Quarantorial Volume 3: “Act As If”

Hopefully, everyone is staying safe and healthy. Quarantine has allowed me the time to gain clarity of some of the thoughts that crowd my head, to work on improving how I organize these thoughts and drive towards zero loss, and this has made creative writing even easier. This idea is one that hit me a couple of weeks ago and as the last few weeks have gone by the content and ideas just kept coming. I am going to set the tone for this quarantorial with the title of this post, the phrase “Act As If” from the movie “Boiler Room“. Hopefully, you have seen this movie, if not take advantage of quarantine to watch this film.

Ben Affleck in a legendary scene from Boiler Room (Warning: Scene contains strong language.)

Before I go any further, let me quickly say that this is written from my perspective and within my own personal context. This article would be far longer and far more complex if I was exploring a broader circumstance and perspective, that I am fully aware exist. I have no idea how my circumstance, opportunities, and choices line up with the broader view and I don’t have time for the research, thus I am qualifying what I write with, there will be some who agree and some who don’t agree, you’re free to read my opinion or not, your greatest gift is free will, maybe. 🙂 The exploration of the paradox of choice will remain for another day.

It is my sincere hope that we all recognize that people like Jordan Belfort, Bernie Madoff, Barry Minkow, and Bernard Ebers all relied on Acting As If. A belief that if you want to be successful you need to look successful, drafting behind the suit, the watch, the cars, and the homes that say you are a success, allowing them to associate with the type of people they need to associate with to be successful often by exploiting weaknesses in humanity and socioeconomic circles. There is a very fine line between a positive mental attitude and acting as if, I think we can all see this line on display during the daily White House briefings. Humanity has a natural predator that relies on the creation of a context that creates a safe place to make and justify decisions based on the illogical, like the idea that someone has a system to consistently outperform the stock market, and never lose. I am not going to digress here, but there is an interesting parallel with political rhetoric, and making people feel safe to make illogical decisions.

I like the phrase “Act As If”, but I hate it in the context of “Act As If” you’re somewhere or someone you are not, I am nauseated by the idea of growing into yourself, or acting like who you desire to be. I like it (maybe even love it) in the context of “Act As If” tomorrow everything will change. “Act As If” tomorrow everything you know to be, believe to be, and have to come to rely on will cease to exist. I am not saying be a doomsday prepper, what I am saying is to mentally condition yourself to be adaptable, to survive and flourish amid radical change. Realizing that everything can change, makes us realize that life is about who we are, not who we want to be, that the macro norm is and always will be SNAFU, at least as long as humans are involved, I can’t speak for elevated life forms. COVID-19 while something out of a science fiction story is showing us that logic and reason should always prevail, that whether you believe in a higher power or not the biggest gift that each of us has been given is free will (maybe) and the ability to apply logic and reason to our decision making. Some would argue that there is no such thing as free will, and I might philosophically agree given that we are not always free to make choices, but this doesn’t mean we are never free to make choices. DO NOT DRINK OR INJECT DETERGENTS, ALSO DO NOT EXPOSE YOURSELF TO UV LIGHT! What depresses me is not quarantine, it’s ideas like how I dress, where I live, what car I drive might actually have an influence on societal status and progression, this is very sad in a time where we are supposed to be evolving as a species. I’d rather be judged on my capability, not my haberdashery, but somehow some guy just like you and me says drink detergent and it’s newsworthy because people might actually do it. So I ask myself should I be surprised by the lack of depth our society often possesses? The answer is clearly, NO. Our unconscious biases run deep, but I think that a bad situation may actually be unconsciously helping us to attack unconscious bias, more clarity on this as this quarantorial progresses.

I was raised Catholic, not to get non-secular here, but I believe in a higher power, haven’t met this person or thing so I don’t know what it is, I don’t buy into imagery, and I don’t believe other human beings living on the same planet can be elevated above my place on this planet by ordination. I believe these things because I was taught during my thirteen-year Catholic education, apparently, I am built in God’s image and likeness. Well if I believe this, then God gave me the ability to apply logic and reason, and so much of this is not logical or reasonable. To stay connected during quarantine our team has been conducting nightly 1:1 interview sessions, and when I was being interviewed I was asked, (paraphrased) “assuming there is an after-life, what would you say when you arrive at entry point?” I gave an answer, but upon further thought, I think I would simply say, as the creator you gave me the ability to make all the decisions that I made, and now you want to judge me, that is pretty eff’d up.

Over the past six weeks or so, I have had a lot of time to read, write and reflect, and there are somethings, as a direct result of COVID and the quarantine that have been awesome revelations for me. My creative juices are definitely flowing, while I can’t sing or play an instrument, I can come up with ideas in my swimlane and opine on my vision, and I am thankful for that.

First off, I feel like quarantine has made me a better dad, my schedule without the need to commute or travel often for no great reason, without the expectations or perspectives of others at different points in their lives or careers has allowed me to find time to focus on productivity. My contributions feel far less routine and far more meaningful. My waste has dramatically decreased and I was already lean, but more importantly, my frustration with things outside my control has decreased and this has increased my patience and satisfaction. There is no doubt that good parenting and patience are directly related, so I’ll be taking this realization away with me post-COVID. I should also note that I work just as long, and just as hard, with far less waste and a much better ability to interleave my time between work and family, the reasons for this are pretty straight forward. My routine is the same, so I’ve added hours per day of time to my workday every day because I removed the routine, this is time I can be creative, I can learn, I can read, I can write. Family time is simpler, it’s less hectic, the paradox of choice in many cases has been lifted, life is just simpler, and everyone is arguably happier with this simpler lifestyle. I feel zero stress about not being able to go to a restaurant, about not being able to go to the supermarket, what I feel is the freedom to focus on a finite set of simplistic daily life requirements. Like Tony Robins’ says “Complexity is the enemy of execution.” My execution is better because life is simpler.

I do want to quantify this by saying that choice is something I have, something I am incredibly appreciative of and this is not something everyone or even most have. What I will say is I never stop working, I never unplug, I never stop thinking, I am trapped in a 24x7x365 world where ideas waiting for me to act on them and competing priorities creates endless anxiety. We all make tradeoffs, and not everything is what it seems. My father worked 17 hour days regularly (including commute time), but when he was home his mind was free, my mind never seems free. This is who I am, I love this person, I value my active mind, I love the opportunity to think and experiment and I would never want to change myself, but when choices are reduced life gets simpler. Some people love the Cheesecake Factory menu, other people feel exhausted by it, endless choice, with no actual control.

There is nothing I can do in a physical room that I can’t do via a video conference. I am a knowledge worker, working in technology in a highly connected world, my productivity has been greatly increased by sheltering/working in place. We’re all on an even playing field now, and capability matters, this is the world I want to live in, minus a deadly virus. Where I live, what I wear, how I look, how I smell, and what I drive have zero influence on achievement. These are now my choices without the definition of what’s “normal”. There are no lunches, no dinners, no happy hours, and no golf outings so our relationships are predicated on factors like the quality of our broadband connection, our ability to stay engaged and productive working autonomously, our efficiency, and our ability to grow and flourish in a time when much of what we do will be self-directed. What matters now is the only thing that matters to me, our heart, and our brain, arguably in their purest form. Unconscious bias is harder to come by right now, and I think this makes some people unconsciously uncomfortable. I’ll admit I have a bias against people who want to approach me to chat. If you’re talking to me and I can hear you and were not on the phone or a video conference, YOU ARE TOO CLOSE, I don’t care that you have a mask on.

Heart disease and brain health: Looking at the links - Harvard Health

I do hear the argument that “you need to be in a room to read people”, OK, maybe, but I am not a psychic, psychologist, profiler or some other professional who should have faith in their own ability “read people” nor do I think it changes the outcome. I am who I am, some people will like me, some people will not and that is OK, but I work incredibly hard on my abilities and I do it for me, I have no relative measures of success, I covet nothing, I have incredibly basic needs outside of an insatiable thirst for knowledge and in today’s world, I am more likely to be judged on the merits of who I am than on the context in which I exist. More so than ever, our reputation and influence are directly linked to our ability to execute, and like this.

Before I move on I want to touch on the idea that not only are we flattening the curve, but a post-COVID world will be a flatter world, a world where the geographic location of the knowledge worker will become far less relevant and the Digital Nomad will become far more prevalent. Every transformation requires a catalyst, and while we have been waging this debate over nomad vs. office culture for years, the field of play has forever been changed. Today we are connected by a wire, and our digital existence knows no borders, the catalysts for a return to “normal” that existed following the 1918 flu pandemic simply no longer exist in many areas of the knowledge economy.

Today I feel a far greater responsibility to engage and to connect with others and I am not exhausted by the routine of doing so. When I engage I am fully engaged, and I enjoy it. Part of the reason I think I am enjoying social engagement in a virtual world is that it seems purposeful. Each night at 5 PM EDT my team jumps on a call, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday we do 1:1 interviews that last approximately thirty minutes, I have learned so much more about everyone who has been through the process, and arguably more than I could have ever learned in the same time period showing up and sitting in the same room all day. On Wednesday we hold “Wired Wednesday”, this session runs a couple of hours, and each team member brings tech (life) mentor/influencer in the form of a video conference background and talks for three to five minutes on how this person influenced their life and career in tech. Each person on this team has touched my heart with the way they have presented, and I am sure they have touched the hearts of their peers in the same way. These are great people, with great stories that I have gotten to know at a much deeper level and I’ve had fun doing it. I record all the session and I rewatch them at night with my wife and kids, my family now knows everyone who I go to work with every day, I get to tell my kids how lucky I am, I get to leverage the great women in technology on my team as tangible role models for my daughters. I have spent 28 years as a professional, working day in and day out with many of the same people for years and years and I never came close to the connection like the connection I have created in the last six weeks. Social distancing has created connections that otherwise would never have been created.

Like productivity, socialization is in your head, it’s not where you are, it’s who you are and what you do. We live in a time where we don’t want to define anything, I am cool with that, but let’s not define this as the “new normal” and just define it as today, and realize that today can be better than yesterday or it can be worse than yesterday, the choice is ours. This is not some pollyanna bullshit, our opportunities are endless, learn to love something new, explore something you would never have explored if you could choose to do something else, you just might find that edX Justice course is something you can’t stop watching. Don’t judge our situation as good or bad, don’t get wrapped up in what yesterday was like, and just find the beauty and opportunity in today, it’s there you just need to find it and figure out where you personal win lives.

I will finish with productivity. I couldn’t be happier with the professionals who I get to come to work with, go to war with, and call friends every day. We set out years ago with strong headwinds to build a business that was sustainable, that I/we felt could operate in a paradigm that I/we felt was coming. This pivot pushed us to an autonomous work from anywhere model, where we focused on hiring people with a passion for what we were doing and what we were building. Today what was a team in the low single digits has become a thirty person team, with a business that values partnership and doing the right thing, and I credit the culture, passion, and commitment of this team with the fact that our business is continuing to grow during an economic tsunami. Slow and steady has always been the approach; empower others, provide autonomy, and provide them the freedom to fail. My ask in return is that we all possess an unparalleled level of passion, commitment, accountability, and responsibility.

We are embarking on the “new normal”, but really it’s just another day living a life where the only thing we have a modest level of control over is ourselves, so Act As If today, tomorrow and the next day are just days, constrained by the circumstances of life.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

Quarantorial Volume 2: 21st-century knowledge workers, motivational theory and working from wherever.

OK, so I know that I referenced this post in my “Volume 1: Musings on community, evolving market dynamics, the human spirit, and ingenuity” quarantorial; part of the reason I wanted to write about this was to take a look at the knowledge economy in the context of COVID-19, quarantine, social distancing, and stay-at-home. One of the key aspects that I think has come to light as a result of COVID-19 is the difference between being motivated and productive vs. “being there”, for years I have believed, evangelized and argued that success is derived from motivation, drive, mastery, passion, purpose, and autonomy, because “being there” is just a state of existence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve observed people sitting at their desks surfing social media and texting, with a seeming total inability to focus, what I would call “being there”. Those merely existing want us to exist alongside them, but those of us who have elevated, those of us who spend 24x7x365 preoccupied with problem-solving, those of us who can’t wait to get up to start tackling the idea that came to us at 3 AM feel incredibly confined and distracted in this rigid, monotonous and unfocused operating model. It’s not solitude that suffocates us, it’s conforming to a model that we know retards our progression. In the words of the great Gen Xer, Tony Hawk, “I am driven by progression”, and with finite time available I have no time or tolerance for distractions.

I can’t stand the debate of ‘do you live to work or work to live’, because this is a self-fulfilling prophecy; spending time looking for balance is time spent looking for mediocrity. If you live for (love) your work, it probably doesn’t feel like work and your life is probably much more fulfilled, Jeff Bezos calls this work-life ‘harmony’ rather than work-life ‘balance’. If you spend time thinking about working to live, chances are you probably don’t love what you do and are not fully immersed, thus you can never elevate to a place that fulfills one of my favorite quotes “Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford commencement speech “The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking, don’t settle.” There may be no better interview question than; do you believe this sentiment, and how will this job deliver satisfaction, how will it enable you to do great work?

Many of the ideas I will explore in this quarantorial are concepts I have been pondering and rooted in for years; so much of the content is content I have thought and written about for years put into the context of COVID-19 and a post-COVID world. I am intrigued by how so many people believe that muscle memory is 90% of the battle, how so many people need a catalyst like COVID-19 to wake them up, how fast they are willing to question and alter that which they were so “committed” to yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, muscle memory is important with many tasks, but when it comes to knowledge work it’s all about how you perform when muscle memory doesn’t exist; when there is no program for success; when there is no relative measure of success. Can you invent a way to do it, can you find new muscles and make them burn, can you stay motivated and driven, can you find satisfaction in your own progression?

Take a minute and think about the leaders in our modern knowledge economy. Do you think they rely on muscle memory, or on thinking differently? Do you think they rely on routine, or on a willingness to fail and a desire to blaze the trail, with no sacred cows and the ability to objectively and subjectively evaluate and pivot quickly? Do you think they think about work-life balance, or do you think they personify Van Gogh’s “Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.”

Titans of the modern knowledge economy.

Hopefully, it’s obvious I think about these ideas nearly every day, but before I start to explore some of this in the context of COVID-19, I want to talk about what I will call a work-from-anywhere or knowledge economy fitness tips. First off, the most important fitness routine for any knowledge worker is to exercise consumption, learn how to consume and comprehend as much data and information as possible, exercise all the consumption senses, reading, listening, and watching; these are the senses that fuel original thought. Second, write, and write a lot, we only get good with practice and in solitude, writing is how we hone expression, it’s how we develop our thoughts, it’s how we develop our vocabulary and becoming a better writer makes us a better communicator. Practice storytelling; tell stories to the completely disinterested, learn to read the audience, keep trying, and work until you can hold their interest, you’ll know when you are making progress. Lastly, and arguably one of the most important life hacks that I learned after having children is how to interval work on complex tasks with near-zero loss. Let me explain; before I had children I required total immersion in a task, I had to work to completion, 8 hours, 15 hours, 48 hours it didn’t matter, start the task and work on it until completed. This was not a bad thing, but it’s not sustainable and I was also easily disrupted. When I lost focus, our just stopped for the day from pure exhaustion, restarting the activity took significant effort, there was an immense energy and time loss associated with stopping and starting. Children forced me to train my brain and my personal process to achieve minimal loss when stopping and starting complex tasks, this has by far been the hardest and most impactful productivity hack I have achieved over the last fifteen years.

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness is important, but the knowledge worker will never need to run a marathon, this like a running-back working out with the goal of kicking a 60-yard field goal, the time spent working out with the goal of kicking a 60-yard field goal is time that should be spent conditioning for the running back position. I am not saying be unhealthy, what I am saying is any goal takes focus, the more extreme the goal the more focus, and the question that is raised by training for a marathon is where does your passion lie. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS, there are finite hours in the day, FOCUS is required. Balance breeds well-rounded mediocrity, and for the modern knowledge worker FOCUS is more critical than ever. So let’s talk about knowledge worker fitness.

  • Hack your life.
    • Stay fit, but remember unless your trying to be Tony Hawk the backside 720 is not something you should be investing hours and hours a day into perfecting, this is defocusing you. If you find yourself unable to stop, pivot your life to look more like Alex Honnold’s life, throw the computer out the window, get a van and focus.
    • Understand “The Buzz vs The Bulge” so you can stay reasonably fit and focus your time where you get the greatest yield.
    • Figure out where your mind goes and why; stop wandering. How can you achieve flow? No matter what guide you look at, “choose work you love” will always be at the top of the list.
      • “Flow is the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Write down 100% of your ideas and thoughts, no matter what time they come to you, wake up and write them down. I have a Trello board just for ideas and thoughts; if I think it, I write it down. That time spent thinking about something you know you already thought about, but can’t recall is an immense waste of time and brainpower.
  • Get the proper knowledge-worker physical fitness equipment.
    • Finger and hand dexterity is very important for the knowledge worker, we will be turning a lot of pages, writing and typing hundreds of thousands of words, and stong and limber hands and fingers will serve us well. The rubber squeeze ball is ideal for maintaining hand and finger strength as well as releasing stress.
    • Grip and forearm strength are critical, that mouse isn’t going to move itself and the stronger our grip and forearm the less likely we are to develop carpel tunnel syndrome, a potentially limiting affliction for the modern knowledge worker.
    • As we age, wrist and forearm strength become harder to maintain. The weakening of these critical knowledge worker muscles can contribute to carpal tunnel, joint pain, and even arthritis. A good wrist strengthener can keep you operating at peak levels.

For finger, hand and grip health and training I recommend the Hand Grip Strength Trainer Kit with 2 Hand Therapy Ball and Non-Slip Gripper w/ Adjustable Resistance from 22 lbs to 88 lbs.

For wrist and forearm health and training, I recommend the Sportneer Wrist Strengthener Forearm Exerciser Hand Developer Strength Trainer for Athletes, Fitness Enthusiasts, Professionals.

Home workout equipment.

Mental Fitness

Just about every knowledge worker possesses the most powerful tool available, a smartphone. This is your key to mental fitness, stay off TMZ, and focus on working out at all available times. On the train, read while standing, get a good text-to-speech engine for PDFs and consume those long white papers while in the car (I use eReader Prestigio, but there are many options), get a good voice recorder app (I use Easy Voice, again there is no shortage of options), get a good speech-to-text app (I love Otter), get yourself a good academic mobile learning platform like Coursera, edX, or Udacity and continue educating yourself. Invest in a good professional training platform like Pluralsight. Get a good on the go coding learning platform to stay sharp, platforms like SoloLearn, Programming Hub, Encode, DataCamp, and Codeacademy are some of my favorites. I am an Android person and for years I have been using TubeMate to pull down keynotes, and other video content from YouTube for offline viewing, I am sure there are tools for the iPhone, get one and use it. Lastly, get yourself a good podcast tool, and commit to podcasts, remember a good podcast app moves with you, the experience between mobile, desktop, laptop, and tablet should be seamless and in-sync, so you can consume content efficiently from wherever. The podcast app that I have used for years is Pocket Casts.

OK, let’s explore some of the ways to improve our game beyond the mobile device because a mobile device approach only gets you so far.

  • Invest in some sort of casting device. Chromecast, AppleTV, Roku, etc… When you are on the sofa or spending time with the family you want to encourage yourself to watch a Coursera, edX, Udacity, etc. lesson. You would be surprised how you can align multiple aspects of your life if you create the proper environment. My entire family has watched some aspect of Justice and talked about the moral and ethical dilemmas posed by Professor Sandel and CS50; Professors Malan’s use of the PB&J to introduce logic and structured design is epic.
  • Commit to a cloud-first strategy. Make every experience portable and consistent.
  • Get yourself the right tools and make them available, remove access roadblocks, and lame excuses.
    • A cloud-first strategy lets you have N devices and keep them in sync no matter where you are.
    • Kindles and tablets are cheap, place them around the house strategically. Have one in your backpack, one in the family room, one on the nightstand, don’t move them. When you’re in bed and the Kindle or tablet is in your backpack, you’ll make excuses, don’t give yourself an out.
    • One computer is not enough. To maximize 100% of your available time you will need computer placement similar to Kindle and tablet placement. I say invest in a few Chromebooks because these are low-cost devices that force adoption of a cloud-first strategy, they have great battery life and they are full-featured, you can read, you can study, you can code, etc… There is no shortage of Chromebooks to choose from, my current daily drivers are an ASUS C302 and an ASUS Chromebook C523NA, which I bought from Amazon Warehouse for $189, the big screen helps my aging eyes. For those who want a good reasonably priced Chromebook that attacks various use cases, but won’t break the bank, I suggest looking at the Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible.
      • You may be thinking I live in a small apartment, why do I need more than one computer. The answer is simple when you come home from work, that computer is in your bag, like anything in life, just that act of taking the computer out of your bag and powering it on can be the difference between an 10 or 15 minutes of time on the computer that is sitting on your nightstand and just going to bed. Add that time up over time and it’s a difference-maker.
  • Get hands-on experience and don’t spend time on trying to figure out how to stand-up infrastructure, this is like looking to become a surgeon, but learning how to be a plumber first so you can scrub in. Leverage platforms like Katacoda and Codeanywhere to get your hands on the keyboard and start using those physical muscles you worked so hard to condition. As you progress leverage the public cloud as you need more complex infrastructure and compute power. A word of advice, API first, meaning don’t build that which is sitting there waiting to be consumed via API.
    • For example:
      • Don’t build a GPU rig for machine learning when you can just use Google Colab, FloydHub or Paperspace.
      • Don’t build a Linux server at home when you can get a VPS instance from somewhere between $3 and $15 per month, depending on what you are looking to do. OVH VPS and AWS Lightsail are great options here.
      • Don’t build a logging server when you can leverage something like LogDNA for free or for $3 a month.
      • Follow the rule of staying focused on the objective. Most of us eat to live, but we don’t farm because there is an easier consumption model for us to meet our objective of sustaining ourselves, it’s called the grocery store. If the grocery store ceased to exist, we would all have to become farmers, but not having to farm allows us the time to focus elsewhere.
  • Get involved in the community. Slack, Gitter, Telegram, Twitter, Stack Overflow, reddit, DZone, FreeCodeCamp, Hacker News, DEV Community, etc…
    • Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, etc… are all time wasters, uninstalling something like Facebook probably not realistic, just stop using it unless your mom says did you see my post, just say no and then take a look.
  • You’re craving that hands-on hardware experience? You don’t need space, power or cooling. All you need are a few Raspberry Pi 4s. There are lots of ways to accomplish building your Raspberry Pi cluster. I suggest the following parts list (or comparable):
Raspberry Pi Cluster

While the cost of the above is not outrageous given what you will have in a small form-factor compute power, with low power requirements, you may be able to lower the cost even further using a single Raspberry Pi 4 and a Cluster Hat.

Cluster HAT v2.4 – Pimoroni Store
Raspberry Pi 4 with Cluster Hat and 4 x Raspberry Pi Zeros

Also, once you get your RPi cluster built, you will love K3s!

Focus and Yield

Invest in the proper tooling to track and metric how you spend your time, pay attention to the data and make changes to increase your productivity. Know your regiment, aka where muscle memory matters, for example, I read for one hour and write for one hour every morning, this time is off the grid, but it is part of the regiment that I am committed to because I know is subjectively additive to my time on the grid. Be Jerry Rice deliberate about being the best at your position; progression is not a relative measure.

Every day is different. When we don’t accomplish our goals, it becomes important to have the data that provides us with a retrospective. When we do accomplish our goals, the data can helps us understand why we were so productive. Setup may take some time, but to get a good view data collection needs to be passive and consistent on all platforms, mobile, tablet, laptop, and desktop.

Listen and observe, but make your own logical decisions, those relying on routine rather than passion and motivation like company.

COVID-19 as a catalyst for a biger change.

I am seeing people who I’ve known to have convicted opinions about the “what is required” change how they think. The pivot is happening quickly, #StayAtHome has forced a change that many individuals would not make on their own and operational changes that organizations would not have taken on their own because of perceived risk, but here we are, the bandaid has been ripped off and were making some astonishing discoveries, we realizing that the motivated perform and the unmotivated show up and take up space, doing harm and masking the long-term prognosis and impact.

I am sharing a video entitled “RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us” because this whiteboard does a great job distilling the Daniel Pink’s book Drive. If you have not seen the video or read the book, I recommend taking the time to do so. While there is this age-old adage that salespeople (and plenty of other people) are “coin-operated,” I think it’s important to recognize that this motivation is not likely the motivator that underpins many of the cultures that make up the new knowledge economy. BTW, don’t let yourself off the hook with obvious motivators like family or a desire to win; we all want to take care of our families, and we all want to win.

Everyone has different motivators; I love motivational theory because, as a leader, I believe understanding motivation theory is my best chance to gain some understanding of the most complex and impactful variable I can comprehend, the human being.

I am a Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory person; for me, I am very interested in satisfaction vs dissatisfaction which is why I gravitate towards Herzberg. I have spent plenty of time discussing McClelland’s Need Theory and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with others who favor these theories. Some of the more interesting conversations I’ve had are about why people favor a specific motivational theory.

I hope everyone is staying safe, staying healthy, thinking deeply and stepping up their focus game.

Quarantorial Volume 1: Musings on community, evolving market dynamics, the human spirit, and ingenuity.

Those who know me, certainly those on my team, know there is nothing I enjoy more than opinion piece delivered using the lost art of the written word. Some of these people like to call me verbose, but I think we all know that “we mock, what we don’t understand.” – Dan Ackroyd – Spies Like Us

Today I thought I would publish my first in a series of quarantorials, sharing some of my thoughts on community, evolving market dynamics, the human spirit, and human ingenuity, as well as some reading, and film suggestions along the way. This was prompted by a co-worker who delivered some great content to the community and also took the time time to provide idea attribution.

First, let me start by saying that all of my ideas are in the public domain, licensed using the Creative Commons license, and I intended for them to be borrowed, improved, and reshared. Recently a co-worker referred to themself as a “thief” (in jest of course), but this got me thinking, this person is not a thief but rather a good community actor, providing attribution and not violating the Creative Commons license. 🙂 The most important thing about leveraging that which is governed by Open Source licenses like the Creative Commons or the GNU Public License (GPL) is not only that we provide attribution, but that we improve the idea and contribute our improvements back to the community. To this individual, I say, thank you for leveraging the idea, thank you for the attribution, and thank you for contributing something back to the community in the form of quality content and a well-articulated message. Most importantly, the backdrop landscape in their video, what can I say other than I may use it as the backdrop for a future video on socialism and the benefits of the aristocracy. 🙂

It’s easy to get caught up in our rhetoric, to think that value creation is rooted in the proprietary, something only “I” or “we” can do, aka the secret sauce. The reality is there is no secret sauce; there are “no more secrets”. – Robert Redford, Sneakers

Free and frictionless access to information is an incredible change that has been brewing over the last three decades and reshaping our industry in recent years. While novel ideas remain, the life span of these ideas is so short that it’s almost immeasurable. These changes are hard to accept because they mean that we need to work harder (smarter) tomorrow than we did yesterday. As human beings, this may not be our desire, it may seem counterintuitive, it may seem hard to comprehend, but look around, it’s not perception, it’s reality. The shadow chasing me is the shadow of a future which is growing and moving faster than me; the shadow is my visual reminder to work harder, work smarter, and run faster. Some of you will have the context to understand the shadow reference fully, and some will not, that’s OK. 🙂 Community contribution, community reputation, and achieved authority are replacing proprietary protections and ascribed authority; this has been happening in tech for a very long time. COVID-19, while not pleasant, is demonstrating that human ingenuity and the community offer far more than the proprietary protections of a closed-source world. Commercial corporations like Medtronic have open-sourced plans for their PB560 ventilator, research institutions like MIT are developing a low-cost open-source ventilator, and DIYers like Johnny Lee have converted their CPAP into a ventilator and open-sourced the plans. There is no doubt that COVID-19 will be a catalyst for change. The ventilator industry will look different, who knows what the travel and hospitality industry will look like, this list goes on and on. One day Zoom is the leader of the pack, the next day, I am on a Zoom call and the customer says “we’ve been told to not use Zoom”, things can change that fast. Business models will cease to exist, and new business models will emerge.

For some perspective on remote knowledge workers, consider that 96.3 percent of the top 1 million web servers run Linux, and Linux is free. One guy in his basement in Finland leads over 15,000 worldwide Linux kernel developers working from just about anywhere (probably not a traditional office), to build a free operating system that is moving towards 100% market share. What motivates these people? Stay tuned, I plan to explore this question in an upcoming quarantorial entitled “21st-century knowledge workers, motivational theory and working from wherever.” The level at which Linux dominates was unfathomable in the 1990s, seemingly unrealistic in the 2000s, and not fully realized in the 2010s. 2020 begins a new decade, where systems choosing to favor stability over progress continue to run code written sixty years ago, these systems are unable to process unemployment claims and during a global pandemic, the public sector is calling on volunteer COBOL programmers to remedy the issues. Stanley Kubrick couldn’t make this stuff up. I believe we will experience an unprecedented level of agility and velocity in terms of innovation and disruption. We live in a time where the U.S. Postal Service creed of “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” could very well be modified to read “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their Amazon same-day deliveries.” See “What If Jeff Bezos Tries to Acquire the Struggling U.S. Postal Service?

Many of us who grew up hooked on Star Trek did so because Star Trek was a theatrical depiction of a futurist view of tomorrow; after all, this is what science fiction is, fiction based in science. It’s interesting that today Gen Xers are getting some love during the COVID-19 pandemic, I don’ think that my generation’s love of Sci-Fi and our mental state during a pandemic is happenstance, Sci-Fi is a context that made our conditioning possible. As a Gen Xer, for myself and my friends, Sci-Fi provided a vision and an escape into a world beyond the solitary confines of Pong and The Pet Rock. This was a time where parenting focused heavily on instilling skills like “how to occupy yourself”, “how to be seen and not heard from”, “how to speak only when spoken to”, “how work would never kill you”, “how to independently get yourself to and from activities”, “how there is no such thing as a mistake”, “how to eat when food is served because the kitchen has posted operating hours”, “how minimalism creates focus by removing choice”, “how to decide to be in or out of the house, because in and out is not allowed”. This was a time when we played popular games with our parents like “who can be quiet the longest” and “Dee’s Diner”, my mom’s name is Dolores (aka Dee) and for those unfamiliar with the game of “Dee’s Diner”, it’s where we sat down for breakfast, mom served some oatmeal (aka fed us breakfast) while we pretended to be on the set of Alice.

There is no doubt, I and many of my fellow Gen Xers were built for this shit!

Today we live in a world where Sci-Fi has seemingly been replaced with reality television, where we have to designate programming as “reality” or “scripted’ because apparently we can no longer tell the difference. The lines between reality and science fiction certainly aren’t as clear as they used to be, maybe this is because we are living in the future, maybe it’s because our infatuation with other peoples reality has stunted our imaginations. Personally, I am waiting for Peter Wayland to appear at a Coronavirus briefing to talk about building a better post-COVID world.

As I sit here decades after developing my imagination and learning how to occupy myself, I and many of my fellow Gen Xers owe our parents a big thank you, because our imaginations are intact amidst a reality attack and our mental health is at peak fitness.

New business models are emerging and many of these models are rooted in Open Source models documented by Eric S. Raymond in an essay in 1997 and a book that followed in 1999 entitled The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary.” The paper highlighted early entrants into space, companies like VA Research and Cygnus Solutions. The musings on where Open Source was heading were 20 years early, but today we are there.

I awake every day, motivated to disrupt myself, thinking about how I can better prepare for disruption. During the normal course of life, I am labeled as someone who is planning for something that will likely not happen, but the best way to delay and weather inevitable disruption is to accept that it can and will happen; not knowing when is what keeps us alert and sharp. Like Jeff Bezos has said, “One day, Amazon will fail but our job is to delay it as long as possible.”

I hope this quarantorial was an enjoyable read. Be on the lookout for two other quarantorials currently in the editorial review phase. I hope to publish them soon:

  • Quarantorial Volume 2: 21st-century knowledge workers, motivational theory and working from wherever.
  • Quarantorial Volume 3: Homeschooling observations and education reform.

Stay vigilant, stay safe and stay healthy!