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Do more, faster

Last month a video was shared with me about this young man from Colorado named Easton LaChappelle who during high school taught himself programming and electronics because he was inspired to make something cool; A robot hand that could be controlled with a glove.  At a science fair he met a young girl who had a prosthetic arm that he learned cost about $80,000.  His hobby of cool became a mission. Through connections over the internet, learning 3D CAD modelling he kept persisting and iterating using all the methods he could as fast as he could. The evolution over such a short time is awe inspiring.

Easton is really an inspiration. He’s 19 and lives a life of curiosity and selflessness outside boundaries. Enjoy!

The video I originally watched about all this was shared on Facebook shared by a friend.  He makes a very special announcement at the end of it. Easton’s company that he founded at age 17 is called Unlimited Tomorrow.

February 11, 2015 at 3:58 pm | 3D, computers, gadgets, inspiration, interesting, learning, philosophy | No comment

If you’re complaining, you’re losing

Many years ago, and yet not that long ago, this guy Lawrence Lessig gave a talk on the free software / creative commons movement.  He is a lawyer and works on all kinds of initiatives, government corruption most recently. Back then he was speaking to elite coders and hackers about how corporations do and always will try to lock up ownership of the future for themselves. “The past will always try to control the future” I think was the statement. (Here’s me asking you to verify it so you go off on a tangent that leads to enlightenment.)

Another quote from that talk, Lessig mentioned a politician friend who he worked with in those movements against corporate culture control.  “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”  Meaning that to get your point across within a group of politicians, stakeholders or a courtroom, once you find yourself explaining, there’s a good chance you’re not reaching them.

Think about that.  How does one make an impression and convey information without a transmission of facts or reasoning to the listener? The answer is you have to find a way that rubs off like a stain that was always there to begin with. People should be walking away thinking that’s what they believed in the first place, you only reminded them.  Drawn out details will of course work sometimes for some people. But look at it this way, the reason you’re talking about something you’re passionate about is because your aim is to reach the hearts and minds of everybody in the room. So your strategy must adjust for those daydreamers or those with raised brows and folded arms etc.

Today I had this thought on the train ride to a meeting about how I deal with things. “If you’re complaining, you’re losing.”  Because although complaining can let off steam, if you’re complaining to others, you’re losing them, wasting time, reminding them and giving them permission to spread their own complaints. You’re also making your ego worse.  Because you’re just  repeating and solidifying your attachment to expectations, burning that into your mind once again. The demand that what should have happened didn’t happen.  And frankly your ego, or your management of your ego isn’t getting any easier with that kind of mindset.

Sure blow of steam when you need to, try to adjust it towards a constructive means of self-talk. Whatever that energy is that needs to be released don’t let it affect your future self. Letting go of expectations, attachments is a path to being happier while working through outcomes that aren’t as pleasing as you wanted.

Now you might say, “Mike all you’re doing here is explaining this, breaking the ‘rule’ as you reveal it.”  Yes that’s true.  But like I say in a lot of my journals, I’m mostly talking to myself here. 

January 6, 2015 at 12:16 am | inspiration, learning, philosophy | No comment

Here we go, some 2014 ideas

latin brain diagramResolutions.  I just want to take advantage of this arbitrary earth date as leverage toward lifting myself to a few new goals.  So here goes.

Electronics

I really feel like I’m  missing out on my favorite type of creative projects because I don’t have solid footing in electronics.  What a wealth of great available cheap components for building inventions we have nowadays with the Raspberry Pi. And yet I shouldn’t be intimidated by some wiry hand drawn schematic.  Time to embrace what things might mean or just asking for help instead of letting the voice that says “You will never get this.” to run my future. So many great things to be built that electronics are involved. I certainly don’t need to know how to do all of it, but I need to get things started and kill off the intimidation. I want to solder components together to create something new even if it’s just a box with a button that makes a sound.

Yoga

I can’t really think of a better way to keep a body working than to ensure all it’s parts are primed for flexibility. I don’t know much about all the levels of yoga, all I know is I want to do my stunt bike riding without inflaming the bones or ligaments or whatever is hurting me in my lower back / hips / upper legs. That and I think yoga probably has some other real world non-esoteric benefits. I also think I need to do a ton of meditation to keep my brain healthy and mentally awake so tack that on with this goal.

Design / Development

I can make a website look like anything I or my clients want for the most part. But I have a gap in my skills when it comes to building UI components. That being an essential part of dynamic sites and web apps, it is a no-brainer to be addressed. Whether it be some more gains in jQuery or jQuery UI or mastering the forms within Foundation or Bootstrap. Also, I have seen a few ways to create phone apps using some easily available and simplistic tools such as AppInventor. I really need to explore this more.  I think devices are a different way of thinking about sharing ideas and content and should be part of my offerings.  Lastly In my work I really want to have quick setup procedures so I can generate a new site prepped and ready to be worked on using my favorite methods.  And this kind of preparatory procedure makes projects more joyful to build from, due to the instant momentum. What am I waiting for?

Family

This is only this far down the list because I don’t have an order other than my brains direction. My family really needs to get out more. We need to have fun shared experiences, more of them.  And I’m not sure if I’m just really satisfied in my life that I don’t seek out those weekend moments or I just don’t have a good imagination. What I do know is I want my kid to have good memories of his childhood, be that from going on really cool vacations or having a sweet treehouse.

My basement

My basement is a lot of square footage that isn’t really being used. And it’s big enough for my kid to ride his tricycle in easily. Why have I not taken the steps to clear the clutter and put in the lighting? I don’t know man, because it’s not fun. Time to get on this little by little. New light fixtures, carpet tiles, organized less chaotic computer parts and tools would be a huge accomplishment. My basement is sort of finished.  It has the potential to be a great place to hang. Right now it’s just an embarrassment.

Self-promotion

I really need a set of ways to promote myself, my work… In a tasteful way. Because I enjoy helping people, the way to do that is to make sure that people know you can help them. But so far I haven’t had the comfort level of self-promotion. Many things just don’t feel like me.  And I need to find those ways.  Any suggestions, send me a tweet at @michaelbuddy.  I already share a ton of my interests on Twitter, but I don’t necessarily have a bridge to other areas.  I have an interesting relationship with social media. I don’t really care for a lot of it, most of the time, but I do want to enjoy using it more by seeing results from it. Otherwise it seems to be a big waste of time.

Woodworking

I have several projects not started. And I really like completing things. I didn’t really do any wood projects in 2013. I did some good ones in 2012. 2014 needs some of my unfinished ideas fleshed out. Because making pieces out of wood is awesome. It’s custom, it’s creative and it changes your environment.

Paperwork Woes

Anyone who’s ever spent time with me might know that I can’t stand paperwork. I actually really hate touching and sifting through paperwork and files. That’s just plain terrible for success in life. And I find dealing with even digital paperwork a big pain. This must be resolved. I seek to be a master of returned emails, quickly-billed side projects and early submitted tax forms.

Drawing

I’ve done a little bit of drawing and doodling in 2013 off and on.  Where I used to have a lot of shoddy sketch entries in my daily todo journal, I flip through it now and I kind of like the scratch I’m seeing lately.  I think just because I have worked on some flourish to my writing in some cases. But who wouldn’t love a stack of used moleskine notebooks that look like a work of art to look back on.  The better they are, the more likely I would want to review them.

Books

Many great books I have, I’ve only started. And while I don’t mind not finishing a book, I really think I’m missing out on some great chapters because I think I grasp a concept too early or get a bit bored with it. And restarting a book or chapter becomes a little painful as compared to an interesting YouTube video or Netflix movie. I don’t care about numbers of books so much, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment if I can finish a few good books I already have.

Seeking mentors

The past few years have taught me that mentors can be found all around me, both older and younger than me.  Time to interact with them more frequently.  A mentor to me seems to be a friend who you can discuss big ideas with and move forward on them. I’m also looking to be a better mentor to a few people if I can.  The quickest way to be something is to start seeing yourself that way in the first place.

Review and Reflection

I like the reward of moving onto the next thing but the truth is I really need to write things down and review them more. And to make this more pleasing to do I think will help projects get done because, while progression is a key to happiness, one can’t hold onto every great idea and those that are worthy shouldn’t be forgotten or swept away for the latest interesting thing. Looking back is ok to do. And seeing that process as a rediscovery might make that easier. Because when you look back you can still see something as new, because you look at it from a new moment in time.

Thinking bigger and executing

It’s important to think big. And execution on ideas is paramount to a life well spent. Whether it be writing that book or building that piece of furniture or making that relationship happen. And some good ideas are imperfect because they should be a little or a lot bigger. Fear and comfort zones or negative self-talk or a lack of models all get in the way of many great things happening in our lives for the benefit of others. Each idea I have evaluated as sound need a real go and one of the first thoughts is, can it be bigger.

January 1, 2014 at 7:00 pm | inspiration, philosophy | No comment

I Learned My Lesson

As I look at it, there are two ways that you can learn your lesson. One way, the preferred way is to be mindful of what’s not working or what mistake was made that brings you down, and then you take steps and mindfully alter your path. That’s the right way to learn a lesson because you can look back on it positively and it reflects someone who is open to adjustment.

The other way of “learning” is getting to that “I’ve had it!” point.  And yeah you’ve sort of learned the lesson, but really it was pain and negativity that became heavy enough to finally give you no other pleasurable choice. This way is again a positive outcome, but you can’t look back so pleased because you finally just hit bottom or broke or whatever you want to call it. You won’t do it again, but still it’s not necessarily an area where you grew. Really you just exhausted yourself.

What about you? Do you learn your lesson after a couple mistakes or do you find yourself years down to the road saying “I’ve had it!”

I think the former method increases your mental strength and flexibility. And without a doubt will save you time.  It must be the healthier route. The latter is relieving and has finality, but it just doesn’t revitalize you with confidence when you look back over the scenario objectively. Either way you learn your lesson, dumping detrimental habits is progression and will make you better.

July 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm | inspiration, interesting, philosophy | No comment

How to kill the frustration of a traffic jam

A post on hacker news reminded me of something I learned from some odd little site long ago. The lowdown is when you look at driving behavior and traffic jams from a 1,000 feet up, some new knowledge emerges. Congestion and jams are caused either by a legitimate stop such as a crash, but more often they are due to people hurriedly bunching up to the cars in front of them, and creating difficulty for people to change lanes. Lane changes must happen, therefore the entire group ends up slowing down as a necessary reaction inside a cluster.  Expectedly, as a cluster of cars gets bigger there’s an ever-increasing chance that a full stop of traffic will occur for even a minor thing.  And the bigger the cluster, the slower it is to start back up as well. It worsens quickly as you know because the cars behind you, they keep on coming.

I used to get really annoyed by traffic. Hulk-smash annoyed. I still dislike it and still feel like the universe must be out to get me sometimes, but I’ve solved the majority of my traffic pain by making a personal game out of it. A game that is unique in that it’s not just for occupying my mind, rather it actually works.  It’s a kind of goal oriented game where I follow a particular rule and seek to create a low resistance drive.  There’s really only one simple directive to the game.  Create a comfortable gap in front of you that causes the most influence on the drivers around you to maintain traffic flow.

Here are the facts about driving and the lay of the land in terms of this challenge

  1. Keeping a really comfortable gap in front of your car throughout your drive is a very safe way to drive
  2. Keeping a large gap allows you to anticipate hazards in front of you due to increased visiblity and more reaction time.
  3. Keeping a large gap will encourage other drivers to pass into your lane in front of you
  4. This is a positive thing, let them do this
  5. By allowing this you are actually controlling the other drivers. You are causing it to happen, you are in charge of what’s happening.
  6. Actually being in control of all this activity around you can quickly alleviate the frustration of driving (as opposed to having no control at all).
  7. The majority of drivers are merging into your lane because they need to be there for their next maneuver (e.g. heading for the offramp or avoiding a lane closure.)
  8. If these cars can smoothly get into their lane, you’ve just relieved congestion points.
  9. When you relieve congestion points, you are preventing the chain reaction where sometimes traffic comes to a halt.
  10. By maintaining speed rather than hugging up behind the car in front of you, you will notice other drivers will stabilize their speed. They unconsciously copy you or rather they ease some of their desire to pass others unnecessarily. Again this is you affecting them psychologically without them realizing it.
  11. Some highways post speed limits at 55mph but everyone goes 70mph. This happens because a few people go 70mph or more and the others unconsciously follow, so the herd mentality kicks in despite the speed limit.*
  12. A posted speed limit isn’t necessarily always optimal or right or wrong, but the faster the cars are going, the harder it is for drivers to maneuver across lanes safely at that speed.
  13. Crashes happen because people aren’t able to negotiate their lane changes safely and either lose control or are not able to observe what’s going on around them and rear end another vehicle. Again this can happen at any speed, but the faster traffic goes where the space between cars isn’t increased, the higher the difficulty level for everyone.
  14. Going really slow in the slow lane is not a way to do well at this game.

I made a game out of it, but really it’s just a personal challenge. How can I affect the most traffic around me while making my drive seamless.  The exciting thing is that you get results immediately. Some roads don’t have to get congested every day at traffic hours. When accidents happen and lanes close, some traffic is forced to a stop. But when you learn that so much traffic congestion is due to speed behaviors, and your influence on the vehicles around and behind you becomes obvious and observable.

A frequent problem among drivers is some of them are obsessed with continuously passing others, and they get angry when they are being passed. For them there’s an association of feelings when someone passes them. It’s like they are being invaded or beaten or dominated. You’ve witnessed it. You speed up to get in front of someone next to you and they close the gap on you.  At that moment, they felt challenged and that if they allow it, you are winning over them.  If you have this association when driving I must tell you it is a real problem. One because this feeling is an illusion.  Secondly, it shows an ignorance of the fact that you actually exude more control over a driving situation by allowing cars to pass you.

If you want to truly be a dominant driver, you need a new association. “By creating a space to let people pass through in front of me, I’m doing immense good for the drivers around me, keeping everyone around me safe to drive another day.”

Thankfully within a high traffic area it only takes a few key people to influence the herd. While the few obsessed individuals will still zoom in and out around you, you are graciously giving them safe passage in spite of their ignorance. Whereas years ago, I might have gotten mad when a driver speeds through and drives obsessively to pass me and others, more often now I feel sorry for them. Because they are just going to encounter more people up ahead. Their suffering will never go away and may cause themselves or others a lot of pain someday if a mistake is made.

Somebody used an analogy on another post I’m going to steal. Think of traffic with a zipper in mind.  As long as the teeth of a zipper can interlock, you can zip a coat very quickly and smoothly. This is dependent that each tooth can find it’s place between the gap of the opposite side.

In traffic, these gaps must exist for you and other drivers to change lanes at speed without slowing or negatively affecting the speed of the group. When you look at a lane closing, as the cars move into the adjacent lane due to their lane closing, it really does look like a zipper.

The best thing about all this is it really does work and it’s fun and everyone should try it. The more people that do it, the better it is, and even when a few do it, it makes a big difference across hundreds or even thousands of vehicles around them. And the other outcome is it’s hard to get frustrated when you look at all the good you’re doing, keeping all the drivers around you safer by just making a simple enlightened decision.

*More on the herd mentality and speed. While we don’t particularly like traffic while driving, we don’t really feel right being the only ones on the road either. So we tend to keep up with the people in front of us to some degree, if for no other reason than having an easy reference point.  But in a situation where everyone goes above the speed limit, a police officer can pull anyone they want over at any time.

June 23, 2013 at 2:31 am | interesting, philosophy | No comment

The secret sauce of freelance is caring about the client and their project

I had a long talk with a buddy of mine the other night.  He’s having a lot of trouble focusing on a particular project. It’s something he’s fully capable of and can’t seem to leverage a personal commitment to take care of the work. He’s missed deadlines and managed to make himself miserable over it.  It has gone from something that needed to get done, to affecting his confidence in his own capability.

I make no assumptions here because I’ve been in a similar position and besides it’s really hard to pin down what any individual’s block might be. Why can’t they focus? What is it about a project that isn’t working for them? Where did the motivation go? Why aren’t they able to take charge and help the client?  Sometimes it comes down to a way of thinking about the problem, like when a project is too big or we want it to be too perfect before we even start.  I know I’m not alone in stalling on on projects because unless I see it to a specific depth in my minds eye, I want to hesitate rather than go down the wrong path. Then there’s the  unnecessary worry, confidence issues and simple bad habits and boredom. Imagine how much better a plumbers day is when he gets to work on good hardware with good tools and connections, vs the day when he’s got broken old pipes that crumble in his hand when he touches them.

What really hurts us is that empty space that opens up from the vagueness of a project plan or the hesitation to move the ball forward. That empty space is quickly taken up by something more interesting or an urgent problem from somebody else. And another day or week goes by.  The moments you do think about the project are fleeting and it gets smaller and less significant in your mind. You’ve long forgotten what you needed to do and that old email is buried. Until it all comes crashing back to you in the form of fear and stress, and eventually a kind of dread or loathing.

The secret to making it happen for me has more often been the simple notion of caring for the person. You care what happens to your client, and you associate your actions directly to whether they succeed or fail. You tie yourself to their happiness in the space you have control over.  You care that they meet their goals, you care that they can move onto the next great thing once they get this out of the way.  And you care that they took the time to work with you for something rather than somebody else. Along with that, instead of viewing the problem as time you don’t want to spend, it helps to be grateful that you have the opportunity to help people at this level, rather than be in a place where even the basic necessities of life are scarce.

How you define ‘caring about your project’ must go beyond clean and elegant code or efficient processes. It must be overwhelmingly a desire to cultivate a relationship and a sense of duty and commitment. Exercising those muscles will make you successful and keep you earning even when you have a big screw up or your choice of expertise goes into obsolescence.

June 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm | freelance, inspiration, learning, philosophy | No comment

You have to love the St. Louis Arch

Monument to the Dream is a 1967 documentary about the creation of the St. Louis Arch. The 30 minute film has all the charm of the best National Geographic films I grew up loving. That and the Modern Marvels Episode about the Arch made more recently really make you proud of your industrious human family and the kind of risks it takes to do something at this level.  Watch below.

The Modern Marvels film feels as bold as as the arch itself. It taps into the history of St. Louis back when it was a village of a thousand people, onto it’s status as a way station during westward expansion  and up to the period after the Great Depression and the downward turn of the economy and the city itself.  The project or the kernel of the idea that would become the Gateway Arch was an idea for the riverfront, something big that would improve and uplift St. Louis again.

What I love about the arch is that it’s not just something you can talk about or stare at. They had the foresight, the motivation to make it something you could ride up to the top in. What would become a sort of ferris wheel on tracks to a cozy lookout room.

April 11, 2013 at 10:09 pm | inspiration, interesting, nostalgia, philosophy | No comment

Every Other Day is a Hackathon

My colleague and I were talking about ways to bump our business to the next level so we can help more clients. And more importantly, maintain the energy of a project all the way through it.

Being a couple of freelancers and agency expatriates, we were thinking of a new model of client-service and project work. Being tied to the 9-5 model isn’t really appealing and we want to avoid the mistakes and not just copy other agencies.

We started thinking that there may be serious benefits in building client projects using the hackathon model. But one where you get paid and the client gets served.

Thing about hackathons, as opposed to code sprints is that hackathons have a fixed start and end time and they truly leverage the energy of the moment and through collaboration. Code sprints are nice paths to burnout. We think a hackathon model helps knock out the small holdups. It’s this push to complete in a short time, and by leveraging a assembly process and clear objectives, which might just win.

Whereas most hackathons are often learning meetups, this type would be building something and getting paid. You might be part of the company, or you might be a contractor or intern, or maybe a first-time visitor.  We also thought we could invite people to shadow or visit who might want to learn the process. Maybe an intern model where they watch first and then can eventually become a paid participant.

It’s daunting to build an entire site, but when broken down into the bite-size chunks, it almost seems like a few hours is more time than you need. Part of standardizing will help the collaborative process, templates, expectations. Once done and commit your chunk, (e.g. the site header) it will be merged with the sidebar and footer which was being made by the collaborators next to you.

We also think once it’s done, a good debriefing. What got completed, where do we stand. And communication with the client, we have a clear statement of progress and a very exacting number of hours to report if we so choose.

We’re interested in doing a trial run on a project and see where it goes. We think it could build some camradarie and really get people to focus on the one project, vs a normal day of putting out fire after fire and losing site of one’s goals.

March 6, 2013 at 10:50 am | freelance, interesting, philosophy | No comment

Workplaces for designers and front end coders are way behind

Ask yourself… How does my workplace help me succeed?

I’ve worked in a lot of office environments and it comes down to this fact. They are basically the same. They are adequate, climate-controlled and exist for people to work in the same vicinity, but other than that, they don’t serve the worker all that well.

You have a small area you can furnish yourself a little bit, typically a set of tools that are somewhere between mediocre or decent and you are expected to stay in one place for 7-11 hours a day.

There are no incentives to improve the space yourself using your own funds; you can ask for better equipment when you need it, but you’d be expected to demonstrate that it’s problematic or limiting. You can improve your workspace by requesting a better chair, maybe a doctor’s note will help you in that way, but a better desk isn’t likely.

Expectations that conflict

You’re expected as a designer / developer to create, to bring a succession of progressive enhancements to your work in order to provide better service. And my view is you can’t do that in a typical work space. And no change in wall color or cube formation is going to ultimately fix that. A creator who is stagnant and does the same thing repeatedly is going to dwindle in usefulness. They will miss their family, resent their job a lot of the time and go home at the end of the day tired and unable to absorb or maximize their life experience outside of the workplace, not refreshed for the next day.

How does one create?

Well we do so by absorbing through experience in our life and by crafting a solution to a set of problems.  When you sit at the same desk for a sequence of so many days. How is your life experience bringing you things to help generate ideas?  What about that hour lunch break? Does it regenerate you really? I’ve always found myself rushing through it, and basically listening or contributing to complaint sessions with my colleagues.

The structure of offices is just strange to me. I get the whole discipline thing and team oriented work. But with design and development, you’ll have short bursts of team work which then require an individual to separate from the huddle and actually bring something to life so the group can discuss it. The majority of your time is taken in these individual tasks. The group feedback loops are at most 10% of your days at most. Probably more like 3%.

So what I’m getting at is if I’m required to be at an office, but mostly working solo, in order to serve the creative requirements of my job, isn’t there a conflict in my lack of world experience that I’m generating as well?

I had that thinking less than 6 months into my first office job. And despite my best efforts, I’ve worked in many other offices after that. Will I ever learn? Slowly but surely I guess.

Can you go big, portable or remote?

I think the issue is, many of us simply cannot bring with us a sufficient portable space, so we work where a den was made, and though networking is sophisticated enough, teammates do not use the capabilities of the available tools to work remotely in nearly the same capacity as an in-person setup. It basically works like this…

Worker: I want to work from home, I think I could get things done just as well (murmurs about office distractions)
Supervisor: That sounds good, how about maybe every other Friday you work from home
Worker: That’s something, (that sucks) but let’s do that (for starters hopefully).
Supervisor: Of course you’ll need to check in with me during that time
Worker: No problem you want to set up skype or get on chat or maybe open a phone bridge all day, or just open the view to the source code repository as I check things in?
Supervisor: I’m not familiar with all that, let’s set up some phone meeting times to go over some things
Worker: Ok fine

And what happens is, the worker spends a few extra half-hours during the day preparing to provide reports to the boss to justify working there. Eventually it’s a huge hassle and at some point he’s on the toilet when a call comes in, the boss starts preaching that it’s not working out and feigns panic.

Humans should be together, but not necessarily co-workers all the time. I’m advocating for a change in creative work where schedules are mixed, working from remote locations is encouraged and the absorption of experience resulting in the synthesis of ideas is maximized.  I realize this produces more opportunity to screw off and bosses don’t like screwing off. But you know what… I really don’t care.  Because change starts at home. I’m advocating people demand of their next job and plan on updating their home or portable capabilities.

Try this, when you actually have time for your family, when you split up your day, go home or for an outing for 3 hours multiple times during the week rather than spending the majority of the sunlight hours sitting indoors. I’m going to bet that you feel a little more refreshed, and capable of being excited over new challenges. I’m not talking about a couple days vacation or a bi-monthly “teambuilding” event only then to return to normal and then work on those ideas. I’m talking about killing normal and creating based on goals and energy, not required sitting periods.

‘Cuz I won’t be the one left behind, you can’t be king of the world if you’re slave to the grind’

-Skid Row (1990)

May 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm | design, family, inspiration, philosophy, rants | No comment

Farewell Steve Jobs

I have kind of hidden the way I felt about Steve Jobs’ death over the past couple weeks. But it’s been on my mind a lot. I didn’t know Steve Jobs and maybe it’s silly to have so much emotion or interest over somebody I never met. I mean I know all the stories about him being belligerent or cruel. And I know yet another article about him is just going to make people roll their eyes.

It’s just that I keep finding myself going back to all the writings and the videos that I’ve looked at over the years. My first computer was an Apple IIc. When my parents brought it home, I just about fainted. I do believe it was the best present they’ve ever shared with us. I think of how expensive it was and I know at the time my dad stretched his money to get one of the better ones from the shop. They got it for all of us and they chose a special combination of components. They put thought and effort and money into it and I deeply thank them and love my mom and dad for that. Back then computers were so new, most people didn’t really have the mindset that it would be obsolete in a few months. That wasn’t a notion. Computers were a new experience and you wanted to squeeze it for all it could do. You weren’t regretting or thinking of your next computer really. I wanted to dig in, figure it out. I saw them walk in with those boxes and I seized on them. I hooked it all up myself with all the confidence in the world at age 10 or whatever it was. My life would never be the same.

Around that time, I read an article in some magazine about Apple and Steve Jobs too. It was probably at the dentist’s office or maybe my parents’ Reader’s Digest. In that article it talked about the beginnings of Apple and while reading suddenly I was transported in that garage with Steve Jobs.  Even though I was still a boy, I was suddenly feeling like that young entrepreneur. For the first time I saw this image in my mind of how new important things were invented and that stamped something onto me permanently.

After a short while, I learned how to use the word processor, I copied little BASIC programs I saw in pamphlets or library books. I played the little physics and history games, I programmed the turtle and played the hell out of the action games. My friend Eddie and I would play at his house and we shared all the games we had, whatever we could copy. I’d save up the $10 or $15 every couple weeks and buy new games. In seventh grade I went on a double-date to the mall. What would have been my first date, I was actually stood up, so while my friend and his date went to the cinema, I bought myself an awesome Karate game with my movie and popcorn money.

In working with my first computer, I became more technical about things over time. I started paying attention. I learned that when things don’t happen as you expect, to go back and see what you did. You look at the links in the chain of events. And making mistakes there’s no mess, just try again. I remember and appreciate the simplicity of the computer that I started off with and how I found it easy to learn these fundamentals that I use now everyday in my life and job. The same way I’d lie in bed going over how to solve a problem in a game, I do to this day just on different sets of challenges. I don’t take these tools for granted and I find myself feeling a bit sorry for others who don’t seem to have the ambition or interest to try new things and look problems right in the eye.

I thought as a little tribute to Steve and his company and their inventions, I would list a few of the many lessons I gained from that little computer my parents gave me. They’ve come a long way since that Apple IIc and so have I.

I’m grateful for Steve and Steve starting Apple. When I learned about them, I had a new feeling of pride in inventiveness that I didn’t have before. I connected real people with the inventions that I loved. Before me, young men probably would have started their journeys on the stories of Ben Franklin or Edison and many great fictional characters. I truly did grow up with the story of Apple as my adventure began.

I’m almost ashamed to tell you this lest I ruin a good stream of thought, but for a really long time, I really couldn’t stand Apple products. I was mad because they were always getting media attention despite all these mistakes I could see, things that I would never let get by. I wanted to tell people, “No! Stop listening to the propaganda, look at this, why would anyone ever do this?” And I would point out something mundane but that mattered to me. I think of that and I am reminded that we all can embrace our preference and taste and our expression of that makes us unique. And it took me a while but I see in my work that an intense fixation and follow through is the only way certain things will be shaped as they must to meet your approval.

It’s quite nostalgic for me to think of Steve Jobs. Back then and now I can always imagine that when you have a massive undertaking that’s never been done before and is so scary and intimidating, it’s like Steve is speaking to me…”Mike, just take it into the garage. What seems impossible now to even understand, soon enough you’ll control, master and then refine.”

I’m also inspired once again by Steve Jobs.  His genius and his flaws are coming clear and creating a connection for me again. It helps me forgive myself and others for our flaws and just continue. Intensity or abrasiveness doesn’t always mean what you think they mean. And I’m inspired by the real notion of impermanence. It’s one thing to hear from the Dalai Lama or in a book, but Steve was this hero that I didn’t really know I had until he was gone. And then I realized that’s exactly who he always has been. And as a hero, in some ways he was better than I even understood because he tells us we’re going to die and we better not waste our talents. And we better follow what we love. His new message to me is don’t let yourself be satisfied or dissatisfied for too long.

I suppose now Steve’s story is one I can pass onto my son. And just maybe I can forge that nostalgia of mine into a little inspiration for him. And happily, it’s Steve’s computer that enables my son to talk to his grandparents thousands of miles away across the oceans every single day. Our family computers are mainstays and that’s what Steve imagined long ago. He might not have been the only one, but he was one of the few who really pushed and built it into the culture even when he certainly must have had doubts about it. He must have been lost at some point in all the problems and complexity. But Steve and the team at Apple persisted. And then Steve was smart enough to usher in the era by inspiring all kinds of people. A great product still needs the right kind of charismatic leaders to show us the way, make us suddenly see the potential in something new and unfamiliar. The vision had to be planted everywhere. Steve did that.

So to close up this goodbye to Steve Jobs, I just wanted to say the reason I write this is that I believe we should take note that inspiration is as priceless as it is simple. And we need the simple to get through the most challenging times and inspiration to help us embrace the things we don’t completely understand.

October 25, 2011 at 2:17 am | computers, inspiration, nostalgia, philosophy | No comment

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