just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 1 comment on Can success be a formula?

Can success be a formula?

I’ve talked a bunch the last few blog posts about being better at achieving success. This whole notion of being more successful has really spawned in me an effort to understand what it means for me personally to succeed, and to try and decipher what I need to do differently to make it happen.

I’ll go ahead and answer both questions here, and then work towards gluing together a system that I hope will be one that I can repeatedly go back to when I want to succeed against a challenge.

Let it never be said that being the son of Raif nor Nur is easy. It’s tough enough being their son, but then being the first-born has its own set of challenges as well. This isn’t a rant about my parents, but instead a more matter of fact statement that good enough never was for them. And so, in that monkey see, monkey do style that all children seem to fall into, it was never good enough for me either.

That said, success for me has become that satisfying feeling of going from vision to execution in such a way that you surprise even yourself. It’s rare, and if you ask me that’s the way it needs to be. You should accomplish most of the tasks you set out to do, but you shouldn’t necessarily come out of them having succeeded. I guess that’s where I differ from the norm.

The tough bit is quantitatively being able to understand that surprise factor. It isn’t something one can measure or plan for. It almost has to serendipitously arrive as your journey ends. This is why I think success is so difficult to achieve. Not only do you have to consciously do everything to the best of your ability, but you’ve got to get a little bit lucky too.

And so coming to that realization made me ask myself if there’s anything that I can do to make the chance that I get lucky a little bit better.

As a compulsive gambler, I’m always looking for that little something extra. Step one, in my opinion, is asking does playing the “Don’t Pass” line on a slow roller give me enough cash to catch the next streak? The philosophy there is simply stay low, and do what you can to survive until you can really make a push for it when you think lady luck has made her way back into your sights. It’s painful because you’re betting against the popular choice. It’s frustrating because you only win if others lose, and often they lose big. But it can also be rewarding when you find yourself able to take advantage of the tables turning because of your patience and willing to go against the current.

I’m not sure how that translates into organization, measured progress, visible results and the like, but as a mantra I really like it. Bet the “Don’t Pass” long enough to be there for the hot streak that’s coming.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on Understanding organization through limitation

Understanding organization through limitation

I ran leg three of the Big Sur International Marathon team relay as part of “TokBox Too”. To get an idea of what that means check out this map of the course below, and focus on the dip between miles 9 and 10, and follow the route all the way through 17.

My race went as follows:

  • The first mile was too quick. I got excited by the energy of being at a race, and did the first half mile too quickly up a very steep slope, and found myself hitting the one mile point, and taking a 200-yard walk.
  • The second mile was much easier than the second half, and I had completed the 2.2 mile initial climb in approximately 23 minutes. At that point I was really excited about my chances to have a good race.
  • The third mile is a descent equivalent in heigh of the previous 2.2 mile climb. Both Jim, who ran the same leg for the opposite TokBox team, and I found that on the downhills, the best strategy was to let yourself go, and just “fall gracefully”. Doing that, I covered the 3rd mile in 8 minutes, well ahead of pace, and definitely did not exert the energy necessary to do an 8-minute mile on a flat surface.
  • The next little bit was flat with a slight climb to it. The climb was one that I knew was coming, and so I thought that I handled it well. At this point I was well into my ABBA “Euphorics” album, which is a techno remix of ABBA classics. It was really interesting music to run to because it allowed me to be neutral as to pace, but every now and then I’d belt out a chorus just to keep my energy going. I also developed a water station strategy of pouring a cup of water on my head to keep cool, and then taking one sip of Gatorade as I passed the second half of the water station. It really kept me even and pushing forward.
  • My next big challenge was the climb from mile 15 to mile 16. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I just did a bad job of scouting out the course, the result of which was too aggressively climbing the hill, and still having almost a full mile to go before the next relay exchange point. It was just poor planning on my part, and I was really disappointed in myself at that point. Had I handled this piece of slope better, I really believe that I could have finished in under an hour.

As it were, I ended up finishing the race in 65 minutes which put me at a 9:24 minute pace. Really A+ on paper, but I really wanted that one hour, 7-mile run.

All of that said, the thing that I learned the most from this race is the immense challenge of organizing something for thousands of people with the severely limiting constraint of only having one entry path and exit point to the whole ecosystem. The Big Sur International Marathon is run along CA-1, which is an absolutely gorgeous stretch of highway. However, it’s also the only way to get to Big Sur where the race started, and the only way to get back to Carmel where the race ended.

So here’s the dilemma… You need to let thousands of people run a marathon, 21-miles, marathon relay, and two other races, but you also need to let basic health and safety services patrol the route as well as take people who are at check points behind the main pack back to the end gate. The solution provided today was to have everyone behind the main pack wait until the main pack had gotten beyond the 20-mile point, and then to start shuttling people back. That meant that the members of the TokBox teams who finished the first leg didn’t leave their exchange point for almost four hours. After waking up at 3:30am to make it to the race in the first place, this just felt like poor customer service. I’m sure there were safety concerns to consider, and I’m sure that after 25 years, that the organizers of the marathon have a much better idea of how to run their marathon than I do, but this really felt like they missed something.

So what could have been done differently? First, and foremost, I think that they needed to communicate better to the relay teams what was going to happen. I don’t think anyone realized that there was going to be a four hour wait to get back for the first leg runners. That’s a really easy win. Being more upfront about “broken windows” is something that I really think more organizations need to be on top of. After waiting four hours, one immediately sees that the food isn’t that great or that the buses are cramped. One keeps finding things to complain about, whereas I think the organizers would hope that the runners would be reminiscing about how great an experience they had just had.

Another easy win may have been to just get people further up the line. Maybe by the time I’m at the third or fourth exchange station I can say to myself that I’d rather run the last 10 miles or 5 miles as opposed to waiting another 30 minutes. Give me that option. Let me feel as if there’s an escape from the time trap in which I’m caught. I just think that you need to let people escape from the idea of being trapped. Don’t make it difficult for people to figure out where they are, what their options are, and how they can best get to where they’re trying to go.

Finally, I think the biggest piece may have been to simply close the right lane off to runners, and have the shuttle buses going back and forth. When a bus is full, then it moves forward, and you have as many safety officials as needed behind the pack to make this possible. Even if all this does is move people from exchange one to exchange two until there are more safety officers, what it allows is that as soon as the ability to get back is there, then it will happen. Be able to deliver upon the message you gave in a bare minimum form.

I do have to say that I had a great time during my run, and that I would definitely do it again given the chance. My form really impressed me, and I had a really great view of some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. I also learned a thing or two about setting expectations, and making sure to deliver against them.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 4 comments on Learning to succeed

Learning to succeed

I think that one thing that I do very poorly is succeed. Succeed in the sense that I dream it, I build it, and execute it successfully. This idea goes much deeper than the lunch table “state school” jokes. Instead, it’s something that I’ve really been thinking about lately.

As an example, I went to a soccer tryout today. I think I did really well. I played smart; I wasn’t in as great a shape as I would like, but I was fit; and I think that I showed my strengths. My goal for the last year or so has been to get into good enough shape to be a contributor for a team at a higher division than the one in which I’ve been playing. I think that tonight I pulled that off, but it’s really the first time in a long time where I’ve had that sense of really accomplishing something long term. I played soccer my whole life, and I never felt as if I made a team on which there was competition for my position. Doing well tonight was a big mental milestone to overcome. Nothing is set in stone yet, but regardless of the end result, I really feel like I came out of the experience better. If not because I made the team, then because I’m in a much better state of mind about my health and form.

I’m not sure where the inability to, or general lack in confidence in my ability to, succeed comes from. It may be the last bits of looking back over the last five years, and trying to figure out where I got better and at what.When I look back now, it’s such a blur that I really don’t know how to consume it all. I have one particular program I wrote that I’m still in love with to this day. I had 2 internships that I absolutely loved. I have a group of friends who have stayed with me through thick and thin. Those are all good things, but it’s hard to label them as successes as I see success now.

All of that said, I definitely find myself tackling the issue head on. I’ve got the 10 resolutions for 2010, which are so far going quite well. I’ve got 2 or 3 projects at work against which I track daily progress against a larger goal. One is nearly finished. A second is dreadfully far behind, while a third is just getting started. This idea of doing things in a public eye as a form of public pressure to commit and delivery has been good for me. As an example, I gave up soda today to make sure that I reach my 25 lbs. lost by June 1st deadline. Both the deadline itself, and this new goal, are really tough challenges where I’d really like to succeed, and placing them out for public consumption makes it easier for me.

Nonetheless, I’m still interested in why I have to be so strong handed about this. I guess in my gut I know that everyone works hard for success, but every now and then I convince myself that it just comes easier for others. It’s pretty late, and this feels really incomplete, but I think I’m going to publish it anyway. I think the underlying issue I’m facing here is finding the balance between my personal bar for success, my desire to never disappoint people and the reality that both of the previous items are both probably unattainable.

Won’t stop me from trying though.

the Self essay, Uncategorized 1 comment on The Self – Awareness – Building the scenario

The Self – Awareness – Building the scenario

This blog post will introduce a basic scenario around which I hope to build the story through which I’ll explain my thesis.


Two people are at a table sitting across from each other. A third person joins them sitting at the end of the table between the two. The newcomer challenges the two who have been at the table to individually write down ten things around them which they alone could have noticed. Is it possible to know what your opposite will write down so as not to have any duplicates?

I believe that in searching for the answer to this question we will arrive at a better understanding of what it means to be aware, and the relationship between awareness and Self .

To begin with, I claim that to guarantee that there can’t be duplicates, the third party must know that both list makers know not only about what they are aware of, but also about what their opposite are, and are not, aware of. The third party introduces the game knowing that it’s possible that the lists can be made without duplicates. Here I introduce a set of paradoxes.

From the perspective of the list makers I ask:

  • How can one know that something was not observed if in fact I have myself observed it?

and from the perspective of the third party I ask:

  • How can I know that these two individuals are aware of not only themselves, and the moment in which we found them, but also of their opposites, and the perception of the moment as their opposite sees it, as well?

I hypothesize that the list makers find themselves in a sanctuary. The list makers, assuming that they are in their most simple form, are most likely cognizant of the conversation they are having, and little else. There may be some understanding that there are a collection of other conversations and moments around them, but these are little more than unheralded distractions external to their own bubble. I’m not sure if this bubble has a name, and so I’ll refer to it as the sanctuary. The name is fitting as the intimacy of this level of awareness, and the naivety which come with it can be regarded as a sanctuary from being aware of the collection of greater moments of which the list makers are a part.

The first paradox is really framed as a question of asking where the boundaries of the sanctuary lie. While the initial reaction is to immediately draw the boundaries as they are most easily conceived, I think I’ll be able to show that perceived boundaries tend to limit where as discovered boundaries tend to liberate. The challenge however is understanding the difference between the two not only in the context of oneself, but of the moment and the opposite party as well. It is the lack of rigid boundaries which leaves the question unanswered.

So then given that the individuals who are within the bounds of the sanctuary are not aware of where these bounds lie, then how can any third individual know that they are capable of being aware of each other so as to play this game with the hope that two non-overlapping lists are possible? The second paradox is one which I’ve spent a lot of time thinking through, and have had very little success resolving. It’s something that will hopefully be discovered as I move forward through this process. I think the second paradox is actually the more relevant of the two as it challenges one to have faith that any two individuals are capable of understanding each other and the world around them so as to have benefitted from their interaction. This test is a daily occurrence, and one that I would argue people constantly fail. I want to understand why.

I think this basic scenario gives a framework around which to explore how the aware Self can resolve the paradoxes confronted by the actors.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]