Try A Different Angle

feet up on deskI’m always searching for new ways to enhance my creativity. I’ve found that looking at a problem from as many angles as possible can be very helpful for that. Taking that approach has helped me to come up with some creative solutions in the past. Another approach that has helped is to step away from the problem for awhile to allow it to percolate in my brain and hopefully lead to a spontaneous, creative solution. Sometimes, I even sleep on it.

Well, according to a study discussed in Phys.org, the key to boosting your creativity might be lying down on the job. Apparently, lying down increased the ability of the people in the survey to solve anagrams by over 10%. This result seems to be due to the lower production of creativity hindering noradrenaline when laying down. Unfortunately, laying down doesn’t improve math skills as well.

I don’t think that laying down on the job is the answer to all your problems.  If the opportunity to have a brief lay down presents itself and you need a creative solution though, it’s worth a shot.

Your Body Language Changes Your Mind

It’s fairly common knowledge that your body language affects the way that other people perceive you. What most people don’t realize is that your body language affects how you perceive yourself and as a result, it affects what you are. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy gave a wonderful talk on this subject at the TED conference in June of last year. You can find the 21 minute video embedded below. It’s worth watching all the way through.

The crux of the talk is that we are wired genetically to react in certain ways when we feel powerful. If we model those behaviors when we aren’t feeling powerful, over time we will feel more powerful and confident. Cuddy says that this is related to an increased amount of testosterone and a reduced amount of cortisol (stress hormone) that are the result of using more powerful poses.

I never really knew about this affect, but I think I trained myself in a similar way over the years. When I was in high school, I was always a bit quieter than my peers. That isn’t to say that I was actually shy. People said that I spoke too quietly and that people just had to get to know me first before they could see what type of person I was. So, I started trying to speak just a bit louder. Then when I went to college, I decided that I would do two things. I would stop slouching when walking, instead always walking at my full height. I would also speak on the first day of every class, so that I would have broken that ice before it became too thick, preventing me from ever being comfortable talking in class.  Those two actions made me feel more confident.

Later, I became a roller hockey coach during the summers and I found myself having to project very loudly to make myself heard. After months of that for two summers, I found that I naturally projected whenever I spoke. That fully closed the loop on being too quiet. Without any effort, I found myself being heard whenever I spoke. Since I didn’t have to repeat myself, I was more likely to speak and for some reason felt like I not only could speak, but I should speak because I had something to say.

What I’m saying is that my experience is that modeling what you want to become can actually lead to you becoming what you desire. So, if you want to be a better you than you are, watch this video and try to internalize what Amy Cuddy is saying. You’ll feel like a fraud at first, but eventually you won’t. You’ll actually have become your goal.

Coworking Spaces

coworking_directory_wikiFor the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time working from home. I’ve found that working from home provides a lot of advantages. It allows me a lot of flexibility. For example, I can take breaks to handle errands that can’t be dealt with outside business hours or I can take care of my kids when necessary, as long as it doesn’t impact my work. Also, it allows me to move where I work around. One day I can work from my home office. The next I could work at a table in my yard, so that I can enjoy the weather and stimulate my creative thinking at the same time. Also, I don’t have people walking by my desk judging what I’m doing at the very moment they walk by. As long as I deliver high quality work on time, everything is great.

There is a downside to working from home though. Actually, there are multiple. The first is distractions. As long as I’m the only one here, distractions are near zero. When everyone is home though, even with my office being disconnected from the rest of the house, periodic distractions creep in. I’m lucky, due to where my office is located, that the distractions are manageable, but for many people the level of distractions can become insurmountable. The other downside is that it is hard to bounce ideas off your coworkers. Sure, you can call people or message them, but something is always lost in those types of communication. You really want that face to face to see the person’s body language and expressions. Also, for many people, white boards and pieces of paper are easier mediums on which to capture ideas while brainstorming .

That’s why I started looking into coworking spaces. I didn’t know of any in the Monterey area, so I did some research online. During my search, I found the CoWorking Directory Wiki. While it had a pretty large list, it didn’t show any spaces near me. In fact, the closest viable option I found was NextSpace Santa Cruz. A beautiful place, but too long a round trip. It would eat up too much productive time. So, I’m pretty much where I started. The startup I’m working on is still being built from the houses of multiple people and usually separately. We’re going to work on rectifying that, but I would love to do that with a shared space with multiple other startups. That way we can share learnings and expertise and hopefully make all of our ventures that much more likely to succeed. If we can’t get a shared space though, then maybe we can build a virtual shared space with a lot of the benefits of being in the same location. We can…never mind. That’s another business idea and one I don’t have time for at the moment. At the very least, maybe we can come up with a way to meet regularly during a set time using video conferencing. I’ll fill you all in if we reach any breakthroughs in that area.

Suitcase Startup

First time entrepreneurs are always interesting to me because they have so much to learn. That is to say that they make some fantastic mistakes and achieve some inspiring results doing things that others believe can’t be done. In other words, they provide anyone willing to pay attention with a lot of education in a short span of time. That’s why I was intrigued when I heard about the Suitcase Startup, which is a video series that chronicles the attempt of Chris Bradley to take his startup Publicate to London with just his suitcase. There he will attempt to make the business happen. Here is the link to the first episode or you can just view it below.

I find his story to be interesting because I’m pursuing my first technology startup at pretty much the same time he is. So, I’m interested to see how he does and hope to learn as much as possible from him along the way.

Is Google Hypocritical?

Google LogoAccording to ReadWrite.com, a man who goes by the name of spk claims that Google paid him to bot up the view counts on more than 20,000 videos and he did so to the tune of millions of views per video. If that is true, and there was advertising on those videos and there is no reason to believe there wasn’t, then Google was potentially overcharging their advertisers to the tune of millions of dollars. Supposedly, Google cracks down on websites that click on their own Google AdSense links. I see no difference between the two.

In this case, I have three questions that I would love the answer to:

  1. Why would Google do something as stupid as this? It would be easier and sneakier to change the numbers on the backend instead of hiring someone to do it using the interface and run the risk of them talking as spk supposedly is.
  2. Were they trying to make the videos seem more impressive or did they actually charge their advertisers for those fake views?
  3. Will Google’s advertisers take this opportunity to ask for their money back?

Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto has always bothered me. I can believe them trying to avoid evil, but does that motto leave too much wiggle room? Maybe they need to try on the motto “Be Good.” That’s the kind of motto that I can get behind. After all, I’m pretty sure that I could do a lot wrong before being evil.

Do You Own Anything Anymore?

Hand holding smartphone with closed padlock on display. GenericI was reading about the change to the exceptions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by the Librarian of Congress when it got me to thinking about the state of ownership in this country.  For those who aren’t aware yet, the DMCA prevents people from circumventing copy protection of any kind. Until October of 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who has the power to grant exceptions to this act, had provided an exception for unlocking your phone. Now that the exception is gone, people are not allowed to unlock their phones on their own to take them to another carrier. If their current mobile provider won’t unlock them and they want to move to another carrier, they would just have to buy another phone from the new provider or find an unlocked phone that they could use.

To me this state of affairs seems ludicrous. I understand that someone who has received a phone in exchange for a two year contract should’t be able to take their subsidized phone and go elsewhere without honoring the contract they signed. The issue to me though isn’t about unlocking, it’s about fulfilling the contract you signed. Even if you unlock your phone, you are responsible for the early termination fee or continued payment. That’s as far as I think that whole argument should go. Unless you stop paying your provider for service, you should be able to do as you wish with your phone. We should own digital goods the same way we own physical goods. If I buy a sword and choose to turn it into a plowshare, that’s my right. By the same token, I should be able to unlock my mobile device and use it however I so choose.

We’ve been in similar situations with all manner of digital goods. The RIAA would love to prevent us from ripping CDs. In fact, they tried to do so in the past. The ripping of DVDs with copy protection is illegal. There are so many reasons why this is wrong. The primary reason, in my estimation, is that it enforces limitations on how we use the things we “purchase” even after we have finished paying for them. That type of thinking is dangerous as we move farther into the digital age. It ends with us not owning the music, movies, games, books, etc that we buy. Pretty soon we won’t have ownership of anything and maybe I’m an old fuddy ruddy, but that’s just not acceptable to me.

Startup Weekend: Monterey Bay (Day 3)

Startup Weekend Monterey Bay

 

The weekend has wrapped up, so I guess a wrap up is in order. First off, we didn’t win. We didn’t deserve to, frankly. Not based on our idea, but on our pitch. We just weren’t able to hone it down to the essence of our company. I guess that came down to the fact that it was such a big idea and needed a little more time to flesh out properly for the judges than we had time. Five minutes isn’t very long and two days isn’t a lot of time to work on a pitch, let alone understand and refine a complex idea and design an MVP, as well.

So, am I disappointed that we didn’t win? Yes, of course I am. Am I disheartened? No. I guess I just really believe in the core of the idea, at least the way that I understand it at this time. Like I said, a weekend is not a long time to work on an idea. Luckily, the other three guys on the team I joined (yes they were all guys for some reason), seem interested in continuing on with the idea. So, hopefully things will continue on from here and I’ll be able to check in later with an update with where we are with the project.

So, what was my takeaway from the weekend? Entrepreneurs are passionate and irrational. So, I guess I fit in. As for those who are successful? I think that group is composed of those who take those entrepreneurial virtues and use them to prove to everyone else that not only were they passionate and irrational, but…they were also right.

Startup Weekend: Monterey Bay (Day 2)

Startup Weekend Monterey Bay

I really want to post something based upon the goings on of the day, but today is going to be a heads down kind of day, so here is a quick observation. It is going to be mighty difficult for the people I saw pitching yesterday to be able to deliver something significant in the span of two days. It feels almost delusional that they would even try. Maybe that’s just the entrepreneurial spirit. No matter how crazy something seems, a true entrepreneur thinks they can will it into existence. Or maybe people just think they have nothing to lose in such a safe environment. Either way, it should make for an interesting weekend.

Startup Weekend: Monterey Bay (Day 1)

Startup Weekend Monterey BayI’ve always thought it was a shame that there never seemed to be much of a technology scene in the Monterey area. As close to the San Francisco Bay Area as we are, you would think there would be some bleed over. Not so. If anything, I think the proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area pulls almost all the technology oriented people away. That’s why I was interested when I saw that Startup Weekend was going to be happening here. By the time I heard about the event, I was past the window where I could get the early bird discount, but I didn’t care. I was in. What’s an additional $24? If I could meet some like minded entrepreneurs, I felt that the $99 would be money well spent.

When I arrived, I decided that I wouldn’t pitch an idea. Rather, I wanted to experience the event from the standpoint of someone looking for a team and helping someone out with their idea. The thought behind that was that it would allow me the opportunity to float around and go where I thought the idea was best and where I was interested in working with the people on the team. That way I could hopefully get to know some interesting people I might be able to work with in the future on a project.  The day went well and I joined a team. I won’t talk about the team much except to say that it was a smallish team of four individuals, including myself. What I want to focus on today is what I learned today about the people pitching ideas. (more…)

Have We Evolved?

EvolutionThere seems to be a constant debate on whether or not evolution is real. Did people evolve from more primitive life forms or was there a creative designer? I’m not particularly interested in that question for one main reason, “What does it matter?” People that believe in God would continue to behave the same way.  If you had proof that there was an intelligent designer, you would at least have proof that there was a God. So, I guess that piece of information might change how atheists behave. That is provided that we also learned exactly what that intelligent designer wanted of us. I would argue that even if we could prove the existence of an intelligent designer, we wouldn’t necessarily be able to prove what that designer wanted of us.

Since the answer to the question of evolution or intelligent designer is not one that I feel changes the way that people would live, I would like to move onto a variation of the question. Let’s leave out the intelligent designer option since that seems to provide little change in how people behave. People that believe in an intelligent designer won’t change their behavior and atheists might now believe in a God like they believe in a kangaroo, meaning they acknowledge that they are both real.  It doesn’t mean they’ll change the way they live their lives dramatically. So, let’s just look at the first part of the question. Did humans evolve? Are we still evolving? That’s the question that is most interesting to me. (more…)