Then and now

Two seemingly unrelated conversations with friends this morning gave me this post idea.

First discussion was about big and the toilet was separate from the bath room), sit on the floor and watch them, because it was dark and had a perfect white door to project onto.

Those were such good times! And now, fast-forward to modern day, to the second conversation, which was about Tard, the Grumpy Cat, attending the SXSW. Don’t you love how she looks? And don’t you marvel, that if someone had a cat like this back in the days of diafilm, nobody would know about it, aside from neighbors perhaps. But today, the lucky owner of this cute cat, is an internet celebrity getting flown into the largest conference and sponsored by some big cat food brand. The cat is earning money for it’s parent!


*Image from austinist.com

I wonder if our future generations will know anything about either diafilms or Tard… because the speed with which we acquire knowledge these days is so so fast, and there’s exponentially more things to know for each new generation. So what will be lost, and what would be remembered?

A time for everything

I have amazing friends. And I was thinking that we are all going through interesting phases in our lives. Right now it happens to be the phase where most are figuring out our life partnerships. Some of us already did, some of us are further down the road and started families (only a few of my close friends have kids though and they are mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan), and some are still searching, and some of us are in the process of making it official. Which is all pretty cool.

Then I remembered my mom said that there’s a time for everything in life. Back then I didn’t really think too much of it, but now it’s starting to make sense to me. We had this carefree time as kids, then kind of a discovery phase as teens in high school and into college, then establishing ourselves independently, finding jobs, interests, friends. And now it seems like as we know who we are and what we want, it’s the next phase – our partnerships.

Of course it’s not all black and white, and we can still be childish sometimes, or keep discovering things, or meet new friends and find new hobbies, but in essence it’s true – there’s a time for everything in your life.

I think another point I’m trying to make is that if you feel like you really want to do something – do it, enjoy being young, take risks while it’s still your time to take them, and don’t waste your time.

Randomly, I found this piece (maybe from Bible, not sure), and I like it, so I’m including it below:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

And this picture that’s also relevant and sweet:

Make yourself dispensable?

As it often happens, had a conversation with Mike about one topic and somehow arrived to Rand Fishkinâ??s blog. In one of the posts, Rand writes about outdated advice to employees on â??making yourself indespensableâ?. This means that your company will supposedly need you so damn much, it will not be able to function without you or replace you. Evil sysadmins come to mind, or programmers that hoard their secrets and obfuscate their code, or sales people who will not share their leads with anyone.

I think itâ??s silly to protect whatever it is you do, only to make your job â??secureâ?. You shoot yourself in the foot, because if youâ??re guarding your current tasks, you canâ??t really move forward. Wouldnâ??t it be better to instead share what you do with the team, and see if they can improve on it, and have a chance to work on something else? Iâ??d also argue that job security does not really depend on how well youâ??re doing whatever youâ??re doing now/hired to do, it is how quick you can figure out new ways to do things better, how good youâ??re with your team and how much you can give to them and help them grow.

Sean, who runs Fluent, talks about it often, and heâ??s mastered the art of sharing and delegation. I remember when they just started he used to be involved in day-to-day tasks, but in the course of couple of years, by sharing what he does and delegating, he was able to move to his strategic role and do bigger things (grow and run the company), while his team keeps day-to-day work going. So I see him as a captain who started as a deckhand :) Imagine if he insisted on staying an indespensable deckhand?


*Captain who mastered the art of delegation

This is another reason why I enjoy meetups and our weekly Show&Tell meetings, because thatâ??s where you find the smartest and most generous folks sharing their knowledge. They are not afraid to lose their â??powerâ?, because their power is in their curiosity, ability to learn and teach. And this can not be taken away.

Visit Randâ??s post for his take on employersâ?? point of view and some interesting comments.

Noise vs focus

My new desk at work has very bad feng shui. In other words – it’s noisy, faces the wall and makes it almost impossible to focus. The constant buzz from the air ducts above our heads never stops. Not sure how previous tenants dealt with the situation, but I can’t last more than a few hours there.

For now I’m camping out in one of the former offices that has not yet been claimed as a conference room. And I hope I never have to leave (except for walks outside and lunches).

And it got me thinking (because my thinking is no longer interrupted) about noise. Living in the city like New York by default means dealing with noise. We have subway not only undeground but sometimes above our heads, constant flow of traffic and people, crowded streets and apartment buildings with lots of neighbors. So to keep your sanity, sometimes you have to block out all the noise and find or create some quietness.

Clutter is another kind of noise, created by physical objects around you. That’s why I’m a big fan of decluttering and not owning lots of physical stuff, because it weighs you down and lessens your ability to focus.

Same with people. Instead of trying to keep up with never-ending streams of chatter on Facebook and other “social” places, I think it is better to maintain few high quality, real-life, authentic relationships with people who truly enrich your life.

I like how in the winter after a big snowstorm, everything is muffled when you step out into the street. Snow covers all with whiteness, quiet and peace. So I wish all of us take some time this winter, and reduce all kinds of noise in our lives.

How to get great ideas

By interacting with smart people

If youâ??re lucky, you have this amazing kind of friends and with them you talk freely about anything. Absolutely anything. And when you do, randomly and magically, great ideas just pop into your head, based on the conversations you have, and you canâ??t wait to write them down and act on them.

By doing things

Working and tinkering with things leads you to other great ideas, sometimes not even related to your project. When Iâ??m working on a project, thereâ??s suddenly a lot of stuff I want to write about. And conversely, whenever I feel like I have nothing to write about – it means itâ??s time to start working on something new.

By traveling to new places

Thereâ??s no better way to break free from routine and conventions, than going to the other side of the world. And even though in this day and age, there are comforts of civilization almost everywhere, it is still amazing how immersing in different cultures, sampling different cuisines, hearing (and maybe even speaking!) another language shifts something within your mind and gets your creativity going.

By reading

Books have this magical ability to transport you in space and time, without you physically moving anywhere. And as your mind travels, it opens up to new ideas, you learn how people did things in the past, or how they are potentially dealing with events of the future, or on a totally different continent… Just make sure you read great quality literature, donâ??t waste time on vampires, nothing really you can learn from the things that could never exist.

By being annoyed

While it is not pleasant being irritated by some process that is broken, it gives you ideas on how to improve it, so that you, and everyone after you, donâ??t have to go through this pain anymore. Example: submitting paperwork in the world of electronic communications, doing timesheets, redoing same thing over and over… the list can go on.

Just make sure that you capture your ideas when they come – write them down.

How do you get great ideas? I heard people come up with them in dreams sometimes… curious to hear real world stories.

Free advice that will cost you

This post is inspired by a few things:

  • Hurricane Sandy that hit NYC and Northeast a few weeks ago and left many people without homes (that cost them lots of effort and money to acquire)
  • This very thought- and comment-provoking post from the Cup of Jo blog on women who don’t want to have children
  • A conversation with my friend Ohn on having one “true love” per person, per life

These are all very controversial topics and eeeeeveryone and their cats have advice for you! Some common “wisdoms” are:

“You should buy a house, it’s such a good investment. Especially if you plan to raise your kids, you NEED a house!”

“Kids are the greatest joy in life! If you don’t want kids, you are selfish”

“You have to find your soulmate, and once you do, you two will be together forever”

Don’t you “love” these people who got certain ideas imprinted in their brains? They think they are doing your a service by putting you on the one and only right path to eternal happiness: home ownership + procreation + life-long committed relationship with one person. And if somehow you’re not on that path, something is awfully, horribly wrong with you, poor lost little lamb!

But fear not, because someone out there has FREE ADVICE for you!

I wish people minded their own business and focused on their own well-being and happiness instead of prodding into someone else’s life. If having kids brings you joy – have them, but don’t assume it’s the same for other people. Or enjoy your open relationship – as long as everyone in this relationship is cool with it and happy.

It’s sad that so often, people are buying homes and having kids and are stuck in bad relationships “because it’s the next step”, “because everyone else is doing it” or “because my parents told me to”, without thinking it through and being honest with themselves, then get consumed by debt, stress, sleepless nights and depression.

And if you really want to have a great conversation, instead of giving advice, tell me about all the good things you’ve done: started a company that truly helps people (whether if it’s educating their kids or finding open-minded partners), open-sourced your code, wrote an article that inspired creativity, donated to help save world’s oceans… As far as advice goes, only give it when specifically asked, consider all the circumstances, and don’t judge.

Now, what color shoes should I get? Hot pink or electric blue?

Writers write

Thats one of the shortest pieces of wisdom I found online somewhere, and it’s profound in its simplicity.

If you want to become someone – do what the job requires. If you want to be a writer – write. If you want to be a coder – code. Teachers teach. Doing is everything.

I strive to write at least every other day. I don’t even want to be a writer. What I’d love to become is a better communicator and storyteller.

As Mike puts it:

… By learning to string words together well, you are actually learning to observe well. Language enables thinking, and by extension better language enables better thinking. Better language comes from practice and story telling, so try narrating your own life in an attempt at objective self-reflection

Here are some great posts on why everyone needs to write and how to do it better, to serve as inspiration/kick in the butt (for you and for me):

Jeff Atwood: Fear of writing and Always be shipping, always be jabbing
James Altucher: Tips for becoming a better writer (including some you’ve never heard)