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?
August 20, 2009
Although she had been struggling with allergies and pancreatitis weakening her body with constant digestive upset, no one anticipated that additional congestion and lack of sleep from a bad cold would render her lifeless when she finally fell asleep reading a book while my father tended to ranch chores.
My parents’ lives were so entwined it is hard to imagine one without the other. I am grateful that they were able to celebrate their 50th anniversary this past June. Befitting their life journey, they prepared a photomontage capturing their life essence together: joy of young love, stunning scenery across enduring love, and amazing accomplishment as partners in life. As I watched the collection again and again this past week, it reinforced for me just how beautiful, accomplished, brilliant, and quietly adventurous my mother was.
My earliest memories of her were of her books and music. She loved to read and her breadth of knowledge was extensive as a result. She read to us when we were little, cultivating more avid readers. By her own admission, “…I did stretch the rules a bit – reading you the Chinese history that I was currently reading rather than a child’s book…” In addition, she practiced the piano and organ regularly. When I had fallen in love with the music from Man from La Mancha (Impossible Dream), she granted me private mini-concerts when she arrived home from work – she played the selected pieces on the piano for me. Whenever I hear that music, I still hear in my own head the way she played it on the piano.
She taught me the basics of life: be proficient (not extraordinary) domestically and master how to be selective in which tasks you actually commit to doing – work on high leverage projects. I learned to sew, cook, and be selective. It took me a while to realize how unique she really was. I remember when a new girl in the middle school needed a choir dress made, but her mother did not sew. She asked me if my mother could help, so I volunteered her. My mother explained that she didn’t really have the time, but if I would do most of the work, she would do the trickiest steps. Together we made the dress quickly and efficiently. When the other girl’s mother came by with a bouquet of flowers to give to my mother for the help, she was surprised that my mother was at work. The other girl’s mother was so surprised that it was at that moment that I realized how different (and special) my own mother truly was.
My later memories were of her many professional accomplishments and what lessons that she taught me from her own experience. She was mathematically gifted, having received two degrees in Mathematics. She worked professionally as a computer programmer in the early years of programming (I remember her carrying home huge stacks of computer cards and sorting them on the kitchen table in the evenings!). Later, she received her MBA and worked professionally in Operations and Project Management. Although it seemed dicey to me at the time, I benefited from our shared University time. My last year of engineering school was her first MBA year. During that time, she wrote essays on the challenges of being a professional woman in a male-dominated workforce and shared them with me (I still have them). She quietly provided unsolicited advice, suggestions, and observations. One of the most important lessons that she taught me is that “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” As such, she taught me to cultivate positivity, kindness, respectfulness, and to always have a good strategy – think before you act.
In some ways, it was hard having a Mom who was so accomplished and successful, but it definitely made it easier to believe that I could do it too. Even though we share many traits, we differed drastically in one domain: she was a musician and I am an athlete. This difference strengthened us because I admired her musical ability as much as she took pride in my athleticism. I never felt that I had to be accomplished in music and she accepted that athleticism was not her strength. Mom skied, canoed, fished, hiked, and tolerated the family adventures knowing that the stunning scenery of mountains, streams, lakes, and valleys visited were worth the effort, but many were often a challenge for her. I was always glad to be able to help her – take a little extra weight in my pack to lighten her load. It helped me to build the confidence that I too could someday be as accomplished as her, but with my own strengths. This experience helped me to truly value diversity and observe and channel the strengths of others.
In later years, I continued to admire her ability to be organized, to be thorough, and to take on new ventures (run a farm/ranch) without prior experience.
Finally, as I rifled through her files and her Quicken entries this past week on my Dad’s behalf, I realized just how lucky my Dad was to have had someone so amazing with which to share his life. It didn’t take a ton of effort to figure out the finances (which she took care of for their 50 years together) and get Dad moving forward without her. Her systems were clear, effective, and well documented. I only hope to leave a long view legacy like hers…
Your memory is a blessing to me. I love and miss you Mom, rest in peace.
March 31, 2009
When I was running with my friends Sunday morning, the headwind at the outset was strong. Our progress slowed to a crawl along the trail. As we chatted, inquiries as to the condition of my ankle (six weeks post-sprain) heard reports of recovery – even a wobble on Friday’s run “righted” perfectly as pre-injury. And then, as we continued to chat about the economy and technology, I realized that the P’s of overcoming obstacles for running apply to technology business too.
- Keep Perspective: When there is a headwind out, there will be a tailwind on return (and sure enough, we flew back).
- Be Patient: My friends continue to commend me for taking the long view and being patient with my ankle. I did not run for 4 weeks, I rehabilitated through swimming and targeted exercise, and when I returned to running, I slowly increased distance with time.
- Maintain Persistence: I worked hard to regain proprioception by strengthening my ankle with balance (wobble) boards.
- Create Positivity: My friends enjoy and encourage a positive attitude; we see the glass as half-full.
On Technology Business:
- Keep Perspective: When there are technical challenges, it is important to recognize that they are competitive opportunities. Each solution becomes a barrier-to-entry for competitors.
- Be Patient: In a desperate economy, there will always be significant pressure to attempt to do too much too quickly. However, doing too much is foolish because it dilutes resources and increases the risk for success in any single effort. The long view encourages prioritization and sequencing of effort to achieve the greatest productivity and opportunity for success.
- Maintain Persistence: Key insights are achieved by diligence, being mentally prepared to recognize when key insights have been realized, and acceptance of breadth (be open to “not invented here” – look to other technologies for similar problems and generalize solutions).
- Create Positivity: Staff, customers, investors, and the media are human and thereby obey the law of attraction (subject of ch. 2, How to Be Useful: A Beginner’s Guide to Not Hating Work by Hustad). Authentically projecting positivity and confidence about your technology will encourage others to do the same!