I was recently invited to an event about digital marketing. At the beginning of the talk, I mentioned that the material included lessons learned from The Iron Yard, a company I co-founded and helped to run for over five years. (The Iron Yard was at one time the world’s largest in-person code school1.)
After the talk, an older gentleman came up to me and said, “I’d like to have a word with you.” Not sure whether to expect praise or reprimand, I said, “I’d love to talk,” and stepped aside with him. As he pulled out his phone, he told me that during the talk, he’d sent a message to his grandson letting him know that he was at a talk being given by on of the founders of The Iron Yard.
286 days have passed between the last post I published and this one, which is quite a long while as far as I’m concerned. In reality, though, 3/4 of a year of dormancy probably isn’t that bad relative to the general entropy facing long-form blogs, though I don’t have the statics to prove it. Either way, I’d like to think that I’m back in action.
I have many reasons to resurrect this inert writing project: I truly enjoy writing. I’ve made fascinating connections through sharing my thoughts on the web. But the most important reason surprised me: I could feel the effects of not writing.
Since writing about varying opinions on social media and ownership of online content, I’ve been musing about ‘online presence’ as a concept in general. Last night I mentioned to a friend that in 10 years (or less), it’s very likely that some of the basic web development skills we teach at The Iron Yard to help people launch careers in software development will be either an expectation for most knowledge workers’ jobs, automated in some way, or, more likely, a combination of both.
This topic is a complex one without singular answers, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind as of late. You can find links to all of the posts in the series on this page. Here’s Part 1:
I’ve written before that “the interesting characteristic of many of our [online] tools…is that there are very real social (and sometimes business) consequences for people who don’t engage in them2.”
This upcoming week is a big one for me and my wife: we will welcome our first child into the world. As you might know (or would expect), there are a myriad of ways becoming a parent challenges the way you think about the world you live in. When we first found out we were pregnant, one thing that surprised me was how uncomfortable I felt about photos of our child being posted on social networks.
This week on The Iron Yard blog I wrote about my friend and former business partner John Saddington.3 He’s left The Iron Yard to pursue a new adventure, so I recounted the story of how we met, what it was like to grow a company with him and the impact he had on me. Here are a few excerpts:
This is the eighth post in a series on productivity4. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
The concept of productivity is easy to frame in the context of things we need to start doing. “I need to get better at managing my email.” “I need to make my meetings more efficient.” “I need to hire an intern to take some administrative overhead off my plate.” Fill in the blank.
Many times, productivity is as much about what we choose not to do as it is about implementing new behaviors.
This is the seventh post in a series called Making it Count about getting things done and using our precious hours wisely5 .
So far in this series I’ve discussed the philosophy behind the pursuit of productivity and covered the ways in which I steward my time, attention, technology and the Internet. As I promised earlier in the series, I’m going to move towards practical implications of productivity as they play out in my day-to-day work.
Healthy, sustainable productivity
In this post I’m going to discuss what I believe is one of the key components of people who maintain a high level of healthy, sustainable productivity. I use the descriptors “healthy” and “sustainable” because you can be extremely productive in any number of ways and not all of them are good for you. People commonly employ substances (sugar, caffeine, narcotics, etc.) or sleep deprivation in order to get more done (or, at least, feel like they’re getting more done). Too much of a substance or too little sleep over time is unhealthy—something we’re all aware of.
The tricky part is that whether the levers you’re pulling are good or bad for you, the productivity gains are real. Unfortunately, it always seems easier and more convenient to make unhealthy choices, which creates a cycle of tangible productivity bursts followed by burnout or near-burnout—a pattern that takes it’s toll and almost guarantees severe burnout over time.
Earlier this week I wrote a post about following your passion6. The thoughts can be summed up well in a quote I included from Mike Rowe:
“Staying the course” only makes sense if you’re headed in a sensible direction. Because passion and persistence – while most often associated with success – are also essential ingredients of futility.
I would add to Mikes thoughts the point that we often mistake “following our passion” for unmitigated enjoyment of our life and work. We think, “If I could just do/accomplish/be/get [fill in the blank], I’d be happy and fulfilled.”
Christian Wiman is a famous American poet and author. He serves as the editor of Poetry magazine and teaches literature and religion at Yale. Wikipedia notes his pedigree:
His poems, criticism, and personal essays appear widely in such magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker.7
In recent past he found out “…he had a rare, incurable and unpredictable cancer.” In response to the news, Wiman wrote a book called My Bright Abyss, in which he is ” is relentless in his probing of how life feels when one is up against death.”8 Recently a friend shared a quote from the book with me that has been ringing in my head for the past few days. It is an incredibly salient account of the intersection of technology, anxiety and spiritual things: