Do you ever find yourself going back through the decisions you've made and wondering how your life would be if you had made different choices? I know I do. But, as the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" makes abundantly clear, we have no understanding of the impact that we've made in this life. Our decisions, good or bad, have brought us to exactly where we are and affected other people's lives in ways we can't imagine. Even the smallest choice could have had a major impact, just like The Butterfly Effect.
A few months ago, I had lunch with Thom Singer*. Thom's an author and speaker and a really great guy. I met with him because I really enjoy public speaking and I wanted to talk to him about what it takes to be a professional speaker. We had a great lunch and a great conversation. In the end though, I decided that a career as a public speaker wasn't for me right now. The reason was because of one specific thing Thom said.
One of my personal goals this year is to stop being so negative. Looking back on my blog posts from last year, there were too many where I complained about things without offering good solutions. I even did it in an email this morning (sorry Jorge).
Complaining takes a lot more energy than actually doing something. Complaining drains your emotional, spiritual and physical energy.
So what can you do to stop a spirit of complaining?
When I first made the decision to take a leave of absence from IBM and go out on my own (before I was laid off), one of my primary motivations was that to stay at IBM I would have to completely change my career path. That path would have moved me away from working primarily on client software (which I'd done since I started at IBM) to working primarily on server software. At the time, this type of work didn't really appeal to me.
But the truth is there was one motivator behind my final decision:
I didn't want change.
- By the end of the year, I've forgotten the first three quarters of the year.
- A major negative event (or maybe positive) divides your year. In my case, it was very difficult to see things before that event because that event defined my year
- If it weren't for Facebook and Twitter, I'd probably have no record of my year.
Why's it so important to keep track of the things that you've shipped?
One of the things I'm trying to do for the new year is
reduce increase my signal to noise ratio. Facebook and Twitter both can end up having a lot of noise and very little signal. The problem with reducing this ratio on Facebook is that you end up having to decide who you want to keep as your "friends."
I really hate Facebook's decision to use the term friend because they cause us to view everyone as friends, even though in most cases they are acquaintances and in many cases we don't even know them. So in order to reduce my friends, I had to start categorizing them and using those categories to determine who to keep and who to drop.
So in the same spirit as Stuff Christians Like (a great satire site), here are seven categories of people you are friends with on Facebook that aren't actually friends.
Per Seth Godin's Blog, this is a list of what I shipped in 2010.
- Brand Thunder
- Other Firefox add-ons
- Delivered a new add-on infrastructure for Toolbar Expressway
- Delivered the add-on for ProfileChoice
- Delivered the CCK Wizard for Firefox 3.6
- Updated Operator to work with Firefox 4
- Delivered the OldSpice Twitter Drop Shadow in response to this tweet from OldSpice
- Presented one of my inventions to a company (they didn't pick it up, but it was a big step for me)
- Spoke at SXSW 2010
- Spoke at my church (Northview Community Church)
- Spoke at Calvary Aggieland
- Volunteered five times at Dave Ramsey Live Events (bringing our total to 14)
- Facilitated two Financial Peace University classes
- Attended Dave Ramsey's Entreleadership Master Series
- Read 74 non-fiction books towards my 2010 BHAG of 100
- Switched away from web based email to Thunderbird
- Created the MetroFail campaign and was featured on KVUE local news and in the Leander Ledger (Actually the end of 2009, but I still have t-shirts if anyone wants them)
- Sold and/or gave away a lot of our stuff in anticipation of our downsizing and/or moving.
- Read the Constitution
- Turned 40
Here are (in my opinion) the two best blog posts I wrote this year (non Firefox related):
On a more personal note, for those that are close to us, you know that 2010 has been a really hard year for our family. I appreciate all the prayers and support.
Here's to 2011 demolishing 2010 (which for our family is easy).
Special thanks to Twitter and Facebook for giving me an easy way to look back through the year.
My kids and I were supposed to go spend the day (and night) at the new Chick-fil-A in Kyle, Texas for a chance to win free Chick-fil-a for a year. To get the chance to compete, you either have to be one of the first 100 in line, or if more than 100 people show at 6:00 AM the day before, there is a raffle for the 100 spots. In this case, there were more than 100 people (175) and we arrived at 6:05 AM due to some navigation issues. So we were out of luck. We had planned to make a fun day and night out of this, so needless to say the kids were pretty disappointed.
As I began processing why we were late, I immediately started looking for ways to shift the blame. Why did Google Maps have the exit number wrong? Why doesn't Chick-fil-A have the location of new restaurants in its restaurant finder? Why wasn't there a giant cow on top of the building to make it easy to spot? And suddenly it occurred to me that I had fallen into the blame game. I was asking the wrong questions.
In his incredible book, QBQ, John G. Miller talks about asking the The Question Behind the Question®. So I started asking the right question. What could I have done differently? I could have left earlier. I could have double checked the directions. I could have contacted the Kyle Chick-fil-A to make sure I knew where it was. And I realized that it wasn't Google Maps' fault. And it wasn't Chick-fil-A's fault. It was my fault. I could have done something. I needed to practice personal accountability.
Whenever we choose to practice personal accountability, we're going completely against the tide of our culture. Articles like this one about blame shifting the BP oil spill make it abundantly clear - we're not interested in solving the problem, we're interested in finding someone to blame. That prevents us from finding the failures in ourselves (and gives us a person for the lawsuit).
When you are faced with situations in your life that don't go the way you want, ask yourself, what could I have done differently? And what can I do in the future to make sure this doesn't happen to me (or anyone else) again? And then fix it. Because it's your problem now.
So what did I do? I sent email to Chick-fil-A suggesting that they add maps to their restaurant opening pages. And I did some research and found out that all the major mapping software has the wrong exit for Kyle, Texas. So I'm going to contact Kyle and let them know since they have more clout than me to try to fix it.
And I'm taking the kids to Chick-fil-A for dinner. We didn't make the grand opening. But we can still have a great meal.
Thought I'd take a minute to post about Ajax Experience.
Before I talk about the conference, I want to talk a little bit about some really cool technology that was in the Seaport Hotel. It's called Seaportal. Seaportal is a machine running Windows XP Embedded that provides web surfing, office applications and free Voice over IP. It uses OpenOffice for the office applications and Internet Explorer for the web surfing. I was curious about the mix of open source and non-open source, so I contacted the IT department. The answer was what I expected. They picked OpenOffice because it saved them money on licensing, and they picked IE because it was a part of the embedded stack that came from their vendor They didn't want to add extra software to the stack, which makes perfect sense. The IE also came pretty well customized by the vendor, although they did have to work to figure out how to do more customization with the registry.
All in all, I was VERY impressed by their solution and found myself using it a lot to avoid turning on my laptop when I needed something quick. My only complaints would be that using IE 6 is REALLY painful and that they need to be more current with adding interesting plug ins and things. For instance, I couldn't watch TV shows from abc.com because it uses some proprietary plug ins.
If you stay in Boston, stay at the Seaport and request a room with Seaportal to check it out. Now on to the conference...
Next up was Kevin Survance from MapQuest. This keynote was awesome. Kevin is an excellent speaker and he gave a great picture of what MapQuest is doing to reinvent themselves. He talked about the new MapQuest which is in beta right now. I find it funny that despite the popularity of Google Maps, the term MapQuest is embedded in our culture similar to Kleenex. On a side note, I talked to a couple MapQuest developers about microformats and I'm hoping they'll put them on the site. I'm planning to do an Operator action for the new MapQuest beta.
From there I went to the Aptana IDE presentation. This presentation was disappointing. The presenter just wasn't the right guy to do this, and there was actually too much demo and not enough slides.
After lunch I went to the Google Gears talk, and it was interesting, but there really wasn't much that I couldn't have gotten from reading documentation on the web, so I went over to catch the tail end of Accessibility and Internationalization with Dojo. Good presentation, but it was folks on my team, so what did I expect.
After lunch I went to "iPhone and iPod Touch Web Development" which was a horribly named presentation, because it was basically a plug for Aptana. This session should have been simply combined into the other Aptana presentation.
Skipped the next round, but caught the Silverlight presentation later that afternoon. What impressed me most about the Silverlight stuff was the tooling. Microsoft really has the tooling down.
Thursday I started with "Introduction to jQuery" by John Resig. This was great. I finally "get" jQuery and hope to start messing around with it soon. Really showed off how useful Firebug was for jQuery development.
The "Ask the Ajax Experts" panel was interesting, but everyone involved in this session needs to learn a little bit about how a panel works. Basically with the VERY long answers and the number of questions that Ben and Dion asked, there really wasn't much time to get questions from the audience.
Next up was my session on the Ajax Toolkit Framework. I thought it went well, although I need more content for my presentation. I was 20 minutes short.
After my presentation, I skipped out to meet with a friend over at IBM Research.
Friday morning I didn't have a lot of time before my flight, but I caught Aza Raskin from Humanized talking about the ZIA or Zen Internet Application. This was a really interesting presentation that really got me thinking about the best way to do microformat UI. I'm still thinking.
Next time I'll plan less stuff on the side and go to more sessions.