• Putting my money where my mouth is

    day in the life: lunch money

    The Iron Blogger Freiburg initiative made me realize how much an incentive the threat of losing money can be. Basically, it’s a bet against myself that I can write at least one blog post a week. Which I do at this precise moment, once again only a few hours before the deadline.

    So, recently I had the idea of betting against myself in another area I’ve made much less progress than I’d like to admit: losing weight. Of course, I know all the benefits of not being overweight by heart and I appreciate them. So I tried time and time again, but eventually I always lost my discipline and gained back the little I had been able to shed.

    This changed a few weeks ago when I decided to literally put my money where my mouth is: Yes, I want to lose at least 10kg, and yes, I’m going to pay cash if I fail. It works like this: I set a new weight goal at the beginning of the month and for every kilo I’m off at its end, I pay 20€ to my partner. Since the difference is always rounded up to the next full kilo, missing my goal by only 100g means handing over 20€.

    Lo and behold: Suddenly, I’m steadily losing weight (4kg so far)! Between losing money and missing a few sugary pleasures, I choose the latter. And since I’m setting realistic goals (2kg per month at the moment), I still have fun eating.

    Looks like if the motivational carrot just isn’t enough, I need to find the right stick.

  • Drink!

    Father Jack Hacket

    It looks as if the Iron Blogger Freiburg initiative really was able to breathe some life into the blogs of our small group of spare-time writers!

    Money is quite an incentive, I’ve come to learn. The impending “fine” of 4€ for missing the entry deadline on Monday morning makes sure that on Sunday evening at the latest, I force myself to launch my writing software. It’s been only two times now that I didn’t deliver; one time I spent the weekend in Rome and last weekend, I’ve been far to knackered to still write coherent sentences.

    With Carolin and Heather, who both turned themselves in unsolicitedly for missing the deadline, we’ve now an open account of 16€ for the tab on our first meetup.

    Speaking of meetup: Heather is going to visit Freiburg in May or June. Will we have accumulated a tidy sum until then? Anyone else who wants to clear their concience? ;-)

  • I bought the Steve Jobs book

    And it actually is an interesting read. I had listened to the older biography by Steven S. Young when I started my Audible subscription in 2006 but can’t remember much. The Isaacson book refreshes my memory and gives me a good overview on Jobs' development as a person.

    But that’s not what I want to talk about. I’m reading “Steve Jobs” in its ebook form. Last year, I decided to buy my books only in digital form, if possible; either as ebooks or as audiobooks. And there are many people that find that peculiar. I don’t.

    Digital books are so much more comfortable. When I find a reference to an interesting read, it takes me only a few seconds to get it onto my Kindle or my iPhone. Then, I can “read” a book via my earbuds while I’m walking into city centre (which helps greatly with losing weight). And with 4 or more unread books on my Kindle, I get to choose spontaneously if I want to read a sci-fi novel, a book about IT operations processes or something else. Regardless of where I am — at home, on the train, on a plane, in a street cafe in Rome.

    “But what about the experience? The haptic feeling of holding a book and turning pages?” I’ll let Marco Arment answer that with a quote from his article “Do you have the paperback or the hardcover?”:

    Many people romanticize the experience of reading a printed book, but I just don’t get it. When I start reading, the form of the book quickly disappears. Just as I don’t notice the individual letters in each word, I stop noticing the layout, the font, the paper, the binding, and every other physical artifact because I’m focused on the writing.

    It’s the same with me. When I focus on the writing, its delivery vanishes into the background. So, not only do I not judge a book by its cover, but I also don’t care about its medium. It’s the content that matters. Only the content. And once you define a book as what’s between the title and the end page, there’s no need to differentiate the medium any more. As Marco puts it:

    Since I don’t think the distinction matters, I rarely need to say “I bought the Steve Jobs book in iBooks,” or “I bought the Steve Jobs book on my Kindle.” I just say, “I bought the Steve Jobs book.”

    It’s not important in what form you get your reading material. It’s only important that you read.

  • Family First

    Founding my own business has proven to be a very fulfilling venture, but it’s also very time-intensive. Balancing my professional duties with the responsibilities of a father and partner actually is a challenge every day.

    Over the years, I had many opportunities to experience how much the support of my family means to me. That’s why I follow Gary V’s advice in “Crush It” (which, by the way, did immensely influence me) and chose “Family First” as my rule number one.

    Now, how do I put this rule into practice? The article “Manifesto for a Freelancer with a Family” on FreelanceFolder has a great answer with which I agree wholeheartedly! Author Brian McDaniel makes the following declarations, adding to each some concrete guidelines:

    • My Family Will Always Come First
    • I Will Keep My Marriage Healthy
    • I Will Pour Myself into My Children
    • I Will Keep Myself Healthy and Sane

    I think having these principles really helps in making the right decisions and achieving something like “work/family balance” (I don’t like the term “work/life balance” since I regard my work an essential part of my life). That’s why I copied the Manifesto into my “Important Notes” folder and reread it from time to time.

    I have to admit that there are still some points I’m struggling with, for example with “Be present. Not just physically, but completely present, even when I’m working.” because it seems to conflict with my very focused working style.

    Since I know from experience that working as an employee can be as taxing on your family life as is working for your own business, I recommend reading Brians article to every professional that has (or intends to found) a family.

  • How to survive and succeed at conferences as an introvert

    Hello, my name is Jochen and I’m an introvert. This isn’t easily apparent because when I meet people I can draw from enough self-confidence and eloquence to appear open and communicative. But deep down, I often feel more or less uncomfortable with people I don’t know well.

    As a business owner, being an introvert can be quite a challenge. Especially at conferences and business meetings, you are supposed to engage in smalltalk, connect at lunch or dinner, meet new business prospects as well as existing clients, and generally present yourself and your company in the best possible way. You meet many different people, many of them for the first time, and each has their own personality. This is the arena of the extroverts, the High-I’s of the DISC typology, who enjoy the limelight. But for an introvert, it’s tempting to stick with who you already know and then leave sooner rather than later.

    I was at the airport, waiting for my flight to the Drupal Process Meetup in Amsterdam, when I read an article in Harvard Business Review by Lisa Petrilli titled “An Introvert’s Guide to Networking”. In this article, Lisa talks about her natural aversion to networking, her realization that she’d need to overcome it to get on with her career, and the strategies that helped her to do so. It immediately struck a chord with me because I had been anxious for days in advance how I would be able to blend in at this conference where I didn’t know most of the people yet.

    It took me a few minutes to read the article and then a few more seconds to buy and download her ebook “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” to my Kindle. I read it on the flight and with every page, I learned more on how to make my trip to Amsterdam a worthwhile business expense.

    “Introversion is simply a preference for the inner world of ideas because this is where we get our energy.”

    Her explanation why introverts feel uncomfortable in crowds made immediately sense to me: We draw energy from the creative process, from developing and refining ideas. On the other hand, opening up to others drains our energy. That’s why we often feel especially spent after an intense conference day.

    Lisa has got a great tip how this can be mitigated: When you’re in a networking situation, engage in one-to-one conversations with a single person. With this tactic in mind, I was able to take many opportunities during the meetup to get in touch with other participants and always had great conversations.

    She also urges her fellow introverts to overcome the fear of introducing themselves to others, especially to people to which they feel somehow inferior.

    “I learned over time that when I extended my hand with a smile and an introduction my effort would be reciprocated, even when I approached executives above my rank.”

    This encouraged me tremendously to approach even the executives of million-dollar companies that were at the meetup. It was one of those CEOs that was the first to connect to me via LinkedIn shortly after we talked.

    Thanks to Lisa’s explanation how introverts gain and lose energy, I felt comfortable to excuse myself from the pub tour after dinner and to instead recharge for the next conference day all by myself in a comfy chair in the hotel lounge.

    After a great conference experience without feeling uncomfortable once, I now happily look forward to the next one in two weeks! The trip already paid for itself – and so did Lisa Petrilli’s ebook.