Iterating On Yourself

Iterating On Yourself

The concept of iterating on ideas is a fairly common one. You start with the initial idea, critique it, tweak it, review it, and then start the cycle over again until you are ready to execute on it. You can find the concept of iteration in design, cooking, architecture, music, writing, heck, you can even find it in parenting. 

Anything that starts as an idea and ends as an action or product is better off when it goes through iterations. No idea is perfect at conception.

I'm pretty used to iteration, it's the base of what I do in web development and design. My boss and I take the initial idea and look at it from different angles, ask a lot of questions, talk it through, make changes, and then repeat. It's how websites and applications go from crappy experiences to very enjoyable ones.  

What if we replaced 'the idea' in the iteration cycle with ourselves? Instead of critiquing, tweaking, and reviewing an idea, what if we did that so to ourselves? Could we improve? Would we grow?

I think the obvious answer is yes, but my immediate follow up question is, "why don't most of us behave this way?" If it really were a matter of critique, tweak, review, repeat when it comes to our behavior, diet, finances, relationships, careers, etc, then we should be able to grow and improve as people in those areas over time. 

What I find interesting about this idea, however, is how many people remain stuck in these areas of their lives. Always in bad relationships, always eating junk, always in debt, always the victim. Why is it easier to iterate on an idea than it is to iterate on ourselves?

Some immediate ideas come to mind:

  • ideas are ephemeral, inanimate concepts free from the baggage of being human
  • the idea is our idea, so we are in 'control' of it
  • french fries are really tasty
  • we prefer to live reactively instead of proactively because we think it removes our culpability when something goes wrong
  • we don't want to admit that we are the problem, it's somehow easier to point the finger at other people or circumstances and declare that the grass really is greener on the other side

This stage of my life is full of internal reflection, which is the impetus for this post. I'm examining the choices I make and finding it troubling. I'm becoming keenly aware of how much I prefer comfort and laziness over hardship and/or hard work and I'm trying to change. 

What I'm also finding is that when I want to change I want it to happen quickly, again I don't want to go through discomfort. Change is, after all, uncomfortable, even when it is for the best. 

In my frustration with the amount of time it's taking to lose weight, it's been 3 weeks...I really need to calm down, I realized that most of life is iterative. It's a series of choices you make based on previous knowledge with hope for future results. We can't predict the future, but we can take our past experiences and use them to make wise, iterative choices that lead to a better future. 

For weight loss, you know what caused you to gain weight, use that knowledge to iterate over your food and drink choices to lose weight over time and regain your health.

For finance, we know the things we spend money on, review your bank statement. Sit down and go over your last 90 days of purchases and categorize everything as essential, nice to have, and luxury. Over time cut down the luxury category and change it to savings, you'll sleep a lot better at night. 

You can see the pattern here: High self-worth and strong self-discipline are the key factors to iterative change in our lives. We get one shot at this before we meet our Maker, make it count. 

A Life of Consequence

A Life of Consequence

I've been debating, internally, about what it means to live a life of consequence. By "live a life of consequence" I mean that I want to be able to use the time that I have to do things that have gravitas and staying power in my world. I don't want to get to the end and regret how I chose to live my life. 

We only get one shot at this.

That truth is, if I'm honest with myself, really at the heart of this internal debate. I've got one shot to live my life and I'm already 30 years into it. Have I mentioned that I have a child now too? 

Hopefully I've got a lot of time left on this planet and if the bible is right, I've got eternity with God after this which should be nice. I don't think, however, that eternity with God should lessen my desire to use my time here meaningfully. If this place and these people didn't matter, he wouldn't put us here. That's the theory I'm working with.

If my theory is correct then the next logical step is to ask, "What are meaningful ways to spend my time? And how can I do more of those things?"

My preliminary thoughts on what are meaningful ways to spend my time include:

  • bonding with friends and family
  • loving my wife and child and making memories with them
  • working hard
  • seeing the world and it's people and learning from them
  • giving what I have to those in need

That's my list so far. Not surprisingly every single item on that list is about other people, even the one about work, if you think about it. 

It is the answer to the second part of that question that I'm struggling with the most: "How can I do more of those things?" Figuring that out is my next internal debate.

Brief Thoughts On Minimalism

Brief Thoughts On Minimalism

Minimalism is relative.

What it takes to be a minimalist writer is much less than what it takes to me a minimalist surgeon. A writer needs a pen and paper, the surgeon requires many more tools. So minimalism isn't about the number of things required but about the idea: "what I need and nothing more."

Clutter slows things down, it muddies the water, it creates burden. I don't like being slowed down, I don't like muddy water, and I don't like being unnecessarily burdened. I want the freedom to act, buoyed by the requisite tools, so I can accomplish the goals at hand.

This is my ideal situation. Only the things I need and nothing more.

Minimalism isn't static.

People change, circumstances change, and therefore what is minimal changes as well. My wife and I just had our first child and with that child comes a sweeping change to our lives that requires what is minimal to drastically change. Where there were never diapers and wipes and pacifiers and bottles and cribs and cute baby clothes, there are now all of those things. I'm ok with those things though because I love my child and I love my wife and a baby requires those things to both be happy and keep Mom and Dad sane.

Minimalism isn't the Gospel

Minimalism won't save you, but it might help you sleep better at night. Consider all of stuff that you have and how much of it is truly necessary. I'm talking about the basics here: shelter, food, clothes...everything else is a bit of a luxury is it not?

I'm not asking you, or telling you, to live without luxury; you get to make your own decisions. What I am asking you, however, is, "Do you really need all of that stuff?" What purpose does it serve in your life? What benefit does it provide to you? What burden? What stress?

Final Thoughts

I don't know why Minimalism has been on my mind recently but it has and it hasn't gone away, hence this blog post. What I do know is that the concept of minimalism is very attractive to me and trying to figure out how it influences my life is an interesting endeavor. I'll continue to mull over these thoughts myself but I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this subject. Thinking in a vacuum can only get you so far.

What Consumer Capitalism Does To Religion

The spirituality craze may be picking up a few atheists as well, as young people in the U.S. are keeping God but throwing out the church. Hedstrom described the millennial move toward spirituality as “what consumer capitalism does to religion.” According to Hedstrom, an individual’s identity under consumer capitalism is based on consumption patterns. Ultimately this results in an individual picking and choosing which “religious products” (meditation, prayer, yoga, and so on) they want to consume, rather than belonging to an organized religion. Atheists may not be ready to accept a religious text about God and an organized religion, but they may be amenable to this sort of fun, social, more amorphous godliness — especially if it’s trendy.
— NO ONE KNOWS WHY ATHEISTS RETURN TO RELIGION, Daniel Oberhaus, The Outline

The quote above is from a short article on The Outline and I find it frighteningly accurate. 

Thoughts Concerning Google I/O 2016

Below are the thoughts, reactions, and questions I had while watching this years Google I/O keynote. 


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8.5 minutes of crowd scanning to start the keynote is dumb. Why not start the video with the start of the presentation?

Harp thing was odd but sure why not?

Also, I like that they did it outdoors at a concert venue. Heard it was pretty hot though. 

Lots of people watching the live stream, no pressure...cue lots of wind noise coming through the microphones. 

Pichai seems comfortable on stage, easy pace, comfortable demeanor

Google wants to stay ahead of the users, enter assistive search. Machine Learning and AI are big here. 

Google Assistant, building each user their own personal Google. This is cool.

Context is a big deal to making Google Assistant what we all want it to be. 

Shout out to Amazon for the Echo, good on you Google.

Google Home looks nice. Clean, small, and partly customizable.

Tell Google home you want to watch a YouTube video on your TV and it plays, on your TV. How have I lived without this??

Google Home...I want 1...or 5.

The Google Home video is awesome, but the phrase "What this might be like in the future" is concerning. 'Might be'? No, let's make this 'will be'.

Also, adorable kid in a spacesuit, 

Allo is a TERRIBLE name for anything, especially a messaging app you hope billions of people will use. 

Whisper Shout is clever.

Ink, which lets you draw on an image before sending, is a really nice feature. No need for a 3rd party annotation app.

Nice Bernese Mountain Dog...hahaha

Dad jokes...ugghhhh

Seriously though, this machine learning stuff is absolutely wonderful. If these smart responses are at all representative of how this will work, I'm in. 

Duo. Performs well on poor networks...hmmmm.

Android and iOS, yes please.

Knock Knock, again a terrible name, but a really nice feature, Shows you a live preview of the video before you pick up. Smart.

Also, could they have made a logo that looks more like FaceTime?

Observation: Every announcer has had an Android Wear watch on.

Daydream looks very interesting. VR is coming, time to see who wins.

Android Wear 2.0, watches that don’t need a phone! Sooner than I thought but very happy that this is now a thing. Your turn Apple. 

Firebase updates all seem like logical growth but making it all free and unlimited is a very nice gesture by Google. Giving the developers better tools at no cost to them is a great way to earn some relational equity.

Instant Apps huh? Seems like a good idea, not sure how it will work in real life though.  

Nice reference to the game Go. I’ve always wanted to learn that game.

Robots that learn, adapt, and act creatively…not sure how comfortable that makes me. Cool when it helps get things done, not so cool when they take over the world. 

Mentions from the stage:
Beyoncé, Presidential primaries, Champions League, the Hyperloop, the Chicago Bean, The Revenant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Real Madrid, Christiano Ronaldo, Lord of the Rings...I'm sure I missed some but I always find it interesting to note who and what they promote during these events.  

A Designer Who Codes

I hope I'll be able to write a post like this one in a year or two...though I'll definitely leave out the term 'Unicorn', and for that matter 'Ninja' and 'Guru' as well.

I’d always wanted to learn to code. I’d dabbled a little bit, but I didn’t know anything about web programming. I also wanted to learn new aspects of user experience design.

I was tired of having ideas and not being able to execute on them myself. I had that creative itch, but I couldn’t quite scratch it.

(Link in the post title.)

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Photos From Ireland

Last month I got the wonderful opportunity to accompany my wife's side of the family to the magical land of Ireland. It was a great trip.

Here are some of the highlights, all taken with my iPhone 6. If you click on any photo, it will expand into full view. 

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On Product Thinking

Really solid article about designing products by Nikkel Blaase over on the Invision Blog (link in the title). Here's an image overviewing the article: