News came today that Seth Roberts, the UC Berkeley professor of psychology, collapsed during a hike near his home. I met Seth through our respective blogs and shared a few meals with him in the Bay Area over the years.
I’ve blogged about him several times. Seth taught me about self-experimentation and science. He taught me about nutrition and fish oil. He taught me about innovation and creative thinking. Most importantly, he taught me the value of appreciative thinking, which I once summarized thusly:
School teaches us to be proactively skeptical and critical. We’re taught to immediately look for the flaws in experiments or theories. An appreciative approach, by contrast, simply asks, “What’s redeeming about this experiment or idea? What’s done right?”
Some VCs are naturally appreciative, others naturally critical. After an entrepreneur pitch their first feedback will either be, “OK, here’s what I like about what you’re doing” versus “Here’s where I think the problems are.”
I am trying to take a more appreciative approach to people. When I meet someone new at a cocktail party, I am trying to ask myself more regularly, “What’s cool / impressive / interesting about this person?” as opposed to dwelling on their imperfections.
Like many who knew him or read his stuff, I’ll miss Seth. He was a one-of-a-kind thinker. And a deeply compassionate person.