I just bought a new PC. Actually, it was an old PC - a refurbished Dell laptop. I spent $400 on a beat up brick, instead of, say, $1,900 on something shiny and new for a few reasons. One is that I'm a terrible maximizer and am still trying to decide which shiny and new machine I should get. Another is that I actually need two machines - one shiny and new, but also a stopgap machine for one of my team while her Lenovo goes back for repair. And the Dell is a perfect stopgap machine. But most important of all is this:
I've discovered Facebook. Actually I already knew about it since my kids use it. But I'd always had the impression that it was simply a LinkedIn, but for, well, kids. However, someone at a local CEO group I attend was raving about it, so I decided to give it a try. I think I underestimated it. It seems to combine many of the good things I've already seen with blogging, IRC, yammer, twitter, video messages, and so on.
One particular dynamic I'm noticing with all these channels is - well, three things really:
My various contacts can be divided into groups, as they can be in
"real life": business contacts, past acquaintances of various types,
friends, close friends, very close friends, family, and so on
A group is, in effect, a set of people who are similar with respect to how relevant/interesting/appropriate they will find some snippet of information I want to share.
The groups overlap (e.g. someone can be a friend and business contact)
So, I guess I'd like some way to manage those Groups Of Common Relevance. It's not too hard within a company. Yammer and IRC allow threads of conversation. But social media seems to be growing to encompass entire lives - business and personal. The last thing I want is to think, "Hmm, I should post this information to FB, yammer personal, and Twitter; but not to LinkedIn, yammer work, or IRC".
Anyone got any thoughts on this? For example, is there a Facebook for corporations (like yammer is to Twitter)? And is it worth the bother? Or does "corporate-izing" something like Facebook break in the face of those multiply-overlapping groups?
Just after starting Verilab, I dabbled in body building and weight training. One evening, after a session of leg exercises, I asked a much fitter and more experienced friend the following question:
"When you are working at the very limits of your ability, do you think you find squats easier than I do when I'm working at my limits?"
My assumption was that since he was better trained than I was, with better technique, that he'd find his most extreme workouts easier than I would mine. And so his answer surprised me:
"After a max leg workout, I sometimes throw up. I can barely walk, and have to hold onto the wall to stop myself from falling down."
There was no conceit in his answer. He was simply stating it as it was. Working at the limits of his ability, he put himself through a far more punishing and painful routine than I did. I realized that a major success factor in body building was the mind. It was true that my friend Marc was physically better trained than I was. But the difference in our respective mental training was even greater. He had trained himself to push himself harder than a normal person (a.k.a. me) thought was possible. He had trained himself to know that when the pain is so great that you think you are damaging yourself (and in serious weight training you often are), you can still push even harder.
It reminds me of a scene from the movie "Bravo Two Zero", in which a British SAS patrol encounters an Iraqi force. True or not (the details are disputed), the account is impressive, particularly where once the attack is underway, the SAS start to advancetowards the numerically superior opposing force. Most normal humans would have cowered in the dust, but not the SAS (2:06 in the following video):
Again, the mind is key. McNab's character in the movie admits that he was scared. "Of course you're afraid. Anyone who says they're not is either lying or needs to see a shrink." But when the crucial moment arrives, past training comes to the fore. The fear remains, but the individual is able to focus on what needs to be done. The same happens in a scene I mentioned before, in "Band Of Brothers":
The difference between Blithe and Speirs was not the presence or lack of fear or of real danger. The difference was in their mental ability to control that fear, and to operate despite that danger.
I think there are lessons here for the coming year. True, running and screaming war cries at a global economic crisis aren't going to make it go away. Unlike the Iraqi force, toxic assets aren't going to turn back into high grade investments just because we keep our nerves. But scaring the enemy is only one reason for advancing in the face of fire. Another is the effect it has on you, the underdog; the one being attacked. Like the body builder, you often don't know how far you can push yourself until you try. And a third reason is the training effect. This is not the final economic crisis. We will come through this, and there will be others in future. So this is a rare opportunity to train and learn. We should use it.