When it comes to your meaningful productivity and creativity, this is the only question that really matters.
If you're not doing your best possible work, ask yourself why. What's holding you back? Is it A) you, or B) something else?
A) If it's you, think about your own best interest, and why it's in your best interest to not do your best work. Most likely, it's not in your best interest to not do your best possible work. Then, it's a matter of shifting focus to overcoming your own resistance to your own best interest. This class of problem is about not being our own worst enemy, fighting Resistance.
B) If it's something else that's holding you back, think about why you're letting something else hold you back. Your best possible work has to take into consideration your environment, your constraints, and what's possible. Get to the limit of what's possible for you, right now. This class of problem is about not being a martyr, but rather being a scrappy cockroach that embraces the constraints and strives to be the most highly adapted creature in your current environment.
I just set up an alarm on my phone to ask me this question every day. It's just too costly for me to not do my best possible work.
Last September I asked people to call me out whenever I complained. The first person to call me out would get $1. I probably got called out at least 100 times, and appreciate all of the help from everyone who did so.
It was pretty great as a way of crowdsourcing my own mindfulness around how much I complain (which wasn't much, but definitely more than I had originally thought).
Another interesting side effect of the experience was that I had several good conversations about where the line is between complaining and speaking up about something that was undesirable.
I definitely came away with the conviction that not all complaining is undesirable. Maybe 90% of complaining was the kind I should be doing less of, and then about 10% of the complaining felt “good”, especially after I became better at catching myself in the process of wanting to vocalize a complaint.
Finally, I found that while Chirpify is a great service for giving money to people easily over Twitter, it turned out that most people didn't actually want the dollar (and never claimed the dollar I sent to them).
I'll be posting a new experiment soon branching out to more than just complaints, but for now, consider this experiment concluded.
PS. I highly recommend others to try something like this, building off of what I learned (or not). The full benefit of the experiment is probably only really achieved by actually going through with it yourself.
I like Anil's general line of thinking, especially for “what's happening right now” kind of analysis. A couple thoughts though about why feeds are good for some things but not necessarily all things:
1) I'm not entirely sure that the feed actually does help you “make decisions” any more than the dashboards. The advantage of the feed is that it makes you have a reason to come back, because it pulls out interesting nuggets of signal out of the noise. It's more addictive, and in the context of ThinkUp, it will probably keep people coming back more frequently.
2) For example, what analytics would you want in order to measure the success of ThinkUp as an analytics dashboard? Number of installs, monthly active users, daily active users, number of people on site right now, etc. Keeping people coming back frequently is a pretty common desire of apps these days, and I am not sure a feed is the right metaphor to track that kind of information.
3) My favorite data visualization of engagement is BY FAR funnel analysis (which Mixpanel is pretty good at, starting with explaining what it is).
4) My second favorite is cohort analysis where X is “week”, Y is “weeks since user first signed up/subscribed” and the size of the circle at that point is the number of people of that “age” who visited/bought something/etc that week. It's a lot of data but it is very easy to find patterns (and make decisions based on the patterns) along the X-axis (which answers “as weeks go by, what changes?”), Y-axis (which answers “what was the spread like of the various cohorts this week?”), and the diagonal axis (which answers “how does a each individual cohort evolve over time?”). It looks something like this:
In short: while the feed-model is rewarding as an experience, the task of finding meaning, knowing what you want to know and what to do with that knowledge, is still relatively difficult to extract.
“At least 5 days a week, start my day proactively by doing at least one of these 6 things before looking at my phone: drink a glass of water, stretch, do pushups, do lunges, do plank, review my Look, Look, Look haiku deck (background on the fish thing).”
It's so easy for me to fall into a mindset of reactive responses… I want to make a habit of being proactive every day. Action that starts from my own intentions rather than simply reactions to things that bounce my way.
Want to try something fun and different for new year's resolutions this year?
1.Make only ONE resolution.
You'll forget the rest anyway. Better to do one right than to do a whole bunch wrong.
2.Phrase your resolution in such a way that it is either TRUE or FALSE for a 1 month period.
For example, these are all properly worded:
Go to the gym at least 10 times a month
Lose at least 2 lbs a month if I weigh over 175lbs
Complete 10 pages of my book a month
Meditate every week day
And these are not properly worded:
Be a better father
it's really easy to create a resolution that is vague because vague is SAFE. Better than safe is clear. Step out on a ledge a little by being specific and you'll know for certain when you're actually on track, and it will feel good.
3.Get some accountability
You can do this on your own if you want. Find a group of motivated friends to keep you accountable.
The point of accountability is that you can't come up with a million stupid excuses without being called out on it. I'm volunteering myself to call you out on it in 2013.
Everyone that checks in, wins. Everyone that doesn't check in will be called out in an email to the full group. Ooh, scary, right? No money on the line, no embarrassing pictures mailed out, just simple accountability about whether or not you did what you said you would do to people that you'll probably never run into.
Why this interests me
This is just my latest in a long line of experiments to see if various combinations of motivational elements and course correction strategies actually works for 1) me and 2) other people.
My hypothesis is that monthly checkins and public accountability will lead to an interesting chemical reaction in our brains that actually helps us remember our resolutions longer than a week.
Also, I just want to collect a few minds who are interested in this challenge and who don't mind experimenting with me.
Of course, building a house is also simple, if you have the time and energy and materials.
In my search for the holy grail answer of the question “HOW DO WE CHANGE OURSELVES”, I realize that I've been looking in the wrong place.
I was looking for an answer that was about the size of a menu.
But the answer may actually be of the size of a 2-year college education.
I was looking for an answer that was about as difficult as learning how to build a lego house.
But the answer may actually be about as difficult as building a real house.
I was looking for an answer that cost about $100.
But the answer may cost about $10,000.
I was looking for an answer that anyone could do, just like anyone can write a blog post.
But the answer may only require the same amount of dedication, time, and energy as writing a book.
There's no super secret to it all (after all, Charles Duhigg lays it all out in easy to understand steps). After all…
“Anyone” can get a 2-year college degree, “anyone” can build a house, “anyone” can buy something that costs $10,000, “anyone” can write a book.
“Anything” is possible, but in the real day-to-day where we have to prioritize and budget our tasks with the actual resources available to us, the steps are sufficiently complicated, time-intensive, mentally-taxing, and physically draining that only a small subset of people will find that the REWARD of changing a behavior is worth the COST of changing it.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the idea of a Codex Vitae:
“And this is the other treasure. Following in the Founder’s footsteps, every member of this fellowship produces his or her own codex vitae, or book of life. It is the task of the unbound. Fedorov, for example, who you know”—he nods to me—“is one of these. When he is finished, he will have poured everything he has learned, all his knowledge, into a book like these.”
The Codex Vitae is something that special members of this fellowship “earn” the right to create, after rising up in the ranks. When written, it's submitted to the fellowship, approved, and encrypted. 3 copies are made of the book, 1 goes to the central library, and 2 others go to branch libraries in other parts of the world. The key to the encryption is only given to 1 person, and it remains a secret until the writer's death.
Such an interesting idea.
To pour everything you've learned into a book, to be made public upon your death. A sort of immortality, a summary of your life's meaning and learning.
We should all do this.
I was sort of surprised to think about this and realize that we as a culture don't do this very consistently or well. This, as in, summarize and store our most strongly held beliefs, our most painfully wrought lessons, etc.
Github works really well for this because you can comment on changes, see how things change over time, fork it, branch it. There's something magical about treating beliefs like code. It's the code that runs our perspective of the world.
Solution/problem fit: A solution is a strategy that fits the needs of a specific problem. If a strategy technically works, but is too expensive, or too slow, for the specific problem, it still won't fit and the problem will not be “solved”.
Product/market fit: a product must fit a specific market before it will take off and grow.
Idea/person fit: Ideas must fit the people who are working on them. Tell 10 people an idea, and each person will know rather quickly if it fits their values, beliefs, needs, aesthetic, self-identity.
Idea/company fit: A product idea also needs to fit its company culture. I spent a couple months this year trying to help a team spread the idea of social at one company I contracted at, and it just didn't fit. The same idea is grafted into the DNA of other companies. The quality of the idea is unimportant… what matters is that it fits.
People/company fit: And the people at a company must also fit its culture. Each hire changes the people/company fit of the next hire, and ultimately change the idea/company fit of ideas and products within that company.
A/B Fit has been turning up everywhere for me.
The best A (apple, app, answer) doesn't exist.
There is only the best A (apple, app, answer) that fits B (meal, situation, context).
The implications of this are huge (at least, in my own head).
Quality doesn't exist as a stand-alone attribute. It only exists in relation to the timing, location, and needs of the present environment.
And the quality of those environments in turn only exist in relation to the next layer of context.
The notion of human equality has been around for a long time. However, it has taken a long time for it to fit in the culture (and still has a long way to go). The culture itself has been in a long process of fitting into the local and global needs of its people, of society.
Natural selection is a test of animal/environment fit. And as the animals adapt to the environment, the changes the environment, and changes the test for new animals in the new environment.
Every A must take into consideration its timing, its location, its placement in the hierarchy of power and acceptance in order to know its own chance for success.
There is no perfect glove. The perfect glove fits the hand that buys it.
The perfect computer is the one in your hand.
The perfect app is the one that you use right now.
The perfect book is the one that speaks to your present life. The perfect word fits its sentence, paragraph, and page.
Those same gloves, computers, apps, and books will not be perfect if you plop them a different context, at a different time, with different circumstances.
The heroes of our day fit the day perfectly.
Right place, right time = right fit.
Right place, wrong time = wrong fit.
Right fit today may be wrong fit tomorrow.
Think about timing. Think about placement. Think about context. Think about fit.
The ultimate question for our own lives: person/universe fit.