It takes someone willing to work just beyond the edge of what is possible to accomplish something meaningful.
Taking the time to engage in professional development is critical to growing and developing. You have to be actively engaged in things that help you gain experience. Seek out those type of opportunities. However, being actively engaged in things can quickly consume all of your available time. Great contributors stay busy and tend to continue receiving more and more tasking. That is why it is so important to make sure that your professional routine includes reflection, education, and development. That call to action is much easier to write about than to achieve. Friday was one of those professional development days on my calendar. It is one of those rare days that my efforts and energy were devoted to focusing on nothing short of improving and getting better. It was also nice to have a three day weekend.
This morning after dropping off John Paul it was time to head downtown to the Denver Convention Center. The schedule showed the event running from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. I know that is a large block of time to spend focusing on project management. I was ready to attend the 17th Annual Rocky Mountain Project Management Symposium. The 45 minute drive to the Denver Convention Center was worth it. I knew it was worth it before I even got into the car. Today I had the distinct privilege of listening to Jim Collins talk for 2 hours about project management and leadership. About 1,600 project management industry professionals have made the choice to attend the symposium. Jim is a pretty powerful and engaging speaker. 1,600 people within a large convention hall were all very focused on the presentation. The presentation seems to be focused on delivering stories related to “Jim’s 12 Questions” article.[i]
I was surprised that the majority of people in the room stopped working on other things and focused on the presentation. They were really locked into the presentation. The room was full of people sitting at 10-12 person tables. Everyone could have had a laptop out and been working, but I could only see 3 laptops out and within my line of sight in a room full of 1,600 people. More people had tablets or actual lined paper notepads that they seemed to be taking notes on. About 25% of the people in the room were just messing around with smartphones. I would say roughly 1% of people were using laptops, 10% were using tablets, 10% were writing on a notepad, and 25% were messing around with smartphones. That means that about 54% of the people in the room were doing nothing but paying attention to Jim Collins talk. In a room full of professional multitasking professionals that is a powerful testament to Jim Collins as a speaker. Jim talked for 2 hours and the time seemed to go by quickly without any real slow spots or pauses. Both the content and the delivery of the content were very appropriate for the audience.
I’m not sure why Jim Collins spent so much time talking about climbing during the presentation. Beyond the stories about climbing Jim shared a story about visiting West Point that was printed in Inc Magazine that turned out to be a pretty interesting read.[ii] The audience probably would have been pretty happy to just sit around and listen to a series of stories or factoids. The entire presentation really did seem to be anchored by the 12 questions. They stories were just abstract enough for people to process them vs. their current situations.
During the course of listening to Jim Collins talk, I started to think about what 2 hour presentation I would be able to deliver to a room full of people. My stock presentation on allowing leaders to lead, managers to manage, and employees to succeed takes about 20 minutes. That presentation is pretty well defined and rehearsed at this point. I normally follow that up with my 10 minute diatribe on openness and transparency in the workplace. That means that I have about 30 minutes of reasonably well prepared content to present at my disposal. At this point, the things I would want to say to that room would not cover a 2 hour lecture. A secondary question exists related to if the content would be meaningful enough to hold the attention of the room for 2 hours. Beyond just holding the rooms attention it would be a real challenge to get 54% of the room to focus without any multitasking. My Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) would be to get to a point in my career where I would be able to deliver a 2 hour speech on leadership to a room of 1,500 plus people. I’m not overly sold on how using the BHAG concept could drive things forward, but I’m trying to give it some serious consideration.
I’m working on putting some of my thoughts from the presentation together. For better or worse my thoughts are still in a very raw bullet point format. They need to be flushed out, but that is not happening today. It might be something worth focusing on later this week.
- One of the items that I plan on researching later on is why it would be dangerous to aggressively study success. That is a take away that I want to spend some more time trying to better understand. The audience seemed to accept that argument, but it seemed like something that deserves to be questioned. Maybe it was something that seemed out of place due to the context.
- I found it really interesting to hear Jim talk about finding historical matched pairs that have dramatically different outcomes. It was really interesting to think about the possibility of zeroing out circumstances and figuring out what other factors make a difference. A large amount of literature within the management and leadership space should be devoted to the idea, “Never confuse urgency with crisis.” Working with a sense of urgency is an interesting topic to think about. Some people seem to always be more motivated. They approach things with a sense of urgency that can be overwhelming to some coworkers.
- It was informative to hear somebody talk about what it means to build a great enterprise. You do not often hear somebody openly declare that greatness is not a function of circumstance it is a function of conscious choice and discipline.
- I thought the following observation about project managers was interesting. Jim said that the one thing about being project driven is that it suspends all existential angst. Everything you do is certain and wrapped around the project.
- The following quote was brought up at one point. It was noted that Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” That quote seemed to stand out from the rest of the content.
- I really want to spend time focusing on understanding how to put all the brutal facts related to a situation on the table. I’m going to make sure to read the parts of the Good to Great (2011) book that talk about confronting brutal facts.
- How do you develop a business practice that includes postmortems without blame? People have to be able to explore root causes for issues without making the exploration overly personal.
- I’m not overly sold on the whole BHAG idea. It seems like an interesting idea, but it seems like something that might evolve via iteration at some point.
- It was argued that not only should anyone who has a “to do list” also have a “stop doing list”, but also that “to do list” needs to be treated like a balance sheet. Somebody asked Jim during the Q&A about important items from “stop doing lists”. Jim responding by talking about, “Stop hitting send and start hitting save” and something about “stop dwelling on past mistakes.”
- I’m going to spend some time reading about Peter Drucker.
- I need to spend some time thinking about how failure is accounted for in projects and what efforts have to be made to manage failure.
- Every single time somebody asked Jim Collins a question during the Q&A period Jim would take a few moments and think before speaking. A number of the responses seemed to have been repeated from other things. A number of the responses included one to three responses.
At some point this weekend, I’m planning on acquiring a copy of Good to Great (2011). I want to get an actual copy of the book. The other take away item I have from the presentation today was how to use the following item in my everyday routine. I really enjoyed hearing Jim Collins talk about keeping track of how many creative hours a person logs each day. It sounded like Jim really did keep some type of productive hour spreadsheet. That seemed like an interesting thing to keep. It made me ask the question, “How do you hit a goal of logging 1,000 creative hours in a year?” That type of creativity is worth exploring, but it is also somewhat daunting. The real question would be about how that type of productivity translates to work product. 1,000 productive hours could translate to a variety of different things.
[i] Article on “Jim’s 12 Questions” is free in PDF form here http://www.jimcollins.com/tools/TwelveQuestions.pdf
[ii] Jim referenced this article http://www.inc.com/magazine/201310/bo-bulinghamo-burl/jim-collins-re-learns-leadership-at-west-point.html
My plan still involves writing about a new topic every day. That will probably remain the plan for some time. However, the long-term plan has been tweaked. All writing efforts moving forward will be focused on producing long-form prose. For example, yesterday the topic of the day was household technology. My first pass at that topic only produced about 1,000 words. I’m going to have to revisit the topic and rewrite parts of it and expand others. That additional effort will help push that passage of prose to over 1,500 words.
Writing long form essays requires a certain degree of passion and persistence. At some point, I want to transition into producing either audio or video content. That type of interest in other mediums seems to pop up from time to time. My last podcast only existed for a few weeks and then essentially disappeared. That might happen again this year at some point. Understanding or forecasting what creative outlet will come into focus never seems to be a good idea. Those other mediums might end up being a secondary creative outlet.
Things are about to change. I am going to force the issue by setting a strict publishing standard of 1,500 to 2,500 words for any weblog post. That standard would dramatically change the way I write. It is a necessary change. Writing a sub 500 word post takes a few minutes and can generally be facilitated via stream of consciousness writing. It just happens. That mode of writing is devoid of planning. Moving to a 1,500 word standard would require a more targeted, focused, and organized approach to writing. That type of rigor could enhance my writing routine. It could be a real step forward.
Everyone has a unique set of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Our experiences change the way we interpret the world around us. I took a step back and started to think about how my knowledge, skills, and abilities are being used every day. I started to assess my potential vs. my current contributions. My recent contributions to the world have not been game changing. I could do more. I should be doing more. On a go forward basis, I need to put in some real effort and make sure my routine helps focus my efforts on doing more. I am hoping that the move to longer form prose will help focus my efforts on more meaningful endeavors. You would have to be incredibly word economic to write a game changing 500 word essay. The argument would have to be game changing, exceedingly elegant, and the prose would have to be very concise.
I could probably write more than 1,500 words related to taking the time to pick the right flight. That is probably not the best use of my time. That type of inquiry would be interesting, but it would probably fall short of being meaningful. For example, writing about how most of the time my airline flight tbooking happens in the afternoon is not very inspiring. It may not resonate with anyone that for some reason in the afternoon it always seems like a good idea to book the earliest flight. Within my world view that pattern of behavior seems very unacceptable this morning. That pattern of behavior does not really tell a compelling story.
I should probably abandon this narrative thread and move on, but that is probably not going to happen. I’m going to continue writing about how earlier this week my flight started boarding at 5:30 AM mountain time. That piece of information setts the state for why I elected to carry my bag on and try to make it to the gate with no time to spare. I actually made it to the gate just after 5:30 AM. I was the last “A” group passenger to board the airplane before the “B” group passengers filled out the baggage racks. On most Southwest Airlines flights the entire “A” group will have overhead bin space. At some point during the boarding process, members of the B group will face a sudden and definite shortage of overhead storage space. It happens pretty much every flight.
Writing longer passages of prose will inevitably involve creating better transitions and pivoting into asides. For example, the bag I took on my flight was a recent acquisition. I picked up a Timbuk2 copilot rolling luggage bag. Picking up a Timbuk2 messenger style bag was a solid purchase. It fits in the aisle seat under chair space on a Boeing 737. The Amazon website provided the best price on the bag. It is lightweight and rugged. The wheels are really quiet on tile vs. the sounds I would expect from rolling my previous bags throughout the country. For the most part I am replacing all of my luggage with Timbuk2 products. I have previously written a review (that is still valid) of my Timbuk2 messenger bag.
Writing about luggage should provide a large enough spectrum of things to keep me occupied. At this point, I must be out of practice. Writing is a habit that has to be nurtured and developed. During the entire flight from Denver to Phoenix I only produced about 1,000 words of prose. That level of output would not meet my new standards for production. Adopting a stance geared toward the construction of longer form prose should also provide additional opportunities for editing my work. Writing for 20 minutes straight then publishing without any editing is probably not the best method to generate readable prose.
Right now it may change my publishing rate for every other day to a few times a week. Taking the time to writing longer pieces of prose is an investment. It is an investment that could pay huge dividends moving forward. I need to me more selective on what I focus on producing. This particular post could be a key turning point. It could be the moment in time when my focus and dedication to my craft start to translate into meaningful and insightful prose. However, it has the potential to just cause my production levels to falter.
Writing a minimum of 1,500 words per topic will require a better selection process for what receives attention. The clouds outside the airplane window are beautiful. The horizon is covered with a larger of clouds that could really hold my attention. Over the years, I have gotten used to looking at the countryside from 35,000 feet. Acceptance of that can of beauty should not diminish any inherent aesthetic value, but inherently the constant presence of that type of beauty starts to diminish our appreciation of it. We accept the world around us and focus on other details.
The things we choose to focus on are incredibly important. For most people one principle interest or focus will come to the forefront of their thoughts. It receives far more attention than anything else in our lives. That reality defines just how important it is to ensure that the right things come to the forefront of the public mind. Right now a snow covered mountain peak just caught my attention. In about 2 minutes it will no longer be in my line of sight. It caught my attention and it was appreciated. It was appreciated up until the moment that the album I was listening to ended. The sounds of the jet engines brought my attention back to picking a new album to listen to and continuing to write.
A daytime flight from Phoenix to Denver involves traveling over a number of mountains. Depending on the weather the views can be absolutely breathtaking. I spend a lot of time up in the air. Views of snow covered mountains from an airplane window are one of the few things that strike me as extremely beautiful during a flight. That might be a point of personal preference or it could be something that is generally accepted as being true. I’m not worried about that distinction at the moment. At the moment, I’m worried about making a solid contribution to the world. This passage of prose and the time that it took to create it was probably well spent.
Finding larger blocks of time to write will be challenging. Writing a few hundred words is easy. Spending more than 30 minutes writing at time is more challenging. I am going to need to pick a time to write and stick to that schedule. That is my plan. It could end up being a great plan. This cloud be a real turning point.
Working on 1,500+ word articles will inevitably lead to a backlog of ideas. It may be prudent to close each passage of prose with a listing of the next 5 topics understand consideration. The list could be dynamic. The list would not have to be the same each time. It could be a snapshot of a dynamic and constantly evolving list. My interests change from time to time. It would be very problematic to adopt a one out one list of future projects. I think it would be valuable to sign post and really think about keeping a project list. Time needs to be invested in the right projects verses whatever seems to be in the now.
Buying a 6 pack of Coca-Cola glass bottles conjures up pleasant memories of years past. That positive nostalgia was enough to trigger an impulse purchase at the grocery store of a 6 pack of Coca-Cola Life glass bottles. The green bottles of soda apparently include a mix of real sugar and stevia. I poured some into a glass and was ready to enjoy a refreshing beverage. I have not had any soda products in over 180 days. I was ready to enjoy a few ounces of soda and watch some NBA playoff basketball. Unfortunately, the Coca-Cola Life beverage has a bitter and off-putting aftertaste. The taste lingered for a few minutes and I poured the rest of the glass out in the sink.
I have been taking a lot of photos with my Nikon D3200 camera. Apparently, the D3200 was a solid purchase back on May 5, 2012. I have been using it for almost 3 years. A quick web search of Amazon bestselling DSLR camera bundles provides the data necessary to indicate that people are still buying that particular model of camera. It really does take better photos than my HTC One Max smartphone. It also takes better photos than Joni’s Samsung Galaxy Note 3. All those photos have to be backed up somehow and somewhere.
My membership on Flickr dates back to March 2005. It is a Yahoo branded service that I still pay for. You can find all of my photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nelslindahl. A number of them are publicly viewable. I’m strongly considering using the Flickr service as an additional photo backup tool. It will not be my primary photo backup tool, but it would be a retrieval option. My usage of Flickr dropped off after John Paul was born. The Flickr service is currently hosting 9,233 of my photos. We elected to only share digital photos of John Paul with the closed network confines of Facebook. That pretty much locked down the photos to friends of friends.
Few memorable things happen at airports. We mostly remember what it is like to get to or return from an airport. They are places that exist between the beginning and end of a journey. Today was somewhat different. We ended up at the airport several hours early with a very tired 3 year old. At the end of the 3 hour adventure, a copy of the April 23, 2015 issue of Rolling Stone magazine is sitting in my Timbuk2 messenger style bag. That bag is sitting under an aisle seat on a Southwest airplane. Today that airplane is traveling nonstop between Orlando, Florida, and Denver, Colorado. A copy of Rolling Stone magazine is not something that normally resides in my travel bag. An interview about a film that Frances Bean Cobain helped produce sparked the purchase. I pretty much read things from cover to cover. Reading that way has been one of my more peculiar and enduring habits since high school debate. John Paul fell asleep as the airplane was taking off.
John Paul is an incredibly peaceful sleeper. It is an honest sleep. A brand of sleep that is necessary to replenish some very honoree batteries.
Somehow two different classes got assigned to me this term. Throughout the next 12 weeks I will be teaching an introductory level business class and a principles of management class. It should be interesting. During the 4 hour flight from Orlando to Denver, I logged onto the Southwest Airlines satellite based wireless internet service and participated in both classrooms. The internet speeds on the flight were slower than usual.
Getting logged into the classrooms involved a browser switch from the new Windows 10 Spartan to Firefox. The classroom system eCollege must not be fully compatible with Spartan or the connection was to slow to function properly. The main course page had to be refreshed several times just to get things running properly. Slowness like that mixed with constant refreshing makes for a very frustrating online experience.
My new goal for 2015 will involve only working on projects that can be published. A large amount of my time over the last few years has been spent on projects that could not be published. That is something that needs to change.
The flight between Denver and Orlando will last about three hours. That time has been earmarked to work on an economics related paper. Today is the day to write a rough draft. The paper does not have a title yet, but the theory has shown some promise. I’m thinking about calling the new algorithm the econ-o-swarm. Writing the majority of a paper during a 3 hour window will be challenge. Now is the time to set a timer and see what happens. Sometimes a little bit of pressure can help push things forward.
Buying a Chromebook might happen during this trip. The battery life on my HP Envy X2 is just not holding up anymore. The unit has both a battery in the keyboard and in the tablet component. Between both of those full sized batteries I’m not getting a full day worth of usage. During the first two hours of this flight the tablet has chewed through 33% of the units total battery power. The device should be capable of more than 6 hours of usage. All I really do with the device is write and read a few webpages. Some of the Chromebooks I have looked at recently sport 11-12 hours of battery life.
Getting to the airport was the easy part of the journey. Dealing with John Paul during a 3 hour airplane flight will be the hard part. Getting a 3 year old to sit still for 3 hours is nearly impossible. John Paul really seems to like airports and airplanes.
Paper Title: Economic micro-targeting extrapolation of macro-level demographic statistics
Abstract: ~192 words (<250 required)
Even after the advances in modern computing, a dearth of near real-time economic models exist within the literature. However, nascent research on micro-targeting has shown promise. Using Bayesian inference to fill in gaps from data mining social networks allows for advanced micro-targeting of individual spending preferences. Micro-targeting within a macro level economic model is now possible. It is now time to utilize a sophisticated algorithm to aggregate a series of micro-targeted models to describe a macro level condition. Begin building the model by collecting the economic transaction of a single person. Each transaction gets added to a list. By collecting several days of transactions the spending patterns of that individual person could be modeled. Collecting data on a number of individuals would increase the sample size to be representative. Now imagine for a moment all of those individual models were tied back to demographic data. That demographic data ties back to represent the economy as a whole. Individual economic behavior is being modeled, but it is being applied to a very macro level. Within this paper a model is introduced to engage in extrapolation of macro-level demographic statistics from micro-targeted data mining.
I can barely remember writing this quotable sentence, “It takes someone willing to work just beyond the edge of what is possible to accomplish something meaningful.” That one line of prose has influenced my current trajectory. I’m still working on writing every day with a purpose. That one thought from several years ago does highly a purpose to strive toward. However, during the first hour of the morning my thoughts tend to be somewhat scattershot. It takes a few minutes and a cup of coffee to really get going. Striving toward the future without coffee remains truly challenging.
Today should be an interesting day. The weather in Denver, Colorado is beautiful today. The schedule for today appears to have some time set aside to focus on a clear path forward. Several abstracts have been written for conference papers this year. It is much easier to produce a short sketch of an article than to finish writing the article. On a bookshelf, somewhere in this office an idea journal contains tons of article outlines. That journal has been sitting on the shelf gathering dust for the last year. All writing has for the most part been transitioned to Microsoft Word documents. Overall, I have been pretty satisfied with my Microsoft Office 365 subscription. Microsoft Word is my primary platform for writing.