Are your lights on?

I’m a fan of Jerry Weinberg and though he’s gone, his brilliant writings still remain.

The latest book I’ve been reading from him is a quirky one called Are your lights on?

It’s really about problems and asking the right questions- too often we jump into the solution and realise much later than the problem is really something else. I’ve been guilty of that so many times at work especially when you’re used to doing a piece of repetitive work a certain way and realise halfway through that the problem is an entirely different thing altogether.

So yes, this book is a timely reminder that before we jump headfirst into any problem, we should ask what is the problem about.

In fact, we should go further. Sometimes we should also ask is this my problem? If not, we should not solve other people’s problems for them. It just ends up in more pain for everyone.

Finally, we should ask ourselves if the problem is even worth solving at all. There are so many problems out there with either no solution or just not worth the hassle.

Once again, highly recommended.

GTD In Practice

Getting Things Done (or GTD) is all about actions and outcomes.

So for instance, this blog post is an outcome. Sitting in front of my laptop and typing it out is an action.

To implement the framework, I needed a tool for capturing and what better tool than my trusty “Reminders” app. I captured various ideas, errands, projects, stuff .. everything that David Allen calls an “open loop” into the app.

Next, all the stuff that I received, I clarified by asking myself if it was actionable. If yes, then I figured out what the next action is. If no, then I trashed it or put it into incubation for later.

Once I had all my open loops, I organised them into various lists named under different contexts like home, office, errands etc.

Then I reflected on all the items I had and decided, given the 4 levels of constraints (context, time, energy and priority) on which task to engage first.

It’s a damm useful framework for procrastinators like me.

Getting things done (GTD)

Because of work commitments, there’s been a lack of updates from me..

But on Friday, while wandering around a bookstore, I saw an updated version of David Allen’s GTD on the shelf. Purchased a copy and eased myself into a chair in the nearby cafe, I started to get excited about implementing some of his ideas into my own GTD system. In fact this post stemmed from some of those ideas and breathed a bit of life into this dying blog.

But the bottom line version is that using a mix of Apple reminders, lists and an enlightened understanding of what getting things done means, I’m experimenting with a new method of being more productive…

More from me soon…

William T.Sherman and the Civil War

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Battles are fought and won not by the brute strength of men but by the minds and genius of their commanders. The American Civil War was decided not by the strength of the North over the South, but due to brilliance of William T.Sherman, a commander of the Union Army.

Like all good leaders, he also led from the front. Whatever burdens and struggles his men experienced, he too would share in them. For it was his belief that:

“Soldiers have a right to see and know that the man who guides them is near enough to see with his own eyes”

During his time as a training school commander, he encouraged his cadets to come speak to him and if a cadet fell sick, he would be at his bedside several times a day encouraging him.

Another aspect of his leadership was his ability to show moral courage even in difficult times. After loss at the Battle of the Bull Run where the morale of the troops was low and many soldiers wanted to be discharged, a Captain came up to him one day and casually said he was going back to his business in New York. In front of the observing men,Sherman rebuked him saying, “You are a soldier and must submit to orders till you are properly discharged. If you attempt to leave without orders it will be mutiny and I will shoot you like a dog!”. Sherman understood the laws of human nature and knew that if he had not stood his ground and asserted his authority, the rest of the soldiers would have revolted.

He also knew that the resisting power of the South was through the strength of the popular will rather than the strength of the armies. By marching through Georgia and pillaging the South, he broke the will of the Southerners.

Man has two supreme loyalties – to country and to family. And with most men, the second being the more personal is the stronger

Through the Vicksburg campaign, he realised that the way to decide wars and win battles was more by movement of troops than by fighting. His army was a “mobile machine willing and able to start at a minute’s notice and to subsist on the scanties of food”. In Liddel Hart’s words, he understood that “the way to success is strategically along the line of least expectation, and tactically along the line of least resistance.”

As long as his men could shoot, march and obey orders, and best of all use what was inside their heads, he cared nothing as to what was outside their bodies. He was a pragmatist and even the carelessness of his dressing reflected his pragmatic approach toward war. Once when he reprimanded a soldier for not changing into his uniform, he rebutted that a general with “such a hat as he had had no right to talk to him about a uniform”. In Washington, after the war, the Eastern armies marched in well-clad and well-drilled with their ranks trim and spotless. Sherman’s Western armies in sharp contrast bore travel-stained and patched uniforms, marching freely in front of the crowds.

Throughout the war, his knew what the end point was and never wavered. Inscribed on his statue in Washington, in his words:

“The legitimate object of war is a more perfect peace”

He could have pursued the war to the end and demonstrated retribution on the South. But he accepted the peace terms against the popular will and demonstrated patriotism and faith in the renewal of the country.

” Therefore, my friends now that the war is over, let us all go back to work and do what seems honest and just to restore our country to its former prosperity.”

Dick Dale and Miserlou

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On Monday, while driving to work, the BBC announced the passing of Dick Dale. I first heard the name Dick Dale many years back in a guitar book and it made reference to his hypersonic stacatto picking style. “Miserlou“, its electric tempo and machine like riffing with a middle eastern melody – sounds wildly different from the usual radio riff-raff from the 60s.

While he’s most famously remembered for “Miserlou”, his very first album has a surprisingly different tone. From the bluesy pop shuffle of “Let’s Go Tripping” to the bass heavy chug intermixed with indulgent tom tom rolls of “Surfing Drums”, the surf-loving Dick channeled his joy of surfing into his music. But history wasn’t exactly kind to Dale: his music was overshadowed by the more lyrically talented fellow Californians “The Beach Boys”. Tracks like “Surfin Safari”, “Surfin USA” and “Surfer Girl” stayed on the airwaves (and minds of the USA) while none Dale’s really took off.

His evolution and experimentation into the racing scene of the Hot Rod Movement was also a failure. Dialling down his usual speed and adding more vocals just wasn’t his strong suit. (The cheesy lyrics of “Big Black Cad” and “The Scavenger”.
come to mind). Disappointing though because there are some gems which maintained his trademark mad tempo like “Night Rider” and “The Wedge”.

His battle with cancer forced him off almost into obscurity and it wasn’t till much later that Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction brought him back into the public consciousness again. His reappearance marked a succession of new albums. But gone were the bluesy pop rock melodies of the 60s; replacing it was the heavier, bass heavy songs like “Nitro”, “Nitrus” and “Scalped” but somehow, they don’t match up to the magic of his earlier songs.

What I play now isn’t surf music. It’s too powerful. I used to go through paper bags; now I go through brick walls. I play hard.

Surf music may be dead, but long live Dick Dale.