A Tech Solution for a Tech Problem

I still continue to struggle with excessive browsing on the web, whether it’s on my laptop or phone.

Part of the reason, I think, is that while I don’t like the idea of wasting time, I don’t really know how much is lost. If I knew I spent 20 hours random web browsing this past week, I’d be pretty motivated to change. Basically, I’d be interested in what urls I visited and for how long.

I’m assuming tracking software like this exists already. Ideally, the tool will gather the data from all my devices, and aggregate the information into a single number: unproductive time web browsing. And if I wanted to gather metrics for different time periods, or a breakdown of the specific sites, I could do that.

Even if such a product were available already, seems like it’d be a pretty cool programming project. Would be even cooler if I could do it myself.

R.I.P. Kobe

I think the year was 2001 when my future wife and I was at Les Misérables in New York. Before the performance started, she had noticed someone around 10 rows behind us.

“Hey, isn’t that Kobe Bryant?”

It was. Kobe at age 23, had already established himself as a basketball superstar and was one of the most recognizable athletes in the NBA.

“Why don’t you talk to him?” Was she daring me?

I walked up briskly, a little surprised that no one else decided to approach him. I decided to keep my interaction brief, asking for his autograph and commenting how I liked his game. He gave a brief smile, signed my ticket, and said “Thanks.”

When the news broke that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, I felt sad like so many others. He wasn’t perfect. But he certainly seemed to live his life to the fullest, in the way that he wanted. I hope that was true.

Justified vs. Effective Behavior

Once I understood that these are often two different paths, I began to notice the divergent consequences of each.

“Justified” action is an euphemism for egocentric behavior. “Effective” action delivers the desired outcome without anointing winners and losers.

Criticizing, retaliating, and raging may seem like deserved reactions, but they ultimately create conflicts that detract from the problem at hand.

Forgiving, compromising, and empathizing strengthens relationships instead of weakening them. Harder to do, because it involves acting rational while feeling emotional. But most of the time, I think, everyone ends up happier in the end.

Why I Love Blogs (But Not Really)

Back when blogs was new, it seemed revolutionary for the ease of producing and consuming content. Anyone could start a blog and share a perspective.

Now we have platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook dominating the social media landscape. Blogs have hung around, in part because they provide the space to deep-dive into a topic, while maintaining sovereignty of that content with the creator.

We don’t necessarily need blogs, per se. We need tools to allow people to share their ideas and express themselves without interference. My favorite blogs are by authors who post regularly and whose writing makes me think. If something else comes along that does that better, I’m on board.

Many thanks to the writers that inspired me to start my own blog.

No Way to Lose

It’s easy to be a naysayer. To criticize and complain, and perceive the worse in any given situation.

But isn’t always seeing the silver lining essentially the same amount of effort?

The notable difference is the impact. The glass half-empty lens makes us feel worse. The glass half-full makes us feel better.

If we get to decide, why not make the more beneficial choice?

The 100% Positive Feedback Approach

One of my favorite stories about encouragement comes from Scott Adams (yes, the Dilbert cartoonist). He recounted the time he took a Dale Carnegie course on public speaking, and what happened to one extremely nervous participant:

The first day was grim. One woman stood frozen in front of the group, unable to generate an intelligible word. Beads of sweat literally dripped off her chin. It was horrible to watch. She choked out a few words and returned to her seat, defeated. Our instructor came to the front of the room and said, “Wow. That was really brave.”

What an amazing response. Given how badly things went, everyone expected the focus to be on her shortcomings. But the Dale Carnegie course approach is to compliment the speaker on what she does well, and not mention the flaws.

And according to Adams, recognizing her bravery had a dramatic effect.

We all knew it was true. This woman had put her head in the lion’s mouth. Suddenly we all realized we had witnessed something important. We applauded. And it changed her. Each week, she managed a little bit more. And each week the instructor and the class recognized her achievement. By the end of the course, everyone in the class was an exceptional speaker, and we all looked forward to our few minutes in front of the class. It was like witnessing a frickin’ miracle.

We all know that criticism tends to divert our energies into defending our positions and protecting our egos. But even less harsh commentary on what went wrong focuses our attention on the negative. Positive feedback keeps enthusiasm and motivation high. Perhaps taking that to an extreme creates even greater impact than we can hope.

Regrettable Discourse

I almost always feel bad after an argument, and I finally understood why.

It’s because I don’t like losing my cool.

Maybe everyone feels that way. I have no idea. But this realization is a big deal for me.

How many problems can I avoid by not becoming aggravated when discussing a hot-button topic?

The Danger of Bad Calls

Pretty much all sports fans know the feeling of being jobbed by a refereeing official.

It’s something to talk (or complain) about. Dwelling on the unfairness of a ruling is fine if you’re a spectator.

Not so much if you’re a direct participant of the sport in question, especially if the game is still in progress.

There will always be variables we have little control over. If we have a job to do, our focus and resources are needed in the next play, not the last call that went against us.