Reflections on the Broken Leg Experience

I’m now PWB (partial weight bearing)! That means that I can kind-of stand on it, and will likely be walking in a week or two, and hiking in six. Jen and I are headed to San Francisco tomorrow for a bit of fun and then a week in the office.

Before returning to normal life I wanted to capture at least a few of the experiences.

The most striking was the day after the ER visit. Realizing that this wasn’t going to pass, I canceled all my plans and trips for the next six weeks. That was tough. But the next feeling that this was an incredible opportunity. Those vast stretches of open calendar. Having no plans in the evenings, or weekends. What would I do with all that time?

My first thought was to do something incredible. Emerge six weeks later with not only a good leg, but playing guitar, speaking another language, something… Maybe meditation. With this much down time I could at the very least master this. And working out. I couldn’t use my leg, but maybe do 10,000 sit ups a day and have incredible abs. Or biceps! I scheduled a poker party for three weeks out when I was confident I’d be feeling much better.

I didn’t achieve that. Life went on – guitar ok, abs ok, biceps ok. No new languages – human or computer. It did end up being a very productive time at work. And a useful period of introspection.

My progression for the first few days was dramatic. I felt much better. Friends came over and I felt ok. No painkillers, just a little Advil. Then I had surgery to put in the plate. Surgery sucks. More than broken bones (of which I’ve had many). Actually, the first 12 hours after I thought it was amazing. No pain, all fixed! Then the serious meds wore off. One Vicodin every three hours like clockwork for about a week. And generally just feeling a significant amount of pain and very low-energy. The second week was about keeping the pain level the same while tapering off the Vicodin. And the third was tapering off the Advil.

I was unbelievably fortunate that I can work from home (bed). I haven’t missed a day of work. Far from it, I haven’t not worked for a day since the accident. Fortunate first to not have my career collapse because I can’t be there for six weeks. And fortunate again to have something interesting to keep me occupied!

I was also incredibly fortunate to have Jen to take care of me. I have no idea what people do if they don’t have someone. Coffee in the morning, water, moving laptops around, breakfast, lunch, dinner… Carrying the crutches down the stairs. Driving me to appointments. Getting food! Countless helps each day.

After surgery I quickly adjusted expectations. The new goal became to keep work going while maintaining sanity and trying to enjoy what I can. Watching a few seasons of “House of Cards”, “Vikings”, and “Marco Polo” were just fine. Lots of Ted talks. And Physics lectures on quantum mechanics and string theory.

Friends were great – stopping by to visit. Party and movies at the Henry’s. With Jen and Rick’s help I managed to pull off the poker party. Dinner and a few minutes of a movie at Ricks!

One of the most memorable things was conversations with Jasper and Scout. We have great relationships but life is busy and we often have little time to talk. I generally attribute that to them. I was wrong. I was surprised by what happened when I was confined to one spot. They came and talked. For a long time. Great conversations! More than once I asked “are you waiting for <friend to arrive>, <dinner>?” But no, they just wanted to hang out. I realized that I have an equal role here. Too often I cut things off, going back to work or off to do something. Slowing down is good!

Physically, P90x has been great. Especially ab-ripper. It’s not just abs, but also gets the legs going without any weight bearing. I highly recommend it if you have arm, leg, shoulder issues. That said, I was surprised how much I didn’t feel like working out. I’m sure part of it was physical. Recovery takes energy. And some mental – limited workouts inside just aren’t as fun.

So in the end. No profound changes, But I would call it a positive experience. I’m appreciating each step back into the normal world, and excited to get back on the bike!

leg

Cutting Stuff Up

I don’t think I’m that unique in being rather bad at delegating. I was proud of myself for finally asking Jen (I couldn’t do it) to call a plumber (when I was in Santa Cruz) to fix the clog in the sink (and not tell me). I had tried for several weeks with different approaches. Finally borrowing a friend’s plumbers snake and ramming that thing 20 feet into the pipe without successfully unblocking it. Other than that I haven’t hired anyone for any part of the house remodel. (not me, stock photo. Toolbelts are for tools)

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At our large “Wesselpalooza” campout I traditionally make dinner for everyone there. That’s ranged from 30 to 70 people. We go in on Saturday to Leavenworth to buy everything and then cook it up. One year I made individual portions of Phad Thai in a great big wok named (by the manufacturer, not me), the “King Kooker”. That was a lot of work.

Last year it was 64 people for steak and chicken kabobs and several side dishes. This was already a compromise from my original plan of Argentine Churrasco – steak on swords grilled over a fire (yes, coming next year!). I was frantically working and rather stressed out. People kept asking if they could help and I kept saying no. All I needed to do was work faster, better, and get it done. I was madly cutting up red peppers when Tracey Dayton came over and said “I see you’re cutting stuff up. Would you like me to cut stuff up?”. It was brilliant in so many ways and a lesson I still remember.

“How can I help?” is a hard question. Effectively “hey, why don’t you stop what you’re doing, sit back, take a deep breath, acknowledge that you aren’t going to succeed on your own, and instead of clearly moving forward, take the time to figure out how to clearly divide work and offer it to others”. That’s hard. With some insight and clarity, Tracey eliminated all that complication and posed a simple yes/no question. Answer: “Yes, please yes, cut this stuff up”. After that everything else unlocked and it was an easy and collaborative dinner and the usual evening of Fireball and dancing round the campfire.

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I’m writing this at the end of a 12-hour day mostly because I need to apply it, right now.

And… It’s unlikely, but you might still wonder how the pipe was still blocked? It turns out shortly after entering the wall the pipe splits. One part goes up to vent to the roof. Another goes down to the drain. I’m pretty sure my snake was slithering all over the roof rather than down in the plumbing doing the real work.

drain-waste-vent-plumbing-diagram

There’s no real insight there that I can think of. And I have no idea how you convince your plumbers snake to head up or down at a given junction with only a coiled, smelly, slippery spring to work with. But the point I guess is to step back for a moment, stop trying to push that snake into the pipe and figure out how to align the world around you with what you want to achieve. Otherwise you have to deal with a giant hairball like this.

4CPID

Apple Uncare

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It’s interesting to watch great companies slip. As an Apple II and Mac developer I watched Apple implode the first time. It’s happening again.

MacBook power supplies are notoriously unreliable. I’ve had four go bad. Bad in general, worse when they’re $80. The saving grace was their customer service. Several years ago I walked in with two that were broken. One had frayed and literally started to burn. The first person I met when I walked in said “oh that’s terrible, took me to the back, and handed me two replacements to walk out with. In and out in two minutes. No transaction whatsoever.

I wrote up that transaction too. The beautiful thing was not just great service, but that a key corporate value had been embedded deeply all the way to this guy in the store. His #1 priority was to make my experience great. Everything else was secondary. And he was empowered to do anything within that general guideline.

Today is different. I’m here in the store now and have lots of time on my hands so I’m transcribing live…

Greeting person: Hi welcome to Apple!

Hi, my power supply is broken

Is it still under warranty?

I have no idea.

Ok, well come with me. Now wait here for the guy with red phone cover.

Wait as he talks to others. Frees up in a few minutes

Hi, I’m so and so, how can I help you?

Hi, I need a new power supply

Do you have an appointment?

Nope.

Well, we are appointment driven, that’s our process.

I had the same problem two years ago and the process was that you walk over there and get me a new power supply.

Well, if I do that now I’d be in violation of our process. Come with me over to the genius bar.

… Wait a few minutes for genius to free up. I test a power cable there and it works, so I get on WiFi, check email, and start this. Originally it was just going to be a Facebook post but then it got way to long!

Hi, my name is Grace, how can I help you?

I just need a new power supply.

Do you have an appointment?

Nope.

Ok then, please register here and select an appointment time. Hands me iPad

Fortunately one was available in 5 minutes…

5 minutes go by and she comes over.

Is it under warranty?

No idea.

Ok, I’ll check the serial number, figures it out…

Great, you have 54 days of warranty remaining! Lets get you fixed up. Usually it’s just this part (the power brick)

Yep, cord’s don’t fail much

Detaches the cord from the brick

I’ll check stock… wait… wait….

Tracy yells across the store – “anyone else having trouble with mobile genius?”

I laugh a bit.

Tracy is not amused.

Another genius helps her figure it out.

Looks like I’m out of stock on that but I can order you one.

That doesn’t work, I need this for work. You have power supplies right over there. Could I get one of those?

Well, we have “full power supplies, with the cord that you can buy.

You can’t just give me one?

Let me check on this

Wanders off and talks to another customer. 7 minutes pass. The conversation is rich with the words “not under warranty” and “have to charge you”. Also, she explains many times to the table how she’s sorry you all have to wait, but she has to multitask with all the people at the table.

The table fills with three more customers. More time passes. Many more discussions of warranties and people leaving very unhappy.

Normally by this time I would have become rather grumpy and asked Tracy what was up, but I was entertained writing this up. I also walked over to the wall and got a replacement power supply.

Finally, Nate appears from the back room. Nate has a different tone and is clearly sent in to address the problem customers. He double checks my serial number and warranty, and tells me he can order one.

I ask one more time if I can just have this one here?

He says it’s impossible because it’s in inventory. The look in his eyes clearly indicates that he’s frustrated and sorry. Nate’s a good guy. His hands are tied by policy and rules.

I decide to just pay.

We fill out forms on his iPad to get me a replacement cable ordered. They won’t ship it to me, I have to pick it up. I enter my email address and phone number for notification.

Then when I pay for my charger ($84) I fill out my email address again, on his phone this time in some other system.

Then, one more signature on the iPad on another form to acknowledge the $100 of labor that they gifted me for the privilege of being shuffled around the store, and I’m done.

50 minutes, $84, and I have to go back next week to pick up my replacement power supply. Times have changed.

What’s amazing is how quickly a different corporate value has been pushed through the organization. Bureaucracy and cost cutting. Truly stunning reversal.

Services Causing Overstatement of GDP Growth

I know enough economics to get into things, but generally am far from complete understanding. So I’m writing this about something I’ve been thinking about and hope for comments from people more knowledgeable. In my Googling around I can’t find this brought up anywhere, so I’m assuming I’m wrong. That or it’s really interesting.

Say you and 999 of your friends live in a nice little country called Libertania. Everyone is gainfully employed and the 1000 people earn $5/hour, $10k per year producing a GDP of $10 million.

People in Libertania are naturally quite self-sufficient. I spend 40 hours a year fixing my own car, and 35 hours mowing my lawn – 75 hours total. You are more efficient at both, requiring only 30 hours to fix a car, and 32 hours for lawn mowing – 62 hours total.

One day we each read a book on the theory of comparative advantage. Following the recommendation, we decide to specialize. You fix both our cars. This takes you a total of 60 hours, saving you 2 hours or $10. I mow both our lawns, taking a total of 70 hours, saving me five hours or $25. Granted, it would probably get more equitable in time but it doesn’t really matter.

Win-win! Together we saved seven hours in time, worth $35! Even though you are better at both things, we can both benefit by specializing in what we do best.

With our savings, we could now either relax and enjoy more leisure time, or use that time to work more and earn an additional $35. But for now lets ignore that.

Other citizens of Libertania notice us relaxing with our extra time and want in on this deal. Bartering services becomes rather tedious to keep track of so we all switch to just paying each other. Keeping it simple, fixing a car for a year costs $200, and a year of lawn mowing costs $200. The system works so well that all citizens now specialize in one or the other.

The government of Libertania (a small one…) is a modern economy and interested in knowing GDP – roughly, the total goods and services produced by the economy. Before this specialization trend the GDP was $10 million. Now, each citizen pays another $200 a year for one of the two tasks, a total of $200,000 changing hands. The GDP increases to $10,200,000, and the government marvels at it’s success in raising GDP 2% over the prior year.

But remember, what we actually saved was 7 hours in time between us, for a national savings of 3500 hours annually. At our average wage of $5/hour, that’s worth $17,500. Still good, but it’s hardly the $200,000 increase that the GDP showed. $182,500 of that increase is due simply to a transaction taking place. It didn’t add any actual value to anything – nothing was produced. It appears to be 91% overstated.

The more we specialize and exchange services the more we grow GDP. That’s good. But the actual value to the citizens is overstated in the GDP growth. They didn’t get 2% better off. They got 0.175% better.

I don’t know what the actual gap between true comparative-advantage savings, and the transaction amount is. But I’m confident that it’s significant. To be the same would require the savings for each of us to equal the price of the service, which is absurd. We would have had to have saved 40 hours each in the deal to justify the full $200 in GDP. You can play with the numbers but I can’t see any way to make it close to accurate.

But you say, remember the 7 hours in savings. We’re hard-working Libertanians and would spend that time working and making more money to make our lives better. So in addition to the transaction, we work an additional 7 hours, or a total of 3500 hours for the entire country, for a total of $17,500 in true, new, value and income (depending on how you’re measuring GDP)

But, the true value did not go up. I traded my newly-freed-up leisure time for money, which is a net zero.

So now, that income is added to reported GDP growth to make it $217,500, with a true increase remaining $17,500. That actually makes the overstatement worse at 92%.

That seems like a big deal. Services are roughly 68% of the US GDP

Almost any conceivable number would indicate that GDP growth has been significantly overstated.

Thoughts?

Next up, tax implications…

The tax rate at which the original transaction becomes a net loss for us is equal to 1 minus the overstatement – or 9%.

The Myth of Happiness

What is happiness? Most emotions seem easier to identify: angry, anxious, grumpy, frightened, surprised, bored… For being widely considered to be the big one, the meaning of life and all that, it seems elusively vague.

How to be happier is certainly not a unique topic. There is actually a book with the exact same title as this post. And I’ve read lots of others. I’ve even written a couple of posts here before on the subject. Yet I haven’t found a satisfying answer.

There are many things people want to change in their life:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Have more money
  3. Be happier

These are compelling goals, but they generally aren’t actionable. You can’t do much directly to achieve these goals that isn’t fraught with issues:

  1. Get liposuction
  2. Rob a bank
  3. Do heroin

But there are things you can do that in turn, are likely to move you towards these goals:

  1. Eat healthier and exercise more
  2. Learn a valuable skill
  3. ???

If I commit to one of these, create a plan, and stick to the program, I’m very confident that I will at least move towards the goal.

But happiness is a complex one. A common question is “what makes you happy?”. Many things seem correlated to some degree with happiness – going biking, good times with friends, doing something cool and meaningful at work, etc. But it’s not a direct correlation. If I bike more I will get better at biking, at least up to some physical limit. But biking even more doesn’t make me even happier. Biking a few times a week seems optimal, and then doing something else. Work often makes me happy, but working more usually doesn’t make me even happier. Friends are great, but I also want time by myself.

Beyond that, anyone into “advanced” happiness knows that pinning your happiness on something external is troublesome. What matters a whole lot, maybe completely, is your mental attitude – waking up with a positive attitude and appreciating the little things.  There are many stories of people blissfuly happy while in prison, or while doing nothing but meditating all day in a room. There is definitely a lot to this, but taking it to the extreme of just sitting in a room and being happy doesn’t do it for me.

Then there’s the “Flow” crowd. About being engaged at that threshold between being competent and challenged. Being good at something, but pushing it to a level where it becomes challenging but not impossible. I get that, but it’s also not the whole picture. Sometimes I’m very happy just having a nice day.

I think that the challenge is that happiness is the net result of many different, often competing things.

It seems a bit like money. Not that money is happiness. But similar in that the way to get a lot of money has very little to do with directly trying to get money. Robbing a bank might be analogous to heroin here – yes you can simply go somewhere that has a bunch of money and take it, but that course generally has repercussions. Heroin might make you briefly very happy, but downsides exist.

A more common and less risky path to making money is more complicated. Know yourself, you skills, and what you love to do. Pursue your passions. But for best results do try to align those passions with some skills that someone actually wants. Preferably skills that are scarce. Make meaningful friendships and professional connections. Get into situations and companies that are successful and growing. All this and much more is required to have a successful career that in turn, in the end, is likely to result in reasonable amounts of money. 

For all practical purposes, unless you’re the federal reserve it’s impossible to just get more money. You need to do a bunch of things that, when combined, probably ultimately result in money. Ironically, it’s generally the most direct “get rich quick” ideas that are the least likely to work.

I think happiness is similar. And asking “what will make me happy?” is like asking “what will make me a lot of money?”. It’s not actionable. And any straightforward prescription for happiness is likely to be a flawed as Internet popup ads to “make money fast!”

So what are the components that create the recipe for happiness? Like many things, I think it’s like Thai food. Contrasting and even conflicting flavors that, when combined perfectly, result in an amazing, balanced, and delicious tension.

I think “contentment” is one ingredient. The umami in the recipe. This is the  “just be happy” dimension, and Webster’s even lists “happiness” as a synonym. But I don’t think it is. It’s important, but umami alone is also boring.

Another component seems to be something between “interesting” and “exciting”. The spice. The proverb/curse of “may you live in interesting times” is appropriate. This is all about challenges, and often unpleasantness. But it’s interesting. I really dislike hearing the alarm clock go off at 5 to get up early to go fly somewhere. Or to go to Alpental for powder before the pass closes. But, I never regret it. Tim Ferriss has some good arguments for excitement being equal to happiness, but for me, that’s also not the complete picture.

What’s exciting, as a hacker, about both of these is that they’re are eminently actionable. I have lots of ideas for increasing my contentment. Make my environment nice and uncluttered. Engage with friends and family. Meditate. Feed the woodpeckers in the back yard. Enjoy a glass of wine.

I can also increase the excitement. This is a bit more of a challenge as interesting and exciting things often also can be rather unpleasant at times. Get up early to go snowboarding. Go for a run, even if it’s raining out. At work – take on speaking opportunities, learn new things, take on project you aren’t sure you can do. Tackle the difficult issues no one else wants.

Travel is an interesting subset of life. Travel can be about contentment. Take a nice flight somewhere posh, relax, have good food. That’s nice, but it really doesn’t work for me. I need a solid dose of excitement too: Go somewhere without a plan. Explore something new. Use AirBNB instead of hotels and meet new people. Do things that are physically challenging. 

Like great Thai food, it is challenging because these the different forces are in conflict. Lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce all pull in different directions and must be balanced. If it needs more tangy lime juice add some. But then you also need to balance the other flavors as well.

Italian food is great but simpler – say some tasty pasta. Start with some tomato sauce. Add garlic, spices, some cheese. Put it on pasta. Each component adds to the whole. If it doesn’t have enough oregano, then add some more. You can overdo it, but oregano does not directly counteract the garlic. Most books on happiness are simple like this. Do xyz, be happier. I think that works but only to a certain level, or for some people. I truly envy the Italian food people with a less contemplative view of the world.  But for me it gets more complicated.

This isn’t earth shattering but I think it is fairly unique. I certainly have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to be happier. I can’t complain, but I’ve always felt less effective than in some other areas of my life.

I’m looking forward to focusing on the components. Instead of asking what will make me happy this weekend, I’ll consider whether I want more contentment, or excitement. And how I want to adjust that balance in different aspects of my life – work, travel, relationships. I can work that!

What are your happiness flavors? And how do you combine them?

It’s Complicated…

Everyone loves the certainty of a simple answer – you can see them on the front of most magazines. The winning investment strategy. What makes Apple great. How to fix the economy, lose weight, find happiness… All in a few pages of magazine article. Politics is even worse – “fix the deficit”, “balance the budget”, Republican or democrat.

But the words I find myself saying more and more is “It’s complicated”.

One of the most popular business books was published in 1982 – Tom Peters’ “In Search of Excellence”. My dad had it. It looked at the companies that his buddies at McKinsey (oy,  trouble…) identified as dominant and “genuinely getting it”. Then they identified the common things they shared that led to their success. And the recipe for your own success was to replicate those factors. Seems like a solid plan. Unfortunately, even just a few years later it was clear that many of the star companies were not exactly outperforming – NCR, Wang, Xerox… How could that be? The success factors look about right, even today. The countless other business books creating recipes for success regurgitate similar themes. If they aren’t wrong, what is it?

Maybe it’s about the leader? The countless books on how to succeed by CEOs at their peak would seem to suggest that’s the key. Yet many companies buck the trend and persevere and thrive over time through drastic leadership changes – GE, IBM. While others rise and fall under the same leadership – Microsoft, Cisco.

Apple and Steve Jobs is an interesting study. Apple rose with Jobs but was well down the path to ruin while Jobs was still on duty. Then Jobs came back in 1998 to introduce the, drumroll, iMac! In pretty colors. For 3 years that was it. Then they hit on the iPod thing and it got better from there. Now he’s gone again and it’s not clear whether what was working will live on. So far so good. The obvious lesson learned is something like “make insanely great products that people love and they’ll buy lots of them”. But that’s like saying the way to lose weight is to… lose weight. The interesting part is how to do that.

In general, it’s clear that individuals can inspire and lead. But if this is a key attribute of an organization’s success then that inherently creates an organization dependent upon them. If the individual spirit can be transmitted to the organization as a whole and it can live on without them, then the key attribute is really the organizational culture.

I’m taking a mini-MBA class next week and as pre-work they talked about Net Present Value. It’s a great way to take a really complicated opportunity and boil it down to one number – the dollar value in today’s dollars. But the numbers on which it’s based involve a whole lot of assumptions that are often subject to major change. The calculation takes that reality and complexity, buries it deep, and presents an impressive facade of plain numbers. The math replace the truly meaningful attributes with simplifications all the way down to a single dollar value. Easy to understand, actionable, just completely disconnected from what’s actually going on.

I think the only general rule is “any general rule is wrong”. If there were any formulas everyone would converge and do that. Look at investing strategies. Countless books and magazines herald the best way to pick investments, even as an amateur investor. Yet the most sophisticated banks and hedge funds in the world have yet to beat the market consistently over time.

In contrast to this kind of analysis is intuition.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is now largely an odd footnote of history. At the time I was inspired by their passion, yet completely disdainful of their almost complete lack of tangible vision or execution. The plan began and ended with “camp in parks and talk about what bothers us”. It ended up being ineffective, but they got something right. The intuition that something needed to change, and that involved wresting control from the big banks. In many ways this is more valuable than the opposite – an effective plan without the right intuition. Heartless. The occupy movement was all heart and no brains, but at least they nailed something. The challenge is how to turn intuition into tangible change.

Intuition is powerful and certainly a key part of success. That part of us that seems to know what to do even when we don’t understand. Part of the solution must be to channel that intuition – create the conditions that allow it to thrive and speak. Meditation comes in here. But the other part is to pair that intuition with the right amount of analysis, due diligence, and practical execution. My summary of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink is that intuition is incredibly perceptive and powerful, except when it’s just the opposite and you’re just being racist, sexist, or just stuck in your old ways. Knowing which intuition to trust and which to ignore is key, which of course, makes it…  complicated.

Which is the semi-unsatisfying point at which I attempt to end this mostly wandering post still searching for the take-away.

Clearly doing the right things is important, and the right things are generally fairly well known. Do them, it’s better than doing the wrong thing, but it’s also no guarantee.

Intuition is really useful. Feed it and listen, but also know when to question it.

Leadership is important but is not everything.

Great people are key but can still mess things up badly.

And so on down the long list of good ideas that fill countless books.

But in the end the answer is that there is no answer. Instead of looking for the answer, embrace the complexity and explore what works. In the words of my good friend Barak: “Notice, Get Curious, Play”.

What to do today?

There is a lot of power in the questions we ask ourselves. Are we asking the right questions? I’ve been noticing a lot of bad ones:

“What do I want to do today?” I want to do all kinds of things. Some indulgent, some productive, some charitable. Looking for some inner answer to spring forth from the question is not likely to be too effective.

“What do I need to do today?” To accomplish what? I have infinite things I need to do. The world needs saving, budget needs balancing, pets need rescuing. How can I choose?

“What should I do today?” According to what criteria? Lots of possibilities, but who is judging?

Doing nothing now and then is fine, but if I’m going to do something, how do I choose?

Clearly having some idea of the goals in mind would be helpful. I want to be healthy and strong when I’m 70. I want some combination of marketable skills and money to not have to worry about finances. I want to be a good parent.

That kind of helps. I can now ask – “what should I do today to be healthy and strong when I’m 70?”, among other things. So it would be good to go for a bike ride.

But ultimately those goals represent tangible states, not end results. I don’t want to “be” healthy in some abstract terms. I want to feel healthy. I want to feel financially secure. I want to feel like a good parent. And I want Jen and the kids to feel loved and supported. Those are the ultimate goals.

There are many ways to be financially secure that might not make me feel that way. There are many ways to be a good parent that might not make me feel like a good parent. In the end, does it matter if we have something but we don’t feel the feeling that we wanted it for?

So what’s the good question?

“How do I want to feel at the end of the day, month, year, lifetime?”.

I want to feel healthy, so I go for a bike ride. After 30 minutes I’m having a great time but I should also go back and be a good parent, do some work, etc. How to decide? Ride on for another 30 minutes or head back?

Rather than analyze this decision, it seems to work better to picture myself at the end of the day lying in bed – which choice feels better? All the should’s, could’s, might’s are very confusing. But choosing between two choices based on how I’ll feel at the end of the day is often pretty clear.

Exhausted thoughts from Startup Weekend for Education

18 hour days, 4 hours of sleep. No coherent posts but some thoughts while it’s close.

I have a strong tendency to be drawn towards complicated problems. If it’s simple I don’t feel like it has merit. So I think of things that are unique and make them more unique by adding details that add complication. That can be useful. But what gets people’s attention is really, no really, staggeringly simple ideas that resonate. No matter that 47 companies out there are doing almost the same thing. If you care, and you want to focus on one little area, you can gather a lot of support.

Success is all about the team. Not just having strong players, but people that share the vision and largely share how the vision will be pursued. I don’t think it’s possible to align a non-aligned team. You can be authoritative and deprecate those that don’t align, but that squashes creativity and turns excited people into workers. Or you can be collaborate and sacrifice alignment for inclusion, but that produces mediocrity. What works is to actually create a team that is aligned on both vision on execution. Personality and relationships are first, everything else is second.

It’s amazing what can be thrown together in a weekend. I’m still undecided as to whether that’s a good or bad thing. The diversity of choices on the web is both inspiring and overwhelming. Having a leading source for something can be as useful as it is constricting.

The weekend was surprisingly random. The good things were fortunate accidents, and the challenges were equally unexpected.

A favorite moment was seeing a young biology student/researcher present his team, his idea, and the web site the team did to implement it. He called it the best weekend of his life! In the first hour of the weekend I had met him – just what you’d expect from an introverted, Korean biology student. He said he had an idea but wasn’t going to pitch it as it was too small. He told it to me, and I encouraged him throughout the evening to do it. I’m sure he would have anyway, but it was cool to see it happen!

Another favorite moment was having our “viral” marketing business plan completely taken apart by one of the mentors. I had “book learned” everything he said, but hadn’t taken it to heart. Reading it is one thing. Having it happen to something you’ve been working on for the last 24 hours is another. Having skin in the game is *the* differentiating aspect of Startup Weekend.

But the best part was working with the team and seeing it come together. We didn’t get everything done, but it was a lot of fun trying. It was an inspiring group of people!

When you have piles of money, everything you say is brilliant. You may be brilliant, but money hides many flaws.

Venture Capitalists are like gamblers after Vegas trips. You hear a whole lot when they have a big win. Otherwise it’s mostly about the buffet.

A 19 year old can be as influential as an experienced person. It’s exciting and I have no problem with that. It’s great that anyone can contribute to the very limit of their ability, whatever their age. Different perspectives are an asset. If I can make as much as a young Facebook star I’ll be fine 🙂

Startup food sucks.

Rails is a cult

Python is a practical alternative between PHP and a real programming language. I’m going to learn it, plus Django.

I sleep now.

What to do?

That simple question proves increasingly difficult with too little time and many competing priorities. I find it challenging to weigh choices based on their merit. How can you mentally equate things like an hour spent on a bike ride, getting caught up on work email, or relaxing with a new book? I keep big lists in Google docs of priorities in various areas, as well as priorities across those lists. In any given free hour, I have at least five priority candidates, and 50 that are possibilities.

What seems to work rather well is visualizing myself at the end of the day having done the various choices. How do I feel then? Toggle back and forth like the eye doctor – better, worse? Went for a ride, didn’t go. The same works for bigger things like career decisions. Thorough evaluation is hard. Visualizing how I’d feel in the new position is more approachable. I already do this a lot for food and drink. Cake tastes great anytime but it generally makes me feel worse after. Beer is great anytime but makes me feel slow unless it’s after some physical activity.

I’m considering banning the questions “what should I do?” and “what do I want to do?” from my internal dialogue. Replaced by “how would I feel if I did?”. An experiment. I’ll try to do nothing without asking that question. Even writing blog posts.