finding time

finding time to do the thing you love is incredibly difficult. a lot of us simply don’t have a lot of time to spare, and we end up buying books, getting gadgets, and asking for advice for ways to get more time.

time, like money, is a resource. and i’ve learned that we can get more time if we pay attention to the time that we already have.

in ramit sethi’s book i will teach you to be rich, he claims that people don’t actually want to be rich. they want to feel rich, which means being able to spend money guilt-free on the things you enjoy. buddhist thich nhat hanh tells a similar story in his book the miracle of mindfulness. he tells a parable of a man who spends time at his job, with his kids, and running errands and doesn’t have any time for himself. but, at one point he learns that all this time is actually his time.

This kind of perspective shift frees us – if you don’t have time, what are you doing with the time you already have? How can you reframe your day so that you can properly use the time that’s already given to you?

you’re already good at something

a lot of us are trying to learn a new skill set: programming, budgeting, waking up on time, drinking water. even as we are expanding our capabilities, i think it’s important to remember that there are some things you are already good at.

for a long time i wanted to be like my friends and become a software developer. it was really difficult trying to teach myself code, so i took some courses and went to meetups and interviewed folks i knew to ask them the best way to go about learning to program. then i realized that i had a skillset that others didn’t have: networking. using my social skills, i gathered a lot of information about writing javascript, freelance work, and the struggles of going at it alone. this led me to found my company, the orbit.

never forget that you likely were born with a superpower. it could be assembling ikea furniture, or making a tube of toothpaste last a really long time. but you never have to start from scratch with your skills, you build upon the ones you already have.

generative vs. non-generative systems

i’m currently reading “the future of the internet and how to stop it” by harvard law professor jonathan zittrain. the chapter i am currently on defines generative systems, or things that people can build other things with. a lot of tools online are generative, though some or non-generative. jonathan suggests that generative systems push innovation a little bit better, and are more receptive to new ideas.

there are a delightful couple of pages in which zittrain tells us the difference between generative and non-generative products. legos are generative, while a dollhouse is not. a knife is generative, while a potato peeler is not. you get the gist – a generative tool allows for its user to do a lot of creative things with it. currently, i use a generative system called glitch (link). it’s a website that teaches its users how to code. it is full of tools and building blocks intended to build web apps. i’ve made some tiny vr environments, algorithms that write poems, and yesterday i toyed around with maps.

if you are lucky enough to find yourself in a generative situation, i encourage you to play. you’ll innovate and create something new just by having a good time, and by seeing what directions your new tools create.

get sophisticated clients

i was lucky enough to talk to a media consultant this past week. she makes a living studying the impact of social media campaigns for businesses, which is something that i am very interested in. i asked her a ton of questions about her career journey, and in return she asked me a lot of questions about my own business ventures.

today, i’m thinking about one of the things she told me in our meeting: “get sophisticated clients.” “are you interested in doing innovative things?” “yes, of course,” i replied. “well, that means you can’t waste your time with companies that aren’t interested in innovation. you need to find clients who are looking for cutting edge stuff, especially if you are providing cutting edge stuff.”

previously, i had been spending time working with small businesses and teaching them how to run their social media campaigns. this was all fine and dandy, but many of them were uninterested in social media as a whole, along with anything that was different from what they were already doing. “this is not going to help you in the long term, because the kind of work you will be doing will be a little bit basic,” my new friend told me. so, currently, i’m taking this to heart and continuing my search for “my people”, the tech-savvy folks who are looking to become better managers.

i changed my day job

this week, i had my last shift at a day job that required a lot of mental energy. i got another gig, and though i haven’t started yet, i am hoping it will free up some cognitive space for me to hunker down and work on my passion projects.

this was a difficult decision. job X was stable but demanded a lot of time off the clock. job Y is less glamorous, but will pay roughly the same and will have a varied schedule. however, i can say with certainty that i am relieved to close one chapter of my life and open up a new door.

i spent the afternoon after my last shift in seattle’s cal anderson park. i stared at the clouds and closed my eyes, and just enjoyed being in this temporary limbo between gigs. i learned a shitload at job X, including how to sell to a particular client, how to work with manufacturers, and how to maintain a standard of excellence on a day to day basis.

it was an exhausting journey, but i know i will bring everything i learned at job X to each new project i take on.

agility is a superpower

in joi ito’s book “whiplash”, he states that in a changing world, agility triumphs over strength. today, i am thinking about this maxim in terms of honing in on my ability to develop products and systems more quickly than any competitor.

lady ada at adafruit also speaks to the power of agility. in her conversation with joi ito she tells us how she will share videos weekly of the products she is making. viewers wonder aloud why she would do this – won’t competitors steal her ideas and release the product before her? the answer is no, because lady ada can make the product significantly faster than anyone trying to imitate.

for us, this means experimenting with how quickly we can provide a product or service. another concept that i think about on a regular basis are “ooda loops” (wikipedia). this is a method of strategic thinking that allows someone to make quick decisions in a very powerful way (observe, orient, decide, act). in your sphere, how can you create and ooda loop? and what can you do faster than all other competition, using the tools available to you online and off?

idea: curators or internet librarians

there are some people i trust for recommendations on the internet. since search results are prioritized by how much a person pays, i often trust specific, credible folks on twitter to recommend books, movies, and media for me to consume. joi ito, as i have mentioned in a couple other posts, provides this service: he interviews folks who do things that i am interested in, and because he is the director of the mit media lab, i trust him.

further, my friend lito is a software engineer and an artist. as a result, he is doing a lot of research that overlaps with mine. if i have a concept or idea that i need to figure out, lito is the first person i ask. now, on the internet, credible experts like lito and joi ito become de facto curators. their twitter accounts, and any other content they produce, is informed by stuff that i would like to investigate anyway.

an example: let’s imagine that you are really into gardening. there may be a particular gardener on the internet that you really like and trust. thus, you will click on any link they share, or read any book they recommend, simply because they are doing the kind of work that you find meaningful. what i’m trying to get at is that this kind of curation is happening now, and it possibly works better than googling by yourself. these people serve as internet librarians, curators that know what they’re looking for that can help you navigate a dizzying sea of information.