Working with what you have

I found myself lusting after some new tech.

New stuff. New and sparkly. The advertising sometimes works really well and convinces you that this widget will fix all the ills in your life.

Truth is, You don’t need more stuff. You need more focus, more consistency and to make use of what you have. How many drum kits or Stratocasters are gathering dust in peoples’ closets? It is a Tragedy of our times.

Instead of buying a new phone, start a band.

There is a valuable lesson here for work too. Don’t be fooled by new titles, new systems, and new tech which are promising revolutions. It’s far more likely you can organize and work with what’s already on the table and shape a change. You just have to care enough.

Co-ordinating technology

I feel anxious about technology that is not co-ordinated.

I feel this at a personal level with my phone if it doesn’t sync with my laptop. Apple’s ecosystem thrives on this angst. Buy the Iphone then you have to buy the Ipad and the laptop and the TV just to make sure everything is in sync.

Lately I have taken on some more operational tasks at the day job and I feel the angst at a company level now! Co-ordinating people on tech is like herding cats. Nobody is using the same system. Nobody else seems to feel the angst!

Microsoft, Google, Apple are playing tugofwar with our company’s attention and resources. Some hard and fast decisions need to be made – but they can’t have too much of an impact on operations or clients.

Herding. Cats.

Specifications

Specs can dominate your life if you let them. What chip is in your smartphone? What resolution is the song you are listening to? How big is your car’s engine? Newer, smarter, better. It’s a game that can drag you down a rabbit hole.

The biggest problems of chasing the specs as I see it:

  1. There is always a newer gadget coming up around the corner. This means your claims and feelings of superiority are always going to leave you empty when the new gadget is released.
  2. The FUNCTION of the gadget often gets totally lost in the spec wars. I was describing the problem of being an audiophile to a grounded friend of mine. I told him how the marketing leads us to believe that the newer amplifiers and DACs and speakers can reflect a truer sound than the old. He dismissed the whole thing in one simple question: “What is the point of listening to music? It’s to enjoy the music, right? You don’t sound like you’re enjoying the music much when you talk about the specs”. Music players are there to serve us music, not to make us feel like we are lacking something.
  3. Specs are corrupting in the most real sense. If two different specs matter, but they are contradictory – it can corrupt the human spirit. Take VW emissions standards as an example (link). The tension between on the one hand, environmental responsibility and the customers’ perception of the company doing the right thing, and on the other hand, customers need a high performance vehicle that is zippy and meeting speed and power specs – this dichotomy led to false information being manufactured and published. Possibly 20 years in jail??! Hectic punishment all to meet a specs expectation.

As someone prone to chasing specs, I am learning that making do with something that is GOOD ENOUGH for the job it is intended – this is the secret to a lot of contentment and productivity.

Microsoft

I just downloaded edge browser for my phone.

I am also moving all my mail and calendar stuff to outlook.

Excel Word and PowerPoint are all work mainstays on my computer.

I am going to Microsoft because I pay for it. The idea is that I will be the customer rather than the product.

Hardware is probably next. Liking the look of windows surface and laptops.

Extrinsic rewards

I would like to pass CFA level one. I have already tried the exam twice and failed! Like anything this is a multi-variable problem – I have a job and 2 young kids, I never did maths at school, I don’t have a lot of time for studying. Etc. Etc. But I was very close to passing the last time.

Previously all the reward for studying has been intrinsic. But now I am going to give myself some sort of extrinsic, materialistic, awesome enticement for passing the next exam in December. Hopefully this sort of motivation works. It can’t hurt. Candidates for the prize include:

  • an apple device ( I like the look of the new watch and the new phones and the new speaker)
  • a hifi device (my speakers could do with an upgrade)
  • a holiday (after all that studying)
  • a new bed….because sleep.

I am stretching the limits with this exam, but I like the challenge and am lucky enough to be able to try.

To be chanted like the Americans chant: C F A…C F A…C F A

Software

Software is eating the world. A popular line. In my world it feels more violent. Software has eaten my brain and spat it out onto the pavement.

The net effect of Microsoft, Apple and Google in my life is grim.  I have an inability to concentrate on anything for more than one minute. I blame the software.

Blurgh.

Fear and desire

I can’t concentrate.

Irrational fears and desires are pushing at some primordial nerve. At any given time i want to:

  • eat
  • to sleep
  • to play computer games
  • to watch movies
  • to listen to music

But I also want/need to:

  • work
  • study
  • complete chores
  • spend time with my wife and children

How can i get rid of the noise and focus on the right thing at the right time? I have 2 suggestions today.

1 – Understand your personality type. I took a personality questionnaire the other day from understandmyself.com – it delved into my responses to certain questions, assessing me under 5 big personality traits:

  • Agreeableness: Compassion and Politeness
  • Conscientiousness: Industriousness and Orderliness
  • Extraversion: Enthusiasm and Assertiveness
  • Neuroticism: Withdrawal and Volatility
  • Openness to Experience: Openness and Intellect

I have extreme elements which make up my personality (as does anyone) and this makes me want certain things, find some things easier than others and generally behave in certain ways. Of note in my assessment – I am non-assertive, withdrawn, extremely open and agreeable by nature – so I have plenty to work on and my fears and desires stem in some way from my innate nature.

2 – Understand our culture of gratification and pleasure at the expense of long term benefits. The lazy, primal part of our brain is being taken advantage of by the tech in our lives. Structure your life around managing this desire (ie. downtime from the tech), and the signal can more easily be heard among the noise.