When I arrived in Italy for what would be an epic 2 week honeymoon, I had a plan in mind to make sure I would not be without a cell phone and data connection. My wife got me a Nexus 5X last Christmas so I decided to sign up for Google’s Project Fi for international cell service. It’s much cheaper than ATT and I’d get to spend some quality time with Android after being away for about a year. However, when we arrived in Venice I noticed I was connecting to cell towers, but I wasn’t able to text or get online. I thought maybe Venice was spotty but as we moved down country, I still had no luck. I was relegated to calls anywhere, but text and data only on WiFi, which was basically at the hotel. Here’s how that went.
Imagine you are taking a test. You are presented with several word problems and are instructed to pick one to solve. Instead what you do is write your own problem – one that you think is a good one to solve, and answer that one. You’re so confident that the teacher will be impressed because you thought of it and you love it and you think it’s a great solution. But when you get the test back, it has a big red F on it. How could that be? Your solution is sound and well thought out. You were invested in it! The teacher explains that while the solution seems like a good one, you didn’t solve any of the problems he asked you to solve. You made up your own based on what you believe. This is a bad way to take tests. But this happens all the time with new products or services. I will come up with an idea I think is great, sink time and money into it, and ultimately it will fail. The reason is I’m trying to solve problems people don’t think they have. The key to a successful product or service is solve actual problems.
We are approaching the end of another school year. Students & teachers alike are clamoring for the sweet freedom that summer brings. When I was in middle school and high school I remember looking forward to summer so much that I told my parents I wish I could skip the school year and just have summer vacations. Of course like many kids my age, my short-sightedness got the best of me. Not long after that final school bell my brothers and I would be out in the front yard when one of us would utter the 2 words that parents dread hearing: “I’m bored.” We were so focused on getting to summer break that we didn’t take much time to think about what we would do once we got there. The same thing could happen when you work remotely: just because you can go anywhere, doesn’t mean you can work anywhere. A little preparation will help.
Imagine you’re watching a movie. In this thriller, the protagonist is in a dark ally pursuing the bad guy. All seems quite when out of the corner of your eye the killer come into view. He sneaks up on our hero, raises his weapon, and gets ready to strike. You scream, “LOOK OUT,” but no one can hear you. You can’t interact with the film; you know this, but you scream anyway. But what if it wasn’t a movie? What if you’re in a classroom, learning some complicated theory. You have questions, but the instructor can’t hear you. You, like our protagonist, are out of luck. That’s a terrible way to learn. It’s also what could happen when Flipped Classrooms are done wrong.
Every so often I decide it’s high time I start learning some new skills. My first “learning binge” was a pretty successful one, as I accomplished everything I hoped I would. My second one took a little longer than I hoped, but in the end I still hit a couple of good goals. There are a few kinks I need to work out of both projects but they are more or less in the wild. This time around, there’s a list of things I want to learn and project I want to work on and release. Much like last time I will use those projects to learn new things, but there’s a new challenge: time management.
Do you know the story of Pixar? It’s a really interesting one that I strongly recommend you read all about in Creativity Inc. Here’s the gist: Pixar started off as a piece of hardware inside LucasFilms, and the team was tasked with pushing the technological envelope for live-action movies. When Lucas had to sell off that division, it was purchased by Steve Jobs and they tried for a number of years to sell hardware before pivoting and making their first featured length animated movie, Toy Story. It took about 20 years, but Pixar found its true calling. While I am not at all comparing myself to Pixar, I am taking an important less from them: you may not find success in your first iteration.
When I was creating the website for my new project WP in One Month, I wanted to make sure the home page was diverse with content, different sections, and a lot of information. As a WordPress developer, I could have built a completely custom page template with custom fields for each section, and I could have made use of one of the many plugins to do that. However, I also wanted to get the site up and running quickly. I was pivoting the business and wanted to focus more on executing ideas than on developing the website (I know many developers can relate to me here). I opted instead to build a simple child theme from the theme Ward and use a page building plugin called Beaver Builder. It saved me literally hours of development and gives me lots of flexibility.
I’m lucky to have a wonderful view from my downtown Scranton apartment. Across the street is a law office and sometimes I can see people working at their desks or milling around in the office. Last Saturday I was working on a pet project of mine, when I looked out the window from my desk and noticed someone in her office, working. On a Saturday! The horror! Then I thought back and realized that office’s light is on an awful lot – early mornings, late at night, most Saturdays (but rarely Sundays). How could someone work like this? Then I came to another realization: I noticed these things while sitting at my desk, working.