May 23rd, 2011

A lot is happening, though I haven’t said much about it here yet.

Here are a few bits of Enjoymentland news:

  1. I’m no longer a 1-person company! (real announcement coming soon)
  2. I sold Locavore to Local Dirt! They subsequently launched an Android app and added Canada.
  3. Health Month is thriving!
  4. We’re currently working on a Health Month-related mobile app, of which we’re supremely stoked.

I’m going to be putting this blog into hibernation for the time being, and continue personal-blogging over on bustr.tumblr.com.  Health Month has a Tumblr too.  For that matter, so does 750 Words.

The related Twitter accounts that you can follow are @busterbenson and @healthmonth.


Ze Frank’s Weekly Question Challenge

March 25th, 2011

One of my favorite take-aways from SXSW was something Ze Frank mentioned at Noah Kagan’s awesome Mixergy event at Elysium on Friday 3/10. It’s at about 37:40 in the video.  The transcript is:

Ze: If they want to be more creative… on FaceBook, it’s a stupid fucking simple challenge, but challenge yourself. Do a weekly challenge with yourself to try to ask a question of the people that you know and try to beat your score in terms of number of responses to that question each week. I literally think it is the best entry into the core premises of social media at its core. Because you start having to ask yourself if you really try to beat your number every week, you’re like, “Oh, maybe I should ask a kind of insidious question that I know would piss some people off and there would be controversy.” The other thing is challenge another person to this kind of activity. I have learned so much from this kind of activity.

You start second guessing yourself and coming up with all of these things. Then you surprise by asking something like super, like simple and honest. I think it’s a really, really wonderful start.

I think this will be more fun for me on Twitter, especially now that I’ve got a new beta of ThinkUp installed on my server. So far, I’ve just started looking through my tweets to see which ones get the most replies, retweets, etc. And, by pure chance, I broke my record today when I asked about examples of “gaming the system”.

Does anyone want to do this with me? The goal is to see if you can break your record every week. It’s not to get the most replies, but just to break your record the highest percentage of weeks since starting.  You should probably install ThinkUp if you can (because it is awesome), or else figure out another way to track this… I think I can allow people to register on my installation of ThinkUp too… yeah, so feel free to do that here if you want.

Spring, sponge, or stone?

March 22nd, 2011

A random comment during a fantastic panel at SXSW called Agile Self Development has stuck with me this last week or so (I need to do a more comprehensive follow-up on SXSW… wonder if I’ll ever actually get to it though).

The comment was about something regarding whether or not you’re a “sponge, faucet, or caked on pan that can’t absorb anything”.  It resonated with me especially in regards to how we think about work.

Then, the last two days (my Niko-sitting days) I’ve been going through and watching a ton of TED talks, more comprehensibly organized here by Postrank than by the TED site itself.  Two of them in particular sort of resonated with me and yet contradicted each other at the same time.

Jason Fried in “Why work doesn’t happen at work“:

And Steven Berlin Johnson in “Where good ideas come from“:

Jason Fried says, and I agree, that 4 hours of uninterrupted solitude is the best gift you can give to a developer.

Steven Berlin Johnson says, and I agree, that offices should look more like coffee houses than how they currently look.

You can’t have solitude and the wisdom of the crowds at the same time, though.

The truth is, that depending on whether or not I’m in a SPONGE or SPRING state, I need a different environment to work.

How I work

I take care of my 10-month old son, Niko, 3 days a week (Fri, Sun, Mon), and work the other 4 days. 3 out of 4 of those days, if I’m in Seattle, I work from the fantastic Office Nomads office in Capitol Hill. Their motto is “individuality without isolation”. Before recently moving, I worked from the equally fantastic (and terribly missed) Bedlam Coffee in Belltown. The interesting thing about both locations as work environment is that they allow me to work amongst people without having to be distracted by them. I require an almost religiously mandated solid 4-6 hours of work (without interruption) on the days I’m working. A day where I get less than that (especially since I’m only working 4 days a week) is rather terribly received.  And as a consequence, I get a lot done on most of those days relative to the average amount that 4 hours 4 days a week would produce.  These are the days are all about creating something from the mishmash of ideas and inspirations from the other days of the week. These are the days when I am a SPRING (aka producing water, content, and ideas).

The other 3 days a week are what I call my “offline” days. Days with Niko: feeding him, changing his diapers, entertaining him, napping with him, playing with toys, taking him on walks, repeat, repeat, repeat.  Strictly speaking, I’m not “on the clock” those days, and yet, I think they are absolutely essential to the work schedule I’ve set up for myself.  They are the days when I make sure that the top work or creative problem of the week is simmering on my back burner subconsciously.  They are the days when I am a SPONGE.  I listen to TED talks, I read, I go on walks, I mull, and most importantly I just focus on one particular area of work that sits at the bottom of my mind as I wait for it to finish baking.  Frustratingly, sometimes, this has nothing to do with my conscious mind, and is not on a schedule.  Patience is required.

And, ideally, I would never be a STONE. The stone state is where you can’t absorb any new information, and you don’t have any energy to create.  They are days when it’s best to simply turn the mind off.  Stop thinking about your problems, stop trying to work, stop trying to be creative.  Do errands. Do mindless tasks. Have an extra drink. Let my subconscious and creative minds restore a bit of energy.  These days suck.  They are wastes of days, but they would be made worse by trying to get any creative productivity or mulling out of them.

So, I think Jason Fried was right about how to handle SPRING days.

And I think Steven Berlin Johnson was right about how to handle SPONGE days.

And I think that the unsexy, unmarketable nature of STONE days is just something that we need to come to terms with.  They are our lost weekends.  Days off.  Every other day is a work day, indirectly. Even if I’m just making funny sounds at Niko or walking around aimlessly.

Every day, when you wake up, ask yourself: am I a SPRING, a SPONGE, or a STONE? And accordingly, determine whether or not you are going to give yourself of solitude to work (spring), a social and media-heavy environment (sponge), or clear your plate and let your subconscious recover (stone).

Why cooperative games are better than competitive games

March 16th, 2011

Thor Muller and I did a panel at SXSWi this last week on cooperative games! We were expecting somewhere between 75-200 people, but I think there were probably 500ish people in that room (and many more waiting outside that couldn’t get in because it was full).  Luckily, by the time we figured this out, we had no choice but to go forward with our plan to play a cooperative game during the panel that required that everyone get up and move.

Room 12b: Gamechanging! With @tempo and lots of people! #sxsw

We played a game! We had bourbon for the winners. I got to talk about Health Month and afterwards got to meet some very interesting people who are thinking about many of the same things that we are.

Competitive vs Cooperative Games

Yes, it’s a false dichotomy. Yes, most things have both competitive and cooperative elements. Even when you play on a team, there is some taunting and competition amongst teammates.  And that’s healthy.

HOWEVER, the competitive and cooperative elements of a given game do serve different purposes and appeal to different kinds of players.

Competitive game elements work best in the following conditions:

  1. Everyone is highly motivated to play
  2. Everyone is of about equal talent, or balanced by luck
  3. The game is of finite length (doesn’t go on forever)

Cooperative game elements, on the other hand, work best in these conditions:

  1. The players are not highly motivated to continue playing
  2. The players of the game come in and out of the game
  3. The game is loose, casual, played over a long period of time
  4. The players have different skill levels, different areas of interest within the game

And, what I think is one of the bonuses of cooperative games: they allow cultures to emerge as groups of cooperative players create new rules that their group is required to follow.  Game ethics, game manners, and loyalties emerge.

We, as humans, work best in self-interested groups, where we can specialize, encourage each other, and help those who need help so that we are in turn helped when we need it.  Cooperative games help foster self-healing communities that are able to take on tasks that any individuals in the group could not have accomplished alone.

I’ll be linking to more info about the games we played and slides from the talk once Thor posts them in the next day or so.  In the meantime, here’s a rather long list of tweets from the panel, via storify.com.

Health Month Recommended Behaviors, version 1

February 14th, 2011

I worked on the Personalization team at Amazon from 2000-2004, and more specifically on things like “Personalized Recommendations”, “Customers who bought this also bought…”, “The Page You Made” (a page of recommendations based on what you’ve looked at in your current browser session), and “Your Store” basically a slice of Amazon that was entirely build from what we knew about you (what you’ve bought, what you’ve looked at, what product lines you’re most interested in, where you live, etc). The team was a bit infamous within the company for replacing editorial jobs, though some of that was probably not entirely our fault. One thing was true, though: the numbers were in — the computers were better at finding content and products for you (a mashup of customer reviews, new releases, and statistics) than the humans were.

When I read this fantastic article about how the DNA of certain companies spreads out into future companies (their example was Facebook and Paypal), I thought about my own DNA. It was forged largely on that Personalization team. My first project around that same time, for example, was All Consuming.  It’s different now, but at the time it would crawl all 2,000 blog posts that are updated PER HOUR (how times have changed) looking for links to Amazon, IMDb, and a few other online venues that were keyed off of ISBN or UPC.  I created a zeitgeist of what people were reading, right now.  And I created weak-link groups around everyone who was reading the same book as you at the same time, across the early social web.

My DNA is built something like this: use technology to improve real-world experiences.  Whether it be the books you’re reading, or your life goals, or (now) your health habits, it’s all about supplementing core experiences in our culture with cyborg limbs that can some things a lot more effectively than we can alone.

The first signs of my larger goals with Health Month got pushed out over the weekend.  Dubbed the Rule Wizard, it’s the first tiny step towards being able to recommend small tangible steps based on both your own data and the aggregate data of everyone else playing the game.

Some notes about how it works:

  1. At the moment, this is only available to people who are on their 2nd+ month. Right now I’m only using data about your own behaviors in previous months to help you improve your rules for next month.  Of course, there is a lot more that can be done here on the algorithm side.
  2. It recommends you to make your rule more difficult, easier, or to keep it the same depending on how you did with it last month, and will suggest a level of rule that fits your actual behavior.
  3. It will also give you some guidance on whether you should take more rules, fewer rules, or keep them about the same.  There’s a lot more to do here, as I’ve found that sometimes a rule-heavy month is best followed by a rule-light month. But I’m waiting to have enough data to support that claim more solidly.

Baby steps, but just wanted to start talking about this since I think it’s an important part of where I feel Health Month is headed.

Read a bit more about how it works on the Health Month blog.

The biggest weakness in startups according to Tim Ferriss

January 13th, 2011

One killer feature

When working with startups, Ferriss sees one problem popping up over and over. “The biggest weakness I see is companies getting focused on implementing new features,” he says. “That’s the biggest waste of time that I see. They have a viable product that people are paying for and instead of identifying their cheapest avenue for acquiring profitable customers or focusing on polishing the product they already have, they focus on adding ten new features.

via Tim Ferriss on tolerable mediocrity, false idols, diversifying your identity, and the advice he gives startups – (37signals).

I’m hearing this at a very good moment.  I could work on Health Month features all day long… but honestly, I think the game is already off to a great start, and finding new players is 90% of the battle in the near term.

I’m a technium-futuro-optimist

January 10th, 2011

I’m totally loving Kevin Kelly’s new book, What Technology Wants.  I saw him speak a while back and got very inspired by his ideas, re-igniting my own future-optimism, but it wasn’t until today that I sat down and started the book.

It begins by basically making an argument about the direction that technology has been taking, since pretty much the beginning of the universe.  Of course, it starts a little slow.  The first signs of technology really don’t show up until animals start building shelters for themselves, and then tools, and then culture itself (which he calls a technology), and now we’re in this current tizzy if technology where everything is changing faster than it ever has before.

He calls the collective thrust of technology the technium.  It includes all the tools we’ve built, all the systems and processes that help us live, all the gadgets, networks, cities, companies, ideas, philosophies, and even art.  Everything that assists us in our living, physical or immaterial.  The technium is awesome.

As a side note, did you know that the Internet currently uses 5% of the world’s energy?  Could that be true?  And could the number of connected computers, servers, etc on the network be approaching the number of neurons in a human brain?  That’s what he says… I’d be curious to know if that can be substantiated.

One of my favorite parts of the book so far is where he summarizes the history of life on Earth by noting the major landmarks where information became increasingly organized.

  1. One replicating molecule -> Interacting population of replicating molecules
  2. Replicating molecules -> Replicating molecules strung into chromosomes
  3. Chromosome of RNA enzymes -> DNA proteins
  4. Cell without nucleus -> Cell with nucleus
  5. Asexual reproduction (cloning) -> Sexual reproduction
  6. Single-cell organism -> Multicell organism
  7. Solitary individual -> Colonies  and superorganisms
  8. Primate societies -> Language-based societies
  9. Oral lore -> Writing/mathematical notation
  10. Scripts -> Printing
  11. Book knowledge -> Scientific method
  12. Artisan production -> Mass production
  13. Industrial culture -> Ubiquitous global communication

I’ve had a version of this in my head for a while now. I’ve always been fascinated by how systems emerge, then start working together, and then act as a whole.  A system, like a single cell works with other cells in a colony, and eventually becomes a multicellular organism.  And it seems like technology (by making us dependent on one another, linking us together in ever-tighter loops of feedback and communication) is currently attempting to turn us individuals into a collective that begins to exist as a collective organism on a whole different level.  The collective brings benefits to the individuals, and the individuals gain both short and long-term benefit from giving over some of their time to the collective will.  I’m sure cults have been formed around this idea many times before.

The other trend is that we are moving from physical goods, to services, to information.  People with more money end up buying fewer products, and more services.  Same with countries with more money.  We need physical atoms less and less, in proportion to to the total number of things we need.

I see the current state of the web as being in a state of information gluttony.  Like the first few years after tobacco was discovered, for instance.  Or guns.  We are enthusiastic, and out of control.  Over time, we’ll learn how to better control this new world of choices, opportunities, and dangers.

And this is where I think I’m most passionate about contributing to the world.  How to use this glut of information responsibly?  How to balance the world of possibilities available at our fingertips with the desire to also manage our own mental states, be productive, creative, full of energy, and with balanced relationships with ourselves and others around us?  Health, I believe, is central to our evolution with technology in this next cycle.

If technology is essentially an extension of ourselves, we need to make sure that that extension continues to help us (our minds, our bodies, and our spirits) as it continues to accelerate at increasingly dizzying speeds.  When we innovate our way through that problem, we’ll be even healthier than we’ve ever been before, we’ll know more about ourselves, and we’ll have a larger capacity to express ourselves during this short time on Earth that we have.  Sounds a bit foofy I know, but this is how I see things at the moment.  We are evolving with the technium, and it’s a great thing.

My January 2011 Health Month plan

December 30th, 2010

Every year for the past 5 or so years my friends and I have adopted a rather strict set of rules to follow every January, and we called it Health Month.  Here’s the old Facebook page and a rather hotly-debated Livejournal post from a couple years ago about it all. Sounds familiar, right?

I’ve been thinking of ways to “gamify” Health Month for a couple years.  It was the Livejournal post above in fact that made me realize that the rigidity of the rules was, while a great simplifier, also a fatal flaw of the whole endeavor.  Thus, the more flexible and personal rule-selection process of healthmonth.com was born (slowly, over a couple years).

This year, I’ve decided to get most of my health month inspiration from Tim Ferriss’s new book, The 4-Hour Body, which I gobbled up on a plane the day it was released.

For those interested in following, here’s my plan.

Beginning of the month:

  1. Get starting weight
  2. Get starting body fat percentage with calipers (too poor to go use the $250 DEXA scan at the moment)
  3. Measure my waist, arms, legs, etc to get a baseline
  4. Take “before” pictures (front and side).  Look as fat and gross as possible.

Wake up ritual:

  1. Weigh myself
  2. 1 hard boiled egg (5g protein)
  3. Protein powder shake (20g protein)
  4. 4 glasses of water
  5. Coffee with cinnamon or green tea
  6. Multivitamin
  7. AGG (alpha-lipoic acid, green tea flavanols, garlic extract)
  8. Fish oil (omega 3s)
  9. Vitamin D

Exercise Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday after breakfast (consider checking out CrossFit)

Lunch and dinner:

  1. Try to repeat the same simple, cheap meals as much as possible
  2. No white carbs (including brown rice)
  3. Don’t drink calories (no milk, soy milk, soft drinks, or fruit juice. 1 coffee & 1 glass of red wine per day is okay)
  4. Nothing with lactose or added sugar
  5. AGG supplements (alpha-lipoic acid, green tea flavanols, garlic extract)
  6. Take a picture of everything I eat or drink (post to new Posterous blog)
  7. 20 air squats or push ups right before and 60 minutes after meal

Cheat day: Break any/all of the diet rules every Friday.

Before bed:

  1. Glass of red wine (optional)
  2. Policosanol (good for cholesterol)

End of the month:

  1. Get ending weight
  2. Get ending body fat percentage
  3. Measure my waist, arms, legs, etc, subtract the starting total
  4. Take “after” pictures (doubt there will be any difference but why not?)

To see this translated into Health Month rules, check out my profile page.

What’s my goal with all of this?  I just looked back and realized I weigh 15 lbs more than I did last year!  That’s not cool.  So, I want to lose some weight, of course, because that’s definitely not muscle that I gained.  20 lbs by the middle of 2011 is my goal, though I can gain some of that back if I do it via muscle (hence the body fat tracking).  Gain 10 lbs of muscle, lose 20 lbs of fat… that also works and seems like a fair trade for a rather specific set of rules.

Back in 2003 I did this experiment with myself called Mecember where I attempted to gain 5 lbs and then lose 5 lbs, just to give myself a tangible sense of the amount of “work” it would take to go in either direction.  It was a great exercise, and pretty much won me over as a dedicated self-tracker.  From it, I realized on a very deep level that the more I understand the link between what I eat, drink, do, etc and how I feel, how healthy I am, etc the better.  It’s time for a little reminder, I think.

The only way to really figure out health is to test out the theories on yourself.  How best to “play” health is a highly personal adventure, and endlessly fascinating to me.  I’m excited to see what I learn from this next round.

Reverb 10: Day 5: Let Go

December 6th, 2010

Prompt: Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

I’m actually in a multi-year letting go process of some soured relationships from the past.  It’s proving more difficult than I thought.  I don’t think about this person for weeks or maybe months at a time, and yet when I do all of the previous mindsets come back. I guess the brain is good at that… freezing mindsets related to relationships and then unfreezing them when necessary.  It’s why I can visit a friend I haven’t seen in 10 years and feel like nothing has changed.  And so maybe that bodes poorly for my ability to “heal” or even to forgive and forget regardless of the amount of time that passes.

And yet, I do feel like I’m letting go on some nano-scale.  Like maybe how the body replaces one cell at a time until the whole body is new cells every 7 years.  Nothing faster or more productive than that, though.

Reverb 10: Day 4: Wonder

December 5th, 2010

Hmm… looks like I’m going to be doing as many of these as I can, but probably not all of them.

Quick responses for the couple I missed.

Day 2 (“What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?”)

Everything contributes to writing (particularly private writing).  If it doesn’t, then I write it out until it does.

Day 3 (“Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail.”)

That would have to be Kellianne’s labor and the birth of our son, Niko, of course.  I did write it up in vivid detail already, but I think Kellianne’s version is a lot better.

Day 4 (“How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?”)

Venturing into the unknown is really the only way to cultivate a sense of wonder.  Wonder is the process of processing something new and beautiful and unique.  It’s only prerequisite is having the confidence to leave your familiar territory, and to go and seek something out in the uncharted territory of life.  Einstein said, “I don’t any special talent. I am just passionately curious.”  Of course, passionate curiosity is a talent.  We are born with it but it will whither on the vine unless we support it and exercise it over the years.  I would say that I probably score high on the curiosity factor compared to others, but I think most of it has to do with lack of fear.  We are all curious, but we are all also scared.  I feel like a series of really difficult experiences in my life (father’s death, divorce, closing a business, almost going bankrupt) has taught me that difficulty is not the problem.  The only way to truly fail is to abandon your sense of self, your family, and your friends.  Always behaving with good intentions, on the other hand, may lead to sadness, loss, and poverty, but the experiences gained will be worth more than those things that were lost.

Knowing that, it’s possible to double down on wonder, the unknown, and to really go after things that you think are valuable.  To make fewer compromises, at least when it comes to the big picture and your intentions.  This applies to both starting a family and starting a new business, as well as maintaining and growing relationships and friendships.

Anyway, so my answer.  I cultivate a sense of wonder by systematically reducing fear.  Pushing back at “the resistance“.  A great book that I’ve mentioned many times before, The War of Art, had a definite impact on my mindset this year.

Reverb 10: day 1

December 2nd, 2010

I’m doing this. Gwen Bell, the organizer, came up to Seattle a bit ago and we really melded minds.  So I helped her put some of the form stuff together for this.  I really want to reflect on this year.  It just so happens that I’m feeling a little crazy right now, and feel like I don’t have any time to do anything, other than stress and spin in circles, but I think some of it might just be too much going on that hasn’t been sorted out in my head.

Prompt: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

2010 – I came up with a couple cheesy words… and cheesy word that I like best to encapsulate 2010 is “roots”.

This year, with the birth of Niko, I had a series of flashbacks/personal reflections on my own childhood, my parents, etc.  I thought a lot about how I became who I am, and how I can give Niko that same opportunity that I had to really be supported and loved for who I was.  Not a lot of people had that, I realize, and it’s an amazing thing to have had.

I even went so far as to contemplate deeper topics like the origin of life, and the universe, and everything.  Watching pregnancy and childbirth is a mystical experience… it’s like realizing that you’re in a much stranger movie than you originally thought.  The universe is WEIRD and we’re all a part of it… our roots are in the fantastically strange.

And, of course, work wise, I’ve had a long career-crisis of sorts that has lead me to re-think (for the dozenth time maybe) what I really want and need out of work.  Why do I feel so compelled to work on the things I do?  Why do I have this optimism that it will all work itself out?  Am I ignoring some hidden truth that is right in front of me about our own doomedness, or can the opportunities in front of me really be as amazing as I think?  I’ve always wondered if I’m in some giant self-created deception of myself.  And I’ve always talked myself out of it (except for once, in high school, but that’s another story).  I really do believe the root instinct in me is true… that by working on what I love, and having good intentions, and always course-correcting when I get off track on some distraction, that one can work themselves into a situation that can’t fail.  One where doing the work, regardless of how it unfolds, is the reward in itself.

2011 – When I think about being a year from now and reflecting on the year, I think the word I want to choose to represent the year is “leap”.  Of course, I probably always want to leap way ahead each year.  There’s so much to do.  Raise Niko.  Teach him how to walk, talk, explore the world.  Build a company around Health Month.  Raise money.  Hire.  Build a culture.  Find a better home for the family.  Move.  Stabilize our living situation.  Calm down. Get healthier. Stay sane.  In other words, a giant leap from where we are today.  Luckily, my legs are feeling pretty spring-y.

We are paper boats

November 25th, 2010

I am thankful for the changing nature of the universe, for the fact that every day can surprise me, for the fact that we can improve our own lives, for our autonomy and our interdependence.

In some traditions, people respect the deceased by putting their ashes in little paper boats and releasing them down the river.  I think we should release ourselves in much the same way.  Not because we’re dead, but because we’re changing, every year, month, and day different from the last.  And that’s a good thing.

I’m taking today to appreciate the impermanent and the transient parts of my life, while they’re here.  I’d like to write something meaningful on a piece of imaginary paper, and send it out onto the lake.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Designing for autonomy

November 2nd, 2010

My brain has continued to be rocked on a page by page basis as I read through Punished by Rewards.  It’s leading me down some very weird and potentially interesting thought paths.

Some general impressions.  Intrinsic motivation, as defined by the book, seems to be a synonym for “self-driven interest”.  An honest interest and desire to seek out a certain activity, experience, etc.  Like the book Drive which I read before, intrinsic motivation seems to be very closely tied with autonomy.  Basically, the only way to really enjoy something for itself is to enjoy it on your own terms, with your own intentions, with the least amount of outside control exerted on you as possible.

In fact, as I start learning more about it, extrinsic rewards are really just a form of control.  Control is, if you think about it, enforced consequences.  If you do this, then this will happen.  If that control is coming from outside yourself, it is most likely taking the form of rewards and punishments.  Therefore, rewards and punishments are ways to offset the balance of power, and control, to benefit the rewarder, or the punisher.

Most rewards and punishments, I’m realizing, are given by someone who for some reason or another 1) has some level of control over me, and 2) is using that reward/punishment as a means to maintain that power.  Rewards and punishments help keep the powers-that-be in power.  They are the puppet strings.  They live higher up the cause and effect ladder than we do, and therefore they are closer to the source of all control.

That is, unless you strive to be self-driven, self-determined, and self-motivating.  To be your own boss.

And of course it makes sense. Teachers need to stay in control of their students, and the classroom.  Managers need to stay in control of their employees, and the jobs that need to get done.  We willingly opt in to these hierarchies of power in order to work better as a group.  So chaos and anarchy don’t reign.

Only problem is that, when we are operating within a power dynamic, we behave differently.  We are highly attuned to leadership, authority, etc, and our brains behave differently when we are being watched, or controlled.  Notice how your driving changes when you see a cop in your rear view mirror.  Do you drive more safely?  Not necessarily.  You drive more “invisibly”.  You attempt to stand out less, be less likely to be singled-out for transgression.  Same goes when a teacher walks down your aisle looking at what people are working on.  Or your boss comes over.  Or you’re at a client dinner.  Our brains shift into a more narrow mode where we attempt to comply.  Which is entirely different from the creative thinking that you might do on your own, when nothing is on the line, when you have nobody to answer to and nothing to lose.  When you’re with peers there is not as much fear of standing out… in fact, it’s desirable to differentiate yourself somehow, to be memorable.

Those times when I’m thinking creatively, ignorant of any authority over me, are the times that I do my best work (or, at least the most fulfilling kind).  And it seems that the science also says that this is true… that we work best when we feel autonomous, when we are driven by our own interests, and are able to enjoy the results of our work because they are ours, and not necessarily because we were awarded it by someone else.

How can something like a company, which is basically a power hierarchy, design for autonomy.  To not even safe-guard its own control?  Can something like that even exist?  Or is the unprotected power structure quickly dismantled?  Can the controller ever be okay with the tools used to dismantle itself?

Health Month’s kindred spirit: Social Workout

October 26th, 2010

Yesterday I learned about a site that I feel is sort of a kindred spirit to Health Month.  It’s called Social Workout, is based in NYC, and seems to be interested in a lot of the same ideas that I’m interested in.  Basically, bringing the social and game element to health-improvement and behavior-change.

Today I talked with Oliver Ryan about what he’s doing, and we were definitely on the same page about ALL of our ideas.  It’s interesting to run into a business that in many ways is a competitor, but to have nothing but good will for the success of the business.

The way I see it, the world of health + social + games is going to be huge.  Nobody has yet gained traction on the idea though.  It’s a very unique place to be.  It’s like sitting in a canoe in a small pond with a few other canoes, knowing that a glacier is melting right around the corner, and would be filling the entire valley surrounding us with gushing, clear, beautiful water.  In the meantime, we’re building bigger boats.

I’m going to be in NYC for 1 day next month and can’t wait to meet the Social Workout team.  Best of luck to you guys and let’s keep working on this fascinating problem.

Check out their site!

Tweet pitching

October 26th, 2010

What do you think of my tweetpitch for a chance to attend the Innovator’s Luncheon at Web 2.0 Summit?

I’m working on few slides for a pitch, and have looked at any pitch decks my entrepreneur friends are willing to share plus Dave McClure’s “How to Pitch a VC” talk.  As a (previous life) creative writing major, I like the constraints that pitching offers, and the emphasis it puts on writing (my strong suit).  I feel like I’ve got something great here to pitch.  Let’s see if they think so too.

Please give me feedback too.  Even though this is my third company, I’ve never done the pitching myself.