Self Guide to a meaningful life
I'm not a wellness guru. I don't have a net worth of millions nor I don't pretend to know more about this subject than anyone else. I've just completed half a century of age and I still have to look out for the future and there are no certainties about anything.
Still, I've learned a lot along the way. The failures and the successes I had, the wisdom I received from others, the learnings I've picked from books and articles, all of this helped me to delineate an approach to life that makes a bit of sense.
I decided to put in writing a couple of guidelines firstly as a guide to myself, and then thought that this might make sense to others. To all that know me today, to those that knew me before, to whom I might meet in the future and to all the people in this world.
If this resonates with one of you, then I think it's already was worth writing this.
Notice that I'm using the term "Meaningful Life" instead of the "Happy Life". This subtlety doesn't happen by chance. Happiness is a fleeting feeling that comes and fades in waves. You can try to always be cheerful and grateful for the good things in your life, but, constantly being continuously happy, I don't think it's possible.
Merely the quest of searching for happiness hinders it from occurring. Think about it. Asking when automatically excludes now. Questioning for how long, terminates it. Nothing ever happens like we imagine anyway, so creating expectations is one way to destroy the moment. Also, happiness is a quite personal and subjective feeling. It's a state of mind that doesn't even have a well defined trigger.
On the other hand, your meaning is always there for you, helping you to have the courage and the energy to continue.
Create Your Meaning
Don't search for a meaning in life, rather define yourself forehand what is a meaningful life.
Found echoes of this phrase in several places, so I can't really say who said it first. It does makes a lot of sense, it is a very personal choice.
Meaning has to be something that you deeply relate into. For some it could be having a pristine garden, for others is religion, for others is excelling in sports, while for others is the job or community work.
The best concept I came across is Ikigai. Which in Japanese means: meaning of life.
Do avoid having a purpose that is tied with one person, no matter how much you love her/him. It will leave you depleted and destroy exactly the relation you wanted to nourish. There is a balance.
Define success on your own terms
This comes almost as a consequence of the previous point. The definition of success is completely arbitrary and how you feel about it even more.
There are hundreds of examples of personalities that achieved stardom, and yet, were feeling miserably. To name a few I remember: Kurt Cobain (Musician - Nirvana), Michael Hutchence (Musician - INXS), Dolores O'Riordan (Musician - The Cranberries) , Robin Williams (Actor), Marilyn Monroe (Actress) and the list continues.
Paradoxically, it is exactly on the peak of their success that they most felt lonely, to the point of losing the will to live. Why ?!?! I have no idea, just the clue that what we call success is not the dream we think it is. It doesn't heal the wounds. Somehow it even amplifies them. So, what's the point of fame? Most importantly, how to avoid that trap ?
I have to choose my words really carefully. It's dangerous to make generalizations, and I'm far from being in a position to make a science proven statement. Having said that, I suspect, that success isolates people for two different reasons. One is the pressure that is imposed by the crowd expectations, and second, is the failure to reconcile their own expectations with reality. I am led to believe that reconciling expectations with reality is kind of a generalized problem. Admittedly, it also haunts me as well, and I have to keep reminding me of the blessings I have.
It's good to have goals, because, it is they that eventually make your life have meaning. Do try to define your goals based on your personal beliefs, not on other's recommendation. Do not try to follow anyone's path as well. I mean, it's good to have idols, but trying to copy their path is a disservice you're doing to yourself and to society.
Reaching 50 years of age, the idea of success becomes a much down to earth. Success, might as well be having a beer at the end of your week with your friends, or enjoying a good meal. Why not ? It's rather healthier than to aim to have millions on your bank account, and observe no boundaries to achieve it. Just observe Trump's example. I've been following him attentively for the last 4 years, with all his whims, petty revenges, blatant lies and shameless behaviour. Partisan issues aside, I consider him a little sad and insecure person that needs to affirm himself by money, power and his race. Independently of his political affiliation, he personifies exactly the opposite of a man with a peace of mind. Even key figures of his own party recognize this.
Nothing illustrates better this point other than this an incredible story from Joseph Heller writer of the famous book Catch-22, told by Kurt Vonnegut. They were in a party of a wealthy billionaire when Kurt asked Joseph:
“Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel ‘Catch-22’ has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Brilliant !! That's the best definition of success. Just the knowledge that we have enough.
In my opinion, this work-life balance is one of the most misinterpreted subjects in many societies around the world.
In Oriental cultures this topic isn't ever discussed. There, the ideal of virtuosity is someone that works from sunrise to sunset. This has nefarious effects on the wellbeing of people and leading in some cases to people dying of sudden death at the office, or the infamous suicidal rates in renowned smartphone manufacturers. Not good!!!
On the other side, the western culture falls to the other extreme. Play time is overvalued and many people live their lives dreaming about retirement, and the next weekend. Not good either.
You pass great part of your day at work, and if the only reward you get from it is your salary, my deep sentiments. If you take absolutely no pleasure at work, maybe you should consider changing profession sooner than later.
Let's face it, there are no perfect jobs. No matter how good a job is, there will be boring days, there will be days where interpersonal incidents and accidents will ruin your mood. Most likely, those bad and boring days might outnumber the good ones. But, your own internal narrative towards your job makes a huge difference. The human brain is a self-justifying machine. The more effort you apply to something, the more you will feel that like it. If you give meaning in what you do, celebrate your achievements, bond with your colleagues, and engaging actively on the task at hands, even if a boring one, time passes quicker and it's more enjoyable.
Conversely, if your own narrative is "I'd rather be somewhere else", if it includes counting hours to the Friday or years till retirement, then it's a self inflicted torture.
Giving meaning to what you do at work, makes all the difference. One can be on a paradise resort feeling completely useless, another can be stuck in a windowless laboratory on a weekend feeling proud of himself.
Being Social or being a Social Being
For hundreds of Thousands of years, being part of a tribe was our safeguard against the wild life. Absence of a collective support often meant death and famine. Like it or not, this has conditioned us to be dependent on others.
In today's life, Social Security and welfare have made this need a bit less obvious, but, at subconscient level, there is an innate need of belonging. Rejection is painful for everyone, except perhaps for a sociopath.
Today tribes are mostly developed around personal interests. Things like Religious Groups, Sport collectives, Work Teams, Militar, Nationalist or Ethnicity groups and even Video Games.
Social media has taken advantage of this social need, but the intrinsic rules that guides real life social interaction were completely disrupted. A few years ago I was actively engaging in Facebook, and time and time again, instead of feeling the enriching experience that is participating in a social event, I ended up feeling completely empty. Became under the impression that everybody else had a much more interesting life, and felt bad for the amount of time wasted. Nowadays, I avoid it.
Each person has a different experience in regards to social media. For me it's not something really worth it. Therefore, I limit myself to chat groups and LinkedIn, which I "trained" to much more curated content.
Dealing with disappointments
Life surprises us constantly, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Creating future expectations is inevitable. Be it in regards to life itself, be it in regards to other people. The proverbial phrase "Seeing glass half full or half empty" is a delicate balance between optimism and pessimism.
I am myself a confessed pessimist and a risk averse person. I do recognize that maybe it made me forego some beautiful opportunities, for being afraid that winds wouldn't favor my quests. In the other hand, things might have turned out worse than what they are today.
It's a hurricane of questions and if-then-else scenarios that can be mostly unsettling, to which I apply the following antidotes.
1. Everything Happens For a Reason
Being born in November, I started school a year later in regards to others born earlier in the year. This was something that really frustrated my teenage mind. One day, my mother in her wisdom made me notice what I would have missed in case I started school a year earlier. I would not have studied informatics because the course didn't exist the year before where I lived, and my life would have been completely different.
As I grew old I found myself returning to that piece of wisdom. All happens for a reason, and we are only being able to connect the dots afterwards.
Being a person of science, I should mock of this kind of determinism, however, in this case, I forego. Time and time again, when things are not going smoothly, this belief has shone a new perspective into the subject, relaxing and leaving place to acceptance.
It also leaves you feeling luckier, which again, goes against the principles of probability, but, in retrospect, not a bad mindset to have.
2. Don't blame others for not complying with your own expectations
Disappointments are not more than our own fail to make a proper judgment of the character of others. So, next time you feel frustration because someone failed on you, instead of falling into self-pity, recognize your error and try to learn from it...
3. Never regret doing the right thing
This nice piece of advice I heard a long time ago from a very good friend. No further explanations are needed. The words speak for themselves and the simplicity of it is disarming.
The way you feel about life is entirely in your hands. You might not be able to choose the cards you get, but, you can define the rules of the game and make it feel as if you're winning. It's not possible to overjoyed all the time, but, it is possible to feel blessed.
Race to the Bottom
Anyone that posts any kind of digital content on the web already knows this. Post regularly! This comes by the simple fact that the algorithms that compose the page you are seeing now, privilege recent content.
Whilst this is relevant in some situations, like the weather report, or the news about the world, I want to defend the case here that this is not helping our society getting better.
The pressure to issue more frequently makes that the content looses in depth, quality and clarity
Probably you have noticed that over the last two decades influencers have moved from writing on the mainstream distribution, to writing to blogs and most recently to twitter. Similarly also our attention has been diverted to smaller chunks of information.
Imagine that J.R.R Tolkien was 45 years old today and trying to publish the story that fascinated millions of people. A story that took most of his life writing and perfecting. Had he published it today, he would have reached a far lesser audience than the one he had at the time. I mean, ask around your circle of friends and ask how many of them had read a book recently. I would also imagine that a perfectionist such as J.R.R. Tolkien would have had problems adjusting to the fast pace of today's demand.
The push for people to publish content frequently, makes it difficult to compose something complete with no loose ends and accurate. Not only the delays are short, the mere activity of publishing takes time and distracts the author. Marketing, mailing lists, sponsors and forums, all of that steals time and focus from the creation process.
This is not only applicable to written word. This is also valid to programmers, youtubers, musicians and other intellectual forms of creation.
Even though it is more challenging to make a careful work, there are still some master pieces that still come to life, and many other that already exist. However, finding them is increasingly difficult. Why? Here are a couple of reasons.
Did you already experienced the situation of wanting to find something you saw in the past and not being able to find it?
Thriving of Screamers
I believe humans must be hardwired to pay attention to people screaming. Think about it, it's used in infancy to get attention, historically, screaming is mostly associated with crisis situations that demand immediate attention. All of this makes that raising the voice to be heard is almost intuitive.
Interestingly, it seems that people sound more genuine when they scream. I don't know exactly the cause for it. Either because the speaker is better able to conceal his true objectives, or because it's easier to explain an incoherent speech, or because there is a natural empathy towards a person that screams...all or none of the above. Fact is that many public figures throughout history used this form of speech. On the assumption that if it is screamed, then it must be real and requires urgency. This recipe is quite effective and it moves crowds. President Trump seems to be an avid fan of this form of communication, going to the point of giving interviews with an helicopter running in the back.
The digital media has its forms of scream. Basically, the click-bait paragons, the indignation waves that spread throughout the social networks, unfounded accusations and crowd chants repeated over and over again (Ex: "Lock her up").
If you are still reading this, then consider your self above the average, but admittedly it is difficult to stay concentrated in while browsing the web. The list of solicitations in today's is immense.
I already withdrew myself from Facebook, over the years it became too noisy, and the information I was getting there was not worth the time I spent in it. I like the analogy made by David Sbarra in his post on Vox, comparing Facebook to being in a room filled with people begging for attention. Although, not knowing anyone that would put him/herself in this situation, it is actually quite difficult to resist the pull. I don't know about you, but, for me it was impossible to be "just a bit" in Facebook. The thing is designed to suck all the attention you have. As contention is much more difficult than abstention, it's better not to even open it.
So, after resisting several months to the automatic "We are missing you" mails, I discovered I can just kill it in the settings, and nowadays, I don't feel any kind of urge to go there again.
I was using before an Ad Blocker, and they were forbidden. Then I used a Stay Focused plugin that closed the "distractions" after a given time. Then, with time, I was able to simply ignore the noise and focus. The long term rewards of being able to make worthy work become stronger than the immediate reward that prompts us to scroll a few posts more. Being able to identify what is designed to pull our strings, really helps to do this.
For the fast pace that is reducing society's attention, it's not easy to stop a moving train with full throttle. Maybe changing algorithms would be a way to go, but those, are designed to maximize profit of the host, not to benefit a society. Turning back to a paid media? If you have any ideas regarding how to do this, please don't hesitate to put your idea in the comments.
Still we can find ourselves some pockets of air offline. And here is some hints that I hope help to make a better future for all:
Ode to Engineers
Installing Probe Insight - Courtesy JPL-NASA with colaboration of ESA
Being an engineer myself, I’m often taken aback by the lack of understanding of the work engineers do. I’m addressing this to all non-engineers so that they understand what it means to be an engineer and to debunk some unfounded common misconceptions.
Engineering is not creative work - False
People imagine engineers as ultra-rational and mathematical geeks, incapable of creativity which cannot be more far from the truth.
Although engineers don’t paint, dance or write professionally, but they do a very creative work.
To solve a problem elegantly it takes knowledge, creativity and inspiration. First to find several possible solutions. Then a methodical approach to depurate the best one, which again is quite subjective because different people have different perspectives.
It’s art with mathematics, and this demands a very particular and rare combination.
Software engineers for example, are the champions of abstraction, and mastering this skill is not easy. Between 30% and 60% of students of every university computer science department fail at the first year. Another study  has determined that after a year of learning a programming language, only 17% of students had viable mental models. According to Turton, a personal consultant, only 5% of the population has the ability to become programmers . Although software engineering requires a lot of abstraction, the same can be said for all other domains.
School educate engineers to do everything - False
This is typically not true for any profession, and engineers are one of the most affected professions by this condition. And here's why:
Engineering is : ruled by thousands of different standards; its steered by trade best practices and; the amount of knowledge that is particular to a given domain of application makes it impossible to learn it all at school.
Universities do its best to teach the bases of engineering, the basic principles, and if all goes well, the graduate is able to quickly access a good extent of that information. In reality, he must go back to study from time to time.
In fact, the learning curve of an engineer on any given domain is his entire lifetime. Taking the pace at which technology progresses, an engineer will never know everything. It’s a lifetime of learning and continual improvement.
For a young engineer, getting up to speed can take years and without guidance, the learning by trial and error process can be very very costly. That’s why having engineers with experience do make a difference. It’s known that age degrades learning abilities but a seasoned engineer can still outperform a young one both in speed and cost.
Engineering is not exhausting - False
It’s true that engineering is not a physical job, but that doesn’t mean that an engineer doesn't get tired. The brain consumes about 20% of energy of the body , and intellectually demanding jobs do create glucose dips in the blood.
The relation between cognitive functions and demand for sugary food has been for very long exploited by supermarkets. They understood that after spending one hour making decisions on buy/not buy the craving for sweets is peaking while waiting on the queue to pay.
Furthermore, continued focusing generates cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, which as everybody knows, it's not good for health.
Well, engineering is a an intellectual demanding job and requires very focused work. To keep working at an optimal level, an engineer should make frequent pauses, eat well, and regular exercise is strongly advised.
Knowing this, it’s quite puzzling why there are still engineering companies that impose limits on work pauses and push for long hours seated in front of a computer. This is a post industrial revolution imposition that doesn't have any sense nowadays, where intellectual work is predominant.
To compensate, the distribution of coffee is quite common, which continued use is known to lower cognitive performance. It's like buying a sports car and then adding water to the fuel.
Any other engineer can continue an ongoing task - False
This one is often assumed by managers, and is often a recipe for disaster because it doesn’t take into account that two engineers don’t forcibly think alike.
Every time that a task changes hands, the receiving engineer will firstly spent a great deal of time trying to understand what was done, and then, in most cases she will start re-writing parts that were already “accepted as good”. I saw this happening over and over again, as a receptor, as a creator and as 3rd party observer.
replacing an engineer will add delay and
effort to a given task.
It’s a variant of the old managerial tenet that says that “9 women don’t make one baby in one month”.
Engineers shape the future of companies - True
The strategy of a company is defined by its managing director, but, the strategy definition and it’s implementation is strongly depending of its engineering capacities. That is, the capacity of creating new products or reinventing new services.
No matter how good and reputed a CEO is, if he doesn’t have a good team to perform, then his strategy will either fail, or will forcibly be less ambitious.
Let’s admit it, not all engineers are top performers, but, a managing director should know better than to complain about its engineers. It’s his job to keep permanently accessing their performance and finding ways to overcome their shortcomings.
Please note that engineers can also ruin a company. A bad conception, a wrong calculation or a bad ethic can have huge impacts on the company finances. For example, the case of the Volkswagen tricked emission tests scandal.
Being engineer is a complex work of extreme responsibility and often can put finances and even lives at risk.
Engineers are a scarce resource, that do creative and complex work, in a high stake stressful environment and are architecting the world of tomorrow. If you know an engineer, please give her/him the well deserved respect.
If you know an engineer, please give her/him the well deserved respect.
 Investigating the viability of mental models held by novice programmers, http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1227481
 The Mythical Man-Month and Other Human Factors, Irene Bonomo-Kappeler, The Mythical Man-Month and Other Human Factors - Universität Zürich
 Does Thinking Really Hard Burn More Calories? http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/thinking-hard-calories/
Photo - Installing interplanetary probe InSight.
Outsourcing : The Pitfalls
This article aims to give a few hints in how to avoid the pitfalls of outsourcing. It's not an sermon against outsourcing, I mean, there a few good reasons that can justify resorting to outsourcing.
Normally, we hope that everything will go according to plans, job done according to our wishes and delivered on time, but reality unveils a different scenario.
There are a few considerations that are often forgotten or even unexpected that can hamper the effectiveness of the outsourcing, hence, yielding the outsourcing more costly than initially foreseen, sometimes surpassing the cost of an internal development.
Do we really know the contractor ?
This is a trivial one and easy to fix. Taking the time to visit the contractor and meeting with the team that will perform the task is a good investment. Don't trust solely on company history. While living in an age where mobility is dominant, basing the competence of a company on its track-record doesn't offer much assurance. Know-how is not a company owned asset, it's distributed among its employees.
There is this saying that if you go to a restaurant, the level of hygiene of the toilet, is a good indication of the hygiene in the kitchen. This principle can be applied to companies. If you allow yourself to go to the company and check the quality of the equipment at the laboratory, the validity of the software tools or even the elementary office material you can get some clues. A company that doesn't reinvest in itself is not a good indicator. In case of doubt just ask about it, if there isn't a good justification coming up, be wary.
Added Paperwork and bureaucracy
First time it was like this. All the mandatory Contracts, Non-Disclosure Agreements, Work Descriptions and Payment Schedules were finally agreed by me, my boss, the contractor and the two respective lawyers. I took a deep breath and thought - "Jeeezz!! That was painful. Even writing User Manuals is more fun than this. Weeks ping-ponging e-mails and just dreaming that things would go faster, but now it's over".
Well, not quite. All communications should be minuted and reported, any small change, even if it implies just an extra-day, must be negotiated, authorised and signed. Even if it doesn't, but deviates from the original, it needs an addendum.
In India, and I guess other emerging countries, small consulting businesses, profiting from the favouring financial conditions, and a high demand for lower cost, have grown small consulting companies into a multi-million dollar behemoths. In consequence, the level of bureaucracy also increased, with an almost daunting amount of procedures and rules designed to cover the arse of the contractor.
Suggestion: Always prefer a contractor that allows a direct interaction with the person executing the task, and be wary of "templates", "forms" or any kind of normalisation process that is in place.
Writing comprehensive specifications
When dealing with complex systems, such as software or hardware, writing good specifications is a time consuming task. Writing specs that will be executed by a contractor is more so.
No matter how good the specification is, there always will be some discussion points. Account for enough time for a specification to mature over a couple of iterations with the contractor. Do remember that a good start can save a lot of time later on.
All this to say, that this time spent on getting the project running accounts as an extra cost to be accounted for.
Make sure to set on the development plan regular checkpoints where the course of the development can be controlled. This of course, will take time and the concentration of internal workers. But, failing to do so, you might later discover that a wrong assumption taken 2 months ago made the project unusable for purpose.
When dealing with people from another land, country or continent, people expect to meet the same patterns of behaviour that they are used to. The same reaction to command, the same understanding to suggesting, the same reaction to critique and so on.
Not going to make a dissertation on differences between collectivist and individualist cultures, because the differences are indeed big and then further enhanced by gender, age and status. In summary, cultural differences often get in the way of understanding.
For the sake of this article, what I am more interested in raising the point that cultural differences do indeed add complexity and cost to the project.
For example, I was very surprised to discover that a simple suggestion was turned into a high priority task by an engineer in India. Another time, luckily I was warned in advance by an seasoned engineer that a particular chinese engineer had a problem in saying no, but later failing to deliver. Finally, don't be surprised if in a conference call with India to discuss a minor change, you have 10 people in the other end of the line.
Finally there is the aspect of language. Although English language has pretty much occupied all the business space, the fact remains that not all speak the same English. Differences in accent sometimes add noise to the communication channel.
The chief concern of a sub-contractor is to maximise their margins, gain knowledge and curricula that can leverage the next contract. The concern of the people you have working for your company is the wellbeing of your company. At least is should be, if not, then you have a bigger problem you should be addressing.
Once the product is delivered, it's time to open the package and make the quality control.
It's again a time and cost consuming task and often left out of the planning/budget. Even if resorting to strategies such as "sampling" is a time consuming task, but one that needs to be done.
Here is where normally problems are found and often too late to send back. Saw this happening a couple of times, where rework had to be made internally, at the expenses of the company.
Suggestion: be sure to include in the contract clauses that hold the payment of last milestones if quality assurance fails. Of course, this is only effective if a big percentage of the payment is reserved for delivery acceptance.
If all went well and the product is successfully launched to the market, time may come to make the maintenance to the product. If by chance the part that was subcontracted needs a change, it's good that a description of the development environment and a consolidated document set be delivered together with the project.
Suggestion: If the maintenance of a software product is going to be transferred, ask for a virtual box containing the image of a development machine.
Avoid training your future competitor
One of problems of subcontracting a huge part of the development, is that you are inevitably transferring internal know-how to the contractor. This risk always exists, even if you put anti-competition clauses in the contract. As said, know-how is not a company owned asset.
Suggestion: Avoid subcontracting sensitive parts of your system.
Other useful considerations
Subcontracting small tasks is often not effective, because the red-tape needed for setting up a contract will eat up any leverage that the subcontracting would give.
Maybe obvious but worth mentioning, avoid subcontracting tasks that require constant vigilance in a different timezone. Reasoning is simple, each iteration costs a day. In such cases, the best is to insource the task, or in other words, to bring a consultant to do the task in-house.
I hope you found this article valuable.
I've always been fascinated by creativity and the processes behind it. Recently made a research on the subject, and was surprised on how little we know about it. On the web, most of the things found on inspiration, come from creative artists, and more than 50% are devoid of any scientific rationalisation. Explanation for creativity include: Ghosts, angels and other divine entities, sleep, lack of sleep, brain damage, mental illness and much much more. I thought to myself. It's time for an engineer to write something about it. How amusing could it be ?
Not going to introduce any new theory nor going to deny any of the existing. As an engineer, my take on it, is not to discuss the source of the AHA! moment, but rather to enumerate the routines and the mindset that favour creativity and the ones that don't.
Creativity is quite often associated with the creation of arts, but it is much broader than that. From an engineering perspective, creativity is tightly linked with innovation. In other words finding an original and elegant solution to a given problem.
Sometimes, identifying a problem requires more creativity than to solve it. For example, when we sit at the table and eat a meal, we rarely think that there was a man somewhere in history that was eating settled on the floor and thought: "Sitting on the floor is not that comfortable to eat". Before solving the dinner table problem, someone had to see it as a problem. Maybe he even had resistance to the idea. I find amusing to imagine that there was someone at that time saying - "But we always eat sitting on the floor, why do we need a freakin table ? And that will require so many chairs." Which leads me to the first point.
1. Seeing the world as unperfected
"The world is full of imperfections", I heard it somewhere and it resonated on my mind. There might be a more efficient way to do this. If we integrate this thought into our daily lives we are bound to discover a lot of room for improvement. Paying attention to all you do and see around you is the first condition to be creative. Specially what we do by routine is where we fail more to see its inefficiencies.
2. Flex the creativity muscle
If for each "imperfection candidate", spend a moment imagining it differently, that is like doing creativity push-ups. It might sound a bit stupid, but, it can be quite funny, to imagine a different way to eat soup. A kind of small water mill, a kind of soup cannon, or perhaps the plate would be shaped so that a part would fit your mouth, what other possibilities exist ? It's normal if nothing comes out, or what comes is a worse solution than an existing one. We don't expect that a new and better potato peeler be discovered each year. Simply not possible, no matter how intelligent you are. But the mental activity of trying the problem solving is preparing the soil for good stuff.
3. Background work
The brain works on ideas in background mode. When you plant a seed on the earth and water it, it will take a while before it will germinate. The brain works in the same way. If you challenged you with a problem and nothing came out right away, that doesn't mean that the brain stopped thinking about it. It may take hours, days or even weeks may pass before something pops up.
4. Note your ideas
When finally that AHA! moment comes be sure to write it down as soon as possible. If it comes in the middle of the night, be willing to get up to fetch a pencil a piece of paper. Not doing it so, you may have troubles later to make the same neurons spark and bring back the idea as you conceived initially.
So, make sure you leave yourself enough details on to get back the idea to life. This also helps you to scrutinize the idea to whether it really makes sense. Often, a closer look at an idea, is enough to dismiss it. If not, you can pass to the next step, which is for an engineer, is selling the idea to someone else. That will require exposing yourself more than you would like to. That may be challenging for self-confidence. Don't be defensive if someone sees too many flaws in the idea, its for your own good. One way to do it, is to treat it as if it wasn't your idea at the first place. I think this explains the frequent attribution of ideas to an external entity. Just blame it on the angel that passed, if you believe in their existence.
5. First Time Right
Sure, it can happen, but don't make plans counting on it. Throughout history, so many ideas appeared to be great at the beginning and then turned out to be total flops. Still, I'm still very surprised when I see people making plans supposing that everything will be perfect at the first try.
6. When to give up
Sometimes, things simply don't go as expected. There is a natural tendency is to continue believing that somehow something can happen that can save the project. It's hard to let go, especially when too much time and money was invested. The best advice I heard for this, is simply to establish well defined failure checkpoints. If this doesn't get to that point till that date, then it means a stop. Another advice, is as simple as discussing with someone knowledgeable on the field, who hasn't emotional attachment.
Other tips and resources
Innovation doesn't mean that the idea has to be completely original. One can innovate by taking an existing idea and applying it on a different context. This can be by copying from Nature, which had millions of years to perfect itself, or copy an idea from a different area of expertise. Supermarket spaces were tagging higher prices for shelves located at eye level, much before Google started to do the same with Sponsored Links. Same principle, different areas of application. In other words, there is merit in improving an existing idea.
There is a limited amount of work that your brain can do everyday. This not only includes the obvious ones such as memorizing and processing data or playing an instrument but also small things as deciding which choosing clothes to wear. Einstein always wore the same clothes and ate always the same desert to not get distracted with mundane issues. Other things such as self imposing a discipline, driving, discussing with someone, answering emails, etc... all of this steals attention from your brain. This is why, you probably noticed that your best ideas don't come while you are at work, but when your mind is more relaxed.
If you really need to be creative, then you may want to avoid playing video games for 2 hours, or watching an action movie on TV.
I hope it brought you something useful.
8 incompetence signs to be aware of
Everybody is good at something, but not at everything. Those who find their true vocation have more chances of being happy with their work and find it rewarding.
Unfortunately this is not the case for all and often, we find people stubborningly hanging on to roles that really don't fit their competencies. It's frustrating for the under-performer and for all around him.
I've compiled a few behaviour indicators that I would like to share with you, hoping that it can identify misfits and help them find their true calling.
1. Taking personal offence in technical discussions.
When a critic to a technical solution hurts egos and ends up at the door of the Human Resources its a clear indication that something is not right. Not all people have the same point of view, and sometimes not really clear to see the right solution. Technical discussions are inevitable and sometimes they can rise of tone and need to be escalated to a technical supervisor. This is normal. What is not right is when in disagree, arguments like "bullying" and "I'm not stupid" come into the discussion.
2. It's not in my Job Description
This argument comes quite often from people that simply don't want to do a given task. Job descriptions make sense in a production environment where procedures are expected to be always the same. When in an environment where problems are always different and thus require different solutions, it's not possible to have a job description that covers everything.
3. Things were always done this way, why change ?
Changing is always difficult, there are primal fears involved in the prospect of change and thus being one of the most difficult things to promote. This is specially more true when selling change to people that are insecure of their value.
4. Hiding problems and reporting achievements
When no problems are reported and everything is going just smoothly for weeks in a row, is because something is definitely wrong.
Good engineers love to solve problems, and report the way they solved it. If this is not happening, beware. Dig a bit deeper and for sure, there is something there needing attention.
5. Attaching its name to work done by others
If someone places his name on a document without having contributed much to it, can happen for two possible reasons: a.) by request of the original author in order to give prestige to the document or b) without request and for reasons such as revising the formatting, or inclusion of an index.
6. Reporting time discussing with person A B or C
When for solving a problem, someone reports the time discussing it with person A, B or C, then it usually means that the problem is being solved by others. Please be very attentive to this, as it has very perverse effects on the company organisation. Not only is the person gaining credits for the work of others, but also, it is slowing down the work of others.
7. Using Seniority as argument
This one speaks for itself and doesn't need any further comments.
8. Appetite for Managing (but without vision)
There is a noticeable tendency of people that are frustrated with their work to aim to go to a managerial level. But if asked the simple question: "What would you make differently ?", there is nothing that is really relevant. I believe they secretly hope that this way, they will escape the need of having to actually "work".
Interestingly and very unfortunately, incompetents sometimes reach this goal and it can work very well for them, but not for the company. Humans are mostly lead by example, and when the example is not of hard work and competence, its effect is soon felt within the group. But that is a much longer topic.
That's it, I hope you liked it.
Electron agitator and Software enthusiast