The benefits of Long term thinking and decision making

One thing that parenthood teaches you is to think in longer terms. Things you’ve asked yourself and answered in timeframes which ranged from minutes to days now change to months and years. When will my baby start walking? In about 8 months. When will I take my son to his first football game? In about 5 years from now. When will I ever sleep a full night again? Maybe never, perhaps in 2-3 years, surely not now.

Thinking long term
Thinking long term

 

But in addition to teaching one how to be patient, this longer term thinking mode is extremely important for your career. Why? Because your career is your life. And it is long- hopefully we’re talking decades into the future. And some decision you’re contemplating should be reviewed with this longer time frame in mind. And while no decision is irreversible, some career decisions are extremely hard to change after fact. In fact, in an ideal world, every decision effects 3 timelines: an immediate, short-medium turn and a long run.

For instance, when I decided to enlist to the Naval academy I was nearly 18, and knew the immediate impact would be that I will be going through intense training in the next 18 months, where I will be tested on a near- daily basis and pushed to the limits. I also knew the mid-range timeframe I will spend twice as much time in the military service as my peers (in Israel a military service of 3 years in mandatory, as a cadet in the naval academy intending to become a naval officer I was signing for more than 6 years of duty). I had no idea about the long term impact on my life and my career. During that time I’ve made friends for life, met and started dating my wife (who’s also ex. Navy) and acquired mental and professional skills which have had a profound impact on my career. I had no way of knowing any of these great things will happen, but I knew that it was going to be difficult and hopefully a rewarding process. During my naval career I’ve made many career choices which seemed intuitive at the time but made a great difference in the future- such as my decision to move back to the naval academy after serving onboard missile ships to serve as course leader in advanced tactical course- a decision which at the time made sense since the academy was situated next to the best windsurfing beach in Israel and I’ve knew this position will provide some free time to windsurf on the job…

As my career moved on I’ve found again and again that long term thinking and decision making is much more critical than short and even medium turn decision. When I’ve concluded my military service I had no profession per se’ so I’ve started working at a small firm offering technical writing services to big defense manufacturers. I’ve had decent knowledge of English and editing skills and we were compiling manuals for naval systems, which made sense professionally as these were the systems I was operating during my military service. We then started offering training services and I’ve found that I was using many skills I’ve acquired during my service – most of which, my instruction skills.

Another advantage was that I was well versed since I was reading primarily in English since the age of 15 -the reason being that I loved windsurfing magazines (we are talking pre-internet nineties) and they were written in English. I won’t describe my entire career here, but would like to touch upon one more point to demonstrate long term thinking. During my tenure with the defense industry (in several roles- technical writer, instructor, specification team leader) I’ve noticed how difficult it was to deliver successful defense projects- timelines were always tight, shoestring budgets and very demanding customers. The industry as a whole was suffering from budgets cuts and it did not look like it was growing. Also, I’ve found that there was an inherent preference towards engineers, and since I was only a History graduate there seemed to a definite glass ceiling. I’ve thought about where this industry will be in five years and where I will be within it. I came to the conclusion that to move ahead the only way was to either go back to the navy for 20 more years and come out an admiral, or go to engineering college and get an engineering degree- both were unlikely at the time. So I’ve and decided it was time to look elsewhere and found that the homeland security industry was thriving, and moved to a company delivering large scale projects in this area (border security, airport security etc.). After working in that industry for 4 years I’ve noticed it was going through the same cycle as the defense industry- budgets were shrinking and competition was brutal which drove prices down. By that time I’d moved to more business oriented positions so I figured my skills could be applied just about anywhere. I’ve started looking for another growing industry and identified the cybersecurity industry as the next meteor. Moving between industries is never easy but since I was not a technical person it was easier for me to move- the skills I acquired along the way are general ones (sales, marketing, business development) so I’m not bound to any specific profession or industry. I’m also not bound to the naval/ defense industry anymore, so I guess my decisions made a decade ago made sense in the end.

And one last note- you really start embracing long term thinking when you become a parent. When almost every decision you could have a long lasting impact on your infants’ life you tend to slow down and carefully consider many things you took for granted before- starting from which food you buy to the language you use. And that’s a good thing, because if you would focus on short term decision-making you will be stuck in an endless decision- reaction cycle. What you want to be doing is to think- is this beneficial to my child 10-20 years from now? This type of thinking will elevate you above the daily struggles and allow you to focus on what’s important in life.

 

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Owntrepreneurs never rest… they use idle moments to get work done

Turning dead time into meaningful work
Some waiting time at the Garage, starting to write a post

Today was a day of errands. I went to the Garage to install some tracking device for insurance needs, than went to get my hair cut (we’re attending a large conference this week, I need to look sharp) and than attended a meeting with a trade delegation from abroad. I’ve never made it to the office, and had very little time to work.

Or have I?

Barber time
The blog post moving along…

 

The thing with such “dead times” is that they CAN be used to do some meaningful work. For instance, I wrote a blog post for my company’s corporate blog, answered some emails and wrote this quick posts. It did require some pre-planning: I had to have my laptop with me, along with my smartphone and notebook. But that’s about it.

and you know what? I was as productive or even more today. Why? since I had not “office” interruptions, no coffee meeting and very little interaction with my managers (which, as much as I love engaging, they do tend to consume much of time in the process). I actually had time to clean my inbox, write some long overdue emails and complete some documents I was suppose to finalize weeks ago. It wasn’t creative or genuine work, but I got things done.

What I’ve observed over time is that there are 3 productive uses of such dead times when you are basically forced to sit idle (of course, you could just play with your phone or nap, none of which is productive):

1. Do some mundane work to utilize the time

2. Try to reach Zen mode and do some creative thinking, but make sure you record it. I find it hard to concentrate in waiting rooms and during bus rides, so prefer to use this time for less creative tasks. I do get to this Zen mode when doing choirs or during long flights.  do whatever works for you (in another post I wrote how I get there by ironing:

https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/03/16/good-things-come-to-those-who-iron/)

3. Learn something new by reading ( I prefer paper, but digital is ok too) – and I don’t mean the local news website, but something of substance, like professional literature or a novel.

In addition to getting something done or learning something new you will be able actually achieves some progress (either personally or professionally). This creates a buffer you will surely use in more strenuous time when you will be struggling to find the time to complete your never ending to-do list (or finish that book).

Try making the best of every day- your career doesn’t rest when you run errands, and you shouldn’t either.

 

First thing to do every morning? remove the heavy weight…

Heavy weights to list
Heavy weights to lift

Every morning is the same- you get to the office, determined to tackle the most critical issue of your day.

But by the time it takes for your laptop to fire up, you have been disturbed by a phone call from your spouse, a colleague asks if you want to join him for coffee, several text messages from friends make your phone vibrate and your office neighbor is talking to some sales rep about his car insurance.

Focus? gone.

And when you do get to your laptop you are immersed in influx of information- emails, reminders, social media notifications… just to clear it all takes an hour. By that time you are tired again (time for another round at the coffee machine?) and probably have to attend a meeting, which results in more to-do items to your growing list.

And then it’s time for lunch, so you start planning whether to eat outside or order in, and afterwards you are so sleepy it take another coffee just to keep your eyelids from falling… and before you know it, it’s five o’clock and you start closing for the day.

That important task you were set to complete first thing in the morning? not going to happen. perhaps tomorrow…

So why not try a different plan?

Instead of engaging your regular morning routine, make sure you begin by doing at least one you need to accomplish- whether it is to exercise, write an important document or go over your to-do list to make sure all the open tasks are listed and your not forgetting anything major.

Avoid Email as long as you possibly can. If possible, avoid any digital media (phone, tablet, laptop) for at least 20 minutes upon arrival to your desk. Just read something (in print).

I’ve had the challenge to commit to doing some form of exercise during the work day. I’ve found that if I walk up the step ( 7 floors) and do several sets of weight lifting every morning I feel better all day long, knowing that no matter how difficult and challenging my day would turn out to be, I’ve at least done one thing for myself.

Try this for a week.

I promise the results will be uplifting. If you begin your day knowing you’ve crossed off at least one major to-do item you will have an optimistic backwind which will power you throughout the day.

 

Good things come to those who iron?

I’ve always found ironing very relaxing.

No matter how irritated I am, 5 minutes into the ironing session and I find myself relaxed and, as funny as it may sound, in a kind of “zone”.

Ironinig your thoughts

The repetitive motion of the iron over dress shirts and trousers always helps me drift away and rarely do I finish such ironing session without some novel ideas. But the trick is to be able to capture these ideas and use them, or they simply float away as quickly as they are generated. So after losing some really great ideas generated during ironing and simply forgotten later, I now make sure I have my notepad or notebook close at hand. Try it the next time you iron (or do the dishes, or whatever boring, repetitive household choir it is that you do).

 

Owntrepreneurship- finding your inspiration

No doubt about it, starting your journey to be an Owntrepreneur is daunting. There are so many reasons against it, the most powerful is the power of habit (breaking this “habit trap” is a subject of another post).

So I will provide one very powerful tip to help in this critical and difficult step. The trick it simple- find someone else who’s “done it” before, and try walking in their shoes- or, at least, be inspired by them.

Find your inspiration
Find your inspiration

But finding someone who inspires you is more difficult than most people think. The obvious choice is to find extremely successful people, some of them actual entrepreneurs, and choose these as role models. For example, few would argue Steve Jobs’s phenomenal skills and entrepreneurial spirit (I do recommend at least seeing the speech he delivered to the graduates of Stanford University www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA- truly inspiring), as well as business and personal success. But how many would really want to BE Jobs? By all accounts the man was not a pleasant man, and reigned on his subordinates like a modern, Silicon Valley tyrant. Or Jeff Bezos, another dot.com maverick, who’s fiercely competitive and said on numerous occasions that to work on his company: “You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three”.

I have tremendous respect for these two innovators, but I do not wish to be like them. Not one bit. So I’ve started looking for inspiration elsewhere, with the people I know and admire. I’ve thought about my teachers at school and professors at the university (some of which who’s pioneered new areas in research), about my commanding officers in the navy and current and former bosses. But the longer I thought about this the more the answer became obvious- the Owntrepreneur I should be following is none other than my later mother. My Mother, Dorit Gutman (who passed away nearly 7 years ago) was a true Owntrepreneur. After teaching Biology in high school for many years she decided she wanted more and was part of a very small group of parents who started a brand new school with radical approach- the Democratic school of Hadera. She’s done so to allow my sister and I to enjoy better schooling than what the orthodox schools offered. Shortly after she started being involved in this initiative she left her teaching job and started working full time on her new venture, and later was elected by the group (by then an NGO) to serve as the co-principle (and later sole principle), a position she held for more than a decade during which the school has grown from couple of dozens of student to several hundreds, winning local an international awards and starting a nation-wide trend of alternative schools. But eventually she grew tired of it, resigned from managing the school and focus on her new interest- coaching. In a short time span she cultivated quite a following and was delivering workshops, private consulting sessions and training other to become coachers and counsels.

While I love my mother deeply and admire her achievements, it only recently dawned upon me that amongst other things, she had true Owntrepreneurial spirit. She was highly respected within the boundaries of her profession, and when these no longer suited her she broke them and started something completely new, only to do the same several years later.

And the since I was close to her for most of this time (although too young to comprehend everything), I can use here tremendous experience and utilize this a source of inspiration for my own Owntrepreneurial journey.

Sadly, she died of cancer I’m not able to consult with her and receive her direct advice- a fact which saddens me deeply. But nonetheless I have a great example in front of me- someone I know, who’s embarked on a journey they had no idea will be successful, and manage to succeed through all the difficulties, while raising a family and being a genuine, loving and caring person.

If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is. So Jeff, Bill or Steve, please forgive me. While you are all great examples of Owntrepreneurship, I choose my mom over you any day.

The Importance of Mentioning the Business Justification in Each Design

Reflections of a Product Manager

I recently came across several examples of requirements design documents which focused on the solution and assumed we’re all aligned around the business justification. This is mostly common when all of us are already working on some project and there is a tendency of group thinking.

I personally got to make this mistake a few times.

But then I realized it will be a best practice to start off each design document with describing:

1. What is it we’re trying to solve – and it’s important not to jump to the point of why we’re trying to solve it the way we are

2. How are we going to measure it

Let’s take the common example of the space pen. During the work on the US space program, a need came for an anti gravity pen that will allow astronauts to write in space. A lot of investment was done…

View original post 450 more words

Personal Analytics (Own-alytics?)

We all know about annual evaluation process HR departments at big corporates love so much. The ritual is well-rehearsed; you receive a table with your goals, note what you’ve accomplished and what you strive to achieve in the next quarter/ year, enter a room and discuss these points with your manager, secretly hoping to have more positive than negative results which will ensure your annual bonus is intact. Year later, the process will repeat itself with very little change.

ownalytics

Managers hate this process- they have to evaluate dozens of employees, and are forced to mark the top performers and the not- so- great ones ( which are automatically in greater risk of being let go). Employees hate and fear these because they are closely related to monetary compensation. It seems no one actually believes this process results in any positive change (other than HR and the C-Suite, which love employee-related statistics). Sadly, this process is not likely to go away or change anytime. You can rebel against this (which will probably result in you being laid off), accept this and move on or think of better way to manage this process personally. Because the fundamental truth behind this measuring performance is undeniable- the things we don’t measure are the things we don’t manage. Look outside the HR/managers/employees triangle- and everyone’s obsessed with analytics, metrics and statistics. From re-tweets to likes, every possible digital piece of information is being recorded and analyzed, with the sole aim of improving performance. So why not use the same mindset to advance in your own venture (i.e. career)? you need to start paying attention to how well you perform in various areas and improve what is sub-par.

And the only way to do it is to measure yourself.

I’m not suggesting you need to measure every aspect of your life (although some, like Stephen Wolfram, have taken “Personal analytics” to the extreme http://www.technologyreview.com/news/514356/stephen-wolfram-on-personal-analytics/).

I’m saying you need to be aware of what you are doing and steadily improve it, at least career wise (If you are in sales you can stop reading now- you know everything about meeting your quota, closing percentages etc. in fact, the only tip I can give you is not to measure anything else and use other mechanism to improve oneself- like peer feedback. More statistic data about your performance is NOT what you need)

So instead of waiting for the next employee evaluation to come along, why don’t you take a different approach, a more owntrepreneurial one?

First – select your areas of interest, or research. These should be topics you wish to improve at or at least understand how well you are doing in. for instance: personal finance, Personal fitness, diligence, etc.

Then, identify how you can obtain data on these ongoing activities. With the help of our connected technology, it is possible to monitor just about anything: how many steps you walked each day, how many projects you were involved in and even how many people like your latest witty tweet.

Monitor- this is the hardest part, and it requires commitment. You need to allow the technology to actually monitor whatever it is you are trying to record. If your’ trying to see how many hours you’ve logged at work you need to devise a mechanism to allow you to record it (not all companies have a punch clock nowadays, so manual registration might be necessary).

Metrics – this is by far the hardest nut to crack. You need to set goals and see if you’ve accomplished them. It will not be easy because when you try this for the first time you lack benchmark. So I suggest that as a first step simply ignore this and try to see if you can collect enough meaningful information. Once you understand where you stand (or how far you’ve walked) you can use this as a benchmark and decide how much you think you can improve (which, quite simply, translate into goal setting for the future).

Sure- some areas are easier than others to measure and show improvement- I can check how many visitors my blog had over time and see if there is an increase over time. Others who work in less digital environment might find it harder to accomplish. Still, you can measure just about anything very easily today. So start small. For instance, through a great app called “goodreads” I can see I’ve read 14 books in 2014 (https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/6376717-yotam-gutman?read_at=2014). I now wish to maintain this number so I’ve set a goal for myself to read 14 books again this year (you will not be able to improve in all facets of your life, and that’s ok. If you measure one aspect and conclude it is sufficient just make sure your performance does not degrade in this respect). You can identify and define these humble goals, measure and see if you’ve achieved any improvement. If you have, mover these to the “maintenance” area and focus on other subjects.

Do this long enough and you are bound to make a big improvement over time.

But the most important thing is that you took responsibility over your own performance. No HR executive will ever do this for you, and the impact on your career will be profound.

 

Additional reading:

http://www.wired.com/2013/11/love-life-and-r-personal-analytics-gets-real/

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/514356/stephen-wolfram-on-personal-analytics/

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-track-everything-in-your-life-without-going-craz-1466537828?utm_content=buffer21b0e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://research.gigaom.com/report/the-benefits-and-challenges-of-personal-analytics/

 

 

Best past-posts

Yeah, I know I’m not supposed to cross-link platforms between wordpress sites/blogs and LinkedIn Pulse. But since I’ve went through the trouble of writing some nice posts over the last 12 months I’d hate to see them fade away. So I’ve decided to list my favorite post and just provide the links to the original posts at LinkedIn.

  1. The Best Travel packing tip
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140528065220-58216118-the-best-travel-packing-tip?trk=mp-reader-card
  2. 3 tips you need to know to master LinkedIn
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-tips-you-need-know-rule-linkedin-yotam-gutman?trk=mp-reader-card
  3. Want to advance your career? Start writing, and publish it.
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/want-advance-your-career-start-writing-publish-yotam-gutman?trk=mp-reader-card
  4. Doing it the Peter Thiel way (or why the startup I work for is 10 times better)
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/doing-peter-thiel-way-why-i-10-yotam-gutman?trk=mp-reader-card
  5. So you’ve lost your job? Now man up and ask for help!
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/so-youve-lost-you-job-now-man-yotam-gutman?trk=mp-reader-card
  6. Maintenance Vs. advancement – how to do more creative work and still keep your world going?
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141017202018-58216118-maintenance-vs-advancement-how-to-do-more-creative-work-and-still-keep-your-world-going?trk=mp-reader-card
  7. 11 management lessons I’ve learnt from Sir Alex Ferguson
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140816124309-58216118-11-management-lessons-i-ve-learnt-from-sir-alex-ferguson?trk=mp-reader-card
  8. Work life separation- That’s so 2004…
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140516073801-58216118-work-life-separation-that-s-so-2004?trk=mp-reader-card