Background music while working

Everyone who I’ve spoken to recently has a different perspective on what they feel they need in order to be most productive.

Some people prefer Jazz, some classical music, some background coffee shop beats while others prefer a hip-hop album of their choice.

Ultimately, the music isn’t the major contributing factor to you accomplishing your work. Sitting down and actually putting in the work, is what will get you over the finish line.

I use music as an enablor, but I prefer to ensure it doesn’t become a crutch I rely on in order to get serious work done. That comes from willpower and discipline.


On distributed systems and achieving consensus with Bitcoin

The rise of Blockchain in public conversations has led to the increasing fascination with another element which makes the blockchain what it is: distributed systems (inspired by this very well-explained article).

A distributed system is a group of computers working together as to appear as a single computer to the end-user.

Consensus protocols go some way to deploying a database to each of these different computers and agreeing on a specific message (e.g. processing a bunch of inputs and having an accurate record of the new value/database).

A big problem I’ve thought about (developed through lots of interesting conversations) is how to achieve consensus across groups of computers. What if 51% have been corrupted somehow? This is what could happen with a public database, where anyone could join and propose transactions to the system. If anyone can join the system, you can’t tell who’s who or verify that the parties are acting lawfully.

Sure, Satoshi and Bitcoin have come along and proposed the proof-of-work mechanism. Identities aren’t needed, so Bitcoin can be deployed in the permissionless setting. This signifies a move away from the voting on a proposal (how it’s been done for decades) to a system where values use a weight attached to each proposal. The weight is the proof-of-work, which solves a cryptographic puzzle. Proposals are linked together, where the heaviest (AKA most time-consuming, complex puzzles) chain of proposals form the “correct” history – this is basically Bitcoin.

However, I still have an issue with mining (how you create proposals in the proof-of-work mechanism). This is because surely this can be controlled to actually control the consensus. If you control the mining and the work, you control the proposals, which means you control the outcome. Surely, when applied to rigorous endeavours (e.g. the authenticity of ownership (e.g. land, property etc)), this can be corrupted and gamed.

Adapt or Die

I came across this quote from a newsletter that I’m subscribed to, from Eric Ries – the author of the Lean Startup. It particularly resonated with me because I’ve been thinking a lot about the pace of technological change is moving at a frenetic pace and we all need to be comfortable with adapting to a new world, while coming to terms with change being ever-constant in our lives:
“There’s a real human pattern at the core that we all should have a certain amount of empathy for. We’re all in favor of innovation in theory. But in practice, we do everything we know how to return life to whatever’s familiar and whatever’s worked for us in the past. We all need to learn to change our rate of change and embrace things that are unfamiliar.”
That’s a quote from Larry Keely, the director of Deloitte Consulting and founder of innovation agency, Doblin.
This post is a reminder that while many people preach the virtues of innovation – what isn’t discussed as much that what comes with innovation, is change. Inherently, humans are typically risk-averse to change but in order to adapt and thrive, we need to embrace the unfamiliar and accept the path less certain if we are to keep moving forward.

Backing a winning horse

I usually enjoy reading Fred Wilson’s daily blog posts and today was about USV’s (his VC firm) backing of Indeed in 2005. The most important area to focus on was they decided very early on that they’d be thesis-driven investors.

At the beginning, they were drawn to search and social opportunities – which led them to Indeed.

It turned out to be one of the best decisions they ever made (and could’ve been even more lucrative for them if the company decided to IPO instead of selling to Recruit).

The point of the story is they knew what they were looking for, the stars aligned and they went for it. I’m writing this as a reminder to myself – when I next identify opportunity in front of me, I’ll regret not jumping on board.

The life of an optimist

If every problem was seen as an opportunity to find a solution and every challenge was seen as a test that you have the ability to pass with the skills you already have, we’d have a lot less suffering and a lot more positivity.

Fear-mongering is something I don’t have much time for (mainly because I forget a lot and can’t store a ton of that energy in my brain), but being an outrageous optimist is a mindset everyone can adopt.

Not only does it help you set more ambitious goals, but it allows you to be more action-orientated, which puts you ahead of 99.9% people out there.

Further reading on this topic can be found on Mr Money Mustache’s blog post about the topic.

Monitoring Time Well Spent on iOS 12

If you’ve upgraded to iOS 12, you’ve probably played around with the new Screen Time app. It basically monitors your time on your phone, how many times you pick up your phone and breaks down that time as “productive” or otherwise.

Personally, I’ve been using the Freedom app to help me focus and stop me from logging onto various “unproductive” sites. While this has occasionally been annoying when speaking to a friend and they want to show me something on Facebook or Instagram, overall, this has helped me stay focused.

Being a data nerd, I’m looking forward to gaining a better understanding into how often I log into my phone, during what times and days, as well as how this is impacting my overall deep work contribution.


Reading workflows

I’ve been thinking a lot about the optimal reading workflow.

For example, when is an audiobook the best medium? How can I track and organise all the articles I read on various platforms? When should I get a physical book?

M.G. Siegler posted about his reading workflow, which made me think about my own.

Personally, everything I open on Safari/Chrome on mobile will either be read while I’m commuting, or be put in Pocket and kept for a later time. I then dedicate certain days (sometimes weeks) to getting through content on Pocket, otherwise I’ll never read it again. I also use the audio function on Pocket (at 2X speed) to get through stories or non-actionable stuff. With actionable content, I try and deal with that on Pocket Web and try and ensure it’s appropriately actioned.

When it comes to books, I haven’t fully figured out the optimal process but when it comes to audio, I like listening to autobiographies (Trevor Noah, Mike Tyson, Phil Knight) and general fiction. When it comes to physical books, those are the ones I want to study and “dog flap” the pages I want to save for later reading – the Kindle is the same.

M.G. wrote about having Instapaper alongside Pocket, so this might be another experiment to try! If anyone’s got any tips or wants to share their reading workflow, I’m open to hearing!