Over the last 5 years, I have dramatically altered my consumption of mainstream media. The leading influences in driving that change were Neil Postman’s work Amusing Ourselves to Death and Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying. These two books enlightened me as to how mainstream media and technology – the internet, our smartphones, social media, etc. – were affecting me, and our society at large. The messages in these books are not weakening as time passes. The messages are getting stronger and becoming even more relevant.
A couple of years ago, Seth Godin wrote a great post that reinforced the messages of these books titled, What’s the next step for media (and for us)? Seth admits that it turned into a bit of rant, but I don’t fault him for it. I agree, and here’s why.
There is a long list of items that compete for our attention these days. There are the everyday responsibilities that emanate from our professional and personal lives. There are the abundant entertainment options available from television, movies, and sports. There is the online world which covers email, web surfing, and social media. Basically, there are lots of ways available for us to spend our time.
Conventional thinking says the most successful people are able to incorporate and manage all of these distractions into their daily lives. They achieve their level of success because they are able to multi-task, meaning switch quickly and efficiently between distractions, better than others. In other words, they don’t spend a lot of time on any single task but are able to spend small amounts of time on many items throughout the day.
What if conventional wisdom is wrong? What if the most successful people are those who are able to filter out all of the distractions and instead focus on a singular, meaningful, important, complex task? Is it possible that multi-tasking is not a true indicator of success?
In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport explores this very topic. He makes the case that the ability to focus is more important than the ability to multi-task. I was intrigued by his contrarian point of view and was interested in learning more.
For a recent project, I decided to make the leap and go serverless. For smaller or new projects, the benefits had become too attractive to pass up – low startup and lower overall costs, on demand scaling, no servers to maintain or manage. What’s not to love?
For the APIs, going serverless is a no-brainer. Lots of people have done it, there are plenty of examples, and the cloud providers have extensively documented the process. When it comes to running a serverless database, not so much. I really liked the idea of using Amazon’s Aurora Serverless MySQL for the back-end, but my biggest stumbling block was connecting to it in case I needed to do database administration tasks.
After some online research, piecing together a few articles, and a bit of experimentation, here’s how I setup a serverless MySQL database using Amazon Aurora and then connected to it with HeidiSQL to manage it in a Windows environment.
I like discovering new authors. Each one has a unique writing style and way of storytelling that adds welcome variety to my reading list. After I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, I knew I would be reading more of his work. When Armada, his second full-length novel came out, I immediately added it to my reading list. And when it got a positive review from one of my go-to sources for books, Brad Feld’s blog, I bumped it up a few rungs on the list to make certain I’d get to it in a reasonable amount of time.
Running a technology business, I’m always on the lookout for ways to tweak or improve processes, particularly around new product development. As a smaller company, resources are valuable and precious. Chasing a new product that doesn’t pan out can have dire consequences for the business. You want every advantage you can get screening product ideas and determining product-market fit.
We’d implemented agile methodologies in our development workflows, but these concepts have more of an impact on scheduling and getting product releases completed. They have minimal, if any impact on what product or features should be built. If what is getting put into the top of the development funnel isn’t a viable product, it doesn’t matter how fast or how good the product is that comes out the other side. You need to have a good methodology in place for building the right stuff.
For suggestions in this area, I turned to Sprint – How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp. I wanted to get ideas and gather insight into evaluating and fine-tuning new product ideas.
As part of my day job running a web/application development company, I regularly think about the web versus native app debate, especially when it comes to mobile. A recent article on one of the (few) websites I follow these days titled ‘Better Than Native’ on CSS-Tricks got me thinking again about the web vs native debate. It made me consider the current state of affairs and whether the web can and will win, and what it might take for that to happen.
The short story genre feels like it is a dying breed. For whatever reason, there seems to be pressure for authors to write full-length novels these days. In some cases these novels turn into trilogies, and others turn into even longer series (yes, I’m looking at you Harry Potter).
While I certainly enjoy a well written full-length novel, I love a good short story. For one, it makes for a quick read that can be read in under an hour. Second, it’s a great way to sample and get introduced to an author’s writing.
It’s why I was interested in reading All I Can Be: A Time Travel Story by Michael Bunker. I had heard some good things about a couple of his novels, but I figured that sampling a short story of his first would be a good way to see if I’d like his writing style in a longer format book.
A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron had been on my reading list for quite some time. When our family dog passed away at the end of 2017, I decided to move the book up a few slots. I figured it would be good to read as one of the final steps in the healing process. I realize that I could have just watched the movie, but I prefer reading the book. Instead of going into details as to why, let’s just say it’s part of who I am. We’ll save those details for a post some other time.
(For the record, I finished the book last February. Yes, I know. I’m a little behind on my book reviews but doing my best to catch up).
It’s always great to get to celebrate with someone when they achieve a major milestone in their life, especially when they’ve worked hard and waited a long time to get it. Such was the case with Amanda’s boyfriend Bryce who recently became a firefighter with The County of Los Angeles Fire Department. He graduated just before Thanksgiving as a member of the 152nd Recruit Class.
I had the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony, which I’m glad I did. It was a great event, and most likely the only firefighter graduation ceremony I’ll ever get to go to. The ceremony had all the usual speeches, pomp and circumstance that you would expect at a graduation, but it also had a few entertaining surprises as well.
Normally, I like to read a book before watching the movie adaptation of it. Why? I’ve seen one too many movie adaptations that either weren’t true to the book, tainted my memory of a good read, or were just poorly done.
I had quite a few close friends, whose recommendations I trust, tell me that I needed to watch the movie Arrival. Yes, they used the word ‘needed’. I knew it was based on the short story Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang, which was on my reading list. I tried to hold out until I read the story, but when Arrival appeared as a selection on Amazon Prime, I was hit with a dilemma. Movies come and go on Prime. If I waited, I might miss my opportunity to see it as part of Prime. If I watched, I might ruin the book that I wanted to read. What was I to do?