Late night self analysis. Go!
I’ve never had a good response to the question “what do you do?” and have always felt that whatever I said would be either too modest and not actually explain anything, or too boastful and I’d feel like a douche. I’ve spent many years trying to brush off the question by saying simply “I’m a publisher” or “I’m a blogger” or if pushed a bit more will say “I do lots of things online with blogs and stuff.” But really that doesn’t describe anything and usually leaves people with more questions than answers. Part of the problem is I have a really hard time talking about myself, but another piece is I know people like neat little boxes with labels and I could never find one that worked for me. I even make a joke about this on the front page of my website even.
Another problem is that it changes, sometimes a lot. My profession is generally linked to my interests at any given time, and even when I try to avoid it I end up mashing them together some how. So as I get bored of one thing and interested in another I end up taking that with me back to whatever project(s) are on my plate at the time.
Over the last few months I’ve been thinking about this and trying to be very honest with myself about what it is exactly that I do. I know what I’ve done, I know what I like doing and what I don’t like doing, and I know what I’d like to do more of. Those things all kind of shape what I’m doing at any given time, though they probably should shape it more than I allow them too. So I thought I’d try to break this out a little bit here and see what kind of shape I can make out of it. Maybe this will be interesting to you too.
This is what I know:
Concept and creation is exciting. There are few things that get me as amped as the creative ideas and building phase of anything. Anyone who who has been around me at this stage in any project knows that when ideas start flying around my blood pumps faster and I talk louder and my mind spins faster than I can vocalize. I love this. If every day could have just a few minutes of this I would be the happiest person on the planet. Coming up with new things and new ways to do them is what I live for. Sometimes I come off as overzealous because I get obsessed and want to run with things, this is a fault I know I need to work on, but it’s a side effect of being so excited about doing something cool.
Management is boring. Really. Which has probably been a huge influence into my management style which I know really doesn’t work with some people. My philosophy is this – if someone is in a position it’s because I (or someone else) trusts that they know how to do that job well. If I could do it better than them I would, but I have them there because I can’t so it would be pointless for me to try and tell them how to do their job. What I can tell them is the result I want, and likely when I want it. But I leave the how up to them. I feel like that is the respectful way to do it. Some people need more structure than that and I can understand it, I’m just shit at providing it. I end up thinking if I’m laying out every step I should just be doing it myself. But regardless, it’s boring and I don’t like doing it anymore than I need to.
I think I look at a lot of management as just maintaining things. Keeping them running. And that is the part that is uninteresting. The new and exciting is what is interesting to me, the same thing as yesterday makes me yawn.
Because of these two things I find that I really excel at skunkworks. Stick me in a room with a handful of other creative and inspiring people and a whiteboard and magic happens. The behind the scenes planning stage control room is my favorite place to be. If there was an idea factory I’d be a happy assembly line worker cranking out concepts all day long. Unfortunately without a strong business angle the idea building world isn’t that profitable and thus hard to maintain. I have more ideas then time or money to develop them. I’ve been thinking for a while that there should be a repository for those kinds of ideas so that others with more time/money could run with the ideas once they are generated. I can’t be the only one thinking this can I?
Some people are good at tweaking numbers to get profits, I’m not those people. I’m better at overall concept and direction. How something makes money is something I think about, but it’s never first and foremost. Doing something cool has always been center stage for me. This isn’t always a good thing, and I know that. Most of my life has been a gamble, betting on the cool thing hoping it pays off, rather than the safe sure thing. It’s worked to the point that I keep doing it, but not yet to the point that I don’t have to keep doing it. If you know what I mean.
I’m a great evangelist for things I love. Anyone who follows me on twitter knows that. Of course this falls again in the “cool stuff that doesn’t make money” column. I evangelize things I love, not things that pay me to endorse them. If something impresses me I feel obligated to tell others so they can be impressed as well. This is something I’m good and and like doing. I’m really good at being a fan. Some friends of mine are also really good at being fans, but either because they are investors/advisors/employees or have some other connection they actually profit from being fans. I haven’t ever worked that part out, though someday I hope to be able to invest in companies and projects that I love.
Disruptive technologies are like a tractor beam for me. Anything that messes with an established system, anything that ignores existing process, tears it apart and builds something new in it’s place has got me. I’m all in. The more chaotic and less controlable the better. I played with a lot of fire as a kid and I’ve always been drawn towards chaos. I like riots. I like revolts. Harness some of that energy and funnel it into technology and you have my perfect match.
Doing things doesn’t always mean doing them right. I’m perfectly comfortable trying things, finding out they are a mistake and then trying something else hopefully with some new knowledge and insight gained from whatever embarrassing mistake I just made.
I love communities. That should be no surprise, as they are often a breeding ground for much of the above. Things that are built on, or fueled by their communities are my favorite. A professor in Vienna speculated that because I moved around so much as a child and more often then not had a less than stable or at least fluctuating family life that I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to build a community that I can be comfortable and secure with. He might have been right. He might also have been crazy.
So looking towards the future, something that combines all of the above is what I’m trying to do. Exactly how to do that remains to be seen and may end up being a collection of thinks which each focus on a different aspect.