Learning to Think


This post is a little late, but yesterday was a busy day with higher priorities. Last night, I was reminded of the importance of networking. You always have to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities and you have to take advantage of them while you can.

A few weeks ago, I met the CIO of a local company. He and I have a small handful of mutual friends and we work in the same industry so we had a good conversation. Nice guy. I ran into him last night and had the opportunity to make a connection. My brother-in-law recently lost his job of many solid years in a downsizing event. I gave him a little bit of background and asked if he knew of anyone looking for someone with that skill set. As it turns out, his company has been considering bringing on someone to do exactly that!

I was able to utilize a relationship I had established to make a connection between two people. What do I get out of this? Credit, fame, and glory. If you make good connections between people in your network, people will begin to come to you when they need something. Sometimes it will be a contact. Sometimes it will be a contract. Be famous for being “the guy who knows someone/something” and it will pay off. It also feels good to help people out.

This has been a good reminder to me as I head to BarCamp this weekend.

Setting Goals

While at work today, I pondered what the word “goal” really means. A goal is really the desired outcome which you intend to achieve. That makes sense, but one of the things I believe in is living at a sustainable and joyful pace. If you set a goal of making a million dollars, you could very easily do it quite quickly by selling drugs, harvesting organs, or by engaging in any number of nefarious activities. These may get you there quickly. They may also get you dead. What do you do when you get there? Do you stop living that life and just blow all your cash? Do you go legit? Was being legit your goal in the first place or was it just about the money? I would personally like to establish my goals as a set of principles that lead me down a long and never ending road with numerous scenic views along the way. I do not discount the importance of milestones ($10 million banked, a house on every continent, a computer for every child) but I do believe that the journey is what is most important and riding in style is a lot of fun.

I’ve created a first draft of my goals, now I need time for them to ferment. One of the things I am finding difficult is that I’m trying to set some personal goals as well as business goals and that requires almost total immersion, something I can not do this week. I’m going to take an iterative approach through the week and review at the end to see where I am at. Once I have them established, I can move on to how to achieve them.

I haven’t had time to read yet today, but I did catch two episodes of Undercover Boss. I find this show interesting because it challenges the notions both owners and employees have about their companies. There generally seems to be a large disconnect between “management” and the lowly employees. In my experience, this is caused by:

  • Focusing on processes rather than people
  • Not fostering a collaborative environment
  • Punishing Failure
  • Lack of feedback

I would like to explore these things more in the future and find ways to build an environment that can avoid these pitfalls.

My tasks for the day are nearly done. Inbox:0 and GTD is up to date. Things are starting to feel better already!

Time to Get Organized

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve done a mental reset on everything I would like to do. I’ve set aside every list I’ve made, every napkin sketch, and every false start. There is a lot to be said for a mental Spring cleaning. When things become too chaotic, complex, and overwhelming you need to take a step back and reestablish basic blocking and tackling.

I believe that having written goals and a plan to achieve them is critical for finding success. Over the next few days, I will be documenting my goals and identifying the critical milestones I must reach to achieve them. I’m not looking for a detailed roadmap, just a 50,000’ high level view of where I am headed, a general compass bearing, and the first one or two steps in that direction.

An excellent tool for taking inventory and getting organized is David Allen’s Getting Things Done ®. Last night, I created a basic GTD spreadsheet in Google Docs and set up my first week of work. Due to schedule constraints this week, I do not have the luxury of doing a complete inventory as Allen suggests, but I will make some time to do it in the near future. My initial list includes items for updating this blog, creating my goals, and a couple work related obligations I need to take care of. It should easily carry me through the week. I will write more about GTD in the future.

This week, I’ve been reading the blog of Josh Roa. Josh decided to become a complete lunatic and become a millionaire in 80 days. I like this! What a great attitude to have. If you are going to make changes in your life, go big! I find some of his ideas to be a bit bland and a little too marketing/self help based for my liking, but in general I think he has a great attitude.

This week is an exciting week. On Friday and Saturday, I will be participating in my first BarCamp. There has been one in my city for the last four years, but this is the first one I’ve been able to attend. I have been working on a half hour presentation and possibly a subject for a lightning talk. BarCamp is a tremendous opportunity to learn, network, and just have some fun. I’ve not met anyone who has attended one that has not gotten considerable value from it. Expect a review later.

Ok, off to get to Inbox:0 and work on my presentation!

Getting Started

Today is the day for me to gain focus. I have been thinking about doing things for a long time. I have been preparing, researching, tinkering, dabbling, procrastinating, and generally not making progress for far too long. It is time to take some big leaps in a new and more powerful direction.

These are my fighting words:

  • I dislike working for a larger company. I enjoy the benefits and the camaraderie, but I do not enjoy the red tape, being beholden to large profit motives, and the personal disrespect and impersonal relationships outside of your immediate team.
  • I am a starter. I like to build new things. I am good at bringing a concept to fruition. I love the energy, the excitement, the “new smell”, and the innocence of a new application, process, or product.
  • I want to make “f*ck you money” in order to pursue some benevolent ideals and endeavors. I want to see good people do good things and I want to help them do it. It is in my nature to do this and I want to put my fortunes into these things.
  • I have good ideas and I know how to implement them in positive, profitable ways. I’ve been around the business block a few times and I’ve formed a lot of opinions about how things should be done. Now is the time to start doing them.

These are my weapons:

  • I will write every day. I will share this with the world so I feel accountable to more than just myself from day one.
  • I will read. There are many people in the world that are way smarter than I am. Some of them have written some wonderful material that I can learn from. I will talk about what I read and what I learn with others.
  • I will participate. There are many opportunities to collaborate, network, learn, and partner in the world. I will look for conferences, people, and like minded businesses to do things with.
  • I will fail. I will not be afraid to fail. I will fail until I get it right, then I will continue to fail until I make it better.
  • I will be a producer. I have specific things I would like to produce as products and services. This will be my primary focus, supported by all my skills, tools, and experience.

Team Member Specialization

All organizations require a wide variety of skills to function effectively. On lean teams, people are often forced to wear multiple hats. An organization that values people and effective communication can use this to its advantage by promoting cross-pollination of skills. You will still have certain subject areas where you rely on experts and advanced skills, but developing an appreciation for other roles in the company helps to build shared languages, movements, and values within the company.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Jason Fried co-founder of 37 Signals and co-author of the excellent book Rework for his take on the Employee Specialization during an Inc. Magazine interview.

Productivity = Focus X Energy

Productivity is a measure of your output against the energy you expend. Focus could be defined as the concentration of energy into an activity. If you have a lot of energy, but lack focus, your energy is used in inefficient ways. If you lack energy, but have focus, you will become frustrated by your lack of output. Focus takes energy as well, but acts as a multiplier of your existing energy when channeled into your activity.

Decomposing Knowledge

Your experiences, expertise, and skills form a body of knowledge as you study any given topic. As you apply your skills in productive ways, you refine that knowledge. To actively enhance or improve your knowledge of a subject, you generally need to break the knowledge into manageable pieces. This becomes particularly important when you need to transfer this knowledge to other people or systems. The decomposition of knowledge and the ability to transfer it can actually be a great way to further refine your understanding of a topic.