Seeing Weakness Differently

I played some pickup basketball today. We played a game called “21” which is an every player for themselves game to see who can score 21 points first. Each player is responsible for keeping track of her own score. My worst skill in that competition is keeping track of my own score.

I’ve known about this weakness for a while. I would never keep track of the score when playing volleyball or miniature golf. That information just doesn’t stick in my mind. Because I was weak I that area, I saw it as unimportant. To put it another way, not being good at keeping score doesn’t matter because I’m not good at it.

Today I realized that is a silly way to look at it. Keeping score is still important in many contexts. Being weak at it doesn’t mean that it isn’t important but that I need to get better at it or rely on people that are strong at it for support.

Am I the only one who looked at weakness this way? I find that hard to believe – let me know if you see any of yourself in what I’ve talked about.

A Startup Idea

I’ve been kicking this idea around for years and in the spirit of non-secrecy I decided I’d share it. I’m not actively working on it and have no plans to do so at this time. I haven’t done research on it in a while so someone might already be pursuing it.

So here’s the idea – a closet inventory management system that tracks what you wear, the last time you wore it, how often you wear it, and allows you to share as much or as little of that information with friends and followers.

I think we are coming up on the time when this idea is starting to be feasible. The biggest hurdle is “How do I allow users to track this information in a way that isn’t awful?” Very few users are going to want to put their entire closet into an app. Very few users are going to remember to input each piece of their outfit into the app daily. These are the problems that calorie tracking apps face also. But I think that either RFID or Bluetooth LE can fix these problems. Unlike food, either RFID or Bluetooth LE tags can be embedded into clothing by sewing them into a tag or part of the stitching. The app would need to be smart enough to know what you are wearing simply by seeing what tags are close to it.

I’d try to build it as a free service – forever free to the users. To get started I’d want to go to people’s closets and add these tags to all their clothing and build up the database of clothing. It would be a very manual and non-scalable process to start.

At the same time I’d be selling the idea to the clothing brands. I’d say “Look at all this data we can collect about your customers. Look at how easily they can share exactly what their wearing – down to the item number – with their friends. I’d charge them a monthly fee for access to incoming data. I’d ask them to embed the RFID or Bluetooth LE tags in their clothes. They’d bear that cost as a marketing expense.

So what do you think? Have you heard of someone already building this? Does this seem like a good idea? Does the thought of making it excite you?

Waning Energy

A week ago I was praising a morning routine and how it was making my days better. This week I realized one of the key parts of that morning routine is getting enough sleep the night before.

I’ve had some early morning and late night obligations this week which lowered my just over 8 hours of sleep per night average down to just over 7. I’m dragging. I have little energy to do anything new, I’m not being social, I’m having to force myself through my obligations, my writing is kinda crappy, and silly little things make me angry. I don’t trust this me.

It seems like the popular wisdom these days is that you don’t need much sleep, especially if you are driven to do something great. I don’t buy it. Sleep is critical.

Seasons

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday going ons of life, to focus on the impact of this one thing on you at this very point in time.

It is so easy to forget that everything is changing constantly while we have our heads down in the details of those going ons. We forget to look up to see the fresh buds in the spring and the colorful leaves still on the trees in the fall.

We don’t have the perspective we need to see where those individual details fit with the passing of time and the changing of the seasons. We forget that we must plant things now to see them blossom later.

Rhythms are relaxing. Planes passing over head, one every few minutes. Ocean waves traveling towards the shore endlessly. Each brings change. Each fits in perfectly with all the others. Just like the seasons, fulfilling their purpose as they come and go.

My Concerns with Creating Identities

Recently I’ve seen multiple examples of how identifying ourselves with a group causes us to separate ourselves from those who are not members of that group, including this video and this podcast episode. We separate ourselves from our neighbor with our religion, political party, and even the cars we drive (or the cars we don’t drive if we’re part of the biking community.) This separation is necessary to strengthen our bonds with the communities we are a part of – part of belonging to them means that you don’t belong to others.

I’m writing about this tonight because I read a blog post from a local city council person with one point that just didn’t sit right with me. He proposed a “neighborhood/district identity initiative” which involves naming, branding, and creating identities for our neighborhoods. To me this feels like just another way to separate ourselves. Yes, we’ll come together with our immediate neighbors but at what expense to our relationship with our neighbors across the city? I don’t want separation from either. I want to emphasize the things we have in common and set aside the minor differences. I definitely don’t want to add another difference just for the sake of it.

Group identities can bring us together and tear us apart. I don’t want to bring together my neighborhood at the expense of my city. We’re all Dentonites, we don’t need more than that.

Not About Secrecy

Several days ago I wrote about an exciting new project that I couldn’t share yet. I still can’t share it but not for the reason you may be thinking. Secrecy has nothing to do with my decision to keep it to myself.

That’s not to say that I don’t feel a bit protective of this project’s idea. Part of me wants to keep a tight hold on it. While I want this new thing to exist and don’t care if someone else makes it before me, I want the best possible version of it to exist and I know I can create that while you might make something compromised. I’m also really excited about working on this particular problem and I don’t want you to take that away from me.

But I recognize those thoughts and I can let them go. So why am I not sharing this project with you yet?

Because I don’t want to create an obligation yet. This exciting new project can only be a side project right now because I have no guarantee that we will ever make any money from it, and I have bills to pay. So I don’t know how long it will be before I get to devote meaningful time to it. If I tell you about it now you will probably want to know how it is coming along next month and I’ll feel an implicit obligation to share progress with you.

And from experience, I find it very difficult to share a vision for a project with others. A few people will see the vision immediately but the vast majority just won’t. You have to show them something – you have to put it in their hands.

Over the next few months I’ll be working on something to hold in my hand and then I’ll be happy to share it with the world.

Most Optimal vs. Most Realistic

Many times in life we can plan our way to highly optimal situations that don’t work out the way we want them to. They usually don’t account for human nature and the bumps that life provides to us all.

An example of this is the tree policy that many cities have these days. I know, tree policy? Why am I reading about a tree policy?

Anyhow, many cities have a policy of not planting similar species of trees next to each other1. The main reason for this is that if a pest that affects just one species of tree invades then all the city’s trees won’t be wiped out. Sounds like a great plan.

But then the human nature kicks in. And humans find it difficult to replace just one tree because a pest killed it. After all, there are four other trees right near by that are all healthy. No need to replace that one!

What ends up happening is that the city’s tree coverage slowly dwindles until it is next to nothing and someone finally notices after the benefits of the trees have been lost for years.

The optimal, logical solution to a problem doesn’t work with human nature.

I don’t think that anything designed for human use or with humans involved should be designed solely for efficiency. It should be designed for human nature, and in particular the nature of the humans that will be using it. What happens when the economy is bad, will a tree be replaced? What happens when your app’s user is tired, will they find a shortcut for the process?

Make plans for real life and real people.

  1. All the information about trees and city planning that I’m including here is based upon reading “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time” by Jeff Speck several months ago.

What Would Make Me Join a Community

Early last week I attended a meeting of local techie, financial, and entrepreneurial types here in Denton for the first time. During that meeting I probably spoke out of turn, as I regularly do, and shared my opinions about the external view of that group and the fact that I wasn’t sure that I would attend another meeting. I said something along the lines of “we will all decide whether it is worth our time to come to another one of these meetings and whether we get value out of them.”

As the last question of the meeting, Jack Kearney asked me what I would have had to have seen at that meeting for me to have no doubt about coming to the next one. I didn’t have an answer and told Jack that I’d think about it. Since the meeting I have thought at least a little about that question every day and I think I have an answer.

My answer is heavily influenced by what one of the ladies at the meeting (unfortunately I didn’t get her name) said on the topic of how to build a community. To paraphrase, she said that to build a community you get a really excited and engaged small group of people and then other people see that excitement and want to join and participate and the group keeps getting bigger that way.

If that is what I had seen during that first meeting then I would definitely be attending the next. I picture walking into the coffee bar, seeing a group of people excitedly chatting about what’s going on with them (I know that in this particular group we have a number of introverts, but introverts get excited too!) and then being warmly welcomed by that group as if I’d been part of it for months already. I don’t care what the topics are as long as they engage the group and the group is excited and wants me to be a part of what they have going on.

That isn’t what I saw in that first meeting. What I did see was one member of the group working really hard to organize the meeting and come up with topics but without effort from the rest of the group. So am I going back for another meeting?

Yes! Why? Because I see a group of people that want to be excited and engaged but just need to be pushed a little further to get there. And because I see the future of what this group will do for our bigger community of Denton.

I see the vision of why this group exists and I want to share that vision.

Taking A Break From Negativity

A few weeks ago I reached a moment where I became completely weighed down by some negativity surrounding me. I was being too heavily influenced by people who seem to get their kicks by kicking other people. I’ve been telling myself that their point of view can be helpful, that they can make me think in different ways so I should accept their input.

But I was completely weighed down. How was I supposed to keep going? I needed a break and I took one and it made a huge difference.

I didn’t let that negativity near me for a while. During this while I’ve tried to figure out if the ability to think in different ways due to their opposing points of view is worth the negativity. I don’t think it is. The negativity pulls you down too much.

My advice is to let it go if there is any way you can.

Imagining How Others See You

One of my biggest wastes of mental energy is creating imaginary ideas about how other people see me. Usually I think that someone doesn’t like me based upon some tiny “clue” that I turn into something much larger. It goes something like this – a coworker sighs every time I enter the room, which could be caused by any number of different things, but I attribute it to them not liking me.

This is a colossal waste of my energy. First, I’m imagining another reality rather than living in this one. Second, I have no real evidence about the way that person feels without them telling me directly. Anything else is not true. Third, and most important, that reality doesn’t matter.

What matters is whether I believe that I am doing the right things. I cannot control whether that irritates a coworker. I cannot force my right things on everyone else. So I’m letting go of those thoughts when they enter my mind.