the positive focus

The antidote to finding yourself in the gap is to focus on your achievements.

Strategic Coach calls this The Positive Focus, and they’re all in on this concept. They even have an app, Win Streak, designed to help you with this by counting your daily wins.

Rather than daily, I’ve found myself using this idea for looking back on the past week, which went a little something like this:

List out your top 5 wins. Why were they wins? What’s the next piece of progress you can make?

Continue reading the positive focus

the horizon and the gap

Dan Sullivan‘s The Gap is a concept that really hits home with me. I naturally and automatically spend a lot of energy comparing my current status to the ideal in my head. Dan’s advice is to focus on forward progress rather than comparing yourself against an ideal.

The metaphor he gives for this is the horizon. We’re never going to get to the horizon. When we move forward, it just remains as far away as before.

No matter how far we go, the “ideal,” like the horizon, is still always in the distance. Much wiser to look back and compare your progress with the point you started from. The ideal is a great motivator to get started, but using it to measure progress is debilitating.

One way to focus on progress is to use Dan’s “Positive Focus” tool. Basically you list out your wins over a recent period of time (like last week) and why they were important. When I filled one of these out for January, I realized something that wasn’t exactly top of mind: I kicked ass in January!

Dan would call this “counting your wins”.

free days

I’ve written previously about what I perceive to be a bad habit of mine: instead of undulating between periods of stress and recovery, I tend to float along on an even keel. Jim Loehr calls this bad habit linearity in his book The Power of Full Engagement. I basically float along in three ways:

  • I tend to not take breaks throughout the workday
  • I string together 3-4 nights of bad sleep throughout the workweek
  • I tend to do some sort of work or thinking about work on the weekends

…until I hit the wall, of course.

Continue reading free days

the non-linear path

I’ve taken a completely linear career path so far. Six years of increasing experience doing the same projects with increasing responsibilities, expertise, and use of technology. I’m grateful for this progression and I’ve worked very hard at it – trying to accelerate my growth curve any chance I get.

But there’s something that really struck me about this billboard. To what extent is my growth curve not actually a curve? Is it actually a straight line? A boring, predictable line that just keeps floating upward until I retire?

You’re right, Harvard, I don’t want it to be.

it’s all connected

Our belief in reincarnation is one example of our concern for the future. If you think that you will be reborn, you are likely to say to yourself, I have to preserve such and such because my future reincarnation will be able to continue with these things. Even though there is a chance you may be reborn as a creature, perhaps even on a different planet, the idea of reincarnation gives you reason to have direct concern about this planet and future generations.

In the West when you speak of “humanity,” you usually mean only our existing generation of human beings. Past humanity is already gone. The future, like death, has yet to come. Western ideas usually deal with the practical side of things for only this present generation of human beings.

– The Dalai Lama

I don’t have much belief in reincarnation, but thinking about it does leave me curious: what is at the heart of Western culture’s general disregard for what sort of planet we leave for future generations? And is religious belief in an afterlife in heaven (and not on earth) at the root of it?

I’m also curious about the many connections between environmentalism and all the different fields of thought I’ve been into lately:

  • Buddhism – connected to environmentalism through the main tenet of non-harming. Climate change is affecting many “sentient beings” and causing species extinction.
  • Minimalism – connected to environmentalism through the impact of all the stuff we buy and we don’t need.
  • Entrepreneurship – the private sector must take the lead on the environment given the political turmoil around the world. It isn’t near enough to the top of politicians’ lists.
  • Politics – although the private sector is probably most important during the Trump administration, there’s no solution to environmental issues without politics.
  • Computer science and technology – although many of the solutions to environmental problems are technologically simple, there are many ways that technology can and will help.
  • Behavioral economics – why do we make the choices we make? That’s at the core of it as well.

how to complain

“The best way to complain is to make things.”

– James Murphy

Last year I spent 6 months of ongoing meetings with a software firm trying to figure out if their product was a good fit and whether they would be a good partner for the future.

Finally, I just gave up. I didn’t have time for their empty promises any longer. Then, my team rolled up our sleeves and built our replacement for what we were trying to outsource. It’s nowhere near as sexy as the venture-backed startup’s web app, but it gets the job done and it’s built exactly to our specifications.

That feeling of telling our client, Here, I made this can’t be beat. And we’ve since used that prototype to sell our new service to 3 more clients. That’s a hell of a lot more fun than complaining.

the gap between the ideal and now

One of my goals this year is presence. Focus on the here and now. A concept I recently discovered that can surely help maintain presence is “the gap”, a concept from Dan Sullivan and Strategic Coach.

What is The Gap?

We call the distance between the ideal result that you’re aiming for and your present point of progress “The Gap” and liken it to the horizon—no matter how far we go, the “ideal,” like the horizon, is still always in the distance. Much wiser to look back and compare your progress with the point you started from. The ideal is a great motivator to get started, but using it to measure progress is debilitating.

So you can see why it’s important to have strategies, or mind “tricks,” that keep us taking charge and moving forward—mind tricks that keep us winning and celebrating those wins.

Much of Strategic Coach is comprised of the aforementioned mind tricks . Dan also calls them “thinking tools” – I would call them mental models. Semantics aside, Dan provides tools to help with the negative feeling of being in the the gap, like win streak and the four Cs.

technical sophistication

As I’ve been digging into learning the command line and text editor, I often get stuck. I’m following the tutorial and something just doesn’t work right. That’s when I remember to hang in there and practice technical sophistication, even when I’m about as unsophisticated as it gets.
Technical sophistication, via Learn Enough to be Dangerous

The phrase technical sophistication refers to the general ability to use computers and other technical things. This includes both existing knowledge (such as familiarity with text editors and the Unix command line) and the ability to acquire new knowledge, as illustrated below. Unlike “hard skills” like coding and version control, this latter aspect of technical sophistication is a “soft skill”—difficult to teach directly, but essential to develop if you want to work with computer programmers or to become a programmer yourself.

(…) It also involves a tolerance for ambiguity: technically sophisticated readers won’t panic if a tutorial says to use ⌘Z to Undo something when it’s actually ⌃Z on their system. They also won’t panic if they see ⌘Z but don’t know what ⌘ means, because they know they can read about it or simply Google for it. Perhaps the most important aspect of technical sophistication is an attitude—a confidence and can-do spirit in the face of confusion that is well worth cultivating.