Day 1 with a motto

Look nice, but take some getting used to
Look nice, but take some getting used to

Still getting used to the idea. But, it seems to be working.

What does a motto do?

So far it’s helped me focus by organizing how I approach things. That’s something I didn’t quite expect. But, after trying it out, I kinda like how that works–a lot!


Well. Let’s consider each word.


It all starts from empathy. This is a new starting place for me, but I’m finding that it helps put things in perspective. I know my feelings, but that’s only one component in understanding a situation. It’s easy (too easy) to stop there. With empathy, I can include the feelings of others. With practice, I’ll be able to learn the source of those feelings to gain a much deeper and richer understanding of a situation. It’s been like turning on the lights in a dark room. (OK, maybe it’s more like turning on a night light, but it’s a start).


Empathy is great (I’m finding), but objective data still has a place. On the one hand it helps put empathy in perspective. Feelings and motives are important to understand, but they can vary over time. So having data helps separate spurious and transient feelings from more profound issues. Neither data nor empathy is more important than the other; instead, they work together to provide a clearer and more complete understanding.


As my motto was coming together, it started out as just: Empathy. Data. Success. But those shoes didn’t quite work (to stretch the metaphor). Something was missing. Initially I thought about Execution. But that seemed inappropriate for a lot of reasons. Even ignoring the multiple definitions of the term, simply “getting the job done,” or “processing the data” seemed necessary, but hardly sufficient to achieve success. There needed to be some sense of conviction to the process; hence, Enthusiasm.

If you’re going to do it, do it with vigor (while not ignoring the first two points, of course).


Finally, success. Does this mean riches? Maybe. But, maybe not. defines success as:

the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.

That seems sufficient. A favorable or prosperous outcome seems sufficiently precise for the motto. Sure, the actual operationalization of  favorable or prosperous is going to vary from case to case, but in every case I can imagine, either one seems like a worthwhile goal.


And so begins day 1 with my new motto.

I have a motto

Today, I as reviewing the vision document and realized I didn’t have a motto. I’m fairly certain that I didn’t have one because I’ve found coming up with them to be quite a challenge. I honestly sympathize with my students when we’ve done the motto exercise in class.

But, today, I was feeling inspired and took advantage of the inspiration to come up with:

Empathy. Data. Enthusiasm. Success.

That seems like the right order and I like them because they seem representative of what I think are important aspects of life and work. To me they seem both inspirational and aspirational. Reflecting on them helps inspire focus and a certain amount of balance. That same reflection also reminds me of how much I have to learn about each–which suits my desire to constantly learn, grow, and improve.

I suppose the next step is the schwag (t-shirts, key chains, bumper stickers, and what not), but I’m still growing into them, so that might have to wait just a bit.


More goal setting

My blog vision is coming together. Shortly after my last update to the vision document, I realized I had another goal to add:

Limit blog posts to 500 words or less in size (about a 2-minute reading experience)

I’ve been aiming for this since the beginning–my intent being to keep each post succinct for the reader and force me to focus. As a result, I have a few posts still in the unpublished, draft state because they don’t meet that goal, but it’s been good practice.

In reviewing the earlier iterations of the blog vision, there seems to be some unarticulated elements. For example, the first goal was to generate content, but I’ve not set as a goal, develop an audience. While I do, eventually, want to develop an audience, my feeling is that I’ll need some set of content before promoting to an audience will be productive. So, the goal for this year is to accumulate that content. Next year, I might add “attract an audience” as a goal, but I don’t think I’m ready for that, yet.

The question that presents for this exercise is, should my long-term goal of developing an audience be included somewhere in the current vision document? That could be seen as a guiding, long-term goal, or a short-term distraction. As a long-term goal, it would help guide short-term decisions. At the same time, if having that in front of me might attract me to start trying to attract an audience before I have enough content to make it worth their while to stay–making it even harder to win them back, later.

I’ll need to think about that.

Setting a goal

Continuing on my site/personal vision and goal setting exercise (picking up from my last post on the topic), I updated my vision document with my first goal. Goals should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

So, with that in mind, I added my first goal:

Build base of content – at least 1, ideally 2, new topic(s) per week

My vision document is still a work in progress, but this is definitely a goal that fits within the vision and principles and is SMART.

I still have more things to consider. The biggest elephant in the room is the portfolio that I’ve managed to avoid for, well, for the past 35 years. Likewise, I want to add more CV material, etc. to tell more about me, but I need to keep the Achievable and Realistic elements of the SMART mnemonic in mind, while not ignoring the Timely one.

It might only be one step at a time, but it’s one more step.

Getting past authentic

I’m still working on the blog’s vision and goals and it occurred to me why authentic was such a sticky wicket–the meaning has been stretched some. To me, it’s summed up as “what you see is what you get,” and therein lies the problem: I don’t look like much, unless you know where to look, I suppose.

The challenge comes when having had to choose between making an impression or making an impact, I’ve preferred to make an impact. Sometimes, on a good day, the impact is what makes an impression. Oftentimes, however, the impact comes at the cost of making an impression, or at least an immediate impression. Sometimes, to be completely honest, I strike out and make neither (or worse). Those, I chalk up to live and learn, and try not to repeat them.

Back to the blog. If I aspire for the blog to have a positive impact and make an impression, but can I do that and be authentic?  I think so, as long as the impression comes from the impact. In a world that can’t see past the impressions, however, that’s going to come with a cost. But it’s a cost that’s lower, in the long run, than optimizing for impression over impact.

I think I can get past authentic now that I’ve operationalized it more clearly.

With that, I’ve updated my vision document.

In this latest update, I:

  • Added a new audience segment: Amateur radio. How could forget that?
  • Edited the vision to engage in a conversation, not just contribute (i.e. toss things into) one.
  • Added a new principle: to strive for craftsmanship.

The last one is a personal goal as well and speaks back to how I’ve operationalized authentic. I want this work to have a clean and professional sense about it. If it doesn’t now, I want it to work towards that goal as I go along.

Interesting. By clearing up one principle, I was able to reveal another.


So it begins

Press to start
Press to start

There’s no time like the present.

In the spirit of my last post, I started the vision document for the blog. This wasn’t as hard as I thought, but it wasn’t easy. I ran out of steam at the Principles section. I don’t think that means I’m without principles, just that I want to give them some thought–I want them to be something I can live with, if not aspire to.


That was easy. It took a little bit of thought, but only to decide how to articulate them.


That was pretty straightforward, as well. We’ll see how it holds up as time goes on.


And this is where it got a little sticky.

  • Be honest and accurate
  • Be constructive and contribute to improvement
  • Be authentic

Be honest and accurate – That was easy to put down on paper (virtual or otherwise). Without that as a starting point, the rest is just more Internet flotsam. But I could feel the pressure starting to build.

Be constructive and contribute to improvement – That’s going to take some growing into (so please have some patience). It’s not that being constructive is something I can’t do. Not at all. What’s going to be a challenge is tempering my critical comments (a.k.a. biting my tongue). It’s still too easy for me to slip into my curmudgeon persona. There’s a time and a place to call him to the front of the line, but, it’s usually better if he just stays at home in the rocker on the porch, sipping lemonade, and petting the dog.

Be authentic – …and that’s as far as I got in this try. I got stuck on operationalizing authentic. That shouldn’t be difficult, but for now, I’ll attribute the difficulty to the fact I did all this on a Friday afternoon.

All in all, not a bad start.

Finding my voice

Man talking on phone

My blog is getting close to celebrating its six month birthday and I’m still finding its voice. Sure, its voice is really my voice, so maybe I’m still finding my voice as well.

From the first post, I started off with some simple, structural rules. Well, rule. Each post should be less than 500 words. That’s about two minutes for the average person to read. It seemed like a good limit to accommodate the reader’s patience and temper the writer’s proclivity to go on and on (and on and on…). Thanks to editor that WordPress provides, I can  tell when I’ve hit my limit and several posts have been trimmed down considerably to meet the limit.

There’s more to writing, however, than word count. After limiting the length, the next challenge is the voice and tone. How do I want the blog to sound. Looking back at the topics, they seem to wander around with no apparent direction. In some sense, that’s the nature of a web log, but I’m not sure that’s where I want it to go. This became a more pressing problem as I recently wrote several posts that I’m not sure will ever see the light of day, at least in their current form. They appear to have been written by someone who is very impatient and somewhat upset with things as they are. (Oh, right, that must’ve been me). Whether or not that’s what I meant to say at the time, I’m not sure that’s what I wanted to say. So, I’ll muffle those for the time being. Because it’s easier to edit than create (usually), maybe I’ll come back to them and tidy the up. Constructively, I think they represent my state of mind (unfocused), and my annoyance with that. Fortunately fate has intervened to help turn that around.

Now that school’s over, I’ve got time to attend some of the social/professional events that are going on around town (Seattle). In one I attended earlier this week, I saw Steve Fisher talk about Content & Design: Conflict is the Key to Great Experiences. Most of the content from his talk is on his website at Responsive content modeling, if you’re interested.

The key takeaways from Steve’s talk were using and working through conflict to arrive at the design’s:

  • Audience
  • Vision
  • Principles
  • Goals

Those seem like reasonable elements to identify for my blog to help me find its voice. Now to get to work.

A new year. A new blog.

Under construction
Looking better every day

I’ve been contemplating a blog for quite a while. Why start now? Well, I’m starting this year with a long list of writing projects so what better way to procrastinate then having a blog that will constantly be begging for content?

Like this photo of a house from my childhood, this blog is under construction, so expect to constantly grow and improve. Like an agile development project, even though it’s not finished, it will always be usable–and, with any luck, more useful with every revision.

OK, that’s enough similes for now. A happy and prosperous 2015 to all!

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