Auditioning for life in pictures

Fewer things excite me more than building things.

Today I’m sitting in a coffee shop (surprise, surprise), I have my beloved overpriced Bose QC25’s cancelling out the loud music and white noise. I’m trying to smash out a lo-fi mock up by midday. Today I’m constantly thinking of ideas, seeing potential in everything.

I’m also having one of those days where the fewer interactions with people the better. It’s the glorious experience that one of my friend’s has labelled “lone wolf mode” – a brief sabbatical from human interaction while still engaging with the the world. This leaves me alone to think and make things.

When the waitress brought over my flat white, I returned to the world for a brief moment to say thank you and took the opportunity to look away from my screen for a quick people watch. What I saw came as no shock.

The main focus of my fellow humans was not the person sitting at the table opposite them, the individual deemed important enough that they carved out time in their lives to see. No, they’re on their phones, capturing beautiful snaps of their coffee from a flawless vertical angle.

They are sharing a carefully maintained and perfectly curated projection of their life to the world…through a filter.

I am both intrigued and horrified by this at the same time.

They are skipping an opportunity to connect with another person and instead striving to ensure that their other life, the one watched in pictures by strangers and voyeurs, their own personal audience, is perfect.

They are developing a character, an individual created for their audience to see, enjoy and envy. They are auditioning for that same role every single day.

Perhaps Macbeth had it right, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage”

UFC 193: The brilliant dance

A crazy road with nine weeks of anticipation. At last it was there. UFC 193. Etihad Stadium, 56,218 people. A UFC record (sorry Canada).

Yesterday I experienced something of unlikely beauty in the twisted, alluring and violent game of MMA. It’s a difficult task to describe the brilliant dance that takes place when two humans step into the cage, set their fears aside and commit their bodies to battle, voulntarily placing themselves at the intersection of greatness and violence.

There is no guarantee of win or grandeur – just the chance to add the mark of victory to their own story.

Sitting first row, barely ten feet away, I witnessed the rich tapestry of footwork, head movement, every set up and level change, every clinch. The exact moment that a human being is battling their natural instinct with logic and implementing the perfect game plan. Also the carnage. It’s indescribable, like watching pieces of puzzle fall perfectly into place.

For over seven hours I watched men and women exit the cage, some left battered and bruised, others with their head held high. Their victory is one of primitive destruction and their minds briefly abducted into absolute triumph before gravity drives them back to down to earth.

Knowing that these prize fighters have physically diminished their bodies for a day, a week or perhaps a lifetime is a heavy cross to bare when it happens right before your eyes. Voluntarilty watching a body fall limp to the canvas after a brutal head kick or a witnessing a fleeting moment of unconsciousness after a perfectly executed rear naked choke – it’s an emotional quandry, not something to be taken lightly but something that demands respect.

It’s almost impossible not to become captivated by the experience, even more impossible to explain it to those who don’t understand it. To them it’s an exhibtion of violence, not art. And thankfully, they don’t control the narrative.

My first chapter in MMA has finally been completed, I wait in eager anticipation for the next.

Next, Boulder

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir

I’m replacing the Melbourne laneways with the Colorado Flatirons as the backdrop for my work for a few weeks.

The goal is to write more, work intelligently, walk often and sleep a little. Hopefully the beer will be cheaper.

For the last few months I have been sitting inside a dark room illuminated by three monitors. A trace of sunlight that makes it’s first appearances in the late afternoon when the sun moves itself to the west side of my building. It’s a subtle reminder to get away from Sketch for an hour and go for a walk.

Melbourne has once become a vortex filled with awesome coffee and fine people…and habits. Every other weekend I used to drive out of the city and journey through the winding roads to Flinders, escaping the noise of the city and finding flow in the analogue experience. I really don’t do that anymore.

I’m looking forward to looking at the world through fresh eyes once again. It’s time to explore the next town. Projects will not suspend in time: conversations will happen on Slack, scheduled weekly meetings will happen on Hangouts and the screens being designed in this room will still be shipped (in a different timezone).

I’m excited to experience a place that has fascinated me for years. Time to find out.

Advancing position

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Until a few months months ago I had been juggling (rather unsuccessfully) multiple projects at the same time before committing my time and focus to jack.io. That was an easy decision.

Every day we find things in life that aren’t that simple, that’s pretty much a given. But some things are. When I want caffeine, I walk to Kettle Black. When I want to hear music, I launch Rdio. When I want a hug, I call my Dad.

Other things are not. We give ourselves challenges, throw down gauntlets and put ourselves in situations that are we are not always going to win. That is fine. It’s the awesomeness of life, setting goals, conquering them and sometimes even exceeding them.

It’s often the question of when is the challenge too great and when do I give up? I really don’t know, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

Three years ago while scanning the old television box at an ungodly hour of the morning, I landed on an MMA match. Once I got past the cage, the men sporting trunks that could only be compared to a Nascar truck of sponsors, hideous tribal tattoos and the ring girls, the stupid ring girls. Yes, once I got past those little things I found the rules and judging decision to be quite interesting.

When two fighters are on the mat grappling, the individual with top position control (Fighter A) is usually considered dominant. The person in bottom position (Fighter B) can be defending from their back, striking, controlling the posture of their opponent, looking for a submission, transitioning into an escape, but to the judges Fighter A who is on top is seen to be winning the fight. 

But he can’t just sit there passively resting. There is a catch. Unless Fighter A is trying to advance to a more dominant position, they will be put back onto their feet and lose the advantage.

This makes a lot of sense. If I’m not advancing what I want to do, if I’m not taking steps to achieve a goal, if it’s not in my GTD pile then maybe it’s time to put it on ice, reset and move on to the next. 

This does not mean give up, it means that if you’re being passive about an action, maybe it’s time to put it away for a while and move on the next, the one that you are advancing, and maybe we’ll get shit done and win the fight.

Shotgun rider

Lunchbasicversion

Definition: ride in the passenger seat of a vehicle

Right now I am looking around and I see a world of jobs and side hustles. In addition to the assumed 9-5, we’re impressively building new products, funding awesome ideas, training half marathons and learning to code.

We’re doing a lot. We’re driving a lot of our own ideas. It can become exhausting.

Maybe this is more relevant as I take a break from my own projects, leaving me with plenty of time to consider the pursuits of others who are delivering awesome things to the world like Nick’s Privacy Workshop, Sam’s Do Lectures, Mel’s Trampoline Day and Shaun’s Phd.

It’s advantageous for the soul to step back from the wheel for a minute and just be the shotgun rider in the passenger seat, putting your feet up on the dash and being alongside them for the ride.

Don’t worry about cool

Written in 1965, this is a letter from Sol Lewitt to Eva Hesse, via here

Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping,…Stop it and just DO!…

Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety…You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!…

Try to do some BAD work – the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell – you are not responsible for the world – you are only responsible for your work – so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be…

I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest of the time you are left with your thoughts. But when you work or before you work you have to empty you [sic] mind and concentrate on what you are doing. After you do something it is done and that’s that. After a while you can see some are better than others but also you can see what direction you are going. I’m sure you know all that. You also must know that you don’t have to justify your work – not even to yourself.

Making it all work

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.

Follow the neon

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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’m heading to Nashville

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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.

Cyborg swagger

swagger

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.

 

Finding flow in an analogue moment.

It’s cold, wet and grey in Melbourne. When you drive just an hour out of the city and journey through the winding roads, there is a small coastal town with a bakery, a general store and a recently renovated hotel with a uniquely Australian bill of fare.

As soon as I step foot out of the car I reach my flow state – this is either life’s greatest moment or its most common experience.

My week in the city interfaces with a weekend of back roads, highways, beaches and wineries that serve as a backdrop to this town.

Temporarily free from the internet and concrete with just a mobile command centre, I find myself present in a prolonged moment of ease. I wander the town, breathe in the fresh air, inhale the coffee and amongst the quiet.

This is the benefit of a customised life of technology enabled connectedness. Being connected to the grid is how I choose to live most of the time, but having the freedom to rest hard means returning to the city restored and alive, ready explore the edge.

It”s all connected. These analogue moments are crucial to maintaining a truly present mind in my networked life.

Disconnected. A different encounter

It’s a breezy summer day here in St Kilda.

The amazing Cheryl Lin just posted a link to her own stream of consciousness from her desk. I can’t stop smiling.

I came to Miss Jackson with the intention of drinking coffee (it’s my caffeine binge day) and writing about posting daily during the month of March.

Note: I’m also wearing a Foursquare t-shirt, blue Ray Bans, Dr Dre Beats and writing on a MacBook Air.

One of the staff just walked over to my table, grinning.  He asked me what I was working on. My first instinct is these situations is always to laugh. I laughed. He repeated the question. I told him that I was pumping out some content for Steve Hopkins’ writing experiment in March. I finished the explanation in my typical self deprecating form, “Yes, I’m a little geeky.” He laughed, “The t-shirt gave it away. But hey, I listen to Mac podcasts.” Relief set it.

I further explained Steve’s challenge of forming a positive habit by writing daily. He smiled, “Awesome, where can I read your stuff?” I asked him if he was on Twitter. Nope. That was a little refreshing to hear. I read out the URL and he typed it into his iPhone. He finally added, “I’m not into the whole social networking thing but I’m going to check this out.”

This brief exchange might be what I remember most about this entire week. And this has been one of those incredible weeks. I had a few days in Sydney, working hard and catching up with friends. I then returned home to Melbourne for the #AwesomeParty which exceeded all levels of awesomeness.

But this was a little different.

He’s not connected to me in any way. He is not a familiar face from Twitter. There has been no past encounter.

He’s simply stoked on life, exploring it openly, and smiling.

This was originally written yesterday morning at 11:32am. 

 

Travelling without excess baggage.

Check in, check out. There is no need for excess baggage.

Last week I made the conscious decision to go without anything but my bare necessities for a brief trip to Sydney for work.

This trip was successful for a few reasons.

Logistically, it took me less than five minutes to pack for the trip. Carrying less than 7kgs also made walking around the city an effortless experience.

Having just three outfits in my bag was ridiculously convenient. I didn’t have to spend time thinking about what to wear because the choice had already been made.

As anticipated, between work, dinners with and sleep, I didn’t have time to watch movies on my iPad or read a book.

I also picked up a Hardgraft wallet from the fabulous Amanda Li. This simple leather fold wallet now carries the three bare essentials: cards, cash and iPhone. Awesome.

I achieved what I set out to do – a simplified travel experience with reduced stress.

I look forward to experimenting with different ways simplify my experiences. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

A stream of consciousness from @KinfolkCafe

Note: this was written on Tuesday morning.

It’s 9:45am. Right now I am sitting at one of the communal tables at Kinfolk Cafe. In the last few weeks I have been trying to develop the routine of hitting publish on a Sunday night, regardless of the state of my writing. This doesn’t feel natural to me. In the last year I have broken my favourite habit of writing on a daily basis in a notebook. Staring at the screen doesn’t inspire me to write anymore and I am struggling to refine a fluid style.

Kinfolk Cafe itself is a rich blend of suits and t-shirts. To my right is a man typing on his iPad, refining thoughts from scribbles in a notebook. The rest of the table is deeply engaged in deep conversation – I heard the words ‘expanding consciousness’ before I fell into my own world of headphones and bluegrass music. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I feel comfortable here. It might be good to write about it.

I just spoke with Eddie for three minutes on my mobile. He told me to write for twenty five minutes and just let the words flow. If I’m not happy I can simply go back and delete. From a productivity end this method would normally work for me. Right now, I feel content simply by observing my own surroundings but in these last few moments I have found myself reflecting on my own experiences at this table.

Last time I was here for an extended period on a weekday morning I had a coffee/brownie with Steve. This was my initial introduction to the complex world of spiral dynamics which for me has become a new way of understanding the world from a growth development perspective. I also met the incredible Pete Spence for the first time.

I spent a few afternoons here in early 2011 reading David Allen’s ‘Making It All Work’ (I am currently re-reading this with a fresher perspective). I can remember geeking out while having lunch with Bryony as we both pulled the book out of our bags. The blend of conversation around GTD, structured chaos, mindfulness and hip hop music still makes me laugh.

I come here with Tory every Wednesday for our ‘hipster lunch’ where we catch up and talk about .Net web development and our shared fascination with Katy Perry.

There is a positive energy here. It might be the paintings of birds on the walls, the jars full of coffee beans that are dedicated to NFPs or the awesome tea pots.

Either way, I don”t feel blocked right now. I’m not checking for spelling mistakes and refining sentences. I can feel my old writing ‘style’ re-emerging as I type. I feel consciously awake.

Time to get back to the office.