Write, no matter what

Writing is a practice. Just like running. Logging down miles everyday is a practice of piling up your running reservoir. The more you run, the more you can run.

To persist in writing, come rain or sunny is not as easy as it seems. Showing up, perseverance, grits, whatever you call it, those are hard works.

radical candor

I really like the use of this 4 quadrant chart to illustrate what is radical candor, which is to challenge directly with the intention of caring personally.

The non-confrontational culture of Asian often leads to a team trying to be courteous to each other, maintaining some kind of fake harmony. At the other extreme, there are also people proclaiming they are being brutally honest, giving out harsh feedback to others pretending to be the next Steve jobs incarnated. Either end wouldn’t lead to the growth of the team nor the individual.

While the book explains succinctly the need to care personally and challenge directly, what’s more interesting for me is the practical tips on how to encourage radical candor in the team. Here are just some of them,

This could be old school but still useful. Praise in public, criticize in private. The caveat is if you are the boss, then, you are an exception for the criticize in private rule, first, you really want to set an example so people dare to give honest feedback. Second, mainly for the economy of scale, criticism that’s already been highlighted by someone in a team meeting, would unlikely be highlighted by someone else again. Thus save a leader precious time.

Be comfortable with silence. Don’t fill up your own questions if there’s no feedback immediately. Throw the question out, keep the eyes contact with the receiving party, pause for 6 seconds.

The radical candor framework can actually be used as a rating tool. Get others to rate you on how they feel about your feedback, is it ruinous empathy, manipulative insincerity or radical candor? Remember that your words should not be measured by your mouth, but the ears of the recipient of those words.

When giving feedback, try to follow the approach of citing the situation, behavior, and impact. Example, “During the meeting just now, you seems uncertain about the content of your slides, and having long pause during presentation. That made the audience lost interest as well as confidence in your data.”

Don’t wait until weekly, monthly or worst, year-end to feedback. Feedback should be immediate.

Since feedback should be immediate, a lot of this feedback should happen in a short 3-5 minutes time right after meeting. So keep slack between meetings, so you have that buffer to give those feedbacks.

Dream, getting to know the dream of your subordinates, what are their dream job? and how to align their dream with what’s can be offered by the current job? This could be a challenge for a lot of bosses, as most of them would be thinking, this conversation wouldn’t lead to any positive outcome. I think design your life could be a useful tool for this conversation. It encourages experiment to purposefully discover life, but not abandoning whatever one doing right away to go all-in for passion.

Scrum, a pocket guide

If my memory serve me right, this is the very first ebook that I managed to finish reading in years.

That say more about my preference on paperback book than anything else. The feeling of holding, flipping, picking up and putting down a book at any time, is uniquely paperback. Perhaps that could be due to the fact that I haven’t spent long enough time dabbling with kindle. I read ebook in a really old school way, from computer screen.

As this is called a travel companion book, it conveniently come in at only 74 pages. That help in making it a quick read. But the author good writing make sure it is a good read as well. Scrum is explained concisely, and I really like the approachable tone that felt like sharing from the author’s vast experiences. Recommended.

The container

Been listening to UX Coffee lately, and totally enjoy the podcast. One of the recent episode about newly promoted manager (新晉管理者的自我修養)resonate a lot with me.

I’m not in the path of management. Working as a facilitator/coach, the feeling of being the stupidest one in the workshop could be quite similar to what discussed in this episode. There are always people more senior than you, people that’s expert in the field, and you jump in as a facilitator/coach trying to guide them through the process while deep down you sometime feel like you are the least qualified person to do so.

I really like one statement coming out from the episode about the role of a manager. Paraphrased here, a team might consist of a lot of experts, they are like treasure to the team. The role of a manager is not to compete with them in their field of experts, but to serve as a container keeping all these treasures in the same space to demonstrate their beauty.

I felt that’s also the role of a facilitator/coach, to provide the team with all the necessary nudge/guidance, work with them to reach their full potential. With that mindset changed, one could be at ease being the stupidest person in the workshop 😉

Trusting the process

As I was in one of my early design thinking workshops, one of the first exercises we got to do is, rotating among a small group, take turn to facilitate one of the 6 phases of design thinking process in that small group.

The instruction was given in such a rush while the small group was still trying to getting to know each other better. That looks pretty much like destined to become a disaster. Everyone was nervy and anxious.

I was hesitating what I should say, what could be the right opening, how to facilitate one particular phase in such a short time, will I look stupid in front of other members that all look very experienced and well-versed in their craft.

Then the magic of time timer plays it’s role. When the time started, you just have to jump into the role of a facilitator. Ya, most of us stumble on something, but very quickly we get things under control and start to facilitate the session with our best effort. Most importantly, we can only learn if we start doing, without action there will be nothing to reflect on, no mistake to commit and hence no improvement possible.

Instead of focusing on not making mistake, trusting a longer-term process of exploration, purposefully discovering what can be learned throughout the journey, I guess that could bring greater joy and contentment in our pursuit of growth.

100 days of something

Looking thru my recent writings, the common pattern shows a long period of nothingness, then a sudden appearance of 2-3 posts, then another long period of silence. Every restart kickstarted with something saying, it has been a long time since my last posts.

what causes the difficulty in writing post here? I guess facebook is the number one culprit, the feeling of casually posting something on, a photo, some words, then you got the gratification of likes and comments drop in. Once the creativity urge fulfilled by facebook, it sorta kills off the desire to write something longer, something slightly more meaningful, something that requires us sitting down, thinking a bit, and help crystalize our thought.

On one hand one can say that facebook actually creating opportunity for people that are not used to write stuff to start writing things, people that hardly read books, to start reading something, articles, news, whatever. On the other hand, this convenient is actually at the expand of shifting our focus away from writing for ourselves to writing merely to gain some meaningless popularity.

The above point seems to suggest social media (facebook in my case) made us treat writing too casually. Counterintuitively, being too serious about our writing is another obstacle to writing. A lot of time I’ve been thinking too long on what are the topics worth writing, will what written looks stupid to someone else. In actual fact, a post written could be like a drop of water in the vast ocean, no one will even notice it. Worrying too much about the seemingly none existence audience will only drain out the joy of writing.

So, with the longwinded purpose spelled out, here is my first post to the journey of 100 days of writing, here. I believe there’s beauty in perseverance in keep doing something, we will inevitably grow with it. As the Chinese proverb saying goes, 滴水穿石。

Obsession with perfection

My little doodle in the morning. An observation on what’s common in any organization. Even when we knew there is a problem, still, any proposed solution would need to be perfect, or we would rather stick with the broken path. But perfect is the enemy of good, planning forever for that perfect solution might lead us to nowhere at all.

Carrierwave mini magick error

Been using paperclip mainly for file attachment in rails application. When there is a need to add in file uploading feature for a small apps in the company, I decided to give carrierwave a spin, just for the sake of trying out a different gem.

I mainly refer to carrierwave github site and tutsplus tutorial  for installation and setup, which is pretty straightforward to be frank.

However, when I tried to upload image thru the application, an error message saying “translation missing: en.errors.messages.mini_magick_processing_error” appear.

A quick google confirm that it is quite a common problem, a few suggestions are made,

But none of these solve my problem. Suddenly it hit me that maybe ImageMagick is not working properly, I did a check by just type in magick command into the command prompt, sure enough it said magick is not a recognizable command.

As suggested by ImageMagick page , look like I need to install Visual C++ 2013 Redistributable Package  to get the file vcomp120.dll.

And viola, that did the magick trick and solve the problem J

Also, if the name of “command prompt” haven’t given enough clue, I am developing rails apps with a Windows machine. Hope this could be a useful tips for those need to make rails apps and carrierwave work in windows 😉

Writing, again

Been a good 3 years not writing anything in the blog. The easiest excuse that one could blame on is of course being busy, but distraction from various social networks is the real culprit, the false sense of achievement posting to facebook and the subsequent likes earned from the post somehow fulfilled the urge to create something more meaningful than just posting food, baby, or travel photo.

So I want to get back to the habit of writing more often, that I use writing to crystallize my thinking, that I appreciate a fruitful discussion more than just another mindless likes.

This mark the beginning for me to write more often this year.

The Inner Working of a subscription box service

The Inner Working of a subscription box service. Gems everywhere. Almost couldn’t refrain to copy and paste everything here

About competition: “the market is oversaturated”, but you often find it is saturated with a LOT of bad players, and they’re making a LOT of money despite being so bad.** This is the perfect situation.

About Idea: Ideas hold little intrinsic value without execution. However, you can start to extract value when you get feedback on it, massaging it, push and poke it, and really run it through the wringer.
About passion: Quite often the least sexy industries are where the big money is being made. So while most of the brainpower is busy chasing sexy mobile apps and such, you can make bank by selling ugly widgets or providing basic services.
About starting small: You don’t get good at running marathons by reading about running marathons. And you don’t get good at business by reading about business. You get good by doing. And doing it over and over again. But just like you wouldn’t expect to win the first marathon you entered, why put so much pressure on yourself to win at the first company you start? Or worse yet, paralyze yourself with fear into never running at all because you’re afraid you won’t win?

The best of all, “At some point we have to just say ‘Fuck It’ and get to work!