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.

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.

 

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 !

My 15 Year List of Ideas is a Ready Made Company Selector

For the last 15 years I’ve maintained a list of ideas to build – things that both excite me and improve the world.

I’ve kept it pruned, adding new ideas, removing those that no longer seem viable and adding more details of the idea over time to those that still do.

It turns out this list is a wonderful way to help me identify those companies that I would really love to work with. To help those people build things that I am passionate enough to want to build myself.

Turns out that I care more that those amazing and positive things become realised and are in the world doing good than I do about being the person that created them.

Turns out I’m equally happy to be one of the many hands and hearts to bring them into existence.

One such company is Too Good To Go – this amazing organisation is using tech to reduce food waste.

Their mission ties in so strongly with an idea that I had about five years ago – “fix the problem of global western food waste”

Then at the Agile Testing Days conference in Potsdam last year as I brainstormed with some amazing people including Maria Urdaneta Castro, Ilan Kirchenbaum and Karen Greaves, that idea morphed into “The People’s Pantry”:

So what is the takeaway here (pun intended!)

• keep a list of your passionate ideas, keep them pruned – I spend 2 hours a month on this. Remember to write what the compelling goal is  – what change do you want to see in the world.

• keep a look out for those people/organisation that are trying to build it.

• join them and help, if you can.

I hope this proves helpful to you to remember what you are passionate about and to help when you are looking for a job where passion and purpose are important.

Thanks for reading and I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

Offer: Let's have a helpful conversation

It seems that when I’m most busy is when I also seem to want to share and help others the most – so continuing in a long established tradition, I would like to offer some office hours to help anyone who needs it.

But first – at the risk of inventing another buzzword/phrase that gets trademarked and certified, what is a ‘helpful conversation’?

It is simply a time that you bring something a person needs help on, we talk about it and you leave feeling better, clearer, energised or otherwise ‘helped’. If you don’t leave the conversation feeling like it was s good spend of your time, then we haven’t had a ‘helpful conversation’.

It isn’t free, it’s priceless.

My time is the most precious thing I have and I offer it, in the hope that we both have a brilliant conversation and learn and share from each other. My reward is knowing that I helped you.

So, what could be helpful to you?

Here are some things I know I can help with:

Startups

because I’ve spent the last 15 years learning by doing

Bootstrapping a startup
Designing your test-the-market strategy – MVPs, guerrilla testing
Essential tools I use everyday to planning, testing, prototyping etc super easy
Designing marketing experiments
Dealing with failure – how to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’
Hiring and equity sharing
Advising your startup on a regular basis

Agile Things

because I’ve been coaching for over 10 years and been a dev, product guy, maker in this space for the last 16 years 

Most things about Scrum, Kanban, Lean and variations therein.
Should you get agile certification? I have an alternative view and can help talk you through your options.
Building and growing self-organisation, empowered teams
Being an effective manager or executive in an agile organisation or during a transition

Helping People be Successful & Joyful

because that is basically what my entire career has been about – and I love it.

Using improv to get better at being present, collaborative and generally ‘good to work with’
Software and tech industry career advice – what you might want to invest in (and not) as you start out in tech –  attitudes and essential skills
Valuing learning and relationships.
Getting mentors

Business meeting culture

because I built a startup to fix this and it has 6000 users.

Simple techniques to transform your personal meeting behaviour
Make any meeting better (or at the very least, suck less)
Helping your organisation have fewer and better meetings

I want a helpful conversation,  how do we do this?

I thought you’d never ask! This is simple as pie.

If you don’t know anything about me – I encourage you to check out my about page, my LinkedIn and some of my tweets.

Then, if you think I could be helpful,  checkout my office hours availability, book an available time slot and show up.

There, all done. I look forward helping however I can.

 

Yes, learning is hard. But do it anyway.

It seems popular, these days, for coaches and consultants to talk about ‘continuous learning’ or the ‘learning organisation’.

Learning is like sex – everyone nods knowingly when it is being talked about, but few are actually doing it well or at all.

For me, learning a new skill is hard – especially if you are unconsciously competent – i.e. an expert, in another domain. Although I take baby steps and mentally (an emotionally) prepare to feel inadequate or stupid, that preparation does not fully protect me against those feelings. I do feel frustrated and stupid when I learn something new.

I’m not one of those naturally curious ‘take it apart to see how it works’ nerds. I need a reason to do anything – even if that reason is simply to have some fun. Luckily I am a solution dreamer – to problems that I see everywhere and even those that haven’t yet peaked. So, what I lack in curiosity, I make up for in imagination.

Of course, learning is only the beginning – think of it as an introduction to a new skill. You are barely becoming competent, you are simply prepping yourself to begin. Practice, once you have the basics, is really where I make all my solid, sticky learning. This holds its own hardships too.

My preferred style of learning anything is to have a goal – for example, when I learned to knit, I set myself a goal of knitting a scarf.

This goal-focused approach means that I can focus my learning, ignoring those things that may be valuable but do not directly move me towards my goal. It also means I have a reason to practice – rather than to learn, it is to create my goal.

What often suffers when I take this approach is that I skip a whole load of important theoretical back story of why certain things are the way they are. But on the plus side I get something tangible quickly.

Every step of the learning experience, especially in the early stages are painful. I feel frustrated that I’m making such slow progress. I find having expertise in a related domain makes things worse.

For example, as I learn React Native to build my Personal Relationships Management app – “Percy” – the WTF/min are really high because I know how quickly I can achieve the same functionality in Java or Ruby – both of which I code with some fluency.

Of course you hear those well meaning fools who harp on about ‘make it fun’ – clearly they haven’t done any learning recently. How do you make the constant feeling of inadequacy or the sense of being a dumdum any fun?

When I learned to juggle, I remember feeling physically sick from sense of failure when – in spite of my best efforts – I just couldn’t keep three balls in the air at the same time. Until I did and that sense was immediately quashed forever.

This turnaround is addictive – and anticipating when I will get beyond the tunnel of crap into the light of palpable competence – itself is exciting. It’s a rush. It’s what keeps me showing up to learn and improve.

The capabilities you develop are rewarding – if nothing else, this new skill gives you a new set of filters and paradigms to see the world through. It gives me a new world from which to draw metaphors from.

So – of course it hurts, but it’s worth it – so do it anyway.

How does learning affect you and why do you show up?

 

Day 1: I am Rohingya #51Days

Today as part of my #51days act of solidarity, I shall change my twitter profile to

‘I am Rohingya”

The Rohingya are an ethnic group that live in Myanmar – formerly Burma – they are mostly Muslims in a country that is predominantly Buddhist.

For a toxic mix of reasons – ranging from religious difference, land grab, ethnic hatred to simply being  – the Rohingya have been persecuted almost out of existence. First by successive military juntas and now from a democratically elected government itself led by a former political prisoner and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Rohingya seem to be the favorite whipping boy of everyone with power in Myanmar and the world seems mostly deaf and mute to their persecution.

Myanmar is signatory to multiple human right treaties and conventions  – pretty much all the ones that matter. It has obligations to protect the rights of indigenous people, women, children, the disabled and pretty much everyone in its jurisdiction.

The Rohingya do not deserve to be murdered, their women raped, their leaders tortured and disappeared. No one does. If they have committed a crime – charge and apply the law against them. To the best of my knowledge, their only crime, as a group, is to exist.

The violence and discrimination is both by agents of the Myanmar start under the pretense of security and by private militias with the tacit and often, active, support of the State.

Today, I stand with the Rohingya.

Please learn more about this here: http://www.rohingya.org/portal/

 


Photo by AK Rockefeller

51 days of solidarity and advocacy.

There are 51 days until Christmas 2016.

For each of those days,I will change my name on Twitter to reflect a cause I want to support and bring some attention in a small way.

Why?

There is so much wrong with the world. There is so much that is right too.
We are each nodes in a big network of humanity and when we refuse to pass on the right or suppress the wrong, we degrade the network. It stops working and it lets the mundane overshadow the truly meaningful.

But I’m only a node and over the next 51 days, I’m going to be a little better at being that.

How?

I’m pretty active on Twitter. I blog about things that interest me, I jump into conversations, I rant. My tweets are shared, liked and retweeted that creates reach beyond the 3000+ people that follow me. A change in name  – especially one that provokes curiosity spreads my message. It might just provoke the right action from the right person.

What can I do to help?

Retweet me, like my tweets.
Tweet about this action – if you support the same cause or simply want to support my activism.
Share this post.
Share the messages that have the hashtag #51days – they will be about the issue of the day.
Join me – if you’re on Twitter, change your twitter name in solidarity.

Or simply just share about this stupid thing Mike is doing now.

It all helps.

Just. Don’t. Do. Nothing.

 


Photo by OnTask


Photo by jared

I am tired.

I’m tired, very very tired of trying to build startups.

So very tired of starting from scratch with every idea. Of the hustling and the hacking. 

I’m tired of hearing people saying ‘No’ and the ‘Oh it’s a great idea but..’.

I’m tired of the apathy – of sending 10,000 emails and having only 10% of recipients read them.

Most of all, I’m tired of the conflict in my head. There are so many ideas and the flow is not stopping anytime soon. I want a way to stop having them. The spirit is like a puppy eagerly prodding me to play but the mind and body is knackered.

These ideas, these pursuits, these startups – however exciting they are and however much I think they are useful to the world, they are stealing my time and that is the only thing I cannot replace.

Sure, I take untold pleasure in each new idea – I totally dance with it and am consumed by it. I won’t have it any other way. That itself takes a toll – it’s exhausting. Conjuring up ways this idea could rock and then building it, that is so so tiring!

I want to give up and take a job in a smallish to medium sized human centered company – or at least one where they genuinely pretend to appreciate my being there and pay me enough money to stay.

I’m tired of making decisions. Tired of being the one that worries how the bills will be paid. Tired of living on a shoestring whilst bootstrapping ideas that rock but don’t sell.

I’m tired of feeling alone in this. Tired of confronting my inadequacies everyday, of doing things that scare me. Of being rubbish at a great many things. I’m tired of learning every damn day. Of things being hard.

I hire people and they are wonderful – but we shoulder different burdens. They seem able to leave the work behind when they log off. They are committed to get their bits done and they care that the idea works – I suspect more because we get on well – but yet – I feel alone. They, understandably are concerned about each part they are responsible for, I am accountable for the whole being more than the sum of the parts.

I’m tired of context switching between the things I have to do to fund the things I love doing. The first is enjoyable and somewhat fulfilling and is entirely about the success of other people. The other is an unparalleled rush – a rollercoaster of everything.

I’m so very tired. Do I rest or do I give up? I don’t really know. I hope it passes soon.