I am a multidisciplinary knowledge worker. If that sounds like Drucker-talk to you, well it is. I’m a huge fan of this under-quoted / over-influential and recently deceased business guru who just knew things to the core. I don’t think he’s the inventor of the terms core competencies and outsourcing, but he may as well have been. Listening to him is like listening to a perfect observer of business and human nature.
The mission of every company is to get and keep customers, and the reason to work for “the man” is because you can be more productive as with access to the resources of the organization than you could be on your own. So, that’s my field in broadest terms. I’ll learn anything and do anything that’s fun and interests me, and lately that happens to be marketing stuff, and person-to-person interaction through IT systems, in particular. Let’s call it SEO.
Here is my FAQ on Strategy and Accomplishment
Okay, so first google the Pareto principle, also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity. It states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So, it's a natural law of nature that about 20% of anything—for the sake of our discussion, the population—can become the big winners high on the achievement-scale. The world is not naturally communist or socialist. It's not entirely laissez faire capitalist or survival of the fittest, either. It's just competitive due to limited resources and a bunch of people. Therefore, things that society agrees are valuable are of necessity made somewhat difficult to achieve—to the point where a lifetime of dedication may be necessary for some of the bigger prizes: wealth, fame, mastery of music, game development, sports, etc. Sure, there's the occasional child prodigy that's born brilliant, but don't be jealous of those aberrations of nature. For every one of them, there's 10,000 people who had to work their asses off to only just approach similar levels. Don't let it consume you. Consider becoming fairly good at something, and then just being a big fish in a small pond. Google and learn the fake and the real story of Mozart and Antonio Salieri (hint: the movie's not accurate). Measure success by how happy you are in relation to yourself, your family, friends, and the activities you do every day. Tweak your course in life to align what you're naturally predisposed to being good at, with what you enjoy, with what you can make a living doing. The new economy will continuously broaden how these three things overlap. Have hope. Follow your passion. But have a pragmatic view of things, and work on your technical diagnostic skills. Try to understand the real underlying reasons for things. Think of 5 or 6 ways you might do something before pursuing the first one that occurs to you. But there are actually about 5 right ways to do something, so don't become paralyzed deliberating. Choose a good one and trek on ahead! Go, go, go!
Face it, most of the world can't live in New York City—and like your religion, race, and socio-economic status, you're pretty much just born into the suburbs and dropped into the zombie-producing babysitting-factory known as the public school system. So, if you're a dull dimwit with no future, it's not entirely your fault. I was extremely fortunate being born only about 2 hours from NYC and had the pleasure of walking to a local Philly train station and taking train rides the very seedy NYC with my next-door-neighbor when I was around 16 years old in the mid-80's. It made NY seem very accessible to me, and when the time came to take a job there, I didn't hesitate. New York has disney-ified, but is still the place to be to set things straight. The only for me was, I was already 35 years old at the time I made the move! If you want to start fixing the faulty wiring in your head, try to do it much, much earlier. Like say, your first job out of college. You can always move back later if you hate it. And until then, there's always the Internet. Also, don't believe anything anyone tells you. Learn as much of your information first-hand as you can. And do something better than anyone else in the world and find your market. That will provide you a way out sooner or later. Google new economy.
I'm having difficulty getting myself to be productive. You need a tiny success—of any kind! And probably much smaller than you think. Deconstruct the problem or task in front of you, and figure out the first baby-step you can take, which is neither intimidating nor possesses too many unknowns. It is too many unknowns all in a row that creates a much larger obstacle to taking the first step than it seems like it should. In your defense, it actually is a much larger task than you initially thought. Your subconscious mind knows this, but your conscious mind doesn't, and only feels guilt. So, all you have to do is change your approach. First, you WILL have to do SOMETHING, so if pure procrastination is your poison, you simply have take some advice from Nike, and Just Do It. If it's distraction, then don't let your issue-evading subconscious get one over on you! Unplug the Internet. Put those Angry Birds to sleep. Make the task at-hand somehow more interesting to you than the distractions. But if the battle is over next-step ambiguity, take a page from FlyLady.net, and shine your sink
Robert Cialdin's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. This dude went undercover into eerily effective businesses to see what made them tick, and distilled it down to six principles. Go read the Wikipedia page about these six principles
of Reciprocity, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Authority, Liking and Scarcity, and you can probably forgo the book, but it is full of excellent research and stories. It's pre-Web, but totally applicable online. He pinpointed tasty little tidbits like you'll gladly fork your dough over to a thief... but only if he's likable and friendly thief. This very blog is a conscious application of his Commitment and Consistency principle: write it down somewhere the public can read and hold you accountable to it, and you are more likely to follow through.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War. But beware of bloated commentary translations that make it into something that it is not. Get a very tiny version, such as the Thomas Cleary Pocket Edition
. The brilliance of this book is that it distills strategy down to a timeless and easy to comprehend essence, and it was written around 2500 years ago by some unknown Chinese general. Sure, it frames strategy in military terms, which isn't always the best, but it puts it in context. War is a necessary skill leaders must take up out of necessity and for survival, so you might as well kick ass when you have to. Only pick fights you can win, and win the fight before even walking into it. Thanks to good information and planning, victory should feel like throwing rocks on top of eggs, and all that sort of good stuff. There's plenty of other good strategy books, but few others are so tiny, well organized and timeless.
Here is a FAQ about Cross-Platform tech issues
The amount of re-learning you have to do from one desktop OS to the next is minimal, so the question is not as important as "which server platform". None-the-less, it's where you live every day, so it's worth considering. Definitely not Windows. It's both proprietary, and forces you to re-train every few years during forced upgrade cycles (revenue windfalls). OS X is the best proprietary desktop, and my second choice for daily productivity. First, is (controversially) Ubuntu Unity, thanks to the unsung hero of the pragmatic desktop, Mark Shuttleworth who is extending Apple's "Spotlight" innovations into application menus with HUD
. I use it every day as my main desktop environment. The concept that Linux isn't ready for prime-time desktop use is a notion that is long-since dead. And Ubuntu "Precise" is just about as polished as any product can be.
UPDATE: Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal is even more polished. My affinity for Ubuntu continues to grow, as it becomes cleaner, faster and gets even more out of your way. Ubuntu has been making some gutsy decisions, and I like them. Decide for yourself. Don't let old-school Linux desktop bullies tell you Ubuntu lost its way. It's forging forward on a brand-new path that few realize how significant it might become.
Ahhhh—my favorite character—the em-dash. You can type it on any platform. Macs and Linux makes it easy. PCs only really let you easily do it if you have a number-pad on your keyboard, which is mindbogglingly dumb. Anyway, it goes as follows.
Mac: Option+Shift minus, or however you want to say it. It's the easiest of all the platforms, and you basically just hold down the Option and the Shift keys simultaneously, then tap minus.
Windows: Alt+0151. You HAVE TO use the number pad for the 0151, which is just so dumb. So, if you're on a compact keyboard or certain laptops, you just can't type an em-dash. Ugh! Oh yeah... you have to HOLD DOWN the alt-key while typing 0151, and when you LET GO of the alt-key is when the em-dash appears—just so strange!
Ubuntu Linux: Ctrl+Shift+U 2014+Enter. You FIRST press Ctrl+Shift+U simultaneously, then let go, and type 2014 and hit Enter. Okay, this is the most sensible, but perhaps the most disruptive to your flow. You can type almost any Unicode character in Ubuntu Linux by using the Ctrl+Shift+U prefix, then entering the Unicode number for the glyph that you want. There are other ways, but they require customizations, and I try to avoid that.
iOS iPhone, iPad, etc.: Simply press-and-hold the minus sign on the on-screen keyboard, and in a moment, extended character options will appear with the em-dash among them.
Android: Basically the same as iOS. Click the ?123 key to see the minus key. Press and hold the minus key until the em-dash and other alternatives apear. Tap it.
vim (bonus): Press Ctrl+v u2014. That is, press control and v simultaneously, then let go and type the letter u and the numbers 2014. There is need to press Enter at the end.
Than answer varies from platform to platform. I discuss double clicking bat files on this page
. In broad strokes, you have to go through a .vbscript on Windows, using a WishScript object with a suppress output parameter selected. On Mac OS X, you create an OS X "application bundle" that's wired-up to run a bash script (.sh file) that it contains. And on Linux... well... it differs per your platform, but the only cross-distribution reliable thing is to use a bash script .sh file, and just deal with the warnings that pop up when you double-click it, and making whatever selection is NOT "run in console".