Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Strategy of "Dude, Let's Try This!"

I started reading Erika Andersen's book, Being Strategic: Plan for Success, Out-think Your Competitors, Stay Ahead of Change earlier this week. I've taken some of her ideas and started experimenting with them in context of everyday life. Since I'm always interested in the thoughts of the Subject Matter Experts in my trusted network, I've asked my friend Jackie (of CDK Creative and The Powder Keg of Awesome podcast fame) about how she approaches strategy. I was stunned by her simple approach to strategy:

"Dude, Let's Try This!" 

"Is that it?" I thought. I thought there were some highly-detailed, complicated matrix involved in seeing the greater picture and charting a path to success. I wasn't expecting a strategy which seemed simple, yet obvious. But "Dude, Let's Try This!" strategy worked for The Powder Keg of Awesome, which is still going some 68 episodes and 16 months later. During this time, the podcast often featured published authors, thought leaders, and other interesting special guests. And it all started with "Dude, Let's Try This!"

After taking a moment to recollect, I've realized that key moments in my life also began with "Dude, Let's Try This!" approach, even if I hadn't realized them at time. When the training wheels on my bicycle fell off, I discovered that I could ride my bike without falling down and scraping my knees. It was a liberating moment for a four-year-old. The idea of getting off my bike and pushing it all the way home, just because the safety net broke, didn't cross my mind. When I discovered and tried new types of leafy greens in grocery stores, the "Dude, Let's Try This!" approach introduced me to the world of arugula, endive, and radicchio (goodbye, iceberg lettuce). When I missed turns while bicycling to a destination, trying alternate routes led to discoveries of many off-the-beaten-path eateries, small shops, gardens, and other attractions. Good thing I didn't frantically consult a road map after missing turns (these moments of serendipity mostly happened before the age of smartphones and Google Maps).

"Dude, Let's Try This!" approach also happened during social gatherings. Over a decade ago, some friends and I decided to go on a dining adventure. We had mostly visited predictable destinations--like diners or pizzerias--during our previous outings, but this time we decided to check out a Lebanese restaurant in the Belmont neighborhood. We didn't know much about the cuisine, except for the ubiquitous hummus and falafel. One of the friends, who happened to be in his late teens at the time, had never tried Mediterranean food before. We ordered many small plates to share, discovered the tasty qualities of Lebanese cuisine, and had a great evening. We made return trips afterward.

As a music enthusiast, I realized that about 99 percent of bands and artists I listen to probably got their start with "Dude, Let's Try This!" approach. I highly doubt that these musicians were awaiting approval from some so-called authorities before making things happen. All of my musical activities started after I adopted a "Dude, Let's Try This!" strategy and started composing music on a four-track cassette recorder, a secondhand synthesizer, and an underpowered Macintosh computer back in 1992. The songs I wrote were awful, but the experience of doing things opened up many opportunities in the future. I've met other musicians, music fans, event curators, and future collaborators after I made things happen.

The "Dude, Let's Try This!" strategy opens doors to exploring new opportunities. I probably logged about 80 miles on the elliptical machines at the gym during the past year. Could these endurance exercises translate to taking on a new challenge? I'll find out when I participate in my first organized run ever--a 6K course--next weekend.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Who's Afraid of the Art of Making Noise?

Apparently I am.

As witnessed by dearth of posts on Blog de Meaux, I have committed the cardinal sin of maintaining websites. By refusing to add fresh contents, I'm doing a disservice to the readers and the blogging community in general.

I'm not going to make excuses for the prolonged inertia. I haven't stopped thinking about writing inspirations between the date of the last published post (which was almost a year ago) and now. I'm going to use this entry as an exercise for what precipitated my declining motivation to write. Maybe this will result in eradication of my procrastination. It's time to throw off the mental chains.

Mental Obstacle #1: Life gets in the way of writing.
How interesting! Most of my favorite authors and writers have some semblance of life outside the words they write. Many of them aren't even full-time writers, but authors who happen to be passionate subject matter experts in their areas of interests! Perhaps these creative beings use life or work experiences as inspirations for writing. Maybe the question I want to ask myself is, "Do I really want to do this?"

Mental Obstacle #2: Fear of not being good enough.
Hot damn. There are lots of activities and interests which I pursue, to varying levels, where perfection isn't a requirement. Cycling, visiting gym, practicing piano, cooking, taking classes, giving presentations, and playing in bands are things that I eagerly partake in, and I don't obsess over whether I am highly competent or not. Author Gretchen Rubin's describes one of her Secrets of Adulthood as being "Don't let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good"--perhaps it's time to heed those words and apply them to my writing.

Mental Obstacle #3: It's not convenient.
Sometimes I tell myself that in order for me to write, I need to be at home in front of my computer so I can focus my efforts. And when I'm at home, I tell myself that I need to be writing from outside the apartment, on my iPad, since there are many distractions at home. I keep making excuses that are convenience-related. How can I transform these excuses into excitement? Perhaps by associating the rituals or vagaries of working at home (listening to music and drinking tea) or when I'm outside (enjoying the scenery, taking advantage of free wireless Internet access, wearing awesome socks and shoes in public), I may feel more compelled to write.

Mental Obstacle #4: I don't own all the physical means or knowledge of production.
"My blog layout is yucky...I should be hosting this on a WordPress platform instead of using Blogger...I should be an expert on style sheets for the blog...I should hand-code everything instead of using the preset templates…I'm afraid that my blog site isn't strict HTML-compliant...I should be running the blog off my own server…"

Holy shit. I am making mountain ranges out of ant hill with the plethora of reasons why I stop myself before I begin. Perhaps I can take inspiration from the creative team behind my favorite podcast, The Powder Keg of Awesome, who started with dozens of ideas and an amazing mission, used a third-party podcasting service (Blog Talk Radio) to broadcast their weekly shows, and is going on strong after over a year. Those guys didn't let the lack of owning their own podcast system stop them from getting shit done. They didn't let the fact that there were thousands of other podcasts in the Internet world stop them from producing!

It's time to re-think about my mental chains, unshackle them, and make a habit of shipping--often and with confidence!