Live Systems

Everything changes. And change works – life itself has proven that.

In technology, you would think that since computers are very good at repeating something very exactly over and over again, things in the digital world sometimes wouldn’t change… But they do. They have to. There is somethign called digital rot – everything rots if it doesn’t change. Relationships rot (try not talking to a close friend for a week), tools rot (who uses myspace anymore?), and if a digital offering doesn’t undergo continuous change, it gets left behind and dies off. So you have to change, and your products and services have to evolve, or be left to “die.”

What teaches us also is that a good media service has to be updated very regularly. Preferably every day. If something is not happening in a channel for a day, it’ll start losing popularity. So you have to continue innovating, continue generating content, and be more varied and precisely match what current trends are set by the market. It’s a hard job, but it’s the only way to survive (and prosper).

The good news is that if you are very new, if you’re just starting out, the continuous change aspect of things doesn’t disadvantage you, on the contrary! As something new on the field, your product/service has room to grow, you haven’t figured everything out so there is very much room for change, and change is often good. So it’s a natural way to level the playing field: the newcomers have this edge over the old-timers, in that the newcomers will necessarily change.

The path to greatness

…is 8 hours a day

8 hours a day. The path to greatness, quite simply, is doing something for 8 hours a day. This way you can be good at it, and once you’re good, you can work on being great (which is again 8 hours a day). If you can do it for more than 8 hours – awesome, but that’s by no means a requirement.

Do you have to have a natural disposition, a talent for it, in order to be great? No. Certainly you don’t need it to be good. Talent helps, but there are many people with unrealized talents walking past you on the streets every day. It’s the perseverance and time commitment that counts – not actual talent.

Note that this implies that you can’t give up. If you fail to succeed… try again. Failing to succeed at something for a month does not give you the right to give up. Use balief (see “belief”, the definition of the tool) to determine the goal that you’re pursuing, and then pursue it consistently until you’ve gotten it.

In the course of this you may discover that you don’t want to be good at it anymore. Up close the goal didn’t look the same as from the distance. Again, use belief to continue working on it (getting from good to great). It is helpful to determine at the very beginning, and promise yourself – what is it that once you achieve it you won’t back out of? Make that decision at the beginning, and when you want to back out, remember that decision being made in the beginning. Because if you back out of your own success you will be lost.

On Health, Sports, and Personal Efficiency

Here we emphasize that doing physical training has a number of positive effects, not achievable elsewhere.

Being healthy lets you live longer. That’s a good thing; live is generally a pleasant thing, and much better than the alternative.

Being healthy is also cheaper. Having medical issues may turn out to be very expensive – especially as one gets older and puts a lot of mileage on the body.

Physical training helps compete in cognitive tasks. Being physically agile makes you mentally agile. Increased metabolism improves blood circulation to the brain, enabling better work.

Overall, it’s a time saving, rather than time cost, to work out or participate in sports. My favourite one is jiu jitsu – it’s very intellectually stimulating, and it doubles as a self-defense mechanism. But you can do anything else, from soccer to basketball to running.

Perceptual Control Theory

A Book Recommendation. This book by William Powers offers a complete basic theory of psychology – and a very interesting one at that.

‘Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) is both the name of the theory and the name of a book by William Powers. I have found it immensely interesting and intuitive, a good way of explaining why people take actions that they do. This book definitely takes a spot on my shelf of recommended reading. Buy in on Amazon.

An example, from Wikipedia: A simple negative feedback control system is a cruise control system for a car. A cruise control system has a sensor which “perceives” speed as the rate of spin of the drive shaft directly connected to the wheels. It also has a driver-adjustable ‘goal’ specifying a particular speed. The sensed speed is continuously compared against the specified speed by a device (called a “comparator”) which subtracts the currently sensed input value from the stored goal value. The difference (the error signal) determines the throttle setting (the accelerator depression), so that the engine output is continuously varied to prevent the speed of the car from increasing or decreasing from that desired speed as environmental conditions change. This type of classical negative feedback control was worked out by engineers in the 1930s and 1940s.

Another example is inverse kinematics, used in 3D animation as well as robot control. You have the goal: for example, a “wrist” movement, and the system that senses and affects things to reach that goal.

Overall, I think the concepts of this theory are super useful both for personal development as a human, and for building digital systems.

PMBA – A review

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman is a great book all around, and is likely to help you with personal efficiency, self-actualization and achieving personal goals.

MBA as taught in schools has several areas of study: finance & accounting, leadership & management, marketing & strategy, technology & operations. Kaufman in this book gives accurate insights into what goes into MBA education, as well as what goes into the practical applications of such.

The book’s website is and of course you can buy it on Amazon.

Tight Feedback Loops in Agile Management

The importance of feedback loops in agile management and development

I deal in technology a lot, so my monologue on the topic is technology-centric.

There are several feedback loops that are worth looking over. (1) The feedback from developer to manager; (2) the feedback from user to developer.

It’s worth noting that the closer/tighter the feedback loop is, the more value it brings. Being able to expose errors and omissions, from user back to the developer who actually fixes the problem – the faster it happens, the less time is wasted, the faster overall development takes place.

On Resilience and Achieving

Does it make sense to spend a decade of focus on something? When you don’t have success, how long do you try until pivoting?

Faith is a tool here. You use faith to achieve. The first success has to be bootstrapped, you kind of pull yourself out of nowhere into the success zone, and the belief that you’re actually able to do so plays a large part in that. You have to see other people’s successes and assume/believe that your own success is possible. This is the way I use faith.

Focus, effort, discipline, attention span – these are synonyms for me. I measure attention span in time segments, and I measure focus and effort in time as well. I can say, achieving such and such goal would take a two-year discipline stretch. College, for example, is a 4-year effort.

Some tasks are achievable in an hour. Some take several days. There are tasks that take months; and there are tasks that span entire careers and decades of time. What are the goals that you are looking to achieve in the next 100 years?

Individual Physical Appearance

How important is outward appearance? What constitutes outward appearance?

Appearance is extremely important when your goal is to make an impression. Without good appearance, you cannot make a good impression on anyone. Physical appearance is not the only element needed to make a good impression, but it is absolutely critical. People judge each other (and themselves) a lot, based on how they look. We’ll get into the acting later.

it’s amazing how much a person’s attitude towards another person changes based on just what they are wearing. Wearing nice clothes allows you to gain a higher place in the social foodchain. Girls seem to get this point better than guys.

Dress well at all times! Have a clean shaved/trimmed beard; get regular haircuts that look nice; take care of your shoes; wear a nice watch, and learn to be in your clothes. Develop a style, grow into it so that you’re comfortable, and that will hopefully move you up the social foodchain a little. 🙂

Minor Personal Tools

These tools take less effort, time and commitment than Major Personal Tools.

Tier I

  • Instead of typing to sort your thoughts, record yourself on video, then transcribe the recording. There are services that will do the transcription for you, if you are lazy or don’t have the time.
  • Recording yourself on video and playing it back allows you a glimpse of your outward appearance, if you need to correct it (e.g. if you rely on it professionally).
  • Try to wake up at 6am every day. Use melatonin to converge on a proper sleep cycle.
  • Record diary of per-hour activities; monthly diary tallies. In my continuous backup / workbench I have the file YYYYMM_doing.txt, that’s the per-hour tally of tasks today, and list of things to do; and the file archive/YYYY/sow/YYYYMM_done.txt, that’s a longer file with tallies from every day, segmented by month.
  • Keep a continuous backup / workbench. Refer to the article Structure of Information III.
  • Record quarterly goals; quarterly finance.
  • Go out twice a week (if you’re single or don’t have a family). Doesn’t matter what “going out” is, as long as it’s a physical (rather than digital) activity not work-related in the evening-time.
  • Keep a small calendar on your desktop and mark off successful, productive days.
  • Use to make people book appointments or calls with you. Limit your availability on that platform to 2 hours per day.

Tier II

  • Enable people, enable them to have fun. If they feel empowered in your company, you will benefit
  • You are a professional at what you do for 6 hours a day. (But can you do it for 10 hours a day tho?)
  • What is the hardest thing to do right now? Try doing it. This breeds good work ethic, and the one true purpose to which to aspire: being personally impactful and getting shit done.
  • In order to be good at something, you have to do it at least twice a week. You cannot be good at it if you to it less regularly. Once you’ve established this one, in order to continue improving, you have to do it every day. Then to be really competitive, you have to do it for 6 hours a day.
  • It’s not specialization that is required; but competitiveness. Unfortunately you cannot be competitive without specializing.

Major Personal Tools

Some of the tools that I continuously use and revise to achieve even better productivity

The Major tools, as opposed to Minor Personal Tools, require a greater time commitment to use.

The calendar

Very important. Mark off successful days on the calendar. Do not mark an unsuccessful day. Mark off tasks that were done on this day. I call list of done tasks sow (statement of work), although the term is actually misused here. (A statement of work outlines deliverables; since what I have succeeded in accomplishing on any day isn’t a deliverable,  maybe “sow” is a wrong word to describe it.)

Communication Channels

I am strict on what channels of communication are opened to whom. I use Slack extensively; for real-time business communication. Alerts are implemented in slack. I have multiple slack channels, one or more per project/client. My primary communication channel is email. I have three: business, personal and one more that’s a test/discard email.

Email is extremely important. Slack is important.

  • dropbox gives me continuous backup
  • boilerplate for dealing with HR: rejection letters, continuation letters, inquiry letters
  • accounting: basic accounting documents
  • the bezel on my watch, the pomodoro technique
  • on lying: being able to lie is important. Unfortunately I’m not very good at it. I should practice.
  • on travel: it clears my head, it’s what I live for, but it introduces panic. When I’m back, it takes forever to acclimate.