Profusion

A post about mindset, believe it or not.

9 years ago, in 2010, I registered with WordPress.com. I have had 2,012 posts on this site in that time — in part because I merged an old site into this one when it was time to evolve it.

I’ve spent most of the past two years chasing a perfect 365-day streak. Never hit it.

I am fine with back-dating posts or scheduling posts to cover missed days, but I eventually got to a place where I found the quality of each post was decreasing. Most were just photos (which is fine!) but they weren’t particularly interesting or engaging (and the site is for me, and the photos are more or less my own children, so that’s really saying something).

Over time, you can see the ebb and flow of my blogging activity in this chart:

The thing is, how do you measure what’s ebb and what’s flow? Word count? Maybe. A picture is worth a thousand words, which is a hard fact that is incontrovertible. Engagement? Perhaps. But I like this blog for me, for thinking through things and remembering things I’d rather not forget. What does engagement look like for myself rather than not-me? Likes? Possible. Although any year I had a baby is skewed. Something I find fascinating about stats like this is that my intention at any given point in time determines the landscape. Like a tidal estuary, there’s a robust ecosystem to this blog (and probably to many blogs) that changes depending on when you look at it.

The timing of this milestone (I can’t really call it an achievement) is propitious. I’ve been thinking about mindset a lot lately. I wrote a post to our internal leadership P2 about how every opportunity you have to teach someone is really an opportunity for you to learn. Your responsibility is to try to find the thing to learn! My advice was to give yourself credit to believe that you will be better at your job next week than you are today, so you should be changing your approach and figuring out what someone else does better and shamelessly adopting that way. The way I phrased it was “strong processes, loosely held.” More recently, Matt (our CEO) shared this post internally to everyone in the company, and it gave me more food for thought.

When I applied to Automattic, one of the questions was “do you think you’re the best in the world at support?” And I thought “no, but I’d sure like to be.” So I applied. For many of us, I think, “the best” is perceived as an end state. But that’s not so. Or, shouldn’t be so. Think of it from the other direction; if I’m the best 7 years ago, what am I now? Bester? Maybe T.Jefferson can get away with phrasing such as “a more perfect union” but most of us need to recognize that rather than a bettering of best, there is a plurality of improvement; a profusion of progress.

Evolution is opportunistic entropy. No doubt shocking to everyone, I’m not a physicist, but hear me out. Evolution is not a reduction of entropy, and entropy is not a restriction to evolution. Rather, we move to what we next need to be (evolution) because everything is always changing (also evolution), so we optimize for the state we are in now (entropy).

People who optimize with an eye towards the state we’re not in quite yet have what I call a profusion mindset. You do the best you can with the information you have (even if that means purposefully not being perfect), and plan to change (even if you don’t know what that change will look like). You are comfortable with accepting new ideas, even if they’re contrary to what you’ve thought to that point, and you accept that good ideas can come from any direction. Including past you. I had some boss ideas as a kid (admittedly, many most were unicorn-related). You don’t know how revisiting ideas (or discovering new-to-you ideas) can affect how your own ideas will evolve. I’m not sure if this needs to be true, but I think that you likely need to have a fairly high degree of comfort with chaos. Or at the very least, a comfort with a non-hierarchical profusion of ideas, with no end state.

You could lump “if you aren’t embarrassed by your v1, you waited too long to launch” in with this (and they’re very similar), but take it just a half step further and think of it from the other side – “push out that idea sooner so you can improve it faster.” Try not to be embarrassed by your old ideas, just be excited about where they can lead you. You don’t have to follow every path that an idea presents at the same time, but you can go back and revisit those paths.

Anyway, as far as my blog stats go, it’s all ebb and it’s all flow. I don’t look at my stats anymore (today notwithstanding), because the stats don’t affect my relationship to the blog. I don’t find them validating, but as a data point they’re certainly interesting because they could say almost anything. The nice thing about that complete lack of directionality is that they are almost a thought exercise on what to do with the blog next. If I want to increase X, how will that affect Z and Y? I can come up with lots of ideas on what I want to focus on next and see what happens.

Here’s to the next 9.

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