Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
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    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
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    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow

Paul Tevis


Korea: In Search Of Adventure

My sense of time while I was in Seoul was distinctly screwed up, due to both the time zone difference and to working the night shift. By the time I left the customer facility on Tuesday morning, I had come to terms with the idiosyncrasies of my schedule. Working nights meant that I would be able to do touristy stuff until the early afternoon, provided I was willing to push myself a little. Encouraged by my initial foray the previous day, I decided to give the subway a try.

I'd heard and read that Seoul's subway system was very friendly to English speakers, but I hadn't anticipated how friendly. All of the signs were in both hangeul and Roman characters, and the pre-recorded announcements on the trains were in both Korean and English. The stations were incredibly well-signed, and there were maps everywhere. I can't say for certain that it was the easiest public transportation system I've every used, but I can't come up with a better one right now.

I did manage to have two misadventures getting onto the subway. I first had a little trouble buying a T-money card, caused by my inability to speak Korean and the price being listed incorrectly in my guidebook. The cashier kept trying to get me to do something I didn't understand, but I eventually realized that the problem could be solved by handing over more cash. (T-money, by the way, is totally from the future.) Then, as I was rushing to catch the subway train that was just about to depart the station, I didn't quite look at the sign and ended up on a train going the opposite direction from where I had intended.  I had been planning on taking a short jaunt over to the COEX Mall as an exploratory mission, but I was now headed the wrong way. Undaunted, I looked up at the system map, pulled out my guidebook, and decided to take the leap and head further afield.

Free Time? What's That?

I have a strong tendency to take my "leisure activities" pretty seriously.  When I wanted to start exercising regularly a few years ago, I suddenly jumped to doing triathlons. When began taking improv classes in 2007, I quickly transitioned to spending three nights a week at the theatre. I'm an enthusiastic person, and I can't seem to dip my toe in the water without jumping in with both feet.

That's why this article hit me where I live. In particular, this bit:

Stop Expecting Results

Progress is good, and skill building is great. Yadda yadda yadda. If you have fun hitting the driving range, then don’t worry about perfecting your swing. If you like to cook, stop stressing that the new recipe you’re trying is going to stink. As soon as we expect a certain quality of results, we’ve turned fun into work. Goals are okay, but try to give yourself a lot of leeway to reach them.

I've talked before about needing to enjoy the feeling of doing something and not just enjoy the feeling of having done it. This is a step further: sometimes I need to just do the thing, with no expectations or goals. I need to just do it and immerse myself in the moment. I need to let the process of doing it be enough, without the need to be better at it. It turns out I'm actually pretty good at figuring out what I need to do, if only I'll get my brain out of the way.

Which of my current leisure-time activities I'm thinking specifically about is left as an exercise for the reader.


Up And Down

In what's becoming regular feature, here's a quote from this week's reading from The Artist's Way.
Art is not about thinking something up. It is about the opposite -- getting something down. The directions are important here.

If we are trying to think something up, we are straining to reach for something that's just beyond our grasp, "up there, in the stratosphere, where art lives on high..."

When we are getting something down, there is no strain. We're not doing; we're getting. Someone or something else is doing the doing. Instead of reaching for inventions, we are engaged in listening.

When an actor is in the moment, he or she is engaged in listening for the next right thing creatively. When a painter is painting, he or she may begin with a plan, but that plan is soon surrendered to the painting's own plan. This is often expressed as "The brush takes the next stroke." In dance, in composition, in sculpture, the experience is the same: we are more the conduit than the creator of what we express.

Art is an act of tuning in and dropping down the well. It is as though all the stories, painting, music, performances in the world live just under the surface of our normal consciousness. Like an underground river, they flow through us as a stream of ideas that we can tap down into. As artists, we drop down the well into the stream. We hear what's down there and we act on it -- more like taking dictation than anything fancy having to do with art.

Surround Yourself With Smart People

Two bits of recent wisdom from friends of mine (via Twitter):

Josh Roby: "Done is the engine of more."

Rob Donoghue: "Good managers are not sin-eaters, but rather stupid-eaters. They will knowingly eat the stupid of the company so that others can be smart."


Korea: Food and Sleep

On the morning of my first full day in South Korea, I met up with one of my company's other employees for breakfast. Dick had been working with the customer on this particular project for about eighteen months, alternating between the US and Korea in roughly two-week blocks.  Part of the reason I'd headed over on such short notice was to overlap with him, as he was supposed to be headed back home soon, but we'd never actually met in person before. He knew the area, and after breakfast we took caught a cab to the customer site. I'm glad Dick was with me, because I would have had no idea how to tell the cabbie where to go if I had been on my own.

I spent part of the morning at the customer site getting set up, but I couldn't actually get access to the machine (which I needed to do to diagnose the problem they were having) until the night shift. We'd expected that this was going to happen, so after lunch (which was pretty terrible cafeteria food) I headed back to the hotel to get a few hours of sleep before coming in that night.

That's not quite what happened. I figured that since I had some time available to me, I might as well go out and explore a little bit. I was staying in the area where most of the 1988 Olympic Games were centered, and you could tell. My hotel on Olympic-ro, which connected the stadium/sports complex with Olympic Park. On the median were sculptures of all sorts of athletes. Wondered around the area for several hours, mostly to get a sense of scale on my guidebook's map. Just as I was thinking about heading to bed, I started to get hungry, so I ended up in a restaurant in the massive food court under the shopping center next to my hotel. I chose that particular establishment because of the menu.

Pictures and numbers were my salvation, as I still had no idea how to read hangeul. When my waiter came, I pointed to the #29. It turned out to be rather good, and after finishing, I headed up to my room and slept.