There is no tribe

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turning-pro-steven-pressfield

I’m currently reading Turning Pro by one of my favorite authors, Steven Pressfield. And it’s great. Not as good as The War of Art. But still very good.

In Turning Pro, Steven has a great metaphor for describing how people sometimes get caught up in worrying about what others think, instead of doing what they were meant to do. It’s fear. Fear of the tribe.

Read this excerpt on p68 to see what I mean (paraphrased).

The Tribe Doesn’t Give a Hoot

The amateur dreads becoming who she really is because she fears that this new person will be judged by others as “different”. The tribe will declare us “weird” or “queer” or “crazy”. The tribe will reject us.

Here’s the truth: the tribe doesn’t give a hoot.

There is no tribe.

That gang or posse that we imagine is sustaining us by the bonds we share is in fact a conglomeration of individuals who are just a messed up as we are and just as terrified. Each individual is so caught up in his own bs that he doesn’t have two seconds to worry about yours or mine, or to reject or diminish us because of it.

When we truly understand that the tribe doesn’t give a damn, we’re free. There is no tribe, and there never was.

Our lives are entirely up to us.

If you’ve got fears holding you back, check out Turning Pro. It may be the boost you’ve been looking for.

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The Quotable Walt Disney

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Having recently returned from Disney World, I find I am flushed with insights and quotes after immersing myself in all things Disney for the last 10 days.

Here are some of my favorites quotes from a book I recently read on Walt and his philosophies on life and business.

We allow no geniuses around our studios.

I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral.

I’ve never believed in doing sequels. I didn’t want to waste the time I have doing a sequel; I’d rather be using that time doing something new and different. It goes back to when they wanted me to do more pigs (Three Little Pigs).

When we opened Disneyland, a lot of people got the impression that it was a get-rich-quick thing, but they didn’t realize Disneyland was this great organization that I built here at the Studio, and they all got into it and we were doing it because we loved to do it.

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A word may be said in regard to the concept and conduct of Disneyland’s operational tone. Although various sections will have the fun and flavor or a carnival or amusement park, there will be none of the ‘pitches’, game wheels, sharp practices, and devices designed to milk the visitor’s pocketbook.

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I had different costs estimates; one time it was three and half million and then I kept fooling around a little more with it and got it up to seven and a half million and I kept fooling around a little more and pretty soon it was twelve and a half and I think when we opened Disneyland it was seventeen million dollars.

Everyone needs deadlines. Even the beavers. They loaf around all summer, but when they are faced with the winter deadline, they work like fury. If we didn’t have deadlines, we’d stagnate.

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If I were a fatalist, or a mystic, which I decidedly am not, it might be appropriate to say I believe in my lucky star. But I reject ‘luck’ – I feel every person creates his own ‘determinism’ by discovering his best aptitudes and following them undeviatingly.

No matter what the provocation, I never fire a man who is honestly trying to deliver a job. Few workers who become established at the Disney Studio ever leave voluntarily or otherwise, and many have been on the payroll all their working lives.

Happiness is a state of mind. It’s just according to the way you look at things. So I think happiness is contentment but it doesn’t mean you have to have wealth. All individuals are different and some of us just wouldn’t be satisfied with just carrying out a routine job and being happy.

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You reach a point where you don’t work for money.

Some people forget that you can still do good work even though you work with dollar bills. We took almost nine years to make Fantasia, and if we had to do it again I’d take a long hard look at it, because today it would cost us fifteen million dollars. At some state or other I have to walk in and tell the boys, ‘OK. Start wrapping it up.’ If I didn’t, we’d never get the work finished. But that doesn’t mean we pull back on quality.

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Everyone has been remarkably influenced by a book, or books. In my case it was a book on cartoon animation. I discovered it in Kansas City Library at the time I was preparing to make motion-picture animation my life’s work. The book told me all I needed to know as a beginner – all about the the arts and the mechanics of making drawing that move on the theatre screen. From the basic information I could go on to develop my own way of movie storytelling. Find that book was one of the most important and useful events in my life. It happened at just the right time. The right time for reading a story or an article or a book is important. By trying too hard to read a book that, for our age and understanding, is beyond us, we may tire of it. Then, even after, we’ll avoid it and deny ourselves the delights it holds.

There are some gems in there – quotes that really resonate with me (especially on the virtues of hard work, aligning talent, and putting your heart into it).

I hope this quotes do the same for you.

Sometimes you’ve got to make your own experience

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Is there is something you want to do?
Just start doing it. There is no other way

– want to be an author? start writing.
– want to play the guitar? start playing.
– desperately want the job but they won’t hire you because you lack the experience? create your own.

Your ego will readily give you a reason for why you can’t.
And there will always be a thousand distractions (like reading this blog) that will prevent you from taking that first step.

But if there is something you feel compelled to do, just start doing it.
Fake it till you make it.
Do this long enough and you eventually won’t have to fake it any more.

My Wage

I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store.

For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.

-Jessie B. Rittenhouse

Some thoughts on Steve Jobs and Agile

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There has been a lot written and said about Steve Jobs over the last couple weeks.

As I watch Walter Isaacson on Charlie Rose this morning I am both inspired and shocked imagining what it would be like working for Steve.

There is a story of Steve Jobs telling Wosniak he had four days to write BreakOut for the Atari.

Woz said it would take two months to write this much code.

Jobs looked him in the eye with that unblinking stare, and said:

You can do it in four days.

And Woz did it in four days.

Now of course this is exactly the opposite of what we teach in agile.

You don’t go forward with a plan you don’t believe in.
You don’t ignore your team’s estimates.
And you face reality.

Except that in this case Steve was right. We we would have been wrong.

It’s an inspiring paradox.

All the people who survived his often brutal management style, were fiercely loyal to the end and said:

He made me do things I didn’t think I could do.

How so should we reconcile this with agile? Is this a management style we should emulate and recommend, or even strive to copy?

I don’t think so. There are a couple things I believe are very unique to Steve.

# 1 Passion

# 2 Drive

# 3 Uncompromising rejection of mediocity.

Most of us don’t have these qualities in abundance. Nor are most of us prepared to make the sacrificies it takes to do the things he’s done.

There are always going to be examples of heroic stories of people doing the impossible against all odds. And that’s good. We need to be inspired.

I just don’t think it’s a model that works for everyone. Nor should it.

Now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find these stories inspring, or I didn’t get fired up every time I watch Steve’s Standford commencement speech.

But at the end of the day, I’ve got remember that what worked for Steve, won’t work for me.

And I’ve got to find my own way.

Stop worrying about what other people are doing

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The web can be a pretty intimidating place.
Everywhere you look you can find pockets of excellence.

Some companies are building and releasing products that are regularly changing how we work and play.

Others are creating game changing frameworks affecting how people are selling goods and services on the internet.

Or maybe you just read about a young man who conquered most of the known world at the tender age of 30.

When comparing yourself to others, it’s easy to get down on yourself and ask

what have I done for the world lately.

Don’t.

For one it’s not a fair comparison (Jobs had Woz and Alexander had an army).

Secondly it prevents you from using YOUR god given gifts and doing what you were meant to do.

Steven Pressfield says this much more eloquently than I am. But just know that all you need to do is figure out:

  • what your really good at
  • what you have a great passion for
  • and how you can make a little money to support yourself and those you love

and the rest will take care of it’s self.

Stop comparing yourself to others and do what no one else in this world can. And that is be you.

The 7 Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs

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This morning I listened to a this really good podcast by Phil Windley of IT conversation interviewing Carmine Gallo on his new book The 7 Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

I haven’t read the book. But here is a summary of what I gleamed from the podcast and this presentation I found on slideshare.






Principle #1 – Do what you love.

As Carmine points out in his book this doesn’t mean drop out of school and going surfing.
The sweet spot for doing what you love is finding that crossroads between:

  • what’s something you are passionate about
  • something you can be world class at
  • can you make a living doing it

If you can line up these three things, you won’t have to work a day in your life.

Principle #2 – Put a dent in the universe.

We all want purpose. We all want to leave our mark. Passion fuels the rocket, but it’s the vision that points it in the right direction.

We’re gambling on our vision, and we’d rather do that than make ‘me-too’ products. – Steve Jobs

Principle #3 – Kick-start your brain.

Take ideas from a broad set of experiences. Don’t just look inside your own community.

I learned this lesson with my first startup Cambrian House. For two years I didn’t write a lick of code. Instead I learned about a wide range of subjects I knew nothing about – marketing, sales, hiring, firing, pitching, raising capital, blogging, design, and how to be a customer (one of the toughest jobs on any software project).

This was by design. I wanted this to be my street MBA. But I am glad I did because The Agile Samurai and some other things I am working on would not have been realized if I had stayed 50,000 feet deep in enterprise application development.

It’s scary leaving your comfort zone. No one is more insular than the tech community. But going to other conferences, talking to people in other disciplines, is where true innovation comes from.

Innovation is about connecting things. For Steve it was realizing that the beauty of calligraphy and typesetting could be applied to computers (the first Mac).

Notice how the Apple Store doesn’t have a till or cashier displayed as soon as you walk in? That’s because Apple based their stores around the best retail customer experience they could find – The Four Seasons.

Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, and poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world. – Steve Jobs

Principle #4 – Sell dreams, not products.

This is to remind us that no one cares about our products or services. All they care about is what they can do for them. Sell the dream and you will win them over.

Another way of looking at this is to always make sure you are selling the benefits of your product and not the features (breaking safely over anti-lock brakes).

Principle #5 – Say no to 1,000 things.

This is probably my favorite principle of them all. It just resonates with the minimalist in me. If it’s not adding value or contributing to where you are going … drop it.
Don’t waste another second thinking about it.

Steve obviously takes this to the extreme in Apple products which is why you won’t find a USB connector on the iPad.

Principle #6 – Create insanely great customer experiences.

This is the principle I struggle the most with. Not because I don’t agree with it. Just because I find it hard.

If creating great customer experiences was easy everyone would be doing it. Yet there’s plenty of evidence in the software and products we use everyday that companies don’t take this to heart.

Don’t believe me? Try flying somewhere and tell me how much you enjoy the experience. This is an industry just waiting to be tipped on it’s head.

Principle #7 – Master the message.

This one I am probably weakest on. I don’t have a lot of experience mastering messages (except many when it comes to explaining Agile).

But messaging is more than marketing. It’s the whole package and experience. As Carmine points out in his presentation buying a Mac from the apple store is like going on a date.

When it comes to presenting there are a couple other rules of thumb:

  • no bullet points
  • more pictures less words
  • eliminate the clutter

Bonus principle – Don’t let the bozos get your down.

Here are a number of put downs Steve has been on the receiving end over the years:

We don’t need you. You haven’t gotten through college yet.

Your problem is that you still believe the way to grow is to serve caviar in a world that seems pretty content with cheese and crackers.

There’s no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home.

Get your feet off my desk. Get out of here. You stink and we are not going to buy your product.

Don’t let these jerks get you down. If your intuition and gut are telling you something needs to be done, it probably does. Be the elephant. Get the think skin.

If you are already doing these things good on ya. I find following these principles like these an uphill battle every day. Probably for the same reason most of us don’t eat right or exercise.

But if you draw inspiration from icons like Steve Jobs, Carmine’s book may be what you are looking for this holiday season.

I will persist until I succeed

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I got this quote from Ryan Waggoner’s blog and thought it bears repeating.

I will persist until I succeed.

Henceforth, I will consider each day’s effort as but one blow of my blade against a mighty oak.

The first blow may cause not a tremor in the wood, nor the second, nor the third.

Each blow, of itself, may be trifling, and seem of no consequence. Yet from childish swipes the oak will eventually tumble.

So it will be with my efforts of today.

I will be liken to the rain drop which washes away the mountain;
the ant who devours a tiger;
the star which brightens the earth;
the slave who builds a pyramid.
I will build my castle one brick at a time for I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.

I will persist until I succeed.

~Scroll III, The Greatest Secret in the World

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