Listen to the people around you…

Recently I’ve had a good friend ask me if I was going to start writing self-help books as some of my more recent writings were about bettering one’s self or work. This got me to thinking about what I write, but from a different perspective.

I’ve written over fifteen technical books over the years. Thirteen were for commercial publication, while the rest was for free distribution. All of these books focused on teaching people how to use something and all of them were created with the base assumption that a person would pick them up in order to teach themselves how to accomplish something. I guess that in a way I’ve always written self-help books.

This odd realisation again got me into thinking about what I do and how I do it. It’s interesting how a simple question, asked in jest in this case, can lead you to profound reflection, if you truly listen to what people say.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
– Bryant H. McGill

You don’t exist in a vacuum. You are surrounded by people all the time. When you are at work, when you are on the streets and for most even when at home, there are always people around.

Some of these people may know you well, others have no clue of just who you are. That is okay, sometimes you probably don’t really know who you are either.

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On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs…

Ever had the feeling that your job might be made up? That the world would keep on turning if you weren’t doing that thing you do 9-5? David Graeber explored the phenomenon of bullshit jobs for our recent summer issue – everyone who’s employed should read carefully

To thine own self be true

“Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune

I have had the opportunity to do lots of interesting stuff. I’ve been a developer, a manager, a consultant, a writer and an entrepreneur. I have helped create a company and get a few others going. I have worked at small startups as well as at larger established companies.

Some of this was by design, some of this was by accident. Some I loved, some I tolerated and some I actually disliked. Regardless, I have always put my best effort into every job and every endeavour I’ve taken.

Through this journey I took the time to write over a dozen books and hundreds of articles about topics on which I was personally interested. Sometimes I did it with a friend, sometimes alone. In going through all this I came to feel that I can do almost anything I put my mind to. I know will not always get it right. Sometimes I will stumble along the path or run into a wall. No matter. I will get up or choose a new path.

Life is about change. Life should always be about doing your best, regardless of what you are doing. If you settle for less, you settle for mediocrity.

You must always be ready for change and embrace it, when it comes. Change for change’s sake is not necessarily a good thing, so you should seek it only when it is needed.

Life is about challenge, for life without it becomes meaningless. It is about helping others. It is about teamwork and collaboration. It’s about having fun.

Reflecting on what I have done, where I have been, what I have accomplished and how I have lived has given me the peace to know that no matter what the future may hold I will meet it with confidence.

I might stumble, I might make mistakes, but I will not settle for just sitting back and letting life go by.

Always ask yourself if you are doing what you should be doing. Always question. Always look for a way to do things better.

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
― Steve Jobs

Life is about creation. It is about doing, not just watching. Work should be about satisfaction and fun. If you go to work everyday and you find no satisfaction and have no fun, you need change.

Overdosing on content

We live in a time of overabundance of information. The Web provides instant and free access to many great sources of information. Of course, it also provides access to sources which might not be so good, but let’s not go into that…

On any single day, I can read articles written by very intelligent and capable people and I don’t even have to go looking for them anymore. Sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter send links to these articles directly to my inbox, on an almost daily basis. Apps such as Flipboard or Zite aggregate and format articles to provide me with a great reading experience.

I’ve always loved reading. When I was a kid, I’d use most of the small allowance my parents gave me to purchase a couple of books each month. At that time, that seemed like plenty.

When I didn’t have a new book to read, I would go through my growing library and choose a book to read again. I must have read some of those books well over five times.

Looking back and comparing that experience with what we now have access to, I feel a bit dazed. It had never crossed my mind that one day I would have too much new content to read. Now I am buying books almost too fast to catch up reading.

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The Temptation of Vaporware

Vaporware is a term coined to describe software and hardware products which were talked about by the companies working on them, long before being ready for the market. Many such products never end up getting to the market, at all.

In fact, looking the term up on Wikipedia will lead you to a reasonably lengthy article which starts as follows:

“Vaporware is a term in the computer industry that describes a product, typically computer hardware or software, that is announced to the general public but is never actually released nor officially cancelled.”

While the practice of creating vapourware products has been used successfully or not by several companies to gain market penetration or hinder a competitor’s chance of getting such penetration, such practice can lead you into a pernicious trap. Once you’ve started talking about products which you haven’t yet finished, or sometimes even began to develop, you might find yourself hard pressed to deliver on the vaporware vision you created.

I’ve had the opportunity to see more than one company make this mistake, sometimes even multiple times.

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