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2 Legs Good, 4 Legs Baaad: Debunking Work/Life Balance and Other Myths

Discover how to achieve a successful lack-of work/life balance, debunking the myths and understanding the power of persuasion. Learn how to use AI to your advantage while still exercising creativity and free will. Get tips on how to be a successful your prickly self and still build credibility with journal-style writing.

I'm Debunking Myths and Experiencing the Rewards of AI Along the Way.

By Michael Levin

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

First, a word of thanks to Cheryl Daniels who sent the notification to the MOZ group of your talk today. I popped-in, saw it wasn’t intended for me as the target audience, but then I stayed anyway. You were my podcast in the background today while I worked, and boy am I glad I did. You will recognize your wisdom, and that of of Ashley, Jade and the others who spoke today. I hope you don’t mind me reiterating many of your thoughts, weaving them into my own as I went. I don’t highlight what came from the 3 of you, specifically (just like Bard, haha!), but this is one of the many unexpected rewards of working where I do and I felt compelled both to share and acknowledge.

What a wonderful group of people and place I work. And that’s not just sucking up. I’m in my fifties and have worked a lot of places, and don’t give out such praise lightly. It’s kinda more the opposite, so I am especially grateful to have this in my life right now. You find strength from surprising places when you need it.

Now back to my ol’ self-deprecating self. I’ve got to watch that or someday my readers will believe I’m as much of a jerk as I project. It’s the old softie protecting themselves emotionally with a prickly exterior trick. Trust me.

Okay, dumbass. Put the same passion and love and intensity of writing in for your job as you do for your personal life. Part of the problem is that I just love writing, a and I love the public commitment trick trick so well stated by Robert Cialdini in his seminal book Influence, The Power of Persuasion, and it has me thinking of this public blog a lot like signing a petition you know your neighbors are going to see, and that lights the fire under my ass to do it.

Well, you know what. I work for MOZ to get you using MOZ, and this is not proprietary about future-looking products and stuff. That I most deliberately keep in one of those other, aforementioned unpublished (and not even on Github) journals. Sometimes the need for privacy will have you looking at other “home cloud” alternatives to Github, like GitLab, and I’ll cover that in future blog posts as well. That sort of thing is becoming easier every day and is where the personally empowering rewards of AI are working its subtle magic.

Sometimes you just have to get things out of your system, draw lines in the sand, and work in that vibrating edge… tipping points… just shy of the thresholds of releasing all that potential energy into kinetic. You can feel the tension in the machinery. You can feel the build, and like a mechanic or engineer stress-testing a piece of equipment that must be called into duty at a moments notice, you are at one with the hardware.

I speak of cutting catapult ropes often, but perhaps you should Google Iron Dome. It’s a fascinating modern example, tapping lasers and all kinds of forward-looking, game changing stuff before such application reaches anything else in the world, and it’s done because a similar survival-imperative and centuries of the sort of literacy I spoke of in the last post drives it. I don’t know any Iron Dome secrets except for what you can’t hide because when it’s used, it’s used. But I do know B follows A.

So what’s the MOZ work-writing? Well, for starters I’m planning my next article. I’ve been slapped down a few times for whatever, probably being too technical, but the power of my content is already having a sort of self-regulating aspect to it. So, first of all LEAVE THIS PLACE and go do the editing in the place you must be to do your editing…

Okay, don’t get too the busy-work that was thrown back at you on that front. I know they’re swamped, but a quick glance could have told me these new requirements earlier It could be an all-morning time-sink. Spin your plates, my friend, spin your plates… biggest bang for the buck with the lightest touch, those plates get spun first… okay, plates spun, LOL! Oh are the plates spun. I have to make my case strongly in proposing articles, preemptively dealing with the arguments against them. Make the arguments against them look like the pretty long reach that they are. Use the evidence of the world changing around us that everyone feels and sees as my evidence, and reach them on an emotional level. Don’t worry about stepping on toes in this case because the person whose toes it might hurt is moving onto bigger and better things. My job is to make MOZ itself the bigger and better thing. It’s okay to let people see that. Just don’t go all-Scala on their asses. You be you and do what you do. That’s why you’re still around, and that’s why the people who make such calls on these matters continue to defend me. You know who you are, and I thank you!

Dense text is sometimes your friend. Okay, go add citation links and consistent headlines to your article like a mad-man. Get rid of the tedium by tapping AI. Use the Web UI’s so you don’t incur any OpenAI codex-usage cost…

What once wasn’t possible now suddenly is… possible by you… and not merely by an AI. They don’t have the initiative yet, people! If you have one iota of initiative in you, well then you have a window of opportunity, folks. That’s what the AI goldrush is about. It’s about why slapping an Ironman supersuit on you is going to change the world. Some people just aren’t cut out to be the hero’s, and they’ll slowly marginalize away, while those who have been undermined and foiled… be Holmes to their Sherlock, while secretly really being Sherlock.

Ah yeah, I gotta say where a lot of this comes from. First, you get it from Batman and all those friggn parents getting killed stories. Will you y’all please stop retelling the Batman origin story already! We get it already! We get it. He’s scarred. You’re teaching our kids the wrong lesson. Where’s the campy Batman of the 60s? Oh God, I miss you Adam West. And Caesar Romero, and Burgess Meredith, and Frank Gorshin, and Julie Newmar, and Eartha Kitt, and Lee Meriwether, and Yvonne Craig, and Burt Ward, and Alan Napier, and Neil Hamilton, and Stafford Repp, and Madge Blake, and Milton Frome, and Reginald Denny, and Van Williams, and Bruce Lee, and Vincent Price, and Victor Buono.

You know who I maybe love above all others? Count Dooku himself, the great Christopher Lee. Will we ever have another great actor who can look a director in the eyes and say “No, this is how you kill a man”… and have the credibility to back it up? Oh, maybe Alec Baldwin. I guess maybe Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken, but the later folks for entirely worse reasons than master old-time classic Dracula horror movie actor, and bona fide real life James Bond, Christopher Lee who made it to Star Wars! You want someone who had plenty of reason to be Bruce Wayne-caliber batty but was instead a real-life hero? Look no further than Christopher Lee. If you think your scars define you, think again.

People are going to tell their own story about you. You have to get out there and show the world who you are. Be the extraordinary person some expect you are and some fear you are. But actually diffuse the fear of a threatening ubertech Linux nerd who can’t/won’t speak their or redefines the game as unfairly technical that skews the advantage towards you. Teach them your tricks.

Why do I need a brand if I don’t want to be a leader? What is said about me when I’m not in the room? “Yeah, he’s smart… or he thinks he’s smart, but if were really that smart, then, dot, dot, dot…” Or worse-still, I’m a prickly mofo who says it like it is and can do more damage than good in a broken and fragile situation, because he lays out the fix no matter who it’s going to throw under the bus. And also I come off as arrogant and showey. Cocky and arrogant, and self-aggrandizing and boosting myself. And it probably gets worse from there. Scala. Connors Communications. 360i. But not my current place. At my current place I may have come off like that a bit, but my profoundly cool boss, Bert, protected me. And when the shit hit the fan with the whole department, others stepped up for me, so I must not be the total tool I think I am.

What I offer is nothing less than a guaranteed solution to imposter syndrome. It is not an over-used term. It can be used a lot more. You are probably using the exact same tools as everyone else, and so the same tool-biases and inherent tool limitations are effecting you as everyone else you’re competing with. That’s what makes imposter syndrome this big umbrella thing. Everyone’s in the same imposter syndrome boat because they’re the same Microsoft Word/Excel user as everyone else and can not possibly be performing at your highest level. If you were performing at your highest level, you’d be using Panda in Python instead of a vlookup in Excel.

You’re pushing data around, people. That may be an over-simplification, but you are in the Computer Age. You are in the Information Age. Matter matter less. Information matters more. And in the digital world, information is information, and you are just pushing it around, reformatting it, doing “extraction, transforms and lists” (ETLs) like everyone else. Subtlety and details are important, and if you want the subtleties and details that surround you, that color you, that makes your reputation.

The work is always the same and the demand is only ever going up. But those who can accomplish the work are going down. Cheaters think better AI-prompting is the new magic weapon, but that’s one of the many myths I’ll be shredding to pieces here. Nope, nope, nope.

Hmmm. Reputation. Experience. All the genuine competence fewer and fewer really want to spend the time acquiring because of the gut feeling it’s all going to be obsolete in a few years anyway. Why invest in yourself or anything with the world changing so fast? Why not just be a consumer and let the world change around you and die as a well-fleeced sheeple? Four legs good, two legs baaad, as they say, right? Or maybe go commit some crimes and get thrown in jail and have them just feed you every day, because when you list the pros and cons, both these choices are about the same.

Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. If your reality is the same as everyone else’s because you were group-thought into submission, or chose the cheaters route too frequently, then you’re out of sync with your true inner self. You’re not being true to yourself. There’s value in allowing yourself to be awkward in a room of sheeple. Two legs good, four legs baaaaad. You should bleat that in a room of group-thinkers sometime. See if a single one of them actually ever read Animal Farm. If they ever read it in their life, they will likely never forget the reference. You may have some secret friends in the room. But then again, you might earn yourself some enemies for life.

I don’t want to be management or having anyone working for me. I want to be a worker bee. But I want to be such a hyper-effective worker bee that I can get away with all that shit. I’d love to be the example of the badboy who actually loves you and is looking after your good, perchance worth patterning your behavior after Linux, Python, vim and git more valuable and accessible than you think timeless tools road less traveled all the difference yadda yadda yadda.

For example, I should really show journal-style writing with Copilot, and how to use it to not write like an AI. The more Copilot and things like it can predict you, the more mathematically calculable you are and the less you are exercising creativity and human free will. Am I really the only one talking about this stuff online, or do all the algorithms just not reward genuine newness and creativity.

One of the great achievements or capabilities that should be nurtured in AIs should be to identify the new. There’s nothing new under the sun, except for a thousand points of light that are. Be one of those points of light, and start raising the intensity and brightness of your bulb until you make it impossible for the algorithms and the AIs that are taking over for them to ignore you.

And back to my actual work for the day. Shit, I hate when these gotta-get-it-out moments hit me. But I don’t. I love it. It’s my passion. Journal-style writing that dredges up your subconscious using tools that can’t be taken away from you is a worthy thing to build your credibility upon.

I have to get over that old fashioned kind of guilt, because I’m an “SME” for “subject matter expert”, damn it. And it’s without this kind of thought-work and literally experiments that its connected to (this blog) that gives me the first-hand experience I need. Just balance it with the work that’s actually expected from you more. I often give myself very good advice but I very seldom take it.