- Derek Sivers‘ webpage. I find Derek’s personality and approach to business and life completely aligned to mine.
- nownownow.com. Derek also started a movement where one’s current focus is publicly stated. Others have taken it further declaring that anything outside of this will not receive attention. Nownownow.com shows a list of bloggers that have implemented this. A good way to discover new blogs.
- The beginners guide to SEO from Moz. And excellent, comprehensive, yet approachable guide to SEO for the novice.
- The Luxury Travel Expert, referencing the best travel experiences, including top destinations and hotels, as well as reviews of first class air travel. I found them through their YouTube Channel.
- The James Altucher show, a weekly podcast where he interviews current influencers. I find James to be an interesting thinker, which augments the conversation with his guests, turning them into vivid exchanges.
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. A show/podcast presenting a unique, unorthodox, and at times controversial alternative way of looking at history. Highly recommended, but unfortunately new installments only come out 2 or 3 times a year.
- Quora. While aware of its existence of this highly regarded Q&A site for quite some time, I only registered and became active this week.
The first month of this blog is over, and this is what I learned:
- posting something relevant on a daily basis is harder than I expected
- writing a 100 word post is more difficult than writing a 500 word post
- tagging and categorizing should not be taken lightly
- there is a lot of opportunity to streamline my creative process
- there is a process to build an audience that can not be ignored
Based on these observations, I have set my blogging goals for April 2016 as follows:
- reduce the post count from 20 to 12 (3 a week), and establish a formal publishing schedule (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) – to improve relevance and focus
- reduce the diversity of post formats to 3 per week (1 weekly summary/journal, 1 short form, 1 long form) – to start building a system for my creative process
- make 1 visual, 1 functional and 1 SEO improvement to the website – to build an audience
- do at least one audio or video post (counts as long format) – to learn new skills
- review and tweak past posts to increase their impact and make them evergreen (where possible) – to improve the quality of my offering
- blogging: starting to develop a SEO strategy and streamline the management of the blog. Also published 3 new entries besides last week’s summary:
- what are smart creatives? Book review: How Google works, by Eric Schmidt. A decent read that became a good personal investment thanks to the concept of smart creatives.
- my tech setup. Creating focus by giving specific purpose to devices, where I list the key pieces of tech I use and how I segregate their duties.
- my top 10 podcasts, where I list and describe my favorite podcasts, including their publishing schedule and average duration.
- book purchases: “Screw the Zoo” by Sam Roberts on self improvement, and “The Quantum Rules” by Kunal Das on how quantum physics affects daily life,
- reading: mostly focused on SEO and learning techniques research.
- interesting internet findings:
As I head into the end of the first month of this blog, I will summarize my learnings into the last post of March and establish the goals for April.
Podcasts have become a key channel in my information intake process. They are a perfect way to consume information while working out, driving, and even when trying to fall sleep.
I keep two lists, one of podcasts that I subscribe to (and for the most part listen to every episode), and another with podcasts I find interesting but only browse when in need of additional content.
While the majority of what I listen to is productivity or entrepreneurship oriented (but never news), there are a couple of shows I keep in my main list for entertainment purposes:
- a16z. A podcast from Anderseen Horowitz, where topics like future industries and technologies, personal improvement and business in general are discussed in a balanced and knowledgeable way. Publishes every 3-5 days and episodes are 30-60 minutes. Highly recommended.
- Cortex. A conversation between CGP Grey and Myke Hurley that revolves around their work methods and practices. The hosts respective personalities make always an entertaining interaction. I never miss an episode and it always jumps to the front of the queue. Publishes every other week and episodes are 90-120 minutes. Highly recommended.
- HBR IdeaCast. From Harvard Business Review, where some articles from the publication are discussed. This is hit and miss for me, as I am not always interested in the topic. Publishes every 3-6 days and is always less than 20 minutes.
- Hello Internet. A conversation between CGP Grey and Brady Harran about almost any topic. I find the interaction between the hosts extremely entertaining and many times hilarious. I never miss an episode and it always jumps to the front of the queue. Publishes mostly bi-weekly and episodes are 90-120 minutes. Highly recommended.
- Mac Power Users. All things OSX and iOS. They discuss workflows, tools and best practices to become more productive. Almost every show brings a new guest that shares their tips and techniques to run their diverse businesses. This has been a great source of ideas for me, many already implemented. Publishes weekly and episodes are 90-120 minutes.
- The Productivity Show. A podcast from the Asian Efficiency website, focusing on time management and productivity. Publishes weekly and episodes are 30-45 minutes.
- Read to Lead. A podcast that discusses business books and publications, often with the authors or editors. It does not summarize the books, but discusses and expands on some of the key ideas. I use this show to discover and evaluate publications before adding them to my reading list. Publishes weekly and episodes are 30-45 minutes.
- Still Untitled: the Adam Savage project. Norman Chan, Will Smith and Adam Savage talk about movies, books, projects and many more things. A great source for books and movies. Publishes weekly and episodes are 30-45 minutes.
- Smith’s Notes. Books summaries and Reviews. This show dissects the content of the books and presents them efficiently as a list of key ideas, expanding with additional content where required. Another good source for book ideas. Does not have a regular publish cadence, but most shows are less than 10 minutes.
- The Tim Ferriss show. One of the most popular podcasts these days, where Tim interviews an influencer and usually evolves into a rich conversation on topics ranging from personal performance to entrepreneurship to spirituality. Publishes every 3-8 days and episodes range from 45 to 210 minutes. He sometimes publishes some “in between” episodes where he alone discusses a specific topic and are much shorter. Highly recommended.
Some honorable mentions include the podcasts on my secondary list, all of great quality and from where I pull content as needed:
Writing: The Creative Penn
Public Speaking: Steal the Show
By segregating my devices’ duties I am able to focus on the task at hand, and use the best tools for the right job.
As a tech enthusiast, I have always tended to have more devices than I need. However, as I become more deliberate on what I engage in order to narrow and increase my focus, the same has happened with my use of them. Today, my setup consists of:
- iPhone. My capture device. I use it to take pictures, video, and stream-of-thought notes. All my communication (email, video, voice and messaging), except for business emails is done here. It also serves as audio content consumption hub (podcasts and audiobooks)
- Apple Watch. My management device, my daily life’s instrument panel. Carries my schedule and telemetry. It also receives messages from those most important to me.
- iPad mini. My media consumption device. This is where I consume all printed and video content, and where research is conducted. I only use Safari, GoodReader and Kindle for this purpose. Notes are originally accumulated here and synchronized via Cloud for further processing.
- Macbook Air 13”. My writing and online presence management platform. My first action after purchasing this laptop was to uninstall all bundled software (I do that with all tech I buy), and only install the best-of-breed applications when I need them. With the latest revamp of the native notes app in El Capitan, I find that it is all I need for writing. This may change as I engage into longer format content.
- ASUS G751. My gaming and media creation platform. This massive laptop gives me desktop class performance to play any modern game in 1080, and use Adobe Creative Cloud. All I have installed is Steam and ACC, plus a basic suite of system maintenance and performance utilities.
- Server. A headless Windows 7 box with a 6 core processor, 16 GB of memory and ever increasing storage space. Used to be my chess analysis computer, now relegated to be a file and media server. Also useful when I need to run anything that requires long term processing.
This has worked well for me. My brain is now aligned to a specific task based on the device I am using. This also allows me to keep only relevant apps on each platform, thus eliminating any distractions. It is important to note that email and messaging are only enabled on my iPhone, so even interruptions can be avoided by putting it away, and resting assured that any emergencies will be handled through my watch.
Another benefit is that synchronizing and backing up data is much simpler. Only the Notes app synchs across all devices and is therefore backed up in the cloud. All other content exists in one device only and is replicated in the file server, which in turn is backed up to external drives. All devices can be rebuilt from the cloud and the server, and the server can be rebuilt from the external drives.
How Google works is an inside view of Google’s key practices on talent (from interview to retention), collaboration and decision making. In general, a good read with quotable anecdotes used to illustrate the key points.
For me, most of the content was not groundbreaking or eye-opening. However, the time invested in reading it paid off in a single small section, where they described “smart creatives” as the list of attributes in key talent. According to the book, smart creatives are:
- Experts in doing. Don’t just design, but build prototypes.
- Analytically smart and comfortable with using data to make decisions. They understand data fallacies and worry about endless analysis (“let data decide, but not take over”)
- Business smart, can see the direct line from technical expertise to product excellence to business success.
- Competitive smart, start with innovation and follow through with a lot of work.
- Driven to be great, even if it means to go beyond 9 to 5.
- User smart, understand the product from the consumer point of view better than anyone, and are obsessively interested in it.
- Their own focus group, alpha tester and guinea pigs.
- A firehose of genuinely new ideas, and perspective chameleons.
- Curious creative, always questioning and never happy with the status quo. They see problems everywhere and believe are the right person to solve them.
- Risky creative, not afraid to fail, as they understand that there is always something valuable to to salvaged.
- Self directed creative, sometimes even ignoring direction.
- Open creative, collaborating and judging ideas and analysis based on their merit and not their provenance.
- Thorough creative, always on and able to dominate the details, as they are their details.
In summary, smart creatives are business and tech savvy individuals with great creative energy who know how to get things done with a hands on approach.
I find this list an invaluable resource to evaluate talent (and myself), and can easily see a framework for professional competitiveness emerge from it. This is heavily biased towards knowledge workers, but am certain that it can be re-crafted in the context of leadership. I assume this is somewhat attempted in the sections of the book that discuss decision making, but most certainly not accomplished in the same crisp and powerful way.
- blogging: continue to explore the content creation process and stick to a schedule, which has proven difficult given my current schedule. Starting to collect information and learn SEO. Also published 4 new entries besides last week’s summary:
- what is the difference between AlphaGo and the first time a grandmaster was defeated at chess by a computer?, which is a quick reflection of the fundamental differences between the games and the technology that beat them
- book review: relentless forward progress, by Byron Powell, one of the best book I have ever come across on utrarunning
- apple watch 6 months later. The apps I use, my usage routines, the good and the bad
- planning and metrics vs presence, a short thought on not executing plans in a mechanic way, as the best opportunities to improve them or achieve them pass by without noticing
- book purchases: “Let’s get Visible” and “Let’s get Digital”, both on self-publishing and both by David Gaughran; and “Boys for Men” by Derrick Wolf
- reading: finished 2 reports from the McKinsey Global Institute: “Digital America” and “Digital Globalization”, both soon to be reviewed in this blog
- interesting internet findings:
Another week heavily dominated by work, but also marking the end of this round of heavy activity, which I hope bode wells for a new week of learnings and this blog.