Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Experimenting with WuFoo

So, freshly inspired by the tools and tips shared by Tim Ferris's Four Hour Workweek, I decided to experiment with growing leads for my consulting company, AS3::Africa Systems & Software Services. Decided to use WuFoo to create a simple form to help me capture details of people interested in joining my team. WuFoo is great, very simple to setup and integrate with my online properties (website & blog). It allows me to store files (like CVs/Resumes) on the cloud. This experiment is about testing the level of interest out there, finding great talent and new opportunities...lets see how it goes!

Fill out my online form.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

On Self-Awareness: Happiness Criteria

In my previous post, I started sharing my lessons in Self-Awareness. The post was long and whilst broken down into sections, the feedback I received was that my posts are just way too long to read! So this standalone post talks about the section on Happiness Criteria. Check out the images of books that have helped in my journey to understanding Happiness. Disclaimer: I've not cracked it yet!

Happiness Criteria

Have you ever stopped to consider what makes you happy? I mean seriously think about what defines you as a person, and the things that you enjoy which in return provides you good feelings or sense of happiness??

As I described in earlier sections, we are the result of our upbringing, conditioned to think in a certain way, using a lifestyle framework that closely resembles our upbringing, our view of the world is impressed on us by our parents, family and close friends - until we start thinking for ourselves, and make attempts at stop living on auto-pilot. Our faith, values, principles all seem to come automatically, we live on instinct and on reflex, it is who we are, part of our core being - there seems to be no other way, or is there another way? 

The thought of breaking away from the norm, the group or community-think can be a pretty daunting one, so I contend that most people just take the path of least resistance, and are comfortable with their status quo. I have however, met a few individuals that are true outliers and have managed to break the typical stereotype - these people are few and far between though...

Take for example the typical South African Indian (4th or 5th generation), born into apartheid, working class (labourers below middle-class, uneducated or educated to primary school level, as was my heritage). Life was about working hard, getting an education as best as you can, earning an honest wage, support ones family, be content with the little you have, and maintain strong faith in your religion...

Happiness meant keeping the lights on, having food on the table, clothes on your back and a place to sleep. Over time, one has dreams about breaking away, getting an education, becoming a professional, working through the ranks, being recognised as an equal if not better (than the apartheid counterparts), gaining recognition, reaching a point of achievement. Start earning a decent income, buy your first car, travel a bit, then it's time to get married, soon after have a few kids, buy your first family home, spend the next twenty years working to support the family, pay off the mortgage, family vacations, etc...

Is this the picture of happiness, or could there be more??
Can you really measure happiness? 
What is the criteria for happiness, if any? 
How do you know you're happy? 
How do you know you're happy at work?
How can you tell you're heading in the right direction?
When was the last time you felt really happy?
Can you think back to a time where you were most happy, content and at peace?
How often do you find yourself tapping back into that memory?

These questions from Tim Ferris's Four Hour Workweek I found quite useful:
What are you good at?
What could you be best at?
What makes you happy?
What excites you?
What makes you feel accomplished and good about yourself?
What are you most proud of having accomplished in your life? Can you repeat this or further develop it?
What do you enjoy sharing or experiencing with other people?

I used to have a personal bias around people who claim to just "love" coming to work, that they have the "best time", work is so much "fun", that imagine getting "paid big bucks for something you love and would do for free anyway".... and I still do, because from my own background and experience, I couldn't bring myself around to seeing work as fun, as something you love. To me, it was always something that reality demanded, a necessity of survival... that people who can claim to love their work, are just plain old lucky. Honestly, it is quite a difficult bias to shake off...call it the school of hard knocks...

Measuring Happiness??

"Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts"  --Unknown
Say you did try to measure and quantify your happiness - how would you do it?
For me, I've started experimenting. It starts with my RAGE model - the personas that I've prioritised as being important and valuable to me, in both my personal and professional life. Assuming I can allocate time to the activities, duties, rights to fulfil those personas, then it follows that I should be reasonably happy. I've been measuring time spent in each persona since February, at the end of each month I tally up the times, and check if the time allocations are proportional to the level of importance of the persona...it's a start but doesn't get me to measuring real happiness.

Another experiment I've been doing for coming up to a year now, is measuring enjoyment at work. Every day, I log how I'm feeling at the start/end of the work day. Basically tagging each day into one of:
  • Good (positive state, feeling positive vibes) - I really enjoyed working today: interacting with people, got results, got stuff done productively, won a debate, convinced people to see the light, received positive feedback, clients expressed appreciation, relationships positive, feel like I'm doing something valuable to customer and myself, learnt something new. I helped a colleague / friend, gave counsel, coached, mentored - people gave good feedback, appreciating my time. Positive emotions, increased energy and excitement, motivated and feeling of doing something good, something new, renewed sense of self-worth!
  • Bad (negative state, feeling negative vibes) - Any event or trigger that causes me to wish I could work somewhere else, or wish going back to working with solid UK/International people. It could also be that I didn't win people over in debating, or failed to reach consensus, difficult arrogant people issues. It's bad when I just don't feel excited or motivated and I just show up for the sake of showing up for a pay cheque ("work for work"). I didn't learn anything material, but expended a lot of energy for no gain. Dragged down by negativity, incompetence or mediocrity. Mediocrity of others scaring me that I might lose the plot and end up following groupthink, i.e. become mediocre myself. Feelings of "I wish I was running my own product company", "If i were in charge, I will do XYZ differently". It is BAD because I feel have to put up with shite, because there's currently no realistic alternative path for me.
  • Neutral / Indifferent (neither positive nor negative, neither stressed nor anxious) - basically non-eventful, couldn't care less or more, just run-of-the-mill, routine stuff. Stuff that ticks the boxes, doesn't say anything is remarkable, but nothing bad to cause me to slack, or get negative feedback or even get fired. Work is automatic - I still create my best work regardless, keep showing up, but nothing spectacularly awesome. Motivated by myself and own thoughts is OK. Basically routine, vanilla, bland stuff, nothing enticing - BUT - still showcases my consistent standard of work ethics (no regression). Neutral feelings, almost content with current status quo, not losing sight of my own endgame (work is a means to an end).
So my original thinking was to log these states (as crude as they may be), and depending on the distribution of negative states, which would signal unhappiness at work, should then trigger me into action of making a change: either leave the work or change my behaviours in some way. This is the crux of becoming self-aware, and a little bit of data analytics can indeed help along the way!

After one year, here's what my tracking data looks like (BTW I use Trello diligently):

It looks like I have a decent thing going on for my working life. Some bad days, some good days, but mostly neutral / indifferent. Should I focus on moving the Indifferent needle down, and boost my Good days up?? Probably, since this is most likely going to increase my overall happiness. Looking at my Personal (which is either study leave, training, sick leave, public holiday, family vacation, family emergency, state admin, car admin) time, this looks pretty good (by the way, I don't get paid for the days I take as Personal time).

So whilst I maybe on to something here via measurement, I still have searching questions:

Can I get any more happier by remaining in my CURRENT STATE, or does something need to change (change in my own behaviours or outlook, change in environment - same company, different team, different company same field of work, different company different domain, relocate to a new city, country) to get me to a FUTURE HAPPY STATE???

Look at my example - Could this tracking log HELP YOU OUT  in your current situation?

There's even an App for this!!! https://www.trackyourhappiness.org

Remember the saying "What gets measured, gets managed" - so should you start tracking your moment of happiness?

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

On Self-Awareness

This year I've been focusing on self-awareness, which in my case was really about taking stock of myself in asking searching questions. It started toward the end of last year, when I first began to make sense of a model that I coined as the RAGE model (Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations). In the course of this year, I had applied RAGE to not only a number of my personal & professional situations, but also used it to help guide a few friends and colleagues. I realised that many people find themselves in situations, when faced with different choices, are often conflicted about these choices, find themselves searching, reaching out to me(!). What surprised me most was how I was able to give neutral counsel, often by re-applying the techniques I've come to use on myself - the crux of it is really around asking searching questions. So I decided to use this blog post to capture my learnings to date, as references to the topics I've come across, share them with you...at the very least, I can come back to this post for a refresher when faced with my next dilemma. I myself am still learning...

This post is taking me more than just a few days to write, so I'm releasing it incrementally. There's still some empty sections that will be filled up as I go along. It's broken up as follows, you can read each section independently: