Priya Ghose

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How to Concentrate

A few years ago, I switched careers from market research consulting to software engineering. As a consultant, I was constantly in meetings, on email, and on our internal messenger app.

One of the first hurdles to learning software engineering is that it requires extreme focus; you have to unlearn your plugged-in, busy habits. This continues for the first few years on the job (if you’re lucky), before you start managing projects and people again, and your schedule is once again cluttered with meetings.

Nowadays, long periods of focus come easily to me, but I can remember when the draw of social media could distract me several times a day, or times I would procrastinate by snacking or texting or doing anything but the task I was intending to do.

Here are a few of the tricks I’ve used along the way:

Use Blocksite to remove distracting websites
When I’m trying to concentrate, I use a...

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Road Trip Excerpts, August 2016

I moved from California to Nashville in August 2016. Here are some journal excerpts from the cross-country road trip to my new home

Amarillo, Texas
We had some car trouble, and multiple people stopped to ask if they could help us. That was our first taste of ‘southern hospitality’. We turned down the help at first, but then accepted help from a couple, one of whom was from California (Bakersfield). Our lug nuts were loose so he tightened them, but we didn’t have the right sized wrench so he had to do his best with the wrong sized wrench, which he called “ni**er-rigging”. After he helped us, he asked us for water- we told him he could have the rest of a plastic water bottle we had been drinking. He chugged the rest and then threw the bottle 20 feet behind him into tall grass, shouting “whoo!”

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
We happened upon a cowboy and his wife- they were newlyweds, having...

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How to Host a Party 🥳

In the past year, I’ve started hosting parties regularly. I’ve come to really enjoy hosting, and I’d recommend it to anyone, even if you’re introverted.

Why Host?

Comfortable, Affordable, and Serendipitous
I live in San Francisco, so most places I go with friends are crowded, loud, and expensive. If I go to dinner with friends, we can only stay so long before we feel pressure to give up our table to the next party. If we go to a bar, we might have to shout to hear each other.

We seem to be missing ‘third places’, places where we can linger and enjoy each other’s company (without spending an excessive amount of money).

And a simple evening out in SF can quickly add up. Dinner and two drinks? That’ll be 50 bucks.

If you host a party, your guests can hang out for as long as you want.

There can be many phases of a party that naturally flow into each other. Dinner can turn into...

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Honesty is Kindness (and white lies matter!)

This year, like every year, my best friend bought me a thoughtful Christmas present. I’d been trying to update my wardrobe, so she bought me a purse that generally matched my aesthetic.
I didn’t like it.

I could have pretended to like it. And if it had been gifted by anyone else, I might have succumbed to the temptation to fawn over the bag, only to stick it in the back of my closet for the rest of its purse-life.

But my best friend is the last person in the world I want to lie to. Even if it’s a white lie. Even if it’s a lie that’s said out of a desire not to hurt her feelings.
If our roles were reversed, I’d hope she’d do the same. In fact, one of the qualities I value most in our friendship is how honest she is with me. One night she told me, in a straightforward but not unkind way, that she thought something I had done was morally wrong and ‘kind of gross.’ I felt like our...

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Can cryptocurrency replace banks?

A long time ago, when we lived in small tribes, everyone was expected to contribute to the group and ‘pull their own weight’.

It was easy for us to enforce this norm, because our tribe was small enough that everyone would notice if you were lazy or selfish. And if you took more than you gave, you might be ostracized or exiled.

In larger societies, we can no longer keep track of the giving and the taking. Instead we abstract ‘givingness’ and ‘takingness’ into money.

In the past, you might share your excess vegetables with the tribe. While no money is exchanged, the tribe knows that in the future, you are ‘owed’ help in return for your previous acts of kindness.

In the modern era, you sell your excess vegetables to society. That way in the future, you can use your money to prove that you are ‘owed’ help (in the form of market goods).

The invention of money lead to the creation of a...

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Honesty as a Tool for Finding High-Compatibility Friends

I find that it’s easier to tell close friends the truth than it is to speak the truth to acquaintances and strangers.

With strangers, the risks of honesty are high.

You might share an opinion that the stranger adamantly disagrees with, causing the conversation to become awkward or tense. Or perhaps you’ll reveal an interest that the stranger thinks is weird, and they’ll judge you.
To avoid the awkwardness and judgment of strangers, most people aim for a universally appealing first impression, whether or not that first impression conveys who they really are.

This strategy creates a network of shallow friendships. You’ll come off as inoffensive, so no one will dislike you…but you’re also hiding your true self, so you’re unlikely to find people who really love you for you.

I played it safe socially for most of my life, casting a wide and shallow net.
A few years ago, through pure luck...

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Book Summary: ‘Lying’ by Sam Harris

Everyone lies frequently, in the form of exaggerating and ‘white’ lies to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to avoid social conflict. Telling the truth is awkward and difficult, but it’s worth the upsides: increased trust and authenticity, and an improved ability to notice and fix errors.

White Lies

“Research suggests that all forms of lying –including while lies meant to spare feelings– are associated with less satisfying relationships.”
Telling the truth kindly

“You can be honest and kind, because your purpose in telling the truth is not to offend people. You simply want them to have the information you have and would want to have if you were in their shoes.”
Telling the truth reveals fake friendships

“You might find that some of your friendships are not really that–perhaps you habitually lie to avoid making plans, or fail to express your true opinions for fear of conflict. You...

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