Agile Family

This blog documents the adventure of applying Scrum principles to my personal development.

I started a ScrumOfOne because I found it helpful with logistics as I moved into my own space in Boston’s Back Bay. (I carried my cheap bookshelf across town during a late January sleeting ’cause I guessed fewer folks would be out on the roads – I was right.)

Focus then shifted from dwelling development to personal development as I rediscovered pieces of myself. (That February, I was offered extra money to pull extra hours to get a couple of projects done, which I managed by sleeping on a yoga mat at work, not the newly purchased mattress at home. When the last thing you see before you close your eyes is the underside of your desk, you start questioning your choices.)

Having come to terms with what would bring me the most daily joy, what’s left is removing limiting beliefs, getting my butt in gear, and showering you with remixes of Wham’s Careless Whisper, all the while transparently tracking progress towards my vision, frequently adapting. (Adapting the stark abodal palette of browns and greys to oranges and giraffe heads with the addition of my loving partner in fun.)

Now, I can’t help but find the ScrumOfOne in what I read and hear and see, and it’s not so hard when it’s a TED Talk by Bruce Feiler called ‘Agile programming — for your family‘. The talk is much more than an application of Scrum (his last line is powerful), but here’s a primer:

The key idea of agile is that teams essentially manage themselves. … It works in software, and it turns out that it works with kids.

This is essentially family development through Scrum, and it is mentioned in his book, The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More.

Do you want a happy life? Try.

How To Be An Animal

My sweetheart recently got me a book: How To Be A Man, A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman by Glenn O’Brien. She knows I’m into this stuff, and found me a winner. (MUSHY ALERT!) Of course, I’ve already found me a winner.

The third chapter (they’re all bite-sizedly enjoyable) is entitled ‘How To Be An Animal’, wherein he mentions a very small set of things we as animals should get down, one of which is…

Getting enough sleep is essential. If God meant us to wake up at a certain time, he would have given our brains an alarm clock. (Oh wait, he did.) Sure you can get by on less sleep, but perchance to dream?

This is another sleep post (hm, exactly 11 months later). At least I’m more conscious (ha!) of how much less energetic I’ve been on the train rides back home as of late, and how I’m more often opting in to being an American that runs on Dunkin’. Entonces, ¡no mas! Time to bust this habit by creating a new habit to get at least 7 hours of sleep 4 times a week.

Sad to get to this point? Sure. And this is as good a time as ever to be a better animal.

Cleaning The Bathroom Is Perfect For Me

Let me set the scene.

It’s a Monday evening in the middle of November. I make it home from work, happily down warmed-up left-overs, and change. The heat’s on, but it’s still a little chilly, so the WPI Superfan t-shirt is accompanied by some cozy PJ pants, but because I’ll be standing in the bathtub, the pant legs are rolled up to my knees, preserving warmth and simultaneously setting a daring fashion trend. I step into the shower, spray, wait, and scrub.

Oh man, there are sooo many other things I’d rather be doing:

  • Beatboxing with my KP3
  • Writing another blog post
  • Clearing up my desk
  • Making a sandwich
  • Eating a sandwich
  • Watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’ on Netflix
  • Reading that book I started a while back
  • Drinking a cappuccino
  • Purging my inbox

Nope. I agreed to do this. So I should just shut up and do wha-

My head keeps racing, though. The thought of a cappuccino AND reading that book seems fantastic; such a simple joy, such an immensely better joy than the scrub-a-licious activity at hand. My appreciation for the value of an hour grows considerably while in the shower …not showering. It gets me wondering if I could exchange something I have, like money, for somebody ELSE to do this …service. Heck, James Bond probably doesn’t clean the bathroom. He also doesn’t ever GO to the bathroom, unless it’s to kill somebody. Maybe he sweats and bleeds it all out. Then again, he probably somehow pays to have other people do that for hi-

That’s when a phrase hits me. It grazes my elbow, but I get the gist of it. There is a life coaching technique out there where whenever you’re in a situation that is sub-optimal (mind the light euphemism), ask yourself:

How is this perfect for me?

Reframe that sucker. Dig deep to find that silver lining. Be creative in determining how this is actually good for you, like medicine. Start the unfathomable sentence, then finish it, like so:

Cleaning the bathroom is perfect for me …because… it brings me into the present moment and into my body (as I partake in the minutiae of scrubbing grout).

Sure, I’m panning for gold, but hey, you know what else I get from cleaning the bathroom?

Another blog post.


Let me set another scene.

I’m in the cafe I frequent. I’m not arugula a regular. I’m a super-regular. I’m sitting at the bar, where everybody knows my name. I’m not kidding. In my ear is a whisper. I say, “Thank you, dear,” and decide to append to the above with the following.

There was a cold fact: the bathroom was being cleaned by me. On its own, this fact is rather… impersonal, emotionless. Up until the whisper, I associated one story with the experience, then another. My first story was, “Dag nabbit, dog gonnit, what the firetruck, this is all kinds of no fun, and I hate my life.” My second story was, “Here I float on a cloud… ah, such levity and freedom… and yet I am grounded, connected with the rest of existence… wholly present in sensing every last detail of the current event of which I am an active part… oh, how wondrous is this life.”

Pffffffffft – just kidding; that second story was nowhere close to what I was able to pull off, but was the direction in which I was going.

The whisper shed light on how these two very different stories, associated with the same one experience, were two very different perspectives, thus two very different realities of the same one experience.

OK. Seriously. I can’t believe how much I am squeezing out of this. Cleaning the bathroom was perfect for me!

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner

On Sundays, me and my lady run away, far far away, across the river, to the mystical land of Cambridge. There, among the locals, we mingle with the plebeians at a watering hole of our spontaneous choosing. There, we read the New York Times over cappuccinos and pastries. There, I turn to a favorite column of mine: Corner Office by Adam Bryant, in the SundayBusiness section. There, last Sunday, he interviewed LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who was asked, “What career advice do you give to business school students?” His response is below. Challenge yourself. Do the exercise he mentions as soon as you read it.

The advice I give about their career path and realizing their dreams starts with me saying: “I’m going to ask you a question, and you’re going to have 15 seconds to answer it: Looking back on your career 20, 30 years from now, what do you want to say you’ve accomplished? Go.”
If they can’t answer it in 15 seconds, it probably means they haven’t thought about the answer before that moment, or they don’t have a definitive answer, which is fine, because for some people that’s a lifelong journey. But you can’t realize your goal if it’s not defined. It sounds so simple but it’s true.

So? What did you get? I enjoy these different ways of finding one’s life vector / heart song / master purpose. This take is more from the approach of looking back and being happy, versus doing what rings true with you now and every day. Ideally, the latter leads to the former.

So? What’s your answer?

Good Enough

Hello, artist. You creator, you. Don’t consider yourself an artist? Well, are you making something? Then yep, that means you’re an artist! (Congratulations.) You are translating this THING in your head, this idea, into something you can see/hear/taste/smell/feel, and then you’re most likely getting others to see/hear/taste/smell/feel it, too: Creating and Connecting.

Don’t mind me. I don’t mean to interrupt. I just want to see/hear/taste/smell/feel this thing you’re up to. Wait, you WANT to show me? Awesome! Gee, thanks! So, to share this with me, you’ll have to stop creating. Not forever, I know, and you might not even be DONE, but in the continuum of its creation process, you are showing me one state.

This is a challenge to artists of all types: Is this thing done enough for me to share?

If we had infinite time, money, focus, and other resources, we’d want to make it perfect. PERFECT. So with that ideal in our heads, we keep going. We keep refining. We keep tweaking. We keep… going. We keep… not stopping so that we can ship. And this is bad. Hey, don’t look at me that way. Listen to Voltaire:

Dans ses écrits, un sàge Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

Essentially (from an Italian, yet in French): perfect is the enemy of the good.

Let me ask you a simple question. Do you know the future? Don’t lie, now. No? I didn’t think so. That’s OK, neither do I, and that’s the point. How do you know if this plan you have for this thing you’re making will really matter or create real value? How do you know if this thing in your head is really the best form for it to take?

People stink at planning. (What percentage of projects that you’ve been a part of have ended on time and on budget without continually updating the plan along the way to better match reality?) Scrum recognizes this poignantly human weakness and embraces it by espousing that we ship and ship often; at the end of each sprint, we have a potentially ‘shippable’ product.

At the end of each sprint, you have created a version you can share. For my earlier ScrumOfOne stories, they were ones I would share with… me: personal utility, whether it was more frequent use or a deeper use.

I started ScrumOfOne (talk about incrementally evolving THIS idea…) when I first moved into my current place. The floors were a mess, the bathroom sink was disgustingly clogged, and everything I owned was suddenly piled into my kitchen. Now what. You prioritize. The kitchen sink became a safe zone – I would shave there for a while, overlooking Mass. Ave. The toilet became lickably sterilized – my butt is high maintenance. The shower was scrubbed, but not gleaming white – baby, but solid steps for survival before living with some luxuries. The fridge doesn’t have to be wiped before populated with sustenance.

What type of artist was I then? I was desperate. I was crafting a livable space – for me – which was good enough (great for a time). And now, she and I are crafting this space for us – which is great (awesome going on awesomer).

First strive for Good Enough. Get to Great later.

You might find Good Enough IS Great, but that’s a Taoist revelation for another time…