Making A Difference

The following blog post inspired by this tweet.

 

I’ve had my ups and downs. In life, career and business. Haven’t we all?

When something gives you a hard knock it can be so hard to keep going.  Sometimes things just don’t work out. And it can hurt so much. The love and enthusiasm can be lost.  And it can be so easy to give up, run away and never come back. Especially when you’ve had a bad day, week, month or year.  And even more so (in relation to business) when not (enough) money is being made.

Sometimes it’s not that things go bad, but things just aren’t moving as fast or in quite the right direction as you would like. Sometimes you can be doing great things, but you get no or minimal feedback that you are.  This can make it hard to evaluate whether you are doing a ‘good job’ or not.

Sometimes you think you want something, but the reality isn’t really what  you want.

Sometimes you want something, go down a path and discover a whole new love for something else.

For me, whatever I’m doing, I want to shine a light on my world. I believe the things I’m doing are positive for the people around me. I believe I can make a positive impact. I can. I can. I can.

I always want to know if I am making a difference, to someone, somewhere.

How Do I Make A Difference?

Sometimes it is hard to know whether I make a difference because people don’t go out of their way to tell me, until there is a reason to.  Sure, I can measure things to a certain extent through data (e.g. web traffic, social media networks, people talking about us, etc), but it sure helps to see a story happen which may have something to do with the work that you do.

Here are some recent examples from my work:

  • I send out some free stickers: the result is not only thank you for the stickers, but thank you for the work that I am doing and how it has made a positive difference to individual testers.
  • I meet a tester at a meetup or conference: I don’t always know who they are, but they know me and they say thank you. They talk to me about stuff that shows they read what we produce over at Software Testing Club and Ministry of Testing, but perhaps just as interesting is that they follow other aspects of my life. My personal blog (what you are reading now). And my unschooling blog.  So in fact, I can see I am making a difference not only in the testing world, but my more personal efforts are being listened to too.
  • we publish something (often something that some awesome tester has written or helped us create): there are shares and retweets which is obviously nice.  Within this is an occasional and more thoughtful comment, blog post or email saying ‘thank you… I have some feedback/questions/ideas..’.

Sure, these are nice examples. But they don’t happen everyday (and this is not a plea for praise!)

 

Chasing For Feedback

On the other side is chasing for feedback. I know I need to get better at this.

I need to get better at this. It takes time and effort and is one of those things that often gets pushed to the back of the line when work and life take over.

Self Doubt Always Kicks In

I’m often full of self doubt.  Am I doing the right thing? What will people think about this? Do people actually care? Am I making the right kind of difference?

Feedback matters, no matter how big or small. It helps validate your life’s work. But perhaps more importantly is the internal satisfaction and happiness.  Are you working towards what you want? Are you making yourself happy?  Are you creating the right kind of difference that matters to you?

There is no point, in the name of ‘making a difference’, being miserable just to please everyone else.  At least in Rosie Land, there is no point :)

Decisions + Learning = Progress

I have this theory that the more decisions you make the progress happens.

I feel uncomfortable when I don’t make decisions.  I hate sitting on unresolved situations.  It makes me feel restless and uncomfortable.

When I make a decisions I feel almost automatically relieved and happy. It feels like I can move forward. I learn, no matter whether I succeed or fail. It feels like I’m going to get busy doing real and valuable stuff. I begin to understand the world around me more. I know I will make mistakes along the way. I know I will make the wrong decisions sometimes.  However, equally I will achieve successes along the way and quite often surprising and encouraging discoveries.

The worst thing for me is not doing anything. Not making that decision and being left not knowing or learning about what could have been.

Progress

There’s No Business Like Slow Business

Society is obsessed with ‘Quick’

We want a quick fix diet.

A quick route to being fit and healthy.

Fast (but good) food.

A well paying job, now. With big rewards in the near future.

That big house, now.

An overnight business success.

What about the process?

Why are we forgetting the value of the process?  It’s the journey that matters, yet we all just want to get to the end as quickly as possible – thinking that the end is successs and the success at the end is what will make us happy.

The process makes me happy, what about you?

The value of slow business

I think about the business I run a lot.  It would be unwise not to.

It’s been a slow journey.  6 years in the making, yet only the past 18 months has seen ‘good’ growth.

The business I run could not happen overnight.  It takes years to build a community and even more years and trials and errors to figure out how to turn it into a profitable business.

For me it’s not all about the profits, it’s also about enjoying what I do and maintaining a healthy work life balance.  It takes time and consistent ongoing effort to figure this stuff out.  Most people don’t stick with it, you’re many steps ahead if you can.  And even more steps ahead if you accept that you are willing to change at any point.

It’s slow business, but the best bit is that it is sustainable business.  My growth chart is a steady upwards curve, it’s not rapid, it’s steady.

I fail. I succeed. I fail. I succeed.  I do this all in small amounts.  Small is easy to cope with. Big success and failure is harder.

The flipside is fast business – which often bring in lots of pressure.  Hiring employees. Office space. Investors. Loans. Stress. All attempts at getting to the goal faster.

I like slow business, not everyone does.

The Consequence of Correct Answers

This video rings so true with me. I know one more than one occasion my son(s) have been scared to do or answer something for fear of getting it wrong.

How we question, request and say things is so important to the frame of mind someone is put in. I know I need to remind myself of this :)

What Executives Value In Testing / StarWEST / MindMap

I’m at StarWEST this week so thought I’d make the effort of taking some notes of some of the sessions/talks I’ve been attending.  I don’t have the stamina to do it for all of them, but here’s my mindmap and some relevant photos from Mike and Jeanette’s talk.  I was particularly interested in this one as I’ve always been keen to hear more about testing related to startups.

This is not a replacement for the talk and may not be entirely understood without context.  Just saying :)

Download the PDF / Download the text file.

What executives value in testing Michael Kelly Jeanette Thebeau

 

Abstract of the talk:

Professional testers and test managers are feeling the pressures of low-cost competition and tools that claim to replace them through automation. So, how can test teams add more value to their projects and organization? In a recent survey of executives and testers, Mike Kelly and Jeanette Thebeau found major disconnects between what executives and testers believe are most important to the business. They explore new insights into the risks and concerns executives perceive and what you should do differently. In the survey, most testers believed that finding ways to cut operational costs was a low priority test objective, but executives listed operational cost reduction as a high value testing activity. On the flip side, testers believed that regulatory compliance was a high priority, while most executives reported compliance testing was a low priority. Join Mike and Jeanette to find new ways to help ensure the products you test solve the business problem, meet customer needs, reduce operational costs, scale easily as demand increases, and are built to quickly add new features over time.

The 21 Hour Work Week

I read this report on a 21 hour work week by the NEF 3 years ago (when it first came out).  It talks about the benefits that would be achieved if society adopted or moved towards a 21 hour work week – the benefits which included economic, heatlh and community.  It really is worth a read.

Since reading it, the idea of a 21 hour week has really stuck with me.  I think I’ve long been thinking of how to society could work better.  It was part of the reason why I helped set up a coworking space a few years back.  Having kids also makes many people (including myself) re-consider their work situation.

I’ve had it as a goal of mine to work towards a 21 hour week because it feels right to me. The stress of a full 40 hour work week plus commuting time just feels like too much for me and my young family.  It’s taken me a while to get there, but I believe my shorter work week is now here.

I’ve long thought it’s ludricous that society is fixated on a strict 40 hour work week, often with the expectation to work longer hours.  Sure some jobs need employees to be around at specific times, but there are so many jobs that are so close minded about work hours and flexibility.  Then there are articles like this one congratulating an entrepreneur because he works 40 hours per week (not 60, 80 or 100).  There’s a lot of wrong there if we think someone has it so great because they work 40 hours per week.

Of course this depends on the job, but if you give someone 40 hours to work per week it is highly likely that their work will take them 40 or more hours to do.  If you give them 20 hours, I bet you they would be much more productive or creative in how they can get their job done.

As someone who runs their own little business, I am always conscious of the time I spend working.  I’m not always at the 21 hour per week mark.  However, I am always looking to cut out things that just take up too much of my time.  Like meetings and travelling. I also have to think much harder about where I spend the time – my time needs to be used to be used as effectively as possible, eliminate any kind of waste, bring in some kind of value to my business and/or be helping give me achieve some kind of work happiness – if it’s not then I don’t bother.

Like anything, a 21 hour work week is highly unlikely to happen overnight, but it is possible if you work towards it as a goal.  I feel like I am almost getting there.

Sure, perhaps if I worked harder then my business would grow faster, I’m sure it would to a certain extent. However, I do believe the work I’m doing needs time to grow. Whenever I try to push things too fast then I feel like I make the wrong decisions.

The ironic thing is that I still feel busier than ever, but it’s a good busy and it’s not all ‘work’.

Less Is More

The more you have, the more you use.  The old saying is that less is more.

Take a business for example –  ‘old’ businesses are often burdened with more.  It’s hard to get rid of waste. It’s hard to change or innovate. It’s hard for the people and the business to be nimble and quick. Is it really a wonder why startups can achieve what big corporations can’t?

But I’m not just referring to business.  It applies to any aspect of life.

For us, we are aiming to have less stuff. Less commuting.  Less work. Less furniture. Less things. Less clothes.  Less toys.

This gives us more. More freedom. More space. More peace of mind. More time with the kids.

Funnily it means we are busier than we have ever been, but in very different ways.

Less means…

  • More creativity.
  • You make do with what you have.
  • You make sure you do your research.
  • You help friends or colleagues, and vice versa.
  • You are ever so careful with what you spend.
  • You be as efficient as you can.
  • You think outside of the box.
  • You question everything you are doing.
  • You remove any kind of waste, hassle or unhappiness.
  • You appreciate what you have.
  • Flexibilty.
  • Control over your life and decisions.

Society is obsessed with more…

Everything in the media is obsessed with growth.  Big is good. Small is failure.  I disagree.

Big means:

  • other people make decisions for you.
  • you can’t think for yourself.
  • someone else thinks outside of the box for you.
  • you have no flexibility
  • you have no control
  • you do as people ask
  • you have no (or a very ineffective) voice
  • appreciation of what you have is often lost.

It’s really ok to have less.  These days it is an advantage.

 

Learning To Be

Life is one big long journey.

Who I wanted to be when I was 13, 18, and 25 is different to who I want to be now.

Who I want to be in 5 years time will no doubt be different from who I want to be now.  My aspirations will change. My life will change too. My kids will be more grown up. I’d sure be a sad puppy if my business didn’t change either.

What I do increasingly feel is that I know more about who I want to be and what I stand for.  Perhaps it is a simplistic concept.  And people say it all the time – ‘just be yourself’.

But it’s hard to just be yourself, perhaps:

  • work is not allowing you to
  • you don’t feel you have the time to yourself
  • being yourself means creating a lot of change around you
  • you have to do things differently, and that is scary.

(etc, etc, etc!)

I often relate this back to my business and my kids.  The fact is that creating a business is hard work. Raising kids is hard(er).  Doing the two whilst homeschooling feels like a whole other dimension.

It was a couple of years ago that I decided to be somewhat selfish: everything I wanted to do had to evolve around me, my life and how I wanted to work.  I felt this was essential to help me become a happy and productive human being.

Initially this meant working at home with an infant whilst my other 2 boys were at school. Now it means working whilst homeschooling all my boys.  A subtle change? Hmm, not quite.

(2 of) my boys come to work with me It does mean that I work from home or wherever there is wifi.

It also means I work strange hours. An hour here, a couple there, often late at night.  I’m happy with that. My kids come first, that’s the way it should be.  I’ve also learned to become very efficient with my time.

It also means that I create my own image of myself and my business.  This could come in the form of general branding. However, it can come in many other forms – the way I dress, how I behave, my personality, the effort I give to create something special and fun, the time I spend getting to know people (without giving them a hard sell).

Perhaps the biggest change for me is adapting my business to work for my family.  One example is bringing my kids along with me when I have an event or go to a meeting.  I don’t do it all the time. I did it today for a Rapid Software Testing course.  I brought my #2 and #3 in with me whilst the students got settled.  It wasn’t longer than an hour.  They enjoyed it and liked the drinks and croissants on offer.  I’ve done it for business meetings too – “if you want to talk to me, then we’ll have to meet in a park”.

It felt awkward at first, especially with my youngest (who is 2).  But it’s important for me.  Partly because it’s me ‘ learning to being me’.  But the other part is that (I believe) it helps create conversations and change.

These conversations and hopeful change is what drives me. I want to show people how it is possible to live a life of balance – because frankly society totally lacks it. <– I’ll leave that for another rant.

There Are 3 Types of Learning

3typesoflearning

 

I’ve been immersed in learning about learning!

Apparently, there are 3 types of learning: learning to be, learning to do and learning to know.

Which one does society focus on the most?

It’s the learning to know.  That’s what most *educational institutions* focus on.  They want to teach you stuff. Cram more in. Make people think they are smarter or dumber than they are.

What about learning to be who you want to be? To explore and discover your talents. To be that someone that makes you the happy person you deserve to be.

What about learning to do? This means developing the actual skills to help you do a great job. *Knowing* how to do a great job doesn’t mean you can do it. Doing means developing skills through practicing and practicing some more.

The trick is to find the magical fine balance between knowing, doing and being.

For me personally – the more I learn how to be who I want to be, the more I want to know and do.  Interesting, no?

What’s happening in Rosie Land?

I reached a milestone in my #runrosierun efforts. I ran for 30 minutes without stopping.  I've also been running for a month now.

I’ve spent the past few months making adjustments to my life.

I love all the work I’m doing with STC and feel quite fulfilled with what I continue to create.

Alongside what I’m doing I feel the need to learn more.  My current thing is learning about learning & education.  This is partly because I recently started unschooling my eldest son.  However, I’ve always had a nagging thing within me for years that has drawn me towards learning about education.  My current situation just amplifies it.  It conveniently ties into my work with STC and Ministry of Testing as I am trying to encourage and find ways to advance the software testing world through community end educational efforts.

As part of the process I want to write about stuff.  I’ve got off to a lame start with a unschooling blog - this is really a more personal space to write and log things that we do through our unschooling journey.  I’ve done more over at Messy Times – a place that I write about the messy times we live in!  It’s mostly a mash of things that I have experience with relating to business, parenting, life and education.  Mixed in with some drawings that I’ve done, just because I can. :)

I also just got access to Medium, which is interesting.  It led me to write something on how I’m trying to avoid a stressed out lives for my kids.

The more I live a somewhat more different life to many, the more I feel the need to share. I feel like I’m making that ever elusive progress to finding that work life balance. I’m enjoying my life and work. Learning to relax more and let go with my kids.  And quite importantly finding time to be active, through running and playing sports with my kids.

It’s a constant balance with making essential finances work whilst keeping my family ecosystem working.  It’s not always easy and it does take time, but if I can do it, then I hope it will encourage others to do the same.