545.6% Improvement

A while ago I wrote about the spectrum of media online, and since then I’ve been focused on making more long(ish) form video, i.e. YouTube videos.

When video is really good, it has unbelievable impact.  When it’s bad (which is most video on the internet) it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

My video making efforts keep reinforcing the fact that making excellent video is hard.  What makes making it even harder is when you play all the roles.  You have to be a great writer, main character, videographer, director and editor.

That’s how I’ve been doing it and it’s tough, and a few weeks ago I needed a break.

YouTube has been promoting their “Shorts”, similar to TikToks or Instagram Reels, because people are addicted to short form video.  So my “break” was making an extremely simple 40 second short film and posting it to my YouTube channel.

And it crushed.

Crushed, of course is relative, but in the first 12 hours of posting the video it had 545.6% more views than my next most popular one.

Oh, and that other video had been online for 2 years.

The story and the production is simple, and I don’t think it’s really that impactful of a video, but clearly, it’s what the platform and the people want.

Make More Video (a VLOG)

It’s a different kind of post today.

I’ve decided to commit myself to making more video.  I absolutely love the medium and I want to get better at making it.  Everything from speaking to filming to editing. All of it.

Below is my first VLOG about this Make More Video effort.  I talk about filming in slow motion, some nerdy camera stuff, and the importance of music.

It’s unscripted, a bit technical and I do ramble BUT it’s only 2 and a half minutes so what do you have to lose?

I also (accidentally) wound up with an ending to the video that I really like. I hope you like it too.

Oh Bill

The documentary on Bill Gates’ life was really interesting but one part I found a bit disappointing.

Bill funded and advised a startup developing a new, small scale nuclear reactor.  The reactor had the potential to provide massive benefits to remote populations, reduce emissions and reduce fossil fuel use.  It was safer than existing reactor technology and could have made a real impact.  Unfortunately the project suffered a set back when US/China trade issues developed under Trump.

I was disappointed because they seemed to make no effort to share their work with people who could have continued.  So many positive things could have come from continuing to move forward.   Why was it more important to maintain control than to make sure things continued?

It looks like the project is still going, but if they had found a way around the setback, would we be closer to all those positive benefits today?

What’s more important, fixing the problem or staying in control?

The Blockchain Problem

It’s a video kinda Friday.  Check out my thoughts on a big limitation of blockchain technology.

Your ToDo List Sucks

I had always been able to juggle my todos in my head.  But pretty quickly after I started my first full time job I had so much going on at work that I was overwhelmed.  I was  missing things and some of them were critical.  People noticed.

I started a todo list, but it wasn’t long before it became so lengthy that it was useless.  It was pages and pages of things that seemed important, but weren’t necessarily actionable.  It was impossible to work from.  I was still f*%ked.

Then I read a book that changed my life called Getting Things Done by David Allen.  The author offers a simple but extremely helpful method for organizing a list of Todos.  It was a lot of up front work to move over to his system, but it had a massive impact and basically solved my problem.

My mind was free (what I did with it of course is another story).

Here’s the Getting Things Done cheat sheet:

If you have anything but a clean, clear, short list of Todos, and it’s giving you anxiety at night (or any time) I highly recommend you check out this book.

Orders of Magnitude

There’s something to be said about only scaling by one order of magnitude.  Each time increasing something by no more than 10x the previous.

Why?  At each order of magnitude you’re probably going to learn something.

Going from 1 to 10 employees you’ll find new HR challenges.

The jump from producing 1000 to 10,000 products will expose manufacturing challenges.

Moving from 10,000 to 100,000 users will teach valuable lessons about customer support.

Skipping orders of magnitude is risky.  When you scale up too quickly, you can miss all the valuable lessons.

Of course supercharged growth is the goal when investors and capital get behind a business.  Pour money in to grow as quickly as possible.

It makes me wonder what things are being missed, and what’s going to break.

 

Motivating a Donkey

There’s two styles of motivation; nice and not so nice.

The nice is positive reinforcement, where you give/get a carrot when you do something you’re meant to.  The opposite is the stick, where you get a not so nice tap when you don’t.

Depending on the person and the situation both can be effective.  I’ve used both not just when trying to motivate others, but also when trying to motivate myself.

Problems happen however, when the carrot and stick get out of balance.  Too much carrot can turn into cake, and too much stick turns into a spiked bat.  Both of those end up having an opposite motivational effect.

I think we all have a bias to one way or another, especially when it comes to self motivation.   I’ve always tried to set my personal bar high, and my style definitely tends towards the stick.  The other day someone (helpfully) pointed out that maybe I had been using too much stick trying to motivate myself.  My tendency to stick myself (huh?) was starting to have the opposite effect.

Just make sure you’re in touch with the Donkey.  If it’s had so much cake that it’s diabetic, or has been hit so many times with the spiked bat that it’s scarred forever, it’s probably time to check your carrot/stick balance.

In The Moment

Ever have a great conversation where:

  • there were lots of notable points and takeaways;
  • all parties were undistracted and really engaged;
  • but afterwards you couldn’t recall all the details?

And so the next time you tried to take notes, and when you did:

  • it was difficult to keep good notes AND stay engaged;
  • you found the note taking to be distracting and inefficient?

There’s a few overlapping issues:

  1. For most people, conversational speech falls in somewhere between 150-180 words per minute.
  2. If you’re trying to type notes, the average typing speed is around 40 words per minute.
  3. The average handwriting speed is 13 words per minute.

With such a spread between the action and the ability to record it, it’s no wonder it’s hard to do both well.

For awhile I’ve been looking for a solution, and I recently tried a transcription software.  I have to say, the results were great.  While the transcription is not perfect, the software I’m using also captures an audio recording so it’s easy to go back after the fact for clarity.  I find I’m more engaged in conversation again and I’m not worried about missing anything.

Despite how distracted we tend to be by modern technology, the right tool applied in the right way can be incredibly powerful.

The Engagement Hurdle

It seems like many people measure success by engagement on big social media platforms.  They want more likes, more followers and more comments.

But are likes, followers and comments quality engagement?

Imagine that you’re working on something you’re really passionate about.  You make a video and post it on YouTube.  After sharing the link with a few friends and family you start to get some views, likes and comments.

It feels good to share it but there are a few problems.

First, how to you know that engagement is people who care about your project and not just people who care about you?  Mom or a good friend will always be supportive.

This kind of engagement is nice, but is that who you are trying to reach?

Second, how do you know it’s not just lazy engagement?  Most people are comfortable using sites like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc.  Those sites make liking, subscribing and commenting a zero friction process.  We all know people who follow, like and comment on everything.

Are these the people you’re trying to reach?

So what is quality engagement?

You really want people who are truly interested in what you’re doing.  They’re the ones who have been waiting for a product, project or story like this.  To find these people, you need to setup an engagement hurdle that requires them to make a small effort to navigate away from that comfortable social scrolling.

You need to say: “There’s more over here, it’s just a small effort to come check it out.”

If you can entice their curiosity and get them to navigate away from their “just-because-it’s-you” likes and “lazy” engagement, you’ve got a small win.

If they’re not even willing to make the jump, it says that what you’re trying to share either isn’t clear, or they’re just not that interested.

Not clear you need to fix.  Not interested you don’t want.

When curiosity snaps someone out of the mindless infinite scroll, it means something.  Once you get their attention, it’s yours to decide what to do with it next.  Just make sure there’s something more for them when they arrive at your doorstep.

Why It’s Hard to Get a 6 Pack

(*6 pack abs, not beer.)

I’m on an anti-dad bod crusade.

I’ve become the family garburator, and I’m getting tired of the spare tire that comes with it.

My goal is to get rid of some stubborn fat.  I know I can do it.  I’ve been in great shape before and I know how to buckle down and improve my body composition.

There’s only one rule: be super diligent with what you eat.

Eating the right amount of calories and nutrients is the only important thing.  If you have the time, it’s a lot of work but it’s very doable.

But this time I have more responsibility and less time than when I did this in the past.  More than ever, I’m feeling like the whole food system is stacked against me.

See the food system, that’s everything from food producers and manufacturers, to restaurants, to storage, to retail, is the solution to a pre-industrialization food problem.  Before the mid 1800s (and for most of human history) food was expensive, scarce, and hard to get.  If you lived in the early 1800s, chances are that food would have accounted for 75% of your household budget.

Then boom, along comes the mechanization and tools of industry, and the problem could be addressed with a whole bunch of new techniques and strategies.  When the population could all of a sudden worry a less about food, more time and energy could be spent moving society forward.  It was a win for everyone.

150+ years later we have a different problems.

Every system has intended and unintended outputs.  For the food system, the intended output isn’t just food, it’s abundance, convenience and variety of food.  Those are the priority, not making sure someone can control what and how much they eat.  For some vain guy trying to look good in a bathing suit, it’s a pain, but the system over time has also produced some really undesirable outputs.

The First is Food Waste.

Here’s a fun fact: 900 million tons of food is wasted every year.

The average American (who is 150 lbs and technically overweight) eats one ton of food a year.  So all that wasted food is enough to feed 900 million overweight Americans.  The world average person is only 136lbs (and presumably eats at least 25% less food), so if you divided all that food waste up, it’s likely that just half of it would feed all the world’s 697 million food insecure people.

The Second is the Environmental Impact.

All that wasted food takes energy and resources to produce.  A lot of that energy production causes environmental damage.  In fact, food waste produces 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide.  If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses after the US and China.

Finally, there’s the Health Problems.

As a guy getting older, these hit my radar in a big way.  Even though I’m very lucky and don’t live with food insecurity, statistically I’m very likely to end up with heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, diabetes, or cancer which are all linked to our modern diet.

Listen, I’m not here to point fingers or blame anyone.  Like many things we have now, the food system is a product of the industrial revolution and nobody could have predicted what the long term effects would be.  But we have new tools and know all this bad stuff, so shouldn’t we be looking to make it better?  Or is it more important to protect our god given right to walk through the grocery store at 3am and be able to choose from 16 different flavors of Doritos?

Wish me luck on my quest to get my abs back, it’s going to be a tough one.

Pay Wall

A few months ago I bought a workout program from a fitness influencer.  I found this guy through my google searches; he had produced a bunch of YouTube content that ranked at the top of my search results.

I clicked through to his videos and they did a great job of indirectly marketing to me.  His production is great, he comes across as genuine and knowledgable, and gives a lot of good information for free.  When he pitched the $5 downloadable program I decided to bite.  After all it was only $5.

What I got was a 30 or so page .pdf file delivered to my email inbox.  It was flat, boring, and not particularly interactive.  I was, in a word, underwhelmed.

It’s not that the actual program content was bad, but the experience fell short of what my experience had been with his marketing.  Clearly he put much more time and effort into that free content than he had into the almost free.

It’s a tricky thing to put a product like this behind a pay wall.  If I get great content for free, shouldn’t the paid content be multiple times better?  I paid nothing and got a well produced, engaging video with great information.  I paid $5 and I got a flat, lifeless .pdf file.  That math doesn’t make sense.

If this guy was planning to make money off me, he’s not getting any more than that throwaway $5 I already spent.  He had his chance to make a first impression and wow me with his paid product and he failed.

I think anyone who is considering putting something behind a pay wall, even for a “throwaway” amount, should think really hard about why they’re doing it.  You can only sell so many 1 time cheap downloads of a well marketed but sub-par product and expect people to come back and pay for more.

The Biometric Man

About a half a year ago I started to notice that I was more tired and sore than ever.  I’m talking really tired and really sore.  So tired that I would sleep 9 hours and still feel like a nap in the afternoon.  I was waking up so sore some days that it was hard to walk.

The strange thing is I wasn’t doing anything differently.  I was working out like I had always been and I was eating a good diet of mainly nutritious, whole foods.

Something was up.

I was way too young to be feeling like this.

I ended up reaching out to a friend who is a naturopathic doctor.  We ran a bunch of blood tests and found that I had high inflammatory markers.  Some very high.

She told me the inflammation was likely due to over training or some missing elements in my nutrition.  She suggested adding some supplements to my diet, as well as changing and tracking my nutrition and training.  Along with this she suggested that I start wearing a biometric tracking device.

The nutrition and training changes made sense, but a biometric device?  I was skeptical.  See, I have this very pricey GPS watch and I know from experience that it isn’t always accurate.  It has a step counter that I’ve checked by literally counting my steps and it’s never quite right.  I’ve even googled “How accurate are step counters” and apparently they can be off as much as 10% to 30% on steps and calories.  That’s not exactly confidence inspiring accuracy, so I had doubts about the quality of data that this device could actually collect.

But I needed to do something.  I wasn’t ready to roll over and accept my tired and sore state.  I wanted to keep an active lifestyle well into my later years, and I was ready to do anything to fix this problem.

So I ordered one.

When it arrived I charged it up and installed the app on my phone.  It works by distilling a bunch of data into two key metrics, 1) how hard is your body working through the day and 2) how recovered are you.  You wear it 24/7 and it gives you regular feedback in the app as it analyzes this data.

The reports at first didn’t really mean much to me.  I’d wake up one day and it would say I’m 68% recovered, and the next I would be 92% recovered, but I could feel that 24% difference.

Then, it happened.

About a month after starting to wear this tracker, I got a pretty nasty GI bug.  I started feeling sick overnight and spent most of the next day between the toilet and the bathroom.

The day after that my recovery score was the lowest I had seen since I started wearing the device.  From all the data it had collected it knew that something was off.

Then, it happened again.

A month later, after a very long span of drinking zero alcohol, I found myself having a few cocktails.  It was nothing excessive, but the next morning I felt like crap.  Of course, ta-da, another super low recovery score.  Despite the fact that I had slept, the alcohol made an impact and the device noticed.

My skepticism was breaking down, I could see that at the very least this thing was able to pick up the extremes.

Another month passes and I have a bit of dental surgery that is serious enough to put me out for the day.  The device again recognizes that something has happened and my body was struggling to recover.

But I still wasn’t totally sold.

Sure, it could pick up major discrepancies in my stress and recovery, but what about something less intense?

The opportunity came to test something less serious when I got a bit of a cold.  You know like when you feel symptoms but can still go about your day?  These are the days when there’s a fine line between pushing yourself enough and pushing a bit too hard.

Great, a perfect test.

I woke up with symptoms and watched the tracking data throughout the day.  I had planned on doing a short, low intensity rowing workout in the early afternoon.  When it got to workout time I noticed I had already stressed my body to a level that I usually got by the end of a regular day.

I sat down on the rowing machine anyways.  The old me would have pushed through it, but after a few pulls I thought to myself:

“Nope, I’m going to pay for this tomorrow.”

I stood up and abandoned ship, something I never would have done before.

The rest of the day went by as normal, but when I checked my calorie burn at bedtime and I had burned 40% more calories that day than usual.  Despite feeling only some mild symptoms, my body was still working hard to recover.

The next day I had a middle of the road recovery score and a few cold symptoms still, but I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if I had pushed it and done that workout.

So, I’m Totally Sold On Biometric Devices.

Before I tried this device, my sore and tired symptoms had me worried that I’d have to drastically change my level of activity.  I thought age was catching up and I’d have no choice but to start to slow down.

Then I strapped this thing on.

Having a better understanding of what’s going on with my body gives me the confidence and ability to manage how hard I push myself.  My “strategy” before was to push hard all the time and sometimes suffer because of it.  Clearly that wasn’t working well.  Following my biometric data and pushing accordingly is much more efficient.

If you’re active and want to maximize the efficiency of your activity, I’d definitely consider trying one of these puppies out.  I got a WHOOP, which is a wrist band, but there are other options out there and I’m sure they will only get better and better.

Here’s to a few more years of pushing just hard enough.

Permission

I think email is great.  It’s one of a few standard ways of exchanging information over the internet that anyone can use.  As an open web protocol it’s a powerful tool that connects all of us.

But email is also abused.  I find I have to fight pretty hard to keep my inbox from filling up with crap I never wanted.  I am constantly unsubscribing from email marketing that I couldn’t even recall signing up for.

What’s happening?  People aren’t asking for permission.

I’m ok if someone wants to keep in touch, but I don’t like the sneaky tactics.  Don’t default to opt in.  Don’t bury your intentions in the fine print.   Nobody likes sneaky, don’t try to hide it.  You don’t earn trust that way, and trust is what you want.

Here’s what you can do: be forward, honest and clear.  Make your case to keep in touch, tell me exactly how you’re going to do it, and make it my option to opt in:

“This is who I am, here’s exactly what I’d like to send you and how often, are you interested?”

Do this or please stay the eff out of my inbox!

Pride of Ownership

Owning things is a big part of modern culture.  Human history hasn’t always been about ownership, although the last several hundred years has been very focused on it.

But do you still need to own things?  The connected economy has supercharged the culture of temporary ownership.  From private jets to baby gear it’s never been easier to have something without needing to own it forever.  Either rent it when you need it, or buy it, use it and re-sell it.

This empowerment of the renter is changing our culture.  People care less about collecting stuff.  They see it as a waste of their time and resources.  They see the negative effect on the environment.

But there’s still the importance of pride of ownership.  Even if you’re a renter or a temporary owner, you’d probably hope that at least the person who used the “thing” before you cared about it.  Otherwise things become objects of neglect, abuse and destruction.  If at the very least we care about the environment, we should want things to last as they change hands.

So if we’re not going to own things, let’s at least encourage pride of usership.  The better we care for things, the more likely they are to last as they get handed along.  Let’s shift towards owning only the things we really need, and caring for the things we use temporarily.  This is the best combination for the future.

Big Social

If you’re making content don’t use a major social media site as your foundation.  What I mean is don’t make it the place that you exclusively post your stuff and engage with your audience.

Here’s Why

These platforms are intentionally addictive.  All of the features and user interface are designed to keep someone using the app.

Seems great, right?  The app works hard to bring an audience for the creator.

Here’s the Problem…

The way to keep someone using these apps is to feed them content they will like.  The app choses what to show a user through a content algorithm.  It’s a bit of a black box, but it basically takes tons of data to suggest content that is likely to be appealing to that person.  The algorithm is constantly changing and as a content creator, it’s very difficult to please.  So the chances are slim that the algorithm will consistently feed the user YOUR content.  This means that while you may get eyeballs for a moment, it’s unlikely to continue feeding that user your stuff.

But You Can Still Use Big Social

If you have a place that you can drive people to (website, blog, etc.), big social is a great place for marketing.  Just duplicate some of your content and put it there with a call to action to leave the site.  If someone really likes your stuff, and really cares, they will click away from the addictive social media site.  Those are the people you want to interact with.

 

 

Dear Mayor

The other day I was talking to a home builder who was having trouble getting a permit approved.  The application was straightforward, but he told me that in his 30+ year career he had never experienced such a delay.  After trying forever to resolve the issue he decided to visit the city permit office.  It was a last resort, and a bit extreme, but he told me that in the past it had always worked.

However when he arrived at the permit office, nobody was there.  He could only find a security guard who chuckled at his frustration.  He obviously wasn’t the first person who had showed up to try to push things along.

Where was everyone?  Working remotely.

For organizations built on in person work culture, switching to remote work can be rough.  When you’re in person, seeing the others is a constant reminder of what you’re all there to do.  People get attention and approval from their peers, superiors, partners and customers.  Communication happens on a human level; there’s body language, facial expression, and voice tone.  Relationships are forged.  Trust is built.  These are human needs fulfilled by a social environment.  Taking away that in person environment takes away some or all of those social elements.

I’m not sure what working remotely changed inside the permit department, but in the end the builder’s only resort was to run his issue up to the highest accountable individual possible.  I can’t imagine the mayor likes getting emails like that, but it certainly greased the wheels.

I hope that when this kind of friction occurs in any recently-turned-remote organization, the people who care will understand what remote work takes away, and work hard to figure out how to replace it.

Steal This Article

Steal anything you want from this blog.  Take the words, take the images, take the ideas, take anything.  Do it and pass it off as your own.

I don’t have the resources to mount any sort of meaningful defence, to protect my intellectual property.  I also don’t care.

The internet is full of copied and pasted information.  I’d be flattered if mine ended up spreading, in fact that’s why I’m putting this stuff here.  The internet has helped me learn from others, apply myself, and I’m compelled to share again.

So take whatever you want from this blog, but please at least iterate on it by adding your own thoughts and your own experience.  Use it to make something even better.

Just remember this:

  • The ideas are useless if you don’t have the experience it took to come up with them.
  • The words are useless if you can’t write any more.

Who’s The Boss?

I want people to stop flagrantly misusing the word leadership.

True leadership is:

  • the ability of a person or group of people,
  • to guide or influence the members of a group,
  • to achieve that group’s collective goal.

People misunderstand leadership because they equate it with authority.  In fact, I feel so strongly that I need to make a graphic:

Let’s get it straight, authority simply gives someone power.  It’s the ability in a certain context to make another person do something.  The C.E.O. of a company has authority.  Senior politicians have authority.  Police have authority.  They all have authority, but this doesn’t automatically make them leaders.

While we’re on it, here’s another graphic:

Power is also not leadership.

Power is dominance.  It can be physical or emotional.  Those with power can protect or harm, but this doesn’t make them a leader.

The good news is you don’t need authority or power to be a leader.  You don’t need a special title, or a special role bestowed upon you by the group.  What you need is a moment to take action and responsibility.  If a ship is sinking, make sure everyone gets on a life raft.  If the group is lost in the woods, take charge to help find the way.  Leadership happens in a certain context for a period of time.  I believe that it’s temporary, necessary, and can come from anyone.

It’s nice when those with power or authority act as leaders, but it’s not always the case.  I think more people than usual are lost in the woods these days and they have a choice: either find and follow good leadership, or step up and become a leader yourself.

Work Like A President

Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower famously organized his problems and priorities into two categories: urgent and important.  If you turn this “Eisenhower Principle” into a matrix, it looks like this:

The Eisenhower Matrix is a great tool to both:

  • Gain perspective on how you’ve been spending time and energy, and;
  • Plan how to spend your limited resources.

Put It To Work

If you find you need to check either of the above, try this exercise.  You’ll need:

  1. A copy of the Eisenhower Matrix
  2. A list of your long-term, big picture priorities
  3. Your todo list
  4. Your calendar

For each calendar and todo item, honestly ask yourself:

  1. Is it important, i.e. how does it relate to your priorities and where does it rank?
  2. Is it urgent, i.e. how soon does it need to be addressed?

Once you know how urgent and important each item is, you can drop them into the corresponding areas of the matrix.

If it isn’t obvious, you really should be trying to spend as much of your time and energy as possible on things that fall into the “D” square.

If things are landing outside of that “D” square, they’re likely annoying, a waste of resources, and a sign that you should be reconsidering why those things get any of your bandwidth.

 

The Problem Solver

It doesn’t matter how technically brilliant a product is, if a non technical person can’t use it, it will probably fail.  Good product design is critical.  It’s no wonder the demand for User Experience (UX) Designers has exploded in the last decade.  The best websites and apps all put the experience of the user first as part of developing their products.

It’s no surprise that UX designers have great strategies and tools for understanding problems.  One of my favourite things a good UX designer employs is the customer journey map.  They will develop this map by recording a customer’s experience with a product.  Usually they ask a customer to try to do something with the product while capturing what actually happens.  The most helpful feedback of this process is recording how the customer feels as they work through the task.

The basic framework looks like this:

Intention -> Action -> Result -> Reaction

The cool thing about this framework is you can apply it to many problems, not just software design.  The next time you are trying to work through a problem, this is a great way to break it down into smaller pieces.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take a piece of paper and split it into 4 columns
  2. In the first column, write down what you are intending to accomplish
  3. In your attempt to accomplish that thing, record in the second column all the individual actions you take
  4. Next to each action in the third column record what the result was
  5. In the fourth column record how you felt about it

At the end of your attempt it’s easy to see the pain points.  Next you can focus on fixing one small thing.  This iterative approach to solving problems helps take your actual attempts and break it down into more useful pieces.

Happy problem solving!

What You Don’t Know About Your Inbox

Writers go to great lengths to control their writing environments.  They often choose quiet, simple spaces with minimal distraction.  Less distraction enables focus and flow.

It’s not likely you’re trying to write a novel, but we all write.  In fact if you do any type of office or knowledge work, you’re probably spending many hours per week writing email.  Over the course of the year, you could be writing the equivalent of a novel or two.

But email programs are not optimized for writing, they’re designed doing all things email.  Emails can be written, edited, saved, sent, received, forwarded, edited, searched and organized.  Email programs have to do it all.

So in terms of being a workspace for writing, email programs actually aren’t that great.  They’re basically the equivalent of having a writing desk setup in a busy mail room.  Imagine trying to write a book in that environment.  I hope if your email communication is important, you’re finding the right space to compose it in.

Learning Hard Things

I learned how to write code when I was in my early 30s.  I learned how to make electronics after that.  Both of these things I could not have done without the internet.  Without that access to information to learn and to solve problems, it’s actually very unlikely that I would have done either, especially that “late” in life.

But access to all the information in the world still doesn’t change the reality of learning hard things.  Learning anything hard involves many moments where you want to give up.  Sometimes you just don’t “get it” the first time, or the second time, or even the twenty-second time.  Learning code and electronics were both hard for me.  They both involved many moments when I wanted to give up.

The other catch of learning via the internet is you have to really want it.  When you’re learning by yourself with nobody else around, giving up has almost zero consequences.  You don’t disappoint your teacher, your parents, or your classmates.  The only consequence is that you don’t acquire the knowledge that you thought you wanted.

If you really want to you can learn almost anything these days, but you have to really want to.

Get To Yes

People today are more accessible and more distracted than ever.  They are being asked to say yes to many things more often by lots of people.  Saying yes to a question usually takes energy.  You have to;

  • Think about the question,
  • Weigh the potential risks and rewards,
  • Consider the outcomes.  Are they good or bad?
  • Contemplate who is asking and what they actually want.  Are we aligned?

Saying yes gives the asker control, it lets them fill in the blanks and puts them in the driver’s seat.  Our instinct is to say no because it almost always feels safer, easier and takes much less work to do in the moment.

But what if you are the one looking to get a “yes” answer to your question?  Try flipping the question like this:

Instead of asking: “Can we move ahead with the proposal?”

Try asking: “Would it be a big problem to move to the next step?”

The person is now considering how to answer “do you have a big problem”.  Saying yes to that requires consideration and effort:

  • What’s my list of problems?
  • Where does this rank?
  • Do I have a problem with the person asking?
  • Do I want a problem with the person asking?

Try flipping the question to make it easier for them to say no.  It’s exactly what you want.

That Text Gave Me Feels

Our brains work like this: instinct first, emotion second, logic third.  If you sense danger, you’ll try to get to safety before all else.  If you are overwhelmed by emotion, it’s hard to act logically.  Only when you feel safe, secure and settled, can you engage in rational thought.

Technology is logic first and the modern world works opposite to our brains.  Ones and zeros have no emotion, much like this text message:

But if a message is just data, why can it trigger emotion?  Our brains need emotional context to interpret human to human communication, so it adds it in.

This makes text only communication tricky.  Our brain adds emotion based some arbitrary combination of how we feel about ourselves and the person who sent the message in that moment.  That emotion can be unnecessarily negative.  It can be misaligned with the intentions of the sender.  Something can wind us up that isn’t actually there.

If you can’t escape the fact that your brain needs that emotional layer as part of a communication, you can at least trick it into an emotion that’s more productive.  When I start getting emotionally charged by a text or email, I try to remember to API or Assume Positive Intentions.  I actively remind myself that the communication is most likely coming from a positive or neutral place.  The vast majority of people I have relationships with are normal, and have decent intentions.  This should be my default reaction.

Changing any habit is difficult, but just try to keep API in mind the next time you start going down an unproductive emotional path reading a text, email, dm, etc.  Believe that the sender has good intentions, and at the very least doesn’t have bad intentions.  If you know them and have some sort of relationship with them, then that’s probably the case.

 

 

Size Matters

Use bigger words.  Write more complex sentences.  Go over the minimum page count.  When I was in school, this was the formula for a good grade on most writing assignments.  This was how you impressed the teacher.

Unfortunately, that skill isn’t very useful today.  People are so distracted that holding their attention, much less getting it, is more challenging than ever.  If you want to get your message across, you need to learn to do less with more.  Write fewer words, but convey more meaning.

Ignore this, of course, if you’re still trying to impress the teacher.

Please Wait

If you’ve ever traded a stock, you’ll notice it takes up to 3 days for funds and stocks to change hands before they “settle” in your account.  The system has natural delays built into it.  It’s not an entirely hands free, automated process.

If you knew nothing about cryptocurrency, I think you’d expect a similar exchange of funds to be instant.  It’s entirely code based, running on fast computers over fast networks.  There’s no processing done “manually” by people.

Strangely, verifying a Bitcoin or Ethereum transaction can take a long time.  It’s the source of great frustration for the users of crypto, especially people expecting a more efficient financial transaction experience.  The underlying reasons why the delays happen is different, but the experience of the end user is probably about the same.

Disruptive or Foundational

Disruptive has become synonymous with anything built on the internet.  However, I was recently working on a Web3* project and I found a new way to classify technology: foundational.  Learning the idea of foundational tech forced me to re-define disruptive.  Here’s how I see the two:

Disruptive – A technology, or combination of, that delivers an existing product, service or experience to an end user in a way that is faster or cheaper than before.

Foundational – A technology, or combination of, that creates or enables new products, services or experiences that were never possible before.

Basically disruptive is applying a new tool to an old problem, while foundational is a set of new tools for creating new experiences.  The birth of the internet was foundational.  It’s a place to build entirely new things.  Amazon as a book seller was disruptive.  Despite being on the internet, it didn’t change the end result of the book buying process (holding it in your hand and reading it), it just enabled that result in a faster and more cost efficient way.

*Web3 is a catch all term for stuff built on blockchain technology like Bitcoin, other crypto currency and NFTs. 

What’s Your Experience?

In a sea of information and opinion, it’s a big challenge to find a voice with valuable experience.  Here are a few ways I look at experience to decide how valuable it is.

Personal vs. Others – You were either there and did it, or not.  I think personal experience is almost always more valuable.  There’s only so much you can truly understand when you haven’t done something directly.

Old vs. Recent – How fresh is the experience?  Did it happen recently or has a long time passed?  Recent experience tends to be more vivid and emotionally charged.  Experience from a long time ago can be faded but more objectively clear.  In some ways I think recent can be more relevant since context changes over time, but I’m not sure it’s guaranteed “better”.

One Time vs. Frequent – How many times have you had the experience.  If I am looking for advice or guidance from someone with experience, I’ll take frequent over one time all day long.  That is of course if I can get it.

 

Long & Rich vs. Short & Basic

I’ve been having some trouble creating content.  I find that while I have things I’d like to share, I’m not always sure what format makes sense.  Video is amazingly rich, but it takes a lot of time and effort to put together.  A short few sentences of text are a lot easier to compose, but I wonder if they are too simple and can’t be very meaningful.

In trying to understand all my options I sketched out a bunch of different media types on different platforms, and thought about how someone might experience them.  Then I organized them into this little graph:

I thought about how I experienced each of these as the one consuming the media (the “consumer”).  They can be broken down into two basic measures;

  • Time to consume – how long it takes to digest what you’re looking at
  • Richness of the media – the breadth of the sensory experience

On the lower left area of the graph there’s a Tweet.   In its original 140 character a Tweet is super short and not particularly vivid.  On the far, upper right there’s a full length film, which is an immersive, multi-sensory experience.

This got me thinking about good ones and bad ones.  What makes a good podcast, a good Instagram post, or a good YouTube video?  What makes a bad one?  A good one grabs and holds the consumer’s interest while a bad one delivers no value.

I had an ah-ha moment looking at this and thinking about the risk for the consumer.  If it takes 30 seconds to read a tweet but it delivers no value, then at least they’re only out 30 seconds of their life.  Longer content means more risk.  If it content doesn’t deliver value, they are losing a larger chunk of time.

So as a content creator, it’s about finding the overlap between risk for yourself (how much time and effort it takes to produce something) and risk for whoever your audience is (what’s the chance they won’t get something out of it).  If you are building an audience and you don’t know them well, I think you have to focus on delivering lots of value in as short a timeframe as possible.  If you can do this in a rich medium, that’s great, but I think for the rookie creator the takeaway here is that shorter is better.

This is 40

A few years ago when my mom came to visit she left a box of old VHS & Hi-8 tapes with me.  Over the years she had kept them and regularly asked if she should throw them out.  I always told her to keep them.  They were mostly home videos of my friends and I skateboarding.  I thought one day they’d be fun to re-watch.

The tapes sat in my basement for a while but eventually I got all the necessary bits to watch them on my computer.  Most of the tapes as I remembered were skateboarding, but I also found footage from my dad’s 40th birthday party.  He’s 75 now, but there he was at the exact age I am, with so many things yet to happen in his life.

I was curious.

I wondered what it would be like for 40 year old me to converse with 40 year old dad.  In many ways I’m sure he’d be exactly the same.  If we could line up our ages and stages in life, how might the conversation be different?  What would we talk about?  The video, with its terrible sound, bad lighting and pixelated image had a powerful effect.

I’m trying to create more content, trying to be authentic, and really trying to share.  Maybe on my kids 40th birthdays they will want to see their dad at that same point in time.  Maybe it will give them a glimpse into who he was before the future happened.  Many of us get that curiosity and wonder where we came from, and I hope creating some more artifacts today will help them in the future.

I might ask my dad to start making videos for me to watch when I turn 75…

Medium over Platform

You can work hard to get good at creating in a certain medium, like video.

You can also work hard to get good at creating video for a certain platform, like YouTube.

They may seem like the same thing, but they aren’t.

If you focus on being platform first, you’re playing the platform’s game by their rules.  If you focus on medium first, there are no limits to your creativity.  The platform has a built in audience, and if you play the game right you’ll be rewarded with more eyeballs than you can imagine.  But if you can master creating in a medium first, you can probably figure out how to fit it into any platform that will host it.

I think in the long run, mastering the creation of universally great content wins.

School’s Out. No, it’s in. Wait, out. No, In.

I feel for kids who have spent the last few years bouncing back and forth between virtual and in person schooling. I’m sure it’s a pain, but the smart ones will figure out that getting good at school is as much about doing the work as it is about joining a new group, figuring out the group’s goals and power dynamic, then delivering to the group something of value.

Doing this in person versus virtually are two different versions of the same thing.

3 Steps to Influence & Engagement

There are three things you need to do if you want to meaningfully influence an audience over a long period of time:

  1. Get their attention
  2. Hold their attention
  3. Repeat steps 1 & 2

Step 1 is the easiest – be loud, make a flash, and promise something great.

Step 2 is harder – deliver on whatever you said you would do in step 1.

Step 3 is the toughest – do 1 & 2 over and over again successfully.

Abandoned

Take a second and imagine going to a store near you.  I’m talking bricks and mortar, so think of your favourite local shop or a big retail outlet.  Imagine you pull into the parking lot and hop out of your sweet ride.

As you walk up to the door, the automatic sliders part like the red sea to greet you.

You grab a cart or a basket, and hear to the soft easy listening music piping through the speakers.  You casually stroll the aisles, browsing products.  A friendly store employee looks your way and smiles.

You see something you need, so you throw it in the cart.  You grab another product off the shelf that you’ve heard of and would like to try.  Another product in a nice looking package jumps off the shelf.  You are humming along to the soft music.

Now imagine this:

You stop dead in your tracks. You take your hands off your cart, turn around and walk directly towards the exit.  You’ve left your product sitting in your cart, abandoned in the middle of the aisle.

Nobody loves me

Weird, right? 🤔

It may even feel uncomfortable to imagine.  Consumerism is a cornerstone of our modern culture.  By going shopping, you’re participating in a normal cultural activity.  That activity has unwritten norms and rules.  As you step into that store, you are upholding a sort of social contract.  The entire system of people and capital that exist to put those products on the shelves for you.

Your responsibility is to buy SOMETHING.

A long time ago we figured out how to manufacture way more crap than we actually need.  The shopping has since been promoted, designed and refined to drive you to make a purchase.  Once you are through those doors, there’s a very high probability that you will do just that.  There’s a very low chance you will abandon your cart.

This was just normal culture until the late 90s when along came eCommerce.  Faster, more selection, more competition (cheaper), and generally just an easier experience.  ECommerce was potential was consumer culture on steroids.  You could shop from anywhere you had internet access, and buying online gave a ton of advantages.  For retailers, the reduced operating cost and overhead seemed like a win, enabling cheaper prices and fatter margins.  So in the first dot com boom in the early 90s, there were a TON of eCommerce sites set up.  They were all positioning themselves to reduce traditional bricks and mortar retailers to rubble.

Muwhahaha!

But why did so many of those early eCommerce businesses fail?  Among many reasons for early failures was one that stands out to me – abandoned carts.

Sure, people showed up to shop online because of all the ease and new benefits, but at the same time none of those cultural cues, the ones embedded in the bricks and mortar shopping experience were there to close the sale.  There was nothing working to ensure you always made a purchase.  They environment around you wasn’t enforcing cultural compliance.  There was all the benefit to buying, but none of the consequences of walking out.  Oh and returns?  None of the shame of bringing an item back to the store.  No admitting that YOU made a mistake, and no pleading for your money back.

Love them or hate them, Amazon figured out this differential element very early on.  They knew that they could only control the shopping experience on the screen and nothing else.  They knew that every additional step a consumer had to go through to finalize a purchase increased the chance that they would abandon the effort.  It was this early understanding that enabled Amazon to make massive strides against their competition.  It’s also why they filed for (and were granted) the patent for One Click Checkout in 1999.

It’s no surprise that almost exactly when that patent expired in 2017, Shopify, one of the largest eCommerce enablement platforms, launched ShopPay, a version of one click checkout that store owners could enable on their sites.

A relentless focus on conversion rates has become the norm in the eCommerce business, but an early understanding of the cultural and experiential difference between in person shopping and online shopping is what helped make Amazon so successful.

Like I said in this post about the legendary Ned Ludd, we’re still in the middle of a technology fuelled, monster culture shift.  There are many ways to combine an understanding of a) modern tools, b) the nature of individuals and c) the culture of groups to create incredible new things, and I believe the opportunity to have the vision and create success like Amazon did is still possible.

Now go figure it out and make something awesome.

Go VARK Yourself

In 1987, Neil Fleming, a teacher from New Zealand 🐑  invented the VARK model, which breaks learning preferences into 4 general categories;

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Reading (and writing)
  • Kinesthetic (hands-on)

In my last post about a guy named Ned, I pointed out the convergence and mass adoption of three technologies over a very short period of time that I believe have, and will continue to materially change our culture.

As a tribute to Neil, I created an info graphic that visually explains what I was writing about:

For Neil and Ned, and anyone who is a V learner.

I make a few suggestions at the end of that last post around how to start thinking and acting in ways that will get you to the other side of this culture change without ending up like a dinosaur stuck in a tar pit.

Poor Hyp never had a chance

But I’d like to go a bit deeper, and before I do that I’m going to need us to agree that the change that’s happened in the last 10 to 15 years boils down to this:

WE HAVE GONE FROM

Few people

have

limited access

to

small amounts of information

TO

Everyone

has

immediate access

to a

massive amount of information

Listen, if we can’t agree on this I kindly suggest you stop reading this now, remove me from your contact list, and go directly to this website.

Still here?  Great.

I could go on extensively about all the different ways to look at the above, but let’s start with one simple way: the emotional effect of information transfer.  Imagine any one person posting or sending information, and any other person receiving or consuming it.  Consider just the recipient, are they getting information that;

  • they wanted to know?
  • they didn’t want to know?
  • they didn’t know they wanted to know?
  • they didn’t know they didn’t want to know?
  • is a true thing they felt was true?
  • is a true thing they felt was false?
  • is a false thing they felt was true?
  • is a false things they felt was false?

Now swap the recipient to someone else.  Is the information received and interpreted the same way?

When we think about the technology of smartphones and internet, we tend to focus on the transfer of arbitrary ones and zeros, but it’s the emotional effects of the information transfer has increased about a billion fold.  Never mind what’s actually factually true on the internet, what’s important is how it’s effecting people as irrational, emotional beings.  This is the root of the cultural impact on our society, and it’s what has caused such an uptick in human volatility.

If you think about smartphones, the internet and their effect on our culture, this is an important foundational component. It’s why videos go viral, it’s why there are individual YouTube channels and Instagram accounts with tens of millions of subscribers.  On the internet it’s emotive content, regardless of the emotion it elicits, that has been winning eyeballs.  So think about this when you think about the cultural impact.  Think about it when you think about young kids being born into a world with the internet and cell phones and how it will effect their lives.  Think about it, because if you think that being able to check your bank balance on your smartphone is the extent of the cultural change, you are 100% wrong.

Don’t Be Like Ned

Nobody is sure if Ned Ludd was a real person, but in his time, he achieved legit legend status.

He made his mark sometime between the late 1700s to early 1800s, at a time when monster technological advances in steam power and tools enabled the creation of machines, factories and modern industry.

While fortunes were being made by industrial entrepreneurs, Ludd, who was an old school, stay at home weaver, watched as weaving machines took his job and ultimately his livelihood. Legend has it that in a fit of frustrated passion, Ned smashed the shit out of a couple of mechanical knitting machines, aka his competition.

This story spread amongst the disgruntled weavers of jolly old England, who were also all being out woven by machines. So, inspired by Ned Ludd, these self proclaimed “Luddites” took it upon themselves to merrily smash as many mechanical weavers as possible, Project Mayhem style.

The Luddites are an interesting phenomenon of a unique time in history. The industrial revolution was culture change fuelled by a convergence of technologies that happened super fast.  So much changed about the way people lived (or could live) that depending on who you were, and how you saw the world, I can only imagine that it would have been either terribly unsettling or downright inspirational.

I think we’re in the middle of a similar period today, so I’m going to tell why and what to do about it.

Let’s start with three converging indicators:

Indicator 1: Internet Usage

World internet usage before 1996 was basically zero.  As a technology it had been around since the early 80s, but hadn’t really taken hold.  Even though people went a little bonkers for internet stocks in the late 90s, true usage on a world scale was only around 20% by the mid 2000s.  But as of 2016, 46% of the entire population of the world was using the internet. This isn’t just the first world, it’s the WHOLE WORLD.

In just 10 years, global internet usage skyrocketed:

Errbody got that internet

Indicator 2: Cellular Network Usage

Next in the holy tech trinity is cell phone and cell network usage, which as a technology that has been around a long time.

Hello, 1973, I’m the brick. Install me in your convertible and get all the attention.

But real cell phone usage didn’t pickup until the late 90s, and on a global scale it was still statistically near zero in 1995.

But, by 2015 there was almost 1:1 ratio of mobile cellular subscriptions to people in the WHOLE WORLD.

That’s a massive adoption rate globally.

Indicator 3: Smartphone Usage

Here’s the clincher – as of 2020, it’s estimated that 78% of the global population had a smartphone subscription.  That’s not just developed countries, or North America, that’s the WHOLE WORLD.

This kid has 10 million followers on Instagram

The iPhone, which is the gold standard of smartphone, wasn’t even launched until 2007, and in 2006, only 64 million smartphones were shipped globally (sounds like a lot, but less than 1% of the population getting a smartphone).

Again, 10 years and boom, smartphone usage goes from non-existent to freaking everyone.

Ladies and gents, I give you mass technological adoption of three converging technologies over a staggeringly short period of time in history.

While this may not be news to you, what’s important to understand is that this really disrupts culture.  Proof of this disruption, in my opinion, is the amount of volatility in the world.  I’m not talking just financial volatility, I’m talking more human volatility. So many people seem to be unsettled, unstable, or just hanging on, while others are doing unbelievable and seemingly revolutionary things.

I’m concerned for that first group of unsettled people, because their frustration can manifest in unproductive ways (like Ned and is pals) .  It’s the unfortunate price we pay for fast paced technological change. At the same time I see unbelievable opportunity to create new and better things and ways of doing things that will improve our lives, and I’m inspired by those actually going out and making change happen (just like those early industrialists).

Who has two thumbs and is impressive as f&%k? This guy.

Cultural norms and rules will slowly cement themselves in place as the people who were born into the internet/smartphone world become the majority of the adult population.  The volatility will subside, and in 50 years there will be very few people still alive who lived in the world before the mass adoption and use of the internet and smartphones.

Assuming I keep eating my vegetables and achieve slightly above average life expectancy, in my later days I will be in a small minority of people alive who remember a pre-internet/smartphone world.

“I remember the days before the internet, but I can’t tell you the last time I had an erection”

But 50 years is a long time from now, so what do you do in the mean time?

If you want to get through this cultural change, create success in a new context, and lead others through it, it’s not just about understanding the tools, but it’s about understanding their effect on both our physiological selves (as mildly evolved cave people), and the foundational elements of our current culture.

Just think…

Why do some people still get all their news from CNN or one newspaper, others crowd source it from Twitter, and some consume no traditional “news” at all? 

Why are many families sitting around their house, physically together, but with their heads in their phones, while many tech CEOs very strictly don’t let their kids near smartphones? 

Why are established businesses having a hell of a time attracting and retaining younger employees, while companies like Tesla have 500,000 applications for 2500 job openings? 

There are a million questions worth digging into where the answers are a function of this techno cultural change.

So the first and most important thing to do is really test as many assumptions about the rules of our culture as you can.  Ask “why do we/I do it that way” more often than you think it’s appropriate, and especially on topics that make you feel uncomfortable. The second thing you can do is start to really understand the tools not just by using them, but also by looking under the hood and learning how they actually work.  All technology has abilities and limitations, and it’s important to understand what a particular tech does well and doesn’t.

I’ll admit that I sometimes feel frustration like I imagine the Luddites did.  I’m old enough that I had already found a lot of comfort in the culture of the pre-internet world, it’s how I grew up into my teens and early 20s, and it’s the foundation of how I relate to my peers and older generations.  Challenging this foundation of how I see the world can be very difficult, but I aspire to act like those early industrialists, because while I’m sure it felt good to permanently tune up a weaver with the business end of a pitchfork, the machine smashing efforts of the Luddites didn’t manage to stop the industrial revolution.

You Are Doing This Every Day, and It’s Slowly Killing You

I had never thought much about it, but it’s something I’ve always done.  I can think of lots of good things I’ve accomplished in my life, but I’ve done many of them while simultaneously doing this one bad thing.  The impact is so minor on a day to day basis that it’s nearly impossible to notice, but slowly, every day, I have been doing serious long term damage to myself, and I’m not talking about smoking or eating crappy food.

I first made the connection a few years ago when I had left my corporate job of 10 years, and I was at home trying to start a solo consulting business.  Going from corporate to self employed in my 30s was a bit scary since I was used to a steady salary, benefits, and a familiar daily work routine.  I learned quickly that if I was going to have any chance at success, I needed some structure in the form of a new daily routine.  The anchor of that routine became a daily trip to the gym.

In the gym I got back to where I had always been comfortable, lifting weights.  I’d done this on and off since my late teens, and over the years whenever my fitness veered off course weight lifting had always brought me back on track.  I put together a workout plan and I was back doing olympic lifts like squats, bench press and deadlifts.  It felt good.  The working out gave me the little bit of structure I needed to get through the unstructured days I was trying to figure out.  Sometimes I had to drag myself to the gym, but I always left feeling good, until bad things started to happen.

I had been approaching my workouts like I always had through my teens, 20s and early 30s.  I’ll admit I was a little light on warmups and stretching, but I was very familiar with proper form, and never pushed myself too hard if I wasn’t feeling good.  What started to happen was little, niggling injuries.  A shoulder thing here, a back thing there, a neck thing – little pulls and strains just started to pop up.  I really needed those workouts to break up the day, to think, and to keep up my energy and morale.  They gym was as much about my physical health as my mental health, and constant injuries meant I was neglecting both.

I found myself regularly visiting my chiropractor, an incredibly capable doctor who practices a wide range of physical therapies and treatments.  After a few rounds of treatment for several gym related strains and pulls, I had become really frustrated with these recurring issues and started to ask him why this was happening.  He asked me a bit about how I spent my days, and in about 14 seconds of diagnosis found the culprit: sitting for long periods of time.  He explained to me that body tissues will start to make adaptations after only 20 minutes of being put in a certain position.  Sitting for long periods every day for the last 15 years meant my body had made lots of bad adaptations over time.  I had developed tightness in some muscles and weakness in others that kept joints from working the way they were supposed to.  These adaptations, plus the revival of my weightlifting regime was just a recipe for problems.

Of course I wanted to know was if there was anything I could do about it, since at the very least I wanted to prevent things from getting worse, and I didn’t want to stop working out.  He said that it was simple; just break up the sitting.  What he meant was, if I was going to be sitting fo a long period of time, that for every 20 minutes of uninterrupted sitting, I should be standing 1 minute.  That was it.  In that one minute I could walk around, do some stretches for the muscles that were getting tight, and really try to activate all those relatively weak muscles in my neck, back and lower body, but just standing for a single minute was enough to negate the adaptation that would have happened if I had otherwise kept sitting.

I went home and immediately started using the timer on my phone to make sure I wasn’t sitting too long without breaking it up.  I eventually switched to using an interval timer that would alternate between 20 minutes and 1 minute so I didn’t have to worry about resetting it (there’s a link to the timer at the end of this post).  I’ll be honest, I was used to sitting for long periods of time and changing this habit was really annoying at first.  The timer going off was disruptive, but eventually I got used to it and it became a reminder of my desire to stay as mobile and physically capable for as long as possible.  I started adding some good habits to that one minute break – I incorporated some light stretching and also used that time to top up my glass of water (hydration is another thing that I’ve been trying to stay on top of, here’s how to check your hydration).  It also had a side benefit of reminding me to stay on task.  If I wandered away from what I was trying to accomplish, sucked into some social media black hole, the timer going off was a nice kick in the pants to reset and refocus on the work at hand.

I’m sharing this story because I wish someone had told me this earlier.  I’ve been using this breaking up sitting strategy for a while now, and it’s been the catalyst to all sorts of positive changes and a focus on my long term physical wellbeing.  It’s also given me a mindset and physical confidence to get back into a few activities that I haven’t done in years, including Skateboarding Again After 20 Years Off.

The title of this article might seem a bit dramatic, but as humans we are built to move.  Neglecting your physical mobility (and detrimental habits like long term sitting) absolutely has drastic negative effects on your long term quality of life.  If you are sitting regularly without breaks, and value your long term mobility, I hope reading this will change how you think about uninterrupted sitting.  If you’re already a physical mobility champ, and know how good it feels to take care of your body, please forward this along and share the knowledge.

Here’s the same free interval timer that I started using to remind me to break up my sitting: Mike’s Sit Timer.  This one works in a browser but you can also download a version that works your phone.

If you want to learn more, here are a few good articles worth checking out:

The health hazards of sitting – The Washington Post

How Inactivity Changes the Brain – The New York Times

Now stand up and move!

Moving Ideas Forward

An idea starts like this:

It’s small and simple.  But that’s a problem – it’s too simple, too vague, lacking both detail and action.  To move an idea forward, it needs to be actively pushed along two axes; detail and actionability:

In order to become actionable, i.e. to be able to actually go out and make it real, the idea needs detail, a map, instructions, a plan.  Conversely, as an idea becomes actionable and makes progress, that action should be used as feedback to fill in additional detail.  The healthy progress of an idea moves like this:

Funny enough, many people tend to struggle to move ideas forward for two reasons.

First, they fill in excessive detail without taking any forward action.  The idea becomes captive inside a rigid set of specifications, each so integral and interconnected that should one thing prove wrong, it would break the whole thing:

Second, is the idea that is pushed into action without enough detail.  Pushing a round peg through a square hole, the hail-Mary pass, a dream without a plan, hopelessly flopping around and really not developing into anything meaningful:

If we have problems making meaningful progress on good ideas, it’s probably because we do one or both of the things above.  I wrote this post because I know that lately I’ve fallen victim to spending too much effort on detail and not taking enough action.  It’s been keeping me from making progress on several things that I really want to do.  When I’m stuck, I’m going to come back here and read this.  I’m hoping it will help put things in perspective, and help my ideas progress.

Making Gains vs. Preventing Losses

I started working out in the gym when I was in my late teens.  Over that the last 20 years, physical fitness for me was all about increasing numbers.  Lift more weight, gain more muscle, lose more fat.  Make measurable gains.

As I saw middle age approaching I became aware that fitness shifts from making gains to preventing losses.  Don’t lose strength, don’t lose mobility.  Don’t become a weak, immobile, old turd.

About a year ago I really started to focus on mobility.  I’ll cut through the shit and say that compared to seeing progress in weight lifting, it’s less than satisfying.  I’ve never been a stretcher, and going through a stretching program gave me minimal satisfaction, all it really did was remind me how inflexible I am.  I struggled to work it into my daily routine, and despite KNOWING it was important, I would ditch it for days in a row.  Gains, if any, are slow and measured in millimetres.

Over the last year I have gotten better about doing my daily stretch.  It took time to embed it into my routine.  I had to keep telling myself that it was important, despite how unsatisfying it was.  The other day I sprained my ankle skateboarding and took four days off my daily stretching.  I just got back to it this morning and I could feel the regression.  It was a surprising reminder that the goal here is to just hold the line.  Father time is a son of a bitch, and if you put it in neutral, there’s no coasting forward, you just get pushed back.

Here’s the daily routine I follow.  It’s free, easy to follow long, and only 20 minutes.

Smooth Brew

I’ve always loved video.  I started making videos when I was a kid with my neighbours.  We used to get together and come up with some story that we thought was hilarious, film it on an old Sony Handycam, then force our parents to sit and watch it as we howled in laughter.

Unfortunately, making video with good production value used to be really expensive.  I remember making a skateboarding video in high school that took the school’s huge editing booth and I’m sure wildly expensive editing and camera equipment to put together, and it still didn’t look that great.  Thankfully, it’s never been easier to make good video, and it’s never been more relevant, given how much video content we consume daily.

I’ve been making a bunch of videos for various projects these days.  My brother-in-law is the part owner in a cool little island brewery and I made a quick video of the brew process.  Hope you enjoy and then go make your own video!

Skateboarding Again After 20 Years Off

The pandemic was a nice little inspiration to get back into something I haven’t done for a long time.  I made a video about it.  Check it out if you want to see me fall a lot.