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.

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.

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 🙂

My first week of Helpful Conversations

Last week I started having Office Hours to have conversations with anyone who wanted  the benefit of my experience in startups, tech and a few other things from my 25+ years in the software space.

Using the awesome ‘Booked’ wordpress plugin – which I had acquired for another idea that I was launching last year – I set up a simple calendar/appointment booking on my blog site and wrote a blog post to make my offer and kick the whole thing off.

The first week has been tremendous. I’ve had 4 conversations that each went well beyond the 30 minute slot that was booked and all ended with some very positive feedback and heart felt gratitude from the people I spent that time with.

I haven’t asked their permission to write about the conversations – they are, of course, private and confidential – so no names will be named and no identifying details will be shared.

Two of the conversations were about starting out as an agile coach, one was about remaining relevant as a people manager and the last one was helping a startup on its growth plans – specifically raising market awareness. Here are just some of the ideas I shared:

Starting as a (independent) agile coach:

  • Don’t do it. The market for ‘agile coaches’ is saturated and filling up with project managers, scrum masters and all sorts of other folk. Rather than be bound to some title,  strive to be of value instead by understanding what problem your client is trying to solve (and not simply help us do Scrum/LeSS/whatever) and be determined to use *all* that you know to help them.
  • Know what you bring to the engagement – be clear about it, at least to yourself!
  • Get yourself financially lean to compete, take risks and endure the downturns.
  • Get comprehensive agile experiences – learn to code, ship something, try to market something – you cannot empathise effectively if you don’t know what they are going through.
  • Stay in your day job long enough to get the essential capabilities you need – once you have to make money, it becomes harder to make strategic decisions  – being financially lean can mitigate this but not remove it entirely.

Remaining relevant as a people manager:

  • Ask the people you manage what they need – practically, emotionally and financially – to be happy and fulfilled in their jobs.
  • Remember that your responsibility is to spend authority wisely – for the benefit of your reports and indirectly, the organisation.
  • Stop shielding people from the consequences of their professional actions – agree some rules beforehand, but blind support does no one any good. That said, helping to create an environment where the consequences are manageable and fairly trivial is also important.
  • Tell the person who manages you the same thing (even if they don’t ask for it).
  • Go ask your ‘customers’ what they enjoy about you as a manager and what they don’t. Commit to them to act on their feedback.

Growth for a startup – creating awareness of a product or service:

  • Focus on what the users and customers are actually trying to use your product or service to achieve. No one uses a tool for the sake of the tool. Customers will value your service better if you strive to understand their goals.
  • Be honest with what your product and service is great at and what it isn’t – users do not appreciate wasting their time on something that doesn’t work in their use case.
  • Use your paying customers more – if you are lucky to have them, then engage with them more.
  • Try and get better at being out of your comfort zone by doing more of it and learning ways to be better.
  • Rediscover your passion for what your product does – the unique way you want to change the world. This is the bigger goal than the features you are building and enables you to speak and promote your startup with passion.
  • Give what you have to get what you want – create content about useful and helpful things, share it, help companies for free using the expertise you’ve developed from your product. Earn goodwill, it pays off.

A huge thank you to the amazing people who accepted my invitation  this week and had the courage and humility to ask for help. Needless to say, I’m deeply enjoying these conversations and hope for many more.

If you or anyone you know would find a conversation with me helpful – book a time on my office hours, show up and lets do this thing!

 

I'm Delighted By: Fitness Blender

In my previous life as an agile coach, I travelled a lot and stayed in hotels, airbnbs and other accommodation. Most didn’t have gyms and, to be honest, I’m not really a gym person.

Now anyone who knows consulting, knows you eat out almost exclusively whilst on the road and anyone who knows me, knows I like both my food and wine (and cocktails and desserts!) So staying fit and healthy on the road is doubly hard!

But a few years ago, I discovered Fitness Blender and I began to do their workouts whilst on the road. They have such a wide range of really great workouts for every phase of fitness. From less than 10 minute long easy workouts to more than an hour workouts that would literally have your lungs in your mouth!

The best thing about Kelli and Daniel – the founders –  is that they do the workouts with you. They feel exhausted at the same points you feel exhausted, when they say ‘what a burn’, you feel like they spoke for you. Oh, and the workout videos are free – they make some money from advertising and selling longer programs but you can get fit and stay healthy for free!

They have lots of workouts but my favourite are the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) videos that need nothing but bodyweight (and do I have a lot of that – less since I started with them!). The HIIT workouts are generally short – bookended with warm up and cool down, they are between 15 and 35 minutes long.

Now that I’m not on the road that much, I still do their workouts 3 times a week, I’ve never met them in person, but they are like old friends!

I seriously think that without these guys, I would be dead by now.

Please, if you are on the road a lot, don’t feel that you can’t keep fit and healthy. You always have time for one of their workouts. Look after yourselves – you aren’t any good to anyone dead.

Thank you @fitnessblender!

30 Day Challenge: 5 minutes of planks everyday!

Challenge Yourself!

I decided at the end of January that it would be a good idea to force a habit of exercise and do something every day that is both hard and beneficial.

So, the 30 day challenge was born – technically it runs for calendar months not strictly 30 days, but it still works.

First up – are 5 minutes of plank exercises every day during February.

I’m already 10 days into it and it is only just getting easier. Coupled with the HIIT and CrossFit that I also do in the week – some days the planks completely finish me off.

That said – doing them first thing in the morning is such a sense of achievement and sets me up for the day.

If you would like to do the same challenge, here are the exercises:

Kudos to Neila Rey who put the visual together!

I use the very useful IntervalTimer by Seconds Pro to help me not cheat on the timing. Here is the timer for this plank workout.

Challenge yourself!

Next for March: 3 minutes of High Knees every morning!

Be a Person of Substance

I love to take my dog – Maya – for walks and she loves it when I throw for her and she fetches. A long throw really helps her open up the speed!

As I took her for a walk this morning, I brought with us one of her ‘throw and chew’ balls. Much like a tennis ball but squidgier.

Usually I throw rocks for her and I have a pretty long throw – but despite my usual effort, this ball didn’t travel as far.

Now, it was substantially larger than a stone and almost perfectly spherical – looking picture perfect to throw, but it lacked density and this is why it didn’t make the most of the strength with which it was hurled. In fact, sometimes it only travelled a few meters! Needless to say, Maya was none too pleased.

It got me thinking

I believe that Life, the Universe and the force that is greater than us all, seems to want to propel us to great heights towards what we wish for ourselves, but what do we bring to this ambition to help it along?

If life presents an opportunity to propel a person forward – perhaps to greater learning and prosperity, how does that person get themselves in a position to maximise how far they travel?

As I pondered this, I wondered if the density or substance of the rock was more suitable to be propelled than the ball – which ‘looked’ like the best thing to be propelled.

What is the substance of a person that helps them make the most of the propulsion that life offers? Seems to me that by the time the opportunity arrives,  there is likely very little a person can do to acquire the skills to make the most of that particular gift. So it seems substance is a set of general characteristics and capabilities.

Here’s a list of attributes that I think count as ‘substance’ by which a person ‘goes far’.

  1. Integrity – being true to your word and being guided by your principles.
  2. Being good to work with – being respectful of others, open to collaboration.
  3. Being adaptable – anticipating and responding elegantly to change,
  4. Learning what they need to – and quickly.
  5. Being generous – with their time, knowledge and resources.
  6. Being open – in mind and of heart.
  7. Persistence –  knowing when to push on (and pushing on) and when to pull out.

I’m sure this is not exhaustive but what do you think?
Do you agree with my list, can you think of any more?
How does one develop these capacities to be a person of substance?