New Tab, New You

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This post is about a light-weight piece of software I wrote to help track a few things about me I’m interested in monitoring.  It’s freely available (to use and modify) here.

The NTNY screen in action, tracking weekly goals and (white) carbs eaten.

This is a story.  One time, I wanted to get a lot better at pull-ups.  I wanted to be a good rock climber and to have a lot of upper-body strength, and pull-ups were one of the best exercises I could do.  So I thought about how I could do a lot of pull-ups– there was, after all, no bar in my house or office from which I could do the exercise.  An idea came to me: go across the street to the park, and each night, practice doing pull-ups there.

This was not a good idea.  That should be apparent if you’ve ever tried any self-motivated exercise regimen.  All I was relying on was my willpower to achieve a long-term goal.  I didn’t do anything differently except expect that I would make it to the park.  Every night, even when it was dark and rainy and sometimes cold, and I would magically muster up some willpower and go and do the pull-ups.

I think I went once.  Complete failure.

Now this story has a happy ending.  It’s not about me finding it within myself to walk across the street every night.  No, it’s when I realized that the only thing that could convince me to do pull-ups was to make it dead simple.  I would buy a pull-up bar, but only if it could fit in the door of my kitchen, bedroom, or office.  There was no other place I would see it frequently enough to just stop and do pull-ups.  It had to be visible.  It had to be right in my face.  It had to be zero extra work.

The result: I’ve more than doubled the number of pull-ups I can do to 15, and still improving.

The lesson: if you’re going to change something in your life, Read More

The Lion in the Wild

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A lion I saw on safari in Tanzania almost exactly a year ago

The last month, I’ve been just about incommunicado.  There’s a good reason for this– I promise.  Four weeks ago, I told my boss I was leaving Microsoft.  The next two weeks, I prepared for my departure, making sure all of my areas of responsibility were in good shape before I took off, and then, two weeks ago, I went in to the office one last time.

I’m now a freelance user experience designer.  What’s a UX designer?  Someone who makes websites and apps easy to use.  Ergonomics of the mind.

But that’s not what I’m writing to talk about.  I’m writing to talk about being a freelancer, lions, and my theme for 2013– “the lion in the wild”.

I’ve never been a freelancer.  For the last 2.5 years, I’ve had a full-time job.  I’ve been hand-fed a nice paycheck every 2 weeks– more money than anyone my age should be allowed to make, I half-seriously think.  Excellent benefits.  But it’s not without a cost.  At an ultra-large company, things move slowly.  Everyone knows this.  Layers of people to ask for permission; battalions to argue against anything new.  Bureaucracy.  You can receive non-negotiable instructions changing your day-to-day life from people you’ve never met, never even seen in person.  They don’t know you either.  They don’t know what you’re good at, bad at, or want to learn.

They can’t though.  They literally have no time to do so– there are thousands of such people they are responsible for managing.

The whole situation– that of unparalleled comfort yet unnaturally Read More