I have people

I have people who instantly make me smile.

Others who, as the interactions proceed, get me really irritated.

I have people who help me slow down and think deeply, questioning with respect and letting my spaghetti brain uncurl.

I have people who inspire with their very existence.

Then I have people who make me laugh and feel light.

Who are your people?

I'm loving: PomodoneApp

I’m terrible at focusing and single-flow discipline, so I tend to practice the Pomodoro technique – which is about enforced habit of working for short, concentrated bursts, taking a short breaks and longer breaks after a number of work bursts.

I love not being focused and everywhere – I get to be curious and explore, finding interesting things, people and relationships –  but when I need to get stuff done, there’s nothing for it but to hunker down and FOCUS!

That’s when I am absolutely grateful for a fantastic little app called Pomodone App.

At it’s heart is a timer that works based on the Pomodoro technique.

Projects I’m working on, daily tasks, can be sourced and sync with a range of tools – from Trello to Evernote, Asana and more.

 

Three Reasons I love Pomodone App

#1: It is easy as pie

Right out of the box, it is set up to have a work cycle and cycles that follow the textbook technique.

I changed mine to 45 minute long pomodoros (basically the period you are focused on workd) and 5 minute breaks, with a longer 30 minute break after my 4th pomodoro.

You create your tasks (in my case, I get my tasks from Trello, more on this in the integrations bit). I also, occasionally, create local ones. Wherever you get your tasks from they are easily selectable to start working on.

#2: Notifications range from nice to naggy

You can set the reminder interval, when the clock isn’t ticking. To be honest the regular reminder really pulls me back from the weeds and helps me refocus on my list.

I used to have the reminders every 90 minutes and that was nice, but I found that I could get lost in other things – emails, chat, browsing and 90 minutes is a big chunk of time. So I set it 15. Now it is proper naggy!

Annoying as it might get – I don’t want to be timed all the time, so better the irritation than 2 hours going ‘poof’ on containerisation or AI or some other interest that is not immediately relevant to my delivery goal.

#3: It integrates with my work flow – perfectly

I use StoriesOnboard  – and online tool for user story mapping, which I use for big picture business /strategic planning and Trello for more operational stuff.

Recently we started using Sentry to log any errors that happen on Decksender.com. Really cool that Sentry lets you create Trello cards for things that need resolution.

At my desk, all my tasks primarily from Trello and Pomodone App integrates just beautifully with that. When I start a task, it automatically moves it to the right ‘Doing’ list on Trello, recording on the card how much time has been spent on it and finally we when I’m done – it moves it to ‘Done’.

Now, I’m not ninja-level at managing my focus – where is the fun in that – but every now an again, the right mix of tools come round that really hit the sweet spot and PomodoneApp is the core of that sweet suite!

Try it out and let me know how you get on,  happy to answer any questions I can and even learn from how you use it.


Full Disclosure: I’m not paid or receive any payment or benefits for writing.

Photo by Shiva Smyth from Pexels

I Want to Help One Billion People Prioritise Their Happiness

A very bizarre set of events led me to discover Mo Gawdat and his movement onebillionhappy.

This highly inspiring man who could, by all accounts, be sitting in his wealth, isolated from everything that is going on in the world, is instead on an audacious mission to help ONE BILLION people figure out and focus on their happiness.

Not only for themselves, but to significantly shift the narrative we are all putting out into the world – specifically to shift  what data machines learn from.

I love this and I’m going to help.

What’s not to love? Help people prioritise and invest in their happiness leading to happier lives and help a better world data stream that machines can learn from.
I’m in.

Over the next 3 months, I want to run an experiment:

I will invite 8 people to join a ~30 minute video call where we will explore what happiness means to each of us and how we each invest in it.

Each person invited commits to run another 8 person meetup – online or offline, in exactly the same way, discussing exactly the same topic. And so on.

If my math is right (it’s basically 8^10) and the plan works, in 10 weeks, over ONE BILLION people will have met. No repeats, no strain on organisers.

Just a simple 30 minute conversation.

Each person will have invested about 1 hour to create such an impact – 30 minutes as a guest, 30 minutes as a host.

Here is my simple projection:

Thank you for being willing to help with this experiment and if you would like to be included in the invitation, please comment below.

Bullies and Bluebells

I was recently in a dialogue with a client and the conversation turned to “Evil Scrum” and some previous negative experiences that some people had experienced.

They imposed velocity targets and demanded estimates a year in advance and then bashed people when those forecasts weren’t met

Now, I’m no big fan of Scrum or Kanban in the same way I’m no fan of the Catholic Church or any religious organisation. It’s not the tool that I object to per se – it is the commercial agenda and what it makes otherwise nice people do in order to profit from the tool.

However, I am deeply knowledgeable about Scrum and Kanban and the agile manifesto that broadly underpin the credentials of both as better ways to handle complex adaptive systems and work.

My response to the client group was this:

Even a bluebell could be used by a bully to bludgeon you to death.

Neither of these process frameworks advocate any kind of violence to anyone. But they provide the hooks by which the brutish minded can exact violence on some people.

There was consensus in the room that this misuse of process and power e.g. Evil Scrum (could as well be Evil Kanban / SAFe / LeSS / whatever – was often worse than no process.

So my assertion is that those who get what they want through bullying others will try it with whatever tool they can find. From process, to working conditions and contracts to , yes, even bluebells.

Do you agree or disagree?

 

Lessons from a #LinkyBrains event no one else came to

The LinkyBrains movement is purely accidental. It has gained and is gaining momentum primarily through small groups of people meeting to have coffee, some lunch or just a walk. What brings them together is the idea of different mindsets, curiosity, meeting kindred spirits – whatever.

Messy.Pexels / Pixabay

These ‘coffees’ are shabby-chic. There is often no structure, no theme (beyond being Linky). They are just people with pretty broad common ground, holding space to give their linkyness a chance to conenct. They are nicely messy and vague.

They are also super easy to setup. This is deliberate – the easier and lower risk something is, the likelier it is that the hesitant will try it.

 

But there is risk. People might simply not come. What happens then?

Here are three lessons I learnt from that experience.

Risk very little

Reduce what you could lose. The only real things at stake here were time and money.

It took me all of 10 minutes to find a location that was central, create the event on Doodle and share it on my channels. That’s almost no time at all.

I didn’t book a table at a posh restaurant. I hadn’t hauled post-its, markers and other collaboration tools. I certainly had not paid for anything. So, absolutely no money lost.

Of course, one could argue there was an opportunity cost – what are those things I could have done instead? Great question. I’ll get to that further down this page.

The only thing that stung in all this was my ego and any lesson that helps control that beast is worth almost any cost.

Be OK with no one coming

This was in Malaga, it’s not London or Berlin or Barcelona. LinkyBrains is new, the buzz has not been that well shared in Spain and certainly not in Malaga. Yet, two people had said they would come. My expectations were low, but not zero.

But no one showed up. When I prodded one of the people I was expecting, he apologised and said he was currently in the US!

I was disappointed. Even after 15 years of being involved in conferences, meetings, open space technology, lean coffees, world cafe and most kind of other formats for people getting together to collaborate. I was still disappointed no one showed up.

Then I remembered one of 4 principles I live by. They come from the Open Space Technology framework for running large group conversations

Openspace principles and law

Whoever comes are the right people

The openspace principles are designed to create psychological safety and the single law is a reminder of personal responsibility.

With mojito in hand and view of Malaga port, I quickly accepted that I was the ‘right people’ – this was precious time for me to ponder and converse with myself about neuro-diversity (the core of LinkyBrains) and to reflect on my collaborations in the space.

The two and half hours I spent were some of the most productive of the week. Headphones on:

  • I agreed a deal for some work and got halfway through the Statement of Work draft for it,
  • had 3 chat conversations in parallel with some really cool people,
  • drafted three blog posts (including this one),
  • launched some features on the LinkyBrains.com site,
  • and wrote some code on my side project.

It was OK that no one came. I was there and that was all that ultimately all I could be responsible for.

Do it Better Next Time

When you are learning to ride a bike and you fall off , your instructor encourages you to get back on as quickly as you can – so that your bruised ego and sense of failure do not succeed in convincing you never to try again.

So I got back on. I booked the next event that same night and I’ll do it differently.

I’ll share more regularly leading up to it – via email and socially, in English and Spanish. I’ll prod colleagues and friends to prod their Malaga based friends to check it out.]

I’ll give luck a helping hand.

So – go ahead, if you are curious about LinkyBrains or simply want to get together with other LinkyBrained people, create an event – it will be fine, whatever happens.

Three thoughts on April 14.

I probably could have had a better, more clicky title.

Can the crowd save the world?

My wife and I had a BBQ today. It started out as my idea and it worked beautifully, the end, it was ‘our’ BBQ – everyone who attended.

At one point there were going to be 50 people coming to it – our friends their families.

Catering would be expensive for one person to shoulder. So we said –

bring some food for you all and a little extra for the table.

And that’s what everyone did – some folk brought more than a little and some brought less. But there was plenty for everyone without a strain on anyone.

Even better was lots of people offered to help with this and that, it became a group BBQ.  Very few of them knew each other and I didn’t know everyone that came either.

Might a model like this work for the world – could a simple thing like “do your weekly shop and spend 10% more towards the weekly  food needs for the homeless” transform localised food inequality?

What would happen if for every €10 spent to educate a child in the wealthiest countries, €1 was contributed to a practical, effecient fund to educate a child in the less wealthy countries.

You see where I’m going with this.

Should we be removing dents in the world instead?

I read this by Fred Destin and it made me think ‘dent in the world???’

It’s a reference to Steve Jobs’ famous ding / dent in the Universe quote

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?

Perhaps we aren’t here to put a dent in the Universe.

Perhaps the universe is already dented – blasted by human, environmental and ecological assault. Dents that lend to our World’s broken-ness.

Corruption, wealth inequality, man-made ecological and environmental destruction, slavery, the disconnection of humanity from itself all seem like major dents to me.

Perhaps we are each here to smooth out the dents or at the very least not make them worse?

Can we get to a new world by using the same thinking that got us to this one?

My friend Doug Scott and I chat alot about “Kansas has been destroyed”.

The ‘Kansas’ we mean is in reference to The Wizard of Oz – where Dorothy is swept away from Kansas by a powerful hurricane, and taken to the magical land of Oz and all she wants to do is get back to where she came.

Doug and I speak of a New ‘Oz’ like world, significantly different from this one (which is Kansas) – operates on radically different principles, structures and purpose.

I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that this world of the pursuit of unlimited growth, profit is entirely unsustainable, that a new world is possible and urgently required and the strongest possibility to create it is by discovering, connecting and empowering more #linkybrains in our population.

If you don’t know what a LinkyBrain is – go read this.

Now imagine a world with 100 Elon Musks (Elon, being as Linky as they come!), each working on 3 of the most pressing challenges facing our world, with the urgency, creativity  and resources of the Elon Musk we currently have.

Imagine 1000 or 10000 or 10 million Elon Musks.

But can we get their with the structures, language, rules, motivations and processes that we currently have?

What do you think?

10 Days into #LinkyBrains and this is what it's about for me.

10 mad days

It has been the maddest 10 days of my life and I’ve had plenty mad.

Time to reflect on this LinkyBrain thing – taking in all the feedback  that’s rolling in from chats, blog posts and spontaneous conversations and I’d like to share them.

Here are my reflections, 10 days in.

LinkyBrains has touched on something profound

People from all kinds of backgrounds, jobs, ethnicities, genders are engaging with this. They want to share their experience, others just want to read and comment. Others still are volunteering to help – even as the plan of what needs help is emerging.

People are organising and meeting up and connecting.

The Core Are Committed

Every community/movement was started somewhere by someone.

This one started with  3 naked dancers –  Doug, Alex and Chris.
It was joined by a follower – Mike (me) – now we are all dancing naked.

It is what it is.

We aren’t more important, we aren’t thought leaders, we sure as hell aren’t experts in anything remotely like this.  ‘First’ doesn’t confer any more rights and privileges than ‘last’. What matters is being in the movement – everyone earns their respect from the things they choose to help with, and the impact they create.

We are simply naked dancers and we keep dancing and working to keep the dance growing. Join in.

We are walking a fine line. Inclusion vs Exclusivity

A really amazing article gave words to what many seemed to be thinking:

Is this some kind of self-congratulating, wealthy male party?

Is this another exclusive club for those who love talking about themselves – because we need that like a hole in the head?

Is this LinkyBrain vs non LinkyBrain?

No. It isn’t any of that. 

The narratives so far seems to be dominated with stories/confessions of ‘look how great I turned out with these things that should have slowed me down’.

If that is all you read, it would paint a picture of exclusivity. But I see this differently.

Life is full of challenges, they are like tunnels.

Of course it can be hard for everyone but, for people who see the world differently from society’s normal range, it can be especially hard. That is what this movement is about – making it easier and helping those people contribute to the benefit of everyone.

Most of the confessions are from ‘Jubilant emergers’ – they’ve emerged from various tunnels and discovered ways to be happy and successful at navigating tunnels.

We are not hearing from anyone currently in a tunnel – confused with where they fit, struggling with school / work / life, being understood or however it manifests.

We are not hearing from those approaching a tunnel – who might not even know there are tunnels.

We are not hearing those who might not be facing the challenges themselves, but are supporting people who are. Their voices are important too.

Those groups aren’t often able to speak out and share their realities.
We must do better to find way to hear them. Help us.

We need to move beyond Jubilance to sharing ways to navigate tunnels with anyone just behind us. How did you cope with this, what did you actually do to address that fear etc.

Some abuse will happen

I remember seeing someone trying to sell underwear with the tag #metoo. It pissed me off.

There will always be people trying to promote a personal agenda with any movement – however noble the cause is. That is just what it is. There’s nothing I can do about that beyond doing my best and remain committed to the bigger picture.

The Good Will Shine Through

We – me and the emerging LinkyBrains community – are going to keep encouraging the good, the humanity in us all, the positive. We will continue to help stories emerge, help people connect and do their best work for the benefit of everyone.

By: JohnCC BY 2.0

I am an unwavering believer in the fundamental goodness of people and that will carry our efforts to everywhere in the world. It will quieten the negativity and amplify the goodness.

What Now?

You have simple decisions to make :

Help or not.

Join the dance or watch from the sidelines – pointing and laughing while we change the world.

Helping is easier than you imagine – just some easy things you can do now!

 I’m still dancing. I’m in.

I have a confession. I'm a #Linkybrain

The world became much less lonely for me two weeks ago.
I was quietly minding my own business, doing what I always do – dream and deliver. Then I read something that connected with feelings I had buried deep and lost the key to. Then I read another and another – until it was clear. I was not alone in my world.

I’m an outsider born to outsiders. Born to an Punjabi mum whose parents migrated to Singapore and a black Caribbean dad who escaped a small island at 17. Both moved first to Ghana and then to Nigeria to do great things with newly independent countries. So you see, none of us fit.

Mixed race children are natural outsiders – we are never fully one nor the other. We force the world to consider its fucking boxes. But that is another story.

Growing up in Nigeria, I adapted to fit in. If you are fairer skinned than the norm, you get called names – not hateful – but being called ‘Oyinbo’ still stings when all you want to do is not attract attention.

School was unremarkable to say the least. I did the minimum to stay in the game. I was great at English  – my parents were both teaching it.  But I remember thinking at age 9 – ‘why are we being taught this exact thing and not something else’ – even if I didn’t know what that something else was – I knew there had to be.

I was the kid for whom the multiple choice options never had the answer. The one for whom the opportunity to free flow the answer and bring previously unconnected ideas to the question was golden.

I saw so many of my friends who I now believe to be linky brained struggle and cope the best they could. Some were literally brutalised by the corporal punishment culture of the educational system. Others marched tirelessly to the predestined outcomes of their parents – ‘you will be a lawyer/doctor/accountant!’

I now recognise I had the most supportive parents ever. They let me try (and fail) at so many things without pressure, including

  • worked at a chicken farm
  • apprenticed to an TV repair guy at 11
  • apprenticed to a basket weaver at 12
  • learned to drive at 13 (which was briefly interrupted because I killed the lawnmower)
  • started a micro-loan service at 13
  • programmer of computers from age 13
  • delivery guy for my dad’s bar from 14
  • video club entrepreneur from  14 (we only had 200 films that my mum brought as hand luggage on her travels)  – I would lend the same film out to the same person at 5 times – each time telling them a different story line!
  • my house was a magnet for LinkyBrains – a sanctuary for all those written off for not being focused or academically brilliant. My mother took them under her wing, they became my friends and family.
  • travelling and experiencing different cultures and viewpoints. I had been to Canada, the US, Singapore, Russia, Togo, Malaysia, Ghana by the time I was 10 – seeing what poverty looked like, seeing how people welcome you.

My Confession

I am driven by an incredible amount of empathy for the human condition. Having had my ass handed to me by life – my dad died when I was 17, I was married by 21 and had the first of my 4 kids at 23. Divorced at 29. That either kills you, turns you into a mean drunk or fills you with compassionate understanding that we aren’t perfect, we fuck up but we are also powerful beyond belief.

I need people around me, that get me and are passionate, to amplify my magnificence. We become greater than the sum of our parts.

I day dream a lot.. Always have and I hope I always will. In my mind – time just stops and I slip into the gaps in reality. This is where I imagine what the world could be and how to make it happen. So if we are ever in conversation and I appear glassy eyed and unresponsive – you’ll know where I am.

I am cursed with ideas and enough of all the skills to have a go at them. My only enemy is time and the absolute principle not to fuck people over.

I’ve been told to ‘focus’, to pick one thing, to specialise. I’ve apologised for this. I’m done apologising.

I suck at execution – because life gets in the way and I often can’t sustain the enthusiasm in the ensuing drudgery. I love working with people who help sustain me.

I tend to outpace and out-passion my partners. Which often leads to disaster – someone I’ve come to deeply respect suggests that I ‘sabotage’ those relationships. Needs further exploration, but suspect he is correct.

For the longest time, I craved a sense of belonging – to find where I fit. I even craved to be mediocre because that seemed to be a group that just exists without much effort. But it didn’t work out – my curiosity captured me again.

I have multiple focuses at any one time. I can’t do it any other way. I get bored and frustrated. I jump from thing to thing and back again. I recently learned this is how artists work on a piece. A bit here and there, working in iterations until the piece is done. This often annoying variation in my wiring has led me to:

  • learning to fly planes
  • doing a human rights masters and speaking at the UN Human Rights Commission
  • having multiple attempts at learning the saxophone, piano and conga drums, Italian, Spanish and Japanese – each attempt builds on the last and brings me closer to my outcome. I don’t seek mastery.
  • building and failing at more startup ideas than I care to admit to, losing incredible amounts of time and money and amassing incredible amounts of learning and relationships.

I’m really good at building teams – I mean crazy good. At making people feel valued and valuable. My gift is interaction and the breaking of barriers. I connect people with ideas and make them fly.

Many things do not interest me at all – I do not pretend anymore.

I’m a master at embracing uncertainty. It doesn’t scare me at all. I think it is a red herring.

Failing my children is my greatest fear. By failing, I mean not giving them the greatest range of experiences from which they can make better choices and the support to realise they are magnificent.

I often feel alone in crowds and I invent personalities to entertain myself – from all the crazy shit I’ve seen, done and seen done. If you see me grinning to myself in a crowd, now you know why – ask to be invited in.

I’m prone to depression and I now know how to manage this more successfully. There are still times of sadness and melancholy – often at the world and my perceived lack of impact on those things I promised myself to care about.

I very often feel like an imposter  – even in a profession that I have done successfully for 20+ years and in some areas that I helped to define as a role. I find myself comparing what I know to what others know – and I’m never that good!

I’ve done incredible things. People have told me later that I helped them realise huge things in their lives – open up more, make a decision they’ve avoided or just get out of a rut they are in. It is magnificent.

I’m fascinated by why people do the things they do and why they don’t do the things they love. My mission is to have more people value Joy above all else.

I am a #LinkyBrain and I’m not alone.

 

No one is unstoppable forever.

Looking at the current landscape of tech giants, from Facebook to Google, from Stripe to Intel, it is almost impossible to imagine they can ever be out-spent or out-competed.-

Whilst they might seem unstoppable – with the sheer brain power they employ and the almost bottomless stash of cash they command, it is reassuring that every giant has its weaknesses.

Some weaknesses might be transient –  momentary lapses of attention, or wrong footed by some government legislation or mishandle a sensitive public issue and start to lose patronage. Others might be systemic – by virtue of their size, their industry, regulatory constraints, their leadership failings or something more permanent.

For those wishing to find the kink and exploit it – they should be prepared to move as fast as they possibly can. They need to cultivate now, the ability to make decisions very quickly, to execute spectacularly fast and to maximise the natural love that the market has for upstarts and underdog to their advantage.

What kinks in iron of the giants have you spotted? What should the upstarts and underdogs watch for?

March's 30 Day Challenge: 2 minutes of high knees + 3 minutes of push ups!

5 Minutes seems the right amount of time

To get to a very nice sweat – with the right exercises of course.

The 30 Day Plank Challenge was phenomenal! My back, legs and core feel so much more reliable. I think that they are so effective that I will keep doing them every other day, in addition to the current challenge.

2 minutes of non-stop High Knees + 3 minutes of as many push ups as I can manage – every day, for 30 days.

If you don’t know what the High Knee exercise is, here is a great intro (ignore the smatlzcy American accent):

The key is sticking with it for as long as you can manage. I find that going slower is a better option than stopping – because it is really hard to get started again.

As for push ups, maintaining proper form is key to avoid injury. This dude gives great intro. Classic push up is fine – if you are adventurous, do some funky variations.

I’ve started already – so lets see how it goes! Good luck and please get moving.

Tip:

I use the very useful IntervalTimer by Seconds Pro to help me not cheat on the timing. Here is the timer for this high knees and pushups challenge.

Challenge yourself!

Next for April: 2 minute burpees + 3 minutes of squats, every morning !