I’ve been practicing documenting every decision and piece of information that might be of interest for the last few years with clients. It has lead to increasingly asymmetric impact just because the stuff I work on stays around for longer. And is therefore valuable to the organisation for longer, even when I’m not there anymore.
But I have just found the best example of how powerful it is when people write down institutional knowledge: The GitLab Handbook… It’s a mind-blowing tome, some 13000 pages of highly actionable insights and information tid bits like this:
Don’t wait. When you have something of value like a potential blog post or a small fix, implement it straight away. Right now, everything is fresh in your head and you have the motivation. Inspiration is perishable. Don’t wait until you have a better version. Don’t wait until you record a better video. Don’t wait for an event (like Contribute). Inventory that isn’t released is a liability since it has to be managed, becomes outdated, and you miss out on the feedback you would have received had you implemented it straight away.
I happened upon this amazing motivational speech by Stelli Efti earlier today. It’s a short video about what committing really looks and feels like, ending with a short exercise. Listening to it I felt inspired and shared it on twitter. To my great surprise Steli actually replied:
After someone as busy as Steli took the time to kick me towards better prioritisation, I felt like I needed to try the exercise. And you should do it with me!
1. Write down what you’re doing
List your commitments and projects. All the areas of life where you spend your time. Don’t get into the details, but list them out. Start with family and occupation. Stop when you get to that instrument you haven’t touched in a year.
2. Sort into two categories: commit, or participate
Commit is where you are really commit. Where there’s no plan B, you’re gonna do it or fail. Not failing slow, not letting things fizzle out. Commit is where you need to do it.
Participate is where you’re going through the motions a bit. You’re showing up but there’s always a side track, always an escape route. Maybe it’s something that doesn’t crash if you stop for a week. Maybe it’s more of an intention than a must?
3. Ask yourself the hard question
Are you really committing to what you want out of life?
My result was, just like Steli said, really insightful. In short I’m not truly committed to anything except my family.
All of my projects right now are all full of plan Bs and safety nets. I’m not committing, failing, and learning. I’m more wandering around and exploring safely. Lazily drifting from interest to interest…
Now that I know this. I should just pick one, and commit. Making hard choices is a lot easier when you’ve got some perspective on why you need to make them.
Listening to Steli Efti talk about avoiding having a half-assed life by committing fully to whatever we’re doing. Being ready to give it our all, not hedging the bet, and letting something fail if it doesn’t work out.
It’s a powerful message, and I’m feeling very inspired to be less distracted and hedge less. The idea ties together really well with Derek Siver’s axiom Hell yeah or no.
I read this wonderful article by Matthew Ball about Nintendo and how they differ from Disney in their approach to leveraging IPs. It’s an interesting read and if you have half an hour to spare I recommend it. But in the middle of the article was with wonderful tidbit:
Creator Shigeru Miyamoto actively requires development teams to reinvent the franchise. Following the success of the first entry, a top-down action adventure game, Kotaku reports that Miyamoto-san told “the team—not the Zelda 1 team, but an entirely different team—that he wanted to make a side-scrolling action game where the player had to attack with, and defend against, high and low attacks.”
To be clear, this approach is why Nintendo is so spectacular.
If you don’t already know Mr Miyamoto is the legendary creator behind both the Mario and Zelda franchises, his creative works are second too none. I find this little legend especially interesting because Miyamoto is deliberately adding constraints instead of reusing the same tried and true pattern. Even though this is a huge financial risk.
When was the last time you did something deliberately harder?
I don’t think I’ve deliberately thrown away working patterns in my designs at any time. Definitely not in the last five years. I’m intrigued to find out what happens if I try it.
I wish I could remember who tipped me off. It was a podcast I listened to 2-3 weeks ago on which on of the hosts said Show your Work by Austin Kleon had helped them start showing off their work. I’m only half way through, and I feel inspired to say the same!
If you struggle with publishing your work, this is the book for you. It only takes two hours or so to read.
You notice it every week; how suddenly everyone seems to be talking about that same thing. A new trend. A new thing, having its moment. But how often are these trendy topics valuable?
Now I don’t know this for a fact, but over the years I’ve noticed that trendy things are rarely, if ever, very useful. The trend usually preempts the usefulness. The real work begins when the trend is at its peak. Only after that do people discover, through trial and error, how to actually do the thing.
It will probably take a year or so until they turn around and can teach the rest of us how to use this, no longer trendy, topic in our own work.
This is good news. I think we can use this for our advantage. When I see something interesting I’ll simply write it down, and then google it a year later. By then the experiments will have been run and I can learn from the results. All that time I’m not wasting keeping up with the trend I can use to study and experiment on my own stuff.
“People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time—even when hard at work.”
This is something I’m thinking about today. I’m currently in the start of a new project, trying out ideas and looking for something sticky. And honestly, it’s getting me down. I’m worried, bordering on cynical.
What I’m building is interesting, bordering on fantastic, but is it the right thing?
Is this the important work? Is this the effort that will shape my life in the direction I want to go?
It’s hard to connect the dots looking forward. It’s easily looking back. Does that mean we can plot our course based on our recent history?