A (Programmer’s) Life Shouldn’t Be Lonely

Reminders of Friends
Reminders of Friends
Oftentimes, programming is a lonely activity. Whether alone in a coffee shop with our headphones on or in an office behind closed doors, most of the magic happens in solitude. Oftentimes, it has to. If we’re paying attention to someone in a conversation, we’re obviously not paying attention to the text on the computer screen. However, we must never forget that no matter how important the work is, the fact that we’re human and need interaction takes higher precedence.

The picture above is the top shelf of my desk. It sits above my computer screens at home and rightfully so. The things on that shelf are of higher importance than anything that transpires on the screens below it. If I may indulge, lemme explain what those items are from left to right. I’ll also cover who those items represent to me, the ideals those people helped build in me, and how that affects my professional life. Continue reading “A (Programmer’s) Life Shouldn’t Be Lonely”

My Purpose in Life

The title should really be, “My Purpose in my Professional Life.” But that doesn’t flow as nicely or grab you buy the emotions, so I shrank it down to “My Purpose in Life.”

Some Background

If you’re lucky, you’re one of those people who’ve known exactly what your purpose in life was since high school or college. If you’re extremely lucky, you’ve known since you were a kid. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that way for me. I barely figured it out this morning, after a little more than 37 years of being me. That’s almost 20 years AFTER joining the workforce, where I was supposed to be executing upon that purpose.

For some, their purpose in life is wrapped up in a single goal or series of related goals. For example, “I want to be the best basketball player…on my team” then morphs to “…at my school” and then “…in the (W)NBA” and lastly “…of all time.” Now, for me, my purpose is not like that.

For me, my purpose in life is something that I’ve been hoping for to provide guidance. I like to do many things as evident in these two separate posts. A lot of different things make me happy. I have a ton of crazy ideas, and I get more ideas all the time. In fact, I just had a great new biz idea this morning. When the ideas hatch though, I invariably ask, “Will this make me happy? Will this be fulfilling for me in the long run?” Most of the time, I would answer, “I don’t know” because again, I didn’t know my purpose so how could I know if this would work towards it? Continue reading “My Purpose in Life”

3 Things I Live For

Sidenote: Faith and family come before the three things below. That should go without saying, but figured I should say it regardless. You can read up the details on faith and family in this post over on my spiritual blog, if you’re into that sorta thing.

My biz card with a quote I wrote
My biz card with a quote I wrote

Our Time Is Short, So Have Fun

I’m not sure what got me thinking on this tangent. It could’ve been my daily analysis of life. It could’ve been me contemplating what to do professionally. Regardless, for some reason, I started to boil down what makes me happy as a person.

For those of you that have met me in person, and hopefully for those of you that just met me via this blog, it’s probably obvious that I’m a simple person with simple pleasures. While I often cloud my life with drama, stress and desires for false happiness (via some new gadget), there’s basically just 3 things that make me happy:

  1. Sharing a good meal
  2. Getting lost in the written word
  3. Learning to solve a new problem

Continue reading “3 Things I Live For”

Helping Change the System

I’ve spent a longtime thinking about this post. Is it perfect? No. Is this the way I live my life? Not fully…yet. Is it something I’m gearing towards? A bit more each day. Is it something I hope happens? For the sake of my kids and grandkids, yes.

Much like a legal document, let’s define something at the start to ensure we’re on the same page. When I use the word System (note the capital “S”) in this article, I’m referring to mass media and big business. I’ll leave the topics of Wall Street and our government for some other (far distant) day.

The only way to bring down the System is by depriving it of life. Yes, this could be achieved by violent actions, but I’m not a violent kind of guy. Instead, I’m thinking of something that will bring about the same effect, but will use positivity and humanity to starve the system of the money it needs to survive. Because more than anything, the System craves one thing and one thing alone: money.

And who is going to bring about this change? Why you and I, of course. For if not us, then who?

Continue reading “Helping Change the System”

Features vs Products, Sell vs Grow, Corporations vs Startups

Let’s Talk Business

I talk about business with a lot of people. The concepts behind a business: the whys, the hows, the wheres and the whats. One thing that has always boggled my mind is exit strategies. Some companies are clearly built to be flipped (i.e. sold early on), while others are intended to be around for a long time.

In an interview with Dropbox CEO, it was brought to light that Steve Jobs wanted to buy the online storage company. Steve told them, “You don’t have a product, you have a feature.” Clearly, the team at Dropbox disagrees, but that got me thinking.

Build to Sell or Build to Grow?

Up until fairly recently, I didn’t understand people who built to flip. Yet, at 360Conferences, I really did want a bigger media company to buy us. I wasn’t building a company to flip, I just thought that while we were good at doing conferences, we’d be better applying our mentality inside a bigger media company with the resources to fund wild ideas we dreamt up. John was definitely more of the “I want to do 360 for life,” which is why I sold out my half to him.
Continue reading “Features vs Products, Sell vs Grow, Corporations vs Startups”

You Can’t Plan a Business, You Can Only Show Up

To date, I’ve had about a handful of entrepreneurial activities. Looking back, I realized something: You can’t plan a business.  I know that sounds pretty counter-intuitive, but I’ll be honest, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. At least for me.

Don't get stuck on Planning and never hit Implementing
Don't get stuck on Planning and never hit Implementation

Don’t believe me? Alright, well, let’s take a walk down memory lane and let’s survey the land to see what happened.  NOTE: I’ve had way more ideas than this, but these are the ones that I put more than a few days or weeks into.

Idea #1 – Restaurant Paging/Seating Software

I wrote a fat business plan. I did market analysis. I had a team in place and a product being built. Then I had a personal incident happen that left a bad taste in my mouth on the idea. Regardless though, I spent a few years on the idea and nothing happened. I had a great plan, but never had a product, not even a beta product. I almost became the software arm of one of my would-be competitors, though that fell through at the last-minute because they didn’t understand software.

Takeaway: You can have a great product idea, business plan and market analysis yet still not go to market with a product. In which case, what was the point of all the planning?

Continue reading “You Can’t Plan a Business, You Can Only Show Up”

Reason for Serial Entrepreneurs: We Miss Serving Customers

Some People Like to Serve Others

I think I figured out why some people, like me, are serial entrepreneurs: We miss not having customers to serve.

Technically, I’ve only begun one real business (360Conferences) with paying customers. However, I also built up a technical user group that served hundreds of (non-paying) customers. In addition, I’ve done some independent consulting where the customer was another business. The point is this: I’ve done a lot of things where the endpoint is providing service for someone.

I like to cook elaborate meals to achieve an unspoken give and take:

  1. I provide them sustenance, which fills a basic need to help keep them alive
  2. They provide the time to eat the meal, which fills a basic need of helping our relationship grow

This is true of my wife, kids, family and friends. It’s an unspoken contract where everyone benefits, unless I give them food poisoning and they yap on their cell the whole time. Neither have occurred yet though and hopefully never will. 🙂

Business is a Special Give and Take

In business, there’s also an unspoken give and take, but it looks like this:

  1. I provide a product/service, which fills a basic need that the customer wants/needs
  2. They provide the time/money, which fills a basic need of helping our relationship grow

Continue reading “Reason for Serial Entrepreneurs: We Miss Serving Customers”

Cooking Up a Storm Makes You a Better Coder

Sidenote: A companion piece to this post, entitled “Family Dinner: Cooking it and Making it Important”, can be found over on my spiritual blog.

(Re)Learning to Cook

In a recent post, I talked about being a Jack of All trades. I love to learn and do new things. One thing that I’ve forgotten I loved to do was cook. Last year, I travelled a lot. I rarely had time to cook other than some occasional grilling on the weekends. However, now that I work from home, I have time again to cook.

In addition to having time, I also want to start cooking more of the food that I eat. See, I created my own diet called One Minute Bite.(Yes, I really did create my own diet!) The diet requires fewer bites so I need to make sure each bite tastes good! Plus, if I’m eating fewer bites, I want to make sure I’m eating more real foods vs preservatives. I know, it’s a crazy notion, but I’m a crazy guy. LOL

The Books

When I want to learn a new tech, I go buy a book. I figure the same should apply to cooking. To jump-start my skills, I bought this two-volume set from Julia Child: “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

Julia's Books
Julia’s Books

Continue reading “Cooking Up a Storm Makes You a Better Coder”

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

I just figured it out. That stupid saying was probably introduced to me early on in life.  It’s a very teacher and parental thing to tell a kid. Most adults have a hard time finding that one thing they’re great at. It would be unfair to plant the notion that there’s more than one thing.

Here’s the thing though. I’ve lived what…35 years of my life in misery, literally, misery and agony trying to find that *one* thing I’m supposed to be master of.

Self doubt sucks

“Is it art?” I wondered until my portfolio quite literally blew away in the wind one day in high school. “Is it writing?” Fiction or non didn’t really matter to me. I wrote a novel, poems, short stories, news articles, technical articles, etc. “Is it programming?” I was good at it in the eighth grade and it’s paid the bills quite steadily since December of 1997. “Is it conferences?” A short stint proved that while fun, that certainly was *not* it. LOL

“Why can’t I figure this out? What’s wrong me?” Every other day, I find myself alone somewhere (my bed, the shower, in the car, heck, even the toilet) and I ponder that. I wonder why I’m broken. “35 years and you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up.”

See, that’s the thing. I figured you had to be *something*. You had to be a Master of *something*, else you’d be a useless Jack of All Trades. I wanted a sign, from God, from my parents, from my peers, anywhere. “Let me know what it is and I’ll be there. I’ll dedicate my life to it.”

It’s all a Lie

Continue reading “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”