Don’t be so afraid.

When I was young, I was so afraid of the dark, that if I was visiting a friend, and it was time to go home, whilst dark, I would run, right up the middle of the street.

I now understand that was a primal instinct. The lizard brain, screaming that it doesn’t like the possibility that something unknown could even exist, never mind threathen our life.

Now, I enjoy going for a leisurely stroll, at night time, around the neighbourhood. I know their are some places in the world where this wouldn’t be advised, there are also places where this would be magical. We make a choice on what to focus on, or to believe in.

The point is, we become better at judging risk, by being exposed, by building awareness of the facts – calculating the risk. Then, the more we take action the better we become.

Our senses are programmed to be heightened and feel fear when confronted by the unknown, when we limit ourselves and stay where we feel comfortable, we don’t grow, we never experience the joy on the other side. The joy being either a feeling of accomplishment or that we were able to overcome our fears and realise that it wasn’t so bad, and in the majority of cases is actually quite exciting.

It’s self-perpetuating, the more we expose ourselves to unknowns (risk), and find the courage to overcome our fears, the more we confirm that not only, will we be fine, we actually benefit from seeking challenging opportunities.

Still doesn’t mean I like snakes though.

#takerisks #embraceyourfears

Optimizing for happiness?

The following is a little exploration on the above, which, for me, boils down to a simple conscious choice – what’s more important, helping the people around you, or making money?

Counting the cost?

Some say when you have money you are in a better position to help people. Some say you should count the cost.

So, what is the cost of money? Or is this really a question of how we choose to make our money? And what are those choices?

  • Job (You have a job).
  • Freelance/Run a business (You own a job).
  • Own a business (Others work for you).
  • Invest in assets (Money works for you).
  • Build your own assets (Time works for you).

What is the cost, what is it that we have to invest?

  • Health – when being paid by someone else they’ll generally put their interests first, e.g. long hours, shared stress, market rates not value based pay.
  • Time – when someone else decides how we spend our time it is hard to help others, or work on ourself, or our own ideas.
  • Freedom – when someone else approves our time-off it is hard to take time to reflect if our activity is making us happy, or allowing us to explore new opportunities.

Which one of our money-making choices allows us to optimize for happiness?

To give a little perspective, here’s my philosophy:

  • Health before Wealth.
  • Money while we Exercise and Eat Fresh.
  • Pursue the interesting, Money will follow.

Optimising for finance?

I was once very focused on optimizing my finances, it wasn’t a bad thing, I was a pupil of Robert Kiyosaki and Jim Rohn, they provided great insight, JR said it’s important to set goals and measure progress, he said at least your financial position is easy to quantify, it is one way, your bank balance is a number. RK taught me about assets and liabilities, i.e. what credits or debits that bank balance.

My flow chart capturing insight from Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Robert Kiyosaki)

Measuring happiness?

I’m now asking, is there a better way? To optimize for happiness.

To optimize, we still need a measure, so how do we measure happiness?

Happiness is a feeling not a number, right? How do we measure a feeling? Do we simply have to listen to ourselves?

I recently began following the work of Simon Sinek, the idea being – a feeling of fulfilment is what makes us happier, which he states, as human-beings, we get from helping the people around us. This is what provides a true feeling of self-worth. 

If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.  (Simon Sinek)

For me it has been a moment of enlightenment, an epiphany. Shifting my focus, to find ways to help those around me. For the sake of my family, I also need to balance the risk to my finances.

How do we measure how much we’re helping others? I’m not sure yet, somehow we need to track our progress. This article is both an activity, an exploration and a measure. I made a conscious effort to share, I hope it helps someone.

Optimizing for happiness.

Here’s how I intend to optimize for happiness:

To use my skills to market, build and sell our own digital assets, which will require minimum effort to scale or replicate, therefore giving our future selves the gift of time and money.

I will be a part-time best selling coder, spending the rest of my time helping the people around me.

I will listen to myself:

I made a healthy income as corporate consultant, it helped me buy assets and liabilities, it did not make me happy. I can make good income as a contract software developer, producing assets for others, it makes me happier. My wife runs a successful community, she asked for my help to grow and monetize this using technology. I don’t know what income we will make helping my partner as technology support, it is however, making me the happiest. Simple choice, right?

 

What is your best first investment?

What do you think your best first investment should be?

  • Property?
  • Bank Savings?
  • Pensions?
  • Internet Stocks?
  • Startups?

What investment would guarantee you returns betweens 6%-27%, better in some cases. It is extremely difficult without some experience to guarantee returns like this using traditional investing approaches. Yes, skilled investors can achieve much greater than this. Are you a skilled investor?

Are you in personal debt in any way?

If yes, your best first investment is to get yourself out of personal debt. Pay off your credit card, if you don’t have one, pay off your personal loans, if you don’t have any, go you!

If you have any short term loans, get some help.

I’d recommend borrowing the following books from you local library:

Wealth is not about money, wealth is about options, options to do things you love with people you love.

Summary of Key Points on Agile for Business Leaders

To set the right context, Agile isn’t about short cuts, it often means decisions are delayed until there is enough insight to make any action taken build meaning or have value. This also means retaining flexibility until it shouldn’t be necessary. Therefore, as you build on previous decisions the environment should be becoming stronger, and projects should be moving faster.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned in my journey to becoming Agile, which I believe should be applied to managing a modern technology dependent business:

Don’t be precious – be flexible – move fast and break things – established companies find it near impossible to change, this is a competitive advantage – you should be responding to the needs of your potential customers, not putting any one idea on a pedestal.

Embrace feedback and change – focus on the needs identified today – not yesterday’s assumptions – agile teams use easily affordable, socially aware, web-based software tools built to support a culture of agile thinking – identify and use similar tools to manage and deliver on strategy; capture feedback, support change, manage innovation and keep people pulling in the same direction when change occurs.

Seek the wisdom of the crowd – find where your peers ‘hang out’ online and engage them, look for the patterns and repeat the success of others. If you can’t find anywhere, start something, it’s never been easier, or if you can’t start one, find someone who will.

Stand ups – brief daily check-ins to measure progress and identify where support would be of most benefit.  3 questions – what did you do? what are you doing next? what’s blocking you? This tight feedback loop would be so useful to any and every team not just software developers.

Pair up – agile developers pair program or undertake code reviews, possibly viewed as a luxury, however those with insight, e.g. business leaders with mentors/coaches will understand the benefits, stated simply, two minds are better than one. Encourage people to pair up, help them find mentors, encourage them to model someone they admire, or build internal mastermind groups.

Respect flow – in agile we use the terminology ‘sprint’ – bursts of effort, usually over 2 weeks, to deliver high value pieces of work – it’s almost sacrilegious to break the team’s flow and interrupt a sprint, however we must expect it if we are to be responsive and embrace change, we must also understand the consequence. Sprints could be applied to any department’s project, give them a deadline to bring back some learnings, respect the deadline, then review and consider next steps.

Open transparent communication – find what works – you can and you can’t replace face-time – conversations matter – as customers and staff have become geographically dispersed, remote working can’t be ignored, make sure messaging channels are effective, clear and open, whilst ensuring necessary constraints are in place that respect flow.

Small is beautiful – keep it simple – minimise waste – what are the minimum steps necessary to get enough value out of an action to make a meaningful difference. Or identify the minimum viable product/action required to test an idea, then act, then review, then repeat. Don’t be overly concerned with polish until it has meaningful value.

Learn by doing – the faster the rate of failure, the faster we learn and adapt. The quest is to seek your greatest learning – identify the action that by doing you will learn the most from.

Don’t repeat yourself and fix broken windows – identify and optimise duplicated effort, learn from mistakes, ask why are we wasting effort or making this mistake, then work out how to put it right and take action.

Automation, Systemising & Technical Debt – every business should want to identify it’s repeatable processes, when you do, ask the question – is there value in automating? Find only the high value processes and automate them. Manual processing is acceptable and necessary until it becomes unsustainable. Make sure a process is valuable enough to automate,  maintaining technology becomes more costly than the original build.

Rapid progress, continuous deployment – put your ideas in front of customers as quickly as is feasible, then make decisions based on insight/feedback.

Dump ‘n’ sort – capture everyone’s input, from customers to colleagues, don’t judge, then filter for the above, minimum action required, greatest learning.

Value value – identify your important numbers, the ones that make a difference, then choose from the above based on what will make the most significant change to those numbers. It’s about value based decisions/priority, of the identified choices, what will impact the top line, the bottom line, customer happiness, company happiness, social goodness, or sometimes simply what we learn the most from.

Hope you found this useful, let me know.

Are you a developer who wants a Best Selling Startup?

Three risks to consider in a startup.

  • People Risk – Are we the right people to solve this problem, to sell this solution?
  • Market Risk – Are we solving a real problem for real customers who would be willing to pay?
  • Engineering Risk – Is the problem solvable by technology and do we have the skills to actually build it?

One of our major goals as a software startups should be to focus on building a best selling software company. Just to ensure it’s clear, it’s easier fix a poor product with lots of customers, than fix a great product with little or poor customers. This requires 2 skills:

  • selling software – finding the quickest ways to get customers who are willing to pay for value delivered.
  • building ‘good enough’ software – going agile – deliver customer value quickly with minimum development effort.

Developers are mostly always hungry to build first, usually to build a prototype, which decreases Engineering Risk, this not only proves they have the skills, it then puts the spotlight on someone else. We’ve built it, it’s your turn to sell it.

We have to change this mindset. We need everyone to focus on removing the Market Risk first. What can engineering do to help prove that customers would buy a solution? before building products that no-one wants. If we can’t change this mindset then our People Risk just went high!

Smart Developers can now play a huge part in decreasing Market Risk. We have to leverage The Internets. You have the technology skills, you understand The Internets, help your team build the customer base first, using science.

If you choose to play this role and develop these skills, your value to organisation is increased significantly and you should be compensated accordingly. Over to you to go research the science of Growth Hacking.