My Career, Sans Ladder

March 19, 2006

How to work smarter

This article on how to Program Yourself caught me a bit by surprise (in a good way). Although most of it's content is geared toward programmers, I think it can apply to just about anyone who's looking to work smarter.

The author discusses how less smart people go about doing their job:
They rarely do any "meta-thinking", instead they focus on the base level of how to get things done without stepping out and thinking about the plan or work itself, and it's place in the grander scheme of things.

Boy, did that ever hit home. Trying to break out of the less smart group, I've been wondering at what point can I start to do more "meta-thinking"? It seems like I constantly get hung up at the base level and I'm not sure how to get past only solution so far is to continue to try and get really good at the basics and then take a step back when the opportunity presents itself (which is another post entirely - what happens if the environment you're in isn't big-picture friendly, ie - lots of fire drills, ad-hoc requests, etc).

Other highlights from the article include:
I find that smart people are always wondering why they're doing what they're doing, and they always have a good grasp on the size, scope, goals, and direction of their efforts.

Unsmart people not only haven't ever thought about these things, they're usually quite surprised, if not openly hostile, about being asked. They evidently think of themselves as cogs in a machine, one that's being piloted by someone else.

Alright...I'm gonna go try and fight the good fight and hopefully overcome this lack of "thinking while working". Wish me luck!

Too late for New Years Resolutions?

via a post from Gumption, about living without attachments
Highlights of Steve's talk included his encouragement to establish a one-word New Year's theme rather than more elaborate resolutions (e.g., his last three themes, in chronological order, have been "flexibility", "platform" and "impact").

So, what's your theme?

Mine? I couldn't pick just one word, so here's the first few that came to mind: Engage, Focus, Purpose, Think, Control....Gonna be a busy year ;)

March 12, 2006

Do you have a personal annual report?

See the full report.

Some career thoughts from Malcom Gladwell

via a Bill Simmons interview:

I really love writing, in a totally uncomplicated way. I'm happy writing anywhere and under any circumstances and in fact I'm now to the point where I'm suspicious of people who don't love what they do in the same way.

it's really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn't work hard. It's a form of self-protection. To me, this is what Peyton Manning's problem is. He has the work habits and dedication and obsessiveness of Jordan and Tiger Woods. But he can't deal with the accompanying preparation anxiety. The Manning face is the look of someone who has just faced up to a sobering fact: I am in complete control of this offense. I prepare for games like no other quarterback in the NFL. I am in the best shape of my life. I have done everything I can to succeed -- and I'm losing.

I think I'm currently dealing with this whole "self-protection" thing right now. Previously when work got too difficult I was able to hide a bit due to some of the co-workers around me (and also the general inefficiency that is big-company life).

This time around I'm trying to face any problems head-on, and so far it's lead to a good amount of me looking (and feeling) like a complete idiot (luckily only to a select group of people). I haven't felt this stupid since college but I've decided that I'm just going to try and fight thru it until I either figure things out or re-position myself in a job that more naturally fits my strengths - which I'm still working on understanding

Conclusions are based in time

From an interview with Demetri Martin:

We live in time. So any definition of success is bound up with time. With other things you can say, “Can I yo-yo? Can I juggle?” Usually you have a pretty small window in which to get your answer....the question is - “Will I enjoy this?” Because by enjoying it enough, now I have a nice big window. You can suspend judgment and make that hole very big. If I make my window ten days for stand-up, the conclusion is that I failed and that I’m not good at stand-up. If I make it ten years—if I just wait—the conclusion might be something totally different.

Can all careers have flow?

After reading an article in Fast Company about the Art of Work I got to wondering if all careers had flow-potential. All sorts of people, from athletes to computer hackers have talked about being "in the zone" but can the same be said for marketing analysts, tax advisors, etc...

The answer depends on a few things:
1) Is your job autotelic (defn: the activity is it's own reward).
2) Do you have clear goals and a reasonable expectation of completing the task at hand?
3) Must have the ability to concentrate (and not be distracted), receive regular feedback, and oh yeah - actually possess the skills needed for that particular type of work.

on a somewhat related note - here's Pharell Williams working in the studio...definitely feeling the flow. (ps - anyone know the name of the song??)