Tag Archives | time

iSad – Steve Jobs

There is nothing I can say that someone, somewhere will say much more eloquently and succinctly about the life and times of Steven Paul Jobs.

Love him or hate him, the man was simply a genius.

I think everyone who knew of him and his health knew the end was coming. Particularly after his recent resignation from running Apple.

However, is still leaves me sad that he is gone.

The news of his passing acted like a wakeup call to me.

I’ve had my head buried in the sand for quite some time. Suffice it to say that I’ve not been very motivated, as if in a long state of burn-out, slump, or “creative block” and its been going on for a while.

This news woke me up.

It’s time to Think Different and get back in gear.

So thank you to Steve Jobs for his contribution to the advancement of technology and for helping people take notice of the importance and impact of design. Thanks for making great products I use everyday like the MacBookPro I am typing this on, and for the Apple IIe I used 29 years ago.

Thank you for your inspiration.

Thank you for your creativity.

Thank you for your contribution.

Thank you for “one more thing…

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Time to Reflect. You’re soaking in it.

Madge. "You're soaking in it"

In today’s information overloaded, fast paced, digital lifestyle there can be little opportunity to pause and reflect. The mindset of “just have to keep up” can dominate one’s thinking if your are not careful. Every once and a while I get present to the fact that I spend too little time “reflecting” on things be they family, work, and life in general.

I’m soaking in it.

Like the image above, (I am showing my age and if you know ‘Madge’ you are too), sometimes you may find yourself “soaking in it” and not knowing what is going on, or the benefits of what you are in the middle of doing. Being a married, father of  3 boys, self employed business owner/pixel pusher can impose virtual blinders that, if I let it, will limit what I know, see, and what is possible.

So why am I rambling on about this? Recently I became aware of just how much I am soaking in it. My ‘inner Madge‘ woke up and reminded me of what was going on. And sharing this with others might remind them to stop, look around, and take stock.

I set some measurable goals at the end of 2009. These were goals I mentally planned on completing by the end of  the first quarter of 2010. Well guess what? Today is the start of the second quarter of 2010. And those three goals? Not met. I went through piles of paperwork over the weekend and found them written down. I got them out of my head not just as ideas and things to do, but completely out of my head. I was soaking in it so completely that I lost track of these goals.

What are, or were, the goals?

  • Publish new WordPress/Thesis tutorials based on recently completed projects
  • Design, develop, and publish a visual overhaul to berchman.com
  • Release a free Thesis portfolio theme

I had planned on these three things to be completed yesterday.

So what’s the lesson in all this?

Two things:

  1. Use your systems. These three goals were never put into project tracking systems I use and broken down into smaller, manageable tasks (basic productivity, duh). I am remedying that THIS quarter.
  2. Reflect more often. I failed to check in with myself on personal projects. All things in the client and family world are moving along quite well. I dropped the ball on myself.

Reflection time is over. I will now return to my regularly scheduled program.

Get back to work.

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A Website Realignment: Day 0

Here is the beginning of what I hope to be a great series of posts. This series will chronicle—in as much detail as I can provide without driving myself or you crazy—the process of reinventing my brand and transforming this website in form and function.

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Paying the price. One way or another.

time-is-money

Today I was reflecting upon a common occurrence among people that I talk to with regard to their website(s).

The people I talk to either want a new website or they have one and want to update/add/delete a design or function of the site. These conversations either happen through email or in person and become a dialogue of  back-and-forth brain picking. They ask how they can do “X, Y, and Z” and I then ask questions relating to strategy, objectives, and outcomes. These are great conversations, and I love having them to figure out what it is people are doing, and how I can help them out. Continue Reading →

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WordPress/Thesis Tutorial: Custom ‘Coming Soon’ Page

WordPress-Thesis Image

One of my frustrations when developing WordPress websites (separate from Thesis) is trying to have a “coming soon/under construction/under development” page so that the public gets the message that things are coming while I and the client can work away in the background. Why would you need this? Well in most cases you have a domain name purchased and parked somewhere. Many times you get a lovely, unsightly, generic ‘coming soon’ page that looks very unprofessional.

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Signpost in the road. Turning 40.

40

May first. May Day. Today is my birthday and you can tell by the sign above that it’s a round number of some notariety. It is an age that to some is a milestone, a turning-point, for others it is a sign of dread. As for me I am actually stepping back and not assigning any meaning to it. Yes it’s a birthday, which is reason to celebrate for anyone, but the specific number to me—at least this time—is not overwhelming. Funny because every year since 35 has caused me more and more dread but now that the day has come I say “big deal.” 40 after all is just a number and the signifigance you place on it is what goes on in the gray matter between your ears.

I do have much to be thankful for at the time in my life. I have a healthy and happy family, a roof over my head, food to eat, clean water to drink, modern conveniences, I am self-employed and (knock-on-wood) have remained busy despite the present doom-and-gloom reported in the media about the US economy. All things reviewed I have it pretty damn good so really there is no “dread” for me to be the age I am. Age is just a number, and a state of mind, after all.

A few observations at this time in my life:

  • Time does indeed fly. Time has the feeling of moving much faster. Days fly by and the weeks are fast now. When I was a kid an hour seemed like forever and now its a blink of an eye.
  • Use it or lose it. You need to move your body and exercise. After 35 you start to feel your body in ways you never have. The solution is to use it. You want to end up in a walker? Get your ass off the couch and get in motion!
  • Kids are zen. They are always living life in the moment. No worries about the past or the future. Its all about “whats happening NOW!” Being around them and their ability to stay present is a gift.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all do it. We let the internal critic tell us we’re not good enough, smart enough, or that people don’t like us. That’s all bullshit. You need to get present to reality and what is really true, not what you “think” is true. Take a deep breath, let it go, and lighten up.
  • Worrying solves nothing. All it does is give you gray hairs, ulcers, and wrinkles, and who wants those?
  • I am grateful. The older I get the more grateful I become for everything in life.

OK, that’s enough for now. My life is calling…

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Get Perspective On Your Stress

My wonderful wife is a teacher at The Thacher School. One week every school year each teacher is required to take on the responsibilities of the T.O.A.D. (Teacher On Active Duty). One of the duties is to give what is called a “TOAD Talk” Monday morning to a full assembly of the school; students, faculty and staff. Her talk last Monday on stress was addressed to the lives of the students but as I listened to the talk it was apparent that she was speaking to everyone. Here is her talk. My hope is that this talk will speak to you.

Good Morning…

  • Stress affects our physical and mental health
  • Negative effects of stress on the cardiovascular system, the immune system, the endocrine system, and the muscular system, are measurable
  • Depression, one reaction to stress, is predicted to be the leading occupational disease of the 21st century
  • 54% of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives

During any given day at Thacher you hear people talk about how stressed they are. We are always busy and have a lot going on. As students you have tests, papers, pages and pages of reading, and little free time. There are complaints of endless work, worry about getting into college, not feeling good enough or adequate compared to your peers. Life seems too much to handle. Slowly we become conditioned to accept stress as a normal part of life. We learn to live with it but in reality it depletes us. If not dealt with in an effective manner, it literally kills us. Learn to live with it long enough and you won’t know what to do without it. We grow into adults who don’t know how to slow down and take time to enjoy life. We equate “down” time with wasted time. Of the myriad of ways there are to cope with stress, one is perspective—taking a look at the big picture—because, in reality, at Thacher, ours are the stresses of the privileged.

Don’t get me wrong. Stress is stress and very real to the person experiencing it whatever the cause. But most of the world would be pleased if a term paper was their biggest stress, or failing a class was their worst worry.

  • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation
  • 1 in 3 children in the developing world lack adequate shelter
  • Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished
  • Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes—about one child every five seconds

In comparison to what life has to offer some, the stresses of a day in the life at Thacher seem almost welcome.

Think about it the next time you complain about being stressed out or complain about your life in general. Tell it to the mother of five from a poor country who walks 40 miles with her young children to gather a gallon of water you wouldn’t give to your dog.

Again, our stress is real and has power to wreak havoc on our being, but perspective can give us a new way to look at our situation and give us a much needed reality check.

Ironically, the things we tend to stress about most often are the stuff of life that is ultimately the least important.
I promise you at your 20 year reunion, the “D” Mr. Perry gave you in English won’t matter even when in the moment it may have been the end of the world or at least your immediate future.

On your deathbed, surrounded friends and family, the fact you didn’t get into Stanford, Yale or Brown won’t matter at all as you say your goodbyes. Your salary won’t matter. The grades you earned, both good and bad, won’t matter at all.

What will matter?

It’s not about the college, the grades, the money – it’s about you and what you bring to the table. What you decide to create of yourself from your experiences.  You will be all you have in the end. It will matter that you lived examined life — one of integrity, responsibility, curiosity and passion. It will matter to be able to look back on your life having enjoyed it all –the good the bad, the highs and the lows and maybe having learned something about the complexities of the human condition.

So that D on a paper? The rejection from your first choice college? Not being as good as you would like to be at any given endeavor? Not being the best? The grade, the college, being the best is irrelevant and stressing about your situation won’t help. A good education is available to anyone willing to work for it regardless of the institution. If you enjoy doing something you will get better at it with practice and patience. There will always be those who are more accomplished than you and those less accomplished. It could be argued that there is as much to be learned, if not more, from receiving a D on a paper as there is from an A.

When it comes time for you to graduate, your Thacher diploma shouldn’t be emblematic of the college you got into, your grades or your prowess on the athletic field – if that is the case we haven’t done our job.

Your diploma should represent friends made over your years here that will be some of the dearest of your life. It should represent hard work doing things you enjoyed and even those things you didn’t enjoy doing. It should hold the memories of having met challenges that would have never been asked of you anywhere else – walking long miles with a heavy pack at high altitudes, a stubborn horse that frustrates you daily, teachers that expected your best work day in and day out. It should represent your intellectual and personal growth as a human being.

So while some amount of stress in life is inevitable and maybe even needed at times, don’t let it control you or become a way of being. Stop and try to get perspective on your life. It is yours alone to design and develop.

As Anna Quindlen wisely said:

“Whether you are sixteen or sixty, begin today to say no to the Greek chorus that thinks it knows the parameters of a happy life when all it knows is the homogenization of human experience.”

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You will not end your life wanting more time on the computer.

Image of guy sleeping at computer

I have been in a slump as of late.

I have been busy and working (thank goodness in light of economic uncertainties). However, I have not taken time off in what is approaching a year. Feeling the burnout? Mmm… yeah maybe a touch. I have been here in this space before—to pre-burnout, then burnout and back that is—a few times. Sometimes I drive myself mad with the incessant desire to keep going, do a little bit more, forgo taking care of myself, and for what? Some imaginary idyllic computing nirvana where all my random downloads are in the trash, my email in-box is empty, and there is not an errant file sitting on my desktop? Did I just hear someone say “pipe dream?”

This ‘nirvana’ may be possible. But to think turning into ‘Jabba the Hut’ eating crap food and sitting in front of the keyboard for endless hours trying to achieve it? For what? I’m the only person that sees what is on my desktop. What kind of satisfaction do I think, that by doing this, it will somehow massage my pineal gland and make me feel complete? I enjoy working on the computer, but at what cost?

Sir? “Put down the mouse and step away from the computer.”

In this era of information overload, rss feeds, social media, email, it is easy to get sucked in if your job is to sit in front of a computer doing any type of job. What is worse is if you have a propensity to be a work-a-holic (ahem), and your career as a digital gun-for-hire also happens to be your hobby as well.

I’ve been reminded of late that at the end of my life I will not want more time on the computer. I will not think about how “I wish I had cleaned my desktop of all those files…” Or will I think “Gee, if I only got that email inbox to zero…” I will think of the people that mean the most to me, of the places I have travelled to and the things that I have seen. I highly doubt I will think of a YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr (unless its pictures of my kids 🙂

So this is a little “note to self” posted on the Interwebz…

Put down the mouse, turn off the monitor, get up, go outside, and do something with other people. Do something other than compute.

OK, that was a bit theraputic. Now back to my email…

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Being around lots of brainpower.AKA “The Force”

braininskull

This past weekend I had the fortunate experience of travelling to the San Francisco Bay Area. I was helping my wife drive her Equestrian team to a horse show at Stanford University. We left Ojai on a Friday afternoon and returned late Sunday night. So overall we had 12 hours of driving in 3 days time.

We brought our kids with us and since my wife was busy coaching her team, I was the ‘decider.’ I got to decide what the 3 boys and I did on our weekend. I smartly consulted with friends who we were able to spend some time with during our visit. We asked them if they knew of any kid activites in the area since we don’t really know the lay-of-the-land. From what offerings were available I decided to take the kids to the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose and to The Tech and what a Saturday it was-busy, busy, busy.

The one thing I noticed while in the bay area was being around brainpower. It’s no secret that there is an abundance of brainpower in that part of the country. It is arguably the tech “mecca” of the world. It could be the largest concentration of technology companies on the planet. I haven’t done the research and would be curious if anyone knows the hard fact and could point me to it. The fact that I am tucked away in the end of a wonderfully beautiful valley far from the trappings of the concrete jungle does contribute to my isolation from like minded people. It was interesting being around so many technologists. I couldn’t tell you if one person or another worked in the technology industry, but I am a betting man. I bet that I could have shot a spitball into the crowd and hit someone who does work in the industry.

It was like living a scene out of Star Wars. I was in the strong presence of The Force. I could sense it. I could feel it and knowing that was cool.

ps. I know now that I am truly a nerd.

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The Good versus The Perfect

rocks-460

Something I constantly strive for is perfection. I’ll admit it I am a perfectionist. I have written about this before. I have recently found myself editing, and re-editing just about everything in pursuit of some sort of non-existent pixelated nirvana.

While this quality can be seen as admirable it can also be seen as a pain in the ass. I tend to lean toward the latter. Trying to get things perfect can and will make people happy. Who would not be pleased with perfection? What is better than perfect? It’s nothing but positive when you have perfection. The underlying question is, what cost does one have to pay to get there?

When I work I do try to get things perfect and it costs me, big. It costs me time and what is more valuable than that? The difference in going from good, which is perfectly acceptable 95% of the time, to perfection is very high. It takes much more time to go from “good” to “perfect” in my experience. For example the change in time invested can go from 2 hours to get things “good” and then another 8 hours for “perfection.” To help out I will use a simple visual example.

Take a look at the image of rocks at the top of this post. The tower of rocks on the left are stacked well. Its an acceptable stack of rocks. The tower of rocks on the right are stacked perfectly. What if I told you that it took 15 minutes to find and stack the rocks on the left. But it took over an hour to find and stack the rocks on the right. To find the right rocks that presented themselves horizontally in a perfect vertical column takes time. These are both perfectly acceptable towers of rocks that look good. But is that extra cost in time really worth it to get the stack on the right? I would say no. its just a damn stack of rocks.

Are there times where perfection is required and the investment in time is worth it? Unquestionably yes. If I was getting open heart surgery I would want perfect, not just good, work performed. But does that simple web site you are working on need perfection? Not really. If it were to come easily then sure, why not? But does perfection ever come easily? 

Is the benefit of perfection worth the cost?

I say no, but it depends on the scenario (pay me big bucks and I can make a stack of perfect rocks for you).

I am perfectly happy with the good.

What about you?

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