Conflicting Truths

Conflicting truths made utilizing a DALL·E image frame

Addressing conflicting truths is core to how we discuss and debate ideas at Ender.

in life

We live on the third planet from a star that’s one of a few hundred billion stars in our galaxy that’s one of hundreds of billions of galaxies. Nothing matters. At the same time, this is the only life we know we have and know to exist. We only get one body and one life to live. Everything matters. Nothing matters and everything matters. These are both true.

My friend is a personal chef for a client in hospice. The person in hospice used to be a traveling photographer. My friend cooks meals for her every day and switches to a different country’s cuisine each week. It’s her client’s way of traveling the world one last time. This is beautiful. It’s touching. It’s also irrational. It’s a lot of work for someone who is going to die soon. But it makes sense.

Say someone you know but find annoying is in hospice. You’re chatting with them. You’re aware they’re not long for this world. Soon, you won’t be able to chat with them ever again. They won’t be able to chat with you ever again. Whether you’re kind or cruel to them, they won’t exist soon. None would be the wiser. And yet, we treat those in hospice with extreme kindness. The negative frame is because reciprocity and cultural norms dictate this. The positive frame is because every moment is special. The realist frame is there’s truth on both sides.

Celebrations are fun. Celebrations end. All good times come to an end. It helps to be aware of this to act rationally. It’s also wrong to be sad at the beginning of a celebration because you know it will end. It’s wrong to live your life only being in the moment, and it’s wrong to live your life only thinking about death. We need to hold both beliefs in our mind at the same time. This is fun, and this is going to end.

at work

You’re working at a company that’s about to hire a bunch of people and scale. The company will never be the same as it is today. Enjoy the last moments of being a small company. And prepare for the coming changes. Do both.

There’s naturally tension between teams. Each team advocates for their core competency. Sales advocates for getting the sale done, while legal advocates for reducing legal liability. If sales teams had their way, every contract would be a one pager. If legal teams had their way, every contract would be hundreds of pages. There’s truth on both sides that needs to be acknowledged. The one page contract wouldn’t protect the company and the hundred plus page contract wouldn’t be customer friendly. Compromise is clearly needed.

Drastically oversimplifying– design teams advocate for the end user experience, product teams advocate for feature completeness, and engineering teams advocate for code simplicity. Each of these goals is important and often conflicting. Teams need to debate the best course of action using first principles thinking. A culture of community weighs trade offs and handles these debates.

This is hard because it’s not how our brain typically works. Our mind is a prediction machine that can only see one thing at a time and think one thought at a time. We must switch back and forth between true, yet conflicting beliefs. When we’re open minded, we understand that fundamental truths can exist on multiple sides of any debate.