All posts by Merrill III

A High Bar for Product Culture

My daughter is in the phase where she’s always asking me “why?”, so she asks me, “Why do you go to work?” …and I hate how a toddler has given me so much pause… because I don’t like my answer.

Here’s a window into an internal struggle:

Do you work for a company with an inspiring vision? Why the heck not? And why do you choose to spend your days contributing to a group that’s not improving humanity?

And now, here’s my struggle as I iterate on my Agility:

Why continue to focus on how things are being built & done when what we are building & doing is not improving humanity?

What do I tell my 2-year-old daughter? Continue reading

Letters at the End of Your Name

It takes a special kind of idiot to go from point A to point B in a tank-top, short shorts, and gloves.

That’s right. In high school (the prep school half of it), I was on the cross-country team.

Why was I on said team, you might ask? (I’m so glad you might asked!)

On campus, of lush green grass & trees in the bustling metropolis barely-more-than-a-post-office town of Byfield, I would be seen jogging to class, as a result of leaving to said class at the last responsible moment. It never occurred to me that this was an abnormal ambulatory mode until someone mentioned, on my way, in my way, to said class, that I should join said team.

One year, one of the perks of said team was the track jacket.

That year, one of the perks of said jacket was the last name stitched onto the right sleeve.

That year, one of the perks of said sleeve was that mine said, Continue reading

Hate the Self-Help Genre?

Hate how positive & fake-feeling the self-help genre can seem?

Then read this longer New Yorker article: Improving Ourselves to Death by Alexandra Schwartz. It’s an impressive survey & criticism.

Self-help advice reflects the beliefs and priorities of the era that spawned it.

In the January 15, 2018 issue, it’s fitting for those who ponder New Year’s Resolutions, which she addresses, and then she covers:

  • The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
  • SuperBetter, by Jane McGonigal
  • Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth
  • Smarter Better Faster, by Charles Duhigg
  • The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne
  • Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement, by Carl Cederström and André Spicer
  • The Wellness Syndrome, by Carl Cederström and André Spicer
  • Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, by Tim Ferriss
  • Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us, by Will Storr
  • You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want, by Sarah Knight (my blog post on her TED Talk)
  • Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze, by Svend Brinkmann

Ending with Stoicism, this reminds me of my buddy Jesse, and what’s surely his addition to the above:

  • The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, by Oliver Burkeman

So what’s the answer?

There’s a lot of different ones in the article. I’m currently looking into Stoicism.

Reality Now Sucks, and is also Just Different

It’s 5am. It is OK to hate reality. You know you want to. Go ahead. I grant thee permission.

Oh, you’re right: the other half of the blog post title represents a more stoic and less detached approach to life, and while, on a good day, y’might resolve to this state, you’re likely to have an initial set of cortisol-driven, fear-based reactions.

And I say: embrace it …for a bit …because you’re human and this is part of the experience …and you only live twice. (#YOLT)

This isn’t a post about how an emotionally mature way to handle change we don’t at first like is to recall Bill Belichick’s, “it is what it is”.

This isn’t a post about how it is more spiritually sustainable to remove outcome from life events, and to go with the flow.

This isn’t even a post about allowing yourself to feel emotions (even though that’s how I’m starting all this).

It is about how the title is “Reality Now Sucks, AND is also Just Different”, and not “Reality Now Sucks, BUT is also Just Different”. Continue reading

Hammer and the Hedgehog

What’s the worst place to have an epiphany about your whole approach to life being wrong?

At work. In a meeting. Run by you. About your approach to life.

Why Agile?” was the topic of our bi-weekly Agile Guild gathering: when to ‘use it’ and when not to ‘use it’. Answer: When tasks are complex, not simple. What’s another way of thinking about complexity? There’s high discoverability & low predictability. I just saved you the bulk of an hour-long discussion. You’re welcome.

No mind-blowing epiphanies yet. So far, we gucci.

All of a sudden, fellow Scrum Master Stephen busted out a cautionary quote about ‘using Agile’, a version of which I like is:

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.  – Abraham Maslow

Well, in Asheville they say – that the Merrill’s small head grew three sizes that day. (And then – the true meaning of Agile came through, and the Merrill found the strength of ten Grinches Merrills, plus two!)

Mind equalled blown. Doesn’t often happen. Continue reading