step and it centers you, or you go through a certain set of steps and it makes you feel better, or it helps you process the anxiety you’re feeling, or it’s like, nope, I need to get centered in my five senses again so I can come back into my body and be here instead of going off on an anxiety spiral.
AARON: What is witchcraft? I actually love this from Terry Pratchett, one of my all-time favorite authors who does the Discworld series of novels, as a very specific approach to witchcraft, which is like, yeah, yeah, yeah, magic and whatever. But their daily thing is checking on all the people of the village and doing all the work that nobody wants to do. So it’s like, how are the elderly doing? Do they need help with anything? Making sure and so takes their bath, making sure this person’s animals are taken care of, making sure this sort of thing.
Sometimes, it’s about appearances and going through the ritual to make sure the community is coming along. Sitting with the dead, all that kind of stuff. And that’s witchcraft, that’s the bread and butter of witchcraft is knowing the right herbs and poultices to put together, being the heart and soul of the community and being able to get people and helping each other, and move the resources around as needed and that sort of thing. So yeah, I believe in that. [laughs]
DAMIEN: Yeah. There was there’s a great story and about Anton Mesmer, I learned this shout out to Mary Elizabeth Raines who taught me hypnosis. I learned this when she told me this story when I was doing my hypnosis training about Anton Mesmer, who’s considered the [31:10] of hypnotism. He introduced hypnotism to the to the white people.
The word mesmerism and magnetic person, magnetic personality, all this comes from Mesmer. He had salons where people would hold onto metal rod that he had “magnetized” and be healed and fall out and screaming have spirit and all that. But Mesmer was very popular and very powerful and the king of France did not like this. The king of France put together a blue-ribbon commission. I don’t know if he called it a blue-ribbon commission. Probably not because he spoke French, but put together a commission of scientists to discredit Mesmer. One of these scientists was Ben Franklin, by the way.
So they did a double-blind study. They did a proper double-blind test. They had Mesmer come out and magnetize a tree. That was a thing he did. He would magnetize trees, people would come out and hug the trees and then they’d be healed. So they did a study. They had to magnetize the tree and they brought people out who were sick and they said, “Hug that tree. That’s magnetized and you’ll be healed.” Some of the trees Mesmer had magnetized, some he hadn’t and it turns out it didn’t matter. People were still healed and so, they all came to conclusion, “All right. See, Mesmer’s not doing anything. It’s all placebo effect.”
Mesmer was run out of town and lived in exile for the rest of his days. Nobody bothered to ask why were the people healed? Everybody knows placebo effect is a real effect. Nobody’s like, “How do we make it more effective? Why is it working this way? What do we do it? What do we do with that? How can we use that?”
AARON: No, I think it’s a super interesting thought. The placebo effect is a powerful and interesting concept overall. We did ourselves a disservice to not understand it.
DAMIEN: Yeah. To dismiss it as if it doesn’t exist. Not only does it exist, it’s increasing.
DAMIEN: Because people are getting more powerful.
MANDY: Yeah. I’m drinking this Zenify Stress Relief Drink.
And does it work? I don’t know, but it’s delicious and you know what? It makes me happy. You know why? Because it’s not alcohol.
So it’s not having a negative effect on me. I’m not getting drunk and doing stupid things. Is it taking away? My stress? Eh. I mean, but I love it. I love it and it makes me feel good. It’s a treat. It’s a special drink. I have one a day and it’s one of those things that instead of missing my case of White Claw Seltzer. I know, I know, I wasn’t even a bougie – well, I wasn’t even a good drinker. That’s what made it a problem. [laughs]
AARON: This is far too affordable.
MANDY: I was not a discerning drinker, so. [laughs] No, I have my one bougie drink that I have and it makes me feel good. Does it relieve my stress? I don’t know, but I don’t care either.
DAMIEN: Yeah. If it works, it works.
One of the great things about placebos is they don’t – well, I was going to say they don’t have to be expensive, but sometimes it works better when they’re expensive. [laughs]
MANDY: Moon water is free.
DAMIEN: Moon water is, yeah. But, well, it’s not free actually. You had to put an effort and intention.
DAMIEN: And I think if you didn’t, it wouldn’t be as effective.
AARON: Effort and intention go a long way.
DAMIEN: [laughs] That’s a root of magic, isn’t it?
MANDY: Why can’t I just get paid for effort and intention? [laughs]
AARON: I mean, if I put my effort and intention into this money tree.
I’ve always thought it would be nice if real world jobs worked like Animal Crossing. Like, “Oh, so I can just go pick some stuff up and then you’re just going to give money and then we can just move on? Great.” “Now look, I dug up a bag of money. If I just plant this bag of money, I’ll get more money. It’s fine.” [laughs]
DAMIEN: I’m trying to bridge that gap. That’s such a great question like when effort and intention is so well, literally magical, why does it seem to not have the impact we want in nonmagical environments, I’ll call them?
DAMIEN: I asked that question because I want to know what to do about that. I want to bring magic to nonmagical environment, to city council, to retail stores. I almost named an online retail store; I don’t want to name it. [laughs] But it’s a city council to corporate interactions. And there’s no reason you can’t. Corporations are people. Governments are people. I think requires dealing with them in individually in ways that we’re not used to.
AARON: Yeah. It’s a good question. You’ve got to be really thinking about…
MANDY: My wheels are turning.
AARON: Yeah. I mean, I think part of it is effort and intention are always going to make the most effect for you because most of it is about aligning your thought processes. It’s about taking the, I don’t know, I’m just taking this into making the best decision I can to like, okay, if I can focus on this is my goal and my aim and what I’m after, suddenly all of the patterns emerge around that. Oh, now I’m ready for that opportunity, or oh, now this thing is working out, and oh, now this is what is working out because I’ve focused on my intentions and where I want to put my efforts.
I think there’s room for these things in other groups. Gets back to what I was thinking about ritual, about how humans are tuned for ritual to tell themselves story. We’re tuned for storytelling and ritual and all this sort of thing. So I think there’s room from a tech perspective, I’m thinking about what comes to mind quickly is incident management stuff. Sorry, I’m coming off of SRECon this week so, everything’s going to be around that.
DAMIEN: Our apologies.
It’s all right.
AARON: It was fantastic, but it’s a different podcast. [laughs] But think about that, right? When you’re coming in and doing instant reports, it’s so powerful is it to set the intention of the meeting, or any meeting that you have and say, “We are here for this purpose. This is what we’re looking to find. We’re not looking to do –” Back when Chef had lots to say about this, they’d have those things like we’re not here to determine what could have, or should have happened. We’re here to find out what did and move the thing.
So it’s all about setting the intent of that gathering and what outcomes you’re after and it focuses the whole conversation can make that meeting more powerful because you’ve set the focus right off the bat. I think there’s room for that other places, too.
DAMIEN: That’s such a beautiful way of saying it. You described it as setting an attention.
S: Whereas, in corporate speak, I would describe it as setting an agenda.
AARON: Right, and an agenda is one thing. It’s kind of like, “Hey, here’s kind of the stuff we’re going to do,” but to be like, “We are gathered for this purpose to [laughs] cover this thing.”
DAMIEN: No, no.
DAMIEN: Dearly beloved, dear colleague.
AARON: Right? Yeah, right.
DAMIEN: We are gathered here for this purpose.
AARON: Yeah. I mean, we say it this way in personal stuff, why don’t we –? Like, it’s useful. [laughs]
MANDY: It really is.
DAMIEN: Because how are you ever going to get something done if you don’t know what you’re there for?
DAMIEN: Well, you’re going to get something done. If you don’t have a destination, any road you take is fine.
AARON: If you don’t have any intention set, it’s a series of meetings that could have been emails.
And then maybe that’s the power of it, in a nonmagical space, is forcing yourself to go through this thought process of why am I doing this? Why are we here? What do we want to accomplish? Can probably trim so much of the cruft from all of our meetings and engagements.
DAMIEN: That was my favorite sentence as a product manager: what is it you’re trying to accomplish? [chuckles]
AARON: I say that a lot,
DAMIEN: But it is a very, very powerful question.
AARON: Especially when you have children asking to use dangerous tools.
What is it you’re trying to accomplish? Maybe we don’t need to bust out razor blades. [laughs]
DAMIEN: So from an SRE standpoint, when you get together for – what do you call that meeting? An incident review postmortem? Postmortem is a bit – [overtalk]
AARON: Yeah, yeah. Post-incident report. There’s a handful of names for that reason, but post-incident review.
DAMIEN: Retrospective, yeah. So the question is, what is it you are trying to accomplish?
DAMIEN: I’m trying to find somebody to blame.
AARON: And not blaming.
DAMIEN: I’m trying to find somebody to blame so that I look good in my next performance review.
AARON: Well, that’s what was so important about doing that because that’s the shift we’re, largely as an industry, trying to make. Finding a person to blame doesn’t learn anything about what happened and will teach us nothing for next time.
So if we set the intention of like, we’re trying to learn from this incident and how we can improve or what we can do better, or maybe there’s nothing. Maybe this was just a fluke and let’s find that out. That’s what we’re here to learn. But we’re not here to point fingers, or find a root cause because root causes are for plants.
AARON: Again, that’s a whole other podcast. [laughs]
MANDY: At the beginning of the pandemic, I owned zero plants. Now, I think I’m the proud plant mother of 20? [laughs]
AARON: That’s amazing.
MANDY: I know.
AARON: My problem is I can’t keep things alive.
MANDY: Well, mostly they’re all thriving because I set the intention that I was not going to mess this up.
DAMIEN: There you go. Do you give them moon water?
MANDY: I do.
DAMIEN: Apparently, it’s working.
MANDY: I do.
Do we want to do some reflections?
DAMIEN: Sure. Let’s do it.
MANDY: I’ll start us off.
With this conversation, we were just having about the intention and stuff. This is why I think everybody should journal, including CEOs and leaders. Get out a journal, what do you want, and then look back at some of the stuff. I don’t it often, but I go back and I’m like, “Oh yeah.” Just reflecting on what you’ve written in the past and bringing that to the present can really help you put stock in all the things that you want and should be accomplishing.
DAMIEN: Yeah. This bringing magic into nonmagical environments and journaling is part of that. A shout out to journaling. Another plug for earlywords.io that I own. Come journal with me because it is a magical thing. It is a ritual I do daily. That clears my mind. That is a practice of the listening to myself. It is a practice of letting go and not controlling what’s coming out.
Along with that and all the other sort of ways I know of being that I can call magic, I can call hypnotism, I can call NLP, I can call ontological coaching I’ve done a lot, bringing that into environments where I haven’t because they’re so useful there and we talked about some of the ways they are and so, we really confirmed more ways of doing that.
AARON: I think the things I’m thinking about after this conversation are ritual, intention, and reflection are the big things that are standing up. I think this pandemic, for instance, and how things have changed is because I’ve had just so much time to have to sit alone by myself and reflect on what’s going on externally and internally. But yeah.
Anyway, just about setting intentions, of understanding the directions you want to go before going, making sure you’re aligned with your goals, and you’re not just accidentally wandering down paths that you don’t want to be down and turning around and finding out your miserable 10 months later.
I think I’ve thought a lot about the power of even small rituals just to interrupt our standard thought processes and align ourselves with those kind of things. There’s been a lot from basic health stuff of here are the rituals I can go through when I’m feeling anxious and I know they’ll calm me down to writing in a journal, or directing a group to [laughs] let’s align our thought processes. It can be super useful.
Well, this has been a really fun conversation. I’m glad we just had a panel only episode and I’d love to do more of these in the future. They’re really cool. We didn’t come to the show with much of an agenda and hopefully, you dear listener, appreciate it. If you would like to give us some feedback, we’d appreciate it. Tweet at us. Join our Slack.
AARON: Hire Mandy.
DAMIEN: Tell your friends.
MANDY: DM me. [chuckles] Tell your friends.
DAMIEN: Tell your enemies.
MANDY: Tell your enemies, too! [chuckles] We’ll see you all next week.