February 28, 2010
When I first became interested in blogging it was because I was an avid reader of Seth’s blog, I knew one person who blogged (my friend Willis), and because it existed on my edge. But that wasn’t really the why I wanted to blog…
I recently described the why to my father-in-law (Ed):
“I take in so much information on a daily basis, in the form of interactions, reading, and listening, that I want to process and resolve what I learn each day (or week) against my framework for life. Although that might seem weird, for me it’s about adapting and evolving with each new piece of information. As such, I must process and store what I learn (and how I learned it) so that I can reference it for future reflection, lest I become anxious from internalizing too much stuff! It’s about leveraging my opportunities to live life as positively as I can.”
Blogging has allowed me to tame the fire hose of my thoughts and distill them constructively in the form of advice (to myself). The process of sharing my blog allows me to receive feedback and create references to topics when they resurface!
Although I stumbled upon the importance of building a framework of ideas, real experts, like David Allen, have written extensively on the subject. From his blog:
“…we’re overloaded – not with information, but with meaning to be mined. So the solution is not about slicing and dicing and reorganizing data – it’s about how quickly and discretely we can decide its specific meaning to us…and most of us weren’t taught how to get fast and comfortable with clarifying meaning…”
David provides practical tips on improving productivity in his book Getting Things Done through the processes of Collecting, Processing, Organizing, and Reviewing. My long view advice is similar:
- Observe and collect interactions – what could have been done different for an improved interaction?
- Process and clarify – how does this fit into and/or change your framework?
- Distill the key learnings so that they can be referenced – can you describe in a few sentences the crucial nuggets?
- Find the discipline to do it regularly so growth does not stagnate.
Blogging might not be for everyone, but blogging provides me the discipline to do this knowledge work regularly. I care about my consistency to my few readers (aka stats!) and the importance of legacy (the long view!).
Are you engaging in disciplined knowledge work for personal growth?
September 5, 2009
One year ago, as a result of a running hip injury and a prior history of a hip stress fracture (running), my doctor recommended a bone density measurement even though I am young, active, and have no significant risk factors for osteoporosis. Obediently, I went for a DEXA measurement.
Shortly after, my doctor informed me that the good news was that I had not lost any height, but the bad news was that I had osteoporosis. I was shocked.
This diagnosis was opportunity to adjust my lifestyle to improve my long-term skeletal health. As with any significant emergent problem, the long view response is similar:
- Assess priority – does it merit long view investment?
- Define improvement/success metric(s)
- Create a plan for improvement/success
- Execute: drip, drip, drip…
- Measure improvement/success
- Reassess priority (Celebrate improvement/success)
Establishing priority was easy. To ensure my long-term skeletal health, I was immediately committed to aggressively battling this silent disease. Complacency was never an option for an Off-the-Scale-Futurist.
Defining the improvement/success metric was also easy. I needed to increase my bone density to greater than -1.5 spinal t-score (low end of the normal range) as measured by DEXA.
With my doctor, I created a threefold plan for bone density improvement/success:
- Increase mineral availability: take calcium supplements 3×600 mg/day.
- Decrease demineralization: add drug therapy, Boniva 1x/month.
- Increase mineralization: add load-bearing exercise. This required a remix of my athletic lifestyle. My typical regimen of swimming, biking, running, and an occasional cardio machine provided limited load-bearing. Only running counted as load-bearing, and it only loads the lower skeleton. So, I reduced swimming and biking in favor of weight-lifting 2x/week, along with my usual running. After a bit, I realized the combination did not give me the joy of athletics to which I was accustomed, so I went in search of new load-bearing sports. I tried both yoga and rock climbing, both of which provide whole skeletal loading. Although I liked yoga, it didn’t like me (rhomboid strain). I loved rock climbing – it is so addictive that it became the clear winner! 🙂 I now mix a combination of swimming, biking, running, and rock climbing throughout the week, along with weight-lifting 1x/week. I still have joy, but I increased the amount of load-bearing exercise.
Since DEXA bone density is measured no more frequently than annually – I committed to a full year of execution. Keeping the faith, I impatiently and anxiously awaited my next DEXA results, drip, drip, drip, …
I recently received my results and I moved the needle! I went from a -2.6 spinal t-score to a -1.6 spinal t-score; a full standard deviation of change. Woohoo! Although I didn’t quite reach a number greater than -1.5, I certainly made a significant gain. Time to celebrate!
Because load-bearing is now integrated into my lifestyle, I no longer need aggressive focus. Time for a new adventure…
What are you doing to ensure your long-term health?
June 23, 2009
- Relativistic comparisons: “How people feel about their situation is highly dependent on comparison to others. Thus, in order to achieve good staff (team) morale, it is important to consider how to minimize negative comparisons now *and* in the future.” (Relativistic Comparisons, blog topic from last week).
- Loss aversion: “Our aversion to loss is a strong emotion…one that sometimes causes us to make bad decisions.“ (Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational, Ch. 7, pg.134, see his YouTube video explaining the difference between gain and loss perspectives)
These traits lead to key long view leadership principles:
- Learn the strengths of the individuals of your team and leverage individual strengths to achieve team goals. Be fair from the perspective of your team. Be clear on expectations, reward excellence, and avoid marginalization.
- Strike a fair balance between competing goals and demands of multiple masters. Be fair from the perspective of your customer (whoever pays for the service is the customer). Be clear on deliverables, achieve excellence in customer service, and respect tiered pricing.
- Have a plan that considers likely contingencies to ensure balance. (Do not assume that you can achieve balance under fire.)
This past weekend, I found myself observing these leadership principles in a very different domain than technology development. I felt them as a soccer mom.
The goals of a U14 (under fourteen) Class 1 (highly competitive league) are twofold: win games and develop players. A soccer team fields 11 players at a time, but carries a roster between 14 – 17 kids to allow for substitution (rest and injury). The coach’s leadership job on game day requires allocation of playing time to effectively win games and develop players. Players sitting on the bench do not develop (get better), but playing the strongest players improves the odds of winning games. This creates the inherent tension between the two goals (win games vs. develop players) with “playing time” being the valued (and measureable) scarce resource.
My son’s coach is an excellent well-trained soccer player with outstanding credentials. During training, he provides excellence in drills, discipline, and development feedback. At game time, although he is well-intentioned to achieve balance between the competing goals, he can become loss averse with respect to winning – can’t we all?! Given the much stronger aversion to loss, it is no surprise that long-term needs for gaining player development become subverted for short-term loss aversion during games. Without discipline and planning, the long view suffers…
Although my son is an excellent soccer player, combining speed, agility, and accurate ball placement, he is small of stature and is considered less aggressive than some of the other boys. He follows the expectations set by the coach and works hard to receive as much playing time as possible. He is loss averse to playing time both because he recognizes the vicious cycle of dis-improvement and because he feels “unfairness” (relativistic comparison) when the other boys receive substantially more playing time. With each successive “loss” of playing time he is further marginalized, thereby jeopardizing his love and passion for the game – a serious long view consequence of many small seemingly insignificant slights.
This past weekend resulted in an acute amplification of the phenomena…
My son’s soccer team traveled over a hundred miles from home to play a several day soccer tournament. Since not all team members could attend the tournament, extra players were recruited to “guest” at the tournament for the team. The team had 16-18 total players available for the tournament games. My son averaged 12.5 minutes of playing time per game (25% of 50 mins/game) with ZERO in the semi-final. Guest players each received substantial playing time (>75%) in all games including the semi-final.
It was a very unpleasant 2-hour ride home after the loss in the semi-final. Although I am confident that my perspective differs from those who received adequate playing time because they did not suffer marginalization – they have the perspective of “gain” whereas I have the long perspective of “loss,” a line was crossed that prompted me to write this blog post.
From my perspective, there was an omission of long view leadership principles when substantial playing time for the guest players led to permanent team members playing ZERO in the semi-final (scarce resource allocation):
- Marginalization was allowed. Receipt of ZERO playing time in a semi-final is a vote of “no confidence” and is severely marginalizing in the context of the guest players receiving substantial playing time (relativistic comparison of scarce resource allocation).
- Tiered pricing was not respected. Although everyone incurred (equivalent) travel expenses, the guest players, who received “free” coaching and tournament entry (those fees were paid by the team) were treated the same as paying players. It would be reasonable (to me) to defer to those players who bear the costs of the salary, expenses, and tournament entry to ensure principle #1.
- Planning was insufficient. If principles #1 and #2 are compromised, then #3 is insufficient. Planning is the big differentiator for long view leadership success – if you plan for contingencies you can and will overcome instinctual tendencies.
I don’t want my son to lose his love for this game, which leaves me with the question on how to move forward and regain the positive when I do not have any real influence. Although I it would be helpful if the coach could:
- Acknowledge error to my son and commit to move forward positively.
- Explain to my son that the team fit is no longer correct and then offer to help place him on a team that will value him (before we pay the $1400 fee for the fall season!).
I am not sure that will happen spontaneously. I would love to be able to Teach Concepts, Explain Specifics, and Gain Acceptance (Relativistic Thinking), but I am not the one with the relationship with the coach.
Can a 13-year-old navigate this effectively? What is your perspective? Do you have advice?
March 3, 2009
Each of us only gets one body. From an early age we are trained to care for ourselves — brush & floss our teeth, eat right, exercise regularly, and rest appropriately after illness or injury. Although most of us do all of these things regularly, it is the last one that can be the most vexing. It is challenging because injury and illness are inherently unplanned, undesirable, and unintended. Recovering from injury or illness requires expenditures of time and effort to recover that would not be required if everything had “gone to plan.” So there is opportunity to be bitter and angry. The reality is that there is risk in sports (one cause of injury) and being around others (one cause of illness transmission). It is the payoff: fun in sports or the creation/nurturing of a social/professional connection, that makes the risk worthwhile.
In an analogy to business, routine care is required for operations — develop products, purchase raw materials, manufacture products, sell products, account for the flow of money and products, and take time to recover from setbacks. As in illness or injury, setbacks require expenditures of time and effort that would not be required if everything had “gone to plan.” Similarly, there is risk in business — if it was easy, it would not be a long-term business. It is the payoff: money (in a for-profit business), that makes the risk worthwhile.
In both cases (body or business), routine care requires planning, precautions, and prudence. Yet these cannot prevent all setbacks; they minimize the severity, duration, and frequency. Thus, in order to be truly successful, we need to take the long view and be disciplined in our recovery from setbacks. We must expect setbacks, plan to expend time and effort to recover (relative to the risk of the payoff), and not be negative or rushed in our recovery execution. One way is to buffer projects from uncertainty by realistic planning, disciplined tracking, and adequate resource deployment for recovery using Goldratt’s Critical Chain, all the while staying, persistent, passionate, and positive!
On a personal level, I am working hard to recover an ankle sprain (a moment’s inattention to a pothole in a running trail left my ankle discolored, swollen, and sore). Since I want to enjoy the wind in my face (from running) for as long as I live (the long view), I am in rehab (toe-raises, gentle stretches, and swimming). Only nine (9) more days until I can run on my ankle again! But who is counting?!