Reading is good for the soul

What I’m Reading

This current project I’m on started a long time ago; I saw this cheat-sheet for Jason Fried’s book Rework back in 2010, and shortly thereafter I bought the book from the iBookstore. It took me awhile to get around to reading it, but it was a worldview-changing experience once I finally sat down to spend some time with it. I plowed through it in an evening, and I really need to read it again.

After I finished it, I bought Making Ideas Happen from Scott Belsky, behind 99 Percent, Behance and The Action Method. It quickly became one of the zillion books that I read the introduction of and then laid aside. I picked it up again late last week and started it from the beginning, and have made it about a third of the way through the book. It’s very similar in philosophy to the meetings-are-poison mindset of Rework, but focuses on specific tactics and strategies for organizing and executing projects. So far it’s been an enlightening read; it’s not quite the “everything you’re doing is destructive and wrong, and here’s why you should blow it up and start over” hammer to the heart that Rework was, but it’s an equally enthusiastic call to challenge the status quo.

Both books are written from perspective that is intended to support people interested in launching tech startups, but the more I read about the mindset behind successful startups the more I see a significant number of things that could be pulled out and adapted to a great number of other enterprises. When you combine this mentality – laser-focus on productivity and leading effective teams – with that of winning customers by focusing on building experience – like in the video I posted yesterday – and you’ve got a toolkit that could be adapted to a broad variety of enterprises or organizations beyond tech startups.

Once I get through Making Ideas Happen, I think my next target will be Jacob Morgan’s The Collaborative Organization. I’ve read the sample from iBookstore, and from just that 20-something page snippet it seemed clear that it was cut from a similar cloth to these other two books – only placing focus on specific strategies for using technological tools to work with people and solve problems.

Lots to learn.

Give lots of damns

I have watched this YouTube video by Alexis Ohanian, one of the founders of Reddit, called “Give a Damn. Give Lots of Damns.” It’s about startups, but as I am discovering with a lot of things about startups, there is so much insight here about the basic approach to doing business as an underdog that can be applied to a great many other things. I’m involved in some of these things; I desperately hope to get a shot at some others. But there’s a lot to learn here in 21 minutes; it’s not necessarily a checklist of things you can do to suddenly be successful, but it gives you insight into the mindset of the people who are coming up with these ways to build love for their companies and products.

Social Media Checklist

So back in November I started this social media checklist that was supposed to be my “do this every day” list to help me show up and get things done with my various social presences. It’s been modestly successful, in that I’m aware of it every day. I set high goals for myself, and after about six weeks of trying this that’s showing through. I started with eight daily items, and I deleted two of them today; one was just a mistake to include, because my usage of that particular service (Pocket, which I really enjoy) to justify having it be on a daily checklist, and one other was probably a legitimate goal that I’m honestly making a conscious effort to not do. So it had to go. Of the others:

• 1 photo on Instagram: 6 of 11 days in December; 14 of 24 days in November (I started the checklist on the 7th)
• 3 updates on Facebook: 7 of 11 days in December; 16 of 24 days in November
• 10 tweets: 7 of 11 days in December; 13 of 24 days in November
• reply to 5 tweets: 7 of 11 days in December; 12 of 24 days in November
• 5 shares on Pinterest: 2 of 11 days in December; 16 of 24 days in November
• post on this blog: 4 of 24 days in November; 4 of 11 days in December
The checklist has increased my participation on Instagram; mostly, when I’m taking a photo to share I’m making a concerted effort to use Instagram rather than just taking a photo with my Camera app and then sharing it from Camera Roll.
Three updates to Facebook is an aggressive goal for most days, but I would guess this usage is about the same as it was before the list. I’m being pretty lax with that; for example, if I take an Instagram pic and share it on Facebook, I’m counting it in both places. Cheating? Maybe, but it’s content that ends up on Facebook so I can justify it.
The checklist has driven me to be far more active on Twitter. With Twitter’s blink-and-you-miss-it nature, it was becoming incredibly easy to just skip it altogether. Still, 10 tweets can be tough on some days, especially depending on my load at work (which is where I primarily use Twitter; I still haven’t found a flow that works for me to really stay engaged with it on my phone. I just need to cull a ton of the 500-something people I’m following, I think).
The “reply to five Tweets” goal was odd from the start, but I wanted to have that in there to force me to engage rather than just vomiting out 10 tweets and calling it good. For the most part I’m keeping pace, but I’m pretty generous with what I consider to be a “reply,” too.
You can see my participation on Pinterest has dropped off the cliff in December. This was honestly the easiest thing to  keep updated (and it shows by keeping up with Facebook in November), but lately I am just bored silly with Pinterest — I’ve reached the point that I don’t feel like seeking out new stuff to follow, and even in the “explore” sections there’s nothing new. It’s all the same garbage, over and over and over. I barely pay attention to it any more; maybe I’ll go back to it, but that 2-out-of-11 ratio for December is likely to get significantly worse before it gets better.
And then there’s posts on this blog. That’s been terrible. But I’m starting to get back into a groove with that as well, I think. The “show up every day” for this is difficult, for some reason. There are days I honestly don’t know what I’d write, and those are the days I need to make the greatest effort to show up and get something in here.

Grad school update

Eight classes, 4.0 intact. Three classes to go and a paper to finish, and a master’s degree is in the bag. Somebody punch me in the temple if I start talking about a doctorate or an MBA.

WordPress 3.5 update

A very cool thing in the WordPress 3.5 update? The “link to existing content” dialog box in the link control. That is an extremely clever, and extremely useful, addition. Promote your own content.

Good day with the girls

Took the girls to an event at Bemidji Community Art Center where they each got to make five Cristmas-related crafts, then hung out with Helen a bit while Millie napped.

Plus, I resurrected Derka and have him about halfway to 86. The differences don’t make it not WoW; I, enjoying leveling so far but I can totally see being done again as soon as I get to a place where I have to group with other people to progress. Missed the game, but the people who play just kill it.

BSU hockey picked up a much-needed win today at Duluth; Andrew Walsh had 33 saves and helped BSU win for just the fourth time in 14 games this year. They needed it.

Exhausted. Time for bed.

Thoughts after midnight

Man it is late. But I started reading and it was difficult to stop. I have been laser focused on something I can’t even talk about, and tonight I started reading a pair of books to help get my mind into necessary shape (which, honestly, has been needed for awhile for any number of reasons 🙂 ). They both are off to a good start. I got through all of the introductory chapters for “Making Ideas Happen,” which has been rotting on my iPad since before I even had this particular iPad — so, Y’know, a long time. I read the 22-page iBookstore sample for the second book, which was fascinating; I will definitely get that book once I have finished “Ideas.”

Obviously my little goal of posting here daily has been a dismal failure so far; part of my efforts tonight with reading are to try and do better and to force myself into a disciplined rhythm even if, like tonight, I end up being awake irresponsibly late in order to do what I want to do each day. The kids/family/job/school blender of life makes my days pretty short, but I would like to put more effort into making good use of the time I do have — which I am terrible at.

I do like posting from my iPad though… Maybe I just need to be more flexible with my writing source instead of deciding I am not in the mood to get to the MacBook Pro. We shall see.

In closing, the greatest thing ever is hearing a two-year-old tell you, “thanks for making me happy.” Life accomplished, basically.

Good night.

(This post took 11 minutes. I can find 11 minutes a day to do this…)