Archive for category lifestyle

Use Your Voice

Quite often, we give up on writing a blog post, an article, a new talk, because we think “it’s already been done, why should I bother?”. For example, we might have finally grasped one of the SOLID principles. Hooray! Success. We have to tell others of our epiphany. But then, why not tell others to simply go listen to uncle Bob?

I believe that, like most people, you follow some sort of news…

  • How do you decide what type of news to follow (technology, politics, entertainment, sports…)? I’d guess you pick the ones you’re particularly interested in, as it applies to your life, your work, your current situation…
  • How do you decide which news channel to follow? I’d guess you choose those better aligned with your own views. Maybe you look for those with your favorite sense of humor, or thoughtfulness, or… there’s a reason (or many) why you choose one news channels over another

Every day, the same news are delivered through several channels and types of media. But why? Couldn’t there be just one?

Different people will find different information through different paths. I find information I’m looking for or authors through my research on software development, on music, or motorcycle riding, on productivity, on lifestyle.

There are news sources I’ll never consume at a given moment in my life because of a number of reasons:

  • maybe I can’t relate to the way they deliver their message
  • maybe I don’t agree with them in that moment (opinions can always change)
  • maybe I’m not educated to the level the news are being delivered…

I don’t mind sharing things I have just learned, regardless of how basic it might be. If I don’t share it, there’s always a chance some people would have never known about it. I can’t count how many times I’ve shared something and heard “oh, I didn’t know that”, even though it was something taken from granted by many.

An example that always come to mind for me takes us back to the first paragraph in this post: SOLID principles. After a couple of years of having heard of the Liskov Substitution Principle (LSP), I’ve run into a situation where it finally made sense to me, and I felt like I could articulate that as an example to explain it to others. I sat down, wrote about my experience, took some screenshots showing the code, published the post, and moved on.

Ten years later, that post is my top most-viewed one (31k versus 8k of the post in 2nd place), and it’s been the most viewed every month. I keep getting visits to that post coming from sources I can’t even read the language, which makes me believe those people learned the topic through my words, through my voice. Maybe they’ve all heard of LSP through Uncle Bob, but couldn’t quite grasp it (which was my case). Maybe after reading my post, they went back to Uncle Bob’s writings and were able to understand it better from the newly-gained perspective.

Use your voice. Get your word out. There is always someone listening.

It may be the tone of your voice, you’re accent, your background, your style, your mannerisms, the things that either frustrate or motivate you… those are all things that can possibly draw people to you.

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Communities and Networking

Just a couple of weeks ago, I’ve blogged about The Importance of Technical Communities (the ideas really apply to any community in general, much like what I do with my motorcycle track riding community). In this post, I’ll focus on the networking side of getting involved with communities.

Every week, I share things on the Virtual Brown Bag; I may share an article or book I’ve read, a challenge I’m facing at work, a successful way I’ve found to implement something. Whatever the case might be, once I’ve shared it with the community, I’ve planted a seed in their minds: should they either run into the same challenges or solutions to it, they’ll think of me. They’ll know who to either ask questions or offer help to, or make connections (“Hey, Claudio, last week you mentioned you were having issues with Cypress. I mentioned it to a co-worker and he has the solution. He’ll be reaching out to you!”).

I’ve talked about similar things when I shared my thoughts on “fake until you make/become it”. We don’t need to figure it all out by ourselves. We don’t need to fake it. Others will help, but we need to either ask for their help or let them know that they could possibly help us.

Every month, I update my “Now page”; that’s an easy way for people to know what I’m up to. A few months ago, I mentioned I was starting to work with Angular. Less than half an hour after I’ve posted it, an old co-worker who I hadn’t talked to for a few years reached out to say he’s done a lot of work with Angular and I should keep him in mind if I had any questions. We also took the chance to catch up with life in general.

Last week, I’ve read Derek Sivers’ writing on how you can take a situation that may not be ideal and flip it in your favor. He touches on “it’s all who you know”, and got me thinking about how my professional career started; I walked to my whiteboard and sketched out my career map up to today, calling out every single person somehow responsible to pivotal moments. How did I meet them? How have they helped? Have I been keeping in touch with them? Have I expressed my gratitude to them?

A good book I’ve read on the subjet of networking is The Power of Who.

Our communities and networks can (and should) be connected. People in my technical communities are aware of my involvement with motorcycle track riders; those riders are aware of my involvement with software development. They are all aware of my activities as a musician. These are all opportunities to connect with people, expand my network, offer help, get help, improve, grow.

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Reading vs Gaming: Where did my time go?

I used to spend a lot of time playing video games as a kid. Loved my Atari 2600!! Shortly after I started working full-time at age 14, I bought my first computer. After spending what I thought to be too much time playing Wolfenstein 3D and Doom on my computer, I decided I should never have games installed on my computers. And that’s how it has been ever since: I do not play computer games.

Shortly after getting my first iPhone (v2), I ended up getting some games on it. I’ve played the heck out of Angry Birds! At one point, I noticed I was spending too much time playing Doodle Jump. Yeah, this game…

The game has a stats feature. When I saw the total time I had spent on that game, I was not happy. I don’t remember what the number was, but it added up to a few days.

I couldn’t believe I had spent that much of my life on such a thing. I thought about many other activities I could have done in that amount of time and realized I’d be much happier if had spent such time in those activities instead (working on my music, sharpening skills I use to make a living, reading great books…).

So I decided to never have games on my phone again. And it has been like that since 2010.

When I first moved to the US in 2002, my first guilty pleasure was a 1st generation X-Box (videogame consoles are ridiculously expensive in Brazil!). I used to play on it for several hours some weekends. I’ve had the X-Box 360 and currently have the X-Box One X. So, how do I handle it these days?

For the last year or so, I’ve been tracking my time spent on certain activities using the ATracker app on my phone. The activities I track may vary, based on what I’m trying to improve in my life:

  • If I feel like I’m spending too much time on a given type of activity, I track it;
  • If I feel like I’m not spending enough time on a given activity, I track it;
  • In a given month, I may want to make sure I spend more time working on my music;
  • On another, I may want to spend more time catching up with friends.

I use time tracking as a tool to keep myself accountable.

Since March, I’ve been track the time I spent reading books vs the time I spend on the video game. When I pull up the app, I want to see no more than 20% of my tracked time going into video games over the last 30-day period. Playing games is fun, but I also get a lot of fun out of reading, and can get even better things out of it.

As I pulled up my phone right now to check the time tracker, I see 76% reading and 24% gaming, which tells me I need to focus on getting more reading done over the next couple days, before I think of video games.

When I do play video game, I deliberately set how long I’ll play (usually 30 minutes, sometimes 1 or 2 hours), and I have the ATracker timer in a visible spot at all times.

Temperance.

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Gave my first talk in Spanish ever!

One of my goals for this year was to improve my Spanish. One of the milestones was to give my first talk in Spanish. It happened yesterday.

“Big deal, you are from Brazil, you speak Spanish!”. Not really. “But it’s very similar, isn’t it?”. Sometimes. “It should make it easier for you to learn Spanish, right?”. Well, I can now officially say it: No, it doesn’t. Quite the opposite.

But let me reminisce about things…

After I got involved with technical communities and gave my first talk in Portuguese, people said they enjoyed it, that they were entertained and learned things. So I kept giving talks. When I moved the US, one of my goals was to continue giving talks, so I had to work hard on my English.

I gave my first technical talk in English to a few of co-workers back in 2003, and specifically asked them to write down any tips they could give me in regards to my English. I know I have a video of that somewhere. At the time I’d get every one of my talks on video so I could later watch and look for areas of improvement. I’m always interested in the nuances of the languages: the subtle pronunciation of certain letters and how it varies when words are strung together, the choice of words based on context and message we want to get across, etc.

The talk I gave in Spanish yesterday is a relatively new one. I’ve only given it once, earlier this year. I was thinking in English during its creation, since the main target would be English-speaking attendees. In the past, I have taken a talk created in English and then delivered it in Portuguese, and I remember getting stuck at times, even though Portuguese is my primary language. I was sure I’d get stuck in Spanish today. And I felt I did.

My attendees today were my very kind Spanish-speaking co-workers, who signed up to my talk and gave me feedback at the end.

Spanish and Portuguese do have words that sound similar. Some of the grammar is also similar. But not all of it. And that’s where things break down. Sometimes, I used the correct Spanish words in a sentence, but the structure of the sentence was wrong: unintentionally, I used the Portuguese struture, which then produced improper Spanish. Sometimes, I said words that sounded half-Spanish and half-Portuguese, because they’re very similar, but yet, spelled and pronounced differently.

My co-workes assured me my talk went fine and the mistakes didn’t seem to cause them to misunderstand what I was saying. That is great and it encourages me to keep pushing it and offer talks for more Spanish-speaking venues.

I’ve always been very hard on myself in regards to languages and I will work hard on the feedback I’ve received, as it gives me very specific points I can focus on.

To finish this post, I’d like to call back to my Know, Say, Do post: just knowing Spanish isn’t enough, just saying a few words here and there isn’t enough… I had to do it, and giving a talk is a way I knew for sure would raise my stakes and give me something to aim at.

Note: I started my talk yesterday showing my acoustic guitar and saying “if my Spanish doesn’t work, I’ll just pick up the guitar and start playing something”. 🙂

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Reading Autobiographies

Prior to March of 2020, I had not read many autobiographies. The ones I’ve read, or rather heard as e-books, were usually those of some of my favorite musicians, such as Dave Mustaine or Ozzy Osbourne, as a way to hear some stories about the context around the creation of some of my favorite albums by them.

I had some other autobiographies on my “books to read” list, but they kept sitting low in priority.

Then, I’ve listened to some content by Tony Robbins where he recommends reading autobiographies. His main point now seems obvious, but I hadn’t taken it into consideration before: autobiographies are books where people share their experiences of a lifetime.

The toughest and hardest lessons learned are likely to be there. The biggests achievements, and maybe even more important, the biggest failures. What were the things the person tried before becoming successful, and why didn’t they work? So much too learn by investing a small number of hours into it.

For the last 9 months, reading autobiographies have been my bedtime habit every single day, and I’ll keep it going.

There are sections of the book that I speed-read, and there are sections where I slow down, to fully absorb the words.

I like autobiographies because they are are, well, written by the people themselves, as opposed to biographies. So we get the person’s reasoning, the person’s memories (or how they remember it). In the case of Richard Branson’s, some of the content comes straight from his journals, which is great, because it’s not how he remembers it decades after the fact, but how he wrote it down immediately after it happened.

How do I decide what autobiographies to read? It varies. For example, back in 2015, I’ve listened to this Tim Ferriss’ interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and learned many things about Arnold that I didn’t know before (such as the fact that he became a millionaire before his acting career took off). I wrote down a note that I should read his autobiography at some point, which I finally did a couple of months ago.

In the case of Richard Branson, I had heard and read many times about the number of companies he was involved with, his journaling habit, etc.

In the case of Bruce Dickinson’s, besides being the singer of one of my all-time favorite bands (Iron Maiden), he’s also known for his entrepreneurial spirit (aviation, writing, radio and TV…), as well as beating a throat cancer (he’s a singer!!)

When I read an autobiography, I take note of people that the person refers to as inspiration on their life; if those people have autobiographies (or biographies), I add it to my list (Nelson Mandela is one that keeps coming up).

A few months ago, I took the Read to Lead challenge, and got some more ideas of books I should consider.

Of the four autobiographies I’ve read this year, the two I’ve enjoyed a lot are Arnold’s and Richard’s. I’m considering writing up separate blog posts to talk about why I’ve enjoyed those so much.

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“Work-Life Balance” makes me cringe

There are countless of articles and resources out there on “how to improve your work-life balance”. In the last many years, I actually cringe when I hear “work-life balance”. There’s just life. I didn’t use to think that way, though.

I see myself bringing “work-related” things to my personal life: from using Scrum and Agile practices in my own life to leveraging my product and software developer skills to my hobbies. I also bring my personal life experiences to my work.

If I’m in a work situation and I’m interacting with a co-worker who I know share similar passions with me (maybe motorcycles and racing or music), why not bring that part of my “personal life” to my “work life”? We can freely draw analogies from things that light us up and bring us closer to a shared understanding of the business context at hand.

If I’m in a personal situation where things seem to be going out of whack, why not bring in Scrum practices that can help me expose my challenges, see through them clearly, identify ways to tackle them, and stay focused? If I see things in my life I could make better through software, why not do that? If the answer to that last one is “well, because that’d feel like work”, it’d make me believe I don’t like my work. Since I do love the work I do, it’s not “just my work”, it’s actually something I enjoy as I live my life.

There’s a quote out there that goes somewhat like “craft a life you don’t need to escape from”. The practice of writing up annual reviews has been helping me over the years to make sure I “live the life I love, love the life I live”.

In closing, I’ll drop this quote I got from Headspace:

Mindfulness reminds us that any separation in life is artificial. Work-life, home-life, social-life… there is just life. This. Here. Now.

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Know, Say, Do

For several weeks, I’ve had the following written on my whiteboard:

I think I wrote it up after reading this post, Actions, not words, reveal our real values, by Derek Sivers, which reminded me of my own post, stop thinking about and just do it.

I’ve been reading a lot of books. But why? Just to know more? But what do I do with that knowledge?

I can find people who could be helped by the knowledge and say what I’ve learned to them.

Or I can use that knowledge myself and actually do the things I’ve read about. Now, that’s a great idea; I get to put it to practice, gain experience myself, and be even more helpful to others.

I can also do all of those things. Maybe I’ve just read about something that enticed my curiosity, but I’m unsure on how to put it to practice. Well, if I share it with others, maybe somebody else is be able to help me by sharing their own ideas or experiences on the subject (This is one of the things we do weekly at the Virtual Brown Bag, by the way).

Sometimes we may do something before we actually know much about it, of before we say it to others. Sometimes we may say something but never do anything about it.

Knowing is important. Saying (sharing with others) is more important. Doing is even more important. But they don’t always happen in that order.

 

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Time, Energy, and Focus Management

There are tons of books and resources about time management. Time is important; one can always make more money, but not more time. We all have the same 24 hours each day, so managing how we use our time is very important, indeed. However, time is not everything.

Even in the unlikely event of having a lot of time in our hands, what if we don’t have the energy to make anything with it? So, energy management is equally important. But time management and energy management are not everything.

We may have time, we may have energy, but what if we don’t have focus? Without focus, we’re likely to deplete our energy and waste our time.

If we have time, we can find ways to replenish energy and focus.

If we have focus, we can find ways to better use our time and and energy.

If we have energy… you got the idea!

Time, Energy, and Focus management. Finding the proper balance between those three points allows us to get more meaningful things done.

I have many posted related to how I try to find that balance under the productivity and lifestyle categories on my blog. Check it out!

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Remembering People’s Names

I have always been bad and remembering people’s name, and that has always bothered me, so I try whatever tricks I learn to fix that. Here are two that have been helping me a lot!

In training, meetings, or similar situations

In the past, there have been situations where I was teaching a multi-day class, and I’d get to the end of it not remembering all of the attendees names. Shame. That was until I’ve picked up this trick from a friend of mine when I sat at one of his classes:

When we’re going around the room doing introductions, I write down people’s names based on where they’re seated. As they talk about themselves (usually answering starter questions, such as “what’s your role, what’s your current skill level, what are your expectations for this class, etc.”), I jot down quick notes close to their names. During the day, before directing a question or an answer at any of the attendees, I look down at my notes and make sure to say their names out loud.

Most people have a tendency to always sit at the very same spot every day, which certainly helps with this practice!

In other types of group gatherings

I’m into Motorcycle Riding. More specifically, riding at the race track. I get to meet a lot of riders at the track, and it can get pretty hard for me to remember everyone’s names. It bugs me remembering people by “the tall dude on the red yamaha” or “the fast guy who cut me off going into Turn 1”.

In order to address that, I’ve added a very simple feature to my Beyond the Track website: as part of the “track day debrief” feature, I’ve included a “People I’ve met” area. This is a free-text field where I jot down people’s names, the bike they ride, the color of their leathers and/or helmets, and any other information I’ve learned about the person (what city they live in, how long they’ve been riding, what kind of work they do, other areas of interest, etc.).

Sometimes, I go months without seeing a person at the track again, but when I do see them, I happen to remember at which track we’ve met for the 1st time, so I can easily find my notes on that person and pick up the conversation where we’ve left off last time.

The most supporting user of my website has thanked me multiple times for this simple feature.

For other types of group gatherings, I’ve been following this same approach, where I take some quick notes about people. I review the notes later in the day and add more to it in order to facilitate recalling these notes at a later time.

Do you have any special tricks you use to remember people’s names and other things about them?

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Questions to the Scrum adopters

Here’s a set of questions I’d like to ask every Scrum adapter out there (myself included). Think of how you live your life:

  • Do you create a backlog?
  • Do you refine it?
  • Do you prioritize it?
  • Do you plan what you’ll do and how you’ll do it?
  • Do you check on a daily basis how things are going?
  • Do you review your results?
  • Do you look at it retrospectively to see how you can do better?

Answering no to any of the questions above should prompt us to reflect on how can we recommend Agile/Scrum to others, then?

We need to figure out what’s important to our own life, figure out what is valuable to us, where we want to get to, and then set up a backlog. Then we should refine it, by adding more information to it, making it clear to ourselves why those things are of value to us. Armed with information, we can then prioritize it.

With a prioritized backlog in place, we can plan on what we’ll do and how we’ll do it.

Now that we’re doing it, we should check on a daily basis how things are going.

At the end of the day, week, month, year, we should review our results.

Finally, we should look at our results in retrospective and make corrections as needed.

If that’s what we decided to do for work, it should also be what we decide to do for life.

If you need some ideas on how to do that, here you go:

* Organizing my daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly plans
* Planning and reviewing my day
* My annual reviews
* Bonus: there are several more related posts under the Lifestyle category of my blog

 

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