Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

What Are You Hiding?

August 8, 2011

On the wall above my external monitor, taped to a picture I took of a bicyclist during a 24-hour record attempt, there is a small piece of paper that I printed after some research on the Internet. I found it because I had heard something in a movie, Akeelah and the Bee, that is frequently attributed (wrongly) to Nelson Mandela. The attribution doesn’t matter, because Malcolm Gladwell echoed the same thought this morning, as I was reading an archive article from 2002.

The original author, Marianne Williamson, wrote Dream of This, in which she said:

  • Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
    It is our Light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

    We ask ourselves – Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

    Actually, who are we not to be?

    You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people do not feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the Glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone.

    And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.

What Malcolm quoted from a study by Carol Dweck was this:

  • Students who hold a fixed view of their intelligence care so much about looking smart that they act dumb, for what could be dumber than giving up a chance to learn something that is essential for your own success?

This quote was in What The Dog Saw on page 368, in an essay titled The Talent Myth. Much of it is about what a focus on talent did to derail Enron, but I saw a different point. The connection to Marianne Williamson was part of what he was getting at, how we frequently make ourselves look silly to lower the expectations people have of us. I’ve done this all my life, so maybe the title of this post should be “What Am I Hiding?”.

The thing is, having an opposable mind, and being uneasy about showing how smart I am end up being a horrible combination for someone who wants to create a new business. The part of me that might attract investors gets sabotaged by the part that is uncomfortable having to live up to his potential. I think that is why I frequently say things to strangers that come across badly: I have no filter for keeping my cute comments to myself.

But that isn’t the point of my post today – my point is to ask those of you who have been reading my posts if you are hiding behind something people think about you that is wrong. But even that isn’t quite it. I want to unleash the power of humankind by helping lots of people do their best, by giving them a way to liberate the self they hide from the rest of us.

Am I crazy to want to do this? Maybe, but so what? Maybe I need to act a little crazy to get visibility for my cause, not for myself but for the people who won’t listen unless I appear a little crazy. Should that be a question or a statement? Is writing this down as I think of it a good idea?

I see kids in the local middle school once a week, at an after school program for Lego Robotics. These are smart and sometimes fearless kids who could do just about anything, only some of them are already listening to what other people think. They have talents no one appreciates, but do what is asked because no one has asked them to do things that are impossible. By the time they get to high school, they will have accepted the view others have defined for them. They will have forgotten how to listen to themselves, because everyone told them to fit in.

Maybe I should ask my sister if she thought I fit in while I was in high school. I don’t think I did. I was consciously one fad behind everyone else. When penny loafers went out of style, that was when I wanted them. When everyone went to the next new thing, I picked up what they left behind. I did this by choice, because I knew I was different from them. But rather than set trends by leading, I thought I could blend in by appearing to be out of sync with everyone else.

The problem was that I was probably light years ahead of everyone even back then. I was probably seeing into the future but not knowing what to do about it. So I did poorly in high school, barely graduated, and went to a two-year technical school rather than a community college. It was the right place for me to go, and set up a nice career, but I doubt anyone would have expected a graduate from an unaccredited trade school to have the kind of success I have had. I did very well, but it took me over 40 years to realize what I was really capable of doing.

I don’t think other people need to take all the detours to find their passion. I think there are easier ways to reach our potential, but they all start with acknowledging that we have potential, accepting that we are “powerful beyond measure.”

The counter shows that I am already over 900 words, without too much conscious effort. How is that possible? I get inspiration from an article by a great author and spit out a thousand words in 40 minutes. This is too easy. There must be more to life than being able to write without thinking too much about it.

And of course there is. That is what the rest of the day will be about. That is why I am going to change the schedule and move “Write blog post” earlier in the day, because this is easy. The hard stuff will be a little easier if I’ve already done an hour of writing to clear out my head.

I know this won’t make sense to anyone, but I think we all have an allotment of mistakes that we are given when we are born. If we just go ahead and start making them, we can get through them and start doing the fun stuff that is also good. If we shy away from even trying something we are likely to fail at doing, we will be trapped behind a barrier others have erected to keep us from threatening them. Whenever someone says, “that’s impossible,” ask them if they think it is impossible for them or impossible for you. Maybe they just don’t want you to make them look bad. If you let them, don’t complain, because it was your decision to accept their opinion. But if you feel like challenging their opinion, and your own, I might have some ideas that could help you.

Start with The Talent Myth from July 22, 2002, on Malcom’s web site archive. You don’t work for Enron, or McKinsey. Go be yourself. I’m just starting to realize I can do the same.

Starting Up Again

August 7, 2011

No one has commented on the fact that I have taken more than a week off from my daily blogging. I can’t blame you. I was exhausted from vacation recovery and my wife and I did a bunch of projects around the house. And I got paid for a big job I did earlier this year, so I got distracted about what version of MacMini Server to buy. I’m not sure I am quite ready to get back onto the “habit building train”, but I have a few things to report about the books I’ve been reading. There were two of them.

The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin turned out to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. If I had been able to read it forty years ago, when I was just going into the USAF, my life might have turned out quite differently. But it was published in 2009, so I didn’t have the insights it has given me in the past few weeks. If you find yourself in a rut or headed for a detour in your life, I would suggest you buy a copy on Amazon and start reading it. Many of the other books I would suggest you read will make a lot more sense if you have started cultivating the opposable side of your brain. Six Thinking Hats and 7 Levels of Change make a lot more sense if you see them as variations on an “opposable mind”.

What The Dog Saw is a collection of essays by Malcolm Gladwell that originally appeared in the New Yorker. I started downloading archives of his stuff from his web site (www.gladwell.com) and have just refreshed my collection of PDFs. The book is a different experience than the downloads. Everything is together in something you can carry around with you, and you can write on the pages if you like, or put those cute little “stick-it note” flags that help you find passages you liked.

One flag I left for myself was on page 97, in an article called “True Colors” that was published on March 22, 1999. The phrase I highlighted was about what Vidal Sassoon did to revolutionlize hair styling back in the 1960’s. The last sentence is what made me realize how tough my job is going to be.

  •  If a revolution is not accessible, tangible, and replicable, how on earth can it be a revolution?
    Malcolm Gladwell, What The Dog Saw, 2009
    Originally published in The New Yorker, March 22, 1999

Is writing this blog making my intended revolution accessible, tangible and replicable? I think it is, but maybe it doesn’t look that way yet.

  • My blog is open for everyone who has a computer or mobile device with access to the Internet. Is that accessible enough, or do I have to be in print as well?
  • All I have done is post five dozen thoughts about what I intend to start doing in a small, rural school district. How tangible is that?
  • Has anyone started following my thread about “Composing Change”? Would the steps I’m defining there make it replicable?

I suppose we will find out tomorrow, when I hope to get a new streak going. One post after a break of 9 days is not enough. There needs to be more.

So, let’s agree this is enough for now. There are other articles by Malcolm and others that I think could inspire you. If anyone is interested, I need some encouragement to keep me going. Anyone want to let me know if I still have occasional readers?

Can’t Stop Reading

July 22, 2011

I just got an interesting email about a blog a motorcyclist friend writes. He has ridden around the world on a bike just like mine, and offers some great thoughts about the benefits of travel. A recent post says it all, so all I offer is a link to his site.

Maybe I can come up with 20 reasons of my own in the next few months, though I suspect I will have to have 49 (7 squared).

Links to Links to Links

July 22, 2011

A few minutes ago, I read the latest post from Seth Godin about his Domino Project, which led me to that blog, which had a post toward the bottom of the page that caught my eye. Sometimes that is how I get ideas. I follow a thread to a junction, and then follow one branch after another until I end up in a new place that is interesting.

The post in question offered an Excel spreadsheet that helps self-publishing authors. I haven’t opened it yet, but I like the idea of offering a checklist for others to follow. The breadcrumbs may take them along the same path you followed on your journey, or lead them somewhere even better.

This is a nice fit with a book I started this morning, The Starfish and the Spider. The authors, Ori Brafman (of Sway) and Rod Beckstrom start off describing how some organizations are like spiders: they die when they lose their head (leaders). They suggest organizations that are like spiders will do better in the future, because they have leaders all over the place. Cut the head off a spider, it dies; cut the arm off a starfish, it grows a new leg, and the leg grows the rest of a starfish.

Their idea seems to be headed in the direction of open source structures, and I have to admit I like their approach. But I’m just one guy without a whole lot of money. I can’t pay for servers and such to support a hundred people, much less a million. If my idea for helping people change takes off, could it be a distributed approach? Does it require everything be hosted on the same server? Could it be constructed to operate in a distributed fashion?

That would require a different architecture and different skills. I think that if I build the idea quickly in FileMaker Pro, it would be easy enough to demonstrate the concept is valid. Then when other people sign up to help, or invest in what I am doing, we could redo things in a platform that was more portable.

But 37signals doesn’t do it that way. They have subscriptions and offer significant value. I intend to do the same.

But wouldn’t my solution be better if I designed it for portability later? It needn’t look as pretty as I have been making it, if the whole point is to make sure the idea works. A simple web interface would do that. People could test the prototype by connecting to my laptop. If it worked, we would have a reason to collaborate or perhaps form a partnership. Partners could buy a server together. Partners could make agreements to work together, doing different parts of the business for the business they created together.

I love following ideas to see where they go. Sometimes, the threads make a wonderful quilt.

Edge-to-Edge Knowledge

July 18, 2011

This morning, I got an email from Seth Godin about expertise. He was talking about how he was able to read all the science fiction in his local library and cover everyone from Azimov to Zelazny. I have no idea who Zelazny is, but I know enough Asimov books to get his point. How many of us actually have an inventory of the sources we use for our personal method.

That got me to thinking what would happen if I did an A to Z survey of the methods I am using. I did a quick check and I have all the letters of the alphabet covered so far as titles are concerned (except X), but I’ve got a few gaps when it comes to authors (no one starting with Q). This information made me wonder how my sources stack up in other ways. For instance, do I have something that addresses different points along the KAI, or speaks to each part of the MBTI? Are my ideas more toward the high end of the 7 Levels of Change? Where do they fit on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

I don’t know, but I think I need to figure these out. If only 3.4% of the population thinks like I do from an MBTI point of view, I’m not helping anyone else by focusing my efforts on other ENTP’s. But maybe I’m not the best person to be translating my ideas into ISFJ-terms. That’s the other end of the innovation spectrum from where I live.

And that was when another email from Simple Truths caught my eye. I get these once or sometimes twice a day, and several of their books really clicked for me. The one that came today was about turning mediocrity into greatness. As they put it, “how you approach the challenges you face…and how you live your life.”

I’m not going to write so much today. I’m going to suggest you check out the book they were promoting today, and do a little inventory of where you stand. Do you have more “middle class” attributes, or do you have more “world class” characteristics? I haven’t done a total for myself, but I think I’m headed in the right direction. What about you?

Watching Yourself

July 9, 2011

Yesterday, Seth Godin had a great suggestion. He said to hire a geek to watch you for an hour and suggest five things you could do to save an hour. The ideas you get should pay for the service within a week.

I guess that is what my tool will do for people once they get into the rhythm of using it. They’ll be tracking the little stuff they are doing and realizing it only takes them five minutes a day. But knowing that, they might decide that time offers very little value, because it doesn’t advance any of the habits they are trying to adopt.

I have a couple of innocent looking habits in my tool that I will start tracking again when I get home. One is to log how much time I spend on deliberate practice of self-discipline. Another is the same log but for self-mastery.

Why would anyone care about those two things?

Well, despite my age, I want the future to be different from the past, and better. After finishing James Altucher’s book, I realize there are several little things I could start doing every day to build a better foundation. So what if it makes my list of “habits in development” longer. Reminding myself that I want to wash my hands more often will have a benefit down the road when cold season comes and I’m out meeting people who aren’t washing their hands.

But Seth makes a good point about having someone else watch you do things to see where you could save time or improve quality. I don’t think that putting an iPod Nano on your desk to record yourself for an hour would have the same benefits, although watching yourself in fast-forward might allow you to catch things you miss in real-time. And if you work alone, or you think your office is messy, it might be hard to accept an outsider being there, especially if there isn’t enough room.

Is it worth your time to review what you did for an hour once a week, just to see if you pick up on something that didn’t make sense? Wouldn’t there be other ways to get feedback?

I can remember dozens of times when explaining something to someone gave me insights into problems I was trying to solve. The other person didn’t have to know what I was talking about. Saying things out loud somehow gave me a different perspective on them. Would talking to myself work the same way, or does there have to be another person there, looking at me like I’ve suddenly sprouted an extra nose?

I don’t know, yet. I’m going to have to study these options and report back later. But maybe you will be that person that sees me grow an ear in the middle of my face. I need to listen to you more, even if you aren’t watching me. Maybe I could watch you and learn something.

Read James Altucher

July 8, 2011

I found a link to an interesting blogger the other day, while checking stock quotes on my iPhone. The guy is James Altucher (http://www.jamesaltucher.com/) and among other things, he has written and self-published a book. He also has a blog post about self-publishing. You can buy the book on Amazon, download it on your Kindle, or get a download as a PDF, and load it into iBooks on an iOS device.

I read half of his 200-page PDF the first evening on the couch at my cousin’s house, and finished it the second. Then I went back through the book and gathered 10 pages of ideas for my future. That was an unexpected bonus, and I am using one of the hints this morning: I’m editing my post and deleting about half of it.

Some of the people on James’ blog have suggested that he needs an editor and a proof reader, and I agree. But there are some great ideas there, including his suggestion to exercise muscles I had never thought about as muscles. Here are a few, with page numbers from the PDF:

1. Page 93 – Feel Gratitude. I never thought of this as a “muscle”, but after reading his suggestions, I realize I need to do it several times a day, not just once.

2. Page 96 – Mental Exercises. I think the tool I am building is helping me do these, but his suggestions would work for everyone else. You could probably come up with your own list and do a different one every day of the month.

3. Page 99 – Cleanliness. This may be the best argument for washing hands I have ever read. I need to add it to my list of habits. Then I need to add another habit about not picking my nose, and carry a handkerchief instead.

So go read what this guy is writing. I’m going to add him to my daily rotation along with Seth Godin. He is always insightful and frequently gives me ideas for new topics when I’m writing my own blog post.

And I’m going to start using the self-publishing ideas James suggests. I should just got on with it and stop thinking I need permission from someone. Consider the same for your passions.

Go get the book James published a month ago, any way that works for you. When I get home, I’ll update this page so there is a link directly to his page for getting the book. But do it soon. We want to read YOUR book before the end of the summer. I’m sure you have something to say.

What are you waiting for?

Seth Godin Hits Another Home Run

July 6, 2011

This morning when I woke up, I checked my mail and there was my daily inspiration from Seth Godin. His blog post, which gets distributed via email for convenience, was about the “attention economy.” Reading it, I realized that I was missing out on a number of opportunities because I’m developing the tools my business will offer to people. I’m paying attention to the tool rather than paying attention to potential customers. But the biggest mistake is that I may be paying too much attention to the one customer I don’t have to sell to – myself. I’m going to build these tools for myself regardless of whether I launch my business this year. I am my own research and development laboratory, as well as my own research subject. I figure that if I’m not satisfied with the things I’m building, no one else would like them.

This might be meaningful if everyone I was selling my ideas to was at the same place that I am, or rather that I think I am. I’m an innovative guy who tends to look at new ideas as opportunities to “do things no one else is doing,” which is Level 6 Change, so I can go in the direction of “do things that can’t be done,” which is Level 7 Change. I forget that other people aren’t starting from the same place. They don’t have a history of change going back 40 days, much less 40 years.

I’m not paying attention to their needs. I need to look at this whole enterprise as something that starts back at Level 1, “do the right things.” No one is going to jump in to the river of changes I am offering without a support system that helps them find their own right things to do, so they can define their own right ways to do them, and them make their own improvements, then do away with their own obstacles, and figure out what they can copy from others. That puts them in a place they may have never been before, where they can take advantage of opportunities no one else sees, so they can do things other people think are impossible, but they understand.

That is what I am going to pay attention to so my partners can overcome their status quo addiction. But it doesn’t start with me. It starts with others, which might be you.

I’m listening to you now. I’m paying attention. What do you have to say about this?

Testing a post with a picture

June 27, 2011

20110627-091854.jpg

Well, that was pretty easy. Why didn’t I try this blogging stuff earlier? A blabbermouth like me is in his element here. And now I can share our trip with the world if I want to.

Tiny Devices With Big Keyboards

June 27, 2011

Well, there was a certain amount of drama today getting to Houston. My sister called as I was driving to the airport, telling me she would not be able to come on the trip. Her gall bladder is acting up and she may have surgery tomorrow. But Mother and I kept up the campaign and met up in Charlotte.

Of course, it wasn’t actually that easy. My plane got delayed and Mother was coming in on the far side of the airport from our gate for Houston. I was a 10 minute walk away. They got a cart to take Mother to the gate and I arrived just as they were boarding her. I thought I was going to be able to sit with her in First Class, but when my sister cancelled her reservation they released her seat. So I ended up back in coach, where I would have been anyway.

Not having slept all that well last night, I was out like a light once the plane left the ground. An hour out of Houston, a flight attendant woke me up and Mother is there asking if I want to sit in First Class seat. There is too much breeze, and it is blowing on her. Of course I took her up on the offer. In my seat, there was less breeze for the athlete, who needs to preserve her strength for the events on Wednesday and Thursday.

We eventually got through baggage claim in Houston and got our rental car, a nice Ford Taurus. Found a Wendy’s to have dinner and got lost a couple of times trying to find the hotel. But it’s an adventure after all so we’re taking it in stride. We checked in, and after two tries got a room with two beds. All is well and relatively quiet, but Mother will probably wake up early and we’ll be at it all over again. She’s 89 and I can’t keep up with her.

However, doing this post seems to confirm my capability for blog posting with just my iPhone. The wireless keyboard is very nice. I think I’ll have to get one to keep, as I borrowed this one from a friend who went to Finland for five weeks. She may be in St Petersburg Russia by now. Everyone is traveling.

But back to the title of this post. I didn’t think it would work to use my iPhone for WordPress because the keyboard is so small. But a wireless keyboard is as good as my laptop. And it doesn’t weigh six pounds or make my legs hot when the battery is charging. I think I will be able to keep up this new habit quite nicely while I am away. Might even figure out how to add a picture to the blog, though I won’t try that today.

Sometimes technology just works. Not to sound like a broken record, but Apple products just work, and just work together. I can’t imagine using an Android and having this easy a time.

And so I end for the evening. I’ll post come comment about our registration process tomorrow, and maybe add some pictures of the hotel, downtown Houston, and the swimming venue. It’s much different from Palo Alto two years ago. That was idyllic (I didn’t know idyllic had two i’s at the end!) Houston is hot and may be hotter later in the week. It might be cooler when we get to California. But that is not until Saturday.

Running out of steam now. Only 10pm and I am falling asleep already. Got a big day ahead of us tomorrow so i may as well go to bed.

Night all. Sweet dreams.