Shit that will probably happen to a lot of you this year

I am, by nature a planner. I try to evaluate the odds that something will happen and then plan for it. Many people, however, are not. Here’s what could happen to you this year if you’re not the planning type, and some things you can do to make it suck a little less.

 

1. You will lose your phone or it will get stolen.
Perform a backup of your contacts. Back this up to your Gmail account. Now when you get your new phone, you won’t have to beg people to send you their numbers via Facebook. Welcome to the future.

2. Your computer will probably die in some way
2.1 Perform a backup
2.2 Perform another backup
2.3 Make sure these are stored in different places, online if possible.

3. Your phone battery will die.
Get a small pocket charger. They will stop you from getting annoyed or save your life, depending on the circumstance. Get a spare one for the car and keep it charged.

4. Sadly, some of you will get robbed
Stop carrying your debit card in your wallet. Get a credit card (even a prepaid one) so that you can charge back any funds that are taken from you. Keep your debit card in the safe at home and keep some cash with you instead. Use your credit card for everything and pay your bill in full at the end of the month

5. Someone will break in to your house.
Get a safe at home. Keep your valuables in here. In case of fire, in case of flood, in case of burglary. Passports and debit cards are a pain the ass to replace. Bolt that sucker to the floor if you can.

6. You will get a flat tyre.
Please go outside now and check your spare. I’ll wait. Did you check the jack? Do you have a traffic triangle or cone to stop other peeps from smacking in to you? I’ll wait. (Pro tip: keep a cheap plastic poncho in your spare well in case it rains when this happens to you. Also, keep a flat piece of cardboard on top of your spare, so you don’t ruin your clothes while bending down to changeyour crappy flat tyre.)

7. The power will go out
Buy some battery powered lamps. These guys are awesome, get many of them. Keep a torch hanging somewhere convenient. Actually, if you can – keep multiples around the house.

8. You will scrape or cut yourself outside of the house. It will suck.
Keep a plaster in your wallet. Simple.

9. You will need to cut, pry or open something
Keep a pocket knife handy. Small, sharp and with just a few extensions. This will save you from trying to open everything with your teeth like some kind of plastic eating dingo.

10. You will need a bunch of these things while in the car or somewhere away from home
Keep a torch, multi-tool, phone charger cable and wet wipes in your car. (Pro tip: keep a spare usb adapter in there too, so you can take your cable out with you and charge wherever you are. Like at a friend’s house).

(Bonus tip: get more rechargeable batteries than you think you need. Get two small containers – one for dead and for charged. Work your way from one to the other and then do a mass charge up once a month)

The most important hour of my week

Sunday morning has become the most important part of my week. One hour in particular will determine whether my week is going to be an amorphous blob of undo-ability, or a precision strike on my to-do list. For the past few months, I’ve decided to take an hour early on and look at the week gone by and the week to come.

    1. Review of tasks done over the past week. Are there any ideas that came out of them that I can use? Was anything on there a waste of time or money? Should it go on the “don’t do that again list?”
    2. Review of tasks not done (that should have been done). Why did they fall off? Was I bad at scheduling them? Was there an external factor? Should they be rescheduled or deleted?
    3. Plan my train time. I have 80 minutes of commuting most days – 40 there and 40 back. Planning this time has become crucial to me having a good week. Examples – read book X; write proposal Y; listen to audiobook Z. I have found that trying to decide this on the day wastes at least 15 minutes of back and forth, so mapping it out ahead of time removes the friction
    4. Review all current project status. Is there anything that needs to be done to move these forward.

Important: This is not the time to DO anything.

It’s just time to review and make decisions about what comes next. This is probably one of the hardest parts – resisting the urge to just jump in do things right then and there. The problem with this, is I will then not get through all of the pending outcomes. Taking time to think about my stuff is in this instance more import than actually doing my stuff.

New Addition:

    5. Plan out the menu for the week. I have a 14 day breakfast and lunch calendar at work, so I already know what to order way ahead of time. Now I am going to start planning dinner time with Kat, to avoid the dreaded “what should we eat; what do you want to eat; what are you in the mood for” conversation that has us spinning our wheels at least twice a week.

What are some of the things you do that help you get through your week with your sanity intact?

Three Friends Named Meg Lost In Costa Rica. Reward Offered.

Recently, three friends of mine went missing in Costa Rica. Coincidentally, they’re all named Meg. I haven’t seen my 3 Megs in a while, and I’m getting worried. Life is so different with no Megs.

Until a few months back, my 3 Megs and I would have fun every day. We would watch adorable videos on Youtube,(cute Meg loves cats ) listen to our favourite songs on Soundcloud (hot Meg likes the club stuff) and do productive things on Trello (smart Meg is always busy). Now, those places feel barren and empty with 0 Megs instead of 3… I can’t load, I can’t buffer and I barely sync anymore…

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I’ve gone looking for my 3 Megs everywhere. Here’s me looking for them at my house.

 

No sign of them at all. Nothing even close to one Meg. The worst part, is I’m sure that if I got a message to them, I could find them. Only… I can’t reach out to them via email. Or Twitter. Or Facebook.

 With no Megs in my life, it’s like the whole world is so…disconnected

Next, I went looking for my Megs in the park. I saw signs there saying that ICE had some Megs. Maybe some of them were mine! But no, these were not the Megs I was looking for. In fact, I’m not sure there were any Megs there at all… I also know ICE has a fortress there, and they have been accused of withholding some people’s Megs inside. I’m pretty sure they have mine.

 

What have you done with my Megs ICE?! Where are they!

2014-04-02 09.10.39
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speedtest-3

Finally, I searched at my office. My Megs and I used to do all sorts or busy, work-y things there – email, presentations, oh the memories. So I took one last look around, and for a minute, just a minute, I felt their presence.

But alas, it was not them. Not even one of them. Just a ghost of a Meg. A faint trace of a Meg that once was. 0.03 Mbps. Megs Barely Present Still…Oh, how I Miss My 3 Megs.

So, if you or anyone you know finds my 3 Megs, please send them back to me. I’ll pay you a reward. In fact, if you get my 3 Megs to me, I’ll pay you a reward every month – just so they can be with me. Sort of like a ‘fee’ if you will. I have no problem giving you the money every single month, just as long as I have my Megs…

Be wary of whose opinion you count (Brene Brown 99U Talk)

I listen to a fair amount of TED talks and other similar speaking type gigs. The last one that really hit home was David Foster Wallace’s amazing “This Is Water” commencement speech, and now this talk by Brene Brown struck another chord with me.

It goes in to how you should be careful of your critics, because not all opinions are valid. The talk was given at a conference for designers, but I think that in today’s knowledge world, it’s relevant to everyone.

Use NFC to connect your Android phone to your car radio

I’ve been using an NFC tag with my Android phone for a while now, but only to perform very basic functions. Pretty much all it did was to silence my phone when I got to the office.

Now I’ve used NFC to do a little more and make using my phone in the car a little easier. NFC (which stands for Near Field Communications) allows you to use small RFID tags (like on your EZ Pass) to trigger actions on your phone. All you to is touch your NFC capable phone to an NFC tag (which can store a small amount of data) and the action or actions saved to the tag will run.

Here’s the recipe that I’ve set up to run when I tap my phone to the car radio:
Android NFC Triggers

 

The app I use to set this up is called Trigger, available here

The radio itself doesn’t have any NFC functionality, but I bought these cheap little NFC stickers on Amazon (about $6). When they’re stuck to the underside of the radio, they’re basically invisible.

 

android-nfc-car1

 

Here are two tags mounted on the underside of my car radio:

 

NFC Stickers on Car Radio

 

It’s a pretty small thing, but it does save me the hassle of having to do all of that manually every time I get in the car. Are you using NFC tags to do anything cool in your car?

President Barack Obama’s full eulogy of Nelson Mandela (audio and text)

To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of state and government, past and present; distinguished guests – it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life unlike any other. To the people of South Africa – people of every race and walk of life – the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.
It is hard to eulogize any man – to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person – their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul. How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.

Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by elders of his Thembu tribe – Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century. Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement – a movement that at its start held little prospect of success. Like King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial justice. He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War. Emerging from prison, without force of arms, he would – like Lincoln – hold his country together when it threatened to break apart. Like America’s founding fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations – a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power.

Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men. But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories. “I’m not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection – because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried – that we loved him so. He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood – a son and husband, a father and a friend. That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still. For nothing he achieved was inevitable. In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith. He tells us what’s possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals. Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father. Certainly he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.”

But like other early giants of the ANC – the Sisulus and Tambos – Madiba disciplined his anger; and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand-up for their dignity. Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price. “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination,” he said at his 1964 trial. “I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet. He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but also his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement. And he learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depended upon his.

Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions. He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history. On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that, “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.” But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal. And because he was not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy; true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.
Finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa- Ubuntu – that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us. We can never know how much of this was innate in him, or how much of was shaped and burnished in a dark, solitary cell. But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his jailors as honored guests at his inauguration; taking the pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS – that revealed the depth of his empathy and understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within themselves. It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe – Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate his heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask: how well have I applied his lessons in my own life?

It is a question I ask myself – as a man and as a President. We know that like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took the sacrifice of countless people – known and unknown – to see the dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are the beneficiaries of that struggle. But in America and South Africa, and countries around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not done. The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger, and disease; run-down schools, and few prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.

We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

The questions we face today – how to promote equality and justice; to uphold freedom and human rights; to end conflict and sectarian war – do not have easy answers. But there were no easy answers in front of that child in Qunu. Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done. South Africa shows us that is true. South Africa shows us we can change. We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.

We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world – you can make his life’s work your own. Over thirty years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land. It stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities – to others, and to myself – and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better. He speaks to what is best inside us. After this great liberator is laid to rest; when we have returned to our cities and villages, and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his strength – for his largeness of spirit – somewhere inside ourselves. And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, or our best laid plans seem beyond our reach – think of Madiba, and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of a cell:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
What a great soul it was. We will miss him deeply.

May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela. May God bless the people of South Africa.

(source:npr.org)

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

Today the world lost a hero. Mere words cannot explain the ways in which we changed my country and my life, all our lives.

 

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Nelson Mandela

 

Rest In Peace Tata Madiba.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

 

You will be missed.

To my fellow South Africans: You should be afraid

Right now, there is a scandal surrounding the president and the government. This is not the first scandal, nor will it be the last.

But it is different.

The difference is the government now feels it has the authority and the power to dictate to you how you should act. Before, this corrupt few would flee, and cover, and bury their corruption, to hide it from you.

Nathi Mthethwa

Now though, they are telling you to look away, as they no longer feel required to hide. It is no longer them in the wrong for getting caught, it is you in the wrong for looking in the first place.

It is important also to just send a caution that we have got laws — yes, some of them we will have to amend — but the continuing of flaunting of these pictures [of] a place which has been declared by the minister of police as a national key point is also not correct. It is a breach of law.”

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa

This man has the temerity to tell you what you can look at. He has the audacity to tell you what you can share. This man has the bald face boldness to tell you that by exercising your Constitutional right to free speech, you will be punished by law. By some version of some law that has not been specified, and may not exist, but which will soon be there to punish you.

This man is calling you a Nazi. He is saying that anyone who publishes pictures or spreads videos of the scandal they are trying to hide is the same as the group of people who killed millions of innocent people. And his false equivalence can not be tolerated.

 

If you watched this,and you were not insulted by his audacity or horrified by his analogy, then you did not hear him.

If you heard this and were not frightened by the dictatorial stance the government is taking, then you were not listening.

If you listened but do not shudder at what will happen once this becomes a precedent, or do not see the threat to your civil liberty, then you did not understand.

If you understand and choose to shrug your shoulders and merely say that politicians will do what they will do, then you do not care
And if you care, but you do not act or speak out or make it know that you disagree, then you can not complain.

 

If you care but remain silent, then you will bring this new fresh hell upon yourself, and you will have no one to blame but yourself.

 

I will not obey. I will not observe. I will not be quiet. Mr Police Commissioner, you may label or libel me, but you will not control or silence me.

 

Trains and Ripples: How your decisions can mess up someone else’s day

On Monday, I missed the train. I wasn’t late, there was no train crash, nothing drastic happened. The train conductor simply decided to leave a few minutes early. Four and half minutes early, to be exact. I know this because I missed the train by no more than ten seconds and was on the platform, out of breath checking the time.

This one, seemingly small action on the conductor’s part had a major impact on my day. Instead of one train home, it now meant two taxis, a bus and traffic. Instead of air-conditioned comfort and relative safety where I could spend 20 valuable minutes working or reading, I got an uncomfortable muggy bus and was wary of using my phone. All because of a few minutes.

Lately, I’ve been reading “Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims” by François duc de La Rochefoucauld. It’s filled with short, concise little epigrammatic sentences that boil concepts down to a short quip. Like one liners for philosophers.

While Googling around to find more examples epigrams, aphorisms and maxims, I found this one, in the field of Human Ecology.

We can never do merely one thing (i.e. everything is connected). – Garrett Hardin’s Three Laws of Human Ecology

The train driver could never just do one thing – leave a few minutes early. He changed my day, my mood, the way I felt when I interacted with others later that day. In a word: Ripples.

And this got me to thinking about all the seemingly small actions and decisions we take on a daily basis that influence other people in ways that are exponentially beyond our comprehension.

In my capacity as a manger/ leader of a team of people, I’ve made a concious effort to try and see the ripples of my actions. For the most part, I’m not smart enough to make the connections, but when I do manage a line between the dots, it’s scary to see how we can change the lives of others with actions that mean little or nothing to us.

I ‘m interested by this new perspective, and will definitely try to see the more far reaching consequences of my actions, no matter how small they may be.

Audibooks Are For Fiction

Over the past few years I’ve developed a great appreciation for audiobooks. The ever growing number of titles available (especially on Audible) and the increase in the quality of the recordings make them a joy to listen to.

It seems though, that audiobooks are not suited for non-fiction. At least not for me.

The first audiobook I listened to was Malcom Gladwell’s “Blink.” I had previously read the book and wanted a recap on it’s basic tenets and hypotheses. For this, the audiobook was the perfect format. I listened while I walked the dog, in traffic and pretty much anywhere I could find a few minutes. As I had already been through the material, this was a great way to recap. I was hooked.

audible

Soon Daniel Silva, Neal Stephenson, George RR Martin and other non-fiction writers made their way to my iPod. This was a great way to experience books, especially when traveling (I was making loooooong trips every 3 months and the books really helped pass the time).

Then, I decided to try my hand (ear?) at listening to non-fiction titles – starting with David Rock’s “Your Brain At Work”. I was shocked to find that I had an exceedingly tough time getting to grips with the material. Since I had previously had a good experience with non-fiction (listening Gladwell) my attribution bias kicked in and I assumed my bad memory was to blame or maybe my inability to process this new, dense information.

Lately, I’ve been trying out the Amazon Whispersync feature – where I can listen to a book AND read it on my Kindle. If I leave off at a point on my Kindle, the Audio Book will scrub to that point in the recording, it works wonderfully. The problem is, I don’t.

I noticed an annoying trend: I would only be able to deeply understand the sections I had read on my Kindle, and would have only a fleeting recollection of the sections I listened to via Audiobook. This invalidated my earlier bias theory, since I was able to comprehend the same material just fine when reading it.

This happened to me during Charles Duhig’s “The Power of Habit” and again during Bill Bryson’s (phenomenal) “A Short History of Nearly Everything”

The information would not sink in if it was merely listened to.

Now, I’ve formed some theories as to why this is:

1) Unless I was traveling in a cab or a plane, I was never “just listening” to the book.

There was always something else diluting my focus. Since our brains are primed to a) always scan our environments for threats (e.g a jogger while driving) and also to minimize the resources allocated to non-essential tasks, this is now kind of obvious to see. As I’ve written before, there are different ways to pay attention, the most effective of these being Deep Attention and another less-effective being Hyper Attention. Being able to concentrate on one thing at a time allows for Deep Attention, which has better knowledge retention than the scattered, unfocussed Hyper Attention.

2) I would fall asleep

Most of the time when I tried to sit and consciously, actively listen to the material for more than 20 minutes, I would fall asleep. An overwhelming number of audiobook narrators have rich, soothing voices. Which would then richly soothe me off to sleep.

So; I could listen while walking or driving and not retain much, or focus on the material and only get 20 minutes worth of quality listening. Not a great trade-off.

This is why I enjoyed the fiction, but the heaver stuff became confusing and frustrating.

3) Pausing to think is harder, or rather, less easy with audiobooks.

When reading a book, I often stop to contemplate and frame a passage of text, ask myself a question about this new information to test it out and THEN move on. This all happens in a few seconds, but it also happens very often. When listening to the book, I need to reach for the phone/mp3 player, unlock it and then hit play. It only takes 2 seconds, but it’s enough to throw me off, so I stopped doing it. I don’t take the time to completely interrogate and absorb the material. Since the brain learns by asking questions and my brain was no longer doing this, it’s obvious that I wouldn’t learn anything.

All of this means that by the end of the book, I have questioned little, thought less and retained almost nothing. The books become disposable.

Now, however, there is an up-side. I have a number of books that I need to re-read (really read) and not just listen to. Which means that there is a vast quantity of fascinating paradigms for me to try on, ideas to question and knowledge to glean. I think this is going to be fun.

Here are some of the books I will be re-reading

  • Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  • The Paradox Of Choice – Barry Shwartz
  • The Power of Habit – Charles Duhig
  • Your Brain At Work – David Rock
  • Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and The Brain
  • What Every BODY Is Saying – Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins
  • A Short History Of Nearly Everything
  • Super Freakonomics – Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • Winner Takes All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World – Dambisa Moyo
  • Getting Started in Consulting – Alan Weiss

I don’t know how to read. You probably don’t either.

Let me back up a little before I explain…

For the past few years, I’ve been fascinated by the field of behavioral economics. After being introduced to the concept by Malcom Gladwell in his (excellent) book Blink, it’s pretty much all I’ve been reading since (with the odd biography and pulp fiction novel thrown in).

Two areas in particular have captured my attention:

1. Decision Theory – how we making decisions every day; which factors influence us (e.g. Making decisions when tired vs well rested). This is especially useful to me professionally in the field of exploitation Marketing.

2. Thinking about thinking – specifically in relation to optimizing your body and environment for thinking e.g. Study before or after exercise, creating the optimal environment for study. Closely related to decision theory, but more about the overall cognitive process and not just the decision aspect.

Recently, I’ve had to add a third area to study:

3. Learning to read.

I, like you, learned to read as a child. Now though, I find that my instruction was only given in the most technical sense. I can turn the scribbles on a page or the stuff on a screen into words and understand their definition.

Gilly: You know all that from staring at marks on paper?
Samwell: Yes.
Gilly: You’re like, a wizard.

– Game of Thrones

The problem is, that I never formally learned the next part of the process – interrogating the argument presented by the words, extracting their salient points, finding their strengths and flaws and then understanding them fully and deeply.

This lack of inspectional or analytical reading skills has resulted in countless wasted hours. More and more I know know that I have merely skimmed the books in my collection, and not truly read them.

So, for the next few weeks, I’m going to make a conscious effort to learn to read “properly”. I don’t want to merely look at the words on the page until I’ve seen them all. My goal is to digest, inspect, analyze and then understand the material.

I feel that this is a worthy investment of effort and energy that will pay off many times over I discover new works, and truly grasp old favorites.

Here’s to the next chapter.

Lester

Die Strandlooper

I love this picture. It was taken on a vacation back home to Cape Town, South Africa while out to lunch with my family. It reminds me of my home town, my family, the ocean and good food, all of the things I grew up loving.

The name of the restaurant is “Die Strandlooper” which means “the one who walks on the beach.” They serve 10 courses of seafood magic and home made bread, all against the backdrop of strumming guitars, cawing seagulls and what you see above.

If you’re ever in Cape Town (or anywhere on the South African West Coast), you should look it up. And be sure to take a walk on the sand, so you too can be a Strandlooper.

 

Everyone in the company is involved in Customer Support or Sales

More and more I’m seeing that there are two things everyone in the company is involved in:

  • Sales
  • Customer Support

Every single department can trace back to these two in some way or another. You’re either helping to bring in new business or support (and extend) existing business.

Management is accountable for performance and results, and neither of these can be adjusted without affecting Sales or Customer Support.

Consider two (very simple) examples

  • IT department dropping the ball? Slower computers for your Customer Service staff means a worse experience for your customer.
  • Accounting dragging their feet on your supplier payments? That could mean higher prices in future, or less flexibility on payments and ultimately, less value to pass along to the customer.

As far as I can see, everything, everywhere comes down to Sales and Customer Support.

So if you think your position is removed from these so-called ‘low level’ positions – think again. Imagine you did a terrible job, now see how that would affect customers. Now imagine that you did a fantastic job (which of course, you already do) and see how this helps the customer, the business and ultimately – you.

 

“Every article must do something” or How I Psyched Myself Out Of Writing.

I haven’t written anything in a long time. Let alone anything real or worth reading. For the most part it’s been music I enjoy or faux gadget reviews (I’m terrible at reviews).

And I think I’ve finally figured out why. After reading post after post about what makes ‘good’ online writing, I forgot the whole reason for writing in the first place. I also got it in my head that “Online Writing” was somehow vastly different to just regular “Writing.”

For the last few years, I’ve been stuck with an assumption that anything I write online should ‘do’ something. Instead of just being, there was now an additional pressure for the words to be active and do. Like they were in the circus.

Initially I tried to convince myself that this added ‘direction’ would give me a target to write at, and make it easier to focus. In practice it did the opposite. It rendered me paralysed and inert, because I couldn’t meet all of the goals I had set (to help me write). Simile slipped away. Metaphor melted into keyword density and wit gave way to article structure. Ok, to be fair there wasn’t much wit to start with.

All of which resulted in me not writing anything at all.

Here are some of the things I convinced myself that every piece had to do.

  • highlight me as an expert in the field of X
  • boost my social profile
  • showcase my knowledge on the topic of Y
  • be targeted to search engines
  • be built to get more page views
  • make people want to share it
  • encourage the reader to leave a comment.

Since I started reading Medium a few months back, and seeing writing for the sake of expression and merely for the sake of itself, I feel like I have some more perspective now.

This little blog is not the New York Times, nor Pitchfork nor Engadget. Yet for some reason I was trying to write as if it was. Or not write, as it were.

So here’s to the meaningless rambles, uninformed opinions and idiotic things I’m bound to say. And typos. Probably lots of typos.