Clean Room, Clean Mind

Why do I avoid the backlog and overflowing todo list? Why do I shove one more tool into a drawer already full of bits and bobs? Why do I squeeze yet another outfit into an overflowing closet? Because confronting this mess is hard work. It means making tough choices. Most of the time, I’d rather not decide.

To make sense of my environment, my work, my life—I need to confront the mess. Once the clutter is gone I know I’m left with just the essentials. Once the dust is clear, I can get to work.

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo explains that while the process of decluttering and cleaning your home is important to your physical wellbeing, the true outcome is happiness and clarity in your mind. The habit gives you the freedom to take responsibility for important decisions.

I learned so much from this book, from awareness and mindfulness to practical tips on folding and hanging clothes. The habit of tidiness is now a mindset for me rather than just a chore to be completed.

The process starts by discarding the inessential items. Tidying up defines what is valuable: learning what I can do without; learning which books, clothes, keepsakes, or kitchen tools give me the most joy.

In applying her principles, my books were the hardest. I had hundreds and many in the category of “I’ll read this someday.” I trimmed it down to 80-90 best of the best — including this one! Hah. Keeping sentimental, must-read again, and books I reference often. The rest I gave as gifts to a new home or donated.

Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.

A clean home is a perfect metaphor for a clear and organized mind. If my room and desk are clear and tidy I can face the reality of what’s in front of me. “It is by putting one’s own house in order that one’s mindset is changed. When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” Am I scared of what I’ll find?

Because you have continued to identify and dispense with things that you don’t need, you no longer abdicate responsibility for decision making to other people.

Decisions are now easier as I see more clearly the work in front of me. And I enjoy even more the treasures, clothes, and tools I chose to keep.

Agile Thinkers Know When a Best Practice Isn’t Best

I have a hiring heuristic called ABCDEF, which stands for: agility, brains, communication, drive, empathy and fit. For gatekeepers, I’ve found agility is the most important attribute. To test it, I ask them: ‘Tell me a best practice from your way of working.’ Then I ask: ‘Tell me a situation where that best practice would be inappropriate.’ Only agile thinkers can demonstrate that a best practice isn’t always best,” says Ries. “For an attorney, that might be probing for a situation where you shouldn’t run everything by a lawyer. Hopefully they don’t say ‘criminal conspiracy,’ but you want someone to say something like: ‘You know what? If you’re a two person team, and you’re just doing an MVP, and six people are involved, you don’t need a lawyer.’ It requires some common sense and mental flexibility.

Via First Round Review: Lean Startup’s Eric Ries on How to Make ‘Gatekeepers’ a Source of Power and Speed.

Fire Suppression System

A dilemma to consider.

Should we… Let the fires rage while we build a fire suppression system.

Or… Continue to fight the fires while dreaming about a fire suppression system that we’ll build someday.

What’s Your Surfboard?

A thought experiment. No right or wrong answers.

What grounds you?

As you ride the currents of your day-to-day work — entering in and out of conversations with your team and with customers — or with your family and friends as your navigate your way through the world?

What’s the “surfboard” made of that you ride from wave to wave? The ups and downs.

What drives you?

whats-your-surfboard-art
Illustration of “What’s Your Surfboard?”

For me, the surfboard is a perfect metaphor for describing the core value or the key ability that grounds me. What helps me stay consistent, open, and aware as I navigate my day and underlines my conversations and my relationships.

Another way of phrasing this is, “Coming from a place of _____ (fill in the blank) and then listening for the rough and smooth spots.”

Starting from that place, I’m open. Open to continue finding out what grounds me, drives me, and is the one thing that I fall back on as I navigate change.

Trust Is Built By Genuine Human Connections

Trust can only be built by genuine human connections. Rich Sheridan

Rich Sheridan’s closing keynote at PNSQC 2017 hit home in many ways. I loved hearing examples of his time-tested ideas for creating joyful workplaces at Menlo Innovations. You can learn much more is his book Joy, Inc. – How We Built A Workplace People Love.

And Then Grace

and then grace.png

The work you do when you are graceful is what we need, now more than ever.
—Seth Godin, in Graceful

This path is before me, whether chosen by the universe or because I’ve listened and cared deeply. Craft first, then connection, and then grace.

A Decision Without Action Is Only a Hope

A decision is only a hope until carrying it out has become somebody’s work assignment and responsibility, with a deadline.

Who has to know of the decision? What action has to be taken? Who has to take the action? Make sure the people who have to take the action are able to do so.

Note—the people who have to take the action are rarely the people who have made the decision.

Source: The Daily Drucker, quoting The Effective Executive. I’m loving this daily dive into the management and leadership motherlode—highly recommended.

(Listen) Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hits refresh

I highly enjoyed Kai Ryssdal’s conversation with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on NPR’s “Corner Office from Marketplace” podcast.

https://www.marketplace.org/2017/09/27/world/microsoft-ceo-satya-nadella-hits-refresh/popout

On Microsoft’s mission in the world (hint: it’s not “a computer in every home and on every desk,” which is a goal, not a purpose) [22:33]:

We want to democratize the use of technology to create more technology.

[Interviewer, Kai Ryssdal: Tech right now is cool, you guys, you’re not necessarily the “coolest kids on the tech block.” Do you have to be cool to do what is you want to do at this company?]

Our mission is to make others cool. All we want to be is the tech they use.

The wide-ranging interview jumps between many topics from the purpose of technology, his wife and family, to attracting women to tech jobs by promoting diversity and being an inclusive company, to the immediate feedback he gets from employees via Skype emoji reactions during Town Halls.

The main point, hitting refresh — also the name of his new book (Goodreads) — highlights Microsoft’s shifting branding perception. A reframing away from “big, bad company” and how they’ll know if they get that right.

Ultimately there is no escaping the one true measure of what any company does: what do people who deal with us think? …The multiple constituencies, and what they think about Microsoft and our progress and innovation, is the only score that matters.

A highlight for me in the interview is how to recognize mistakes we make in order to push, think, and change. An example given for a recent Nadella mistake [25:55]:

In many cases customers have already chosen to work with you, and yet you, consciously or unconsciously, abandon them to go work off a new and shiny object… It’s tempting in tech to sometimes move on to the next thing. Except, we all need to work to help others move with us.

The last part of the interview hit home with me because of my leadership path at Automattic, where I’m striving to create a space where we can do our best work. “Describe your job for me in 5 words or less?” [33:05] Nadella says, “Curating culture.” 💯 🖥

Hat tip: Mike Levin.

(Video) Interview with Jack Dykinga

An interview with a photography legend, Jack Dykinga, a Pulitzer-prize winner, who has become one of the best landscape photographers in the world.

My favorite note from his philosophy: “Sometimes your voice can be more of a whisper than a shout.” Applies to writing and software just as much as photography and art.

More about Jack — a fellow resident of Tucson, Arizona — on Wikipedia. Hat tip: Charles M.