Category Archives: General

General information posts, not about anything in particular.

“Too many of us who start down the path of [career] compromise will never make it back. Considering the fact that you’ll likely spend more of your waking hours at your job than in any other part of your life, it’s a compromise that will always eat away at you.”

– Clayton Christensen, “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

Are you doing the work that you want to be doing? I’ve recently been considering different ways of thinking about careers and work, and I have started to formulate a small philosophy I am dubbing the concept of highly-leveraged impact. In short, it speaks to the multiplicative effect the work of one person can have on many people, ideally in strongly positive ways. It is composed of two key factors: reach and impact.

Reach
The number of people affected by the work performed.
Impact
The net effect (positive or negative) the work performed has on the lives of other people.

What is leverage?

When these two components, reach and impact, can be combined, a significant leveraging effect can exist that would truly impact people’s lives. What is leverage? As a quick refresher and as an (over-simplified) analogy, consider the leveraging effect of money in real estate. If a real estate investor with $20,000 in available capital purchases a property worth $100,000, using a bank loan to finance the remainder of the purchase price, and sells it a year later for $150,000, he or she would stand to have made about $50,000 ($150k – $80k back to the bank – $20k initial investment). The investor did not have $100k to make the original purchase, but by leveraging the bank’s capital, was able to amplify the net effect of the $20,000 into a 150% gain.

What if you could do the same with your personal time, skills, and work? This is the idea that I am exploring through highly-leveraged impact. With the two components of reach and impact, we can analyze the idea in a quadrant format. In each quadrant below I’ve identified different examples (not exhaustive, and certainly not applicable in all scenarios), examined through the lens of the high-tech sector, that with which I am most familiar.

Major disclaimer: the concept of highly-leveraged impact is NOT intrinsically tied to the value of a job, and is by no means a concept through which to judge one’s worth. Someone working in a high-reach, high-impact position is not by nature worth more than someone in a low-reach, low-impact position, or vice-versa. This philosophy is only appropriately applied to fulfilling one aspect of a person’s internal motivations and desires.

Reach
High II. Many tech companies: Instagram, Farmville, Snapchat, etc. IV. Medical device companies, leading a charitable org, educational innovations, pharmaceuticals
Low I. Internal IT operations III. One-on-one tutoring, small scale humanitarian work
Low High
Impact

Let me give a brief explanation of each quadrant:

Quadrant I:

In the bottom left quadrant, that of low reach and low impact, I identified internal IT operations. In such positions, the work done typically reaches a relatively small number of individuals (often not even the entire population of the company), and while it does help those affected do their jobs better or easier, it doesn’t represent a critical change in their lives.

Quadrant II:

In the second quadrant (high reach, low impact) one might find many technology companies. Technology, by virtue of its extremely scalable nature, is able to reach an extraordinary number people very easily, and at relatively low cost. Therefore it fulfills one side of the reach/impact equation. However, it also can be used as an avenue of pushing low impact solutions: for example, Farmville. (Or in the specific instance of Farmville, maybe even negative societal value…)

Quadrant III:

The third quadrant is the opposite: high impact with low reach. Some life-changing people work in this quadrant, and I’ve certainly greatly benefited in my own life from wonderful people like this. Kindergarten teachers, tutors, people working in small-scale humanitarian organizations, or specialists in an extremely narrow but important field might fall into this category.

Quadrant IV:

The final quadrant, and the most interesting one in this framework, is that of high reach and high impact. This is affecting many people in important ways. As an example, in this quadrant I identified medical device companies, leveraging the scalable nature of technology to be an influential part of many peoples lives, improving their customers’  health and standard of living. It is running large organizations (charitable being the easiest example). It is being a scientist at a pharmaceutical who assists in creating a medicine that reduces the risk of heart attack or relieves cancer. Some people who work in this quadrant are celebrated, but the majority most likely are not. However, it does seem to allow identification of opportunities that would be extremely fulfilling on a personal basis at the very least.

Other thoughts

Opportunities in the final quadrant are much fewer and further between than any of the others, and often require specialized training or rigorous demands. Given the high societal value of much of the work performed in this quadrant, one would think that more of us would be engaged here. But that often doesn’t seem to be the case. Why is this? Perhaps society and current economic incentives don’t reward work in this quadrant  as readily as those in others. Perhaps the payback period, both in terms of actual dollars and in terms of preparation, is too prolonged or non-existent. Or perhaps it’s just easier to solve less complicated or less important problems, and so we go for those instead. Whatever the case, it would be worth taking a step back to see if more of us couldn’t put our skills to work in more high-reach, high-impact positions.

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Previously I had written down general life statements that I wanted to be able to claim are “me” at the end of 2013, and now I’m taking the time to share the actual goals that I defined to accomplish those life statements.

Goals should be specific and achievable, they should be SMART, and I’ve tried to apply such criteria as I’ve formulated these goals. Originally, I wrote down goals into the categories that I had defined in my previous post. However, I reorganized them into once a day/week/month categories, and it seemed to be much more clear, so I will present them as such here as well.

Once a Day:

  • Scriptures: Continue reading my scriptures every day, but additionally make note of at least one observation each time.
  • More time with family: Get on a regular sleep schedule so that I can do things in the AM before family wake up, to maximize time.
  • More time with family: Limit information intake (less HN, Twitter, etc.; batching will be key).

Once a Week:

  • Make more memories: Take pictures of people more often (and include me in them when possible).
  • Get to $5k/mo side project: Dedicate two hours a week to the project.
  • Write/study more for IO: One post a week about information overload on this blog.

Once a Month:

  • Enterprise software: Talk with senior and C-level and executives more regularly. Take them out to lunch for “interviews” to learn more about this side of the business.
  • Take, organize more photos: Try and go on a “photo outing” once a month, can take family.
  • Cultivate service and selflessness: Do one service project a month with family, work, friends.
  • Cultivate service and selflessness: Be a more active giver (Kiva, invite people into our home for meals, etc.).

One-Time Events:

  • Get to $5k/mo side project: Brain dump everything that’s been bouncing around, then reject them all :).
  • Get to $5k/mo side project: Do idea extraction and then validate the ideas.
  • More time with family: Work out a flex time arrangement with clients/employer.
  • Take, organize more photos: Consolidate mine and Paige’s photo libraries.
  • Take, organize more photos: Clean all my photo gear.

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When I was in middle school, I was voted most likely to be a millionaire by 25. Well guess what? I have just a few days left to make that actually happen, and am more than a few dollars short. This is not a bad thing or a regret. Life has been packed full since the good ol’ days in eighth grade, and with some of the most important, high quality stuff as well, not just filler. While my goal in life is not to make that million (though I’ll take it!), I feel like a constant focusing of laser, or sharpening of the ax, goes a long way.

Yesterday I wrote my 2012 year in review, and amazed myself by the incredible events, experiences, and blessings that I had last year. I have so much to be thankful for, and I want to make this year even better.

I’m going about this in two phases. First, I am defining broad waypoints or situational descriptions that I would like to see fulfilled by the 2013. Second, I will then define actual goals (measurable, attainable, etc.) that will facilitate achieving those grander visions. In this manner I hope to have both the end goal and the day to day objectives in mind, and actual translate them into reality.

Without further ado then, how I would like to position my life by the end of 2013, in broad terms:

  • Last year I didn’t miss a single day reading in the scriptures. I want to continue this habit, but augment it by being able to say that I had a meaningful study every day, and not just a couple of verses because I was rushed.
  • Make more memories. When you look back on a year, do you think about the interesting article you read that day, or the new word that your son learned and repeated to you in the cutest way 500 times? The word, of course. From small little things like that to the big vacations, I want to have more memories to look back on with my family and close friends.
  • Really dive deep into enterprise software solutions, learning how they differ from consumer and freelancer projects, and what drives those differences. I want to know and understand this level of work so that I don’t misapply freelancer/consumer answers to enterprise problems, and visa versa. Truly understanding this level of work will hopefully make me a better business man all around, at every level. Luckily I am in a great position to do this in my day job, where I work on enterprise projects each day as a consultant.
  • Work on side projects to generate $1,000/month in passive income in 6 months, and $5,000/month by the year’s end. I’ve been considering this one for several months now, and have even recently seen some very successful people setting the same types of goals, so I know I must be in good company. Why do this? Because I don’t think there is a reason I shouldn’t be able to accomplish it. Doing so will also set up a 2014 that has more important lifestyle changes that I desire.
  • Have more time with my family. I’ve been working professionally for a whole eight months now (I’m a vet, I know), and I’ve come to realize already that things like commuting suck, because they suck valuable time out of your day. Other things as well, like too frequent news checking, seemingly important but truly unimportant side projects, etc., all take time away from the people that matter most, and the only “things” you get to take with you after this life. I am 25, and hopefully have a lot of life ahead of me, but that is not an excuse to skimp on time now simply because I’ll have more later. This life statement is also tied in with the immediately preceding one.
  • Write about and study information overload more. Review apps, review academic papers, write about behavioral solutions and the most recent news. Why? Because I am passionate about it, I love it, and you always learn something better when you must explain it clearly to others.
  • Take more pictures. Organize the ones I have. I used to walk down the road and would frame photographs and prints in my head–it’s been a while since I’ve done that. I have about 20 GB worth of photos that need sorting and editing, and the others are unorganized and difficult to access. These are some of the most precious memories and beautiful artwork I’ve done, and I’m just letting them gather digital dust. “Don’t bury your talents” comes to mind.
  • Begin to cultivate more of a sense of service and selflessness. In America we hear about the 1%, but in reality, anyone in America that is well off enough to be aware of what the 1% issue is referring to is truly a 1% themselves in regards to the world at large. I’m definitely not in the American 1%, but given the opportunities and compensations that I have, I’m probably in the top 0.1% in the world, and I need to give more of that back. And not just to the extreme destitute in far flung countries, but even to my neighbor or passerby downtown. Have service and compassion be a true part of my being and personality.

I’m sure there are a few I may have forgotten, but I believe that covers all of the most critical aspects. I love my life and have been so blessed; truly everything I have and am is because my heavenly Father has accorded it to me.

Now is the moment to take this life and time that has been given me, and magnify it, turn it into the best life I can conceive, and make it wonderful.

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Wow, what a fantastic year 2012 has been! So much has happened and so much has changed in just the last 365 days that I can barely believe it, and all for the better. A quick recap is in order, just so that I can reflect on all the many things that have transpired and affected me and my family for the better.

Information Overload and Email Overload

  • It was just one year ago that I came upon the idea of “fixing email” for my masters capstone project, and wrote my first post about it, “Email is broken and it’s time to fix it.” I launched head first into the fascinating world of information overload, email overload, technostress, user interface experiments, and so much more.
  • Interestingly, a few months later I wrote “Email is not broken, we are,” the most popular post on the blog that was carried to #3 on Hacker News and represents in a (very small) nutshell how my attitude toward email overload had changed.
  • I attended Overloaded 2012, a conference focused on information overload hosted by the Information Overload Resource Group, and met so many great and interesting people there, all engaged in trying to help solve this problem. This was a huge launching point for me and has resulted in so many great connections, ideas, and relationships.
  • In fact, I was very honored to be invited to participate on the steering committee of IORG, and am now helping to organize Overloaded 2013, set to take place February 9, 2013! It is going to be a banner conference, so come and attend!

Education

  • After five solid years I graduated with both my masters and bachelor degrees in Information Systems, from Brigham Young University. Absolutely fantastic program (ranked #8 nationally) that gave me a very good mix of both business and technical skills. The BYU IS program is incredibly unique among MIS programs in the United States because of it’s elevated expectations and very strong technical emphasis. I graduated with a business degree from a top B-school, and also have technical skills higher than many, if not most, other IS graduates, and on par even with some CS students.
  • Was in the top 10% of my class, and selected as the Outstanding Student of the masters program by the faculty. The credit, however, does not go to me—it goes to the professors who offered me exceptional opportunities and took special interest in helping me develop my talents and passions. It also goes to my God, who has given me everything, and to my wife, who was so amazingly supportive.
  • Was able to participate in the planning and first stages of execution of a research project examining behavioral adjustments when justification is required. This was a very neat opportunity for me to put the skills I had learned taking pre-Ph.D. courses to work, and furthered my desire to eventually pursue doctoral work.

Personal Life and Career

  • Our little boy went from barely being able to roll over on his stomach to a little guy who is running left and right in our house, only ever sits still for three seconds at a time, and has a speaking vocabulary that is expanding past 20 words! Holy cow! Carson, what an amazing 16 months it has been, watching you learn and grow.
  • We are now expecting our second, a little girl, and we are so excited. I have no idea how to raise a little girl, and it scares me, but I’m going to do my best and love her so much.
  • Started a great job as a technology consultant with Pariveda Solutions. It is amazing to be able to work with creme of the crop people every day, people who are smart but also care about helping out anyone in the firm who may need a hand. It is rare to find so many people of this sort all in one organization.
  • Moved to Denver, had a great time, and now moving on to Houston. Wow, two major moves in less than a year, crazy! But all for the best, and great opportunities.
  • Got to see my wife’s blog, The Game Gal, grow steadily over the year, and have her very first 10,000+ visitor day on the last day, New Years Eve. It is very interesting to see the people that she is able to help through her blog, especially ESL teachers and students, and those working with children. She has such great content, and she does all the art herself, I am so proud of her!
  • I set a goal/New Years resolution last January 1st that I would read my scriptures every single day in 2012—and I did. Some days it was literally only a couple of verses, but many days it was a much deep and profound study session, and I gained so much from it. This has been wonderful, and I am continuing this in 2013.

And that is only a smattering of the incredible things that have happened in this past year. How blessed and lucky I am! I only hope that I can take all of these great experiences and use them to help out others as well, whether it be my own family or strangers on the Internet.

2012 was fantastic, and I am so excited about 2013. I already have a post formulating in my mind of what I want to accomplish in this coming year, and I will post that tomorrow. But needless to say, you only go faster and farther when you try harder and stronger. There is no plateauing in life, only forward or backward progress. May we all make forward progress in 2013, and may it be a wonderful year for everyone.

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I live and die by my RSS reader (Google Reader), as a quick look at the stats reveals that I’ve read over 65,000 articles in the last three years alone. That means that I come across a large amount of very good content that I would love to share. You may have noticed that I often have a “Daily Digest” post, which is simply a pipe from my Delicious links into here. With future “Good Links” posts, I will also add a short commentary about the links to provide context. And so today let’s start it off with social media, economics, and the interplay between the two.

Link #1: How Social Commerce Really Works and Why

This GigaOM post highlights a fantastic slide deck, also embedded here, that talks about how many purchasing decisions must move to follow the social network model in order to be more successful. It’s long (121 slides) and starts slowly at first, but get into the second half and you’ll find a lot of interesting material.

Also in the post is mention of the Google engineer Paul Adams and his two presentations, “The Real Life Social Network” and “How Your Customers’ Social Circles Influence What They Buy, What They Do and Where They Go.” With the recent release of Google+, does that all sound a little familiar?

All in all, a great read, especially the slide deck, as it turns traditional marketing a little on its head, and gives good ideas about how to truly be influential in people’s decision making process.

Link #2: The Next Internet Opportunity is in Social Upheaval

Another GigaOM article, this one discusses a talk by Fred Wilson on how he believes that the Internet is on the verge of participating in or facilitating great societal revolutions, much like the 60s or the anti-war revolutions of previous decades. However, the thrust is how entrepreneurs can capitalize on this, and how thinking will need to change in order to profit from it.

I believe that this viewpoint is unfortunate, in that societal upheavals and changes produce long-term effects, but this talk is focused on very short-term results. Too much of our modern day economy is driven by short-term ambitions, and is therefore being driven it into the ground. Why don’t entrepreneurs look to build sustainable, long-term, growth-oriented businesses anymore? So few benefit from “the exit” or “the pivot,” when so much more social change could really be enacted by large businesses aimed at providing wealth to a large group of individuals. Capitalism has succeeded for the past several hundred years primarily because of its ability to enlarge the pie for all, not just a portion for a few. If we truly want to capitalize on social upheavals, then focus on long-term strategies that affect the greatest number of individuals. Make the pie bigger for everyone.

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