Creating Focus

(n.b.: this was originally posted at Medium, due to a server issue here)

I, perhaps like a lot of creatives, need to create “the right space” to get things done. I’m easily distracted when I’m not focussed. When I’m easily distracted, I’m not terribly productive.

I suppose I should point out that you might not call me a creative?—?I’m a developer, a programmer, an engineer if you so choose?—?although, to me, writing code has always been an amazingly free, creative process.

I try hard to work a short week (my aim is to actually work 30-40 hrs every week, which, as any entrepreneur or small-business-owner will tell you, is an ambitious goal. I fail more often than I succeed. But that’s my aim). Because of this, I cannot afford to waste my productive time. But inherently, I’m a procrastinator?—?I like to put things off, I like to tool around.

I’ve been running a consultancy for 11 years, so I feel like I’m starting to figure this all out now. While these may not work for you (you’re not me, after all), I thought I’d share some of the things I do when I’m having a hard time concentrating.

First: why do I need to create focus? Because I want to exist, permanently, in the zone. I want the outside world to fade away, leaving only what’s in my head. I need to easily remember the comment I logged on line 1823 of one file, while editing code in several others. If I’m tracing a bug, I need to hold every step in memory. When I write code, I often don’t commit it to screen until the entire function/object/whatnot is already written in my head. I wrote papers in university the same way: Wander around for days with a slowly forming paper, then, in 1 sitting, write out the paper and hand it in (I have a comparative French Literature degree so there were a lot of papers).


So! focus! to the point?—?here’s some of my tricks to fine the zone when it’s elusive. The first step is preparing to concentrate. Do any or all of these. I find it often takes me all 3.

  1. Find the perfect song. I play music when I’m producing. I pause it when I’m not. I can judge how much concentration-time I got in a day by how many minutes of music I listened to. But to start, I need to start it right. This used to be done with my own library, but these days I use Rdio. It doesn’t matter what this is. Depending on mood, this’ll be any number of genres. I know it when I hear it. I’ll admit that I’ll spend easily 15 minutes doing this. But the payoff is worth it. Because that one song is all it takes. You want a song that transports you, that lifts you, that effects that important chemical change within you. Do NOT work while listening to this one song. But work as soon as it’s done. This is your Ready! Set! song. The ending of the song is your Go!
  2. Meditate. Seriously. I cannot stress how great this is. Close your door, close your eyes, put your headphones on (no sound), and focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Whatever you can to not exactly empty your mind, but to quiet or direct your mind. Of note, I’ll purposefully not think of what I’m about to do, but rather an end goal of the task during this. But the important part for me is to create a singular thought?—?really no matter what that thought is.
  3. Walk. I will often leave the office, circle the block, come back. It takes 5 minutes. But I leave anxious, troubled, over-excited, etc and return ready.Walk with purpose. I don’t amble on this walk, I stride, with purpose. Don’t talk to someone. Don’t hang out by the water cooler on the way in or out. This isn’t a social opportunity. In may ways, this is an isolatingopportunity.

Now I’m ready to work?—?but often still not sure that I’m ready to focus. Particularly if I’m working on something I’m not too thrilled about, so I do a couple of warm ups.

  1. Pick a Quick Task & Do It. My rule is that this needs to be something I can complete in under 30 minutes. I will often set a timer to ensure?—?at 30 minutes I have to stop no matter what. This can be anything that you can accomplish solo: read & respond to a particular message. Write those comments you’ve been putting off. Explain a query. Review performance stats. Pick the smallest, easiest bug off the top of the list and squash it. Read commits. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even need to be related to what you’re about to spend serious time on?—?you just want something to be a quick win that required some amount of focus. these are your warm-up pitches.
  2. Write out a sentence describing your success. “I rewrote a query that shaved 75% off of execution”. “I created a user object extension to describe customers” whatever. I personally like to write these in the past tense. I tend to use Notes.app on my iPhone to do this, but it doesn’t matter, really. But project your success. My only rule is that this is what I’m going to accomplish when I do start work. So the ambitiousness of the statement needs to relate to the time available to me. Don’t write “I rewrote facebook” if you’ve only got 3 hours.
  3. Tell your team how long you’re ‘going under’ for. If you work alone, likely not as relevant. But tell your co-workers, wife, kids, etc, that you need X time to not be disturbed.
  4. Go Silent. Turn of notifications. Turn of distractions. I: close Twitter. Close Messages. Close Skype. Close Adium. Turn my phone to airplane mode. Turn of notifications. Close all “fun” browser tabs. If I could, I’d close Slack, but that’s the deal I’ve made?—?that’s my emergency beacon.

Get to it!

It took me a while to compile the series of things I do over and over again to create focus, but these do the trick. I don’t always do all of this. But even on the worst days, I find that stepping through these really helps me find that focus that I need to do my best work. Many days, all it takes is choosing a song and finding my first task, and then blam, suddenly its fours later and I’ve got a shit-tonne done. Other days it takes all steps, & several iterations. But what’s awesome is that at most, I’ve “lost” 30-45 minutes, but created so much opportunity for creation.

A million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool?

There’s been a lot of chatter locally about startups, startup culture and startup support in Vancouver. (See: Boris, Jesse, Allen, the twitters of @kaler & @igorskee for a quick round up). I’ve also been chatting a bit with Lauren about work-life, and recently caught up with my former boss Jason, where we chatted a bit about how we’ve come to define success.

With all the conversation about startups, I find myself wondering what makes a startup a startup. Must a startup be a product company? What about a Drupal-theming company? My company, Pencilneck Software is sort of a hybrid: We’ve built products – internally, our CMS is now on version 5. I’ve installed it on well over 250 clients’ websites; the newsletter module, before we retired it, sent some 10 million enewsletters. Our eCommerce module has processed upwards of $3 million in sales for our clients; Some 10,000 people have registered for events via our event registration module. 50,000 news articles & blog posts have been published in our News module. (Aside: Man do I love being able to quickly pull aggregate data)

We also build products for other people. But we call ourselves a service company, because the reason we keep getting work is for that: we provide a service – custom code, done right – to a wide variety of people. Also: we’re 9 years old. We’re self-funded and have never not been profitable. We’re now international (well, offices in Vancouver & Dallas). But we face a lot of the same challenges that start ups seem to face: where’s the talent? where’s the money coming from? who’s our audience? Where’s the space? Who can we talk to? Where’s the time?

We started like many startups do: I was employed at another company, but was under-utilized. I had an idea of how to do something differently. I met Jeff, and we combined our forces at started Pencilneck. Initially, we rented space from my former employers. Then we shared space with another small company. Then we got our own office in Yaletown (& man, did I ever feel like I had made it when that happened).

A Somewhat lengthy personal digression

Now I admit I’m not the best member of the local startup scene. I don’t go to events. I don’t blog much about company culture. I don’t look outwards that much. But the very reason why I don’t do all that is what I feel is missing from a lot of this recent chatter: About 6 years ago, I decided that growing big, getting bought, getting rich wasn’t what I wanted. This decision coincided, not even remotely coincidentally, with the birth of my first child. And suddenly that weekend’s worth of work to push out that latest revision just seemed pointless. And squeezing in that extra deliverable for the client this week by pulling a few late nights wasn’t worth missing Liam splashing around in the tub.

When I first told my business partner that I wanted to work only 4 days a week, we had a huge argument – only a few weeks before, we were both still working 60, 70 hour weeks, doing stellar work. But our corporate culture had come to expect and depend on this. & this wasn’t unusual – most of my friends were working similarly. And then Liam was born and I took a couple of weeks off. When I came back though, not only did I no longer want to work weekends, I didn’t want to work evenings. I wanted to leave work at work and come home and be present for my family. Given that I was the main production engine (our partnership has always been Jeff on the sales &  UX end, me on the technical end), this had some dire consequences. And it was rough. But we made it work. And I started working only 4 days a week, which has been amazing.

& Back to the Subject At Hand

The title of the post is of course lifted from The Social Network – you’re probably already thinking the answer is “a billion dollars”. But no. You know what’s cool? Living your life. Enjoying it. Spending time with family & friends. Making money is good, but if you’re good enough, you don’t need to be wildly successful and get bought and make millions. You can make enough and relax and chill and be happy. You can’t build a silicon-valley-style successful startup without being a selfish asshole willing to sacrifice everyone around you. Harsh? Sure. Hyperbolic? You bet. But somewhat true. Because that sort of success takes time. All your time. Whether it’s time at the desk coding, refining your product. Time travelling to sell your product. Time online to support or promote your product, nothing can reduce that time. And that’s time away from everything & everyone else. And maybe that’s a trade you’re willing to make – but you can’t say it’s not a selfish one. Every interview I’ve ever watched with a successful founder talks about their passion for the project and the crazy things they’ve done.

What this all has to do with Vancouver’s startup scene

A common thread amongst all the commentary linked to above is finding the special sauce that will encourage a startup culture here. I think a mistake across them all is to think that we need a startup culture that resembles the American startup culture at all. I’ll admit a personal bias to the lean startup model, but more than that, I bias to the Vancouver model: laid back, just as interested in what’s outside and around as what’s happening in town, and to beat a dead horse just a little more, sustainably. Vancouver’s got a decent number of tech firms that not only have done great work, but have been around for an astonishingly long time. Not only that, but we’re all interwoven. Vancouver’s web-tech community is quite small. My company is built on the idea of partnerships – we don’t do design, so we partner with design firms. Other’s just do strategy. Some just do hosting. And in my experience, we all hire each other as needed. I’ve worked in partnership with at least a score of local companies to either provide expertise or pull theirs as I need it. And you know what’s so great about this? By handing off work as needed, I get to continue a nice lifestyle and get to contribute to theirs too.

Coworking spaces are ideal for the small or solo company. Incubators are great too. So are mentors and advisors. But maybe let’s not teach a culture based on getting big, getting bought, getting out. Maybe let’s teach a culture of being a sustainable business: You want to grow an idea, and need funding? Do something to fund it – trade services, sell something. Hootsuite may be a freemium model, but it grew out of Invoke – a successful firm who could likely afford to fund it – particularly if they built it to solve a problem on a project, or internal use. There’s also the “practice makes perfect” idea to follow: if you want to make money, practice it. Find a business model. Companies that succeed without a business model are few and far between. Get one and get one quick.

There is room in a world of sustainable startups for funders – we’ve always used client work to fund projects, but once, for a particularly out-there idea, we got BDC funding. What I liked about it was that it was a loan – we didn’t have to give up ownership or control to get it. But I could imagine a scenario where taking funding would be beneficial to allow focus. But let’s look at small-batch funding models that enable focus, not massive burn rates.That suits Vancouver more too – we’re a small city with small amounts of capital. Funding a few people for 3 months doesn’t cost that much  – let’s say $20K – and 3 months should be about enough time to get pretty much anything software-related at least demonstrably functional, if not complete. If it isn’t, you’ve probably suffered feature creep. Or don’t have enough focus. You only need to do one thing  well to launch and start making money. I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting all over Jesse (who’s done way more to foster a community and more importantly, exchange, than I ever will) or Boris (who’s arguments around the #MadeInVan and #WeAreYVR at right on point), but I think the focus on funding & acquisition is off a little. There’s more important things. The Mayor’s Greenest City initiative is about green tech, but it’s also about lifestyle: cycling, walking, transit, healthy eating, locavores. Let’s encourage a start up culture that reflects our city, where lifestyle is equally important. When I was first starting Pencilneck, the so-called triple-bottom line was a popular measurement: social, environmental, economic should be equally weighted. Our start up culture, what we want to promote and produce locally might do well to reflect that more.

 

 

I’m in the forest, searching for the shore

Corkscrew tree
Searching for the way through

I’m percolating. Gestating. Mulling. Procrastinating. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve been in this mode for the better part of a week now. This happens regularly to me – something triggers my subconscious and it starts to take up and more and more mental resources. When I get phases like this, I’m sort of hopeless: I can’t remember anything, I’m  as distractable as – SQUIRREL! – my production nosedives. I almost never seem to get a warning that this is about to happen, just suddenly there I am – feeling like I’ve only got half brain-power. Typos go up. I’ll find myself staring off into space for who knows how long.

There’s a plus side to this. When I get like this it’s because I’m figuring something out. It sounds strange to say I don’t know what it is I’m figuring out, but historically, whatever pops into my head on the flip-side is fully formed, ready for me to copy down. I used to write papers this way – wander the streets aimlessly for a day or two, come home, sit down & type for a couple of hours before school, come home with an A paper shortly. Prior to agreeing to have kids I did this. When I wrote the first scheme for the original Pencilcase CMS, back in 1999, I couldn’t work for a week. Then in 1 sitting, I wrote the first version of the CMS over about 14 hours, with little to no edits.

So what have I been thinking about lately?  What’s going on back there? Well, there’s a bunch of stuff going on that are viable candidates for taking over my brain:

  • Moving: We might move away. We might buy  a new place in Vancouver. We definitely want to spend some time away – 3,6,9,12 months, who knows. The plan for that needs to resolve itself.
  • Community: I’ve been thinking a lot about the cross-sections of digital and real-world communities. My experience as a terribly shy human vs. a fairly chatty avatar. How to correlate the two, how to bridge the various communities I participate in on- and off-line.
  • CMS: The current world of CMS’s don’t really match the type of tools many of my clients need. Nor do the social CRMs. Nor does the issue-tracking software we and they all use. But they all form part of a solution to a real issue. And I feel like I’m on the hunt for a lightweight suite to handle lots of basic needs.
  • mobile & responsive design: Having now built a couple of responsive sites, in addition to 2 distinct “mobile” sites in the last few months, there’s a path there that I haven’t quite found. This is closely related to the CMS problem: solving the issue of ongoing site existence & emerging break points & client-control of content and so on.

 

So I’m in the forest, I’m looking for the path. I keep catching glimpses of the shore out there, where the horizon is clear and present, but I’m not there yet & it’s frustrating.

WherePost: now even more useful!

Since I launched Where Post? on Friday morning, the response has been pretty gratifying. My thanks to David Eaves for his nice post about Where Post? this morning. I launched the app with a total of 28 mailboxes and 1 post office. Since then, 29 contributors have added in another 400-odd mailboxes and about 20 post offices. (NB: ‘contributors’ are identified currently via a combination of a cookie & IP Address – so it’s not exact, but close enough).

I’m please to announce a very useful addition: Every post office in the Google Maps database, everywhere, pulled in from the Google Places API. I had noticed while adding post offices that there was often an envelope icon already in the map where I wanted to add a post office. After some digging this afternoon, I was able to pull in the places API to just get all the places that identify as a post office.

There’s a few oddities to figure out:

  1. Often each post office is listed 2 or 3 times at least in Canada: The french name & english name appear to be 2 places, and sometimes the post office in english, the post office in french and the store containing the post office are all listed. Odd, and I haven’t yet figured a way to filter this, but still pretty nice.
  2. I have a rate limit of 100,000 queries a day. Given that each time you see the “loading mailboxes” message there’s a query to Google, there’s a distinct possibility I’ll reach that. For now not a worry, but definitely a scaling/caching issue to think about in the future.
  3. Integrating with the “nearest” function. Currently, the “nearest” mailbox is simply pulled from an SQL query – which means that post offices, coming in from Google, are ignored. There’s likely a way to merge the two, but nothing’s coming to mind at the moment.

As always, if you have any suggestions, comments or anything else, please let me know!

Strange Safari rendering bug, please help!

We do work for GSPRushfit, including managing their cart. Currently, I’m having trouble with a bizarre bug in their cart.

When customers update their Shipping Country, a few things happen behind the scenes:

  1. If the country has a few shipping options, a <select> appears next to the Shipping title. Otherwise, the shipping method is displayed.
  2. The shipping/taxes & totals get updated.

On Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera, Safari older than 5.0 and Safari for Windows, this works totally fine.

However, on Safari 5.0+ on OS X, the displayed text doesn’t update. What we’re doing is updating the “name” of the shipping method, via jQuery. After some ajax calls, there’s a little function that simply updates with an .html(); edit. Here’s what it should do:

Shipping to Europe on Most Browsers

When I update my country to “South Africa” in Firefox, I get:

Shipping Internationally

But when I do this in Safari 5.0+ on a Mac, I get this:

What Safari Shows

As you can see – somewhat borked. It doesn’t clear the old text and update the new text. If you highlight with a mouse, the updated text shows correctly. Viewing source code, all has been written. It’s purely a rendering issue. In the displayed case above, this isn’t the end of the world. However, alongside the shipping “name” we also update more pertinent information such as Shipping Amount, taxes & of course the order total. The source code is all  updated, so if/when people actually click “place order”, all that is correct. But understandably we’re seeing a fairly high abandonment rate from Safari users.

To make matters worse, this code works perfectly on both my local dev environment (Mac, Apache) AND our staging environment (Windows 2008 Server, IIS). It’s only on production that its failing. Things I’ve isolated as NOT being the cause:

  • SSL: Same bug appears whether over SSL or not.
  • jQuery version: I’ve updated jQuery, rolled back jQuery.
  • CSS/JS served locally vs. from CDN: same.

We have a variety of rules for caching/not caching on the server to help speed up the site. I’ve turned on/off a variety of these with no success – but that remains the major difference between dev, staging & live.

Has anyone seen this? Could you, if you have 5 minutes, please try and recreate the issue and let me know if things work for you or not? To recreate:

  1. Using Safari, go to http://www.gsprushfit.com
  2. Click on the big red “Click here” at top right.
  3. Click on “Add to Cart”
  4. Set your country to, say, Canada in the Shipping section.
  5. Change your country to “Norway”
  6. Change your country to “South Africa”

With each country-change, both the info next to where it says “Shipping” should change. Above, at right, the shipping & Handling total should update too.

Please let me know in comments if this works for you.

The 2-hour, 2-hundred-dollar rule

I’m not a big believe in golden rules, generally. But we have 1 golden rule at work that supersedes all other rules. And that’s our 2-hour, 2-hundred-dollar rule. Which goes like this:

No one shall spend more than 2 hours or $200 on any one thing without first discussing it with the team.

I can’t claim to have created this rule, although I wish I had – Jeff did. I wish I had created this rule because I think it accomplishes two simple but great things:

  1. It speaks to the face we’re all equal in our responsibility to the company – Jeff and I follow this rule, all our staff follow this rule. We’re all equally free to explore, to think, to create – with a set boundary
  2. It provides some freedom to our staff to make their own decisions about what bugs they want to fully explore, what topics they want to read more about, when they want to push something to focus on perfecting something else.

I’ve used this rule to justify buying a particular ebook, ordering some new software and spending a morning optimizing 1 site by a few hundred milliseconds – all within the past 2 quarters. Nothing major, nothing ground-breaking, but allows me some freedom to just explore something of interest to me.

This same rule has also prevented me from spending all day improving the usability of a feature that is only used occasionally by a client, and already had an existing, functional interface. I simply brought up that I wanted to explore this, and that I thought I needed 4 hours. After discussing with the team, we determined it just wasn’t worth it, so I left it alone.

And that last, the case wherein the request to spend additional time is rejected may in fact be the most useful – because it forces the proponent to defend a position, it forces all of us to get up to speed on a project and to think critically about not only what’s best for us as a company, but what’s best for our client.

A Milestone, of sorts

Earlier this week, the NPA launched their new website for the fall 2011 civic election campaign. With this, I’ve reached a personal milestone: Over the past decade, I’ve built election campaign websites for each of the Vancouver civic parties – COPE in 2002, then Vision‘s in 2005 and now the NPA this year. I like to think it shows a professional non-partisan manner than is to be commended. You might say it’s pure capitalism at work (or worse yet that I’m a sell-out). Regardless of your opinion, given how entrenched political parties and their service providers seem to be, I’m quite proud that these various groups have all chose me &/or my company over the years to provide them with professional, quality web-related services.

For this latest project, we were purely the technical team – I’ll have no hand in the ongoing messaging or marketing. Design & project management was provided by our frequent collaborators at Myron Advertising + Design.

At the provincial level, this year I’ve also completed the BC trifecta: I’ve built sites for each of the BC Liberals, BC NDP, and waaaay back in the 90s, the BC Green Party.

So I’m an experienced campaign website builder. If you need a website for your campaign, let me know.

Creating a win

In my job, I do a mix of project work (larger bits, building sites, etc), tickets (service requests from clients) & management (running a company). Historically, I would spend my mornings doing the latter two tasks – they’re all piecemeal items that take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours to complete, then I’d switch over to project work in the afternoon before wrapping up with a little management action – mostly status updates from staff/contractors.

This was ok, except that it really left only 3-4 hours a day to do project work, and in the afternoons which have *always* been less productive than mornings & evenings for me. I felt like I always had a huge pile of tickets and wasn’t keeping up with project work. Partially because we’re so busy, but partially just a sense because with such a short timeframe, I often wasn’t reaching a milestone within a day. And I like checking things off my to-do list.

So earlier this year, I started to push things around, and watch how things fell out. I don’t work fridays, and I don’t launch projects on thursdays (because I don’t work fridays), so I tried to do tickets & non-daily management tasks on Thursdays. This worked out ok for me, but less so for clients – they wanted tickets done before thursdays so that they could review them too. So now I’ve moved my “tickets” day to Mondays. And this has been an epic win.

I discovered that no one minded if I told them that their request would be completed the following Monday – even though they minded when I used to say Thursdays. I think that’s because mentally, Mondays are the start of something, even if it’s the next something, whereas Thursdays are near the end, so people are feeling rushed to finish before the end of the week. And because I’m not in the office on Fridays, there was always an extra dose of staff management, partner meetings & ticket requests to deal with anyways.

So now on Mondays I do tickets, I buy supplies, I check on staff, I check in on clients. I spend all day doing little 5 minute-1 hour tasks. By the end of the day, generally, my to-dos for the week have dropped to only the projects I’m working on and 1 or 2 others. And, rather than feeling stressed because I’m already behind after 1 day, I instead feel accomplished because I’ve cleared my slate and now have 3 solid days of “real” development ahead of me. Days with few interruptions where I can knock off milestones and get that satisfying tick on my to do list.

So I’m not doing any less work, or any different work. But just by examining how I worked, and looking at what clients were expecting, I’ve been able to shift my week around to be, on the whole, markedly more productive than it was prior to my making this shift. I’ve created a win for myself where previously there was generally only failure and “close”. This month we’re experimenting by putting everyone on this schedule. We now have enough staff that every day but Friday has 1 staff member knocking out service requests, freeing the rest of us to just to project work the rest of the week. I’m hoping that we’ll not only maintain our current turn-around-times for service requests, but potentially actually get a little faster with this system, even though each staff is spending only 1 day a week, rather than little bits of everyday.

 

Blast from the Past: Pencilneck Creations Site Mockup

At the turn of the century, I was finishing my degree & running my company as a sideline. Today, digging through my digital archives to find a file from that era, I found this: My photoshop mockup for the original Pencilneck Creations site (Pencilneck Software was born when I joined forces with Jeff. Given the nature of the company, we changed the company name slightly from ‘Creations’ to ‘Software’):

Pencilneck Creations
The remaining mockup from my original "corporate" site

Simple, very plain – this is definitely the style I liked at the time. Not that there was any fear of anyone confusing me with a designer. But looking at our current site (woefully out of date as it is), we’ve come a long way, baby.

Have Lunch with Me

I often waffle back-and-forth about the value of “soft” networking – where I’m not necessarily wanting something from the other person, or vice versa – but more just a “hey, how are you, what’s new?” A friendly interaction so that I know the cool stuff that they’re doing and vice versa. Defining a value for this is hard, and it does take time – which is one thing I often don’t have a lot of. On the other hand, there are lots of very cool people, locally, doing very cool, very diverse work. There may never be a direct professional reason for us to interact, but does that matter? Lauren & I get together for drinks semi-frequently (or semi-infrequently. Whatever the description, it’s probably not often enough). We talk some shop, but because we’ve been friends for ages, we’re just as likely to not talk shop. I don’t expect to get business out of it, but I do find I often come back from our sessions feeling re-energized about some particular topic or problem.

Being an entrepreneur can be fairly isolating – actually, that was one of the draws for me. I focus on my work, my business part focuses on sales, and magically money appears (where I by magically I mean we work really f’ing hard, but there’s definitely some magic to how it all comes together). But beyond our internal interactions, there’s very few outlets to talk, at large, about business ideas. I can read books, attend conferences, participate in online forums/discussions, but none of those replace good face to face interactions. What’s more, I firmly believe that local markets strongly influence companies – that is, 2 small companies from Vancouver, in different segments, are more likely to have similar issues than 2 companies in the same segment from different cities. Things like health benefits, paying staff enough to afford Vancouver’s exorbitant real estate, life balance, transit, parking, etc. When I meet with other small business owners or consultants elsewhere, we chat superficially, but there’s always this element of competition about our interactions. Lauren wrote very eloquently about defining your own success for BC Business, which I think is a key component when chatting with other professionals. I’m certainly guilty of being envious of colleagues’ successes. But lately, I find myself more able to celebrate their success, without feeling that inner lurch of envy. Possibly because I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished, but mostly I think because I’ve learned that there’s no one whom I need to compete with more than myself. If I can always make my next project better, in some way, than my last, I’m doing things right.

So, loooong digression from the original point of this post aside, I’ve been thinking about trying to “network”. Wherein by “network” I mean “have lunch/drinks with people whom I think are doing cool stuff”. I follow on Twitter a whole slew of locals whom I’ve met here & there at some function but otherwise don’t know. This is often the case – I don’t do terribly well at functions – a room full of strangers – even a room full of friends is a panic inducing thought. But I may well have heard enough to want to know more, somewhen. Many I don’t even know what you do. I often end up with clutches of business cards or new twitter handles, without being able to remember why I even have them. But you seem interesting & I’d like to know more. So I’m going to try something out: I’m going to try & have lunch with someone local whom I think is doing something cool at least once a month. That might not seem like a lot, but it’s a start. I don’t want to sell you on Pencilneck Software, I don’t want to be sold on your company. I just want to meet you and listen to your story, tell you something about mine. Low-key, and spaced far enough part that I don’t stress out about it.

 

So what I’m saying, dear Vancouver, is that I’d like to have lunch with you. I’m booked already this week, but how’s your next week looking?