Hell Yeah Test

Let me set the scene. (OK…)

Boston. South Boston. The Southiest part. South of Washington Street. It’s Sunday. There is this open air market. It’s filled with friendly people selling friendly things to other friendly people out in the open air. The air is so open and so airy (what?!) and so friendly that each tidal wash of this pleasantly invigorating life force is an intimate activity, since it’s among friends. (Oh c’mon…) Smiles are artfully and generously cast only to return like a boomerang of love. (Stop it, that’s just ridiculous…)

That’s when I walk into a trap (here we go…), albeit of my own doing. (Oooh, a twist…)

So, you know my thing about bow ties. I finally learned to tie one a few days ago (big whoop, it’s like tying your shoelaces, except around your neck) and have joined the ranks of the dapper, so why not augment my ability to parade my fashionable skill to the masses? (‘Cause nobody else does…) Thus, like a match made in open air market heaven, I happen upon a booth of bow ties. Custom bow ties. Friendly open air custom bow ties. (Snarky comment in three… two…) It was too good to be true. (They were made of bacon?)

In truth, however, it wasn’t good enough.

The bow ties were good, but they weren’t great. They were cool, but they weren’t awesome. They were custom, but they weren’t me. (That thing did not have a hemi.) I stood in that booth looking over the buffet, listening to the owners share their story, thinking about what outfit a particular choice would go with (ninja suit – can’t go wrong), learning how they were made in Thailand (BowTieLand?), feeling them pour on the pressure to buy like the management students they were. The longer I stayed, the more committed and bow tied down (niiice) I felt.

Through a break in the clouds, the wisdom of the commerce gods (Hermes? Mercury?) dawned upon me and I yanked myself away. I realized that none of the bow ties passed the Hell Yeah Test. (Now we’re making stuff up.) I didn’t make this up. I read it in ‘The $100 Startup’ by Chris Guillebeau (and then we made it up):

When presented with an opportunity, don’t think about its merit or how busy you are. Instead, think about how it makes you feel. If you feel only so-so about it, turn it down and move on. But if the opportunity would be exciting and meaningful – so much so that you can say, “hell yeah” when you think about it – find a way to say yes.

So yes, I walked away from taking on another piece of clothing I wasn’t excited about. And why shouldn’t that apply to anything else? Not just all purchases (a new rule I’m imposing upon myself) (oh, what a burden), but also… life? The big things and the small things. The big things meaning friendships, relationships, jobs, picking where to live, voting, other lifestyle choices. The small things meaning what to eat, where to eat, what to wear, what to do in your down time, what to buy, whether to buy a bow tie. Having the strategic and tactical driven by the Hell Yeah Test sounds like a sense of flow, yes no? (Hell yes no.) This test guides you along what excites you – what giddily excites you to your kiddie core. (Heck yes, please.)

Conversely, where possible, this also means don’t do things that don’t pass the Hell Yeah Test, like purchase a bow tie that doesn’t excite you. This thus turns into a very natural selector – in a sense, you’re listening to your body – essentially another version of following your intuition. I happen to like how it’s phrased here a lot better. Don’t you? (Hell Yeah.)

Personal Overhead

This is the post where I share my ScrumOfOne existential doubts.

Do I doubt this whole “Using Scrum for Personal Development” idea? Yes I do, yet I think it’s somewhat healthy. It is very encouraging that Scrum encourages critical thinking by building in a time to be retrospective and thus adapt: choose to amend the set of processes I’m imposing upon myself, which includes killing off all that overhead altogether! There is a question from ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Timothy Ferriss that fits this all too well:

Am I being productive or just active?


Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?”

I’ll admit that I feel this ScrumOfOne idea is kinda my baby; I really like the idea and have found it key to managing how I purposefully get things done. So that I can analyze if these ‘Scrummy’ practices are a good return on investment, I have turned to these existential questions from ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson:

Why are you doing this?
Is this actually useful?
Will this change behavior?
What could you be doing instead?
What problem are you solving?
Are you adding value?
Is there an easier way?
Is it really worth it?

Man, those questions are straight-up down-right (left hook?) harsh! And I like ’em. A lot. They bleed with the spirit of Getting Real. I had huge plans: waking up at 5:31am to step through the three questions (I even convinced a buddy to be a part of this pre-dawn Scrum), stepping through and documenting a formal Retrospective, writing a PERL script to manage a text-based Product Backlog, reading weekly a set of quotes & phrases & book notes I’ve collected over the years as my personal set of Psalms. These weren’t just plans… I actually did them for a while!

So do I still do all this? Hellz no! These ceremonies were just not sustainable for the long term. My commute schedule changed, so 5:31am turned into an ungodly hour to be awake, although I still have the 531am.com domain name. My Retrospective currently covers what happened over the past two weeks, how process adaptations fared, and what process tweaks to adopt. My Product Backlog is a Google Doc with the Sprint Backlog at the very top – a text editor in the cloud suffices. My hours-long re-centering read now happens monthly. I pared down the personal overhead to manageable levels based on fruitful returns.

Sure, ScrumOfOne takes discipline, which connotes a struggle, though what I’ve found as I’ve been massaging this system of processes is you can change the nature of the motivation when you see the fruits of your labor. The morning stand-up has turned into 15 minutes of alignment, mental prep, and a generally feel-good start to my day. It’s a trigger to personal finance documenting, reading a few fruity-sounding affirmations, and walking into the day with a purpose. When I do this, I literally walk differently. (I do!) This whole Scrum business is just that transforming.

Thus the system continues, yet only because it started with a habit: a small step: the seed of a fruit I hoped would work out. Upon processes that proved their own worth, I added, modified, and removed (…mostly removed) as I evolved this personal overhead, like trimming a fruit tree.

Alright. Seriously. What’s up with all the fruit in this post? I think I’ll grab a pear…

Don’t Have A Fine Day

Don’t do it. Just don’t. Whatever it takes.

If somebody asks you, “Greetings, citizen! How fares your day?” and you say, “Fine!” …then… think about that.

Fine? Do you really want a fine day? Just… fine? It’s your day, so if you could chose an adjective to be associated with it, would you really want it to be ‘fine’? Come now, fair citizen, surely you wish this not.

This line of thinking comes from ‘Tribes’ by Seth Godin, where he says that if you are having a fine day, then you’re not leading, because leaders are the heretics, out causing trouble, passionately speaking out against the status quo and creating change because the marketplace demands it. To be a leader, I can see this definitely applying.

To be a living human being, I can’t see why this shouldn’t apply.

If you’re having a fine day, then it is not an exciting day. Could you have an exciting day and honestly say it was just, well, y’know, fine? This echoes a definition of happiness from ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss, where he equates happiness to excitement. If you are doing things that excite you (excites you to your core), then you are living life happily.

Let’s take this a step further and rock the boat a little: If you’re having a fine day, then you are not happy.

Ending on a lighter note, I challenge you to not have a fine day. Ever. Fo’ realz. Don’t float along the currents of everybody else’s life. Wake up every morning and tell yourself to make waves. I make this a part of my morning Scrum.

Stay in trouble, citizen.

Short-Term Press Release

You have a direction in life? Holy cow! Congrats!

Wait, you don’t? That’s cool. Having a direction for life is pretty major. Let’s start with setting a direction for, say, the next two weeks.

Before I found my life calling, I had a large prioritized list of things I wanted to be and do. Spanning numerous aspects of myself (musician, ScrumMaster, runner, host, boyfriend, …), I had little focus to my stories within each two-week Sprint. At some point, I adopted something I read in ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, a couple of guys from 37signals: the concept of a short-term press release – What is the exciting new thing you will share proudly with the world at the end of your Sprint?

The Sprint Press Release became a focal point about which my stories would congregate and, in a sense, filter themselves. A theme would arise. The similarly-themed backlog items would, through the Sprint, help each others’ completion because they were related. They would all share the same spirit, that which is represented not by the sum of parts (functionalities of all stories, combined), but by the whole, an example of punctuated evolution where a new functionality emerges that is relatively large, possible only because the smaller stories were completed.

Thus, rally stories within each Sprint around a theme. They’ll be easier to get done, and because they’re along the same vein, that’s a sense of –

You have a direction for the next two weeks? Holy cow! Congrats!

Write Down Your Goals

Newbury Street had a friend in me on Saturday, ’cause man did I shop the hell out of it.

On a fact-finding mission for prices on snazzy shoes and blazers / sport coats (what’s the difference?), I’d briefly chat up the retail folk and then break their little hearts; I am not currently at a place where I can spend $400 to $600 on a jacket. I had always wanted to roll through the Back Bay with my homie named Visa, but you need almost a full day and the energy and… a reason. I had all three.

The reason came from writing goals down. This creates focus.

You may have lots of reasons to do things, but the ones you write down, and especially the ones you look at with some frequency, are the ones that get to the forefront of your unconscious. Napoleon Hill dedicates a whole chapter to the concept in ‘Think And Grow Rich’, where he says the subconscious mind first acts on dominating thoughts and feelings (like faith), so make your desires clear: reduce them to writing. He goes on to talk about the next step: flashes / hunches / inspirations. Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Secret’ refers to these as inspired actions, where you are acting on instincts.

I could have (should have) dove into much delayed Spring cleaning, but instead I went with my gut and did something unusual, yet something in line with one of my goals: acquire a collection of jackets.

Mission accomplished. Thank you, Marshall’s. On Boylston Street.