Accountabili-Buddies

Remember when you were a little kid and you went on school field trips to the zoo or museum? Each person was assigned a buddy, someone to keep track off so that no single person wondered off, got lost or left behind. You could be sure that you didn’t miss the bus, unless of course you both decided to bunk off and make your own adventure. But even then, at least you wouldn’t get into trouble alone.

As an adult, I often find myself getting lost or getting behind in the passion/side projects that I’d really like to see move forward. Even armed with a plan and productivity software, like Trello, it’s still easy to lose you way. I realized that what I lacked was a companion, like I had on the trips of my youth. It’s for this reason that I started making “Accountabili-Buddies”, people who come along the journey.

MyBuddy
The kind of buddy you want

How Does It Work?

Schedule a periodic meeting (no more than 30 minutes) in which the two of you can review your progress. You can do this in person or over the internet depending on your location. During the session, each person will state what they have done and what they plan to do before the next planned session. You can also use this time to demo something that you’ve been working own and get feedback or talk through challenges. If you’re familiar with Agile practices, this may sound a bit like a standup or sprint review. It’s quite similar, albeit a bit less formal and one-on-one. I prefer this to having a larger meeting such as a mastermind group as it allows each person to be more completely involved and not get “lost in the sauce” of a larger group.

Does it have to be someone in my field?

Not necessarily. You don’t work in the same industry nor have the same goals. At the museum or zoo, my buddy and I weren’t always interested in the same thing. I may be into butterflies or Impressionism but my buddy isn’t. It doesn’t matter. The point is that we’re there to support each other. You can work out what to see (review) during the sessions. That may ebb and flow based on what each person is working on at the time. I’ve found that getting a different perspective is helpful in how I am viewing my work. For example, I used to have a weekly session in Medellin with a friend with a project management/design background. He helped pull me out of a “feature-based” approach by challenging with questions about the “story” behind each screen. It was a nice reminder that even though I was the first user of the app, I wasn’t the only one and that I was bringing assumptions into the user experience that I needed to question.

Where Can I Find A Buddy?

Reach out to people in your social or work circle and ask if they are interested. It could be someone whose work you admire or who’s opinion you value (regardless of domain). It could even be a friend that you’d like to communicate with more often. Having an Accountabili-Buddy is great way to keep communication lines open with people you value. Be creative in thinking of people that may work as well as the projects that you bring into sessions. You’ll be surprised. I’ve had 5 different buddies in the last 3 years, each starting with different goals and rooted in various projects.. I still meet weekly with two of them via Google Hangout/Skype/Zoom. With one of them, we have each worked on 3 separate projects this year alone.

Respect the Calendar and the Clock

Make a point to respect the meeting time and each other. When I place this time on my schedule, I don’t move it unless it’s absolutely necessary. It reinforces in my mind the value that each session brings. That being said, it’s important to be understanding when things come up. Everyone has their respective responsibilities that require attention. It’s not lost on me that I have the luxury of a more flexible schedule than most and am able to reschedule when needed. Sometimes, you may just have cancel a session and that’s OK too. Just don’t make it a habit. If a timer frequency isn’t working, simply adjust it. It’s more important to be consistent than dogmatic about how you started.

Honesty is Critical

The most important ingredient to successful sessions is honesty. We need to hold each other’s hand but also hold each other’s feet to the fire. Just remember that the purpose is in support of our goals. We all need it, even when it doesn’t appear that way externally. Challenge your buddy to keep moving forward but balance it with encouragement along the way. Nudge, don’t push. If a project isn’t working, suss out if the problem is you need to move on or simply to “push through the dips”. A supportive and objective ear is valuable in discerning the difference. Don’t be afraid to express your opinions. I’ve gone back to the drawing board after I was told that a particular implementation was hard to understand or just “ugly” (my buddy didn’t use that word but I could tell from the delivery). I appreciated it because it saved me from shipping something that wouldn’t have been as well received. Don’t let your buddy go out in a ridiculous looking outfit. These sessions should be a sounding board, not an echo chamber.

ChuckyDoll
Don’t be this kind of buddy

Periodically Reevaluate

Life happens and there’s no point in having another meeting that brings stress or comprises your valuable time. You probably have enough of that at work/home. These sessions should be things that you look forward to. If you find that they aren’t providing value, joy and/or satisfaction, don’t be afraid to stop doing them. Being honest with your buddy, especially if this is a friend IRL, is far more important. You can always find another buddy or pickup sessions again at another point in the future.
Give Accountabili-Buddies a try and see if it helps you move toward completing something that you’ve been wanting to accomplish.

The Least You Can Do

Mom: “Ray, the least you could do is…”
Dad: “The least I could do is nothing.”

I often heard this dialogue between my parents when I was young. My mother would express displeasure about something that my father did/didn’t do. She would express a desire for a little more effort (usually in the form of some small gesture).

“Ray, the least you could do is…”

His response was always the same.

“The least I can do is nothing.”

It was my earliest introduction to my Dad’s personality.
It was sarcastic.
It annoyed my mother to no end.
And to a 10-year old weened on comedy, it was incredibly funny.

I was always looking for ways to inject the phrase into conversations. I even tried to mimic my Dad’s delivery, down to the smirk, head tilt and raised eyebrow.

As an adult, I would learn 2 things:

  • No one I dated would ever find it humorous/clever and no amount of nodding and winking would save me
  • The Least You Can Do is a powerful concept when used for good

On the path of 80 Hours to MVP, I found myself revisiting and repurposing that phrase. Instead of stopping at literal interpretation, I turned it on it’s head. By doing two simple things, I turned what was a joke into an effective approach for maintaining momentum in pursuit of my goals.

The first part is turning the phrase into a question. What is the least I could do? I find that asking questions keeps thoughts flowing and prevents me from getting stuck. For example, when I’m debugging, I ask myself questions to work my way through the current state of a problem to a viable solution. However, that alone would not transform the phrase into a powerful tool.

The second, equally important, part is adding an actual outcome. By providing a narrowly defined outcome, I can devise a pathway to completion. What is the least I could do to achieve the desired outcome?

I find this approach effective at both the macro and micro levels. In determining the success metrics that I defined in the Kickoff Interview, I have provided the macro version. I know what would make this endeavor successful in my eyes. The least you can do is the defining trait for the MVP.

Success requires consistent action. The difficulty is in the implementation and it’s easy to get stuck in the details. If you’ve spent too much time working through issues, frustration and discouragement can set in. Many projects are abandoned when some seemingly trivial tasks become more difficult and start to eat away at your time. It is at this point that you’re most susceptible to quitting.

You must resist the temptation to weigh your endeavors with the scale of frustration.

It is at this point that going back to the mantra of the least you can do proves effective at the micro level.

For example, in implementing the MVP for Puffin, I knew that I wanted reports on my activities. I knew implementing something robust would take too much time. Even implementing a chart library was going to eat into my development schedule as there was still a learning curve. So I asked myself, what’s the least I can do to get some metrics for my work activity? I decided that instead of providing a fancy chart, I could provide aggregate date (e.g.. total # of sessions, total time worked). In doing so, I had one of the solutions the app was designed to provide (how much did I work today?).

Another example of where I use this technique is in fitness. It’s hard for me to stay in shape on the road, since I tend to get tunnel vision on projects and am loathe to actually go to the gym. I solved this problem by asking what’s the least I can do to maintain a basic fitness level? My MVP of fitness is 30 minutes of HIIT training 3 times a week. And even when I’m struggling with motivation, I take it one level lower and focus on the least I can do to kickstart this workout. For me, the answer is usually a minimal action of few basic stretches/jumping jacks just to get my body warmed up. I then build on the inertia and add another small chunk and before I know it, I’ve completed 30 minutes.

Setting minimal metrics provides a clear stopping point as well. If I lack knowledge or experience in an area, I can complete the minimal actions given my current level and return at a later time, when I’ve acquired sufficient skills. By putting an cap on this iteration and enhancing it later, I minimize delays, the accompanying frustrations and maximize efficiency.

Make the least you can do work for you.

Retrospective Feb 4 – 10/ Planning Feb 11 – 17

I don’t know what to tell you. I’m happy for the first time in my life and I’m not gonna feel bad about it. It takes a long time to realize how truly miserable you are and even longer to see it doesn’t have to be that way. Only after you give up everything can you begin to find a way to be happy.

— Fuzzy Whiskers, BoJack Horseman

This past week was a wash work wise but I did spend a lot of time socializing and enjoying the city. From Super Bowl Sunday to my tour of Guátape to my first football match in South America, my work week was essentially cut in half but it was good to recharge and get away from projects.

Learning Cocoa (iOS/macOS):

Last Week This Week

DTSEssentials Framework: Shared Code for iOS/macOS apps

Updates are delayed until this week.

Last Week This Week
  • LoadingViewController

  • ErrorViewController

  • ValidationViewController

  • ViewController Containment extensions
  • FormViewController

Puffin (iOS): Daily Standup App

Nothing scheduled this week as I’m working to get Gobo Expense Log to beta testers in this sprint.

Last Week This Week

Gobo (iOS): Nomad Expense Log

In the home stretch to get the app to beta testers.

Last Week This Week
  • Form validation
  • Exchange Rates
  • Updated Screen Designs
  • Settings

Voice Over Work:

Got 4 gigs through the trainer pipeline. Still need to get profiles up on additional platforms.

Last Week This Week
  • 4 VO gigs via my trainer
  • Create ACX Profile
  • Submit 3 auditions on ACX
  • Create Voice Bunny Profile
  • Create Fiverr Profile
  • VO gigs as they come in

Health:

The Activity App has increased the daily move goal for the 2nd straight week (570 calories). I’m changing my focus from minutes of cardio to active calories burned.

Last Week This Week
  • Workout: 166 cal/session
  • Walking: 82,067 steps (11,723 /day)
  • Workout: 200 cal/session
  • Walking (avg. 10000 steps /day)

Reading List:

Wakanda Forever!!!!!

Last Week This Week
  • Black Panther – Christopher Priest run
  • Black Panther – Christopher Priest run

Retrospective Jan 7 – 13/ Planning: Jan 14 – 20

IMG_5210I’m currently working on 3 software projects (2 apps/1 framework).  The goal is to get Gobo and Puffin submitted to the App Store by end of February with each using the DTSEssentials framework.

Learning Cocoa (iOS/macOS):

Ongoing learning to improve my knowledge in Cocoa/Swift:

Last Week This Week
  • Generics in Swift
  • Sharing Code and Building Frameworks
  • In-App Purchase
  • CloudKit
  • CloudKit
  • In-App Purchase
  • Concurrency
  • NSURLSession

DTSEssentials Framework: Shared Code for iOS/macOS apps

I’ve isolated some code that I find myself reusing and decided to create a library to shared code amongst my projects.

Last Week This Week
  • Create Xcode project
  • Int Extensions
  • Date Extensions
  • String Extensions
  • Generic List Table View Controller
  • App Coordinator (Router)
  • DTSStyle (UIAppearance)
  • Test use of Framework with Gobo
  • Test use of framework with Puffin

Puffin (iOS): Daily Standup App

I updated the design of Puffin and reworked a few screens. I removed a lot of view controller code, instead opting to use a generic table view controller. I look to be ready for alpha testing by week’s end.

Last Week This Week
  • Backlog Grooming
  • Project List View
  • Task List View
  • Standup History View
  • Daily Standup View
  • Update App Style
  • App Navigation Coordinator
  • Fixed crash when accessing Daily Standup
  • CloudKit Support
  • Subtasks Feature
  • Standup Entry Edit
  • Change Task Status
  • Quick Add for Projects
  • Quick Add for Tasks
  • App Icon Update (version 2.0)
  • Support Previous/Next swipe in Daily Standup View

Gobo (iOS): Nomad Travel Log

Last week, I got an idea for a new app, because of course I did. I started brainstorming and doing some initial basic sketches. It seems like a good candidate for testing the framework.

Last Week This Week
  • Create Trello project
  • Paper sketch for App Icon
  • Select app colors
  • Paper sketch for quick entry
  • Competitive Analysis with existing apps
  • Locate API for currency exchange
  • Define entry categories
  • Source category icons
  • Create Xcode project
  • Add DTSEssentials Framework
  • App Icon (version 1.0)
  • Add Category icons
  • Current Day View
  • Entry View
  • Create Models
  • CloudKit Support

Voice Over Work:

I’m working with an experienced voice over talent to get started but I’m going to create my own profiles on various platforms in the next few weeks to increase my chances of getting work. The beginning of the year seems to be a slow period. Hopefully things will pick up in the next few weeks.

Last Week This Week

No work

  • Create Fiverr Profile
  • Create Voice Bunny Profile

Health:

I’ve reset my workout plan and for the first few weeks am focused on a simple routine of cardio and walking.

Last Week This Week
  • Cardio: 238 minutes total (avg. 34 min/day)
  • Walking: 95,003 steps (13,571/day)
  • Cardio: (45 min/day)
  • Walking (10000 steps /day).

Reading List:

My book challenge attempt last year didn’t go well so I’m rebooting with just two books. I’ll try to read at least one of the books in the rotation in Spanish.

Last Week This Week
  • Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano (Part 1)
  • The Walking Dead (En Español) (Vol. 1: Dias Pasados)

2018: A Year in Interview

So you want to talk about your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions?

I’d rather skip the stereotypical screeds about resolutions and jump right into the goals that I’ve set for 2018 and why.

But what about the goals from 2017?

2017 was a reset year for me. I only shipped a few small things (a prototype app for a friend and a few t-shirt designs that weren’t well marketed. I did some contract work for a few months and tried to launch a few other projects without success.

Why do you think that happened?

I lacked clarity of purpose. You should boil an endeavor down its essence. What is the most important thing? For most of the year, I was lacking that in the products that I was building. It’s primarily what stopped me from shipping. By focusing on the essential thing that a product does, I’m less likely to get distracted by feature creep or gold plating. Does it do the essential thing? If so, ship it! It’s never going to be finished anyway.

So how will you tackle this in 2018?

For me, it starts with transparency. I was apprehensive in talking about what I was building because I’d bought into the idea that talking about things impeded me from actually doing them. But there is also a benefit to doing it as well that I was ignoring. By being transparent, I can induce others to hold me accountable. For example, when I announced my plan to read 6 books in one month, someone unexpectedly followed up with me and asked how it was going.

A virtual “Accountabili-Buddy”?

Exactly. And by publicizing it, the onus isn’t on any one person and it’s completely voluntary.

Great! What’s on tap for 2018?

  • Ship 10 Apps/Frameworks
  • Complete at least 1 month of voice over work with trainer
  • 52 Blog Posts
  • Fluent in Spanish
  • Conversational in Portuguese

Depending on one’s perspective, that’s either very ambitious or very easy

True, yet it encompasses what’s essential for me. Weekly blogging about building the apps/frameworks fulfills my need to be transparent and underlying all of these goals is skill building in areas that I’d like to improve: speaking, writing, design and marketing.

What about those monthly income and expense reports. What happened to those?

I stopped doing them because there wasn’t much revenue to speak of from apps, tees and Amazon. I never felt comfortable including consulting income because the referee in me felt like that was “cheating” and those “points” shouldn’t count. However, I am working on an alternative outlet for the disclosure of expenses, as I still think there is value in sharing the cost of living in the places I visit.

C’Mon Man. It takes money to live and travel. You can’t act like it doesn’t count.

It does count but is it a good metric of success for these goals? Let’s take a look at my first goal: ship 10 apps/frameworks. If each one hits its target: doing the essential thing and existing in the world, I’ve already succeeded in regards to the goal. Sure there’s an ancillary benefit, the aforementioned skills I’ve built in doing so have increased my market value and I’ll be able to make a living from that. But regardless of whether I set goals or not, I’d still have to make a living. That’s table stakes.

So are you saying that you don’t care about the money?

I’m saying that if I’m successful in achieving these goals, I’ll be quite pleased looking back at 2018. Using income from these endeavors as a metric can muddy those waters, especially since it’s something that I can’t control. And why waste a year worrying about things I can’t control?

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It is time for my fandom to end.

My love affair began at age 9 with The Empire Strikes Back, as it was my first memorable theatre experience. I had seen Star Wars but the feeling of seeing Luke and Vader battle in Cloud City, Yoda dispense wisdom while training young Skywalker and the beautiful set pieces of Cloud City & Hoth was a hallmark of my youth. It was evident in my toy collection: the Hoth base, Luke and Han in their winter gear, the snow speeder & Boba Fett’s ship.

After reaching the acceptance stage of grief that were the prequels, I held out hope for the new trilogy. So much so, that I gave the Force Awakens a pass for its insistence on nostalgia over story. It felt like it needed to pay back the long time fans for previous disappointments. I was wrong.

Each generation of Star Wars movies is speaking to a different audience. It’s message and tone are a byproduct of how stories are told in its respective time.

I’ve been eating at McDonald’s since I was a kid but the menu has changed immensely in the last 30 years. I still return on occasion (like yesterday) and I get the same thing that I’ve always loved (the Big Mac). But as much as I connect with McDonald’s and despite the number of years that I’ve supported it, it doesn’t belong to me. It never did.

Likewise, The Last Jedi story illustrates why this is so important. If we don’t move past the rigidity of the old ways, we become confined by it in ways that prevent us from moving forward. It would’ve been great if J.J. Abrams *The Force Awakens* was bold enough to make those choices as we’d now be well on our way to fully exploring this new chapter of the amazing universe that Lucas created 40 years ago. Thankfully, Rian Johnson was given leeway to do so.

Star Wars movies shouldn’t be about rehashing and reliving your favorite moments in the original trilogy. That’s what DVDs and Netflix are for. New stories should introduce new characters and take existing ones (including the Force) into new directions, boldly if possible. In this regard, The Last Jedi succeeds.

I’ve been bored of the Skywalker saga for a while. While I fell in love with the story as a child, it was the promise of the universe that kept me. It’s why I loved the Kevin J. Anderson novels. It’s why I watched the Clone Wars. It’s why I wrote a term paper on *Tales of the Bounty Hunters* for a science fiction literature course in college

My old Star Wars fandom is dead. All hail my new Star Wars fandom.

Healthy October

This month, while in Morocco, I decided to try a few new things health wise. I haven’t trained Muay Thai or boxing since January. I’ve been toting gloves and focus mitts around but I’m not getting any benefit other that the extra weight lifting on travel days. My fitness routine has primarily consisted of doing HIIT training in my apartment and walking. My overall goal continues to be a sustainable routine that I can do anywhere in the world.

Pushing the Limits 30-Day Challenge

I spent the month with a Remote Year group (Veritas) in Marrakech. They have a monthly Pushing the Limits 30-Day Challenge and I was invited to participate. I settled on reaching 2000 reps (pushups and crunches) in addition to the steps challenge. It was a blast watching everyone get involved and pushing each other to succeed. I also made it a point to walk to the workspace when possible to increase my daily step count.

Results:

  • 2015 Pushups
  • 2165 Crunches
  • 277,147 Steps

Intermittent Fasting

During the 30-Day Challenge, I started thinking about my diet and simple ways that I could improve it to achieve additional health benefits. I started reading and watching videos about intermittent fasting and decided to give it a shot. I didn’t start until the 2nd week with no dietary changes like excluding sugar, carbs & alcohol. However, they were all restricted as a byproduct of simply reducing my feeding window. I used the Zero app  (iOS) to track my fasting.

October Results (Oct 8 – Oct 31):

  • Fasting Days: 19/24 (79%)
  • Monthly Averages
    • Fast Time: 17hr, 53 min
    • Start: 7:04 PM
    • End: 2:35 PM

Takeaways

  • I like Intermittent Fasting enough to continue doing it. It fits with my lifestyle as I was already eating only twice a day. I’ve simply shrunk the eating window. The good thing is that I haven’t sacrificed enjoying local food and drink in any country I’ve visited. I’ve restricted my indulgence of comfort foods.  I still love breakfast so I’ll probably mix in occasional 3 meal expanded eating days with corresponding  24 – 36 hour fasts.
  • Though I’m much lighter (approx. 180 lbs/ 82kg) than when I started my travels (203 lbs/92kg), my target is focused on how I look and feel rather than a specific weight.
  • I need to include more resistance training on the road and will pick up resistance bands and remove the focus mitts.
  • The Pushing the Limits 30-Day challenge was fun and I’d like to repeat it for November. I think one of the great things about it is doing something new and pushing myself out of my comfort zone but with a target for measuring progress/success.

What should I do for the November Challenge?

Nomadic Transition and Challenges

I recently participated in a survey asking about my transition to a nomadic lifestyle:

What were the challenges for you to transition into a digital nomadic life?

Before I started my journey, I owned a home and had a routine with family/friends, career and local community. Making the change from a stationary life to one of constant international travel required an adjustment in those relationships. In addition, I had the ongoing challenge of sustaining myself physically, financially and mentally in an ever changing environment.

 

How did you tackle those challenges and  make money while traveling?

When I started, I was employed full-time by a great company that fully supported remote work. While traveling, I was exposed to other people who were able to travel and make money in other ways (freelance, contract, product sales, etc.) and I began to rethink my approach. I’ve learned many methods to make money using my existing skillset. I’m still exploring which ones work best for me and the nomadic lifestyle.

What is advice that you’d share with other nomads?

Have a general plan for your nomadic journey but be flexible. Your most deeply held notions are subject to change based on new experiences. I started with the goal of traveling for one year while working full-time, returning home and opening a co-working space. That was two years ago and I’m already planning for a third year.

Also, don’t underestimate the impact of timezones when working with people around the world. Finding and protecting your most productive hours is important, especially when working on distributed teams.

And always keep a quick drying towel handy.

Answering these questions prompted my thinking on what is necessary to create a sustainable nomadic lifestyle that works, which I will discuss in an upcoming post.

Modern Work Podcast

Listen to my interview on the Modern Work podcast with host: writer, consultant and fellow nomad, Katherine Conaway. We talk about how I got into software development, my experience with Remote Year and how I work from the road.

Modern Work is a podcast about the work we do today & how we got there – featuring interviews with digital nomads, remote workers, and professionals across industries around the world, recorded from the road.

Farewell to Chiang Mai

IMG_3031

After almost four months in Chiang Mai, it’s time to move on. When I arrived, I thought I would just keep my head down, get some apps developed and then head on to the next place. I only had a modicum of success as I made a few missteps along the way.

  • I isolated myself too much. I assumed that if I sequestered myself, I’d be more productive and for the first few weeks I was right. In hindsight, I simply needed a break from the whirlwind of travel brought on by the previous 14 months. The cure was a brief respite to detox and decompress, not locking myself away from the world. That said, I do appreciate that this city was accommodating to that end if I desired. While it’s easy to jump into the touristy bar scene, it felt good knowing that it wasn’t expected.
  • I miss training. Getting hurt and not being able to train was probably the biggest blow to my plans. While I wasn’t planning on spending my nights doing extensive bar hopping, I did plan to spend my days training Muay Thai. Only problem was that my shoulder wasn’t getting any better. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, that it dawned on me that the culprit had been my sleeping habits (sleeping on my side is murder on my shoulders).
  • I wasted an opportunity to learn Thai. My original plan was to stay in Vietnam for the remainder of 2017. I started learning Vietnamese via DuoLingo, but when my living plans changed, my language plans didn’t. Since I was a hermit anyway, I wasn’t focused on finding opportunities to learn the language beyond basic encounters. Living in the touristy part of town (Nimman) didn’t help either, as most people spoke enough English that I wasn’t forced out of my comfort zone.
  • I’m more of a social tourist. I don’t really have any bucket list places, so I often find myself just walking around and skipping the popular attractions. It doesn’t take much prodding to coax me out to a local landmark it usually takes an interested companion. I’ve just reached a point where I’m more interested in the daily life of a place. And one thing is for certain: I am all templed/churched out. I really don’t care if I never see another one anywhere on Earth, regardless of architecture.
  • I didn’t eat enough mango with sticky rice.

I will miss the simple life, the street food (especially at night), the freedom of anonymity and most of all the smiling people.

Khob khan krap