For Success, you only need 2 out of 3 of…

You only need to choose 2 out of 3 for success:

  • Be like-able
  • Do great work
  • Deliver on time
If you are like-able and deliver on time, people will come back to you.  If you do great work, and deliver on time you will make it.  If you do great work, and are like-able, people will forgive many things.  Pick 2 out of 3 for success.

And 4 more wise statements from Neil Gaiman.

  • “There is luck, and it helps” 
  • “The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows the new rules”
  • “If you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone that is wise and just do it like they would.”
  • “Make Good Art.”
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Closing Chapters: If you are falling, dive.

When I was 13 years old, American Football became the passion of my group of friends at school in Dublin.  We would play our version of touch American Football up on a tarmac area behind school.
I remember catching the football and running for the end zone.  A member of the other team caught my heel.  I felt myself begin to fall.
In that instant, something wise took over.  
I did not resist the fall.  I knew it was coming.  I knew the hardness of a tarmac surface.  I knew I was running at my most full speed.
Somehow, I did not reach a hand out to break my fall.  I did not resist.
In the last instant I found that I had tucked my head under and did a forward roll.  It was a moment where I felt like I separated from myself and something else was in control.  Slow motion.  
I found myself completely unharmed.  
Everybody on the field came over and asked “How did you do that?  I thought you were going to hospital.  How on earth did you survive that fall?”
If you are falling, dive.
Often most damage is done while resisting the inevitable.  
A few years back, I had a business that fell apart.  More damage was done to my health, to the shareholder’s finances, to my life in the process of resisting the fall.
Next time I fall, I hope I accept and commit to the dive.  
Fighting the universe is doomed to fail.  Going with the universe, accepting where it is taking me is a little wiser.
I find it so hard to close chapters.  To end a phase and move on.  To declare that a relationship has finished, a business is done, a project is complete is so difficult that I accumulate.  
The phoenix rises from the ashes, not from the fire.  New life grows on the death of life.  When a hunter eats his prey, that death allows life.  
As I read a book, chapter 1 finishes to allow for chapter 2 to begin.
If you are falling, dive.  Close the chapter.  Let the fire burn, the phoenix arises from the ashes.
How do you close chapters in your life?  How do you move on and let go of the past?  What works for you?  What doesn’t work for you?


Everyone Must Learn to Code

When I was 9 years old, my father brought a Commodore Vic 20 computer home for Christmas.  It came with 3k memory.  It had a keyboard, a tape drive and it connected to a TV.  I still remember sitting in my pyjamas and turning it on.  As a child with nobody to tell me how I should or shouldn’t program, my first attempt was a paragraph in english describing a game.  I was surprised when I reached the end, hit the return key and: “Syntax Error”.

The Vic 20 came with 2 books “Learn to Program BASIC I” and “Learn to Program BASIC II”.  I went through these books by the end of January.  It was more fun writing my own games than playing the ones that came with the computer.

I learnt maths because I needed binary to create sprite graphics.  I learnt quadratic equations to solve for collisions in games.  I learnt basic physics to create realistic missile flight.  Maths in school was easy because I had already learnt it to serve my computer programming hobby.

Computer Programming saved me from boring school lessons

I never paid too much attention at school.  It was generally boring.  I spent a lot of time daydreaming.  I would think through which of Superman’s superpowers would be most useful to escape the boredom of school.  It was always a toss up between flying and laser eyes.

I was lucky.  The traditional school environment was built for my style of learning.  Exams tend to bring out my best performances. I was never good at the sustained effort.  I am best in the hurried sprint to deadlines.

I used to read a lot.  I had read the entire SciFi section of my local library before I was 10.  I would take out my full quota of 6 books and read them in a week.  I had whole collections of Dungeons and Dragons books.  I loved Frank Herbert’s “Dune” (all 7 or 8 books).  I loved Tolkien (LOTR, Hobbit).

Reading is great, but it is not an activity that allows the development of mastery.  You can’t get “better” at reading after a certain point.  You might be able to get a bit faster, but you don’t develop beyond basic reading in any significant way.

I loved sports, but was always a bit small so got pushed off the ball in football or relegated to wing when playing rugby.  My younger brother was superb at any game with a ball, and there is nothing more painful to an older boy than being beaten by a younger boy in sport – even more painful when it is a brother…  and the gap is 5 years.

Computer programming was my first world of mastery.

Computing is taught poorly in schools.  We need a change in the role of computing and style of learning supported by computers in schools.

The Failure of Computing as taught in our Schools

Most school systems teach children how to use Microsoft Office.  They teach students to be users of computers, not creators with computers.

A computer is not a car.  We need people to know what is under the hood as well as knowing what the pedals do.

Programming computers is a wonderful environment for children to explore, test, trial, experiment, hypothesize, fail, succeed…

Programming taught me Important skills.

Any programming language is essentially the same.  Java, PHP, C++, Basic, Python, Lisp…  even Fortran, Cobol or Assembly code.  Master one, you will quickly learn any other.

It teaches you to be clear.  It teaches you how to trace and remove errors.  It teaches you how to test.  It teaches you how to think about systematically solving problems – not one-offs, but full systematic reproducible solutions.

As you grow you learn about building code that scales.  Efficient use of memory. Efficient looping.

As you collaborate you learn to write code that can be easily understood by others.  One half is good commenting, but the other half is using the clearest code to achieve the given outcome.

You learn how to isolate specific parts of the code to test for correct function.

You learn how to describe solutions to other people.

You learn how difficult it is to predict human behaviour.  You learn that human beings will tend to do the unexpected.  You learn that if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.

Everyone must learn to code

I do truly believe that I learnt more in my own self-guided programming of computers than in any classroom.  The social stuff I learnt in the playground and through sports.

What were the teachers doing?

Keeping me off the streets.

Interview: Manel Baucells, Author of "Engineering Happiness"

Manel Baucells was the favourite Professor amongst students when I did my MBA at IESE Business School.  He taught Decision Analysis.  There are certain types of situation under which humans will take poor (rational) decisions.  We study this subject so that we can reduce the likelihood that we will take similar poor decisions under similar situations.  Examples of situations that cause poor decisions are sunk costs, loss aversion, prediction of low frequency events.

Manel’s new book “Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Lifehas just arrived to my Kindle.  I asked him to answer a few questions about the book, and about how a Microsoft Excel geek could end up at the fluffy end of psychology…  writing about happiness 😉

Interview with Manel Baucells

Engineering Happiness,
by Manel Baucells


What most surprised you in learning about happiness?
How much happiness depends on our attitudes, rather than on external circumstances.

What led you to write the book?
As professors, our audience are the students that attend our lectures and the colleagues that read our academic papers. There is a moment in our careers that we want to expand our audience, and publish a book for a broad audience. It is critical to choose a time that is not too early in one’s career, and ideas are not yet mature; or too late. Rakesh and I felt that this is a good time in our careers to write a book of this characteristics.

Who will benefit from reading the book?
Any one interested in being happier, or readers of popular science books. I feel that the audience for non-fiction, research based books is expanding. This increase is due, no doubt, to the growing quality and relevance of the research done in the social sciences.

What are the 3 most damaging things people do that reduce happiness?
The fundamental starting point of the book is that happiness equals reality minus expectations. There are three key things one needs to understand:

  • The first is that expectations shift. The moment one increases his or her living standards, one get adapted quite soon, and going back down is very painful. 
  • The second is that our happiness is greatly influenced by how we compare with our peers, our comparison group. 
  • The third is that happiness can be engineered by using a “less to more” approach. Always start low, and then increase. 

What 3 things have you changed in your own life since writing the book?
Managing expectations better, create less to more (crescendo) patterns, and engage in activities that accumulate.

The book is accessible for anyone interested in the latest science on the field of human happiness: Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life.


Have you read the book?  Did you have Manel as a professor?  What are your thoughts about the concept of mathematically measuring and improving “happiness”?

The importance of being Bored

I am terrible at being bored.

I fill my days with a constant stream of activities.

Three days ago, I was with my daughter on a beautiful Costa Brava beach.  We were on a journey to explore the ruins of an ancient 6BC Iberian town on the cliffs (located on the head of the peninsula in the photo below).

We sat for a moment on the rocks to see if we could see some fish or crabs.

And….

I found my hand reaching for my smartphone.

Here I was in a beautiful place, exploring nature, speaking about the time of Egypt and Carthage and what the people who lived 8000 years ago must have been like – and some part of me wanted to check email, facebook, twitter, foursquare…

Why?

I run from being bored.  It requires more effort for me to just sit and think, than to read and respond to emails, create busy-ness.

Do you do “bored” well?  How?

If, Rudyard Kipling

Parador of Cardona, 9th Century

Last week I was at the anual retreat of my chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation.  We spent 3 days in the Parador of Cardona reflecting on our next year from both a professional and personal perspective.

Dinner on Thursday night was a session we call “Noche Bohemia”.  Each person brings a song, poem or book that has marked a significant moment in their lives.

I shared this poem by Rudyard Kipling with the group.  I first read this poem in 1981, during a time when I was reading, dreaming, imagining Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.


If…

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

What one book, song or poem would you share?  Why is it important to you?