The importance of judgment

Amy Coney Barrett recently delivered a speech in which she pronounces poignant as “POIG-nunt.” (Here’s the clip.)

Mispronouncing a word doesn’t make you “dumb” or “less than” or anything of the sort. But it does suggest that you are not routinely engaged in vigorous discussions with brainy sorts. And that strikes me as a real problem for someone whose job relies on good judgment and access to a wide variety of perspectives, and whose job performance directly affects the well-being of many.

It’s not a guarantee.  But it’s a strong indicator. It’s hard to imagine that someone living a life of the mind, routinely debating or discussing with others, would get to age 48 without noticing a habitual mispronunciation of an 11th-grade word. It points to educational quality and more. A sort of dog whistle that gets blown for you. The only tricky part is noticing it when it happens.

This leads me to question her “fine legal mind” PR. Elitist? Sure, I’ll cop to that. Reading too much into one tiny thing? Maybe, sure. But what worries me is that maybe this is an early warning, a “canary in a coal mine.”

For my money, Amy Coney Barrett pulled back the curtain on something very important about her background and experience in the time it took her to say that single word.

What do you think?

(See also Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.)

Remote Work: The Toll of Interruptions

Remote work is the new cool, and it’s easy to see why. With advancements in technology, improved digital communication tools, and a global mindset that’s increasingly valuing flexibility and work-life balance, the traditional 9-to-5 office grind seems almost archaic. More and more of us are embracing the freedom that comes with working from our living rooms, local coffee shops, or even from a beach halfway across the world. But as the saying goes, every rose has its thorn.

During this period of sequestration, those of us juggling work and parenting are facing more interruptions to our work than ever before. One moment you’re deep into a project, and the next, you’re helping with a math problem or attending to a household chore. And these interruptions seem to strike right when we need all our faculties in order.

This Isn’t a Recent Issue

Now, if you’re thinking that the challenges of remote work are a product of our current times, think again. This isn’t some trend birthed in 2020. In fact, there’s an article from way back in 2015 that delved into the very challenges of juggling remote work with personal life. What has changed, however, is the intensity and scale of the situation. The global shift to remote work has brought these challenges to the forefront, making them more palpable.

Just the other day, a friend remarked, “I’m still trying to get to the bottom of why it makes me angry.” And I thought, Wait. I know this one.

For those feeling this same frustration, I’d like to suggest the possibility that it’s because we like to feel that our thoughts and focus should be under our control. We like to believe that our thoughts, our focus, and our time are ours to command. But in the current landscape, it often feels like our mental space is shared property, with everyone and everything laying a claim to it.

It’s as if external factors, from family members to household chores, have a say in dictating the flow of our day.

You’re Not Alone in This

This intrusion into our mental sanctum isn’t just about the disruption of work and the effort it’ll take to regain that headspace; it’s a deeper violation of our personal space and autonomy. The constant interruptions, the background noises, and the unexpected demands all contribute to this feeling of invasion.

If you’re in this boat, know that you’re not alone. Many are grappling with the same challenges, and that feeling of violation is a testament to the deeply personal nature of our thoughts and focus.