Pikachu on the Iron Throne

clip_image002[4]All of a sudden I found plenty of people in my social networks who brag that they haven’t seen an episode of Game of Thrones series or have never played Pokemon Go. That is, they say they have never done something and are proud of it. There are also multiple conspiracy theories (at least in the Russian segment of the internet), which aren’t a subject for this discussion even though some of them look credible enough for the first look. I’m Interested exectly in the fact that the people are proud of not knowing something.

Well, yes, if you think a little, it’s that: they are bragging that they didn’t embrace some parts of the culture around them. Yep, culture. It’s not only Dostoevsky and Monet, but also memes and someone’s little pony’s.

And no, I haven’t played the game yet and saw barely a couple of episodes of GoT (the book is better, is my usual excuse ;)) But I have watched through all the available to me Doctor Who episodes and play other games, and all that other stuff.

What’s important with that: I’m aware that I missed some part of the world culture. I will never understand some jokes, or analogies. And I don’t see what is here to be proud about not knowing something. You don’t know it. That’s the fact. Probably you don’t need it, like tensors or jacobian, but no point to gloating about it.

And now I’m leaving to find at least one pokemon and watch some of GoT😉

To send or not to send

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An email which is timely not sent is worth ten emails sent at wrong time.

Me.

Recently, my colleague and I delivered a lecture about personal productivity to other our colleagues. It is based on a course of my friend, and has this slide in it:

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It is (in turn) based on Tim Urban theory about procrastination, but in this particular case is describing what our internal monkey may do with our regular work if we don’t formulate it good enough, or if we otherwise give it too much of free action time.

After that we showed that however hard and unpleasant it is, we can wake up our consciousness if:

1) we want to

2) we have enough time.

And the situation, like pictured in the slide, can be resolved quite easy. I saw the recipe so many times all over the internet, so I was blown away discovering that so many people in my audience don’t know about that trick. And almost no one uses it! And almost all of them do such mistakes from time to time.

What is the trick? That’s easy: delay sending your email. I know how to do it in MS Office Outlook. I know that the similar (but more simple) option presents in Gmail, and I know that there is not such option in Outlook.com. So choose wisely =)

What it does for us? It gives our intelligence time to take over steering controls from the monkey. And write “I don’t completely agree” instead of “you’re an idiot”. Or if you are naturally polite (which I am not), you may remember that not every person needs receive the letter just because you’ve hit “reply all”. Anything can happen if you take just several seconds to reflect on your latest action. Anything.

And here is how to configure it in Outlook 2016 and Gmail.

P.S. I was speaking about video with raccoon and cotton candy in the lecture. Here it is.

DO

NOT

WATCH

IT

DURING

YOUR

WORKDAY

Books I failed to read

clip_image002Once you start a book, you should finish it

Some columnist I’m not sure I agree with

You already got, I believe, that I read and sometimes write about books I like. Or don’t like for that matter. But there is a whole lot of books my kung fu isn’t strong enough for me to finish reading at all. Remembering a discussion after one of my previous blogs, I’ll be as direct as I can. I don’t mean that they are bad. I mean that they didn’t start my thinking process. Or they just wearied me too much to continue reading for one reason or another. I don’t even think that it’s a good habit: quit reading before “The End”. It’s a new behavior for me because most books I read from start to finish, bored I am or no.

But in some cases I am not ready for the book. Say, a problem the book is about doesn’t appeal to me, or I know too much about it, or too little, or something. Sometimes I cannot bear the style. In some rare cases I just disagree so much that reading on is too hard for me. There is so many books I like or think they are useful for me. Not reading them while I’m struggling with the boring one is like betrayal. It looks like wasting my time.
What are the books I couldn’t read? The list isn’t complete, of course, but I am an absolute sucker when quitting reading. So, meet my “haven’t enough guts for them” list:
Daniel Goleman: Primal leadership. This one happened to get into my hands just too early. Or I’m unable to be emotionally intelligent. I’ll get back to it soon and try it once more. Still, a couple years ago it was too complex and provided no immediate and practical connection to my life and its problems.

Stephen Covey: 7 habits of highly effective people. Nah… I told you already: the book “7 reasons you aren’t the people I’m writing about”. Or some other reason. I just couldn’t interest myself enough in it. I believe it could be still useful and it’s just me. It is possible you should try it, though.
Steve Pavlina: Personal Development for Smart People. Same as above.
Danielle Laporte: The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals With Soul. I like the idea (as I understand it from about 1/3 I read). But the style just freaks me out. Can’t read the text. But again, the idea resonated with me well.
Danny Penman & Mark Williams: Mindfulness. A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Let’s say, I’m not into meditation. I tried two weeks of the eight-week course, suggested in the book. No fool. They haven’t brought me any new knowledge or sensation. Some of the ideas aren’t new to me. Like monitoring how you’re thinking and switching from an idea to a thought. That’s some stuff you learn in Russian army while being a sentry.😉
Aron Ralston: Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Not business or self-help book at any rate but not fiction. Just a man who had been once stupid wrote a book about how stupid he had been. A Saga of Stupidity. Reading it is unbearable to me, so I dropped it.
And what books you haven’t finished? What seemed stupid or was not worth it?

Cannot draw? Doodle: A place to learn how to do it.

clip_image002[5]Do you have hands? Excellent. That’s a good start. Can you hold a pencil? Great. If you have a sketchbook, open it and start by making a line, a mark, wherever. Doodle.

Chris Riddell

Some time ago I decided that it’d be great if I will learn how to draw. Ok, not like “DRAW” draw, more like doodle. Sticky man and all that stuff. Why? Well, first of all, just because. I saw some beautiful stuff around me. Like Simon’s cat. And that’s bringing some envy to my life. Second, it now means I don’t have to look for stock photo for my blog, worry about copyright and all that stuff. Believe me or not, it’s important for me somehow. And there is, as I like to mention, this particularly unpleasant German guy… Whatshisname… Ahhh – Alzheimer.😉 So, some researchers tell us that you may have less chances to meet him, if you’re doing something new. And believe me: drawing for me is NEW!

My next step was to try and doodle something. Nope. Didn’t work for two reasons. First, I didn’t know what to draw to illustrate my thoughts. And second, when I tried it looked… Well… Even worse than it does now. Here is an example:

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While you definitely may (I hope) distinguish a rake here, I’m not that sure about a precision axe attached to it. Not that if I draw it today it will be much more understandable, but it will look better.

So: I don’t know what and I don’t know how. That’s the place to start. What should one do in such a situation? Find a training and go through it. And I did exactly what I said: found a training named IQ Doodle by Adam Sicinski. It’s a 40-day course over which Adam walks you through the basics of doodling, shows what and how you can do and challenges you to do more, better and faster. Actually, it took me much more than 40 days to finish it, and guess what? After the 40th day, Adam continues to send some materials. Not sure when he stops, but at the moment almost 200 things are waiting for me to doodle them.

Anyway, while I’m not able to draw even half as well as a child of a friend of mine, I’m even right now have switched in my blog posts from internet borrowed pictures to what I created myself. I’ll be putting some memes here, of course, some books covers, or maybe some other pictures if it feels right. But otherwise it’s already my own “handmade”. And I like it more than before😉

I’m not into explaining and discussing in detail, what the course is. I’ll just show you one of the challenges. Adam suggests that someone is drawing some figure. Anything: just a line, a circle, or any scribble. And you should draw a face around it.

A friend of mine (who happened to start the course with me) and I tried it and here are some of the results:

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And the second example:

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My favorite is the cat on the first page. The guy doodled it from something like that:

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Unbelievable level of imagination if you ask me. But then another wild person appeared and made us both ashamed with this:

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Anyway, from now on you’re bound to tolerate my doodling in the blog posts, unless you just unsubscribe.😉 And you may sign up for the course, too: it’s free and it’ll do you good if you’re as bad at doodling as I am.

Book: Pinball Effect by James Burke

clip_image002Apples and oranges

-Just regular someone

A friend of mine recommended the book to me to find out what analogies, stories and other artifacts I can include in my future presentations or trainings to make them more interesting, dynamic and vivid. I’m dead serious about recommendations by certain people, so I ordered the book, waited for it (it happened to be cheaper to buy it from American store with delivery to Russia in English, than to buy a translated version here😉 ) and read it. So much for veni, vidi, vici nowadays, huh.

First of all, I cannot recommend the book for any other reason than what I wrote: just look at variety of stories to enrich your ability to find something related to the current situation. Because, while there is certainly a lot of stories, the connections promised the author are sometimes… Well… They just aren’t.🙂 Like the connection between some events is that they happened in one country. And some reviews suggest that James wasn’t too scrupulous with the facts either.

Anyway, there were some interesting points, which may illustrate some opinion. Even if the illustration itself isn’t true. Like analogy, you know. Say, story of Quakers may illustrate the fact that not all our actions yield results we intended. After the Restoration according to Burke (I’m not aware of the details, probably I now have to read something on the subject) they were banished from almost all professions except production and commerce. I believe, the aim was to handicap and impair their influence. Try and guess, who was the most powerful in those two remaining spheres of business soon.

One more interesting interconnection relates to phrenology. I’m not interested in the pseudo-science, but the author says that it stimulated a surge of self-improvement literature (And just look at our books stores now. It looks familiar, doesn’t it?). But what is more interesting: the passion for this baloney seemingly helped to deliver the criminalistics as we know it today.

clip_image004 Utility: low. I liked reading such stories in my childhood, but they were better structured and bore more information

 

clip_image006 Readability: low. I’m not native reader, but there are books that are easy to read. This one isn’t. The connections aren’t that obvious, you’ll be losing where the heck have you jumped from long bows to DNA.

Buy: Nah… Wouldn’t recommend Winking smile

Why “7 rules of smth.” should be 1 of the 7 deadly sins

clip_image002“We do not propose any rules; we offer observations. “No right on red” is a rule. Driving at high speed toward a brick wall usually ends badly” is an observation.”
―Howard Mittelmark,How Not to Write a Novel

Oh no, I don’t hate rules like “look to your right on a crosswalk” or “never kick a tiger in his ass”. Wait… I hate those too. But not because you shouldn’t follow them (I’m almost 100% sure my readers have obeyed the second one). I hate the rules because they give me an excuse to oversimplify the situation. That’s like what mr. Taleb was talking about in his book: platonification. And that’s the primary reason I don’t read article and books titled like “N rules/habits/signs of great/good/bad/excellent leader/scientist/plumber”. Ok, I try from time to time to pick up a book with such a title, but to the moment I haven’t succeed in finishing any. One day, may be… (and articles are a total taboo for me).

Still wonder what I mean? Let’s look at issue at hands. As I said, the rules above are good to follow. You must never kick any tiger in the butt (not even dead ones: it’s not respectful, after all). But that doesn’t mean you can kick the same animal in his nose or belly. I haven’t tried this, but somehow I understand that the results will be not different enough and even faster than with his rear end. So, is the rule I’d think good enough to follow “don’t kick a tiger at all”? Well… No. Because there is also a possibility of punching him. Or putting a needle in his paw. Or… Well, you name it. So, what I believe to be a much better rule (but still not perfect) is, say, “don’t upset a tiger”. But the rules in all those books and articles is close to the first one: like kicking and rear end are the most important things in all the story. In a good book we are getting “don’t hit a tiger”. In a “philosophical book” there will be sort of “be a good person” which is totally unhelpful. In a life saving book we get something like “don’t upset a wild animal, especially predators” plus several examples, including punching a bear in the nose and playing peekaboo with venomous snakes. And in some extremely rare kind of books, I believe, the previous example would be prefaced with explaining, how wild animals react to stimuli, what kind of trouble it may cause with their claws, teeth and other “instruments”.

Why is it important to have not too specific rules? Let’s see what’s going on, when we are following the stupid rule? We tend to stop thinking. I see the path, I don’t see any obstacles. When the rule is clear, our brain is just trigger-happy to oblige, because it doesn’t spend resources. It is SIMPLE. Thinking of

А) Is upsetting a wild cat dangerous?

B) May your next action upset the wild cat?

is not easy. Remembering that there was no “wild cat” and “slap across the head” in “never kick a tiger in his ass” – easy. Of course there is no harm in slapping our wild cat across its head!

If we’re talking real world (ok, not real, what I see around), then some of the often occurring scenarios are

1) implementing some process, or framework, or something. Say, ITIL, Lean, Kanban, whatever.

2) trying to become a Jobs or Gates (or Trump for that matter) people read books about what qualities do the guys have.

What many people do? They go easy way: read a book, get tools and use them (Well, I’m a bit idealising here: most people don’t do anything after reading. Heck! Most people don’t read at all!😉 ). That’s it. You want to be successful? Great, you should sleep 4 hours a day, like Napoleon and get expelled from school like Einstein. Want great IT? Get ITIL Library and to put to work every processes with all the controls it describes.

clip_image004Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. If someone is good at what he does, and everyone agrees, then I’m almost sure, he sticks to all the rules from the book. But if we just take those rules and implement them to our own life, it won’t guarantee anything. Say, there is the Pomodoro technique. It is great, but most people talking about it usually refer to the pomodoro timer as the necessary and enough condition for the technique to bring most value. It doesn’t work, because there is much more to it. Well, working in pomodoros may help. But it won’t help near so much as if you read the book and understood, why there are elements of planning and retrospective in it.

So, what I say is that it’s not enough to read some rules from a book and apply them in a straightforward fashion. They usually are too specific, and life is rich on events and diverse. What you need to get (and it is possible to get from almost any kind of books) is understanding of what and why is going on when your boot meets some bottom side. And what and why is going to happen next. And what and why one should do to avoid all those commotions.

And that’s in short, why I hate reading certain texts =)

Cutting corners.

blog не обходи процессыOne day a following story occurred: a friend of mine (whom I respect very much to the current day) approached me and asked to help one of his then subordinates to fulfil some task faster. “Why don’t you guys go and submit a ticket to the service desk system and then come back to me and give me a number? It’ll be fast enough”. But in vain: their belief in me was strong.

Well, as it happens, a bit too strong😉 It took me almost twice as long to finish the task as a similar one which was just submitted to our service desk. The guys were disappointed. But then, I let them know beforehand that giving the task not through the working process was a risky task. And the task was late not because I tried to convince them that I was right. I definitely knew something.

My knowledge was as following:

1) I was really overburdened at that time and scarcely could manage my own list of tasks

2) We really had an established process in the house.

The effect of those two? First, If I cannot manage my own task list, any new task which is not formal enough will change the things for the worse. Second, a mature process is better than a task-overwhelmed man. Why? It’s simple: processes are written to make things happen as identically as it is possible. Men aren’t. What does it mean? It means that in the process we had back then there were included various controls to manage tasks, remind people that they have to do the tasks, remind the people’s managers that the people haven’t done the tasks in time and so on. It is repeatable, it is controllable and it mitigates many faults of an individual. And I, at that point, didn’t have any decent process of my own, so it was better to rely on the company’s ones.

So, for me, going around some mature process isn’t worthy in almost all situations. If you don’t follow the process, you usually:

· Lose feedback on what’s going on. You need to go to the guy you’ve asked to do something, and he may be absent/ill/busy. You cannot use standard controls because there is nothing standard, when a person is controlling the task, not a process.

· Break rhythm of work. Hey, you really think that all that backlog is just for fun? Nope, they’d like to have their tasks done fast too. And we promise them some level of service. If you inject too much tasks into pipeline, some of the “usual” tasks may linger in the list infinitely.

· You set a bad example. Especially, if you are a manager. Going around a process looks like going against the rules. And it corrodes morale in the unit.

Still, sometimes, going around is ok. For example:

· You really have a very urgent task. It is so urgent that both you and the implementer are able to control the task flow daily or even hourly. Manually, without a process. Just be sure that you aren’t wrong and it is urgent.

· The process seems to have a drawback, which you may hope to fix. Then what you do is actually putting the task through the new, not established yet process and again control everything. After you finished, you make sure the existing process is changed to the new standard.

Do you know other cases when it’s ok to work around a process?