Go on, get criticised

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During my first weekend back in Australia, I wrangled the time to catch up with a friend. Over lunch, she made a comment that kicked off a stream of thoughts I’ve been wanting to post about for a while. Her comment was actually in relation to this blog you’re reading now. She mentioned I had sent out a post a few weeks before that had really obvious typos and grammatical errors in it. It seemed she was almost embarrassed for me… that some words I put my name to had gone out into the world unpolished. I admitted to her that I often write late at night, publish without another’s once over or edit, and that my intention was to simply produce. After all, I put together ~15 posts in the last month across The Fetch and my own blog alone. While I don’t want to get too bogged down in the specifics of this interaction, I think this provides a fantastic reminder for your journey to doing.

This journey starts with… putting stuff out there. To do, you need to put stuff out there. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been using physical fitness as an analogy for getting stuff done. You can’t go straight from being borderline obese to running marathons. It takes a lot of work and savvy habit hacking and formation. You start by walking around the block, cutting out certain kinds of foods, taking the stairs and become aware of what you need to do to keep going. The same goes for your professional lives – in this case, I need to put crap blog posts (or poorly edited ones) out there frequently to improve. I would also never have had the opportunity to grow a promising professional community in The Fetch if we didn’t put sub-optimal stuff out there to begin with. Heck, the first digest I sent in Melbourne had yellow links. Yes, YELLOW eye-watering links.

There’s a concept that’s referred to in the creative industries, mostly in music and television, called Old Shame. It’s when you’re mortified by your previous work: think naive albums, clunky lyrics, cheesy movie parts, bad fashion. I continually have old shame by my earlier productions – but this is great as it means I’ve evolved. I could delete older work but instead I embrace it. I’ve left the first marketing-focused blog I published aka The Zeitgeists on the web for years (which never ceases to draw close pal Eddie a good yet loving laugh).

And yet, like many of my points, it often comes back to lean (startup) methodology. Your work should be small, continuous iterations towards a goal with plenty of testing. If I never published a post for fear of errors, I would still be at the starting point without any feedback or reception from my readers. Frequent publishing allows me to see what’s interesting and useful to people, and what’s not. So, remember:

“If you are not criticised, you may not be doing much.” ~Donald Rumsfeld

Trying stuff out

During a morning flight on the commuter route (MEL<->SYD), I started thinking about past experiences and the art of experimentation. I’m a strong believer in trying stuff out – you never really know how you feel about something or where it will lead until you get a taste for it. I like to think I’ve tried a few things out so far – and I’m pleased I did because I wouldn’t have the direction, focus and determination I do now if I didn’t. I’ve listed some of these things below and the purpose of this isn’t to demonstrate a psychedelic CV. It is an example of celebrating diversity in work and play – to celebrate and have no fear of experimentation.

After all: “There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.” ~Richard Buckminster

  • I’ve sucked saliva out of people’s mouths in a dental surgery
  • I’ve styled models for bridal photo shoots
  • I’ve fed and analysed Zebrafish in a cancer research institute’s aquarium
  • I’ve served babychinos (with an accidental dose of caffeine!) to Sunday strollers in a bakery
  • I’ve set up new homeware retail stores here and in New Zealand
  • I’ve stacked shelves, photocopied reports and arranged appointments
  • I’ve walked the halls of the Sydney glossy magazine world
  • I’ve gone for Friday-afternoon beers with my development team and chatted about code
  • I’ve interviewed international business leaders for magazine cover stories
  • I’ve fed tennis balls to students as a tennis coach’s assistant
  • I’ve learnt about and burnt fabrics (to test the properties) while studying fashion business
  • I’ve helped round up Angus cattle on a farm
  • And so on…

So, what about you? What weird and wonderful things have you tried? How did they shape where you are now?

What I’m currently doing

  • Making stuff happen at Niche (it’s now been seven months since I was brought into the new role and yes, the main website needs to be done)
  • Being involved with the Victorian Government’s App My State initiative
  • Getting the @socialmelb site finally off the ground
  • Researching and writing a thesis for my marketing masters at RMIT University – due in late June
  • Walking/running three times per week for physical/mental fitness
  • Organising an overseas trip mid-year to my version of utopia
  • Doing afternoon tea reviews for the High Tea Society (updates via @highteasociety)
  • Reading a little each night from the mammoth book pile on my bedside table
  • “Focusing more on kind, and less on mind” – how can I help others/be selfless?
  • Continuing to attend my fair share of meetups around town (Melbourne event consortium list has what’s on offer: http://bit.ly/melbevents)
  • Learning more about spirituality, religion and philosophy
  • Living the present and thinking less about the future or past – promoting feeling
  • Smiling when I get a spare moment to myself  #reflection #gratitude
  • Sleeping and snuggling with my cat #catlady :-P

I don’t often externalise my activities but I’m sure it will help with productivity. Also, I’m trialling Remember The Milk for day-to-day personal task management. Will see how it goes. Inbox Zero is still a long way off…

So, over to you – what are you currently doing?

What are you actually doing?

This morning I woke up reminiscing about Twitter’s days of ‘What are you doing?’. (Now, of course, it is ‘What’s happening?’.)

When you remove the micro-blog-scopic tendency to answer the question at face value – there is such fantastic depth to it. What are you doing? What role are you playing? What change are you making? What are your actions resulting in? What impact will you have on the world? How can you transform thoughts and ideas into reality? Can you see your objectives and goals through to completion?

For me, what an individual is doing is one of the most attractive qualities they can embody. I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about where you came from, what you are on paper, what you look like, who you have in your networks, where you live – it’s what you have done and what you are currently doing. Your goals, ambitions and vision are definitely important but it’s when they’ve been chipped away at – that the beauty blossoms. If you are capable of doing, then you are capable of doing anything.

The following is probably cliché, but I believe if you really want to do what you set out to do, you do need to be optimistic, confident, patient, persistent, flexible and pragmatic (yes, as well as many other things). It’s also a fairly big claim to make, but the more I do, the happier I become. Obviously, a lot of other factors are in play but it’s been great to identify something so simple and bring it to top of mind.

This year, I’ve met such a diverse spectrum of people who are actually doing stuff and it’s been so refreshing. When you are around people who are doing, you are encouraged to do. It’s infectious. It’s also incredibly energetic. And I thank those people who I’ve come across.

I hope to meet many more in 2010.