Sunday, 3 July 2016

It's Only Rain, At The End Of The Day

'coincidence is god's way of remaining anonymous' 

I'm sure that's what I heard him say.

That one line made more sense to me as a fantastic day at the Siemens Crystal building drew to a close.

Last saturday, I attended the 'Waves of Change Peace and Sustainability Forum' at the aforementioned building, and the event itself was an enjoyable day packed with eye-opening presentations, workshops and heartfelt plea's about moving things forward in the name of inner peace and socio-economic sustainability. 

But that's only half the story I want to share here. 

In effect, it started a few days earlier when I'd been sitting on the invite in my email inbox, and couldn't decide wether to go or not. After all, it meant wrapping up whatever I needed to do in my office earlier on a friday, in order to hit the road in good time for the drive to london. It also meant having to book a hotel, and pack a small overnight..etc. 

In essence I was procrastinating, and I sort of 'knew' I had to go. I couldn't explain it, but I just 'knew' . 

I have a healthy amount of cynicism towards one-day workshops and travelling for them, with the related  overnight palavers, because quite a number of them have seemed to be more effort to attend, than the value of the day ( and the experiences gained) itself.

But some strange things happened here. 

Some of them are little things, such as my getting a room well above the busy roadside( and its noise..essential to a good night's sleep) without having to ask for it , as well as realising that i'd forgotten my phone charger, yet the receptionist had a veritable smorgasboard of plugs and cables for me to choose from. 

She was also  very polite and accomodating. I can remember saying to her as I was checking out, that she had a lot of peace about her, and a lot of light in her eyes. I also remember apologising to her as I was leaving , as I didn't want it look as if I was needlessly ogling her, because I wasn't . I was just kind of struck by her energy or aura and didn't want to leave in a hurry.

But the biggest oddity of the day, happened on the way back. 

As I left the building, I strolled for a while near the docks. I then started walking back towards the hotel to pick up my car and hit the road for the journey home. I stopped halfway and thought 'hang on...I'm sure i wanted to talk to so-and-so about the music-related-gig idea that was brought up for world peace day?'. 

And as I stood there, a loud inner-voice literally said to me 'keep walking and don't worry about that!'

I stopped in my tracks, thinking 'what was that?!' for a few seconds and walked onwards at my usual brisk pace. Besides, the sun was shining, the sky was a clear, azure-like blue and I thought that it was such a perfect end to a great day. 

As I got closer to my car,  I plipped the central locking button, opened the door and got inside. My usual modus operandi, is to reach for the seatbelt and press the console to select a cd or radio channel as accompaniment for the journey. It's almost automatic; like a set of movements and motion sequences.

But within 15 to 20 seconds, there was a complete change of weather. 

I literally sat back in astonishment and laughed. The downpour was torrential. I didn't even see it start, and it was like a blast from the heavens at full velocity.

It was as if someone somewhere was sitting there with their finger on a button, and I was akin to some sort of computer game character who was being nudged along ( think late 80's / early 90's/ retro sideways scrolling arcade type games), and the minute I was under cover and safe, the rain-machine was switched on to full pelt. 

I felt like I'd witnessed and been a part of some sort of miracle and learning. I guess I needed it most at that particular time. 

I'd been in a bit of a funk for a number of days, with all sorts of delays and obstacles in my personal & professional life just getting me down. But as usual I kept soldiering onwards, cause that's how it is; if you keep ploughing on, you'll get there. However, it can also feel like wading through a tough obstacle course, sapping your inner strength and resolve in the process.

I guess I'd forgotten to take a breather for long enough to take stock and reassess a few things. And my motivation was drifiting along in some odd, random fits and starts; akin to brownian motion.

And that was the miracle for me. The fact that due to some odd quirk of fate or chance I DID go to the event, had an unusually smooth hotel experience, the journey there ( and back) was fine, the day itself was fantastic and I was finally very mysteriously 'shunted along' to get to my car, which protected me from an allmighty soaking. 

In essence, there may well have been other strange occourances that happened during the day that I may not have picked up on as yet - I'll know with time, if they were important and part of the whole experience. In effect, I felt remakably revitalised and refreshed all the way home, and well into sunday afternoon.

I'm sharing this because I think we all get so wrapped up in our daily lives, with their minutiae and complexities, that anything which can break the flow and is away from our normal run of choices should be seen as a tonic, rather than a disruption to our schedules and routines.

Looking back, I felt the rain at the end struck a powerful chord . Like most people, I'm not a huge fan of the rain, which I see as a short-cut to getting needlessly unfurled and sodden. It can be one step away from a miserable, head-hunkering cold or flu. 

But the rain matters. 

It helps cool things down. It gives life and nourishment to flora and fauna. And the rain is also nature's way of washing the grime and patina of life away. It refreshes us, too, in it's own way and jolts us out of complacency. 

That's certainly what it felt like to me. It was one of a handful of occasions where I sat and laughed at the rain. 

And I'm still laughing at the memory right now.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Emotional Intelligence - Our Technology Needs It With Care.

Many years ago when I had a hairstyle that needed a comb, my parents ran a manufacturing plant and a wholesale front end was integrated into the building. It followed the usual arc of 3 or so years of hit and miss ( i.e. losses to break-even) income, which was subsidised by my father still holding his job down at an engineering plant; he'd finish his work at 5pm, and go into the business until late at night. 

The older generation had a work ethic that defies what my definition of hard work is, because they must have worked about 70 hours a week as a norm, with 90 hours seeming more likely. This isn't an exaggeration, as I can remember as a boy that they'd be out there 7 days a week to get the business going. They left home from 7am and came home as late as 11pm sometimes, so the maths aren't unrealistic.  I don't know how they did it in those years, either physically, mentally or emotionally.

Moving forward, the business eventually flourished and as the product line grew, so did the staff levels. At one point, they had 100 people on two floors making garments for them. Looking back, they never used 'in the field' sales people, but went out there to trade shows and customers themselves.  So they gradually had a slew of clients who were happy to travel or send couriers to pick up the goods from considerable distances. This included customers in foreign countries too.

A lot of this was down to the earlier days when I can remember going with my father in his ford transit van, and doing the drop offs in various parts of the UK . It saved the customers money and helped  build a loyal customer base. The incentive for me was a motorway cafe/service stop meal, and I'd help load and unload the van with him. My sister would occasionally make the trip, too. Looking back, they were fun times, even on the long cold winter nights up in scotland, sheffield and tadcaster. 

Before I become too nostalgic, the issue here isn't necessarily a retrospective look at my family's business; they sold it on back in 2008 to a business partner who worked with them, and my father has since been retired.

The crux here is  about figuring out how they managed to deal with all the comings and goings of staff over the 26 years they were in business. I was with them for several of those years, and I found it fascinating to observe.

The answer is partially encapsulated in the emotional quotient that applies when dealing with people.

My mother had a very soft touch when dealing with everyone. On closer inspection however, (and of course this is all based on my personal recollection, so there may be an emotive quotient in the recalling of events), she was 'an iron fist in a velvet glove'. My father was more pragmatic, but yet naturally calm and polite.

In effect, the aforementioned backstory of a segment of my familial life, was to illustrate the prelude to a question :-

Are we building these emotive qualities into the technology of today and tomorrow? 

More specifically, if the software and hardware is embedding these qualities using the finest ( and continually being refined ) coding and development processes, then what or whom (plural) is governing the sensibilities by which these facsimilies of our personalities are being replicated?

Consider all smart/ IOT technology today, and how it learns our habits, and essentially stores snapshots of our individual living and functioning styles. Ultimately, a slew of code and programming ( both nested and individual for different measurements and metrics) will analyse this data, and offer suggestions and/or even make decisions on our behalf. That's both refreshing, illuminating and also a little bit scary.

Why scary?

Because we're getting ever closer to approaching an apex as to where the synergy between man and machine is increasingly pronounced.The effect that will have on us in terms of our usefulness and sense of purpose as individuals and as collective, functional groups in society is debatable.

From the basic premise of the person getting up early in the morning to go to work, to the server / waiter and barista who is eventually made redundant, to the uncertain existence of the corner shop and boutique store, there are issues of balance, together with a slew of limitations that haven't yet been fully addressed.

Not everyone will be able to perpetually upgrade to the next best electronic necessity (that's a lengthier and subjective topic for another time). And those that do, will have more time on their hands, which once you have savoured at length , (e.g:-  a lengthier vacaton or 'clock off' from the daily treadmill of life),  will ironically be spent figuring out what to do next. 

Time is the keyword here. We hanker for an abundance of it and yet too much free time potentially means constructive development towards a better now or future, or benign and wasteful frippery.Hopefully it'll be a more towards the former, with a smidgeon of the latter.

Ultimately only time will tell us as to how we deal with each successive intertwining round of technological innovation, coupled with human needs and wants. But it's not too early or too late to use our emotional intelligence to try and best govern how we can steer the ships of innovation towards a better future, rather than a more random and potentially chaotic future, which occured because all we did was chase the bottom line of more ( or even extra) profit.

I'd rather we have a clearer idea of where we're going and a better future, because chasing the latter will mean more time spent fixing and reimagining what we didn't think or do with care 'back then' , in order to make that current time a brighter place. Profit isn't a dirty word, but it's not the only word when moving forward towards growth and innovation en masse. Especially at a time where resource allocation and productivity, as well as production methods, cannot be as lasseiz-faire as they used to be. Accountability isn't a dirty word either.

We've already built the tools, the materials are there to harness and so is the manpower. All we need to do is make sure we add care and mindfulness in the processes, along each step of the way towards the future.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Technology Is Eating Itself, But We Won't Follow It

'Out with the old & In with the new' is the thought that crossed my mind earlier today, as I struggled to get my now ageing 'laptop 1', multitasking as efficiently as it would have even a year or so ago. I've known for a while that it needs to be cleaned, stripped and taken to the recycling centre nearby, but that slight luddite mentality of ''s got a few more months left in it yet' has kept me using it as a tandem workhorse.

But the reality is that it's knackered. It overheats quite quickly, as I can hear from the internal fan kicking into action within five to fifteen minutes of it being turned on. If it was actually worked on whilst being sat on a physical lap, it'd probably burn the user's legs somewhat in the process. All in all , I'll give it until the end of this month and then it's time to do the 'last rites' on it and that's the end of another era in my working environment.

We've quite recently also seen the end of another CES , and looking back it was the usual tantalising mixture of brilliant, good, bad ( the automated grill cleaner) and even ugly.

In essence the above smattering is only a drop in the ocean of silicon, sweat, brainpower and brilliance.  But what struck me about some of the better ones, were that they wern't anything groundbreaking in the conventional sense.

In other words, they were brilliant redesigns being improved upon, or simply revived. The 'new' super-8 camera by kodak and the flexi-thin screen by LG, for example, are great reiteratons of existing and now defunct ( in the case of the super-8) devices.

And the same can be said of our current generation of smart-tech devices, such as the tablets, laptops and all of our smartphones. Each successive release is a combination of :-

* faster, lighter, brighter (both the screen AND in the choice of aesthetic casing)

* more or less complex


*either more or less expensive than the previous generation device range/set.

The same ruling can be applied to ancillary devices such as smartwatches and V.R. ( virtual reality) headsets, too. Although as these are still very new to the marketplace, the development and innovation cycles will have their own curve and skew. However, it must be noted that the watches haven't yet taken off saleswise with the same gusto as the smartphones that they were ( and are) designed to be a counterpart to, even though they've been around for almost two years.

All the aforementioned is something I've been bearing in mind somewhat, whilst working through the clean, strip and backup processes involved before disposing of a laptop. And there was a cluster of conclusions I reached, which became further enchanced when I realised that a lot of the software I used regularly, was effectively next generational addendums and 'vitamin enriched', welcome reiterations of previous versions. In effect :-

* We're reaching near superflous levels of development in technology . e.g. - how smart can a smartphone now be? how is (or will) V.R. be improving your life on a day to day basis?

* the rate of change is now slowing down..the growth is exponential. 

* People's jobs are now starting to be superceeded by technology

More importantly in such uncertain times, (in terms of resources, public and political unrest) , whilst technology is helping us to make connections around the globe quickly, and potentially help each other  more efficiently and succinctly in times of crisis, what about the rest of the time? Are people still as inclined to spend time with and even help each other?

Can technology be blamed for our slightly odd 'so near, yet so far' way of relating to each other?  Or is there another endemic issue with regards ambition, survival, and the last burning embers of the industrial age, which we've remarkably kept blazing hot in their near charcoaled state , even though we're aware they have reached that near-carbon level because we didn't know when to stop?

Is that a cynical viewpoint? At the least, it's food for thought. At the most, there is some truth in there.

More importantly, maybe we've almost forgotten when to slow down and  tend to ourselves internally like we used to. In essence, we're accelerating our lives at a previously unheard of rate, yet we're not self regulating like we used to.

The irony is, in wanting more control of our lives at a day to day level, we've relinquished a lot of it to devices and gadgets both hard and soft, which we're now more dependant upon than ever before.

Is that the right thing to do? Only time will tell. But somewhere the balance seems to be tipping over to excess. And if that is the case, then nature will act to correct this.

In other words, our biological make up will prevent a loss of control beyond a certain level, so we can continue to grow, learn and expand both inwards and outwards.

I was originally going to call this article 'technology is eating itself out of existence'. But my optimistic side doesn't believe that's true. At least not yet.

Maybe it's time we slowed down, so that we can see the roses. Then we can think about stopping for a bit to smell them.

And then we can decide how to cultivate and nurture our gardens for the future, so others can learn by example.

Like most romantics, I always have faith in mankind, in that things will eventually work themselves out for the better. That's because as complex as we are, we created the technology, not the other way around.We created our own shovels, trowels and wheelbarrows, too.

It looks like now's the time to get the gloves & tools out of the shed. It's always good to cultivate the ground when it's soft.

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Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Gordian Knot; Cut Through The Mess In Your Social Media Life.

The Gordian Knot is the stuff of legend. And to write about it in depth would take up a paragraph (and beyond), so in brief..

A quick definition of the gordian knot

That looks complicated, doesn't it?

Alexander the great was the one to break it. There just seemed to be no other way to get around (or over) it. That sounds like a pretty drastic piece of action to take, but he had the confidence, the willpower and more importantly the sense of purpose that the action he would take would solve the problem. He didn't think about the damage (potential or otherwise), or any associated cost of doing things this way. He just 'knew' this would work. And in life, sometimes that's the only way to do things.

Most intelligent people with a rational mind and balanced point of view, wouldn't want to take any sort of action where they haven't had the time to weigh up the pros and cons sufficiently enough to ascertain the risks versus the gains or losses.

However, there are times when hitting the metaphorical (and proverbial) 'delete button' is not only a relief, but easier to do because it forces you to take stock and start again, should you so desire.

I did that recently on a social media platform. It was my linked-in profile that became 'cyber-vapour'*, which is why I no longer put it up at the end of each post as a clickable link.


Because it had a lot of information on it which was generating some odd responses.  For starters, I was getting confusing requests, which wern't correlated to what I wanted workwise. 

Over time I'd built up a contact list of over 500 people, but the reality was I'd only interacted with  100 or so of them over many years of use. In essence, I'd kept it up there as a super-C.V , which itself is a showcase for your skillset.

However, it was a mess. There was lots of qualifications listed ( im grateful and blessed for being able to do those), with different skillsets and work bio info et al all mixed into various types and sections, and the whole thing had multiple focus points to look through. 

Ultimately, it wasn't getting me a productive return anymore.  For me, this was and still is the point of linked-in , which I see as a professional networking and communications portal.

So although I've saved the profile in document form on a backup drive, It may be some time before I make another one. The reasons are simply geared around time and energy, with the cost-to-benefit ratio of both being prioritised in other areas right now. But I'll have a fresher look at things in that regard, at some point in the future.

So why have I gone into length about this?

Simple. If there's a gordian knot in your social media and internet presence, then I hope you have the courage to cut through it. It's not that difficult, and you can always start again on a clean profile ( or page) if you have to.

Why not get the sword out and hack through the weeds in your 'net presence right now? Putting it off for too long, will mean less energy and less motivation to do it. If it can be fixed without a 'complete-delete'*, then do that. In fact, the latter option is usually the first option and rightly so.

Of course, some of you will have that perfect set of social media presences, so you don't need to do a thing (at least not right now). I bow graciously to all of you for keeping on top of it so proficiently.

Speaking of change,  it looks like we're getting some consistently sunnier and warmer weather in my area. It's time to check on the state of the garden.

From the looks of things, that could do with a major overhaul, too.

* (c) S R DHAIN, 2016.

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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Unpredictable Results Of Predictable Thinking.

For all our organising, scheduling and designated, conceptualised formulae and systemic approaches, we sometimes don't quite get the results we're after.

In essence, not everything tends to go as planned.  John Lennon was famously quoted as once saying that 'life is what happens to you whilst you're busy making other plans' . 

So in effect, there is something else going on whilst you're trying to figure out what you're going to do right now and in the future, both immediate and otherwise. And no matter what we do, we're at the mercy of 'that' as well. 

Think about that. 

On a basic level, it's the whole concept of living and co-exisiting, as well as working with other people. Even those of us who spend more time working alone ( I go through phases of that), still have connectivity to the world at large via a smartphone and/or an internet connection. 

Beyond that, it's what can be called fate, karma, luck, blessings and so on. Or 'force majeure' spread out to varying degrees, over a lifespan. 

I mention all of this as innovation is also subject to the same forces. 

Consider the evolution of technology in the last decade. More specifically, let's look at the development of smaller form technology, such as smartphones and  tablets. 

Could anyone at Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Blackberry and many other companies whose names escape me right now, have imagined even five years ago as to how big the customer and user base for this format of technology has become? 

I'll hedge my bets and say no. 

At some point, all of the aforementioned companies have innovated. That is a risk. No matter how many pre release surveys you do and even with multi level UX/UI design teams feeding  back into themselves and each other, it is a calculated gamble as to whether your product will take off and have a lifecycle which allows successive development. 

However, if any of these companies had played continually safe, then where would we be today? 


The innovator's mindset is about risk and failiure. Success is the end goal, for obvious reasons, but it's in the stumbles along the way that the real learning and growth take place. 

And it's bearing that in mind, that I always hope for someone somewhere to take a chance and not seem so predictable in their conceptualisation, in order to allow the alchemy of 'force majeure' to do its work even more effectively.

It could be someone like you or me. Or numbers of us, in teams. 

Maybe we're already doing that in a smaller way, by using the products on a regular basis, and then occasionally sharing our findings, tips and moans (i suspect the latter is more likely) on the internet & social media. 

But more could be done. That requires trust. And that in itself could be a risk.  Risks carry costs, and the opportunity cost of taking each risk, is money saved for further R&D for newer products and/or profit margin.

Playing safe is necessary to earn a living. But playing safe doesn't create the husks of innovation that drive forward change and even create new industries, with the offshoots occasionally becoming bigger than the original idea. 

I'll be in the market for a new smartphone later this year. I'm hoping it'll have something quirky in the design. Refreshingly different, yet recognisable. Even oddball and 'eh?' will do. 

Rightly or wrongly , it will make a handful of people sit up and take notice. 

The devil may be in the details, but there's also genius within the flaws. But it can sometimes take longer to see the latter.  Then it's a question of following to change and improve or discarding the concept. It'd be nice to have a blend of both options.   

Maybe I'm in a minority on that front. I hope not. 

Here's to innovation and great design; both with or without the alchemy generated by the  unpredictable results from a predictable mode of thinking. 

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Sunday, 10 April 2016

Reducing The Noise: Stop, Read and Think or Ignore.

How do you use social media?

Are you a proactive user or do you read & respond? Or maybe you just read, ameliorate and go back to whatever it is you're doing at the time?

Consider this. In the physical world, when we're having a conversation, do we talk over each other constantly or do we wait for our turn to speak?

More importantly, do we listen to what the other person is saying before we respond?

It sounds obvious, but on social media we don't necessarily do the same.

I've noticed this on the posts I've put up, and also with others. If the numbers were and are to be believed, then in some cases this should be adding up to a lot of serious influence and potentially a level of clout and power which could have great growth and marketability.

But it doesn't quite work that way. 

In effect, when we stop listening to the other person, we cease to understand the message being conveyed & we just talk to fill the gap. Together with a smidgeon of common sense, It's the inner 'count of two' ( a brief moment of reflection ) that does the work.  That's when you can decide to try to understand or ignore the information conveyed.

With regards to social media, how many times do you click on a link, and then move away from it within seconds, or don't click on a link and give it a like anyway?

If you don't do any of the aforementioned, then I thank you profusely, because you're contributing to  reducing the level of noise and confusion on the swathes of social media outlets and portals out there. It's more honest, and although it would potentially mean a leaner timeline, it would lead to more value for all.

So why are we all posting more frequently?

Maybe we're so scared of missing out, that any level of witholding information is deemed a sign of weakness, in case 'the other person' gets there first.

But it's only those with intention, direction and motivation , coupled with a clear statement of purpose, that go beyond the random peaks and troughs of metrics. They have a voice, and it is clearly their own. In short, they are uniquely identifyable.

And unless I'm completely mistaken, they don't post constantly. At least not 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The rest of it involves a combination of luck, zeitgeist, karma, brilliance and the alchemy of tapping into all of the aforementioned without fear of failiure or success.

Either that, or it's the perpetual bombardment of all outlets, all the time. No.. that doesn't sound right to me.

I'll set this to post on twitter. Maybe once a day. Hopefully it'll add value to someone's feed.

If it doesn't, I hope they don't ignore it and yet retweet it regardlessly.

It's ironic, as I was going to call this post 'listen without prejudice', but then thought that doesn't have enough to do with the content within. And the last thing I'd want to do, is add to the noise.

It's time for a mug of earl grey. The biscuits and chocolates are optional

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Friday, 8 April 2016

Social Media : Adding Value Vs Wibble & Waffle

Now that spring is here, it finally feels like this year has trully started for me. The weather has shifted enough for me to feel less inclined to wear winter woollens and thicker sweatshirts and jackets.

Thank god for that.

But in some areas  I'm pushing ( and hard, it must be said), to get some business stuff from last year tied up and checked off . The hold ups are due to a combination of decision chains, of which I'm awaiting responses at different levels and also an odd quirk of luck/fate, where scenarios that were instigated have been held up somewhere, due to a lack of progress at some other level.

In other words, it's analogous to being stuck in traffic and edging along in a  'slowly.. then quickly' manner. There's progress, but it's a little erratic and quite unpredictable.

In effect, the same could be said of other scenarios in general, such as the rate of innovation we're currently seeing in once rapidly progressing areas and fields.

I'm being slightly vague and evasive, because the details of my scenarios aren't going to make interesting reading ( at least in my mind), and that's based on my own stance on common sense and rationality.

In effect, the struggles we currently face at a sociological level due to the use of  technology, are similar. Having discussed the pro's and con's of connectivity before, my attention is only on one thing.

And that is, how much is too much?

I'm refering to our use and exposure to the swathes of information and entertainment ( or 'infotainment', to coin a word), which is more constant and relentless than ever before in our lives. How much of a good or bad thing that is, depends upon your ability to ameliorate, understand and even ignore large amounts of it, for the sake of your own sanity and wellbeing.

After all , no one drank all their favourite beers, whiskies and wines in one day. Or indeed their favourite teas or coffees.

So at what point does a person decide when they've had enough or they can just 'tune out' ?

Is it when the level of exposure becomes a hinderance to their daily routines and affects relationships?

Or is it when the use of social media is no longer returning anything extra, in real terms? In other words, it's until the marginal utility of enjoyment (which does include marketing, but that's another discussion altogether) has now diminished sufficiently to unwarrant regular and/or consistent use.

But our need to interact with each other at a basic biological level is what feeds our need to communicate using some channel or outlet. And that is what social media and technology provides like never before.

However, in the cycle of innovation, social media has now been around long enough to try something different. At least in theory.

In effect, either we're on the cusp of a new age of interaction, which is less intensive and more ( dare I say it) intuitively more congruent with what we want and need at a basic human level.


We're heading for a level of useage that if it were measurable, quantifiable and benchmarked, would constitute addiction and addictive behaviours. Replete with all manner of physical and cognitive side-effects.

It's food for thought. I can only hope it's the former, cause the latter doesn't warrant a healthier society in my opinion. Especially over the long term.

On that note, it's time to pack my gym bag and head out.

I won't share the details of my workout. Not because I have anything to hide, but because I don't consider it to be information worth sharing en masse. 

In other words, it's all wibble and waffle, rather than adding value, as far as I'm concerned.

But each to their own.

Now where did I put my headphones?

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Monday, 11 January 2016

He was ahead of us all the way.

I've been listening to his music for the last SIX HOURS in my home office, whilst working. Ive read countless eulogies on the internet and it still doesn't sink in.

Before I go on, I don't want this to be a mawkish 'fan post..

It doesn't matter. I just cannot believe that he's gone.

'David Bowie passed away this morning, after a prolonged battle with cancer'

When I read the above at 8:30 this morning, I literally stopped in my tracks.

And I'm still sort of there. In that 'what-if?' state.

He was a real ONE OFF. He took risks and even by his own admission later, they didn't always pay off.

But he had the GUTS and the SMARTS to take them. That's rare these days, as everything has become more focused on results and increasing metrics to illustrate AND then further facilitate even greater results and rewards.

I'll get his last album eventually, when I've finished listening to a selection from all of his previous works. That will take many days of fond , wistful listening. I'll probably entertain some crazy notion that he had one more trick up his sleeve.

But he's left his body and gone to the great gig in the sky.

May his soul, rest in peace.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Change / Switch & Focus ; Saying No to 99% Of things

I've always found the start of a new year a bit odd. Why?

Because as hard as I try, there's always unfinished business from the previous year. Literally, as it happens. Either there'll be a project or assignment that has been delayed or there's some domestic or other renovation project that couldn't be completed on time. In any event, it usually takes until the end of the first month of the new year for me to wrap it all up , and so the year begins on a 'fresh' practical level somewhere between the end of january or (sometimes) even the middle of march.

Sounds odd, doesn't it? But it's not unusual for many of us to be in that position. It could be argued that we could have organised things better, but's one of those things where one of the oft-quoted laws ( murphy's is the common one) is the reason behind the situation(s) or scenario(s) that we end up finding ourselves in.

At least that's what we convince ourselves of, regardless of the actual nature of the scenario(s).

To overcome this, requires a skill that many of us tend to find a bit trying in our modern, hyperspeed-like world. In short,  if you learn to SAY NO to situations that may be siphoning off your energy and time without recourse to any real productive value and result, you'll be better able to keep on with the business at hand more effectively and get it completed in a timely fashion . Tenacity and grit are also part of that equation in my opinion, but that's a discussion for another time.

So a part of that skillset facilitates that you FOCUS in the moment and the task at hand, with clarity and DEDICATION. .  For example, Jony Ive has said that steve jobs could focus in a laser like way, and say no to 99% of things.

Most people don't like saying no, and even less of us  like hearing the word. It seems to carry more weight than it should sometimes, but as already mentioned above, it's in the refusal of committing to more things than necessary, that you can be more productive

In effect, overcommitting is the death knell of productivity, and this knocks on into our social and personal situations as well. 

And yet we all do it. I've done it many a time in the  past, but as time moves onward, I value my energy and ability to get things done more efficiently and want to ENJOY the process(es) more.  Work should be enjoyable as much as possible, otherwise you'll be less effective than if you  didn't enjoy the process. No one wins in that situation, neither the client nor the vendor.

Assuming the work is mostly enjoyable ( we all have our cul-de-sacs from time to time, and they're HEALTHY as they push us to go beyond our normal methodologies and skillsets), what can be done to maintain the laser-like focus required to get something done to the best of your abilities?

The obvious ones are :-

* Switch the phone off or at the very least, switch it to silent AND put it outside of your line of reach or sight for at least an hour on your desk or workstation.

* Don't check emails more than once an hour. Do it even less if you and your work style can manage it.

* Close off any windows/tabs that have social media applications running and use or check them less often. As much as I love twitter, I know that if I keep the application tab open, I'll go to it every fifteen or so minutes in the pretext of  refreshing my synapses.

The reality is that I'm cowarding out of keeping going to finish the task at hand, and hence using it to NOT deal with any potential stumbling block (e.g. writers block, creative block, cul-de-sac and so on), that would force me to think outside of my usual paradigms and methods.

And finally..

* Schedule comfort breaks every few hours of no more than ten or fifteen minutes. You can always catch up with social media and  phonecalls then, if necessary.

Bar an emergency situation (which can happen but are rarer than we think), it's not necessary to keep looking at the phone every 5 minutes. Bar a batch manufacturing fault, I think it's fair to say that it won't vapourise or self-destruct if you ignore it for a while ( see first tip)

In essence, unless your environment is becoming too risky or dangerous to work in, or some other life based crisis (god forbid) is occuring, keep on going until you can get the job or task at hand done.

Because once you've finished what you're doing, you may find that :-

a) you've got it done much quicker 


b) The result is better than you thought possible 

which leads to

c) A greater feeling of satisfaction when you DO take your break(s).

In effect, what is the point of being so readily available that you're not actually getting the work YOU need doing, done? How does that help the client or your boss ( or both) ? And ultimately, how does that help you?

Exactly, so let's get on with it.

Ah..I'm almost done.

I had a coffee break planned about now, but it can wait a little while longer, whilst I edit and refine a little more. That's fine, as I know i'll savour every drop when I do have it.