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MC#017: Tradeoffs

1. 🎲 Meditation and Uncertainty + 2. 🐇 When to be Fast and Good +3. 🕺🏻 How the Founder of TikTok Is Handling Himself

Jason Shen
Jason Shen
4 min read
MC#017: Tradeoffs

Hey friends,

There’s a lot of awfulness in the world right now. Rampant wildfires in California. The unjust shooting of Jacob Blake by police. And as I wrote this newsletter, I learned that King T’Challa, Chadwick Boseman, had been battling colon cancer since 2016 and just died?! My god.

Hold your loved ones close if you can. Here’s this week’s edition of Making Connections.

1. 🎲  Meditation and Uncertainty

What’s worse than knowing you will experience something unpleasant (like an electrical shock)? Knowing there’s a chance you might experience something unpleasant. In other words, uncertainty.

At least that’s what researchers found when studying how people respond to mild electric shocks when playing a game where you looked under rocks for snakes (find a snake, get a shock). One of the paper’s authors is quoted in saying:

“I suspect that some meditative or religious practices which extoll the virtue of acknowledging only the present tense, or accepting our fate, might help reduce stress by attenuating our sensitivity to uncertainty. Since uncertainty is about what’s going to happen in the future, if you’re completely absorbed in the present, then it seems likely that uncertainty will impact your stress less.”

Maybe that’s part of it, but I think another part is just to embrace the idea that we’re never going to be fully rid of pain or discomfort, and that meditation practice merely helps us accept that. From Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart (which, while written 23 years ago, feels incredibly modern).

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

2. 🐇 When to be Fast and Good

A couple situations have come up recently where a request came up or a possibility for a proposal was floated and me or my partner responded rapidly with a thoughtful, well-structured response.

It’s about being fast and good—people always appreciate a quick reply (why being left on read is so frustrating) and you double the dopamine hit with the response is really high quality (clear, considerate, organized, obv the specific qualities depend on the situation).

Obviously being fast and good is hard so you can’t do it often without letting other things slip. But when done strategically, especially early in a relationship with another party,  it’s a hell of a first impression.

3. 🕺🏻 How the Founder of TikTok Is Handling Himself

I got NICKLpass recently, which gives you access to 6 paywalled media sources for $25/mo - a pretty good deal when it includes Bloomberg and WSJ.

Here are interesting excerpts from a recent WSJ profile on TikTok global CEO Zhang Yiming. All the way back in MC#001, we talked about TikTok video patterns and how they allow young people to quickly convey ideas similar to memes.

On being stuck in the middle between Chinese leaders and his investors on Trump’s ban:

Next, as Chinese nationalists lashed out at Mr. Zhang on social media for not fighting the Trump order, Mr. Zhang’s heavy-hitting Western investors were applying pressure on him to do the opposite—heed the order and sell.

Mr. Zhang fired back at Mr. Trump on Monday with a lawsuit filed in federal court in California to stop the White House order.

Dude was not impressed with Microsoft 😂

He stayed less than a year at Microsoft, telling Chinese media he found the work so unchallenging that he spent half his time reading books.

But he’s a Bezos fan!

He is different from an earlier generation of Chinese tech-company founders who sought favor from China’s ruling Communist Party establishment. Mr. Zhang skews more California than Great Hall of the People. He wears T-shirts and jeans, eats at the company cafeteria and cites tech mottos such as Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ “Always Day 1” rule that a company should never stop acting like a startup.

He’s losing hope in fighting the sale

As he faces pressure from investors to agree to a sale of TikTok’s U.S. business to satisfy Mr. Trump—the president has said the U.S. Treasury should get part of the sale price—Mr. Zhang has held out hope for a different solution. He is growing increasingly isolated in the talks, one person said.

Lately, he has come around to the idea that a sale is inevitable, people familiar with the matter say. ByteDance declined to comment on the status of the talks.

Now he’s gotta rally the troops

In a letter to employees earlier this month, Mr. Zhang advised forbearance. “There has been a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment in many countries,” he wrote. “Don’t mind any short-term praise or loss, and patiently do the right thing.”
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Jason Shen

Human(e) technologist on a mission to help build resilient teams and organizations. Former NCAA gymnast and three-time startup founder.