I’m not even going to try to write this post like a sales letter. I’m not trying to sell anything, just trying to start every sentence with “I’m” and hash out my thoughts on things.

I’ve had more “random” thoughts lately, which means that I’m finally settling into my new environment (even though I don’t get keys to my new apartment until tomorrow). It helps that I’ve set up a new configuration for my bullet journal-style planner which is much more conducive to my way of operating. In practical terms, it means that I have a “notes” section where I can jot down random thoughts instead of putting them on random pieces of paper or forgetting them or letting them fester until they’re just weird vapors spun from the rationalization hamster.

Anyhow. One of the things that I’ve recently been able to see and identify is this ability for people (who are not strategic thinkers) to skip directly from a high-level/strategy/overview way of thinking down into this middle domain that is characterized by rumor, innuendo, words meaning things, what other people think, and lots of other stuff that is ultimately irrelevant to strategically accomplishing a goal.

In other words, something like this:

Level Characterized by
High Strategy, long-term, vision, ideas in their bare form
Middle Social, “what will other people think,” sophistry, rhetoric
Low On-the-ground details, data, facts, reality

I suspect this is heavily influenced by (and maybe inadvertently copied from) Nassim Taleb’s ideas about asymmetry and “barbell theory.” I’d check, but my copy of Antifragile is packed right now.

I believe that the best way of thinking is with the vision of the high-level strategy, and the practicality of the low-level data. Anything else just gets in the way of clear thinking (unless you have to take account of it to successfully navigate your projects–politics are a real thing).

Lots of people who can’t or won’t stay with the high-level thinking (not totally sure why, if it’s just laziness or if they legitimately aren’t intellectually capable of it) will skip down to the middle and wallow around in it.

Ideally, good writing would combine “directional truth” (as Scott Adams would say) of the detail-free salesy version (which I sometimes think of as the “metaphorical understanding”), or you get the super duper uber detailed version, with the charts and graphs and raw data and alllllll the analyses.

The stuff in the middle fails to communicate either the endgame, or the reality. It writes phrases like “substantially all” and favors the insufferable passive voice. This is where the fifty-cent words come into play.

Hence why you should never use the word “literally.” It’s a dead tell for middle-level (OMG DID I JUST PRETEND THAT I INVENTED THE TERM “MIDDLEBROW”?!?) writing.

Dirty adverbs:

  • Virtually
  • Substantially
  • Literally

I used to wonder why some websites that check your writing’s grade level issue a warning for adverbs.

Now I know.

Go big or go home, folks.