The secret for having a great year

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brain-153040_1280I’m trying an experiment this weekend and I encourage you to join me. The experiment is based on understanding what the most successful and happy people tend to do at the end of the year, which is reflect and plan for the upcoming year. I’m part way through the experiment and it is already having a positive effect on me, so much so that I can’t wait to complete the experiment.

Here is the very simple process. Set aside some time for yourself. Get out a pad of paper or open a word processor or other note taking device. Answer the following questions. As you answer them, use second person, as though you were writing about another human being objectively. Ready?

  1. What are some decisions you made over the past year which were beneficial?
  2. What are things in your life which are not perfect yet?
  3. What opportunities do you currently foresee for yourself this coming year?
  4. In the past year, how did you most often meet the six human needs? Answer both how you met them externally — through the environment and through others — and internally — through your own actions and through the meaning you gave to events.
    1. Certainty
    2. Variety
    3. Significance
    4. Love/Connection
    5. Growth
    6. Contribution
  5. How do you intend to meet those needs over the coming year? Move the locus of control to more internal instead of external.
  6. The date is December 31, 2015. Assuming everything went perfectly, write a short story in second person about what has happened to your over the year.

Set everything aside for a day and re-read it. This is your story for the past and future. Feel free to tweak it and edit it. Work with it until you are bursting with excitement about your coming year. Read your story every day and tweak as needed. Let the story be your guide to your decisions, your priorities, and your actions. Keep a copy of the original to compare against — Google docs is nice for that because it keeps revision history. Measure your progress weekly.

It’s a simple exercise that will consume less time than watching a TV show. And by following it you will enter a rarefied world of those who actually make the effort to plan their life. Give yourself the gift and begin now.

Secrets of metrics

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In a blog post, James Bach discusses the virtues of dumping Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). It’s a shock to think that maybe we should get rid of quantitative metrics, however, there is a sound argument behind the idea.

If you think about it carefully enough, quantitative metrics serve two purposes:

  1. Snapshots
  2. Objectifying reality


As an experienced software performance optimizer, I can attest to the value of snapshots. Without objective metrics there is no way to narrow down what is consuming time in a software system. However, there are a couple of important points to remember about capturing metrics in software development — and by extrapolation the real world.

  • Capturing good metrics adds a lot of overhead, especially to repetitive operations.
  • If you’re not adding a lot of overhead, you’re not capturing good metrics.
  • Once you’ve optimized the processes, you need to get rid of the overhead that is capturing the metrics.

Objectifying reality

This is a fancy term for vanity metrics. The problem with metrics is two fold: you can only manage what you measure and when you measure, that’s what you get — whether or not you wanted it. Usually, you discover that what you are measuring isn’t what you really want. That leads to


In Bach’s words

Gather relevant evidence through testing and other means. Then discuss that evidence.

That’s how it works for us. That’s how it works for publishers. That’s how it works for almost everything.

In conclusion

I’m not against KPI’s and metrics in and of themselves. I’m opposed to blindly relying upon metrics to replace qualitative discussions. Numbers are a hollow model of reality and are too easy to use to justify distortions. Until you really understand what the number means, it’s a mistake to put too much faith into it.