Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2008
This year at SXSWi, I was invited to take part in 20×2, an event where 20 people are given 2 minutes each to answer an “open-ended question”. The question this year was “What is the difference?”
I was blown away by the range and quality of the other participants’ answers. This was my humble effort, delivered as a straight-up talk.
The difference, in a word, is passion.
In all our pursuits and endeavours, it is passion which leads to the creation of the genuinely great, or the superlative experience.
Thank about it – who do you most associate with passion; Steve Jobs and his irritatingly exquisite products, painstakingly put together by folks who care about the minutest details or… well… Bill Gates?
I’ve seen the effects of passion in the panels I’ve attended here at South by Southwest. All of the best panels have been hosted by people with a genuine passion for what they’re talking about.
In all honesty, some of them have had so little real content that they’ve actually subtracted from the sum of human knowledge.
But when that nebulous non-content is delivered with infectious passion, it still has value. The raw emotion itself inspires, leading us to new insights and ideas.
Posted on Sunday, August 5th, 2007
I promised a post on productivity when I resumed writing last month, but as I’ve been gathering notes and writing drafts I’ve realised that it’s a really huge topic, and probably better treated in chunks. I’m starting here because procrastination is one of the most serious common roadblocks to productivity – no matter how robust your task-tracking methods or efficient your “inboxes”, if you regularly balk at certain tasks then progress is impossible.
So what are we up against?
Procrastination has one major root cause – fear. There are many sources of fear; some (fear of death, fear of pain) are hard-wired into all of us; others (fear of embarassment, fear of inconvenience, fear of failure) are learned responses to past conditions. All fears originate in the subconscious, and herein lies the problem.
Our subconscious has a highly vivid imagination – it’s always looking out for the wildest, worst scenario that could befall us, and steering us clear. Sometimes that’s good – it’s what stops us accepting rides home with drunks and playing with matches. Other times, it’s disastrous, holding us back from speaking in public, paying a bill or asking that cute stranger if they fancy a coffee. Our subconscious, designed to keep us safe from harm, has a hard time differentiating between Real Harm (certain death) and Not Actually Harm (“sorry, I’m dating someone”).
The very thing which makes us human – the ability to spot patterns, imagine scenarios and weigh up alternatives – can be a crippling burden if left in the control of the subconscious. Luckily, all those things also combine to afford us a defence against ourselves – rationality.
Fighting fear with rationality takes some practice, but it’s a useful skill to have. Training yourself to fight your subconscious knee-jerk reaction against getting something done provides you with a better chance of fighting stronger, more primally-driven fears (fear of flying, or spiders, or clowns).
Posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2007
Total, utter bewilderment. You find some sources, start reading, and tinkering and experimenting, and some of the bewilderment seems to lift, only to come back in spades when you run up against a scenario you didn’t anticipate, or a major technicality which you’d overlooked. It can be frustrating; it can become a huge time-sink. I absolutely love it.
I’m talking about jumping feet-first into a new area of knowledge or expertise, and trying to “climb your way up” through torrents of information, advice and opinion so that you build your own “world view” of the domain in question and possibly, if you invest the right time in the right places, become an expert (or at least a competent amateur) in the field in question.
I think most people have done it at least once in their lives – if only when studying at university or learning a trade. I can immediately think of 3 times that I’ve done it – getting used to the realm of literary criticism at UCL, first learning my way around the internet, perl and linux around 1998, and properly acquainting myself with the rich and impossibly complicated world of independent music, starting last year.
The reason I’m writing about this feeling now is that I’ve just embarked on a new “problem domain” – money.
Posted on Wednesday, August 30th, 2006
So I hit a bit of a slump over the past month or so. It was partly due to a slow transition of my duties at work, partly due to tiredness, and partly due to the fact that I’m basically a lazy slob.
I always feel terrible where I hit a point where I can’t seem to get things done, although a host of evidence indicates that I’m not alone in this, from sites like lifehacker and diyplanner to the instant cult status of the “Getting Things Done” method.
I think a whole book on getting your act together is a little much – the key for me at least is simplicity in a method. And I’ve finally started to work myself out of the unproductivity hole with a very simple method indeed, so I thought I’d share it.