Monday, September 28, 2009

Forget Workplace Passion Go For Like Well Enough to Continue

An Article from this Sunday's NYT:


Published: September 25, 2009

IF there is one word I’m rapidly growing tired of, it’s passion. Not the sex and love type, but the workplace kind. Lately, it seems, I keep hearing career counselors advising the unemployed to identify and develop their passion. Then they need to turn that passion into paid work and presto! They’re now in a career they love.

I know I’m being somewhat flippant, but I do wonder if passion is being oversold. Are we falling into a trap of believing that our work, and indeed, our lives, should always be fascinating and all-consuming? Are we somehow lacking if we’re bored at times or buried under routine tasks or failing to challenge ourselves at every turn?

Now before I go any further, I know, I know. In these economic times, fewer of us are worried about being fulfilled and more of us are concerned about simply being paid. But as switching jobs and careers becomes increasingly common, as whole professions are disappearing, we’re more frequently forced to ask ourselves what we want to do with the rest of our lives.

That’s where passion comes in.

So first of all, what is it? I turned to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the director of the Quality of Life Research Center at Claremont Graduate University in California, who has looked at the idea, though he calls it “flow.”

“It’s a state of complete involvement,” said Professor Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced CHECK-sent-me-high), who first wrote about this in his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” (Harper & Row, 1990). It’s when we’re totally immersed in our activity, not watching the clock, not thinking of what others think, but simply absorbed in the experience. He first studied it, he said, in relation to activities people chose freely, like chess players, rock climbers and musicians, then later in terms of work and everyday life.

Although Professor Csikszentmihalyi says he does not believe that people can constantly be in a state of flow, he has written a great deal about how it can be encouraged in the workplace and elsewhere. While he outlines a number of factors needed to feel good about your job or life, two of the major ones are a sense of personal control over a situation or activity and a balance between one’s ability and potential so the endeavor is neither too easy nor too hard.

Peter Warr, an emeritus professor at the Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield in England, builds on this concept. He talks about the “needed nine,” or the main external sources of happiness and unhappiness, not just in work but in life.

These include, he says, having some sense of empowerment, using and expanding your skills, enjoying some variety, having a clear sense of your situation and what is required, and doing something you believe in, as a worker, a parent or a member of your community.

Professor Warr, who co-wrote the book “The Joy of Work? Jobs, Happiness and You” (Routledge, 2009), added three factors for the workplace: supportive supervision, job security and the possibility of promotion, and fair treatment.

He acknowledges that it is not easy to attain these goals, especially now. But it can still make a difference in your job satisfaction, he says, to examine what your strengths and needs are, and try, as much as possible, to match your work with those attributes. It doesn’t always mean getting a new job or career, but perhaps changing some things in your current employment.

“You might need to shift a wee bit for more goodies,” he said.

It would probably be better, Professor Warr suggested, to think less in terms of passion, and the inflated sense of drama that can go with that, and more in terms of job satisfaction or finding meaning in your work.

The drive for passion or excitement, or whatever you call it, is deep in our genes. We feel good when the neurotransmitter dopamine is activated, and that’s what happens when we accomplish a given goal, said Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University. In fact, playing video games may not seem to be much of a passion, but if you’ve ever watched teenage boys going at it, their intensity and obliviousness to the outside world is the epitome of flow. And that’s no accident.

“The way to be happy in life is to set a series of achievable goals,” Professor Marcus said. “That’s why video games are so attractive to human beings — because they’re structured to offer incrementally more difficult goals.”

So if playing video games offers all that, is it as legitimate a passion as running marathons or taking up the violin or becoming a doctor? (I am not posing this question to my sons, by the way.)

Not really, Professor Marcus said, because one has to look at the skills and the knowledge you are gaining, say 10 years down the line. It’s not just about short-term gratification, but long-term goals.

And this is as true in the workplace as anywhere else. Figuring out what you want to do and the steps you need to take — even if the process will take years — is “a conversation you need to have with yourself,” said Anat Lechner, an associate professor of management and organizations at the Stern School of Business at New York University.

Lifetime employment, where the company took care of you and your needs, is pretty much a thing of the past, she said. “If you don’t define yourself and don’t have a good sense of self, you’re going to get lost.”

But there is a fine balance between telling people to chase their dreams and encouraging them to set realistic goals. Byron Wolt, who speaks on a variety of topics to high school seniors, said, “It’s false to just throw out there that you should love what you do.” He added: “I love what I do, but, for example, I had to drive two hours today to get home, and I don’t love that. What I found is that if you love what you do, what you don’t love about it isn’t so bad.”

He said it was like telling people that money was not important.

“Of course, it’s important,” he said. “Now if you want to say money’s not the only thing, then that’s fine.”

Lawler Kang, who wrote the book “Passion at Work: How to Find Work You Love and Live the Time of Your Life” (Prentice Hall, 2005), estimates that “if 85 percent of what you’re looking for is there, that’s great.”

So maybe searching for a passion is not so bad. But it is also important to remember that there is no one way to find it, and someone else’s passion may be your idea of drudgery. And sometimes life — and work — is simply going to be putting one foot in front of the other. Or as Professor Warr said, “On the way to happiness, there must be unhappiness.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Picture Test

Hello Picture. This is a crazy sunset. How many of you think this has been photoshopped?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day 4: In the Cloud

Today I am going for more hard core tech...yesterday was good...a lot of pasta, no meat.

Data Centers are not effecient.....

* Kevin Gibbs - Google App Engine
* Yousef Khalidi - Microsoft
* Werner Vogels -

Is there a possible hybrid between dedicated hosting situations and the burtsting? The man from Google has no answer - he says it's day one. Right this other fellow says yes. This cloud thing is more about enterprise applications than straight up hosting. Also there is no VPN in the cloud. And finally will a security freak like some of our past corporate collaborators allow their site to live somewhere outside of their firewall??

Google says - please use Google apps for your small business development, all this super cool stuff for free. Gmail for your company with your own domain...etc....go to the cloud. And check out App Engine, which isn't quite ready yet.

What is an HPC App???

Collaboration and supply chain will move to the cloud quickly. Data processing might not move as quickly.

Overheard at exit "In the end who would I have a beer with?? Vogels - the Amazon guy - definitely not the Google guy"

Social Gamers: Away From the Keyboard

* Dennis Crowley - foursquare
* Adam Simon - Socialbomb
* Daniel Soltis -!
* Kevin Slavin - Area/Code Games
* Bret Terrill - Zynga

Get off your keyboard and play!

Zynga - play games with your friends on who are on Facebook while you are away from your computer on your iPhone.....hmmm v. use your phone as a way to enable a street game with your friends.

Universal Design
Wendy Chisolm & Matt May

The beauty of it is that designing for the iPhone and applying those principals to web builds because of it's physical interface allows you to be more accessible.

#1 Rule: Early & Often ....don't get me started

Consider accessible early and often. Yep. Got it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 3.5 - Edit Post

Not a product demo but a product pitch....wanted to see how these things work no need to sell me on the viability. ergh

Skipped off to the pOwer of sMall:

Now I am in my element: Here they are
1. make small talk - helps a lot learn new things
2. go the extra inch
3. say thank you
4. become a mini-tasker
5. see the glass half empty
6. make small impressions
7. make small changes

You gotta trick your mind into changing. Neurological studies show that the most primitive part of our brains is afraid of change. So pretend your already there in the change you want to be and soon enough your brain will catch up - amen or woman as the case may be.

Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator:

Thrive for financial literacy. You can drag and drop icons to set goals and meet them. Three to five minutes to set up. 3 minute product demo. I am in ...smarter than the mint.

Enough to be Dangerous:

Kali Cover - Exec Director of Systems Implementation Fox - My Space

Making the Most of the Honeymoon Phase:
- meet the team
- identify key players
- make a good first impression - partly to do with SWAG - welcome pak - Champagne - rolling out the red carpet

- spend time outside the client's office - bring them into your cool space - clients judge your level of talent by how cool your space is --- take them out to golf

- Ask how do they like to work
- Explain how you like to work
- lots of upfront meeting

- Establish the Baseline for your Relationship
*clients know how far they are pushing it and they will always ask for more especially around what you will give away and how much time it will take

- Commit to the team - name the team in the SOW for both sides
- Fully express the the business objectives in SOW

- Help them empathize with the client (each team member must own the project0
- Clarify roles and responsibilities

- inform without talking down
- myth busters and industry standards
- project life cycles

- communicate escalation paths
- set up regular check points

Tips Gleaned from long chat:
- speak the language of your business culture
- stay under the radar
- build it before they find you (time box it for 10 weeks)

must say i have really just once again started to get anther cool hang of this....blogging about the event in the event rocks! and now i get how to make italics and bold. :)

Change Your World in 50 Minutes: Making Breakthroughs Happen

- what's on their ipod playist
- which super power would you choose ? flight or invisibility

14 Ways to improve your productivity

1.Treat your features build like a super power -if we add this will it be a cool super power?

2. What bigger/cooler thing is my (new) thing a part of (my company, my product)

3. Outlyers - it takes 10,000 hours to get really really good at something
a) learn the patterns
b) shorten the duration

4. Deliberate Practice: kicking ass in < less than 1,000 - in specific practice
a)work on your strengths
b) in user experience offer exercises, games, to encourage deliberate practice

5. Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard. Make it easier to have a user have a breakthrough than stand still

6. Get better gear and offer better gear


Day 3: SWSX - In the Groove

Ok Now I am in the groove, this thing is happening live before me but the only way to track the conversations and movement is to be online all the time. You want to know the best sessions? check your twitter. You want to ask your panelist a question go to their name or session name# twitter - still working that one out - can't you see my raised hand? Oh wait we're geeks. Code on brother.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 2 SXSW Actually in Austin This TIme

Inauspicious start with 2 hour flight delay in United's ghetto of a gate B22a. Met a very nice young man, from Austin named Jorge, an accountant with Hilton Hotels who spent a week in Scranton and was eager to get back to home and open to the idea of spending time with the crowds at SXSW.

Finally arrive in Austin only to be brought by cab to very nice looking but wrong hotel. (There are several Doubletrees in Austin). Find correct hotel, not so nice looking but featuring a retro-glowing Denny's in the parking lot. Newly renovated interior makes up not so cute facade and sketchy semi-college hood.

Another cab to Austin Convention Center (ACC) and the conference begins! I watched the video and am well versed in going to 4th street entrance to 4th floor for badge pickup. Badge pickup successful now off to SODA UnConference Meet and Greet on level 7 Mezz. Find nearest map looking people and ask where this might be. They have no idea what I am talking about. Review map for myself. There is no level 7, escalators only go to levels 1 and 4 - where is level 7?? I am confused..thus begins my SXSW walk-about. Entirely miss SoDa meeting in walk about, I was late anyway, but catch the end of today's keynote - some crazy stats guy who predicted Obama would win by landslide - yeah sure. Get 2 tweets from friends at the event. Can't find them either. Go to next event - "Your Personal Blog is Dead". Actually find room on level 3 which requires going down long unmarked hall to outside stairwell packed with smokers and other lost souls tramp around in a square for several minutes find whole new set of 20 meeting rooms. Find meeting room 5a - no one is there. Correction 4 lost looking blogger souls all waiting for a host. I can't take the uuumm...silence and leave this intimate cabal. Find Design meets Agile Development. Plays to a packed room. So packed in fact that most of us end up sitting on the floor in a semi-circle around speakers feet. I try and take in the crowd and am sure I am the least technically astute person in the room, wow are these the geeks that geeks dream about....this is like geek heaven, my comparatively non-geekiness pegs me as a manager. Several people tweet the seesion...must figure out what # twitter is... we begin.

"What is Agile?" -- "What is waterfall?" Which is better....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 1: SXSW from the couch

Tried my first Meebo social chat. Nice interface. Fun little fish running around. Maybe it's just me but I don't really like to chat with people I don't know. Read 3 SXSW're killing me man. Found an old friend at SXSW on twitter. Yes we are all connected.

SXSW Day 1 - Not so much fun

Not so much fun. Didn't even make out the door. Last's nights fever and this mornings chills kept me in bed and grounded all day. In between my 8 hour naps I read about the festival on facebook and their blog... thinking this could be fun...a little obsessive on their part but fun...truly a lot of good stuff I want to see.