Attention Deficit or Boredom Adverse

“Back when I was a kid we had far greater attention spans!” Well, whoopy-doo for you.

Youtube, TV, Commercials, Audio books and Facebook. The list of products that drive us into a pattern of ingesting only short-blips of information goes on and on. Some believe the consequence is a loss in our ability to pay attention to any lengthy (more traditional) format, and in their mind, anything of real value.

I take issue with that belief entirely. I’d rather ask this: Why is there a requirement to be able to pay attention to long-duration formated info in the first place, and what makes that info so much more valuable? Isn’t the goal of listening, reading, or watching information to comprehend it? Where does “length” and “staying still” play into that requirement?


As a kid people thought I had attention problems. I had tons of energy and not enough places to put it all, especially during school hours. Reading one long-ass book (that I had no interest in) for a class (I didn’t care much about) was not very motivating; I perceived writing in much the same way. Needless to say, I didn’t accel in those areas much.

For me, learning was just that — learning. It wasn’t a proof of my ability to sit still and do nothing for a long period of time, or to impress a teacher. Learning was all about answering questions, digging into things that interested me, and unraveling things that confused me. When the internet became “a thing”, I found myself ingesting tons of information daily, and it allowed me to pursue those questions with ease.

Fast forward a couple decades and I’m sitting here auditing an edX class at 2x-speed. I’ve skipped over a few sections that do nothing more than set the audience up for what’s coming (e.g. Boring. I get it. Let’s move on). And you know what? I love it — I love taking classes! As for reading, In this new environment of self-paced, kindle-based, materials I’ve found myself reading more books than I ever had in highschool. Even writing has become interesting to me. I started a blog 7-years ago to become a better writer, and, over 200 posts later, I’d like to think I have improved quite a bit. With all this interest in taking classes, reading, and writing, I have to ask myself: do I have an attention problem, or am I just terribly adverse to boredom (and the old, slow-moving, teaching styles)? Which led me to ask, why the hell would anyone want to be great at being bored in the first place?!

As our technology pushes us into a new format of learning, maybe it is less about “shut up and sit still”, and more about, “here is the world — have at it!”

It’s easy to think the world is getting dumber. We see “views” on YouTube of someone getting hit in the nuts soar into the millions, and people with obnoxious (or useless) things to say use social platforms to say them at scale. It is important to remember that with or without these new mediums people have been dumb for a long time. It is also important to keep in mind that the speed of advancements in technology are increasing exponentially. Those advancements push social media, but they also cut the time it takes to roast a turkey, pop popcorn, and provide classes to people like me that can now learn more efficiently than they ever have before.

I think learning was built on an extremely inefficient foundation because we didn’t have any other way to do it. Now, we are finally trimming the fat. The problem is, our kids are now able to eat lean beef but we are insisting that they still must chew the lard first. Why?

I say, take those little bits of data, re-arrange them, pause them, and fast-forward them as you wish. Let your curiosity for answers be the guide, not a demonstration in formalities.

We aren’t losing the art of education, we are deconstructing it and reassembling it through the gift of technology. The world has started to suit everyone’s individual pace, interest, and schedule. All the lost hours of dramatic pauses, introductions, segues or fluff are gained in the hours we can instead paint, exercise — or better yet — learn something entirely different.

Sure, it may mean that listening to a 1-hour speech at work will be more difficult for a person that is used to this newer, more efficient medium — but who’s fault is that? Why the hell are people talking for an hour anyway?! Is it necessary to achieve their objective? Are we simply committed to a style of interaction in the real world for no other reason than our attachment to tradition? Are we simply not yet ready to embrace a more efficient style of information-sharing that the digital world has built from the ground up? If you are looking for art and style, maybe you should go see a play.

As we move away from requiring our audience to sit down and shut up for an extended periods of time, let’s keep our goals in mind. We are not here to prove to others that we can sit through something that does not excite us, but to find out what does. It is not to prove we can endure boredom, but to break the shackles that required us to be bored in order to learn. It is time that we agreed to fight boredom, and recognize it as an old, outdated, emotion.

Why you want hard problems and not difficult ones

Who doesn’t like a good challenge? I sure do. I love immersing myself in a problem and working hard to tunnel through its complexities to find a solution.

But, what makes a problem a good one to solve? Which problems should you avoid wasting time with, and which are worth jumping into to start your next wild ride?

Over the years I’ve compartmentalized problems into two categories that have helped guide me: “difficult” ones and “hard” ones.

Difficult Problems

A difficult problem is a problem that drains your mind and body. Everyone involved in these type of problems are spinning their wheels in circles, and are able to squeeze only a tiny of drop of value from each pass. Difficult problems are demotivating, repetitive and often fueled by dark clouds. Difficult problems are overcome, not solved, and one is driven to overcome them as a search for relief.

Their challenges are often emotional ones; often testing patience, not intelligence, persistence, or ideas. Most importantly, when a difficult problem is overcome the end results often places everyone in about the same place they started. A solution is a derivative of your current state at best, and incurs a great deal of wasted time and money. People tend to beat their head against the wall with difficult problems.

For example, problems that arise from convincing someone to want to be a better person, or to want to make better things, are difficult problems.

Hard Problems

Hard problems are a joy, but not at the least bit easy. They are motivated by “why”, “why not” and “how can we make it possible?” Much like difficult problems, they are filled with long nights, and little sleep. Unlike difficult problems (where a relief from the pain endured is what drives you), the pain you endure from hard problems are a bi-product of your insesent need to find a solution; you push-on in spite of the pain.

Hard problems are motivating, inspiring, and complex. They may never find a solution, or its solution is hiding right around the corner; neither of which changes your resolve . Working on a hard problem can feel like chewing on glass while staring into an abyss, but you chew with vigor and you stare like a hawk.

Hard problems create competition, new ideas and challenges with others or within yourself (e.g. “I can do better than that”). Rarely will you see competition arise from a difficult problem.

You know you’ve solved a hard problem when you end up in a place you haven’t been before, with a new perspective and new insight and a new direction to follow forthwith. With hard problems, you are not only avoiding going in circles, you have taken a rocket ship leap to a new planet. The harder the problem, the farther you will fly.  If only you can – just – get -to – the – next – solution! A hard problem requires focus. Neh! A hard problem fuels focus! A difficult one: a distraction.

For example, problems that arise from discussing how  to be a better person, or how  to make better things, are hard problems.

Final Thoughts

Avoid difficult problems if you can. Sometimes dealing with them is necessary, but recognize the difference; don’t let people (or yourself) mask one for the other. It can help both mentally and emotionally. Seek out hard problems by imagining what the world would be like if you solved them.  If you find yourself in a difficult problem see if you can’t upgrade it to a hard one.  How can you change “how come” into “why not”, or “no” into “let’s try and see what happens”?

Best of luck, and may your life be hard but not very difficult! 😉

“If” by Rudyard Kipling with a video by Spy Films

The poem beautifully describes life’s ups and downs and the importance of knowing how to embrace them both. It celebrates the acceptance and abandonment of what you’d love to have or would hate to lose, and, in either case, having the capacity to move forward – without losing yourself.

It’s about putting yourself out there and playing out the entire story. It may be through a startup, a job, a piece of art or a night out with friends. To follow a dream, or to pursue a want, but not to become bound to any one mantra while doing so.

I’ve always had a soft spot for that type of duality-talk. I too believe life provides a bounty of gifts for those that dance the line.

That’s my take anyway, but the only true way to describe how it makes me feel is to be inside my head when I read it. Thus is the beauty of art and poetry: personal interpretation.

Want to take a crack at expressing your take?

Enjoy the black and white video and reading by Dennis Hopper in the video below created by Nikki Ormerod and Spy Films and let us know your take of this classic piece.

from Graham Chisholm on Vimeo.

If by Rudyard Kipling

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!

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

Reaction to Anti-Islam Protester at Phoenix Mosque

In an effort to practice what I preach  I counted down from ten to my initial reaction to this video from the Arizona Mosque Protest. I then re-constructed my reaction into this:

I’m glad we give freedom of speech to all. I’m sad they chose to use it the way they have. Im glad people showed up to use their free speech to show their love for their fellow citizens in the face of hate. I’m glad we have good Police like those to allow both sides to express themselves without escalation. I’m glad people did not resort to assuming everyone there is a thug. I don’t believe these people represent all whites or that whites need to explain themselves because of these people. I will try to be consistent in these views no matter the situation. I understand these protesters are scared and have had no help to cope with their fear as a community. That fear/ignorance is all of our faults and we should reach out to them to close the gap between their fears and their fellow humans.

What he learned by asking his own questions may shock some – but it shouldn’t

I think this is true all around the world. Rarely do powerful individuals represent an entire nation. Sadly, those that are bent on hate, domination or simply wish to see the worst in people get the most attention in our country and others. That’s what fuels the divide – the news and politics hoping to spark a nation’s fears to cause conflict, get ratings or advance an agenda. Don’t be someone’s pawn. Ask your own questions, start your own conversations and meet the people being ruled by the “other side.”

The question that keeps you up at night IS the sign you’re looking for

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Have you ever woken up every morning with the same question burning in your mind? Do you constantly wonder if it’s worth changing paths, environment or career day-in and day-out but continue convincing that part of your mind to quiet down? Do you think you could make a decision to act if  you had a sign, or a clue, or some sort of guidance from someone more experienced than you that could “show you they way?”

About 10 years ago I had those thoughts swirling in my head. I had a good, secure well-paying job and a bright future. Though, for some odd reason, I woke up constantly with those questions burning inside me day-to-day and week-to-week.  “Why can’t I just be content with what I have?”, I would ask myself. “What’s wrong with me?!”

I convinced myself changing paths would be a form of quitting – and I was no quitter. Some friends would explain to me how “life is hard. No one likes what they do. Everyone has those questions – it’s normal, but you keep working until you get over them. Eventually they go away. Anywhere you go you’ll ask the same thing. Everywhere in the world is the same. You’re just running from your problems. Deal with it.”

It sounded like mature advice to me so I tried to overcome the doubts and concerns I had about my current path. Unfortunately, letting go of the questions turned out to be pretty impossible.

I got it in my head that I wanted more, something different, something challenging and I couldn’t kill that thought. I wanted to move to SF and be part of the startup community. I wanted to create things people used. I wanted to meet others that created the things I loved to use. Friends on the other side of the advice fence validated those thoughts telling me “it would be a great fit. Quit what you’re doing now and just go!”

How could I decide which piece of advice was right? Both had their merits and both came with a fair share of doubts. Growing as a person by learning to be content didn’t really feel like a great life-goal and quitting to follow a curiosity seemed irresponsible. As Kenny Rogers would say, “You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them” but how do you know when that is?! Why didn’t Kenny answer his song’s question?!

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 1.38.45 AM

As my freshly shaven cheek chafed against my frosted collar while walking to work on a frigid winter day in DC I decided enough was enough. If there isn’t a clear logical answer to stay or go then I would break the tie on weather. I don’t care if it’s right or wrong – I was going to make the move. I was done with the cold. I quit my job, got on a plane and flew to a city that I had never seen with no work waiting for me on the other side. When what I’d done truly sank in at 30K ft I went to the bathroom and threw up.

Of course, I will never be happier that I came. Without a doubt, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I realized this as I was walking home from my first job at a cool new startup in SF. I paused to catch the sunset of a spectacular view from the street, groceries in hand, when it hit me – I hadn’t had a sleepless question-filled-night or pensive morning in – well, since I arrived.  Sure the process was scary, but the questions were gone. I still had tons of work to do and was working extremely hard, but, now, I had an open mind to do it. Life felt right again.

It was important to me to try and distill a lesson from this experience so I would never have to go through that period of agonizing unknowns again. After all, staying back in DC could have been the right answer too. Sometimes you are running from problems and need to face them in order to grow. On the other hand, it’s important to follow your dreams; life is short. So, do I know now how to make the right decision again when the time comes? What did I learn from all this?

The answer IS the question.

Yeah. It really is that simple. No, the “answer” isn’t any old “question.” It’s the questions that burn inside you. The ones that wake you up and put you to bed. The ones that you debate between constantly and ask advice for every chance you get. The ones spawned out of an interest to learn something different. Those are the questions I’m talking about. Those are the question that MUST be answered. They are answered through creating your own experiences.

Well, what if I follow that logic and I’m wrong?

That’s the beauty of these gut-wrenching questions. As I learned, even if I was wrong,  the questions I had went away – they got answered. My mind was free and a freer mind can do so much more than a plagued one. So, you see – it’s a win/win. Either be half the person you are because you are preoccupied mentally every day with a burning question or be half the person you are because you made a bad decision. Only attempting the latter will leave you net-positive with no more questions and an ability to work towards living fully and clearly once again.

The mission to create space in your mind for thoughts to grow is paramount to moving forward positively in life. It is accomplished by oscillating back and forth between curiosity and answers. I realized there is a version of life that does not have the burning question running through my head every day (that was the fallacy in some of the advice I got early on.) Yes, life has its challenges and problems and it is important to work through them, BUT it’s a waste of life to circle around the same question. It deprives your mind of answers it needs to free up space so it can grow and more forward.

What do I tell those that ask me what to do next when they have a difficult question burning in their minds and causing tons of stress? I say the question IS the answer. Your body is your sign. Whether you are wrong or right it is important to know if you are indeed wrong or right. That knowledge is the catalyst that sets off the ability to ask and answer even more important questions, building answers upon one another to form clarity. Finding that answer clears the mind for more to fill.

Why am I writing this story almost a decade after it happened? Sadly, it happened to me again this past year. I’ve given this advice to so many people looking for direction yet I lost sight of it myself when the questions began to form in my mind again. It grew so subtly over time. This time, I made the excuse that it was different since I was older. That this time there was more to lose. And, yes, the concept of not being a quitter became more of a focus than learning, growing, exploring and building. I am writing it because I was wrong again and this is a message to me as much as it is to you. Your deepest hardest questions are only asked when your mind knows that it needs to find an answer. Your questions ARE the answer.

 

 

 

Sean Shadmand Presents for NewCo’s Yahoo Content Series


Last year we really enjoyed opening our office up to OpenCo and revealing how we think and work as well as how we see technology transforming the world we live in. We ended with a look at “2023” and what all that may mean over the next decade. This year, after we were asked to present again under the new NewCo brand we took a different approach. In our talk today we hosted a thought experiment, taking a philosophical journey into what is content, how we know the difference between good and bad content, and how we can use that information to create the next set of products (or just appreciate the ones that come out a bit more.)

A talk about content in only one form of t would be sadly ironic. So, if you missed it we recorded and are presenting a few forms of the talk for ya.

 

I used this snazzy little tool that records voice on my iPhone and syncs the slides as a remote while giving a preso. Check out the tool at  http://penxy.com/ or the final resulting “talking slides” at http://penxy.com/hyw

 

 

Slide Notes

(Min 14:00 in Slides Above)

This year for NewCos new track named Yahoo’s content series we’ll take a different approach and start off by asking a more fundamental (seemingly obvious) question.

What is content?
For the most part we know it when we see it. It’s the substance or material we deal with in a speech, images, tweets, or memes. It can look like this [Essay], or content can look like this [Donald Trump tweet].

As we have access to more and more content in our daily lives the question that becomes more and more important to viewers is whether this content is worse or better than the previous one? Many will say the latter is awful, yet we read content like this in droves everyday. Why?
Let’s upgrade the question a bit and ask:

What is good content?

That’s a pretty tough question to answer but an important one too. As more and more innovative products come out we can get caught up in critiquing or dismissing one from the next. One super popular dismissal is the “I don’t care about you eating waffles on Twitter – I hate twitter it’s just noise”. When we take this point of view we can miss out on some amazing developments in our culture not to mention some amazing opportunities that come from that level of access.
Fair warning this discussion is gonna get philosophical. We’ll keep diving deeper into questions like that around content.

I know – we all love a presentations structure that involves action items, best practices or check lists ready to go by the time we leave.

Sometimes though it’s important to step back before you ask, or answer, a deeper question. After all the concept of “good” and “bad” is one of the oldest philosophical conundrums in existence. Furthermore is it even the right question to ask at all? Let’s see what we discover…

So let’s get dirty and start our philosophical journey by restructuring a very – very old question:

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?

We may be quick to answer: “of course it makes a sound. I’ve heard a tree fall and heard its sound – my presence is not required.”
But the question’s more of a thought experiment than anything else. What makes the question interesting isn’t the science of sound but the philosophy behind observation and reality of what sound is without an observer. Thought experiments like that can uncover new questions that may live beneath the surface that are able to more directly answer more monumental questions.

So let’s use our time together to dive into a thought experiment around content and see where we end up

If information is created but is never shared for others to see it is it still content?

I mean if content can stand on its own without the communication aspect…
Would you say then that all the hundreds or thousands of ideas and thoughts locked in our heads are actually hundreds or thousands of pieces of content then? Maybe.
Or maybe content is so inextricably tied to sharing that the two can’t maintain the definition on their own.

Hmmm.. Okay…if that’s the case then what side is more important in determining goodness? How well it’s distributed OR how well it’s formed and presented?
On one hand can we determine how good or bad content is if no one ever sees it? And, on the other hand, how worthwhile is content that everyone sees if it’s not useful or actionable? Content is more than text, sound, or an image in and of itself. In its most basic form it’s a projection of our thoughts that we thrust out into the world. As Maslov would probably put it: it’s a basic human need that makes us social and allows us to self-actualize.
If Descartes was alive today he may devise a whole new Cogito (“I think therefor I am”) to “I Share Therefore I am.”

We always hear there are no good or bad questions. And we are all unique – all our thoughts are important reflections of ourselves (which you may realize after thousands of dollars of therapy.) So why are we so driven to deem content good or bad if it is fundamentally a projection of self? Hmmmm… Interesting but I don’t think we’ve dived deep enough yet to form an answer… Let’s take another dive…
Let’s deconstruct content even further and ask

WHY is content?

(Min 23:00 in Slides Above)

(not a well formed sentence I know but you get the idea.)
Content is a transferring of our minds and being into an everlasting form.

It gives us eternal life and has so for thousands of years. In that regard it is one of the most advanced technologies ever created in the world. Our short finite lives are made infinite!

As the acronym YOLO so eloquently states, “You only live once” – but with the entire world filled with all these projected minds in the form of content we can live many lives vicariously through others.
If those concept are too abstract for your fancy and you’re more of the practical type then let’s frame it this way: Content gets stuff done more quickly. The faster we communicate the faster we can act between us.
I give you information locked in my head – you give your version back to me –
and like DNA all our contributions result in a greater overall result that may have taken ages had we attempted to think through it all on our own.
So with that I present my first thesis: The figuring out how to label content as good or bad comes from entirely the wrong place. The real question should be how do we use THIS content or THAT content? Where can we put each bit of content to allow our thoughts a chance to live in the open so that anyone can get the value from it if they so choose?
Content is simply a medium we use at the moments we have thoughts to overcome our inability to be able to be inside one another’s head.

The real endeavor is to cut out the middleman completely and just exchange thoughts. And until we can do that our goal is to shorten the time it takes to transfer our emotions, ideas, and – our lives – as much as possible. Ultimate efficiency, eternal life, and dare I say maybe even peace will be achieved in that final move. It won’t be about us dealing with good and bad content it will be about us accepting all thoughts as a chance to achieve those ultimate goals.

If you appreciate the reality that a single mind is the ultimate goal then it will give way to clues to foresee what product, or content society will embrace next. I’m not saying we will achieve singularity tomorrow,
nor am I here to rally everyone to start making change so we do something – because it is inevitable whether you like it or not. I am here to help add to a map on how and why content exists so we can navigate what comes our way, or create useful products along the way.

The real problem we are attempting to solve in almost all products created today is: how do we decrease the inefficiency impeding us from what can be called a mind meld. Each new product attempts to close that time-gap from one persons mind and emotion to the next.

Still not convinced that is the ultimate direction?– lets take a break from the abstract and look at our known history for validation…
In the beginning it was the lack of the written word, passing down information through story. It got the job done but it could take a lifetime or more for anyone to have a chance to see ones work or hear ones thoughts in order to make use of them. It was also super lossy – changing with each storyteller and generation. The written word helped us set those words in stone so although interpretation was still at play the base from which we worked was identical to those that could read the original. Unfortunately there was only one original so it still took a while to get it circulating and – you break, you buy.
Then, boom, the creation of the printing press! Anyone with an idea could have a shot of distributing their thoughts in ones lifetime – rich or poor, academically educated or not –– well, as long as you could read or had someone that could read to you. An example of how powerful an easily copied text can be is seen in the 1500s when the Christian world’s perception of their religion was altered because of a German Friar named Martin Luther and the content he shared. Powerful yes,

but it still took 2 YEARS for his thoughts to circulate in his community. Could you imagine waiting 2 years for your questions or ideas to be circulated?

How frustrating for us to imagine?! At that time not only did communication work on a schedule like that but the perception was that not everyone needed to read or share content in the first place because the common folk were too dumb to make use of it. What value could they bring to the table?

We look back then and see a travesty around the freedom of information – but does our generation think all that differently? When we created AppMakr the same objections came up – “not everyone needs an app.”

The prediction was we would maybe make 4 apps a month. In our first day we had requests to make thousands. Against all doubt we knew that it has always been true that the power of distributing content should be given to the people “good” or “bad” – it was our guiding principle. … But I’m jumping ahead …

We’ve seen the drive to democratize content and speed its ability to be distributed for hundreds of years since the printing press.

Getting our thoughts out to the world in years
to weeks, to seconds with radio and TV. But then a problem still remained – instant is great but everyone should have a voice and the access to hear it – not just the privileged – we still wanted more.
And so the Internet was born: Instant transfer of anyone’s thoughts to anyone willing to access it. It was given the perfect term: “getting connected.” And our path to do so continued.

From dial up to Wi-Fi, from PC to laptop, from Laptop to phone. We are decreasing the time it takes for each of our thoughts to get out there.

The iPhone was also thought of as a fad by critiques after its release – for years large corporations wondered how they succeeded. Many missed that its main achievement was to further decrease the time and complexity it takes for us to create, share, and ingest content from anyone saying anything more instantly.

Whether it’s a lifetime to years or 3 seconds to 1 second. If you can decrease the time it takes to get ANYONES mind into the open you are on to something.

Of course we all hear the call to arms that everything is so different now, and bad, and chaotic – we are so much worst and impatient than in the past! I offer a different perspective, things are only different in the tools we use but our yearning and desires are exactly the same: “Hear me!”
Or, may I please have access to what is going out there.
Our heads are no more immersed in that desire today.
Than it has been in generations before us. We are just able to achieve those goals more practically.
Data has always been thrust upon us.

We are simply trying to make it ALL more manageable from one person to the next.

What we’re driving towards is a moment where my thoughts are yours in the same moment. Think of the frustration you’ve ever felt when you just wanted someone to understand what you were trying to convey but left only with words and gestures and maybe a white board. How awfully inefficient it is! Just get in my head for a second so we can move on! The channels we’ve seen are just manifestations of that desire we have. It’s still far away but that IS the direction we’re headed and have been headed since the word “I”.

Anything that shortens that gap for ANYONE to get ANYTHING to ANYONE ELSE is following that trajectory and delivering goodness.

Is it asking too much? Are we really so much more impatient than the past?

Why is a month too long to wait but a minute juuuuust short enough?

What is it compared to?

Cutting the time in half is cutting time in half when you move forward – period. And it will always take twice as long as it does now to those looking back. It’s not time thats a problem – time is relative. 

All content that is caged is bad content because it doesn’t have the chance to allow someone to try and make their mark, live vicariously through shared story, or help them self-actualize. Sure with this digital tool there’s great power, fear and concern in how we will handle it all but it’s not about getting rid of some of it based on it being good or bad. Content is a tool to convey our thoughts – and we have all kinds of them that seem like garbage or gold from one person to the next.
It’s the difference between this
and this. Same tool different purpose
This is a knife
and so is this. And there are tons others out there. More and more a minute with a better edge or handle or metal or balance. They’re the channels we use to express ourselves with one another more quickly.
We connect in less time by decreasing the physical distance between us and our technology.
We connect with less clicks or gestures.
And yes sometimes that stream of consciousness means we trade breadth of connection about something trivial and seemingly painful to read
for accuracy and depth of critical information that is otherwise caged. Never the less, in both instances we are connecting more effectively. Believe me when we do end up truly “connecting” our thoughts it will be scarier and far noisier than today but innovators will be propelled to figure out how to appreciate and allow for that connection to build from – not work on tearing them down. And each passing generation will have a higher bandwidth they can handle than the last.

So. Maybe it’s not about whether the content is good or bad quality, heck maybe it’s not even about how much it gets shared –

maybe it’s always been purely about how many people are connected and how quickly they can achieve that connection.

Content and sharing are the two fundamental ways we are able to do it today – they are the means to the ends. They are our rocks, and knives, and arrows for lack of any other available means. But they themselves is not the goal. So, maybe good content could be defined as ANY-THING that connects ANY-ONE in less time or complexity then what is currently out there.
From stones
to books
to TV still lacking the option to connect or comment
To the websites and blogs where interaction intertwined itself with the content being shared.

Once communication and distribution became instant we shifted our strategy to decrease the time-gap between exchanges by limiting the amount of content exchanged when conveying a thought in the first place.
Those thoughts, emotions and ideas were created and deployed more quickly and frequently with statuses, and 140 letter max tweets – a real stream of consciousness was born. And that consciousness was further fed with the ability to post even if you weren’t by a computer.
So who are we to judge even shorter content still?

The end goal is about getting a feeling, thought and/or emotion to whom ever you want or as many people as you want with the least amount of friction.

So why is Yo so surprising?

Less characters and a quick intuitive interface has created a quicker connection between people. In first principles we aren’t searching for depth in substance – we are searching for a mind meld.
With 2 clicks I can convey “yo I’m thinking of you”, or
YO “I’m in town” – if the message is received and the minds are linked then it is content and it is valuable and it is good.
Yes, there is beauty in the creation process and that shouldn’t be forgotten, but let’s also recognize that the PROCESS was originally created to convey the idea with the tools available at the time. Losing site of one is as destructive as the other. The art comes from the need and some of our needs are satisfied within the art.
Which could be why memes are so powerful. Quick, efficient, creatively assembled, instantly connecting complex an otherwise tough to describe moment of humor or feelings with others through a shared experience we can relate to.
We can have taken the concept of video and trimmed it to its essence in a 5 second clip.

if you are afraid to share because to many people will see it then
a product removes that barrier so your security can be guaranteed with ephemeral storage.
We want to be closer still and our tools are extensions of that. Now we are cutting out the middleman entirely (pun intended) and letting our body do the communicating for us – instantly.

It’s amazing – in the pursuit of closing the time-gap between us we’ve managed to jumped right over our stream of consciousness and found a way to release what our body is saying even before our consciousness realizes it; a whole new level of getting connected.

So I that I think our thought experiment has yielded a conclusion for the question on what is good content:

GOOD CONTENT IS: ANYTHING THAT CONNECTS ANYONE’S THOUGHTS EFFECTIVELY IN LESS TIME OR WITH LESS COMPLEXITY THATN IS CURRENTLY OUT THERE.

So if nothing else keep that in mind when you see the next best thing and wonder why.

 

Thank you for keeping an open mind.

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We used the Google On Air tool (basically Google Hangouts but for public live streams that are also automatically uploaded to Youtube when the broadcast ends.) This is my 3rd attempt to use On Air in some live stream capacity and it finally worked well! The trick was setting up a second computer than from my own with more memory. Long story short, here is the presentation using that product:

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_64IZjmIY8&edit=vd

On Air Event Page: https://plus.google.com/events/c1ginlf8oufe9pkl6mcq38tb1mc

The 6 Books That Shaped How I Think and Work

gettintoyes
Getting to Yes
The first biz related book I read as a child. I learned early on that negotiating wasn’t just an art of cleverly persuading your counterpart  to yield to your will (which I believe many old and young try to do) but instead it taught me the notion around doing your best to find a situation that benefits both sides of the fence. This book is also filled with tactics and lessons that give you a whole new perspective on what is really happening when a buyer and a seller meet and a tool belt too.
thedipThe Dip
The first startup book I read almost a decade ago. It is a short book but a frank and honest one too. The dip sets a tone and map for what’s in store when creating a startup. I remember when I ended up facing a dip or two  along the way there was comfort in knowing that the rollercoaster ride was just a necessary step in a path towards…?
5tempsFive Temptations of a CEO
This book was suggested to me by the (former?) CTO of Zynga. Unlike most business books that are bullet point lessons and biographies this one is written as a fictional story of a man that has the conversation of a lifetime with a stranger on the subway. Often times when making harsh and rash decisions about setting expectations with employees, or when trying to manage my emotions or ego, memories of this book are triggered. It has helped me more than once find my way back to center.
madetostickMade to Stick
Fantastic book for those of us that didn’t come from a marketing background (although I am sure it is valuable to those that did too.) Often when I write letters, blogs, taglines or give presentations I use the lessons from this book to get a feel for whether or not it will “stick” with my audience and use some tactics to drive a message home.
reworkReWork
By the time I read this book  I had already learned many of its concepts through my own trial and error. Nevertheless it made my top 6 list because of how well it articulated those learnings. Reading this book is like sharpening your knives if you know the lessons of a startup already or it is a great set of building blocks to work from if not.

stumbling-on-happinessStumbling on Happiness
Boy did I love this book. It was given to me by my good friend Daniel and it was probably the fastest book I ever read. Dan Gilbert combines psychology, philosophy, history, and science beautifully to give a candid and thought provoking look at what happiness really means and why is it so different for everyone. I find myself referring to the lessons in this book quite often around relative happiness, how our imagination can be terribly misleading – but being aware is a big help!
Some other books of note:
The Fountain Head: A controversial book that seems to be either hated or loved. Which ever side you chose to be on I would be surprised if it was not called powerful. You don’t have to believe in the writers philosophy benefit from a perspective into  the power of ideals, confidence, and certainty in oneself.
Thinking fast and slow: A large dry read at times but making it through was worth it. I learned a lot about how great and poor the mind can be all at once. I learned not only to be more cautious with my assumptions  but a sense for where that cautions is needed more and why letting go can be a powerful tool as well.
Freakenomics: To see the world through the eyes of an economist is a gift. Thinking in terms of noise reduction, drawing data from samples and parallels and using statistics to prove how powerfully wrong our assumptions can be was thoroughly entertaining the whole way through.
The tipping point: I didn’t fall in love with this book like others but it definitely deserve a read for its historical observations around business that have succeeded and failed and the factors and people that contributed to them.
 4 hour work week: I hold the lesson passed down in this book around work/life balance with me. I truly believe that we should be working to make less work and using that reduction as a badge of honor instead of the more classic concept that more hours equal a better output.
Hard things about hard things: A glimpse into the mind and life of a entrepenuer that almost lost it all on more than one occasion and the lessons he learned about running a company are packaged up nicely for us to lern from with far  less scars

The Wheelbarrow Paradigm

cinderblock render.jpgab85c73f-67c5-46cd-8abe-780cb119c608LargerImagine yourself in this situation: A row of cinder blocks await you on a hill. Next to it is a dismantled wheelbarrow. You are asked to take the 10-20 cinder blocks 20 meters down a path – and you don’t have all day. What do you do? Do you take the time to put the wheelbarrow together or choose the simpler path of just walking the blocks a few steps to the shed as fast as you can.

Often we choose the simpler more direct path to get things done, especially when we need “quick” results. The problem with the way our mind works is that we are usually very poor judges of calculating unknowns.

Daniel Kahneman describes this type of brain activity in his book Thinking Fast and Slow as “What you see is all there is” (WYSIATI) This theory states that when the mind makes decisions, it deals primarily with Known Knowns, phenomena it has already observed. It rarely considers Known Unknowns, phenomena that it knows to be relevant but about which it has no information.

This leaves us with two truths: 1) We are terrible judges of knowing the unknowns and 2) there are always unknowns.Red_Wheelbarrow-thumb-300x232-25029

We do this at work when we try to get done more quickly by cutting corners, in the kitchen when we create a mess when we could have just used the proper bowls, when we show up late to an event due to traffic, or when we write sloppy code without proper testing. Smooth is fast and you work your fastest when you work smoothly.

Going back to the cynderblock situation, your hands may get more tired than you think and a cinder block could slip and break – now you have three problems: a need for a working wheelbarrow, a broom, and an explanation. The lesson here is take the extra time to set yourself up for success and don’t rush things. Create the situations and tools necessary to protect you from the unknowns you are surely missing.

P.S.

A funny thing happened to me while I was writing this blog. I took a break and went down to Fort Mason’s book $1 books sale. How many $1 books do you think you could possibly want? Well, there were tons of carts and baskets at the entrance and I walked right on by thinking I would just browse around. I found 1, 2, 3 books that I liked and before I knew it I was lugging around 5 heavy books on the other side of the huge warehouse. If that wasn’t ironic enough I looked to my left and saw this guy far worse off than I. The Wheelbarrow Paradigm in full effect right in front of my eyes!

photo1

 

Work. Life. Love. Balance. Stories From Startup Folk

Startup LoveI saw this article posted by a friend on FB by Scott Weiss a VC at Andreessan Horowitz called Success at work, Failure at home

To me pulling back the curtains behind a life, relationship or personality allows us to see the truth: that there is no such thing as the “perfect life” to aspire to. Instead we are all simply working hard on the goal of being the best people, friends and mates we can be. So don’t be so hard on yourself, learn a little, and share a lot.

With that in mind his post inspired me to post this learning from my own life as a serial startup/”entrepreneur guy” in a relationship.

 

Why You Can’t Optimize for Intimacy

The style of conversation that helps drive interaction, trust, and motivation within a business and its employees doesn’t translate completely with a person you have an intimate, loving, sensual, and sentimental obligation to.

Some things do translate well. For instance, the patience and even keeled temperament required to maintain a level of respect and openness is important to both work and home lives. On the other hand the levels of distance and tone you employ can have a stark difference between the two environments.

As an example, working on an emotional issue with a significant other doesn’t work well with checkins, progress updates, and check lists (which can be cold to a person you sleep next to every night.) While on the other hand focusing deeply on emotions doesn’t work well when communicating clear objectives and goals with peers and employees (that you hopefully don’t sleep next to – ever.) Again, there is some overlap, but the differences are monumental.

For me, being a startup guy in a relationship is a constant lesson in understanding those differences; not focusing on “optimizing” for your relationship but simply nurturing it together.

So in short as the title says: do not optimize for intimacy. And I know if you are a startup person you are thinking right now “I disagree, of course I can if I just…” Stop right there. I know you “can” – but don’t. — I know you think you can – but don’t! The other person may be feeling more focused and diligent (yay!) for now, but probably feeling less connected, heard, loved, or nurtured over all. Even worst they may be feeling like they are at work – and not in a “intimate relationship.” (boo!) :-p