Summertime in Brooklyn, mustard on your lip. I knew I loved you by the bottom of the fifth.
There is that moment of impact when a song starts playing, you hear a few chords, the downbeat drops in and your mind naturally travels somewhere else.
All cognitive friction is gone. You feel a rush go through your body and for a brief moment everything is tranquil. Your mind is absolutely focused on it’s subtle chord progressions and rich tapestry of words that have now formed a detailed picture.
For three minutes you share that composite character’s experience.
I’m sitting in East Nashville right now, my head is with David Nail in Brooklyn at a Cyclones game, sharing his perfectly detailed heart break. His life is becoming a blur, it’s the end of summer and mascara is running down his lover’s eyes as she ends their relationship.
Isn’t music bloody awesome?
This post was written on October 18, 2013 at Barista Parlor
I have been exploring Nashville for just under three months now, lending my own moments to the narrative of the city.
It is a beautiful place, impossible to capture on a single list: micro-breweries, music venues, parks, coffee, custom denim, exquisite BBQ and musicians on Broadway that could be easily mistaken for vagabonds.
The spaces I am drawn to are mostly open, splashed with remnants of 1950s Americana, industrial design and caffeine. They are throwbacks to images described in a Kerouac novel, carved out with their unique individual look and feel.
imogene willie is a converted petrol station doused with antique online casino motorcycles and a weathered leather couch. The designs speak to rustic Americana, constructed and handmade in-house, each pair custom made to fit the individual human figure.
Barista Parlor is a warehouse space that has been gutted. The roll up doors still operate in the summer, the concrete floor has been sanded (the cracks still apparent) and the the walls covered with worn American flags and mounted deer heads. With long wooden planks acting as tables, Barista Parolor was not built for customers to sit en masse over a Sunday brunch. They also adhere to the conventions of Williamsburg coffee, more commonly known as known as the 6oz Stumptown flat white.
Michael Burcham”s Office
Michael Burcham“s office at the EC is covered in industrial design. While he is a figure that represents the “new” Nashville in the business world, his desk is customised and sourced from rail road iron and timber, a subtle salute to an industry that helped build the South.
When I decided to pack everything into a suitcase and head to Nashville for a few months, I took an educated risk. I thought it would be an experience that I would walk away from with some life lessons learned.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with the city or the lifestyle of building ideas. Within the first week, I felt like I had arrived.
The reality of life outside a large corporation is confronting on a few levels. There is never a guaranteed paycheck. You have moments of bringing in large sums of money and moments where you experiment, iterate and fail hard (and often). This requires a serious adjustment to your mental model and no choice but to grow thick skin very quickly.
When you commit to embracing a curve in your career, you also commit to the unwavering instinct that everything will fall into place because the common thread seems to be that innovation and outcomes are spurred when one’s back is against the wall.
When I return to Melbourne next week I’ll be heading back to family, friends, amazing coffee and the city I call home. Logic would have me settle there for a while. Fortunately I left logic at the gate when I boarded the flight back in July.
I am in a unique position where I have nothing but time on my hands, so committing to a bootstrapped life isn’t crazy. I am most tranquil when I am delivering a meaningful piece of work and drinking coffee. The good news is that this feeling is not tied to any location. It just requires the attack pack, Macbook Air and Lucchese boots.
Committing to the curve is a scary prospect, but it yields a payoff that I’m not sure can be found in Melbourne right now.
At Deloitte I was lucky to have mentors to impart wisdom and insight to guide me through the first few years of my career. I naturally looked upwardly to those with more experience and success. There was huge value in this tacit knowledge, but I quickly learned that I was seeking direction for a walk of life that might not exist yet.
I wrote back in 2011, ‘greater wisdom leads us to people who we can learn from and teach’. After keeping my eyes open I realised that my mentors are actually my friends and peers.
Identifying the person that you admire is easy. Finding the characteristic of someone willing to share is harder – someone who will create the space for you to find answers while asking the right questions.
Remember to look laterally for these people. The fluid knowledge of your peers can always be applied to your lateral experience. Don’t be limited by looking upwardly at the success of someone else as a static blueprint of experience to follow. The world is constantly advancing, their experience is frozen in a time and place while your life is happening now.
Edit: From @rexster: “We seek not the answers but to understand the questions” – Kwai Change Caine
Never understate the impact of minor adjustments to your life – they have the remarkable capacity to change you.
While in Nashville I have re-discovered that stress is really awesome when it’s in balance, and really bad when it is not.
I borrowed a copy of David Allen‘s ‘Making It All Work‘ to reacquaint myself with the GTD framework. I have once again found that his models work really well and I’m using a mashup of them to get shit done.
My best advice is to choose the pieces that suit you and use them in the context of the larger model. Don’t read it as a textbook that you need to complete every part at once.
You will learn to identify the horizon you are feeling unsure about: Is it remember to buy tickets for a gig tonight, or that you want to change jobs, or that you want to get in touch with your purpose of life in the universe? Each has subtly different ways to solve and each is important when you are trying to achieve balance in life.
While written a while ago, the tools are 20% tech/paper and 80% mind, applying to filing cabinets and iPhones at the same time.
Since arriving in Tennessee I have discovered three things: Yazoo Pale Ale is awesome, no map is needed because the downtown area is a grid, wear TOMs and they won’t know you are a tourist.
I arrived at BNA airport late last night and after 22 hours in transit I was ready to crash like a rock. I thankfully followed my jet lag tradition: find the coffee and explore. I dropped my gear off and set out to explore downtown.
I’ll be honest, I wandered no further than 300m to Printer’s Alley, but I found beer and a damn good meal (as well as the 20% tip convention). I later crashed at 10:30 and woke up at 7.
It was better to follow the neon to the people than to crash in the room and fall victim to the jet lag.
I have enjoyed decluttering over the winter. Now that I am heading overseas for a while, I want to travel smarter and a little lighter. The idea of the attack pack and mothership was then sketched out.
The approach: the attack pack and the mothership, ensuring maximum range and agility.
The mothership is the Rimowa Salsa Air. I picked this up in New York last year. At 2.9 kgs it’s super light and a multi wheel, making it awesome for airports and longer travels on foot. It has maximum range, acting as a hub for my belongings on the long haul of the trip. I won’t be packing my entire wardrobe, but I am no digital nomad so a suitcase is necessary. In Nashville and San Francisco it will be great to have access to some fancier threads and when I’m on the move it can be stored in a train station locker or with a friend.
The attack pack is the Crumpler Tondo Outpost, 25 litres with maximum agility. The pack is small enough to carry my day to day working gear: laptop, camera and notebook and expands enough to last me on shorter trips with the essential stuff like clothes, travel items and The Alpine Review.
I will continue to refine as I get ready to fly out Sunday, so if you have any thoughts please share them with me now.
In the past three years I have:
- Graduated with First Class Honours with a thesis on country music and disruptive technologies
- Played in the tech space with Deloitte Digital
- Funded 16 projects with the Melbourne chapter of the Awesome Foundation
- Explored the edges of health with Centre for the Edge and my mentor Pete Williams
- Visited Seattle, NYC, Texas, Calgary and Japan
After spending three chilled weeks in Melbourne drinking coffee, coworking and embracing ambiguity, I started to think about what is next.
I have decided to take some time to explore my own edges, this will begin with five weeks in Nashville. With only a few fixed plans, I’m heading to Music City to spend some time in a community driven by pragmatic innovation and solving wicked problems that bring value to the world. It also happens to be the home of country music (double win!). I’ll be catching up with Marcus, hitting the road with Blake and hanging with some of the sharpest minds in the South East tech scene at the newly built Entrepreneur Centre.
If you have any tips, or will be in the South, hit me up. I’m excited to board the public jet and see where the journey takes me. Feeling like one very lucky kid right now.
I recently stalked Steve Hopkins‘ Twitter profile, part of it reads “Decluttering, because you make what you are.”
Inspired, I set out this winter to declutter, hoping that it would allow me to cultivate a fresh mindset.
After I mediated on the concept of decluttering, I concluded that each option adds complexity to my daily process. The challenge became to get rid of the parts that weren’t essential.
A year ago I stripped my room back to a bed, a Bose Wave Radio and a side table. Last week I added a small desk that I keep clear and a 27” Apple Cinema Screen.
This environment is designed for a specific outcome: a place to sleep, listen to music and pump out wireframes.
My weekly items have been limited to a Montane Entrant Atomic DT Waterproof Jacket, two pairs of Dr Denim jeans, a pair of Vivobarefoot Neo’s, three lamb’s wool jumpers from Incu and four black and white t-shirts from James Perse.
The winter splurge was a Deadwood River’s Edge jacket, handmade from vintage leather and 80′s Levi’s denim. This worked for me when I found out the jacket required only 5kg of C02 emissions, compared to the average 200kg for a leather jacket. As the former owner of three leather jackets, this was an education.
I’ve designed my style to reflect my attachment to simplicity. The benefit is feeling comfortable and equipped for any situation. Some people have called my style hipster, I call it not having to think.
I haven’t nailed it yet, but decluttering has encouraged me to seek a lifestyle free from complexity, designed for context and optimised for outcomes.
This 18 minute documentary is an awesome introduction to interaction design and user experience. It explores the future of the interaction design field. What piqued my interest are the thoughts around what will happen in the future when the digital and physical worlds intersect, enabling the connection of colonies that are not simply human based.
Everything is designed to grow and everything is evolving at a rapid pace, including the way we work.
Social has the ability to transform behaviour. The killer experience of connecting through technology and the networks that have emerged in the last decade is staggering. The real magic for me is seeing the human aspects of technology come alive even more through intuitive and user centred design.
This progression of social is rapidly accelerating in the enterprise social network (ESN) world as products like Yammer and Salesforce Chatter work to sync the social fabrics that we are a part of and adapt them to the work environment.
As we step away from the traditional working model of 1-to-1 and towards 1-to-many, it’s not just about surfacing SMEs and providing a platform for knowledge exchange, it’s about creating a central organisational brain and a unified community.
These ESNs represent the edge: where the organisational brain is smarter and it’s capacity to make an impact goes up. They are nurturing the next organisational brand.
It is vital that we help guide that leap in the organisation, both through the people within it and communities that are a part of it.
This facilitates the evolution for human impact, organisational impact, and community. When people are empowered to use and do things, they are more likely to create this impact.
To grow, it’s about listening to people in the network, supporting and guiding them in the right direction and empowering the organisation to maximise impact.
Similar to Manhattan, the Melbourne CBD is a network of streets, a grid. Once you become familiar with your surroundings you can wander around, turn endless corners and still be aware of where you are. And yet, you can still stumble upon a new lane way or discover a whiskey bar on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
The experience of exploring the city with headphones on and being guided by a Google map is familiar to most of us – our destination recommended by Foursquare’s Explore feature or a tip from a friend, the journey of getting there drawn from Google’s multiple layers of data.
The challenge of finding new coffee in the city is a unique one. A write up on Broadsheet drew my attention to Little King Cafe, the map guided me up Flinders Lane and through the arch ways of St Paul’s Cathedral. Now when walking from the Bourke Street end of the city I simply wander in that direction, sometimes diverging from the path, but always ending up at my desired destination.
Mental models generate their own map of the grid, not made up of geological surveys and sensis data but the unique experiences and memories that lay hidden away in our subconscious.
Little King Cafe is now a part of my mental map of Melbourne.
Maps have meaning because they filter out all the chaos in the world. How different would Melbourne be seen through the cognitive views of its inhabitants? Maybe our routes would be different, some landmarks forgotten and others elevated (Starbucks would be omitted).
Of course, the only way to expand our mental data set is to explore.
verb [no obj]
How one presents him or her self to the world. Swagger is shown from how the person handles a situation. It can also be shown in the person’s walk.
While I was in New York I met up with a mate from Nashville for the first time. He was confused by my initially reserved demeanour, it didn’t seem to match the public face he had become familiar with on Twitter.
This could be the same for a lot of us. If I’ve never met you before, I may not deliver my typical swagger right up front.
I brought this up with a friend in Melbourne. He made the observation that I “write about big things online.” He was describing the extension of myself online, my cyborg self.
My digital self is less scattered. It’s confident, direct and clear with it’s intention. It’s the best version of my analogue self.
Until recently I was slightly critical of two individuals who present a certain level of arrogance online. They do, but they also live their truth. They maintain their online selves in the same way they do offline and there is a remarkable honesty in that.
So onward I go, committed to making my digital and analogue self one and the same when I turn off the screen, because ubiquitous swagger is awesome.