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Sunday, November 22, 2009


This is probably one of those things that scarred me as a kid and I've not gotten over it. My last name is in the back end of the alphabet, and how many freakin' times did I hafta go last because of the first letter of my last name? Alphabetical order is not random order! It gives people earlier in the alphabet an unfair advantage. If I contributed to a project with a team of 5, anytime our names are listed I'm last. Do people even read that far down?

Seth Godin on his blog talks about times to NOT use alphabetical order. Namely, when you're not searching for something specific. Why not order it in a way that it makes sense to? By popularity? I have an example of a different way of ordering something that makes more sense to the end user. I was recently at a new Holiday Inn hotel, and the little cheat sheet of TV channels were listed like this:

Genius! No one goes into a hotel room, picks up the remote, and goes "I wonder what's on channel 2. Or on channel 8. Or channel 45." You go "What channel is ESPN on?"


Thursday, November 19, 2009

No one gets fired for punting

Last weekend, Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, decided to go for it on 4th down and 2 from their own 28 yard line near the end of the game, up 6 points. The Patriots didn't make it, and Belichick was vilified by the press.

Was it Belichick being bold? Was it his lack of confidence in his defense? Was he thinking he was smarter than everyone else in the world?

Well it turns out, he was right. According to Advanced NFL Stats blog, going for it gave him a 79% win probability. Punting gave him a 70% win probability. So if the goal of the game was to win, he made the right decision.

Punting would have been the safe decision. If the Colts drive for a TD, the defense would've been blamed. But punting would have been the wrong decision. But no one gets fired for punting.

The corporate world is like all 29 other coaches in the NFL. People in the corporate world are there because it's safe and secure. People get rewarded for making the safe decision instead of the right decision. There are numerous times where I've pushed and pushed for the risky decision when I saw that the safe route was too risky. I remember trying to convince my boss one day to change the method of production for a new product because the current method wouldn't get us to the point of the project making money. I literally said it's like being down by 8, scoring a touchdown, then kicking the extra point because going for 2 was too risky. (Incidentally, the product has now launched, using the method of production I pushed for... you can probably get it at Wal-Mart. Email me if you want to know what it is).

In a corporation, no one gets fired for punting, even if it means a higher probability of losing the game. No one gets fired for making their employees do hundreds of man-hours of paperwork before approving funding, even if it means wasted money due to all the extra salary paid out for work that doesn't increase the chance of the project succeeding. No one gets fired for requiring a hospital like clean room when manufacturing a product, even when the product is used to clean dirt.

I blogged earlier about how small companies can take down a large corporation. Here's another way. Think like Bill Belichick. Go for it on 4th and 2 to win the game while the corporations are punting.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes

Short and to the point - here's a good video about what it takes to succeed. I think while it may seem simple - I feel that each step could use a lot of focus to bring it to life.

Why do people succeed? Is it because they’re smart? Or are they just lucky? Neither. Analyst Richard St. John condenses years of interviews into an unmissable 3-minute slideshow on the real secrets of success.


Friday, November 6, 2009

The last day of the sabbatical

Today is the last day of my 3 month sabbatical. It's been very relaxing, and it definitely recharges your batteries. On Monday, I return to the corporate world. Now, I pause and reflect on some things I've accomplished, discovered, or figured out during my 3 months off...

It's a really nice break mentally. Your life is a lot simpler when you aren't required to be anywhere at a particular time. You have no bosses telling you what to do, and no organizational things you hafta worry about. My alarm clock broke about a day into the sabbatical, and I haven't had one in my room since. When I wake up, I don't know what time it is until I boot up the computer. I usually wake up around 8-9 AM on my own, but not being jolted awake is very therapeutic.

I feel like my capability to take !@#$! is a lot higher. If you asked me a month into the sabbatical about going back to work, I would tell you I dread it with all my soul. Right now, although of course I'd prefer to not need to go back, I feel OK with it and that I can handle it. I think even a 2 week vacation isn't enough; you aren't able to completely unplug. A 3 month vacation where you're working on something also doesn't really cut it. The ability to not have anything on your mind, and the ability to work on whitespace for an extended period of time is really cleansing for my mind.

One thing I was able to accomplish was cleaning out an extra bedroom and making it a home office. I live alone, and I used to do all my work in the family room on the couch with an IKEA laptop desk. A couple months ago I packed up the pile of books that were on the desk and shipped it off to Half Price Books. I now have a nice desk that faces out the window that I work from. I still would like to "pimp my home office" sometime (maybe add a fridge and a tea maker, maybe a sound system so I can work to some classical music?), but just having a nice space with a window really inspired me. Plus I would keep my laptop there, so when I woke up in the morning it would be the first place I'd head... and it'd get me started on my day fast.

I discovered the Pomodoro technique, which helped me overcome my natural weak points. I tend to not want to focus on one thing at a time, jumping around to do other things. I do this because I'm a curious person, but also because I tend to doubt myself and wonder if what I'm doing really is going to help the big picture. But setting a timer and requiring yourself to 25 min with no distractions was really effective for me.

With this technique, I feel more confident that I can continue to work on the ultimate goal of financial independence while working in the corporate world. I can set aside 25 min of my time daily to advance my projects. My home office is a nice place to work now. Panera's are the best place to work (outside of the 11-2 lunch rush), with ample space, free soda refills, and a nice environment. Barnes and Noble and Borders now offer free wifi and are great places to work too. Starbucks also has free wifi now if you buy something with their gift card, and there's of course one on every corner. I was able to figure out what to get at these places now, since I don't drink coffee and I don't like Panera's food all that much... I get a iced or hot tea, with milk and sweetener. With all that, I can easily set aside a chunk of time to move forward with my projects.

I'm OK working on my own. One concern I had was if I would miss the human interaction with my co-workers. And honestly I don't (nothing against them, they're great to hang out with). I have friends who are entrepreneurs and corporatepreneurs, and I have lunch with them. I figureed out that my company IM system links with AIM, so I was able to keep in touch with my good friends. I definitely see less people than at work, but it's the equivalent of working at a small company.

The burn rate is real. Usually I take my paycheck, pay off all my bills, and deposit the rest into savings. For the first time, I had to do it backwards... figure out how much my bills were, pull that amount out of my savings, and pay my bills. That was quite a shock to the system watching my savings account dwindle like that. Usually a bad month was when there was nothing going into savings. This just made me want to have a good cash flow in from another source before quitting my day job. For me, having my day job fund my ventures is still a pretty good model.

So on Monday, I rejoin the corporate world. It's been a great 3 months. Hopefully the next time it'll be for good!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Inspiring video about sabbaticals

Thanks Tom for this TED video about from Stefan Sagmeister...  Stefan closes his design studio for a year every seven years. The best part of this talk was the illustration of little pieces of retirement put into the working years (about 1:30 into the video).

As I enter the last week of MY 3 month sabbatical, I plan on taking some time to reflect on what I've learned and accomplished in the last 3 months. But one thing I can say for sure right now: it was definitely a great thing to do. Enjoy the video!


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