I started my career working in the semiconductor industry back in the early 90’s. By that time, Intel had firmly established itself as the leader in the microprocessor space. They were in the process of moving their 486 to mainstream production. In fact, the first personal computer I purchased had a 486 processor that operated at a blazing 20MHz.
Being inside the industry, I was generally in awe of Intel. They were on the cutting edge of semiconductor development. They were the creator and keeper of Moore’s Law, which stated the number of transistors on a computer chip would double every two years. It was a law which drove Intel for over 50 years.
Given my history in the industry, and on the recommendation of a good friend and a trusted recommendation source (Brad Feld’s blog), The Intel Trinity: How Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove Built the World’s Most Important Company by Michael S. Malone felt like an interesting book to read. I’ve read quite a few biographical business books, but never one that was directly related to industry I was involved in. That reason alone had me eager to learn more about how the most influential company in the semiconductor industry came to be.
In The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor makes numerous references to the work of his mentor Tal Ben-Shahar, who he studied under at Harvard. Given how much I liked Achor’s book, I figured it would behoove me to read some of Shahar’s work. I decided to start with Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. It seemed like it would be a good follow-up that would reinforce what I had read in The Happiness Advantage. It also fit in very nicely with the goals and theme of my morning reading activity.
My latest life experiment is taking up the practice of meditation. Since practicing meditation appears regularly in my readings, I wanted to explore and experience it first hand. Some of the benefits I read about from those who meditate consistently are peace of mind, a sense of calm, and ability to focus on the important things in life. I don’t know about you, but those all sound like pretty good things to me.
I’m too early in my meditation activities to say that it has made an impact or changed my outlook on life significantly. I’m reminded regularly by the guided mediation app I use, Headspace (which, by the way, I think is great and really enjoy), that if we are only interested in the results from meditation that we defeat the purpose. The process of meditating and self discovery is the purpose.
One of the recurring themes I have picked up on from my first 45 days of meditation is being present, being mindful, living in the moment. It hadn’t occurred to me prior to meditating how hard it is for us to truly do this on a regular basis. It’s so easy for us to get caught up reliving our past or being anxious about the future. What’s interesting is that we can’t change our past, and we can’t control how the future unfolds. The only thing we can control is what happens now, in this moment.
One of the better habits I’ve developed over the last couple of years is setting aside 10-20 minutes in the morning to read. The books I read during this time are geared toward personal development. They are about business, leadership, personal growth, and related topics. As someone told me a few years ago, if you’re able to read 10-15 pages a day, you end up completing a book every month. Over the last two years, I’ve read over 25 books this way.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Start With Why by Simon Sinek ended up as one of my morning reads. It was recommended through Sean Murphy’s blog that I follow, SKMurphy. The book’s also highly rated and has received plenty of positive press since it’s release in 2009. Given the short shelf life of most business books, part of my curiosity was to see if the ideas in the book were still relevant almost 10 years later.
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.