Year: 2015

My Thinking On Various Topics

Normal Is Not Great

I’ve long wrestled mentally with the idea of ‘normal’ and what it means to to fit that definition. To be a part of  the middle section of the bell curve. To be one with the masses. I don’t think anyone in my acquaintance would describe me as wholly normal, but when facing decisions I often ask myself if I want to move closer to it or away. Should I reject or embrace the long tail? There is a part of my history where this dilemma surfaced itself in shallow ways. In college I stopped liking bands once they became popular enough to sell out shows at my favorite local venues. It became a matter of principle rather than just musical tastes. But, is liking only obscure bands solely a point of elitism? Or is there in fact value to that thought process? Even if the band and music did not change,

Yearly Focus

Read 26 Books: Update 2

I read 6.5 books in the first half of this year. Half of what I needed to be on pace, meaning I’m 6.5 books behind schedule.  To date this year I’ve read: The Omnivore’s Dilemma Death on the Nile No Country for Old Men Fluke A Scanner Darkly Managing Brand Equity I am currently reading: The Kite Runner Looking at the positive side, I’m doing pretty well at my sub-goal of reading more fiction. I wanted to split things 50/50, since I usually tend towards non-fiction. Of the 6.5 books I’ve read so far, 4.5 of those were fiction. I’ve been enjoying my selections so far. Most of them have also been made into a movie – I’ve made a habit of watching them afterwards while the book is still fresh in my mind to compare the two. Another positive, I am also doing better than last year when looking at books read as opposed to

Career in Tech

The Cars 2 Logo at Pixar

creating excellencI got to go on a tour of the Pixar studios this week. A friend & former colleague now works there and invited me for lunch. The campus is awesome – everything about it exudes the excellence you would expect from Pixar. I loved seeing first hand the the strength of their culture. The company doesn’t just create great stories, but it falls in love with its own characters. They are present everywhere on campus in the form of sculpture, paintings, lego, etc. That shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve ever spotted hidden references in one Pixar film to a previous film – they like to reference their successes. One thing really stood out to me, though. As I entered the campus I walked past a giant logo for Cars 2. I didn’t even think to take a picture of it, but found one online so you can see what I’m

Career in Tech

Owning Customer Problems

“I am here NOT to sell what I produce but I am here to solve a set of customer problems that I want to own.” – Ranjay Gurati, Harvard Business School This is a great way of looking at product management. Our goal isn’t to build something and sell it. Our goal isn’t even to build what customers want. Our goal is to take ownership of a certain set of problems for a certain set of people and then solve them in the best way possible. Ideally in doing so, you create enough value for them that they can afford to then pay you for your services, which is how you put bread on your table. I read a quote from a former Googler recently that explained how their job in search was to solve every customer problem. If the customer couldn’t spell, it was the product managers problem, if the

Yearly Focus

Living Slower: Productivity & Rest

When I started thinking about rest, I had this vision in my head of a spectrum where rest was at one end and productivity was at the other. That made sense to me. You were either working hard or you were resting. I realize now that I had it wrong. Rest & productivity are two separate axis, like this. All things we can do with your time fall somewhere in this space. But before I can talk more about how we can & should spend our time, I need to define the terms. Productivity: That which fulfills your purpose or helps you get closer to it. I had a limited view of this term when I started thinking about it. I was thinking of productive as synonymous with efficient – getting a lot done – but this is in fact a huge misconception. You could be getting a lot done or be

My Thinking On Various Topics

Normal and Strange

All of today’s normal things were once yesterday’s strange things. And there was very likely a group of people that rejected those things at first. Not all of today’s strange things will become tomorrow’s normal things, but certainly some of them will. So consider carefully which strange things you reject.

My Thinking On Various Topics

Selling Everything I Own

Lately I’ve been exploring a philosophy where I consider everything I own as being for sale at any given time. At a high price, that is probably true for all of us. But at a reasonable price it should be too. I’ve begun to distance myself from things – valuing them for the purpose they serve in the present rather than some tie to the past or (unrealistic) hope for the future. As my interests shift, my true value of an item does too and eventually it gets below market rate. The thought of selling items I might want later was a barrier at first, but I’ve chipped away at it as I’ve realized how easy it is to acquire a near exact item later if need be. With this philosophy I am able to float through life more freely – less tied down by material weight. I am able to live more in the moment, owning

Yearly Focus

Summit Mt. Whitney: Permit Acquired

The first hurdle I faced when planning for my 2015 challenge was getting access to attempt the hike of Mt. Whitney. Like many popular hikes, there is now a permit system in place to limit the daily travelers. This is done for the safety and enjoyment of those on the trail as well as to allow for the preservation of the location. My goal was to get a permit that let me camp overnight and hike the mountain over two days – rather than attempting it in a single long day. That allows for a more leisurely pace and more enjoyable trip. The trade off is you have to carry sleeping gear. I’ve had a good bit of experience getting permits from the U.S. Parks department and learned a few tricks. They key is to make sure you are flexible, and shoot for off-peak days when possible. Early or late

Yearly Focus

Read 26 Books: Update 1

Last year I attempted to read 24 books and finished 17. This year I decided to give it another try but upped the ante to 26. I also set the requirement that 50% had to be fiction and decided that audiobooks don’t count. One week into April and I should be done with 7 books. I’ve finished 3.5. So once again I am behind. To date this year I’ve read: The Omnivore’s Dilemma Death on the Nile No Country for Old Men I am also in the middle of reading: Fluke In the midst of failure I like to focus on the small victories. I am currently reading my third fiction book which is the total I read all last year. I’m doing much better at finding fiction I enjoy and have my next few lined up already. The most difficult part of this for me is that reading isn’t my

My Thinking On Various Topics

The Best Use of Money

The idea that spending money to buy experiences rather than ‘stuff’ has been gaining mainstream momentum in America. People are realizing that there is more marginal benefit to their happiness when they allocate their dollars towards experiences (travel, entertainment, classes, adventures, etc.) rather than material goods. This is of course because most of us (certainly those I see sharing the above opinions) have surpassed the basic material needs of food & shelter. The physical goods purchased after that point have diminishing returns – at a certain point the clutter may even cause new purchases to create negative returns. I’ve been thinking on the topic of allocating money towards happiness and wanted to share my thoughts. I agree fully that experiences are a better use of money than stuff – but I see these as the first two steps of a spectrum. A spectrum that I have been able to track a bit further, though I’m not certain