One of my favorite things I get to do at SEI is write weekly blog posts to engage with the public and our community. This was my first year writing in this format and I have learned a lot along the way. One year and 37 posts later (plus 32 posts by SEI mentor, Andy Ruth), 2015 has taught me 11 mandatory lessons every blogger should consider:
For about five years, I played hardcore/metal music in Grand Rapids, MI. One of the popular music venues that catered to local bands in the mid-to-late 2000’s was the adolescent-friendly safe haven: Skelletones. Before I played on their stage, I grew up spending as much time as I could mingling with aspiring bands and the off-beat, we’re-so-counter-culture-we-hate-counter-culture crowd. At 15, the only dream I had was to play on that stage. At 19, I got my chance.
I’ve suggested before that you need to identify a role model to help you further your skills and career. You identify an area inside of yourself you want to change and find someone that you think represents the embodiment of that change. You consider why you think they are ideal, what they do differently, and how they do it. Then, you start practicing doing things the way they do. As you practice, you learn and grow your abilities in that area and before you know it, you have adapted their approach and tweaked it to make it your own. Find another area to grow and repeat. There are quite a few good things about this approach, however, there is a risk. You may get into the routine of only doing what others do and let your ability to experiment, innovate, and have original thoughts atrophy. Here’s how I have tried to balance the two approaches.
"There are two types of people in the world: those who push and those who and enjoy the ride. Who do you want to be?"
I grew up with a lot of these types of sayings separating those who "do" and those who "do not do enough". We have a culture of elitism, which is great for some—but what about those who don't want to change the world? Those who want to enjoy work and be good at it, but also have a family and a life outside of work? Those who are looking to fill a role? Those people are belittled in our culture. Business books ask, “If you aren't reinventing yourself; your image; your brand, then what are you doing?”
When did being "good" become "not enough"?
If you are educated and have above average IQ, you are statistically more likely to join a cult.
Before you start standing in front of microwaves and consume hours and hours of Netflix brain rot in an attempt to dim down your smart brain from tricking you into joining a cult, let me say this: you may already be part of a “cult” and be completely fine with it. For the purpose of this post, I am not going to talk about the traditional way we view cults (eg. religious cults), but rather, the types of behavioral patterns that get organizations and individuals alike into trouble.
When everyone is trying to stand out, it’s hard to be unique without looking like everyone else. The slang use of the word “peacocking” entered popular culture as a way to describe someone who dresses in a way to intentionally stand out. Over the past decade, this term has made its way into the business world and is now commonly applied to someone who intentionally goes out of their way to make themselves look bigger or more impressive than they really are. “Peacocking” in the business world shouldn’t surprise us: this kind of thinking is part of the millennial cultural DNA, reinforced by teachers, coaches, and parents. Some popular lines include: “You have to sell yourself;” “Make sure you spend time talking about your accomplishments;” “Bulk up your resume;” and “When you talk about a weakness, make sure it is a strength in disguise”.
As you may (or may not) have read, I am involved in the local (Seattle) chapter of Iasa first ever IT architecture competition. We are at the point where the rubber meets the road. Team Skyscraper needs to submit their first set of deliverables this weekend on the 22nd. The deliverables are a business requirements document and initial draft of an architectural design document with conceptual and information architecture complete.
William Porter lost his job at the First National Bank of Austin in 1894 for accusations of embezzlement. In 1896, when a federal case opened against him, he changed trains on his way to the courthouse and fled the country. Porter returned to Austin a year later when his wife was too sick to meet him in Honduras. Upon his return, he surrendered to the court and started serving his five-year sentence shortly after his wife’s death. As a licensed pharmacist, Porter took on the duty as a night druggist at the prison hospital where he also continued pursuing his life’s passion: writing. During his time in prison, he began publishing short stories under a pen name—the household name we all know him by today: O. Henry.
Stories began as campfire tales and paintings on cave walls. They were stories of practical information; where to hunt and gather food; stories of thankfulness to gods; stories of nature and fear. The art and business of story has been with us since the beginning of recorded history and remains to as an integral thread in the fabric of our lives.
As you may (or may not) have read, I am involved in the local (Seattle) chapter of Iasa first ever IT architecture competition. In my last entry, I was guessing about how prepared the team would be and how the meeting would progress. I met the team last Friday and better understand the landscape now. There is so much I can show them that will accelerate their growth and career, and because there is so much, I may overload them.
Twice a year, Bill Gates disconnects from reality in order to reconnect with (and redefine) his goals. During each one-week break, Gates travels into the woods of the Pacific Northwest where he dives into papers written by the Microsoft community. He scribbles notes, maps out ideas, and writes summaries for executives. There are no interruptions (besides a caretaker who provides two meals per day and a steady stream of Diet Orange Crush), no employees, friends, or family to accompany Bill; even his wife stays at home. This is a time of deep thought, reflection, and goal creation, and has been responsible for many Microsoft innovations.
Our organization supports and works closely with the local (Seattle) chapter of Iasa, and when we get the chance, with the chapter in Ireland. This week the Seattle local chapter is kicking off an architectural competition and I am honored to be a mentor for one of the teams. The competition will end in January with scheduled milestones in November and December. The website for the competition is http://www.iitarch.org. I plan to blog about the competition throughout, so stay tuned if you are interested.
Columbus was at play when it dawned on him that the world was round. Newton was at play in his mind when he saw the apple tree and suddenly conceived of the force of gravity. Watson and Crick were playing with possible shapes of the DNA molecule when they stumbled upon the double helix. Shakespeare played with iambic pentameter his whole life. Mozart barely lived a waking moment when he was not at play. Einstein’s thought experiments are brilliant examples of the mind invited to play.
One of my writing friends gives all her workshop students toothbrushes. She tells her students, “This is one of the most important writing tools I can give you. Use this twice a day: once in the morning and once at night.” The toothbrush does two things for these creative misfits who spend too much time in their heads thinking about stories:
A dear friend of mine, Leslie Goh, sent me a link to a piece in the New York Times. She suggested it reminded her of me. The piece, written by David Brooks, suggests the need for two bucket lists. Brooks, who is successful from a business sense, talks about meeting others who seemed to be successful in a way he was not. This led him to think about a different bucket list not tied to business goals or personal goals, but rather moral or virtuous goals. The way he organized these different groupings is into resume virtues and eulogy virtues.
I think we’ve cured boredom.
You wake up with an app that tracks your sleep. You respond to all the text messages you received during the night. You get an email notification while texting. You pour some of your green-machine juice and do a web search for “reconstituted concentrate” to see if your juice is really 100% juice. You track your breakfast in a nutrition app. You get a Twitter notification (swipe it aside, you’ll look at it later). You read the news using an app that selects stories based on your interests. A Facebook notification interrupts you. Before you leave for work you check your step count so far this morning, and look to see how you compare to your friends. You check the weather app and decide to bring an umbrella. You listen to that new song on your streaming music app and tweet about it. You Instagram the sunrise on your way to work. You get another notification but ignore it. Your boss sends you a text asking you to pick something up from the printer/copy center. In line, you buy tickets to a concert this weekend. On your way to the office, a local coffee shop sends you a message using a location-based restaurant app promoting their seasonal drink that happens to be on special. You buy a coffee and pay for it by scanning your phone. In the elevator you Yelp a review. Good morning.