Does the internet think I’m a flake? (or, Why do I not blog when I say I will?)

I’ve made a habit of breaking a habit. And it’s disappointing.

How many posts since 2008 (first year I blogged) have said something like: “I’ve been away for a while, but now I’m back!” How many of those posts were then met with days, weeks, or months of silence? I’d love to see a line-graph of posts over that period.

It’d look like an irregular heartbeat.

Have you ever been to a gym in January and thought “holy smokes this place is busy”, only to find by March there’s more empty machines than filled ones?

That’s because It’s easy to commit, but it’s harder to sustain. “I’m going to to X” is different than “I’ve been doing X consistently for a long time now…”

Why does this happen? Why do I decide to write, announce that I’ve started writing again, then stop writing?

I know part of the answer is habit. I haven’t made writing a part of my daily activity stream. Believe me, I try, but it just doesn’t happen. I love writing. It helps me organize my thoughts and communicate directly. Writing also leaves a trail of how my thoughts on issues have evolved over time, which is useful to honing my decision making skills and Baloney Detection Kit.

And I know part of it is not wanting to sound stupid. If I don’t take the time to write about something important, and most importantly write with some degree of sophistication, then people will know for sure that I’m actually a dumbass. Why am I afraid of this?

And I know part of it is because I’m busy. But am I any busier than the people that write the blogs that I read? Heck no.

And I know because I’m impatient. I enjoy writing because of the conversation with myself, but I’d be lying if I didn’t crave more engagement. I know it takes time to add value and build a readership (if it ever happens). But seriously, why so long?

And I know it’s partly because I’m not accountable to anyone. I don’t have a readership to let down.

But I’m sure there’s more. I could say “hey I should do some research then write about it”, but that’s a failure loop I’m not ready to initiate!

Notice how each of the above points is connected to being an entrepreneur. Mindsets I’ve had to get over while starting things in the past. Not wanting to fail. Not fully committing to an idea or giving up on one too soon. Not having the courage to stand by a decision. Or not fully focusing on a process.

All these problems kill new ideas. They kill my writing. And that’s scary.

So if you write, or create, or produce, how do you stick to it? What rhythms and routines keep you writing, creating or producing? How do you avoid putting aside time to make your commitments?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments, but it’d make me a hypocrite to ask you to write : )

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The Sunday 3 – #1

I like the number three. Not too much, not too little.

So I bring you “The Sunday 3″, three articles I’ve read this week. One dealing with health, one dealing with business, one dealing with learning.

Health: 

If You’re Always Working, You’re Never Working Well by Michael Harris

TL;DR: Working more doesn’t mean working better. Multitasking is impossible. We’re always at work, but that means we’re never at work fully.

Favorite Quote: Everyone who thinks they’re good at multitasking is wrong. We’re actually multiswitching [and] giving ourselves extra work.” - Douglas Gentile, professor @ Iowa State

Harris discusses the outrage at the (wildly incorrect) reporting last week that the “lazy” French had passed a law banning people from working hard. Although this was untrue (it was a labor agreement between media companies and journalists aimed at improving health of professionals), it “revealed a set of abiding values subscribed to by the folk who perpetuated it.”

I’m fascinated by debates about how people work, especially the value they ascribe to “working hard”. This goes for how people think of themselves and how their bosses assess their value to the company.

There’s a fundamental bias at work as we believe that outcomes are directly correlated with effort. Researchers paint a much more complex picture. Organizations should be much more sensitive to the “sweet spot” of productivity for workers. While accountability is obviously important, if you hire the right people, you don’t have to stuff them in a regimented box.

Business

You Don’t Need To Be An Engineering Genius To Start A Billion-Dollar Company

TL;DR: In the past, technology costs were expensive. Engineering resources were cheap. Recently, these trends have flipped. In the future, it might be that engineering resources will be unnecessary.

Favorite Quote: In other words, there has never been a better time to be average.

I love history, especially when it comes to speculating on the future. I love it because history is important, but also because speculation is usually wrong. Although there’s a lot of really important elements of startup costs this article ignores, it paints an interesting vision of the future for non-engineering entrepreneurs. I wonder if the VC market will make a similar shift towards undervaluing startups with strong “hacker teams”. My speculation is that it’s the “hacker mentality” that VCs value AND the value they can immediately create (anyone can be a “biz dev resource” not everyone can write objective c.

What I think these trends DO allow for is more “average” people to start companies. People aren’t 10x coders, but understand technology enough to lead excellent products. People who aren’t Wharton MBAs, but want to learn about their market, their customers, and their business.

It’s not just that the cost of engineering resources is coming down for startups, the cost of ALL RESOURCES for startups is coming down. This is encouraging.

It’s always been hard for “jack of all trades” people to find jobs, since the corporate market requires high degrees of specialization. However, for a startup, you don’t have to be really really good at a specialization. In fact, it might do some harm (more on this in a later post).

Learning

Chemex Brew Guide – By Sumptown Coffee

I love coffee. I love learning about coffee. I love drinking coffee. I love the way it smells.

Well then why don’t you marry it? – My niece would say

I make espresso and chemex, both labors of attention to detail.

It had been a while since I had made chemex, so I did a quick search for the mass of coffee and water (forgot what the specifics were). I found one of the best descriptions of the chemex I’ve seen: http://stumptowncoffee.com/brew-guides/chemex/.

Sumptown makes great coffee, and I’m glad to see they care enough to teach people how to make it right.

 

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What’s your Sunday Routine?

Hello there Sunday morning warriors!

After mostly disconnecting from work and internet for Saturdays, Sunday is a day for weekly prep. 

As I’ve discussed before, I’m a big fan of habit and routine. The less I have to think about what I’m going to do, the better. 

Monday through Friday I mostly follow the same schedule with little variation. Same “slow carb” food. Same “uniform” clothes. Same exercise regimen. It’s through these habits I’ve been able to lose weight, to become healthier, and to think more robustly.

Then Saturday is “cheat day”. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. It’s time to spend with my girlfriend (Ellie) and my dog (Caly). I need this day to recoup and recharge. 

So transitioning from Saturday back to the week can be difficult.

I’m halfway through my 28th year in this world. It’s taken me this long to become mindful of what my body needs: routine. “Hard Workers” and “Smart People” typically ignore basic biological principles in favor of impressing others. Forgo a meal to reach a deadline? Sure! “Aren’t I such a committed worker?” Skip some sleep? Hell yes! “Complaining the next day about being tired is a badge of honor!” Ignore exercise? Yes please! “Don’t have time for pumping iron, too busy pumping out work!”

And while the impression of business comes across as valuable and downright morally pure (thanks protestants!), the actual value created by this busyness is small.

So listen to your body. Tinker with small experiments and judge against some baseline (happiness, energy, words written, weight, etc.). You’ll find that the minimal efforts you expend in service to the larger goal will actually make you more valuable, not just appear that way to your peers and boss.

So here’s my Sunday, feel free to share your Sunday in the comments:

Since my week depends on a Sunday prep day, it mostly revolves around me “taking time to save time”.

My Sunday schedule (not during Buffalo Bills football season) looks like this: 

9am: Wake and drink 48oz of ice-cold water. Take eager dog for walk

9:30am: Chemex coffee and read (usually nonfiction from Flipboard or Twitter feeds). Post “Sunday 3″ on blog to share thoughts on what I read.

10:30am: Protein (either egg whites or an isopure flavorless protein shake with cinnamon and espresso)

11:00am: Bike Ride

12:30pm: Lunch of beans and some hearty green (spinach or kale)

1:00pm: Meal planning: On a slow carb diet you have to eat A LOT of food. To resist the temptation of “cheating”, it’s important that there is very little friction. This means that I want all my meals ready. All I have to do is warm them up. This prevents from giving in to convenience eating.

1:30pm shop: Costco for large items and international grocery store for spices

3:30pm cook: Cook for the entire week

5pm: Relax with Ellie (read, watch TV show, play game, talk, etc.)

7pm: Sunday dinner (usually roast chicken, but depends. It’s the only meal we cook for immediate eating each week). Drink some wine.

11pm: (Hopefully) bed. This is the hardest thing for me. I need to sleep more. Want to try to read more fiction at night to help relax and sleep.

The best plans always fail upon first contact with implementation of course. So the most important thing is to compare the intent with the reality. If I’m not sticking to the schedule, there’s a reason for it. It’s not something to worry about. The routine should be natural. It should be comforting. I should look forward to it. Most of all, it should make me feel better. 

So constant pivoting is a necessity. Adapting to the realities of travel, Bills football, project schedules, etc. is where the finesse lies. 

What’s your Sunday?

Launching Pad.

Communication is hard.

For me at least.

Whether in writing or verbally, getting across my thoughts leaves a lot to be desired.

And because of this, I’m going to embark on a little experiment.  I want to improve my writing while also improving the way I see health, learning, design, technology and business.  Probably too broad at this point but I can always narrow as I go.  I’d rather be a jack of many trades than a master of one.

The only way to do this is deliberate practice.  I want to write every day for an audience that finds any content I contribute to be interesting. Being that I’ve blogged before (and rarely been interesting) this will be a challenge for me.

My first post will deal with me trying to “earn” and MBA via Penn’s Wharton school the cheaper way: by downloading syllabi for all core courses. I’ll then complete the readings in the required readings and synthesize my thoughts here.  This will give me an excuse to write while also calibrating my understandings of management and finances.

Here. I. Go.