Analytical 31: Self

9 November, 2018


Understanding yourself and self reflection can be good thing, but it can go too far. How far is far enough and how do you know when to stop?

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined. If you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analysed it enough. Calculated choices, carefully considered, absolutely analytical. This episode is brought to you by ManyTricks, makers of helpful apps for the Mac. Visit ManyTricks or for more information about their amazingly useful apps. We'll talk more about them during the show. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network. To support our shows including this one, head over to our Patreon page and for other great shows visit today. The self or just self. Something like that. Anyhow, I've been told by a few people in my life that I'm acutely self-aware, sometimes detrimentally so. And in my style of overthinking things, I thought I should think about that? Maybe not. Anyhow, if it's true, if it isn't, more importantly, is that actually a good thing? In 1972, two psychologists, Shelley Duval and Robert Wickland, proposed that when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our own internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves. Of course, there's a couple of problems with that. If our internal standards and values are too far askew from the general populace that we interact with on a regular basis, then I'd suggest that's probably not going to be an exercise that leads to getting on well with those people around you. Other problem is that objectivity is difficult when we are our own judge, jury, and executioner, so to speak. Well, hopefully not the executioner. That would be a bad outcome. I've begun to think over the years that introspection and self-criticality becomes more useful as you get more experience. The more of other people's viewpoints that you can consider and understand and comprehend, then the more balanced your measure will be against others that you can then apply against yourself. And from a more practical aspect, I suppose, from an engineering point of view, when approaching a design review a decade ago, I would sometimes come into the discussion halfway through the design process, as you regularly do get dragged into design process reviews, although you weren't necessarily part of that review initially. The easiest thing to do is to jump to the conclusion that few others in the room had considered all of the issues and you sort of begin to be pre-critical of some of the decisions without having all the facts at hand. As my knowledge and understanding grew of the design and the decisions that had previously been tabled, then I would profusely apologize to those that I had already made those considerations in their design process that I had pre-critically judged. In the early days, I guess I apologized a lot, a fair bit, I suppose. But stepping outside myself and critically examining that behavior, first of all, I guess I'd confused my own knowledge gaps for design omissions or errors, I'd jumped to conclusions regarding the thoroughness of others, and I'd been impatient in gathering my own understanding. All of which, I suppose, were not really all that great. Of course, at that point I'd heard and read Stephen Covey's Habit Number Four, "Seek first to understand, and then to be understood." Or, you could roughly paraphrase that to, "Shut up and listen, you nitwit, before you open your damn mouth. Yes. I mean, slightly brutal, but that kind of gets the point across. Upon that self-reflection, I adopted a more tempered approach in recent years. When I enter a situation like that, I tend to sit in the corner and just listen, be quiet, fly on the wall. And I've been accused of being very quiet for 55 minutes in an hour-long meeting before I say anything, but that's because I've reflected that it's better to keep my thoughts to myself before I say anything, and before I then jump to the wrong conclusions, and before I voice any concerns. Observing that behavior in others, I often think that they're on the same journey that everyone's on, they're just at a different stage, and they need to have the same realization that I had along the way as well. And I hope that they reach the same point that I did at some point in the future, and hopefully not too much further down the road. But I digress. My concern ultimately with self-analysis and self-criticality is that what I've come to think of as self-criticality, what I've come to think of is that there's such a thing as a self-criticality limit and being overly self-critical. And at some point, that self-criticality, that feedback cycle becomes negative as opposed to positive. So at what point is becoming self-aware and self-reflective actually too much? Again, because we're assessing ourselves, maybe we can't really know that, but I think the best measure has to be the value of iteration and knowing that we've iterated too much as if we reach the same conclusion over and over again. If we're reflecting on our behavior and we get stuck in our own analysis, reaching the same conclusion three or four times over, then we have to stop ourselves. We have to know that surely that that is the point. Cycling and overcycling and recycling the same inputs to get the same conclusions, that has to be ultimately the indicator that we have gone as far as we possibly can go in that line of thinking. Before I go any further, I'd like to talk about our sponsor for this episode, and that's many tricks. Makers of helpful apps for the Mac. Whose apps you do, you guessed it. Whose apps you do, you guessed it. Many tricks. Their apps include Butler, KeyMau, Leech, Desktop, Curtain, TimeSync, Moom, NameAngler, Resolutionator, and Witch. There's so much to talk about for each app they make. So we're going to talk about five of them. Witch. You should think about Witch as a supercharger for your Command + Tab ab switcher. If you've got three or four documents open at once in any one app, then Witch's beautifully simple pop-up lets you quickly pick exactly which one you're looking for. Recently updated, you can now also switch between tabs as well as apps and app windows and with horizontal, vertical, or menu bar switching panels with text search for switching, you can show the front most app in the menu bar icon and it now has touch bar support as well and much, much more. Name Mangler. You got a whole bunch of files, you need to rename them quickly, efficiently, and in huge numbers. 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You can pool your apps by common activities, create custom trackers for non-Mac activities, and its simple and powerful reporting feature shows you exactly where your time went so you can plan better and stay focused. Resolutionator is so simple. A drop-down menu from the menu bar, and you can change the resolution of whatever display you have that's currently connected to your Mac. The best part though, you can even set your resolution to fit more pixels that are actually there. It's really handy when you're stuck on your laptop and you need a little bit more screen real estate. That's just 5 of their great apps, and that's only half of them. All of these apps have free trials and you can download them from ManyTricks or and you can easily try them out before you buy them. They're all available from their website or through the Mac App Store. However, if you visit that URL, you can take advantage of a special discount off their very helpful apps exclusively for Engineered Network listeners. use pragmatic18, that's pragmatic the word and 1-8 the numbers in the discount code box in the shopping cart to receive 25% off. This offer is only available to Engineered Network listeners for a limited time, so take advantage of it while you can. Thank you to ManyTricks once again for sponsoring the Engineered Network. So getting back to your options, either A, you're wasting your time and your life going over and over the same information, reaching exactly the same conclusion, or you've reached the only conclusion that you're ever going to reach with the information that you have at hand. So, either way, if you reach that self-analytical, cyclic, over and over, reaching the same conclusion multiple times in a row, then it's time to stop for one reason or another. Because ultimately, if self-reflection becomes an obsession, that's, I think, when it becomes a bad thing. It draws our attention away from the world around us. I once said a long time ago on episode 63 of Pragmatic that you can only influence the world if you're a part of it. Several concerned listeners actually wrote in to me and asked if I was considering suicide or something. I mean, no, I wasn't. It was very touching actually, but relax, no, no, no, not what I meant. I think that being part of the world means interacting with it, and it's something that you can't do if you're stuck inside yourself, if that makes sense. I honestly believe that everybody is on a journey to understand themselves and the world around them to varying degrees. And it's important to be in touch with yourself and understand your motivations and to understand why you do what you do and why you want what you want and why you act the way that you do. But in the end, there's a limit. So ask yourself, "Why are you the way you are? Why did you just react the way you just did? Why not?" And then once you've finished thinking that through, get back to living because life is short. If you're enjoying Analytical and want to support the show, you can. Like some of our backers, Carsten Hansen and John Whitlow. They and many others are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at or one word. Patreon rewards include a named thank you on the website, a named thank you at the end of episodes, access to pages of raw show notes, as well as ad-free, higher quality releases of every episode, so if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, there's lots of great rewards beyond that. It's all very much appreciated. If you're not in a position to support the show via Patreon, that's totally fine. You can still help out by leaving a rating in iTunes, favoriting the episode or the show in your podcast player app of choice, where it's supported, or by sharing the episode or show on social media. It helps other people to find out about the show and that's all very much appreciated as well. I personally like to thank ManyTricks for sponsoring the Engineered Network. If you're looking for some Mac software that can do ManyTricks, remember to specifically visit this URL, manytricks or for more information about their amazingly useful apps. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network and you can find it at and you can follow me on Mastodon at [email protected] the network on Twitter @Engineered_Net. Accept nothing, question everything. It's always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Chichy. Thanks for listening. [Music]
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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.