“Constrained by the limits of your own mind”

This is about baseball:

[N]o matter how much will and determination you might muster, you will always be constrained by the limits of your own mind. Ankiel doesn’t know why he can’t pitch anymore. All he knows is that he can’t.

It is also about a lot more than baseball.

Decompression: a personal appraisal

In conversation with a colleague they mentioned in passing they had been in their current role for 11 years. It was at that point I realised I had been working only for 9 years in total – I don’t celebrate my ten-year work anniversary until June 2015.

This provided a useful perspective and set off a series of interconnected, personal thoughts about where I have been, where I am and where I’m going.

Orson Welles, when asked about why he achieved what he did in making Citizen Kane at the age of 26, said it was due to arrogance and ignorance. He didn’t know what was and wasn’t achievable in film and so simply went about achieving what he wanted to.

There is a whole literature dedicated to age-achievement curves, broadly considering at what age significant contributions to different disciplines are made. In a paper on age and scientific genius, Jones, Reedy and Weinberg[1] note that the median age of “great achievement” (typically Nobel prize-winning contributions or equivalent) is 37 in maths, 40 in physics, 43 in engineering, and 45 in surgery and psychology.

Age-achievement curves

Exploring these differences in more detail, it is noted:

people who excel in abstract fields, like art or physics, tend to be younger than those who win prizes in fields that require more context, like history or medicine.

Even within abstract fields there are variations: theorists generally make their greatest contributions earlier than those who are “experimental” by just over 4.5 years.

If we look to the humanities we see that great contributions tend to come later in life: the average age of Nobel laureates for literature is 65 and for economics is 67.

Nobel laureate ages

There are basic reasons for these age-achievement curves:

The most obvious factor is education: Scientists spend ages 5 through 18 in school, and then ages 18 through 30ish getting their academic degrees. Then a few years of learning on the job… Meanwhile, scientific breakthroughs tend to be less common in old age because we invest less in learning as we get older, and our skills gradually become less relevant.

and

The most important conceptual work typically involve radical departures from existing paradigms, and the ability to identify and appreciate these radical departures may be greatest shortly after initial exposure to a paradigm, before it has been fully assimilated.

Is there an equivalent age-achievement relationship in public services and the public officials who run them? It is difficult to know because arguments can be made either way – for people being younger or older when they make/made a significant contribution – and I don’t think there’s a literature that has considered this question[2].

My feeling is that people are probably older when they make significant contributions to public services. Assuming it is possible to attribute changes to the effects of one particular individual, making that change happen requires things like seniority, the ability to persuade others, and having the chance to build a reputation over time – characteristics that come, mainly, with age.

What does this mean for how I feel now?

As a younger man I was in a hurry, partly because I’d been a late starter. Now I am much less so. The ignorance and arrogance of youth – the things I didn’t know I didn’t know – carried me so far; the ability and leeway to ask questions or offer challenges that other people didn’t was present. This, coupled with a strong work ethic, meant some progress on things I was involved with could be made.

Experiencing things for the first time in the world of work was a blessing. I had fresh eyes. There was no sense of the routine, no jaded feelings from having been here before. There was no chance to say: “I remember when…” or inclination to lament: “We’ve tried that before…”. By definition, the things I was then involved with and at what level I operated weren’t as sophisticated or complicated as they are now, and so lent themselves to a progress of sorts.

In the earlier stages there had been no seeing behind the curtain and realising the Emperor is at best only partially clothed. I was optimistic, not cynical. Cynicism or the (temporary) loss of hope or optimism is one of the hardest new realities to deal with. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” “We must become the change we want to see in the world.” These are all true and yet none of them are true.

Things change.

Political HorseshoeWork-wise the issues are more complex, more nuanced, more serious; less easy to solve, less easy to understand and less easy to address. The decision points become finer, the judgments more balanced, the action less direct and the influence more subtle. The implications are bigger – for people, for staff, for policy, practice and precedent. The room for mistakes is larger; the margin of success slimmer. It is said that political ideology most resembles a horseshoe; I’ve always found this interpretation compelling, and it may not take much to jump the gap, perhaps even before you realise you’ve done so.

And these changes in work happen at a time when there are changes in a personal life. Relationships, family, children, health, balance, perspective; a slowing down, a different pace, an accrual of experience; perhaps a sense of where the limit of your ability might lie; understanding what got you here won’t get you there.

What does this mean for how I feel about the future?

All of the above are phenomena that need time and space to consider. Taking this time, decompressing experience, so that it stretches out, feels important. In doing so there are more opportunities for reflection, to think about what something might mean and to think of implications in many directions. To think of why? as well as what? and how?

There are plenty of future times. To make the most of the fact things have happened or been tried before, of history, of documented experience, is a benefit. It’s a chance to learn, change what needs to be changed, keep what needs to be kept and work with the people who need to be worked with.

In taking time to truly know where I am now – of undertaking a personal appraisal – there is more chance to absorb experience and to fill in the gaps that ignorance and arrogance left behind, and of equipping myself for a more balanced future.

Notes:

[1] – “Age and Scientific Genius” (pdf), National Bureau of Economic Research. A fascinating paper by Dean Simonton summarising what is known about age and outstanding achievement, including methodological questions, is available here (pdf).

[2] – For example, try easily finding the average age of all local authority chief executives.

“No news is good”: the practicalities

A couple of weeks ago I posted “No news is good”, which captured my plan to opt out of news, social and other media in order to:

pursue the things that interest me and my mind – giving myself chance and space to be curious, to think, to create and to be.

It was great to have various exchanges with people about the move, and I really would recommend taking the time to read Rolf Dobelli’s original essay (pdf).

A couple of people were interested in the practicalities of what I was going to do instead. This post briefly summarises the things I’ve put in place or am trying to help make my opt out a reality, broadly by media type. It’s not at all a riveting read, but shared in the hope it may be useful to others thinking about this topic.

Spare Slots grid

My "Spare Slots" grid - things to do if in a spare ... on Twitpic

By far the most important element of my approach is the Spare Slots grid above. This simple grid enables me to make proactive choices about what I might want to do depending on what sort of time slot is available. The things that are in the grid are aligned with things I’m interested in or trying to prioritise – arranged by the 3 headings of Create, Consume and Cardio – including things like writing more or opportunities to read/study.

The time slots are truly ‘spare’ time, i.e. when family time or work responsibilities are done (or as done as they ever can be!).

What the Spare Slots grid does is provide a menu of things that are important to me, and that are an alternative to the default of opening up my laptop/phone, which often leads to “sink” activities.

Twitter

  • The first and main thing I’m doing with Twitter is to use it according to my Spare Slots grid. This means I spend no more than 15 minutes at a time on it, and so help manage the overall time I spend on it
  • I tend to focus much more on interaction rather than tweets. So the first and second columns in Tweetdeck are @ replies and Direct Messages, rather than my timeline
  • I’m being clearer with myself on who I am following/unfollowing and why. Hard as it is, I’m also being a little less English and unfollowing people rather than hesitating over it all the time
  • Lists are very useful – it enables me to separate specific work people / things and other interests
  • I use favourites a lot
  • Another useful trick is to schedule tweets. This means that I can only be on Twitter for 15 minutes but still post stuff over a period of a few hours / days without necessarily having to be on Twitter myself
  • I use filters, especially with some website links. Thus, I now very, very rarely see Daily Mail or Guardian links (for example) in Twitter
  • The main tool I use to do all of the above is Tweetdeck. This works best on my laptop, and haven’t yet found the best app to use on my phone that allows me to do as much as I want.

Facebook

  • I didn’t use Facebook much anyway, which is fortunate because it’s in no way as customisable as Twitter is. The key here appears to be (if you’ll excuse my phrase) “selective vision”. Thus, if I see a picture with text on it, I just don’t read it.

YouTube

  • YouTube is more customisable than I’d realised, especially using a Chrome Extension that takes a lot of the noise away (some ads, suggested videos etc. – search for “YouTube” in the Chrome Extension Store)
  • The main thing I do here is use subscriptions to channels
  • Similarly, I use Watch Later a lot, and this is the landing page I go to when first visiting YouTube.

Feedly (RSS Reader)

  • I still don’t get why Google discontinued Reader because I find RSS the most effective way of managing sources of information
  • Feedly is my RSS Reader of choice LINK, which allows me to aggregate all sources of information I’ve chosen. This means I then don’t have to visit those sites and so reduces the possibility of wider distraction
  • My RSS feeds are categorised and arranged by certain topics
  • I’ve particularly added blogs / sources of info that explore issues in depth, are high quality or are from sources I trust/respect
  • Even here, I filter the aggregated information quite quickly by using star item/read later systems.

News

  • I’ve basically switched it off! I’ve done this in the following ways:
  • I use a website/URL blocker as a Chrome Extension, which means that, even I have clicked a link, I still can’t see actually see it
  • I don’t buy newspapers or periodicals
  • I very rarely watch television. If there is something I’d like to see I use YouTube or, for flims/series etc. I tend to use Netflix (other streaming services are available)
  • I’m still considering the possibility of a subscription to a quality print periodical. The ones I’m thinking about at the moment are re-subscribing to Prospect or the London Review of Books, but I haven’t done this yet. Good as they may be, I won’t be getting a subscription to something like The Week, New Statesman or The Economist etc.

Personal email

  • The number of emails I deleted without reading was amazing. If I found myself deleting an email without reading it I would instead unsubscribe from the mailing list if at all possible. This has left me with around six newsletters from organisations I like (for example, Policy Network and Nesta).

Phone

  • I’ve removed some apps from my phone
  • I’ve turned off all notifications
  • I use airplane mode quite a lot (partly a battery problem, and much to the annoyance of my wife. Ever the diplomat, it’s only a matter of time before I get a mobile battery pack and not use airplane mode.).

So, those are most of the practicalities. After a bit of time seeing how it goes, I’ll do an update on what difference this has made, as well as reflections on the bit that I think will be the hardest: balancing all of the above with the responsibilities of work.

“If a body meet a body…”

“You know that song ‘If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye’? I’d like–”

“It’s ‘If a body meet a body coming through the rye’!” old Phoebe said. “It’s a poem. By Robert Burns.”

“I know it’s a poem by Robert Burns.”

She was right, though. It is “If a body meet a body coming through the rye.” I didn’t know it then, though.

“I thought it was ‘If a body catch a body,'” I said. “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

I’ve been put in mind of this this morning. Complicated emotions of feeling complicit in something that just should not be and not knowing what’s best to do: to leave it or to fight.

Who knows?

On the quiet carriage

The first class Quiet Carriages

We should get rid of quiet carriages.

They build an expectation that too often cannot be met for the traveler who wants quiet.

The reasons for this are various: ignorance (deliberate or intentional), lack of enforcement (or, at least, a lack of willingness to enforce), malevolence, or a sense of personal importance (on which much more later).

There is also a very practical, though rarely asked question: “quiet” means the absence of what kind of noise?

I don’t know when quiet carriages were first introduced. A best guess is they were introduced as a means of combatting the significant increase in mobile phone usage. People on mobile phones is bad enough at the best of times, but them being on mobile phones while in enclosed spaces where the chance of removing yourself from the situation – such as on a train or bus – makes it entirely objectionable.

Mobile phone conversations are a particularly emotive source of noise because only half a conversation can be heard. The individual is essentially in the private space of their own conversation whilst the practical effect – what they’re saying – is in a public space. This would seem to explain why people reveal what can be very personal things while they’re talking on their mobile phone: their brain reassures them they are actually in a private place. Thus, people disclose issues relating to their private lives, secure information like credit card details or revealing opinions about work colleagues or business partners that would best be left in private correspondence.

As an aside, our relationship with the phone is a peculiar one anyway. There are still people who abbreviate ‘phone. This demonstrates both that phones (I’ll adopt the modern nomenclature) are a relatively recent invention and that it takes humans considerable time to adapt to new technologies. With the phone, our behavior remains very odd. In a work setting, it is just about acceptable that someone may stop what they were doing – even if it was planned – in order to pick up their phone – an act which is, by definition, at the instigation and convenience of the caller. This even happens when you are speaking with someone in your physical presence already. (My reasoning on this in a work context is 3-fold: (1) you don’t want to be doing what you are currently doing; (2) the person calling is more important than the person you are already speaking to; or (3) you want to appear important.) But I find it much harder to accept in a social setting. Let’s put to one side all of the circumstances in which it is either implicitly or explicitly acknowledged that a phone call can and probably should interrupt whatever you are doing. In a social circumstance in which time has been set aside to do something specific with someone in particular, I simply don’t understand why someone would break off from that something and someone to answer an unplanned phone call. Recognising that it is something we appear more inclined to do than not, I further don’t understand that – having answered the phone and realised it’s not a matter of life or death – people tend to continue the conversation!

Our behavior and relationships with respect to phones is one it appears we’re biologically and sociologically not yet capable of controlling.

Mobile phones, then, are a form of noise in quiet carriages to which people most often react. But they are not the only form of noise.

Here is a list of noises I have encountered in quiet carriages in trains: Conversation; music (with headphones); music (without headphones); mobile phone button noises; mobile phone haptic vibrations; mobile phone notifications; computer start-ups; computer shut-downs; typing; knitting; nail filing; eating; tourists; laughing; giggling; humming; singing; whistling; snoring; farting; kissing; extensive newspaper rustling; noises arising from jiggling; children; an acoustic guitar; dogs.

As far as I can tell there are two things that unite this list: (1) each thing creates noise; and (2) they are all avoidable. You’ll notice, for example, the list doesn’t include squeaks made by the train carriage; nor indeed does the list contain the regular announcements made by the train manager (see also: Revenue Protection Manager) or the person in the buffet in carriage F. (By the way, there are very rarely members of the British Transport Police or standard police on a train. I presume it’s the illusion of safety which means they are mentioned by the train manager at every station.)

What we’re talking about, then, is avoidable noise.

And the way we can avoid avoidable noise is by humans not making it in the first place; quiet is, after all, the absence of noise.

But there are two significant problems we encounter having reached this point.

The first is that not everyone would recognise the “quiet” of the “quiet carriage” as being the absence of all of the noises highlighted above. At best they recognise the issue of mobile phones and music being played too loudly. Signs in quiet carriages tend to explicitly recognise these sorts of noise, as do train managers when making their announcements. Beyond this, though, noise is something of a free for all: people do not have a common standard or recognition of what constitutes noise.

Of course, this lack of a common standard when it comes to what is or isn’t noise – and so the lack of which would create a comprehensive “quiet” – is easily solvable. If they wanted to, train operating companies could be far more instructive about what constitutes noise. Short of providing a list of common sources of noise on the back of each seat (which, of course, would just encourage some wag to find a noise source not mentioned on this list and exploit it fully, such as a 35-piece orchestra) they could brief – or indeed expect and instruct – their train manager to highlight in their announcements that quiet carriages are for the absence of all noises, and not just some particular kinds of noise. I don’t envisage them doing this, but it would be a start.

A further measure train operating companies could take is to begin to enforce quiet in the quiet carriage. Where a train manager is aware of someone making noise in the quiet carriage they could politely ask them to stop. In the main, train managers have the authority and standing within the environment of a train to do this, and so I think they should. At the moment, they don’t.

An alternative, which of course you see from time to time, is for passengers to ask the quiet transgressors to stop making noise. I think this approach has some merit, particularly as it draws on the peer-led, shaming approach that is generally successful in reducing unwanted (antisocial) behavior elsewhere. I’m uncomfortable, though, for the maintenance of quiet in the quiet carriage to be the sole preserve of fellow passengers. This is especially the case when train opearting companies and train managers themselves seem so reluctant to challenge noise despite having the authority and moral position to do so.

There is a point here as well about becoming the arbiter of noise in the quiet carriage. If you do happen to ask someone to be quiet – and you need to do it early – you sometimes create the problem of what to do if there is noise further away from you in the carriage. You shouldn’t be expected to wander up and down the carriage asking people to be quiet, but since this has already happened to person you’ve asked to be quiet, they could be legitimately aggrieved you haven’t consistently applied your noise admonishments. It’s another reason other passengers shouldn’t be expected or encouraged to instill quiet in the quiet carriage.

A further practical solution suggested by some is if you are bothered by the noise in the quiet carriage then you yourself can move. To this solution there are two objections: (1) I am not the one causing the issue, and so shouldn’t be expected to move; and (2) if I didn’t want the carriage I’m sitting in to be quiet, I wouldn’t have sat in the quiet carriage. There was a lot of other train I could have considered for where to sit, as there was for the person who wanted to make noise, but I chose – presumably for a reason – the quiet carriage.

The first, more practical problem of noise in the quiet carriage has, then, been fairly well deal with. The second is more fundamental: I don’t think humans are easily capable of maintaining quiet; nor are they sufficiently (self-)aware to want to do so.

I don’t mean this physiologically; I mean this socially. Without exception, it seems those making noise in the quiet carriage believe it is their right to make noise wherever they want. This especially becomes so if there are external circumstances, such as a phone call, that requires them to make noise. Even those who, when asked to be quiet say they “didn’t realise it was the quiet carriage” are, to an extent, willfully not recognising the carriage they’re in because of their own requirements.

The conclusion I draw from this is as follows: the behavior of some in the quiet carriage fundamentally reveals them, and perhaps humans more generally, to be selfish creatures.

I reach this conclusion on these bases: (1) noise in the quiet carriage is the norm, not the exception; (2) as highlighted, there are a considerable number of practical ways we could aim to prevent noise in the quiet carriage if we wish but which we don’t use; and (3) people don’t police themselves sufficiently with regard to noise to convince anyone there should be a dedicated quiet carriage. Finally, of course, the desire to make noise at the (apparent) expense of other people’s desire for quiet is itself selfish.

The public-private tensions highlighted in the discussion about mobile phones are writ large when it comes to the quiet carriage.

The crux of the lack of quiet in the quiet carriage feels to me to be the result of a libertarian streak in individuals who mistakenly assume their (to them) private behavior – making noise – doesn’t affect the collective public good – the desire for quiet – of everyone else in the quiet carriage. Even when challenged – when explicitly told their (to them) private behavior is affecting the public good – they typically maintain their behavior. What’s more, they have the option to fulfill their private need (to make noise) in parts of the train other than the quiet carriage, and yet choose not to do so. This compounds the injustice for those who have located themselves in the carriage that accommodates their preference.

(It is always dangerous to make comparisons, but – in the days they existed – what would happen to people who chose to smoke in no-smoking areas?)

As I suggested, noise in the quiet carriage reveals something more fundamental about the human condition than just a bunch of uptight people seemingly get upset by trifling, noisy disruptions.

Does it matter? Does noise of any type in the quiet carriage really require this amount of thought when there are so many other issues to be considered and dealt with? Well, yes, it does matter. The quiet carriage and the way some people treat it is indicative of wider trends in society – ones that elevate the individual above the collective and the common good. Others have described how this individualism and the consumerist form it often (though not exclusively) takes can affect the underlying fabric of society. To me, being noisy in the quiet carriage is a variant of the “broken window” thesis: if you remain unchallenged for what seems a relatively trivial case of private gain trumping public good, then other larger forms of the same become more likely.

It’s on this basis I have committed so much time and thought to the issue of noise in the quiet carriage.

Ultimately I have concluded I would rather not have the expectation which the quiet carriage represents. I would prefer it if train operating companies didn’t try to appeal to the collective side of human nature and instead recognise, accept even, that private, selfish motivations will always create noise where its absence is instead requested.

I fully recognise this to be a cop out, and one I wouldn’t and don’t accept in other, more serious facets of life. But at least this way there wouldn’t be the disappointment of recognising in such an everyday setting of trains the natural, individual instincts or private gain of so many of us above the collective instincts and public good of the rest.

First Bath Half

Seeing your family – which I did around Queen Square and on the way to the finishing line – is a brilliant feeling. Here's Lyra waving at me. Jessie (my wife) has been a star throughout all of this – I couldn’t have done it without her. (Michael Holman took this pic - thanks!)
Seeing your family – which I did around Queen Square and on the way to the finishing line – is a brilliant feeling. Here’s Lyra waving at me. Jessie (my wife) has been a star throughout all of this – I couldn’t have done it without her. (Michael Holman took this pic – thanks!)

Yesterday saw me complete the Bath Half marathon. It was actually my first ever half marathon, and I had such a good time I thought a quick blogpost was in order.

The idea for the run itself came about for two reasons: the first was an email that popped into my inbox suggesting Oscar (my 3-year-old) could do the fun run part of the day on behalf of I CAN, the children’s communications charity. I figured that if Oscar could do the fun run, I might as well do the full run.

The second reason is that I’m a 32-year-old man who had let himself go a bit over the last few years. I realised there was still time to recover some form of health without having done too much damage, and thought a half marathon would be as good an achievement to focus on as any.

From an inauspicious start (think “wheezy two miles with more than the occasional walk / stop”) training had gone well. It included over 30 miles whilst on holiday in Spain a couple of weeks ago (memorable moment: my father-in-law offered me some water after I’d run uphill for the first 4 miles of a 10.5-mile training run behind him on a bike, to which I ungraciously suggested: “I don’t need some water, I need a f*cking flat road”. It was hot, in my defence.) and both my legs and lungs were going to be fine for the Bath Half itself.

I was hopeful of a sub-2 hour time. The slight competition of some friends also running – Phil C, Kev CW and Kev H – also meant I was keen to do as well as possible.

Unfortunately, I felt a tickle in my throat last Wednesday which developed into a stinking cold by race day. Though I took 4 cold tablets in the hour or so before the race, which I don’t think count as performance enhancing drugs, the cold took its toll. After 2 miles I noticed my breathing, which didn’t normally happen until around 7 miles, and at 8 miles (on the second lap of the Bath course) there was an incline that hurt much more than it should. At that point, I knew it was just going to be about getting round rather than the time.

And get round I did. 2.14:53 is well down on what I was hoping for, but I’ll take it given the circumstances. (I’ve said this to a few people since the race, but I don’t really believe it: I’m a competitive soul and I’m actually a bit annoyed with the time. Still, there will be the sub-2 hour mark to aim for next time.) Each of the folks above ran amazing times: Phil C clocked a brilliant 1.59, Kev H did a 2.04 and Kev CW ran a stupendous 1.53 – what a run!

By far the hardest miles of the day for me were the last 2. It was at this point that the wind decided to play its part, and the last bit of the course is slightly uphill anyway.

Cheesy as it sounds, it’s at this point that some motivation came from seeing all of the people around who were running because of various personal or family experiences. There was also the motivation from all the support and sponsorship that people had given over the last few weeks. And there was also the motivation about the charity I was running for, I CAN, and the work it does. I don’t think this translated into me shouting “THINK OF THE CHILDREN” to myself over those last 2 miles, though if it did I apologise to any nearby spectators.

On which, by the way, what an amazing crowd! The people out supporting runners were amazing: every banner, clap and cheer of encouragement was appreciated. The race was also incredibly well organised, and huge thanks must go to the organisers and volunteers for doing such a great job.

Overall, the race was a great experience, which made me feel even happier to now be living in Bath. I’m looking forward to the Bristol Half in September (assuming I stop hobbling in the next few weeks, that is) and will definitely be breaking the two-hour barrier there.

Not Joan Didion

It’s been a peculiar feeling that as I spend proportionately less time doing work things that my blogging about work things has disproportionately increased.

Indeed, virtually all of the posts I’ve written here have dealt with the topic of Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations.

This is about to change, reflecting a few things that I’ve been working on – mainly in myself – over the last few months.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I care less about work and so am doing less of it; it’s more that  I’m getting much better at balancing – as much as that’s ever possible – the time my mind spends on work and family / play / rest. Plus, I was starting from a pretty high baseline work-wise that wasn’t, really, sustainable.

At the same time, I’ve had an increasing sense that I feel more confident in the things I’d like to write about and the voice I may use in sharing them (partly inspired by people such as Robert Brook, whose newsletter you should really subscribe to, and Paul Clarke, whose blog is consistently excellent).

All of this probably also comes about from it being nearly a year since quite a few significant things happened at around the same time – a death, a new baby, a job change, a house move (though, thankfully, the same wife). I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t attribute some mystical significance to the arbitrary passing of a year since most of those things happened, and so find myself drawn to attempt to elicit some sense of progress or learning from that time.

Which is all by means of saying that I’m hoping to blog a little more over the coming weeks.

Quite why this naval gazing would be of interest to you, I don’t know. But here it is, and here it will be, soon enough.

(Joan Didion wrote The Year of Magical Thinking. My thinking won’t be at all magical, so don’t get your hopes up.)

Having options

There’s a corollary to my post on odd interview questions and what they mean about the value of learning.

But first a diversion.

Professional sportsmen often talk about options: in a given situation, rather than play for one specific shot or kick or throw, they put themselves in a position where they can choose one of a variety of options when they arrive at a given scenario.

It’s a mindset I’ve always liked.

When I started my career, I used to think you accrue experiences so that, when something happens later in your career, you think back to a time it previously happened and apply the relevant learning.

How naïve I was!

Of course, what actually happens is you accrue experience from experiences that provides you with a set of tools, techniques and thought processes you can use to consider your current situation and plot your way through (in much the same way as plotting your way through an impossible question as o’er my previous post – is a process).

As in sport and the process of education, so in the process of building a career: have experiences, learn lessons, equip yourself with the right tools, and give yourself options at the key points in time.

On blogging in 2011

I’ve recorded an audioboo on what you can expect from this blog in 2011. Click below to listen.

http://boos.audioboo.fm/swf/fullsize_player.swf