Sunday, 20 March 2016


Then I thought that maybe I could say a few words on the subject of a liberal arts education, and how it prepares you for life. But sober reflection led me to the conclusion that this topic too was a washout; for, as you will soon discover, a liberal arts education doesn’t exactly prepare you for life. A preparation-for-life curriculum would not consist of courses on Victorian Thought and French Romanticism, but of things like How to Cope With Marital Breakdown, Getting More for your Footwear Dollar, Dealing With Stress, and How To Keep Your Fingernails from Breaking Off by Always Filing Them Towards the Center; in other words, it would read like the contents page of Homemakers Magazine, which is why Homemakers Magazine is so widely read, even by me. Or, for boys, Forbes or The Economist , and Improving Your Place in the Power Hierarchy by Choosing the Right Suit. (Dark blue with a faint white pinstripe, not too far apart, in case you’re interested.)

Friday, 18 March 2016

In 1867

In 1867, though, the missionary Edward Steere translated storybook versions of four of Shakespeare’s plays into Swahili. This was the beginning of a golden age when Shakespeare could be heard in new languages on the continent. Mr Wilson-Lee delights in examples of the “plays richly refracted through the eyes of a place and time wholly alien to the Swan of Avon”. In the early 1900s Indian acting troupes performed Agha Hashr Kashmiri’s “Saidi Havas”, a blend of “Richard III” and “King John”, in makeshift theatres in Mombasa; there were versions of “Hamlet” set on Mughal battlefields, and snake-bitten Juliets who merged with the character of Cleopatra.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Stop Being So Hard on Yourself for Getting Distracted at Work

Last month, some 20 million people tuned in to watch Kanye West’s Yeezy Season Three fashion show and listening party. At 4 PM when it was available for live streaming. 4 PM, a.k.a., in the middle of the workday. The Verge reports that it’s “unclear how viewership held up throughout the broadcast, which stretched out over almost two hours,” but then that’s not really the point.

The fact that so many people felt comfortable taking a break to focus on the latest pop culture phenomenon is pretty insane. Yet, also not that surprising. Our attention spans are low, and we’re easily distracted (especially in open offices).

The question now is, should we feel bad about this? Does taking a break to talk about Kanye West with our co-workers get categorized as a guilty pleasure? Do we need to chalk up our day to being unproductive if we’re stuck working later because we spent an hour discussing a recent TV episode?

I vote no.

Beyond our tendency to be distracted lies the kind of neat bonding factor moments like this provide. While an accounting team might get jazzed talking numbers, we can all agree that there’s something nice about bonding over a topic that isn’t inherent to the workday. I know that as helpful as it is to brainstorm career advice topics with my team, it’s also pretty cool to be able to group-chat them an article on the dysfunctional NYC subway system, something that’s totally unrelated to our work at hand but that which we can all relate (read: groan about) to.

I’d argue that these impromptu moments are just as important as getting your daily to-do list done, because it’s these conversations that make the workday more enjoyable (and for some people, bearable). We’re building camaraderie with each and every shared distraction, and when you spend 40-50 hours a week together, the importance of that is not to be underestimated.

Our workdays might be getting longer as a result of some of these little, light breaks, but if you’re happy at work and genuinely like your co-workers, you’re probably not in a rush to jet right at 5 PM anyway. Isn't it better to enjoy your day (and end it later), than to work nonstop for eight hours without relaxing or cracking a smile once? Let me answer that one for you: Yes.

So, next time you find yourself getting off track, don’t force yourself to return to your keyboard. Let it happen. Consider this permission to allow yourself to be distracted—in good company.