Blogging Break

Hello, Internet. Are you celebrating the Extended Winter Solstice season? You bet your sweet tushie I am, too. So are the Mayans. So are the zombies. So are any number of over-sized monstrosities waiting to wreak havoc on your favorite over-sized metropolis. Enjoy the show. It’s a celebration. (And if you’re waiting for Jesus, don’t hold your breath – that’s happening in 2443, as per Futurama.)

I’m going on a sprint-long (or so) hiatus to finish up deciding on Christmas presents, purchase Christmas presents, wrap Christmas presents, give Christmas presents, receive Christmas presents, unwrap Christmas presents, whinny like a pretty pony with glee grunt like a caveman with cool indifference. This will take a little over a fortnight (or so).

As I look back on this sweet ScrumOfOne blog o’ mine, I grunt with glee (like a cavepony?) at how this writing endeavour has fulfilled one of its requirements, which was to document the evolution of my approach to and focus of ScrumOfOne. Starting over half a year ago, I pushed to publish a post twice a week (or so), where I over time shifted away from the ScrumMaster side of software personal development, to spending time talking about what is the Product Owner arena: setting the vision, prioritizing stories, and balancing a ‘forward’ motion with the flow of life, taking on more Taoist concepts as of late, and most recently reflecting on lectures by life coach Martha Beck.

From here, I have a couple of concepts I can’t quite comfortably reconcile, although MB’s work seems to have given me… an answer? The two thoughts:

  • There is an approach that feels very Western. Scrum talks about taking a vision for your product, or in my spin, your self, and implementing pieces of ‘potentially shipable’ functionality (new things that you are / have / can do) in a prioritized fashion. All this while embracing change (you don’t exist in a vacuum, life happens around you can’t help but interact with it) as well as practices that promote transparency, inspection, and adaptation. I am a Certified ScrumMaster and thus have a decent understanding of this philosophy.
  • There is an approach that feels very Eastern. Taoism talks about the essence of things, how we’re all one, and a bunch of concepts that sound quite deep. Applying some of these to personal development translate to getting out of your own way to discover your essence, and then do that, which will end up being without effort. This is doing without doing, action without action, or wei wu wei.

I am convinced that all the advice we hear about how to live a better, more fulfilling, more ‘successful’, higher functioning life are all facets of the same gem. This is what I’m trying to understand. And then apply. And then share.

I want to live it, to then give it.

There are 20 draft blog posts waiting to be fleshed out, and I can’t wait to dive in. After, of course, a break that will surely be relaxing (or so).

Day In Your Ideal Life

Ah, your ideal life. I hear this and what comes to mind is being white in suburbia in the 1950’s. Skinny black tie and possibly a pocket protector. Everybody is blond and blue-eyed, part of a four-person nuclear family with a dog, has barbecues with the neighbours, waves to the paperboy, and lives in a grainy black and white world. There’s a little Timmy thrown in there somewhere, too.

Ah, your ideal life. Your ideal life. The above was when things were run by rodents, and if that IS your ideal life then… mazel tov. Go get ’em, chinchilla tiger. Since it most likely isn’t, then I’d like to ask you to think about this concept. I’d like to ask you, but I won’t.

Now I will.

Think about your ideal life. From the time you wake up (what do you hear? who is next to you? what do you smell? what is outside your window? how large is the jail cell?), to the time you go to bed, step yourself through an ideal day. What are you wearing? What are you NOT wearing? What animals do you talk to? What people do you pet? Which cut of rare meat do you shove down your pie hole? How early in the morning do you get drunk? How many Twilight fan fiction stories are you co-authoring.

What are we after? Details! (When do we want them? Now!) If there is an event or period of day that you can identify in this day in your ideal life, describe every sense – you’ll be surprised what you can perceive; when I played chess as a youth, there was always this distinct smell.

From here, well, now you have a vision of yourself. Not just a painted picture you can frame, but an awesome and exciting virtual reality of your own creation. And now, well, go get ’em, gopher tiger. Sounds easy, yes no?

I’m getting this from watching more material by life coach Martha Beck. I’ve noticed she likes scarves and marmosets. More interestingly, I’ve noticed how well her models and specific actions for taking someone from good to great (this is the job of a life coach, versus the job of a therapist, who takes someone from broken to good) addresses well-researched western and eastern philosophies, including newer-fangled things like ‘The Secret‘ with a proviso. She is refreshing to watch, partially because she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Where it takes me is to reassuring myself in the direction I’ve taken ScrumOfOne, at least for myself, where the focus is on determining the WHAT, the Product Owner stuff, before working on the HOW, the ScrumMaster stuff. This echoes how Scrum is done (by Sprint 1, anyhow). More on this shift in focus in a later post.

That First Tiny Step

You have a dream. OK! Fine! You have a few dreams, but let’s pick just one. What’s it like? What are… the symptoms?

Hello, America. Do you suffer from something that is any or all of the following?

Well then, America, you have a dream!

Scrum is great for breaking down an epic-sized, daunting thing into a story-sized, conquerable thing, and then openly managing that. The ScrumMaster in me would sit you down, and after 5 seconds stand back up and walk with you to a whiteboard, since those are fun, then help you construct a Product Backlog based on your vision, prioritize that list, then draw a line in the sand on the whiteboard and bellow, “Behold, O America, for the next fortnight, sallyeth thee forth and kick ass,” while pointing to the stuff above that line.

Now, America, I do look forward to our date over Spanish lattes to bust through this in a fun-filled manner, sallyething thee forth ‘n’ all, but until then, ask yourself: What is that first tiny step towards my condition dream? What’ll get me that tiniest bit closer? What takes almost no time and no effort, yet dips my toe in the water?

This’ll of course depend on the disease dream. For me, that first tiny step was purchasing the following KORG Kaoss Pad 3.

Schuper Schweet, I know. How does this affect my dream?

  • It is still large – that’s how they tend to be.
  • It is not as far away, I just brought it closer.
  • It is clearer, since I have a tool with which to work.
  • It is still exciting – that’s how they tend to be.
  • It is less out of my league and more in my gym bag next to my desk in my apartment.
  • It is still possibly too awesome, and I’m getting a better handle of it, since this one piece fits in my hands.

Sallyeth thee forth and kick ass – take that first tiny step.

Action Expresses Priorities

Was Mahatma Gandhi a ScrumMaster? The title of this post is a quote of his and it perfectly describes the Sprint Backlog – the set of things you’re doing now, which happen to be the highest priority things based on business value (personal value for ScrumOfOne).

And check this. He was a leader with great influence, in service of others, yet no managerial authority. This sounds a lot like a ScrumMaster. Hmm…

My Vision Sources

This ScrumOfOne adventure has repeatedly given me a great appreciation for the role of a Product Owner. Yes, as a ScrumMaster, I maintain and grow a well-oiled machine that produces business (personal) value, transforming stories into functionality and their associated benefits.

Which stories? Which benefits? I’m saving up for my CSPO.

To this end, that of discovering my vector, vision, direction, bliss, heart-centered purpose, drive, excitement, or any of the other ways of describing this happiness-related concept, I have been exploring a number of sources.

  • Tribes by Seth Godin
  • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
  • Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  • On Being A Man by David DeAngelo
  • Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
  • StevePavlina.com by …um… Steve Pavlina
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
  • The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

From my study of the above, my goal is to determine and execute a method that will result in giving me what I need as a Product Owner – vision for the product of me, and my various facets. This method may be an intersection or union of the relevant sections from the above… I have yet to decide.