00:59 - Evans’s Superpower: Talking about topics that aren’t interesting to whomever he’s talking to at the time
- Diagnosing as an Adult
- Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale
- QbCheck: ADHD Self-Check Test
- Why seek a medical diagnosis?
- Almost everything that you know about “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” is probably wrong
12:45 - Debugging Oneself, Neuroscience, Meditation
- Debugging Your Brain by Casey Watts
- CBT - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- MBCBT - Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Search Inside Yourself Program
21:57 - The Limitations of Science
24:54 - The Spiritual Side, Mindfulness, and Meditation
32:03 - Psychological Safety
- Groupthink & Human Dynamics and Teams
- Welcomed Disagreement
- Vulnerability & Accountability
- Unconscious Bias
- Resmaa Menakem: My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies
49:28 - Faith and Science
- Exploring Areas of Disagreement
- Disagreement and Conflict
01:04:08 - Words!
- Think, Know, and Believe; Hope, Want, and Intend: Are these words unique?
- Replacement Words For “Normal”, “Guys”
Damien: The value of being vulnerable.
Evan: Disagreement leading to deeper discussion. Cultivating more empathy.
Casey: We can’t usually know what is true, but we can know when something’s false.
Mae: Think about the ways you are biased and have healing to do. Talking about ways we are not awesome to each other will help us actually be awesome to each other.
To make a one-time donation so that we can continue to bring you more content and transcripts like this, please do so at paypal.me/devreps. You will also get an invitation to our Slack community this way as well.
DAMIEN: Welcome to Episode 262 of Greater Than Code. I’m Damien Burke and I'm joined by Mae Beale.
MAE: And I'm here with Casey Watts.
CASEY: Hi, I'm Casey. We're all here with our guest this week, Evan Light.
EVAN: Hi, I'm Evan Light.
CASEY: Welcome, Evan.
Evan has been in the tech field for over 25 years, and has the grey hairs to show for it. Evan was searching for the term “psychological safety” long before it became mainstream — just wishes he had it sooner! Evan prizes growing teams and people by creating empowering environments where people feel free to share their ideas and disagree constructively. He lives in the crunchiest part of the DC area, Tacoma Park, Maryland.
So glad to have you here, Evan.
EVAN: Thank you. Glad to be here.
CASEY: All right, we're going to ask our question we always ask, what is your superpower, Evan and how did you acquire it?
EVAN: Well, the first thing that came to mind is talking ad nauseam about topics that aren't all that interesting to whoever I'm talking to at the time. And the way I acquired it was being born probably a little bit different with ADHD and I say probably because I still need to prove it concretely that I have ADHD, but I'm working on it.
DAMIEN: Well, that sounds like a very useful superpower for a podcast guest.
EVAN: Well, if you want that guest to take up the whole show, then sure. [laughs]
MAE: Yes, please. We want – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: Yeah, that's why you're here.
EVAN: Well, I do like conversation, that's the funny part. I like give and takes. Just sometimes I lose track of how long I've been talking.
MAE: I do that, too, Evan.
EVAN: Yeah. I wonder how many of you have ADHD, too. [laughs]
MAE: I do – there is a statistically significant portion of programmers, for sure.
EVAN: I don't know that there've been scientific studies of it, but the currently reported number of, I think 4 and a half percent of the population is well-acknowledged to be significantly under reported. At least among adults. And that's because one people say ADHD goes away with age it, in fact, doesn't. We just look – and I kind of hate that word 4-letter word.
People with ADHD often tend to find ways to compensate for it, those of us who don't get diagnoses later in life, if we don't have it already. And two, how many people do you know who seek out mental health evaluations and counseling? So I'm sure it's massively under reported.
DAMIEN: Which brings up my question. How does one diagnose an adult with ADHD?
EVAN: Yeah, that's a fun one.
So I know of – well, I guess three ways now. One, you are talking to a doctor who themselves has ADHD and has some idea, or a person who has ADHD, not necessarily a doctor, who has a pretty good idea of what to look for usually because they have it. You tell them about some problems you're having and they say, “Huh. Well, I know this problem can sometimes be caused by comorbidity, which is medical term that's often thrown about, this other problem, ADHD.”
That's how I found out about it and frankly, I was trying to figure out how to—after having dealt with so many other problems in my life—lose the excess weight, talking to a weight loss medical specialist in D.C., and also has ADHD. He said, “Huh, this all sounds like ADHD. Fill out this really simple test,” that I'll be glad to share with you all. It's just a PDF and you can share it with listeners and you can pretty quickly see for yourself how likely you are based on how you respond. That's one way.
Another way is sit down and talk with a psychologist, or a psychiatrist who has some special background in ADHD, who they can just sort of evaluate you.
And the third way is coupled sometimes with the second one, which is what I did this early this morning. There is a test called QbCheck letter—Q letter, b, check. It's an online test that uses your camera and eye tracking, so I guess that uses computer vision as part of it—which I thought found intriguing—to test your attention, apparently how much your eyes are moving, and how quickly and correctly you respond to prompts on the screen.
I think QbCheck, you're not supposed to take directly from the – maybe you can, but in my case, I'm going through a psychologist who's going to evaluate that test with me and then talk to me about it. However, I'm really, really curious for the results. I kind of wish I was talking to y'all in a week, because I'll get them tomorrow morning.
I've been a meditator most of my life, I can focus my attention when I well, deliberately concentrate. So I deliberately concentrated taking that test. I wonder if I skewed the test results that way.
I'm really eager to find out.
Because I very naturally sort of slipped into a meditative state with focus on the space on the screen, hit the Space bar when you see a pattern, repeat it, and then just stay there. Okay. It's really hard for me to do this with a lot of distractive noises. All right, I'm just going to be aware of distracting noises, but I'm going to stay with the thing on the screen. That's meditation. Instead of focusing on my breath, I focused on the object on the screen. So I'm dying the know. [laughs] I'll find out tomorrow.
DAMIEN: So then I have a follow-up question. Why seek a medical diagnosis for ADHD as an adult?
EVAN: Ohm yeah. So first off, it's how do I debug myself and if I want to speak nerdy about it, but I guess, that's how I approach a lot of things, trying to fix a problem in myself that I've been trying to fix for well, now 48 years, the time 47 years, this was last October with my weight. Okay, now 47 technically. This would've been 40 years and well, nothing else worked then if I have a new potential cause, that gives me another lever I didn't have before. So when the doctor says, “Oh, ADHD might be a contributing factor.” Huh, I need to know more about that. So that's part of it.
Some of it is I wouldn't say post hoc rationalization, more like post hoc understanding and even self-compassion. I've never really felt like I belonged among most people.
Okay, I present straight white male, like everyone else in tech. I was raised Jewish and that means I'm 2% of the population. So around this time of year, I would always feel like the weirdo people are singing songs in school. I'm being forced to sing their songs. Don't like it. I would squirm them every time the Holocaust came up because I lost relatives in it and I've always just had a hard time, frankly, connecting with – or I had a hard time a lot as a kid connecting with other kids.
I was a pariah a lot of my life and there might be an explanation that really, if fairly concrete one of, well, here's why you didn't belong this because your brain is different, and then I'm really interested in exploring that because that gives me a whole different way to evaluate my life.
Why did I make some of the decisions that I made? Because I don't like some of them. Why did I have some of the problems that I had? How could I do it differently that it's not just understand the past better and have more compassion, it's how can I live a better life? And that's where I can say, “Oh,” a camera, which you all can't see, I'm holding up my Adderall at this point. Thanks to this gem and is this the other one? No, wrong bottle. Thanks to Adderall and Vyvanse, I'm a much happier, less anxious person on a regular basis. Anxiety and depression used to eat me alive for a lot of my life and I don't have that problem nearly as much, that I get maybe one bad day a month now and it used to be a lot more often than that.
I wrote a blog post about it because it mattered such so much to me, I wanted people to know. I've always been very pro discussing mental health, normalizing mental health, because I had struggles earlier in my life, too where—this is a whole other tangent—I was a caregiver for 10 years and that really put me through an emotional ringer and a lot of mental healthcare. So I wanted other people to feel comfortable talking about it, partly because I wanted to feel comfortable talking about it.
So I want to normalize it also because I know I work with a lot of people who have undiagnosed conditions, where if they just explored them and if they work with me, they've got pretty good insurance. They could. Then, oh my God, why wouldn't you? Okay and I say that there's grief associated with the knowledge.
When you find out you've lived a large chunk of your life in a way with these suffering you didn't have to have, it hurts to realize that. Because on one hand, yay, my life can be better, but oh fuck, everything that came before that if I'd known this, it didn't have to be that bad. That maybe I wouldn't have had those experiences, or maybe they just wouldn't have hurt so much because I had to not take my meds for 24 hours to take that test this morning. I was really unhappy last night. [laughs]
I wasn't depressed. It was just, I was really irritable, lots of things were making me stabby, and I don't take a big dose of Adderall. It's not like I'm a junkie. I take 7 and a half milligrams, which for most people with ADHD, that's a tiny dose. But I've played with my dosage and that's right about my sweet spot that that's just enough stimulant where I don't feel stimulated, where I don't feel uncomfortable, but I also don't feel irritable and before the meds, irritable, anxious frequently. That was just my normal life; I didn't know that, that I didn't know it could be different, can be different. So that's why you want to know.
MAE: What an amazing answer, Evan.
EVAN: Long one, which again, that's superpower. [laughs]
MAE: Love it. We’re with you.
I would add to your superpowers, the ability and willingness to be vulnerable. Having known you awhile, someone who is willing to just say the things, answer the real answer, and the answer below that answer. There's nothing I like more than talking to people about where they're really, really, really at. I'm just so grateful about how you always do that and there was a couple things in your sharing about not feeling like you belong. It really struck me because you are someone who is always creating opportunities for belonging.
EVAN: That's a reason for that.
MAE: Yeah, exactly. It's like a super, very classic tears of a clown that most of the people, myself included, who work to make spaces for people, it's usually because they have experienced that other thing. So I am sorry that you have had such challenge to be so different, but I can say speaking personally and on behalf of many, how grateful I am and we are for what you have done with that.
EVAN: Thanks. That was something prior to a lot of therapy and medication, I would've cringed at hearing because I wasn't at all comfortable receiving gratitude. I say receiving it, I mean internalizing it. I would hear it and I would wince. I'm not worthy. [laughs] That was what would come to mind. No, thank you.
But there really was a selfish – there's always a selfish component to it and that’s, I create spaces for belonging because I want to belong there. That if I don't feel like I belong in other places, then maybe I can create a place I belong and other people can belong to who feel like they don't either. So again, I can help myself, but I can help other people at the same time.
You said a second thing that stuck out to me about debugging oneself and it reminds me of our co-host’s book called Debugging your Brain.
And I'm curious, Casey, if you have anything that you might want to say about that topic.
CASEY: Yeah. Evan and I talked a lot about this ideas that are in the book before I published it, before I had to talk about it and I would bounce ideas off of him. He knows very well all the stuff in my book. [laughs]
EVAN: I've read some parts of it multiple times over a few different drafts. I was always bothering Casey with what was less CBT, more self-awareness, more emphasis on self-discovery and meditation. I've softened somewhat in that respect that I used to take a more, or a less generous perspective to meditation versus CBT. That I told Casey before you need to have at least a certain level of self-awareness to be able to be able to CBT and that what I see is a lot of people lack that fundamental self-awareness they need in order to CBT effectively. I don't think that that's true anymore. I think it's just like meditation that you peel layers of the onion, potentially and having more than one tool to do that can be effective, but having too many could be exhausting.
So I see a therapist, he doesn't use CBT. He uses – oh geez. Short-term. I always get it wrong. I'll have to look it up, or I'll remember it later in the podcast. It's a 5-letter acronym that's a little convoluted and it's not as common. CBT is about – [overtalk]
MAE: Speaking of acronyms, Evan. Would you be willing to say for listeners what CBT is just in case that –?
EVAN: Oh, cognitive behavioral therapy. Sorry. Cognitive behavioral therapy is where you identify thought, or thoughts that cause the stories and feelings that we're reacting to. The therapy that I have is sort of the inverse it's you start with the feelings, and you go and look at how those show up in the thoughts, stories, and physical manifestations in the body.
I've seen some intro to philosophy courses; where does thought begin, or where does feeling begin, and which comes first. I don't know that neuroscience has successfully answered this question, but philosophy sure hasn't. [laughs]
DAMIEN: Well, I can tell you with some confidence that neuroscience science is not capable of answering that question. I don't know if it ever will be.
EVAN: That’s interesting. I don't know that – you're saying science won't ever be able to prove a thing?
DAMIEN: Do say more, do say more.
EVAN: Yeah, that's an absolute, I don't believe in too many of those.
DAMIEN: [laughs] Well, we're talking about internal conscious thought, internal experiences. Like I don't think that that's a scientific concept. The best you can get is self-reporting on it, I suppose.
EVAN: The best we can now. That can change.
DAMIEN: Sure. And you can measure neurons and interneurons potentials, and serotonin and dopamine levels. But translating that to thought is not a scientific concept.
EVAN: Not yet. I say not yet, but we keep developing technologies at smaller and smaller scales and if we can develop technologies – we have nanotechnology already. We have complicated enough systems that we can inject into the body that can measure this information and send telemetry on it and you would probably end up with massive amounts of telemetry. But if you could correlate that with honest self-reported thought, maybe you end up with a Rosetta Stone of sorts, or really, really heavily data loaded Rosetta Stone.
DAMIEN: I mean, and that's as close as you're going to get in biological telemetry coupled with self-reporting.
DAMIEN: Which is what we have now.
EVAN: But except not at that level of fidelity that if you get a high enough fidelity, maybe you can approximate what people are actually thinking with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
MAE: Oh my gosh.
DAMIEN: We can do that.
CASEY: Let's talk about this fidelity. This is my background, neuroscience.
EVAN: Right. I know. And a little bit of mine now.
CASEY: So my favorite types of studies, when I was studying this at Yale were the single neuron studies, because then you really know the electrical, what's going on over time for single cell. And I always wish there were more studies that did 1 million cell study—I don't know how many neurons are in the brain—but every single neuron in the brain I want to measure at the same time without the needles affecting anything about how it works, which – [overtalk]
CASEY: Another problem.
CASEY: And then that's just the electrical part, but you can't – from that measure, the epigenetic modifications to each gene over time in each neuron and oh my God, it's so complicated to truly represent everything that's going on at the lowest level that I would want to do. So that's why there's some studies on single neurons in organisms with only one neuron, or very few neurons. They just have 6, some model organisms do. But then a human brain, oh. Our best – [overtalk]
EVAN: Let’s say, but at 6 neurons – [overtalk]
CASEY: [inaudible] proxy for neuronal activation. That's an MRI. And I would love to get a full [chuckles] download of everything going on in the brain in every way whatsoever. But that is so sci-fi, I can't imagine what it would look like today.
DAMIEN: I think the focus on the neurological system is completely misplaced. Like I can tell what people are thinking by their respiration rate.
DAMIEN: By the pupil dilation stuff, I can see it. You can see people's heart rate by the change in color and their face.
EVAN: But there are so many indicators. And so, you see now we're getting into another topic that's interesting to me, too. Because I've been learning to teach the Search Inside Yourself program, which came out of Google from over 10 years ago, which is a combination of neuroscience backed by about 20 different neuroscience studies and neuroscience, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness to develop leadership skills and to increase performance.
There are a lot of things you're saying, Damien that neuroscience has been able to prove already, that we can prove that – neuroscience has demonstrated for example, that habits, or that behaviors that we repeat, the brain optimizes for those habits. That's neuroplasticity that the brain alters its structure based on the activities we perform. In Search Inside Yourself, we cite a study where experienced meditators versus unexperienced meditators, and experienced meditator's brain is substantially different that they –
So for example, that we can see in FMRIs, for example, that they experience less anticipatory stress before pain than someone who is not an experienced meditator, that they spend less time in distress after that pain. After the pain is applied to mentioned anticipatory so they know it's coming. It's not anxiety, it's they know it's going to happen, then they experience it and then the time after, they recover faster.
So this is proven under FMRI. There are a lot of things like that, where we have that at kind of the macro level, we got really into the weeds, because I do that with the ADHD, I think. But talking about what if we could model, if we could record every neuron, every electrical transaction, every electrical exchange in the brain, but then there's also the biochemical exchanges, too, the neurotransmitters. Casey's point.
Honestly, I didn't think of the actual genetic modifications that occur, but that's I guess, also a manifestation of the neuroplasticity itself perhaps.
My point is—because I got a little into the sci-fi land again—we have these studies that show that the brain can be intentionally altered, that we do this all the time when we practice any skill, we’re altering our brain.
MID-ROLL 1: Rarely does a day pass where a ransomware attack, data breach, or state sponsored espionage hits the news. It's hard to keep up with all this and also to know if you’re protected. Don't worry, Kaspersky’s got you covered. Each week their team looks at the latest news, stories, and topics you might have missed during the week on the Transatlantic Cable Podcast. Mixing in-depth discussion, expert guests from around the world, a pinch of humor, and all with an easy to consume style - be sure you check them out today.
MAE: I wanted to get back to the thing that Damien opened up about, the limitations of science. My undergrad is biochem and what I realized is most inquiry, most scientific inquiry, is fundamentally a result of a discomfort with the unknown.
MAE: And I went to massage school for a little while and I lived at Kripalu the yoga retreat center. So I've been around some of these same circles, Evan and what I find is a lot of times, those folks will use a lot of scientific words and rationale [laughter] to basically justify the fact that they are supporting people, deepening their spirituality. To use science as a validity tool about anything to do with one's spirit, [laughs] I have a lot of feelings about that. It grates on my ears when I start to hear people trying to quantify and justify. I want some mystery, I'm okay with it and I think there's a piece in there.
I agree, though, with all of your opening statements, Evan, about knowing more about one's self and what you can do with that. But I don't dream of every neuron being measured because I think it will actually shroud our ability to understand the things we need and want to as humankind. I don't know.
EVAN: So – [overtalk]
CASEY: I see a pattern, that bothers me a lot, that's very related. Some people take the science to the extreme and they say, “I will only believe the things that have been proven.”
CASEY: “I will not believe things that have not been proven. Even if they haven't been disproven either, the unknown things, I just won't believe in them at all.” Like meditation wasn't respected by a lot of science thinkers until now there's more studies saying it – [overtalk]
CASEY: Does things. But we knew it worked for a very, very long time.
EVAN: See. And because of the ADHD, I literally have to take notes because I don't want to lose topics.
CASEY: Oh, me too.
EVAN: I'm not even kidding. I'm not even kidding. Ah.
MAE: It's quite why – [overtalk]
CASEY: I wonder – [overtalk]
MAE: I'm an interrupter in life, Evan too is because I'll forget about it if I don't say it right then.
EVAN: Me too. Hey, that's ADHD possibly.
MAE: Oh yeah. I'm in the group.
CASEY: Yeah. I relate to that.
CASEY: I relate to almost every ADHD meme I see and I wonder if I have it sometimes, but I don't have a diagnosis and I don't feel like it would help me that much because I'm not looking for the med part and I am already doing the coping mechanisms part, like the non-medication therapies for ADHD. I just read everything I can about every mental illness in case there are any nuggets that help improve my life.
EVAN: Mae, what I'd say first is I don't think I brought the spiritual side into anything I said.
MAE: You didn't.
EVAN: Yet, yet.
EVAN: Yet. I say yet. I mean, sure, I'll just come out and say, “Okay, by the way, I'm a Buddhist.” I didn't start there, though, or I suppose in a weird kind of way maybe I did. I just didn't mean to. No, I started with meditation at age 17 because I was an angry teenager and I kind of accidentally fell into it.
DAMIEN: How does an angry teenager get started with meditation? That’s a key for me.
EVAN: Yeah. Well, it wasn't intentional. It was my mother didn't want to pay for Kung Fu lessons, which is what I wanted because I wanted to beat the crap out of things to take my anger out on them. Come on, that seems obvious, right? Physically, I don't know, punishing inanimate objects. But there was this really nice aikido dōjō nearby and “Why don't you try that? That's cheaper.” “Oh, okay. Fine.”
I didn't know anything about aikido at the time. It also turned out that I found myself in one of the most internal, if not the most internally focused aikido schools of aikido that exists in the world. It's called Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. I’ll provide a link to it. Also known globally as the Ki Society, not K-E-Y, but K-I.
Every Sunday, there was this lovely woman named Mary K who started with a meditation, an hour-long meditation set, and I found that I had so much more peace that. I just fell in love with it and I didn't continue to practice rigorously after going –when I started in college, I tried to. They have a dōjō in Charlottesville where they did.
But it stayed with me and then when my first wife was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease—huge tangent there—I remembered before I went to University of Virginia, they gave me this reading list and they said, “Here are all these books we want you to read.” I didn't know that I wasn't going to be tested on any of the stuff, but I felt obligated to read it. One of those was Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, which is a story – [overtalk]
MAE: So good.
EVAN: Absolutely excellent book.
EVAN: Yeah, okay. So I remembered Siddhartha. Buddhism. Yeah, there is this whole religion that says life hurts. Hmm, maybe I should explore that. That's not really what it says, but that suffering is unavoidable and the whole religion, such as it is, religion is about how do we engage with that, or at least the philosophy of it. And I found a website and a podcast that is currently defunct called Zencasts, which is ironic considered we are using an app called Zencastr, and that comes from the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California. I've been listening to them ever since 2006 to the Dharma Talks, which is a talk given by a person who is usually an ordained priest of Buddhism.
Now they have a podcast called Audio Dharma that's still running. That's recordings of their meditations and their Dharma Talks and I followed that for years and years and years telling myself I don't do this religion thing and I gave up in religion decades before, but mindfulness. Okay, that’s secular version. So that mindfulness, I'll do that. It turns out, I guess when you get into that enough, you're going to be exposed and you listen to enough talks, you're eventually going to be exposed to some ideas that aren't just mindfulness, that are Buddhist related and quickly realize okay, fine. Maybe I can self-describe I did of, I can maybe there is an identity of secular Buddhism. It turns out that's most Western Buddhism. Most people don't buy into the reincarnation thing, karma, and all of that but the philosophy.
MAE: I'm a huge Pema Chödrön fan.
EVAN: Yeah. I've read some of hers. ADHD makes it really hard for me to take in any book that's non-fiction in its entirety, but I've read some Pema Chödrön and I've read some of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Some people object to the “his holiness” part. Thích Nhất Hạnh. Gil Fronsdal, who is the lead teacher at Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City and a few others. I just got a huge soft spot for Gil because his was the first Dharma Talk I ever listened to and now I just find his voice so soothing. Let’s say I'm a Gill fanboy.
MAE: Love it.
EVAN: But the mystical versus scientific part that I feel you. The analogy that comes to mind; I got really pissed at George Lucas when he started explaining the Force away with Midi-Chlorians.
It's like, “God damn it, George, take that back.”
EVAN: The Force is supposed to be magic. Don't take magic from the world. That just makes me upset. On one hand, I feel what you're saying, Mae. On the other hand, I subscribe to the notion that I'm a biological machine and with adequate science, I'm probably fully deterministic. At the same time, I wouldn't want people to be able to read my mind and with businesses out there like Meta AKA Facebook. No, fuck that.
DAMIEN: I want to say these are not contradicting philosophies. You can believe in a clockwork universe that absolutely is deterministic. While at the same time, knowing that there are things that science cannot prove that are true. Like that's a scientific fact. There are things that are true, that science cannot prove and then there are things that are literally not scientific. My favorite color is blue. That's a fact. That's not a scientific fact. There is no science that's going to prove that. The closer you’re going to get – [overtalk]
EVAN: I wonder if that's really true that no science currently they could prove that. Still, I question whether it's universally true no science could ever prove that.
DAMIEN: The best you can get is correlation between a physical response and a particular wavelength of light.
EVAN: Again, currently. I still – I think there's a chain of causality there that you might be able to connect with enough really, really deep telemetry, which we do not have nor seem likely to have any time at all in our lifetime.
MAE: I'm still on the I don't care how many stats there are, there's still more. And to your thing, Damien – [overtalk][
EVAN: I hope so.
MAE: The definition that I learned in school, in college of scientific fact is not yet then proven false. Like that's the best that we can do.
MAE: And this is pretty limited.
DAMIEN: Yeah, absolutely.
MAE: Also, when you look at the history of scientific thought, which I have taught before, it's fascinating what we used to think were facts.
MAE: And when we just like – we are constantly talking about it like it's just this aggregation of facts over time and really, it's just constantly rehabbing everything that we got attached to. So all of the things that we even are referring to as facts are things we now know, or whatever, or things we will find out later. Yeah, and most everything we think right now is the probability of it being told is very high.
EVAN: Well, that's why science calls them theories, right.
EVAN: Because fair theory means this has been demonstrated to be true, given the information we have available, but theories can also be proven false.
DAMIEN: Yeah. And I love that word, non-falsifiability, like scientific facts are falsifiable.
DAMIEN: And scientific theories are falsifiable and if you work really hard to falsify them and you fail, then it probably true.
EVAN: I mean, if –
DAMIEN: That's what we call true.
EVAN: This is where we can get down to what's the definition of facts, scientific facts. You could call measurements, facts, but even a measurement is going to be some degree of approximation because you are always rounding at some point. [laughs] Right?
DAMIEN: I agree.
MAE: Oh my gosh. I'm starting have so much fun right now.
Okay, but there's also generally not like truth, capital T, is usually very – includes a lot of contradictions and if it is one way and everybody answers that same thing, that's probably fallible. [laughs] Like when you start to get the contradictions and see a richer picture, that's when I feel closer to whatever truth that is.
So when people tell me that there's such and such kind of person and they think this kind of way, or a scientific fact, it's the only one truth. This is when I definitely don't believe whatever it is. So that's also why I like to include the – [overtalk]
CASEY: Yeah, group think.
MAE: Mystery magical option in there too, because unless you're including that, you're not getting the success of approximation to the truth in my book.
EVAN: See, this is where I start – Casey was going there, too. This is when I start thinking about human dynamics and teams that as a leader, or as a manager—because there is a difference between management and leadership, frankly—I tend to be my most uncomfortable when no one disagrees with me.
That if I'm – [overtalk]
EVAN: Or I should say if I'm putting an idea out there that is fairly obvious, that we're all breathing in oxygen, that I'm not too concerned about if people disagree with me. When I'm putting an idea out there that's fairly novel and there's some risk associated with it and no one says anything to disagree, I get nervous. “Wait a minute. No one has a problem with this at all. Do you feel safe enough to respond? What's going on here?” [chuckles]
DAMIEN: Yeah. What's more likely: everybody agrees, or people don't feel unsafe disagreeing?
EVAN: Right? Whoa. No, nom and you just used one of the most painful things you could use with me: double negative.
Ow. No, don't do that. It's like using unless in a Ruby statement, it hurts my brain.
MAE: Oh my gosh, Damien. It's so true. It is hard to foster environments where disagreement is welcomed, acceptable, encouraged, sustained. [laughs]
EVAN: I know what I do, and I know to try to do that. I also know it's not universally successful was I was given a little dose of much needed humility in that regard recently with a team member of mine.
I think, Mae, Casey, you've seen this with me before that I tend to be one of the earlier people to deliberately be vulnerable, to admit some shortcoming, or some mistake. That I try to establish, “Hey I'm okay admitting I'm wrong, or I've been wrong and if it's okay for me, if you see me as an authority figure, this is me trying to tell you I want you to feel okay doing it, too.” That I'm up here saying, “Hey, I have to –” Well, that time I chose not to swear for whatever reason. I think I'm in a little bit more of the work context, I'm talking about teams and no one's throwing stones at me yet. So maybe it's safe for you to do it, too.
That works for some people. I – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: That's so important. It's so important to come from people at the top, near the top.
DAMIEN: Like when your boss is like, “Oh, I was wrong about this.” When the CTO was like, “Oh yeah, last week, I knocked off production. Ooh, my bad.” [laughs]
EVAN: But when you say that, I tried to think about the counterpoint because I've seen this not succeed. Sometimes I've been confused by it. There's well, what happened after you made that mistake? Was there an accountability conversation? What did that look like? Were you taking a risk, or did you just make a “dumb mistake?” Was it really bad judgment? That there's a difference between being vulnerable and creating psychological safety and having accountability, and that can be a kind of fuzzy boundary.
But what I found is holding accountability, you got to do that in private, because that disrupts psychological safety and you have to think about, when you're holding accountability well, who's going to hear about the repercussions and what will that do to psychological safety? I won't go into details, but I can think of a situation where I saw someone perhaps have a severe lapse in judgment, get fired over it and then having a chilling response on an organization as a result, causing a severe reduction in psychological safety.
I'll say, I had no part of this. [chuckles] Just want to be clear. I do not reach for the fire button when it comes to people making mistakes. It's okay, how do we learn from this and get better is my preference That when someone makes a mistake, I think of it usually as okay, you made the mistake. How did the system allow for this in the first place?
CASEY: Yes, first place.
EVAN: And how can we prevent this in the future such that the system puts you in a position where you are able to make that mistake? Can we put in guardrails and checks and does the danger, the magic red button, does it need to have a safety cover on it, for example? That how many different protections can we put in place and are there enough of them?
MAE: And I try to do that. I'm an engineer manager, also Evan, and similarly, try to demonstrate vulnerability and publicly share mistakes. There are ways in which that impacts some people positively. There are ways in which that me as a white person admitting mistake is a different deal and me as a woman admitting a mistake is a different deal. And like – [overtalk]
MAE: there's just so much in there about, I appreciated that you were going into the what happens after, because we can get people to say things. But then if the system does not actually hold what it is that people are saying, and if the system does not hold accountable to the people who are most marginalized in the system, that's who gets to define whether, or not accountability is real, whether, or not if there is psychological safety, et cetera. It's not for the people with the most power to assess.
EVAN: Yeah. This really resonates with me, particularly because of a conversation I had with one of my directors at work lately. But I found it really profound when this one director of mine was very open about their experience as someone more diverse than me, let's just say, because I at least appear to be about as non-diverse as you get at least on the outside.
Their very real concerns because of the diversity, how that might impact their career, how people perceive them, and how they're perceived impacts their career growth. I was really grateful and humbled that they shared that with me and so, I took all that in and everything that they were telling me about the concerns, thought about it some, and that I received that sharing has impacted my management on my team, that I don't talk to others on the team about this person's diversity, but I am trying to get them to reflect further as a way of trying to you check for bias with other people.
MAE: Yeah. That's been my main mission. [laughs] I feel like most of my life is like, can we just say and see when we are biased because we are of a culture that is incredibly biased and unjust, and there is no way to be separate from it.
One of my very favorite quotes from Diane di Prima, this beat poet, is, “For every revolutionary must at last will his own destruction rooted as he is in the past he sets out to destroy.”
EVAN: God, I feel that.
MAE: As much as we can be change agents and social justice advocates, ultimately, we are still of the thing.
EVAN: Yeah. And yes.
MAE: And I try to go on record all the time. I am definitely racist, sexist, [chuckles] homophobic, atheist, and ageist; I am all of the things. I catch myself all of the time. And – [overtalk]
EVAN: And then there are the times you don't catch yourself, too, probably – [overtalk]
EVAN: Which is unconscious bias, because that's why I try to make other people aware by approaching it indirectly is unconscious bias can creep in so many different ways and okay, so all I can do is kind of explore this person's surface area and see, well, what is it you are really, what story are you telling yourself here? What data are you operating on? Is this congruent when you look at all of it together, or do you see gaps for yourself?
I haven't had anyone's light bulb go off just yet, but I'm still working on some people and maybe it's possible that there are legitimate concerns, too. That can be accompanied by unconscious bias and that can get really hard to deal with.
CASEY: I read a paper recently about unconscious bias training being not effective at all ever. And then I read another paper saying – [overtalk]
CASEY: It's not effective when it's done very poorly, like in our [inaudible] – [overtalk]
And it is effective when you have people talk about it with each other, actually apply it, and think about it.
EVAN: It's not effective?
CASEY: And that’s not so – no, no one was surprised.
CASEY: Put it on my feed on Twitter and everyone was like, “Duh. But now we have science.”
EVAN: When it's done poorly, does it work. Hello? [laughs]
DAMIEN: But the addition to that is most of the time it's done poorly.
CASEY: That's true, too. Yeah.
DAMIEN: And I'll give you my personal opinion. I didn't come up with this myself. If you're comfortable doing it, it's not being done well. [laughs]
EVAN: That's the truth.
CASEY: Well said.
EVAN: Yeah. This is where I'll go back to meditation and mindfulness training, that with mindfulness, you become more aware. I've become more aware of the passing thoughts that I have; they're automatic thoughts. Buddhism has this idea of monkey mind that the mind is a machine that shatters like a monkey. It's a machine for creating thought and we have metacognition if we're aware of our thoughts, if we're paying attention to our thoughts.
I have noticed more of that chatter and oh, whoa, whoa. I didn't – I thought that? What? Okay, let's slow down here for a moment and explore that because that made me really uncomfortable that that went through my head in that moment about that person whether it's racist, sexist, whatever. I'm human, these thoughts come up and now I'm never getting a job again. [laughs]
MAE: Well, I went first so.
EVAN: I know you did so, you were vulnerable. Thank you. [laughs]
MAE: Do you all know about Resmaa Menakem?
MAE: Oh my gosh. Okay, so check it out. This guy says he wrote this book called My Grandmother's Hands and he's saying that trauma is passed down physiologically.
EVAN: I've heard this.
MAE: And part of the reason why we have not been able to deal with bias and all of this is because we are trying to do it through the mind – [overtalk]
MAE: And that is not the place to go. It's actually physiological healing that we all are responsible to do as part of contributing toward creating a different world is like it's within us.
So his premises that the white-on-white trauma in the Middle Ages got passed down and that is part of how white people have been [chuckles] passing along a lot more trauma, I'll say that.
Anyway, the book is fascinating and the first time I've heard a non-brain thought focused way to approach social change.
DAMIEN: I feel this very, very strongly, like there's such a focus and this is why I bristled at our neuroscience experts here [laughs] and their lovely focus on neurology. Like there's so much focus on neurons, the neurological system, and the cognitive mind and the cognitive mind is such a tiny, tiny part of what we are.
EVAN: Yeah, true.
EVAN: We're a whole system. So no, I was going to say something, not double negative, not all that dissimilar.
You said closer to the mic to be ironic. That they're interconnected. Casey was talking to it, too that thought creates physiological changes, creates chromosomal changes so, genetic changes.
MAE: And vice versa.
DAMIEN: Yeah, and you can tell this vice versa. That the most obvious way to do this is next time you're angry, breathe slowly. It's literally impossible to be angry and breathing peacefully.
MAE: Hmm. Oh my gosh. This is such a good challenge.
EVAN: Yeah, pretty much.
MAE: I know this is what Casey is going to quote at the end.
EVAN: I mean, when you say breathe peacefully, let's be clear. You can slow your breathing down, but not be breathing peacefully when you're slowing your breathing down. But now it's how do we define peacefully?
EVAN: That makes you really pedantic here. But as a meditator? Yeah. Mae, you meditate, too, though? Don't you? I thought.
MAE: I’m a dabbler in all of the things.
EVAN: So what is breathing peacefully that deep breaths will tend to encourage the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and over that encouragement, the parasympathetic nervous system, the so-called rest and digest. So it's hard to sustain deep breathing for a long time and not calm down, but I'm sure it's possible. I've had some experiences where I've been so emotionally activated—you could use the word triggered. Take your pick, some people don't like it. But at that point, if there's a trauma involvement, then it can be really hard to use the physiological to tamp down the emotional.
DAMIEN: Well, what I will say is just on a more fundamental level. Your thoughts, your emotions, they're physical, and they're embodied.
EVAN: Yeah, totally.
DAMIEN: They are literally in your body and so, they change your body and your body changes them, and they're not a separate thing.
EVAN: So you thought we were disagreeing? That's neuroscience, too. Sorry. Eh, you failed.
DAMIEN: I failed at disagreeing.
DAMIEN: I will never make it on cable television now.
EVAN: No, I think this is what you call violent agreement.
Yeah, for a lot of these things we're talking about, I quickly go to like, “Yes, there's even a science that supports it.”
Even if we don't have the science to support it yet because there's so much we don't know about everything.
EVAN: I feel like we've kind of got to meet the press table here because we've got the two on two of the people who want to say, “No, it's not science,” and the people on the other side were saying, “Hey, this thing you're not saying is science, there's science for this!”
CASEY: I was saying it about the audience.
MAE: I’m just saying I don’t want to have to use science in order to be able to have faith. That's what I'm saying.
CASEY: Mm hmm.
EVAN: Well, I would argue that even for those of us who don't really want to have faith, that there's always something we're taking on faith.
EVAN: Because there's a lot of it, because even those of us who think we know science so well, there are plenty of things we're ignorant of that we have, that we operate with very large assumptions on. We essentially take on faith because we don't understand them.
DAMIEN: The scientific method is taken on faith.
EVAN: Oh, oh god.
EVAN: Someone get Gödel, Escher, Bach; I think we’re hitting recursion.
MAE: Oh my gosh, I’m having so much fun!
EVAN: Another book I’ve read some of. [laughs]
CASEY: I always think about the audience we're talking to. So I'm well-equipped to talk to people who really want to hear some science because I can bring up some like, “Well we don't know this part over here,” and I'm very happy to be the person to talk to those people. I am much less well-equipped to talk to someone more spiritual, who doesn't want to think about science things at all. I'm not well-equipped to talk – [overtalk]
EVAN: No, I've loved doing that.
CASEY: Some people are fluent in both, but I specialize in the science part.
EVAN: I’m fluent in it but I – [overtalk]
CASEY: Conversational, perhaps.
EVAN: I like areas of disagreement and this really makes some people very uncomfortable. In student government in college, I prized the people who thought very differently for me because I often learned from them and had insights that wouldn't have otherwise. I've made my in-law super uncomfortable because they're deeply religious. I am so not. And when I asked them challenging questions, I think they thought I was trying to start a fight and said, “No, I was trying to start a discussion to explore and learn,” but they got upset. [laughs]
MAE: Yes, I have this, too, Evan.
DAMIEN: A lot of people don't want to explore and learn because they're afraid of what they'll find, and I think – I know that's true for me in certain areas.
EVAN: I don't know that that's accurate, but I also don’t think – I'll be frank, I don't think it's all that generous either.
DAMIEN: No, it's not generous. Of course.
EVAN: Yeah, and I've been tested on this a lot, because my wife is really quite religious and I'm not. So we're a really interesting pair that way, that I think it's instead that they're projecting negative intent on me because they're more accustomed to people challenging their belief from an aggressive and a hostile place.
DAMIEN: That's also fair.
EVAN: Where frankly, I probably had some of that unintentionally, but my true intent was—and this goes back to something you were saying earlier, Mae that I wanted to say and I forgot because of ADHD probably—that my vulnerability, my discussions with people, it's because I'm a little obsessed with truth. And one doesn't find truth through constant agreement. One finds truth by taking your truth, comparing it to other people's truths that are different, testing them, and the exploring, which I think that's where we get the assignment – [overtalk]
MAE: And then combining them enzymatically. Let’s just use a science word to prove this approach.
EVAN: Yeah. You look for the yes ands, but then you also look for the oh, these don't connect here, here, here, and here and the person with more faith might just say, “We have to just agree to disagree here,” and I might just have to, “Okay, fine. You're saying you don't want to talk about that part is what I hear then.”
One of my best friends when I lived in Eastern shore of Maryland, devoutly religious evangelical and… also in the computers. When we met, we would often go out to lunch and just have these really strong disagreements that I always found fascinating. We would just talk and talk and talk and inevitably, it would get into religion and God, and he would get down to “Because God has a plan for every one of us,” and I'd say, “Yeah, I don't believe it.” [laughs]
DAMIEN: Well, that's unfalsifiable.
EVAN: Right, so we’re back to those I can't prove it's false thing; you can’t prove it – [overtalk]
MAE: Oh my gosh, now we're just having fun. And then – [overtalk]
EVAN: Yeah, I can't prove the non-existence of God, ooh, I'm done. That's the Godwin's law of talking about religion. That’s what's Godwin's love every conversation on the internet inevitably becomes about Hitler. Boom.
DAMIEN: But it's an important point. Like when you even as a person who – [overtalk]
EVAN: I just mentioned Hitler, sorry. [laughs]
DAMIEN: Even as a person who has taken on faith, this shared objective, external reality exists, [chuckles] there are still things that are unfalsifiable and so you have to – well, what I like to do is I get to choose. I get to choose what I believe. [laughs]
EVAN: We all do.
DAMIEN: I choose the beliefs that serve me the best.
EVAN: Or we all think we do. We might – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: Well, I believe that, too.
EVAN: We might add a free will, but you might believe we do and I'm not so sure. I suspect we don't.
DAMIEN: Well, that's also non-falsifiable. [chuckles]
EVAN: I know.
DAMIEN: And so, it's another opportunity for me to choose a belief that there – [overtalk]
EVAN: Right. Currently, I'm falsifiable and as I said earlier, closing another loop, I'm not sure I want to live in the world where we can prove it because it'll get misused.
MAE: Mm yeah. There's no deal there, too.
A loop piece, too, that I wanted to say is, Evan on the thing about being interpreted as being consternatious, or content – like trying to create conflict. Disagreement to me is not conflict. [chuckles] Like you can disagree and not be in conflict, but I am from upstate New York and the way that I talk –
EVAN: [laughs] Wait, Upstate, not Manhattan.
EVAN: So there's different. [laughs]
MAE: Correct. I can sound like I am having a problem with someone because I'm challenging a thing they said and those are just very different to me; challenging a thing that someone said versus having a problem with a person and what they think. My coined phrase I made up is “conflict is care.” So if they're really in conflict, it's because there's emotion involved. Somebody has to care for there to be actual conflict.
DAMIEN: Otherwise, you walk away.
MAE: So like, whatever. That was weird.
EVAN: So few things. First, conflicting disagreement to me, they can mean the same thing. Conflict doesn't have to imply hostility, or violence. Two different books come to mind based on what you just said.
One, Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I love that book because one example, you know it's a management book because it has a four-quadrant diagram in it and – [laughs] Mae’s laughing. That's not on the audio.
But I love that book and there's the top left quadrant, I can't remember what it's called. I always forget these, which is the you're just not contributing because you don't care enough. So there's the whole right side of the diagram is you care enough to intervene. I think the bottom right is can't forget, but basically, you're saying the truth but you're just a jerk about it. It's the I'm sharing and I'm just being blunt and I'm not addressing your feelings on the matter at all, I'm just sharing. And the top right, the radical candor is I care and I'm sharing to try to help so it speaks to compassion in the sense of, I see a problem. I'm offering because I care and I'm trying to, I'm taking action because I have empathy.
By the way, I'm almost literally borrowing from a Search Inside Yourself program when I say that, when I describe compassion that way.
The other book that came to mind… Oh, yeah was Nonviolent Communication. I think that's – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: Another excellent book.
EVAN: Daniel Rosenberg. Yeah, that has been a hugely impactful book on me. Some people have a lot of difficulty with the notion that speech can be violent. But it comes down to what does the word violence mean because if you think of violence in the form of violation, if you are saying things that are unwelcome to another person, that is a violation.
DAMIEN: Well, also the author breaks that down, clears that up in the very beginning. What they mean by violence is causes harm.
EVAN: And then quantifying harm.
EVAN: There's not just physical harm. Although, then we get to the neuroscience and physiological part, emotional harm is physical harm because – [overtalk]
EVAN: These things we call feelings—I'm going to Search Inside Yourself again here, these things we call feelings, they are felt sensations in the body. They are manifestations of emotions that are in the brain.
DAMIEN: I just want to say that again. Feelings are felt sensations.
EVAN: Bingo. So when I feel bad, it's I literally feel bad.
I was telling my therapist yesterday when I was having a bad day, I said, “I reached right for the pain relief that day,” and he said, “Oh yeah, I totally do that, too.” Because the felt sensations in the body are hurt and hey, guess what? Pain relief medication can treat the physical hurt and if you treat the physical hurt, that can help with the emotional and mental hurt, too a little because you don't have that exacerbating the emotional hurt. You don't have that exacerbate – [overtalk]
CASEY: This is not just true. It's studied.
EVAN: Casey, blow people's minds and go to the study in the show notes.
EVAN: I bet you can find it. I hope it's public.
EVAN: This is something that drove me nuts in the Search Inside Yourself program. That I'm that guy that when I'm looking at the neuroscience, it's okay, I see this study. I'm reading through this study. Cool. I want to know something about some of the other studies that are referred to you in here because I have more questions. Wait, this shit’s behind a pay wall? Fuck this.
CASEY: Ah, yeah.
EVAN: There are so many studies behind the pay wall unless you're associated with the university. You can't get them. Oh my God. I hate them.
DAMIEN: Pro tip, scientific authors love sharing their work and they own the copyright to it. [chuckles] Email them, they'll send it to you.
EVAN: Oh, you can't see my huge O face. [laughs] I am totally doing it.
MAE: But – [overtalk]
EVAN: Thank you.
MAE: As someone who worked in higher ed for many years, that is consistently being defunded. Scientific inquiry happening in higher ed is like the places where the money goes and what research is allowed to happen is a pretty murky water. And so, paying the distribution place to help there be some peer reviewed studies out there that are not only and solely funded by big industry [chuckles] no names that I'll give them my 3 bucks.
EVAN: I wish it was just 3 bucks, though.
MAE: I know, yes.
EVAN: I'm looking at wait, you want to purchase this journal so you can – some of them you can rent, I think they said, but – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: Also – [overtalk]
EVAN: [inaudible] journal is like 250 bucks for a single journal.
MAE: Oh no.
DAMIEN: And do the journals pay the – do they pay the authors? Do they pay the peer reviewers?
MAE: Yeah. You get – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: Oh, okay
MAE: Well, it depends on the journal, on the industry, but there is a whole extra thing about peer review being a part of kind of community service. It's like open source. You have to have done it to be able to be let in the club and keep up your reps, or whatever. So there's definitely a lot of peer review stuff that happens. That's not as cool for, especially earlier career researchers, but there's definitely some funding that really goes back.
EVAN: Oh, yeah, I imagine. Getting research funded in academia is always hard, so sure. I mean, if it's a few bucks here and there, it's one thing, but 250 bucks for a journal.
MAE: That’s fascinating, that’s great.
EVAN: Damien, I'm going to try your idea. [laughs]
CASEY: The research I did was funded by the military because it was PTSD related.
CASEY: Even though for my interest, it was basic science; how do epigenetics affect memory. But that is the application is PTSD and the military has a big budget for that.
EVAN: Sounds like, you know what?
CASEY: I always felt a little weird about it because that's – I don't know. I didn't want to get money from the military, but I did want –
MAE: A lot of [inaudible] has – [overtalk]
CASEY: The research was important – [overtalk]
MAE: Always come from the military.
CASEY: A lot has. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
EVAN: Hey, this internet we're talking on? [laughs] This internet thing that we're using right now?
MAE: Yeah, sure.
EVAN: That little thing came from this thing called defense something research project agency, I think DARPA, ARPANET originally, and that was the internet way back when.
MID-ROLL 2: This episode is supported by Compiler, an original podcast from Red Hat discussing tech topics big, small, and strange.
Compiler unravels industry topics, trends, and the things you’ve always wanted to know about tech, through interviews with the people who know it best. On their show, you will hear a chorus of perspectives from the diverse communities behind the code.
Compiler brings together a curious team of Red Hatters to tackle big questions in tech like, what is technical debt? What are tech hiring managers actually looking for? And do you have to know how to code to get started in open source?
I checked out the “Should Managers Code?” episode of Compiler, and I thought it was interesting how the hosts spoke with Red Hatters who are vocal about what role, if any, that managers should have in code bases—and why they often fight to keep their hands on keys for as long as they can.
Listen to Compiler on Apple Podcasts, or anywhere you listen to podcasts. We’ll also include a link in the show notes. Our thanks to Compiler for their support.
CASEY: We've been talking about knowledge and what is truth, and I want to bring up an idea that I'm surprised surprises so many people. I use these words completely differently—believe, think, no, wonder, want, need. Every word like that is unique to me. So if I say, I believe that's true. That doesn't mean I think it's true, or I know it's true, or I want it to be true. It means I believe; it's a belief I have based on something. Do you want to know what that something is? I can tell you what that comes from. Or I know this is true. I reserve that for personal experience, or there's a study.
CASEY: In the study, I might not even use no for, because they can be contradicted as we're talking about all the whole episode.
EVAN: Can we survey listeners? Because I'm actually curious how many people make this distinction. I do, too.
EVAN: So I'm actually curious now is this normal, or are you and I weird in similar ways that way? Because again, how did I end up finding out I have ADHD and why did it matter to me? It's how am I different?
MAE: And we can a tarot deck out it.
EVAN: Oh and by the way, I mentioned comorbidities of ADHD. ADHD and autism spectrum disorders, they tend to coexist. There are a lot of people on autism spectrum disorders have ADHD, also comorbid anxiety, depression, sometimes eating disorders, ding, ding, ding and rejection sensitivity disorder. The list goes on and on and on.
CASEY: Yeah. Yeah.
EVAN: So some of these patterns, I've occasionally wondered hey, am I somewhere on the autism spectrum? I don't know. But I sometimes get into my clarifications and get really pedantic about them.
CASEY: I can be pedantic. Sometimes. I try to go light on it.
MAE: I like to be pedantic, too! [laughs]
DAMIEN: I promise you, normal people do not make distinctions between those words, but normal people are generally very sloppy with their language.
CASEY: Yeah. We can't afford to; forever programming changes the way we think.
MAE: I would like to normalize this word we're using right now pretty liberally, normal. Speaking of being special about our words.
EVAN: Neurotypical and neuroatypical – [overtalk]
EVAN: Might be a little bit better.
CASEY: Common, I like better most of the time.
DAMIEN: Common is the word what I should have used.
EVAN: Yeah. I don't like normal so much. Common, okay. I tend to – there's a whole ADHD Twitter. I could probably link to a few lists. There's just the ADHD hashtag gets thrown lot around a lot and you see people talk about NT an awful lot. They’re neurotypicals.
CASEY: Yeah, that's more specific. It is much more specific than normal. What kind of normal?
CASEY: Normal, the word I want to drop, but it still slips into my speech. Just like guys.
MAE: Yeah, same.
CASEY: I have it found a perfect replacement for how guys feels to use.
CASEY: I wish I could.
EVAN: Y'all. I love y'all.
CASEY: Sometimes y'all’s good. But if I walk into a room and say, “What are –?” Okay, that's not a good example.
EVAN: How are you folks?
CASEY: What are you guys doing? Well, y'all is great there.
EVAN: I use folks.
CASEY: It sounds like – [overtalk]
EVAN: I use filters – [overtalk]
CASEY: Where guys – [overtalk]
MAE: I use folks. I use people. I use peeps. I use y’all.
MAE: I use all kinds of things.
CASEY: Yeah. I use all these, too.
EVAN: I might have gotten one, or two of those to use – [overtalk]
MAE: When somebody says guys, as someone who has hung out in mostly places where it is all guys, I don't like it. I just don't.
MAE: Does not make me feel good.
EVAN: How do you know they self-Identify as male? Right? I mean, seriously, so. But no, I was going to say, Mae, or I tried to say earlier, I might have [inaudible] amount of – I’ve used that occasionally. I'm pretty sure maybe at least one of these came from you, from interacting with you at one point, just can't say which. Y’all, that was from a stint at Rackspace and going to Texas enough times, but I stuck with it.
CASEY: Y’all is great. Y'all should be more formal, popular, mainstream accepted English. It should not be just slang casual. I use it in formal writing as much as I can get away with.
EVAN: So happy in a work meeting yesterday to hear someone new to me use y'all in a work meeting setting. It tickled me. [laughs]
CASEY: It's like Spanish. Spain’s Spanish has vosotros that's y'all and that is more formal in Spanish.
DAMIEN: Once we get y'all in English, we can extend it to the even more useful all y’all.
MAE: Yes! Now we're talking.
DAMIEN: You, y’all, all y'all.
EVAN: No, wait, there's some other ones I learned, too. There's yinzer. There's some other – [overtalk]
DAMIEN: Philadelphia yinz. That's a third person plural, second person plural.
EVAN: It gets kind of weird me, but every neologism starts weird before it gets normalized. I air quoted. [laughs] I remember the first time I heard fleek and I just couldn't accept it. [laughs]
MAE: Oh my gosh.
DAMIEN: That's a tough one.
CASEY: Fleek is for eyebrows. Eyebrows on fleek, that's what it's used for mostly.
I think it's my gray hair showing just, yeah, I still twitch a little there. I just lost a whole generation of people who might have been paying attention. [laughs]
MAE: What, by telling the truth and demonstrating vulnerability and saying things that…?
EVAN: Yes. [laughs]
CASEY: So first let's do reflections on the episode and then we'll do the plugs. Who wants to go first?
DAMIEN: I can go first. Yeah, because my reflection is something I think one things we talked least about, but was demonstrated most: the value of being vulnerable, of just revealing things and I think that's like – I think because Evan, you were so vulnerable opening up this conversation, it allowed us to have a really open and just really valuable conversation with that. So that's an object lesson that I witnessed today and was a part of.
EVAN: Thank you. And Mae was saying it a lot earlier and I really appreciate that you were vulnerable in sharing that feedback as we went. By the way, that's also me sort of trying to imply to people who are listening, feedback doesn't have to be bad.
Feedback can be encouraging, too.
MAE: Evan's doing his plug right now.
EVAN: Well, sort of. People hear the word feedback; they think it always has to be critical. I winced.
My reflection is I was tickled that we got to explore so many things and while there were points of disagree that the disagreement ultimately led to deeper discussion. I just had such a fun time with this. So very much echoing the sentiment Mae shared earlier in the conversation. My reflection is this was just fun kind of bouncing around all these different topics and exploring things scientific, spiritual, existential in all manner.
CASEY: I'll go next. I like how many times Damien got the word unfalsifiable into the conversation.
DAMIEN: And non-falsifiable a couple times.
CASEY: Yeah, yeah.
DAMIEN: One of those will be incorrect, right?
EVAN: We used not unfalsifiable the first time and I winced.
CASEY: Not unfalsifiable, yeah.
So I haven't thought on it in a long time. I'm sure I have before, but we can't usually know what is truth. Truth is maybe unattainable in a lot of ways. But we can know when something's false and there's something really satisfying about that. So I'm going to try to hold onto that thought and see how it feels.
MAE: I love that, Casey.
I'm trying to remember the thing that Damien said that I thought was going to be the thing that you were are going to say, Casey, because you're so good at always getting in on the CTA options, but.
MAE: Oh, thank you, Evan. I'm usually so good about acronyms and saying what they are. Call to action.
EVAN: Oh, I see.
MAE: Well, I'm going to – [laughs] my reflection is that I need to spend some time rethinking all of the stuff that we talked about. Maybe even relistening to be able to relay—I'm trying to come up with another word that starts with R-E. What my reflection is, but it's something Damien said and it was really good and I can't wait to rediscover it.
EVAN: Was it about unconscious bias and that we need to be talking about our biases because if it's not uncomfortable, then it's not productive?
MAE: That’s the one.
MAE: That… maybe it wasn't. I think it is.
MAE: I think I have to get back to us. [laughs]
EVAN: I think it was it's not an effective conversation about bias if it's not uncomfortable.
CASEY: Mm, that's it. I love that.
DAMIEN: Evan remembers it because it has a double negative in it.
EVAN: That's possible. It hurt me.
I’ve got to admit, it did hurt saying it. That's the truth. I felt it.
But it's also true, I'm just – I admit in my head, I am trying to knot the knots [laughs] and it hurts. [laughs]
DAMIEN: Well, don't get tied knots doing it, Evan.
EVAN: Bang, bang and Ruby hurt my brain except they convert things to Boolean. That's a nice little trick in the Ruby language.
MAE: I have a plug and kind of call-to-action.
CASEY: Plug, plug!
MAE: I really just like please everybody, think about all the ways in which you are biased and have healing to do and in your body. Brains, well, they're complicated and maybe we'll have some more studies to tell some more things about them. But our bodies, if you would consider bringing that also into your workplaces, in your families, in your communities about starting to truly talk about ways in which we are not awesome to each other, it will actually help us get more awesome to each other.
EVAN: Amen. Yeah, we don't get better until we talk about where it hurts. Until we face it.
I think I plugged it a few times already, but I'll say it more explicitly: Search Inside Yourself. I don't make money off of this. This is something where I took this class. I took it as a class in D.C. about 6 years ago. I took it with Casey. In fact, we took it the same time and…
EVAN: It has been so impactful in my life in so many different ways that I literally took the time and effort to learn how to teach it. This is something I've been primarily doing in my spare time and it's taken a little bit of time away from work for the actual sit down with other people in trainings with the super experienced trainers. But most of that time has been evenings and weekends pouring over material and cramming all these things into my brain and trying to not only learn it all, but then learn the mental model of it all to be able to share it with other people.
Search Inside Yourself is a way to build the muscles to do exactly what Mae is urging you to do. That empathy is a skill, you can learn it. That you might not have learned early that enough – I'm extending that plugs to ADHD again, [laughs] but I'll finish.
That most of us didn't grow up with the minimum recommended dose of Mr. Rogers in our life. I say that as someone who didn't. I know someone, Casey and I have a good friend who did, and I'm really grateful. I guess, I'll mention that friend, Andrew Dunkman, that he grew up with a lot of Mr. Rogers and got me thinking and reflecting a lot more on the man and the more I learned, the more I wish I had paid attention when I was little.
EVAN: Because a lot of those lessons are really important in the modern world where we need to work with other people and live better with other people, and the consequences of not doing that is a world with a lot of hostility and divisiveness that oh, by the way, we live in right now. So if we all cultivated some more empathy, I think we would all be a lot better off. I think. Sorry, no, I don't think. I believe, but I also have data to support it. Interesting. See, I did use, I think colloquially there.
CASEY: Nuance! Yeah, Andrew has been on the show before. If you miss the episode with Andrew Dunkman, you might want to go check it out. It's pretty good.
All right. I want to share my plug. I'm so shy about sharing. I have my own business, Happy & Effective, and it is so related to every episode, honestly and finally enough people have encouraged me to talk about it on the show and now is a great moment. Just like Evan is studying to teach Search Inside Yourself, I do workshops kind of like that through my company on emotional intelligence and well-being. Things like debugging your brain. I do a lot of DEI training—diversity, equity and inclusion—strategic thinking, leadership skills. And my approach is so hands-on, it's all breakout rooms and talking to each other and applying it. I give homework. I give reading assignments.
Anyway, if you want to bring that to your company, reach out to me. I'd love to chat with you. We can help make it happen. The website for that is happyandeffective.com.
DAMIEN: Do you make people uncomfortable in that process, Casey? Excellent.
CASEY: Yeah, but they love it because they're in a supportive environment. That might be my superpower, making people comfortable trying do that things.
EVAN: That’s the one. We do that in Search Inside Yourself.
CASEY: It's true in the dance classes I teach, too. I get people who hate dancing, think they hate dancing to become comfortable with it, happy with it.
EVAN: You make people uncomfortable in Search Inside Yourself, too. Yeah.
EVAN: Well, you’ve got to stretch yourself. Damien, you haven't gone.
DAMIEN: [laughs] I wish I had something to plug. I'll plug some of the books we mentioned. Siddhartha, absolutely amazing.
DAMIEN: Short narrative.
EVAN: Short read.
DAMIEN: Fun read.
EVAN: Oh, yeah.
CASEY: There's a free link of this on Gutenberg. I put a link in the show notes. It's free. You can just get it on your phone, do it.
DAMIEN: Nonviolent Communication, another amazing book. That's not as much fun to read, but in part incredibly impactful.
EVAN: Oh, there are also courses on Nonviolent Communication that you can take offered around the world really fairly cheaply Some of them tend to be community given. My wife and I went to once some time ago, so.
DAMIEN: Yeah. I've heard good things about those.
DAMIEN: And then finally the last one, Conversations For Action. Ooh, I hope I got that right. Fernando Flores. We didn't talk about this.
DAMIEN: But it talked very much about speech being an act. You're not just talking; you're doing something when you talk.
DAMIEN: Also amazing book.
EVAN: Yeah. There are a lot of books in this list, that makes me happy. I have more things to read now, though. Get it?
Longer reading list.
DAMIEN: Well, Evan, thank you so much for joining us today.
EVAN: Thank you for having me.
MAE: Yeah, super fun.
EVAN: I was really glad. This was lot of fun.Support Greater Than Code
This episode is supported by Compiler, an original podcast from Red Hat discussing tech topics big, small and strange.
Compiler unravels industry topics, trends, and the things you’ve always wanted to know about tech, through interviews with the people who know it best. On their show, you will hear a chorus of perspectives from the diverse communities behind the code.
Compiler brings together a curious team of Red Hatters to tackle big questions in tech like, What is technical debt? What are tech hiring managers actually looking for? And, do you have to know how to code to get started in open source?
I checked out the “Should Managers Code?” episode of Compiler, and I thought it was interesting how the hosts spoke with Red Hatters who are vocal about what role if any, that managers should have in codebases—and why they often fight to keep their hands on keys for as long as they can.
Listen to Compiler on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts. We’ll also include a link in the show notes. Our thanks to Compiler for their support.
Rarely does a day pass where a ransomware attack, data breach or state sponsored espionage hits the news. It's hard to keep up with all this and also to know if you’re protected. Don't worry Kaspersky’s got you covered. Each week their team looks at the latest news, stories and topics you might have missed during the week on the Transatlantic Cable podcast – mixing in-depth discussion, expert guests from around the world, a pinch of humor, and all with an easy to consume style - be sure you check them out today!