Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
“Great acts are made up of small deeds.“ -- Lao Tzu
The best productivity tools are the ones you actually use and get results.
I'll share some quick personal productivity tools from Agile Results, introduced in the book, Getting Results the Agile Way.
Agile Results is a Personal Results System for work and life, and it's all about how to use your best energy for your best results.
With that in mind, here are some quick productivity tools you can use to think better, feel better, and do better, while getting results better, faster, and easier with more fun ...
Think in terms of Three Wins each day, each week, each month, each year.
You can apply the Rule of 3 to life. Rather than get overwhelmed by your tasks, choose three things you want to accomplish today. This puts you in control. If nothing else, it gives you a very simple way to focus for the day. This will help you get on track and practice the art of ruthless prioritization.
Consider the energy you have, what's the most important, what's the most valuable, and what would actually feel like a win for you and build momentum.
To get started, right here, right now, simply write down on paper the three things you want to achieve today.
The Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, and Friday Reflection pattern is a simple habit for daily and weekly results.
Monday Vision - On Monday, identify Three Wins that you want for the week. Imagine if it was Friday and you were looking back on your week, what are three results that you would be proud of? This helps you have create a simple vision for your week.
Daily Wins - Get a Fresh Start each day. Each day, identify Three Wins that you want for the day. First thing in the morning, before you dive into the hustle and the bustle, step back. Take the balcony view for your day and identify Three Wins that you want to accomplish. This helps you create a simple vision for your day. You can imagine three scenes from your day -- morning, noon and night -- or whatever works for you.
One way to stay balanced here is to ask yourself both, "What do I want to accomplish?", and "What are the key things that if I don't get done ... I'm screwed?"
Friday Reflection -- On each Friday, reflect on your week. To do this, ask yourself two questions:
“What are 3 things going well?”
“What are 3 things to improve?”
You'll find that either you are either focusing on the wrong things, getting distracted, or biting off more than you can chew. Use what you learn here as input into next week's Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection.
The real power of Friday Reflection is that you acknowledge and appreciate your Personal Victories. If you gave your all during your workout, hats off to you. If you pushed a bit harder to really nail your presentation, great job.
It's also a simple way to "put a bow" on your results for the week. Now, if your manager or somebody were to ask you what you accomplished for the week, you have a simple story of Three Wins.
Hot Spots are a simple metaphor for thinking about what’s important.
Think of your life like a heat map.
Start with a simple set of categories:
Where do you need to spend more time or less time?
The Hot Spot categories support each other and they are connected, and in some cases overlapping. But they give you a very quick way to explore an area of your life.
It's hard to do well at work if you're having issues with relationships. And the surprise for a lot of people is how if they take better care of their body, work gets a lot easier, and they improve their mind and emotions.
The Growth Mindset is a learning mindset.
Instead of a static view of things, you approach things as experiments to learn and explore. Failure isn't final. Failure isn't fatal. Instead, find the lesson and change your approach.
By adopting a Growth Mindset, you get better and better over time. You don't say, "I'm no good at that." You say, "I'm getting better at that." or "I'm learning."
With a Growth Mindset and a focus on continuous learning, you turn your days into learning opportunities. This helps you keep your motivation going and your energy strong.
Life-long Learners last longer :)
Timeboxing is a way to set a time "budget." This helps you avoid spending too much time on something, or over-investing when it's diminishing returns.
For a lot of people, they find they can focus in short-batches. They can't focus indefinitely, but if they know they only have to work on something for say 20-minutes, it helps them fully focus on the task at hand.
If you've heard of the Pomodoro Technique, this is an example. Set a time limit for a task, and work on the task until the buzzer goes off.
I use Timeboxing at multiple levels. I might Timebox a mini-project to a week or a month, rather than let it go on forever "until it is done." By using a Timebox, I create a sense of urgency and I give myself a finish line. That's a real key to staying motivated and refueling your momentum.
Timeboxing can help you improve your productivity in a very simple way. For example, rather than try to figure out how long something might take, start by figuring out how much time you want to invest in it. Identify up front, at what point is it diminishing return. This will help you cut your losses and figure out how to optimize your time.
Each week spend more time in your strengths, and less time in your weaknesses.
Push activities that make you weak to the first part of your day. By doing your Worst Things First, you create a glide path for the rest of the day. This is like Brian Tracy's Eat that Frog.
Set limits. Stuff the things that make you weak into a Timebox. For example, if the stuff that makes you weak is taking more than 20 percent of your day, then find a way to keep it within that 20 percent boundary. This might mean limiting the time or quantity.
Sometimes you just can't get rid of the things that make you weak; in that case, balance it with more things that energize you and make you strong.
Apply this to your week too. Push the toughest things that drain you to the start of the week to create a glide path. Do the same with people. Spend more time with people that make you strong and less time with people that make you weak. Be careful not to confuse the things that make you weak with challenges that will actually make you stronger. Grow yourself stronger over time.
Pick one thing to improve for the month.
Each month, pick something new; this gives you a chance to cycle through 12 things over the year. Or if necessary, you can always repeat a sprint.
The idea is that 30 days is enough time to experiment with your results throughout the month. Because you might not see progress in the first couple of weeks while you’re learning, a month is a good chunk of time to check your progress.
This is especially helpful if you find that you start a bunch of things but never finish. Just focus this month on the one thing, and then next month, you can focus on the other thing, and so on.
Each month is a Fresh Start and you get to pick a theme for the month so that everything you do accrues to something bigger.
This is perhaps one of the most impactful ways to improve your productivity.
Pair with people that complement your strengths.
Pair up or team up with others that compliment your preferred patterns. If you are a Starter, pair up with a Finisher. If you are a Thinker, pair up with a Doer. If you are a Maximizer, pair up with a Simplifier.
Anything, and I mean anything, that you want to do better or faster, there is somebody in the world that lives and breathes it. And, in my experience, they are more than happy to teach you, if you just ask.
The best way to Pair Up is to find somebody where it's a two-way exchange of value and you both get something out of it. To do this, it helps when you really know what you bring to the table, so it's clear why you are Pairing Up.
Ask yourself, who can you team up with to get better results?
Chances are you have certain hours in the day or night when you are able to accomplish more.
These are your personal Power Hours.
Guard your Power Hours so they are available to you and try to push the bulk of your productivity within these Timeboxes. This maximizes your results while optimizing your time.
You might find you only have a few great hours during the week where you feel you produce effective and efficient results. You may even feel “in the zone” or in your “flow” state. Gradually increase the number of Power Hours you have. You can build a powerful day, or powerful week, one power hour at a time. If you know you only have three Power Hours in a 40-hour week, see if you can set yourself up to have five Power Hours.
Your Creative Hours are those times during the week where you feel you are at your creative best.
This might be a Saturday morning or a Tuesday night, or maybe during weekday afternoons.
The key is to find those times where you have enough creative space, to do your creative work.
Just like adding power hours, you might benefit from adding more creative hours. Count how many creative hours you have during the week. If it’s not enough, schedule more and set yourself up so that they truly are creative hours. If you’re the creative type, this will be especially important. If you don’t think of yourself as very creative, then simply use your Creative Hours to explore any challenges in your life or to innovate.
There is so much more, but I find that if you play around with these Personal Productivity Tools, you can very quickly get better results in work and life.
If you don't know where to start, start simple:
Ask yourself what are the Three Wins you want to accomplish today, and write those done on a piece of paper.
That's it -- You're doing Agile Results.
One of the struggles a developer faces when moving up the ladder is how to keep their technical skills.
If they are used to being a high-performing, individual contributor, and a technical go-to resource, this is especially challenging.
Because the job is different, now.
It’s no longer about how awesome your developer skills are. Now it’s about bringing out the best from the people you manage, and hopefully *lead.* Your job is now about creating a high-performing team. It’s about growing more leaders. It’s about being the oil and the glue. The oil so that the team can work effectively, as friction-free as possible, and the glue, so that all the work connects together.
There’s a good book called What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith. The book title sort of says it all, but the big idea is that if you take on a new management role, but continue to perform like an individual contributor, or at a lower level, don’t expect to be successful.
The irony is that most people will quickly default to doing what they do best, which is what got them to where they are. But now the rules have changed, and they don’t adapt. And as the saying goes, adapt or die. It’s how a lot of careers end.
But not you.
While you will want to keep up your skills that got you to where you are, the real challenge is about adding new ones. And, at first blush, they might just seem like “soft skills”, while you are used to learning “technical skills.” Well, treat these at your new technical skills to learn.
Your new technical skills are:
I’ll leave this list at 9, so that it doesn’t become a 10 Top Skills to Learn to Advance Your Career post.
If you wonder how Emotional Intelligence can be a technical skill, I wish I could show you all the Mind Maps, the taxonomies, the techniques, the hard-core debates over the underlying principles, patterns, and practices, that I have seen many developers dive into over the years.
The good news is that Emotional Intelligence is a skill you can build. I’ve seen many developers become first time managers and then work on their Emotional Intelligence skills and everything changes. They become a better manager. They become more influential. They read a room better and know how to adapt themselves more effectively in any situation. They know how to manage their emotions. And they know how to inspire and delight others, instead of tick them off.
Along the lines of Emotional Intelligence, I should add Financial Intelligence to the mix. So many developers and technologists would be more effective in the business arena, if they mastered the basics of Financial Intelligence. There is actually a book called Financial Intelligence for IT Professionals. It breaks down the basics of how to think in financial terms. Innovation doesn’t fund itself. Cool projects don’t fund themselves. Technology is all fun and games until the money runs out. But if you can show how technology helps the business, all of a sudden instead of being a cost or overhead, you are now part of the value chain, or at least the business can appreciate what you bring to the table.
Building High-Performance Teams takes a lot of know-how. It helps if you are already well grounded in how to ship stuff. It really helps if you have some basic project management skills and you know how to see how the parts of the project come together as a whole. It especially helps if you have a strong background in Agile methodologies like Kanban, Scrum, XP, etc. While you don’t need to create Kanbans, its certainly helps if you get the idea of visualizing the workflow and reducing open work. And, while you may not need to do Scrum per se, it helps if you get the idea behind a Product Backlog, a Sprint Backlog, and Sprints. And while you may not need to do XP, it helps if you get the idea of sustainable pace, test-driven development, pairing, collective ownership, and an on-site customer.
But the real key to building high-performance teams is actually about trust.
Not trust as in “I trust that you’ll do that.”
No. It’s vulnerability-based trust, as in “I’ve got your back.” This is what enables individuals on a team to go out on a limb, to try more, to do more, to become more.
Otherwise, they everybody has to watch out for their own backs, and they spend their days making sure they don’t get pushed off the boat or hanging from a limb, while somebody saws it off. (See 10 Things Great Managers Do.)
And nothing beats a self-organizing team, where people sign-up for work (vs. get assigned work), where people play their position well, and help others play theirs.
Vision, mission, and values are actually some of the greatest technical skills you can master, for yourself and for any people or teams you might lead, now or in the future. So many people mix up vision and mission.
Here’s the deal:
Mission is the job.
Vision is where you want to go, now that you know what the job is.
And Values are what you express in actions in terms of what you reward. Notice how I said actions, not words. Too many people and teams say they value one thing, but their actions value another.
It’s one thing to go off and craft a vision, mission, and values that you want everybody to adhere to. It’s another thing to co-create the future with a team, and create your vision, mission, and values, with everybody’s fingerprints on it. But that’s how you get buy-in. And getting buy-in, usually involves dealing with conflict (which is a whole other set of technical skills you can master.)
When a leader can express a vision, mission, and values with clarity, they can inspire the people around them, bring out the best in people, create a high-performance culture, and accelerate results.
This is where the rubber meets the road. There are so many great books on how to execute with skill. One of my favorites is Flawless Execution. And of the most insightful books on creating an effective execution model is Managing the Design Factory.
The main thing to master here is to be able to easily create a release schedule that optimizes resources and people, while flowing value to customers and stakeholders.
I know that’s boiling a lot down, but that’s the point. To master execution, you need to be able to easily think about the challenges you are up against: not enough time, not enough resources, not enough budget, not enough clarity, not enough customers, etc.
It’s a powerful thing when you can turn chaos into clarity and get the train leaving the station in a reliable way.
It’s hard to beat smart people shipping on a cadence, if they are always learning and always improving.
Sadly, this is one of the most common mistakes of new managers. Seasoned ones, too. They treat everybody on the team the same. And they usually default to whatever they learned. They either focus on motivating or they focus on directing. And directing to the extreme, very quickly becomes micro-managing.
The big idea of Situational Leadership is to consider whether each person needs direction or motivation, or both.
If you try to motivate somebody who is really looking for direction, you will both be frustrated. Similarly, if you try to direct somebody who really is looking for motivation, it’s a quick spiral down.
There are many very good books on Situational Leadership and how to apply it in the real world.
This is where a lot of blood-shed happens. This is where conflict thrives or dies. Decision making is the bread-and-butter of today’s knowledge worker. That’s what makes insight so valuable in a Digital Economy. After all, what do you use the insight for? To make better decisions.
It’s one thing for you to just make decisions.
But the real key here is how to create simple ways to deal with conflict and how to make better decisions as a group. This includes how to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink. It includes the ability to leverage the wisdom of the crowds. It also includes the ability to influence and persuade with skill. It includes the ability to balance connection with conviction. It includes the ability to balance your Conflict Management Style with the Conflict Management Style of others.
Business can be hard-core. This isn’t so obvious if you deal with mediocre business people. But when you interact with serious business leaders, you quickly understand how complicated, and technical, running a business and changing a business really is.
At the most fundamental level, the purpose of a business is to create a customer.
But even who you choose to serve as your “customer” is a strategic choice.
You can learn a lot about business by studying some of the great business challenges in the book, Case Interview Secrets, which is written by a former McKinsey consultant.
You can also learn a lot about business by studying which KPIs and business outcomes matter, in each industry, and by each business function.
It also helps to be able to quickly know how to whiteboard a value chain and be able to use some simple tools like SWOT analysis. If you can really internalize Michael Porter’s mental models and toolset, then you will be ahead of many people in the business world.
There are many books and guides on how to be a leader in your field. One of my favorites is, Lead the Field, by Earl Nightingale. It’s an oldie, but goodie.
The real key is to be able to master ideation. You need to be able to come up with ideas. Probably the best technique I learned was long ago. I simply set an idea quota. In the book, ThinkerToys, by Michael Michalko, I learned that Thomas Edison set a quote to think up new ideas. Success really is a numbers game. Anyway, I started by writing one idea per note in my little yellow sticky pad. The first week, I had a handful of ideas. But once my mind was cleared by writing my ideas down, I was soon filling up multiple yellow sticky pads per week.
I very quickly went from having an innovation challenge to having an execution challenge.
So then I went back to the drawing board and focused on mastering execution as a technical skill
Hopefully, if you are worried about how to keep growing your skills as you climb your corporate ladder, this will give you some food for thought.
“Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.” -- Gustave Flaubert
An important aspect of personal effectiveness and career development is learning business skills for a technology-centric world.
I know a lot of developers figuring out how to share their expertise in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. Some are creating software services, some are selling online courses, some are selling books, and some are building digital products. It’s how they are sharing and scaling their expertise with the world, while doing what they love.
In each case, the underlying pattern is the same:
"Write once, share many."
It’s how you scale. It’s how you amplify your impact. It’s a simple way to combine passion + purpose + profit.
With our mobile-first, cloud-first world, and so much technology at your fingertips to help with automation, it’s time to learn better business skills and how to stay relevant in in an ever-changing market.
But the challenge is, how do you actually start?
On the consumer side ...In a mobile-first, cloud-first world, users want the ability to consume information anywhere, anytime, from any device.
On the produce side ...Producers want the ability to easily create digital products that they can share with the world -- and automate the process as much as possible.
I've researched and tested a lot of ways to share your experience in a way that works in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. I’ve went through a lot of people, programs, processes, and tools. Ultimately, the proven practice for building high-end digital products is building courses. And teaching courses is the easiest way to get started. And Dr. Cha~zay is one of the best in the world at teaching people how to teach the world what they love.
I have a brilliant and deep guest post by Dr. Cha~zay on how to teach courses in a mobile-first, cloud-first world:
Teach the World What You Love
You could very much change your future, or your kid’s future, or your friend’s future, or whoever you know that needs to figure out new ways to teach in a mobile first, cloud-first world.
The sooner you start doing, testing, and experimenting, the sooner you start figuring out what works in a Digital Economy could mean to you, your family, your friends, in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.
The world changes.
“Private Victory precedes Public Victory. Algebra comes before calculus.” – Stephen Covey
At last. It’s here. It’s my Personal Effectiveness Toolbox:
Personal Effectiveness Toolbox
It’s the real deal. This is my hand-picked collection of principles, patterns, practices, and tools to help you make the most of what you’ve got.
My Personal Effectiveness Toolbox is a roundup of the best-of-the-best resources that help you in key areas of your life, including the following Hot Spots:
If you want to get an edge in work and life, Personal Effectiveness Toolbox will help you do exactly that. I mentor a lot of people inside and outside of Microsoft, so I am always looking for the best resources and tools that actually work. I’ve personally spent many, many thousands of dollars on programs and tested them in the real-world against extreme challenges.
I wasted a lot of money.
But I also found a lot of incredible and amazing products that actually worked. I found people and products and tools that provide real insight and led to real breakthroughs.
My Personal Effectiveness Toolbox is the ultimate collection of programs, tools, and books that help you succeed in all areas of your life. I’ve organized the resources into the following categories:
Achievement Systems, Beliefs / Limits / Mindsets, Blogging, Body / Fitness / Health, Book Writing, Business / Startups / Passive Income, Career, Confidence, Creativity, Finance, Goals, Emotional Intelligence, Interpersonal Skills, Leadership, Mind / Intellectual Horsepower, Motivation, Personal Development, Productivity, Relationships.
I’ve also tried to address some common scenarios and issues.
One scenario I see a lot is people are looking to achieve financial freedom. They either want to have a backup for their day job, or perhaps pursuit other opportunities on their own terms. Or they want to simply try their hand at generating passive income. The beauty is that in today’s world, you can combine your purpose, passion, and profit, and sell what you know to the world.
But the challenge is it can be a confusing path, and there is a lot to learn. I want through a lot of books, courses, and programs that were a big let down. But, along the way, I did find some resources that really did help. For example, I regularly recommend SBI! (Site Build It) to friends and family as a way to get started. I also recommend Teleseminar Mastery Course as an effective way to create an online course on your favorite subject and get paid for doing what you love. To give them a handle on how to think about passive income, financial freedom, and building businesses in today’s mobile-first, cloud-first world, I have them start with Six-Figure Second Income. It’s one of the best books I’ve read that puts it all together and really explains things in plain English, and puts things like digital information products and a digital economy in perspective.
Another scenario I see is that too many people struggles with goals, motivation, and productivity. While you can attack these individually, I’m a fan of building a strong foundation by putting a personal achievement system in place. If you have an achievement system you can count on, you amplify your chance for success. It also helps you with continuous learning. And a good personal achievement system helps you get much better over time.
While there are a lot of systems out there, if I had to pick the best starting point, I would say it’s Tony Robbins’ Personal Power II. It’s the most hard-core personal development program and personal excellence program I know. You’ll learn more about your body, brains, and emotions than a lifetime of reading. You’ll learn how to rapidly model success, and accelerate your learning curve. It’s the same program I used to go from nearly last in a class of 197 students, to #3. I still can’t believe it. Just about every day I recall some aspect of Personal Power II, and apply it in some shape or form. It’s one of Tony’s greatest gifts to the world, ever.
Note that just because I’m talking about Tony Robbins particular program doesn’t mean I limited myself to his programs. In fact, I also included a reference to Brian Tracy’s Success Master Academy. It’s also one of the best programs available that really gives you a well-rounded foundation for achieving your dreams.
Emotional Intelligence is often the difference that makes the difference in work and life. While Emotional Intelligence won’t guarantee your success, the absence of it can almost guarantee you will struggle. You will have a disadvantage compared to those with EQ. But the very good news is that Emotional Intelligence is a skill you can learn. You can practice it every day. And you can learn it on your own. The place to start is Daniel Goleman’s classic book, Emotional Intelligence.
If you are wondering what Stephen Covey meant when he wanted us to increase the gap between stimulus and response, and to respond to our challenges vs. react, that’s exactly where Emotional Intelligence comes in.
Believe it or not, goals are your friend. If your goals aren’t working for you, the problem is you have “impotent goals”, as Tony Robbins would say. Or, perhaps, maybe Zig Ziglar said it best when he said, "People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest."
Goals help you prioritize, focus, and know when you are done. They help you make trade-offs in how much time to spend on something, or even when to spend time on something. They also help you establish markers along the way so you can feel a sense of progress and they help you with your motivation.
But all of the goodness of goals depends on knowing how to really set them and achieve them with skill. The good news is, goals have been around a very long time, way longer than you or me. And many people before us have learned how to really use goals to their advantage.
And the beauty is nothing stops us from using all those lessons learned from goal setting. The art and science of effective goal setting is well-known and well published. You just need to know where to look. While I have gone through many, many goal setting courses and exercises, I would say that one of the best, most thorough programs that really gives you a rock-solid foundation is Brian Tracy’s Goal Mastery for Personal and Financial Achievement. It is an advanced system that not only covers the basics, it dives deep into how to really create compelling goals and make them happen.
One goal a lot of people have is to write a book. In fact, many people I know want to write their first book. I’ve included a link to Brian Tracy’s 20-Step Author Quick Start Guide, which is one of the most thorough guides that walks you through the process of writing and publishing your book. Brian Tracy is a world-renowned author and is one of the best to learn from.
You can write your book to share your experience. You can also use books as a way to help your career or to establish your expertise. You can also use your book as a way to help build your financial fitness. And you can use your book writing process as a way to dive much deeper into a topic you love.
I could go on, but at this point, I’m just going to ask you to do three things:
Here’s to getting everything you want, and then some, as well as helping more people achieve their dreams.
“Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.” ― Brandon Sanderson
Every day presents us with new challenges. Whether it’s a personal struggle, or a challenge at work, or something that requires you to stand and deliver.
To find your strength.
To summon your courage, or find your motivation, or to dig deep and give it your all.
Sometimes you wonder whether the struggle is worth it. Then other times you breakthrough. And, other times you wonder why it was even a struggle at all.
The struggle is your growth. And every struggle is a chance for personal growth and self-actualization. It’s also a chance to really build your self-awareness.
For example, how well can you read a situation and anticipate how well you will do? In every situation, you can either Adapt, Adjust, or Avoid the situation. Adapt means you change yourself for the situation. Adjust means you change the situation to better suite you. And Avoid means, stay away from it. You will be like a fish out of water. If you don’t like roller coasters, then don’t get on them.
So every situation is a great opportunity to gain insight into yourself as well as to learn how to read situation, and people, much better. And the faster you adapt, the more fit you will be to survive, and ultimately thrive.
Nature favors the flexible.
But aside from Adapting, Adjusting, and Avoiding situations, it also helps to have a simple mental model to frame your challenges each day. A former Navy Seal frames it for us really well. He says we fight 3 fights each day:
Maybe you can relate? Each day you wake up, your first fight is with yourself. Can you summon your best energy? Can you get in your most resourceful state? Can you find your motivation? Can you drop a bad habit, or add a good one? Can you get into your best frame of mind to tackle the challenges before you?
Winning this fight sets the stage for the rest.
The second fight is what most people would consider the actual fight. It’s the challenge you are up against. Maybe it’s winning a deal. Maybe it’s doing your workout. Maybe it’s completing an assignment or task at work. Either way, this is where if you lost your first fight, this is going to be even tougher now.
The third fight is with the “system.” Everybody operates within a system. It might be your politics, policies, or procedures. You might be in a school or a corporation or an institution, or on a team, or within an organization. Either way, there are rules and expectations. There are ways for things to be done. Sometimes they work with you. Sometimes they work against you. And herein lies the fight.
In my latest post, I share some simple ways from our Navy Seal friends how you can survive and thrive against these 3 fights:
3 Fights We Fight Each Day
You can read it quickly. But use the tools inside to actually practice and prepare so you can respond better to your most challenging situations. If you practice the breathing techniques and the techniques for visualization, you will be using the same tools that the world’s best athletes, the Navy Seals, the best execs, and the highest achievers use … to do more, be more, and achieve more … in work and life.
I’ve put together a massive collection of the best-of-the-best blogging resources so they are at your fingertips:
It’s a serious collection of blogging resources including:
And by serious, I mean serious. It’s a hard-core collection of some of the best blogging resources that will help you succeed where others fail.
I will continue to add blogging resources, but you will already find a treasure trove of great articles, books, podcasts, videos and more to help you start your blog, improve your blog, or bring an old blog back to life.
I help a lot of people start blogs. I shave years of potentially painful lessons off of their learning curve, so they can get started doing more of what they love, avoid some of the many pitfalls, and build a blog they love (if it feels like a chore, you’re doing it wrong.)
If you haven’t already started a blog, this might be just the resource roundup you need to help you get started and to help you leap frog ahead.
There are lots of reasons why you might start a blog, if you haven't already. Maybe you want to start a movement. Maybe you want to land your next dream job. Maybe you want to make friends around the world. Maybe you want to explore your creativity. Maybe you want to launch a writing career and build your next book. Maybe you want to build an online business, one post at a time.
The thing that I try to teach people is that working on your blog, is working on your life. You learn a lot about your personal productivity, your values, your ability to ship ideas, your ability to connect with people, and ultimately, what you want to spend more time doing. A blog is a great way to build a personal platform for giving your best, where you have your best to give in the service for others.
And if you monetize your blog, and if you master creating and capturing value, it can be one of the smartest ways to combine passion and profit. The key to keep in mind is, do what you would do for free, but blend it with doing what people will pay you for, in a way that uses your unique strengths, makes you come alive, adds value, and helps change the world in your way.
Everybody has ideas. Some share them. Some shape them. Some ship them. Some productize them. Some let them die.
Put a little dent in the universe, a post at a time.
"No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra." — H.E. Luccock
Being an effective program manager at Microsoft means knowing how to make things happen. While being a program manager requires a lot more than project management, project management is still at the core.
Project management is the backbone of execution.
And execution is tough. But execution is also the breeding ground of results. Execution is what separates many teams and individuals from the people who have good ideas, and the people that actually ship them. Great ideas die on the vine every day from lack of execution. (Lack of execution is the same way great strategies die, too.)
If you want to learn the art and science of execution, here is a handful of books that have served me well:
Well, there you have it. That’s my short-list of project management books that really have made a difference and that can really help you be a more effective program manager or project manager (or simply build better project management skills.)
Too many people are still working on ineffective projects, getting lackluster results, slogging away, and doing too much “push” and not addressing nearly enough of the existing “pull” that’s already there.
These are the project management books that build real competence.
And where competence grows, confidence flows.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” ― Stephen King
The ultimate personal productivity platform is you.
Let’s just put that on the table right up front so you know where personal productivity ultimately comes from. It’s you.
I can’t possibly give you anything that will help you perform better than an organized mind firing on all cylinders combined with self-awareness.
You are the one that ultimately has to envision your future. You are the one that ultimately has to focus your attention. You are the one that ultimately needs to choose your goals. You are the one that ultimately has to find your motivation. You are the one that ultimately needs to manage your energy. You are the one that ultimately needs to manage your time. You are the one that ultimately needs to take action. You are the one that needs to balance work and life.
That’s a lot for you to do.
So the question isn’t are you capable? Of course you are.
The real question is, how do you make the most of you?
Agile Results is a personal productivity platform to help you make the most of what you’ve got.
Agile Results is a simple system for getting better results. It combines proven practices for productivity, time management, and motivation into a simple system you can use to achieve better, faster, easier results for work and life.
Agile Results works by integrating and synthesizing positive psychology, sport psychology, project management skills, and peak performance insights into little behavior changes you can do each day. It’s also based on more than 10 years of extensive trial and error to help people achieve high performance.
If you don’t know how to get started, start simple:
Ask yourself the following question: “What are three things I want to achieve today?”
And write those down. That’s it.
You’re doing Agile Results.
“The questions that we must ask ourselves, and that our historians and our children will ask of us, are these: How will what we create compare with what we inherited? Will we add to our tradition or will we subtract from it? Will we enrich it or will we deplete it?” ― Leon Wieseltier
Digital transformation is all around us.
And we are all digital employees according to Gartner.
In the article, Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee, Gartner says that the IT function no longer holds a monopoly on IT.
According to Gartner, employees are creating increasing digital dexterity from the devices and apps they use, to participating in sharing economies.
Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:
"'Today's employees possess a greater degree of digital dexterity,' said Matt Cain, research vice president at Gartner. 'They operate their own wireless networks at home, attach and manage various devices, and use apps and Web services in almost every facet of their personal lives. They participate in sharing economies for transport, lodging and more.'"
More employees are using technology to simplify, streamline, and scale their work.
"This results in unprecedented numbers of workers who enjoy using technology and recognize the relevance of digitalization to a wide range of business models. They also routinely apply their own technology and technological knowledge to streamline their work life."
According to Gartner, there are 3 Ways the IT organization should exploit employees' digital dexterity:
While it’s happening organically, IT can also help shape the digital workplace experience. Implement a strategy that helps workers use computing resources in a more friction free way and that play better with their pains, needs, and desired outcomes.
“Making computing resources more accessible in ways that match employees' preferences will foster engagement by providing feelings of empowerment and ownership. The digital workplace strategy should therefore complement HR initiatives by addressing and improving factors such as workplace culture, autonomous decision making, work-life balance, recognition of contributions and personal growth opportunities.”
Treat shadow IT as a first class citizen. IT should partner with the business to help the business realize it’s potential, and to help workers make the most of the available IT resources.
“Rather than try to fight the tide, the IT organization should develop a framework that outlines when it is appropriate for business units and individuals to use their own technology solutions and when IT should take the lead. IT should position itself as a business partner and consultant that does not control all technology decisions in the business.”
Traditional IT is slow. It’s heavy in governance, standards, and procedures. It addresses risk by reducing flexibility. Meanwhile, the world is changing fast. Business needs to keep up. Business needs fast IT.
So what’s the solution?
Bimodal IT. Bimodal IT separates the fast demands of digital business from the slow/risk-averse methods of traditional IT.
“Bimodal IT separates the risk-averse and ‘slow’ methods of traditional IT from the fast-paced demands of digital business, which is underpinned by the digital workplace. This dual mode of operation is essential to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of digitally savvy business units and employees, while ensuring that critical IT infrastructure and services remain stable and uncompromised.”
Everyone has technology at their fingertips. Every worker has the chance to re-imagine their work in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.
With infinite compute, infinite capacity, global reach, and real-time insights available to you, how could you evolve your job?
You can evolve your digital work life right under your feet.
Empower Every Person on the Planet to Achieve More
Satya Nadella on a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World
We Help Our Customers Transform
“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.” -- Mary Anne Radmacher
Imagine if you could wake up productive, where each day is a fresh start. As you take in your morning breath, you notice your mind is calm and clear.
You feel strong and well rested.
Before you start your day, you picture in your mind three simple scenes of the day ahead:
In the morning, you see yourself complete a draft you’ve been working on.
In the afternoon, you see yourself land your idea and win over your peers in a key meeting.
In the evening, you see yourself enjoying some quiet time as you sit down and explore your latest adventures in learning.
With an exciting day ahead, and a chance to rise and shine, you feel the day gently pull you forward with anticipation.
You know you’ll be tested, and you know some things won’t work out as planned. But you also know that you will learn and improve from every setback. You know that each challenge you face will be a leadership moment or a learning opportunity. Your challenges make you stronger.
And you also know that you will be spending as much time in your strengths as you can, and that helps keep you strong, all day long.
You motivate yourself from the inside out by focusing on your vision for today and your values. You value achievement. You value learning. You value collaboration. You value excellence. You value empowerment. And you know that throughout the day, you will have every chance to apply your skills to do more, to achieve more, and to be more.
Each task, or each challenge, is also a chance to learn more. From yourself, and from everyone all around you. And this is how you never stop learning.
You may not like some of the tasks before you, but you like the chance to master your craft. And you enjoy the learning. And you love how you get better. With each task on your To-Do list for today, you experiment and explore ways to do things better, faster, and easier.
Like a productive artist, you find ways to add unique value. You add your personal twist to everything you do. Your twist comes from your unique experience, seeing what others can’t see from your unique vantage point, and applying your unique strengths.
And that’s how you do more art. Your art. And as you do your art, you feel yourself come alive. You feel your soul sing, as you operate at a higher level. As you find your flow and realize your potential, your inner-wisdom winks in an approving way. Like a garden in full bloom on a warm Summer’s day, you are living your arête.
As your work day comes to an end, you pause to reflect on your three achievements, your three wins, for the day. You appreciate the way you leaned in on the tough stuff. You surprised yourself in how you handled some of your most frustrating moments. And you learned a new way to do your most challenging task. You take note of the favorite parts of your day, and your attitude of gratitude feels you with a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of fulfillment.
Fresh and ready for anything, you head for home.
Try 30 Days of Getting Results. It’s free. Surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I've written about 30 Day Sprints before, but it's time to talk about them again:
30 Day Sprints help you change yourself with skill.
Once upon a time, I found that when I was learning a new skill, or changing a habit, or trying something new, I wasn't getting over that first humps, or making enough progress to stick with it.
At the same time, I would get distracted by shiny new objects. Because I like to learn and try new things, I would start something else, and ditch whatever else I was trying to work on, to pursuit my new interest. So I was hopping from thing to thing, without much to show for it, or getting much better.
I decided to stick with something for 30 days to see if it would make a difference. It was my personal 30 day challenge. And it worked. What I found was that sticking with something past two weeks, got me past those initial hurdles. Those dips that sit just in front of where breakthroughs happen.
All I did was spend a little effort each day for 30 days. I would try to learn a new insight or try something small each day. Each day, it wasn't much. But over 30 days, it accumulated. And over 30 days, the little effort added up to a big victory.
Eventually, I realized why 30 Day Sprints work so well. You effectively stack things in your favor. By investing in something for a month, you can change how you approach things. It's a very different mindset when you are looking at your overall gain over 30 days versus worrying about whether today or tomorrow gave you immediate return on your time. By taking a longer term view, you give yourself more room to experiment and learn in the process.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The real power of 30 Day Sprints is that they help you take action. They help you get rid of all the excuses and all the distractions so you can start to achieve what you’re fully capable of.
When I first started using 30 Day Sprints for personal development, the novelty of doing something more than a day or a week or even two weeks, was enough to get tremendous value. But eventually, as I started to do more 30 Day Sprints, I wanted to get more out of them.
Here is what I learned:
Obviously, you have to find what works for you, but I've found these ideas to be especially helpful in getting more out of each 30 Day Sprint. Especially the part about focusing on the learning. I can't tell you how many times I got too focused on the results, and ended up missing the learning and the insights.
If you slow down, you speed up, because you connect the dots at a deeper level, and you take the time to really understand nuances that make the difference.
Keep things simple when you start. Just start. Pick something, and make it your 30 Day Sprint.
In fact, if you want to line your 30 Day Sprint up with the start of the month, then just start your 30 Day Sprint now and use it as a warm-up. Try stuff. Learn stuff. Get surprised. And then, at the start of next month, just start your 30 Day Sprint again.
If you really don't know how to get started, or want to follow a guided 30 Day Sprint, then try 30 Days of Getting Results. It's where I share my best lessons learned for personal productivity, time management, and work-life balance. It's a good baseline, because by mastering your productivity, time management, and work-life balance, you will make all of your future 30 Day Sprints more effective.
But it's really up to you. Pick something you've been either frustrated by, inspired by, or scared of, and dive in.
Whether you think of it as a 30 Day Challenge, a 30 Day Improvement Sprint, a Monthly Improvement Sprint, or just a 30 Day Sprint, the big idea is to do something small for 30 days.
If you want to go beyond the basics and learn everything you can about mastering personal productivity, then check out Agile Results, introduced in Getting Results the Agile Way.
Who knows what breakthroughs lie within?
May you surprise yourself profoundly.
“Let him who would move the world first move himself.” ― Socrates
At work, and in life, you need every edge you can get.
Personal development is a process of realizing and maximizing your potential.
It’s a way to become all that you’re capable of.
One of the most powerful books on personal development is Unlimited Power, by Tony Robbins. In Unlimited Power, Tony Robbins shares some of the most profound insights in personal development that world has ever known.
Through a deep dive into the world of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and Neuro-Associative Conditioning, Robbins shows you how to master you mind, master your body, master your emotional intelligence, and improve what you’re capable of in all aspects of your life. You can think of NLP as re-programming your mind, body, and emotions for success.
We’ve already been programmed by the shows we watch, the books we’ve read, the people in our lives, the beliefs we’ve formed. But a lot of this was unconscious. We were young and took things at face value, and jumped to conclusions about how the world works, who we are, and who we can be, or worse, who others think we should be.
NLP is a way to break way from limiting beliefs and to model the success of others with skill. You can effectively reverse engineer how other people get success and then model the behavior, the attitudes, and the actions that create that success. And you can do it better, faster, and easier, than you might imagine.
NLP is really a way to model what the most successful people think, say, and do.
I’ve created a landing page that is a round up and starting point to dive into some of the book nuggets from Unlimited Power:
Unlimited Power Book Nuggets at a Glance
On that page, I also provided very brief summaries of the core personal development insight so that you can get a quick sense of the big ideas.
A Book Nugget is simply what I call a mini-lesson or insight from a book that you can use to change what you think, feel, or do.
Unlimited Power is not an easy book to read, but it’s one of the most profound tombs of knowledge in terms of personal development insights.
If you want to skip the landing page and just jump into a few Unlimited Power Book Nuggets and take a few personal development insights for a spin, here you go:
5 Keys to Wealth and Happiness
5 Rules for Formulating Outcomes
5 Sources of Beliefs for Personal Excellence
7 Beliefs for Personal Excellence
7 Traits of Success
Create Your Ideal Day, the Tony Robbins Way
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
How To Change the Emotion of Any Experience to Empower You
How To Get Whatever You Want
Leadership for a Better World
Persuasion is the Most Important Skill You Can Develop
Realizing Your Potential is a Dynamic Process
Schotoma: Why You Can’t See What’s Right in Front of You
Seven Meta-Programs for Understanding People
The Difference Between Those Who Succeed and Those Who Fail
As you’ll quickly see, Unlimited Power remains one of the most profound sources of insight for realizing your potential and becoming all that you’re capable of.
It truly is the ultimate source of personal development in action.
If you remember the little blue monster that says, “Microsoft, change the world or go home.”, you know Hugh MacLeod.
Hugh is the creative director at Gaping Void. I got to meet Hugh, along with Jason Korman (CEO), and Jessica Higgins, last week to talk through some ideas.
Hugh uses cartoons as a snappy and insightful way to change the world. You can think of it as “Motivational Art for Smart People.”
One of Hugh’s latest creations is the Illustrated Guide to Life Insight Microsoft. It’s a set of cards you can flip, with a cartoon on the front, and a quote on the back. It’s truly insight at your fingertips.
I like them all … from “Microsoft is a ‘Get Stuff Done’ company” to “Software is the thing between the things”, but my favorite is:
“It’s more fun being the underdog.”
It’s a reminder how you can take the dog out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of the dog, and as long as you’re still in the game, and you are truly a learning company, and a company that continues to grow and evolve, you can change the world … your unique way.
Hugh is an observer and participant who inspires and prods people in the right direction …
Via Hugh MacLeod Connects the Dots:
“’Attaching art to business outcomes can articulate deep emotions and bring things to light fast,’ said MacLeod. To get there requires MacLeod immersing himself within a company, so he can look for what he calls ‘freaks of light’—epiphanies about a company that express the collected motivations of its people. ‘My cartoons make connections,’ said MacLeod. ‘I create work in an ambient way to tweak people in the right direction.’”
“He’s an observer and a participant, mingling temporarily within a culture to better understand it. He’s also a listener, taking your thoughts and combining them with his own to piece together the puzzle he is trying to solve about the human condition and business environment.”
Check out the Illustrated Guide to Life Inside Microsoft and some of the ideas just might surprise you, or, at least inspire and motivate you today – you smart person, you.
"A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Some say we’re in the Age of Insight. Others say insight is the new currency in the Digital Economy.
And still others say that insight is the backbone of innovation.
Either way, we use “insight” an awful lot without talking about what insight actually is.
So, what is insight?
I thought it was time to finally do a deeper dive on what insight actually is. Here is my elaboration of “insight” on Sources of Insight:
You can think of it as “insight explained.”
The simple way that I think of insight, or those “ah ha” moments, is by remembering a question Ward Cunningham uses a lot:
“What did you learn that you didn’t expect?” or “What surprised you?”
Ward uses these questions to reveal insights, rather than have somebody tell him a bunch of obvious or uneventful things he already knows. For example, if you ask somebody what they learned at their presentation training, they’ll tell you that they learned how to present more effectively, speak more confidently, and communicate their ideas better.
But if you instead ask them, “What did you learn that you didn’t expect?” they might actually reveal some insight and say something more like this:
“Even though we say don’t shoot the messenger all the time, you ARE the message.”
“If you win the heart, the mind follows.”
It’s the non-obvious stuff, that surprises you (at least at first). Or sometimes, insight strikes us as something that should have been obvious all along and becomes the new obvious, or the new normal.
Ward used this insights gathering technique to more effectively share software patterns. He wanted stories and insights from people, rather than descriptions of the obvious.
I’ve used it myself over the years and it really helps get to deeper truths. If you are a truth seeker or a lover of insights, you’ll enjoy how you can tease out more insights, just by changing your questions. For example, if you have kids, don’t ask, “How was your day?” Ask them, “What was the favorite part of your day?” or “What did you learn that surprised you?”
Wow, I now this is a short post, but I almost left without defining insight.
According to the dictionary, insight is “The capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.” Or you may see insight explained as inner sight, mental vision, or wisdom.
I like Edward de Bono’s simple description of insight as “Eureka moments.”
Some people count steps in their day. I count my “ah-ha” moments. After all, the most important ingredient of effective ideation and innovation is …yep, you guessed it – insight!
For a deeper dive on the power of insight, read my page on Insight explained, on Sources Of Insight.com
"At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world." -- Satya Nadella
We take productivity seriously at Microsoft. Ask any Softie. I never have a lack of things to do, or too much time in my day, and I can't ever make "too much" impact.
To be super productive, I've had to learn hard-core prioritization techniques, extreme energy management, stakeholder management, time management, and a wealth of productivity hacks to produce better, faster results.
We don’t learn these skills in school. But if we’re lucky, we learn from the right mentors and people all around us, how to bring out our best when we need it the most.
You can save years of pain for free:
30 Days of Getting Results Free eBook
There’s always a gap between books you read and what you do in the real world. I wanted to bridge this gap. I wanted 30 Days of Getting Results to be raw and real to help you learn what it really takes to master productivity and time management so you can survive and thrive with the best in the world.
It’s not pretty. It’s super effective.
I wrote 30 Days of Getting Results using a 30 Day Sprint. Each day for that 30 Day Sprint, I wrote down the best information I learned from the school of hard knocks about productivity, time management, work-life balance, and more.
For each day, I share a lesson, a story, and an exercise.
I wanted to make it easy to practice productivity habits.
The thing that’s really different about Agile Results as a time management system is that it’s focused on meaningful results. Time is treated as a first-class citizen so that you hit your meaningful windows of opportunity, and get fresh starts each day, each week, each month, each year. As a metaphor, you get to be the author of your life and write your story forward.
For years, I’ve received emails from people around the world how 30 Days of Getting Results was a breath of fresh air for them.
It helped them find their focus, get more productive, enjoy what they do, renew their energy, and spend more time in their strengths and their passions, while pursuing their purpose.
It’s helped doctors, teachers, students, lawyers, developers, grandmothers, and more.
You can use Agile Results to learn better, faster, and deeper because it helps you think better, feel better, and take better action.
You can use Agile Results to help you learn a new language, build new skills, learn an instrument, or whatever your heart desires.
I used the system to accidentally write a book in a month.
I didn’t set out to write a book. I set out to share the world’s best insight and action for productivity and time management. I wrote for 20 minutes each day, during that month, to share the best lessons and the best insights I could with one purpose:
Help everyone thrive in work and life.
Over the coming months, I had more and more people ask for a book version. As much as they liked the easy to flip through Web pages, they wanted to consume it as an eBook. So I turned 30 Days of Getting Results into a free eBook and made that available.
Here's the funny part:
I forgot I had done that.
One day, I was having a conversation with one of my readers, and they said that I should sell 30 Days of Getting Results as a $30 work book. They liked it much more than the book, Getting Results the Agile Way. They found it to be more actionable and easier to get started, and they liked that I used the system as a way to teach the system.
They said I should make the effort to put it together as a PDF and sell it as a workbook. He said people would want to pay for it because it’s high-value, real-world training, and he said it was better than any live training he had ever taken (and he had taken a lot.)
I got excited by the idea, and it made perfect sense. After all, wouldn’t people want to learn something that could impact every single day of their lives, and help them achieve more in work and life and help them adapt and compete more effectively in our ever-changing world?
I went to go put it together, and I had already done it.
When you’re super productive, it’s easy to forget some of the things you create because they so naturally flow from spending the right time, on the right things, with the right energy. You’ll naturally leave a trail of results from experimenting and learning.
Whether you want to be super productive, or do less, but accomplish more, check out the ultimate free productivity guide:
Share it with friends, family, colleagues, and whoever else you want to have an unfair advantage in our hyper-competitive world.
Lifting others up, lifts you up in the process.
If you have a personal story of how 30 Days of Getting Results has helped you in some way, feel free to share it with me. It’s always fun to hear how people are using Agile Results to take on new challenges, re-invent their productivity, and operate at a higher level.
Or simply get started again … like a fresh start, for the first time, full of new zest to be your best.
"Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who'll argue with you." -- John Wooden
There’s a very simple way to get smarter.
You can get smarter by creating categories.
Not only will you get smarter, but you’ll also be more mindful, and you’ll expand your vocabulary, which will improve your ability to think more deeply about a given topic or domain.
In my post, The More Distinctions You Make, the Smarter You Get, I walk through the ins and outs of creating categories to increase your intelligence, and I use the example of “fat.” I attempt to show how “Fat is bad” isn’t very insightful, and how by breaking “fat” down into categories, you can dive deeper and reveal new insight to drive better decisions and better outcomes.
I’m this post, I’m going to walk this through with an example, using “security” as the topic.
The first time I heard the word “security”, it didn’t mean much to me, beyond “protect.”
The next thing somebody taught me, was how I had to focus on CIA: Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability.
That was a simple way to break security down into meaningful parts.
And then along came Defense in Depth. A colleague explained that Defense in Depth meant thinking about security in terms of multiple layers: Network, Host, Application, and Data.
But then another colleague said, the real key to thinking about security and Defense in Depth, was to think about it in terms of people, process, and technology.
As much as I enjoyed these thought exercises, I didn’t find them actionable enough to actually improve software or application security. And my job was to help Enterprise developers build better Line-Of-Business applications that were scalable and secure.
So our team went to the drawing board to map out actionable categories to take application security much deeper.
Right off the bat, just focusing on “application” security vs. “network” security or “host” security, helped us to get more specific and make security more tangible and more actionable from an Line-of-Business application perspective.
Here are the original security categories that we used to map out application security and make it more actionable:
Each of these buckets helped us create actionable principles, patterns, and practices for improving security.
Here is a brief description of each application security category:
Input and Data Validation How do you know that the input your application receives is valid and safe? Input validation refers to how your application filters, scrubs, or rejects input before additional processing. Consider constraining input through entry points and encoding output through exit points. Do you trust data from sources such as databases and file shares?
Authentication Who are you? Authentication is the process where an entity proves the identity of another entity, typically through credentials, such as a user name and password.
Authorization What can you do? Authorization is how your application provides access controls for resources and operations.
Configuration Management Who does your application run as? Which databases does it connect to? How is your application administered? How are these settings secured? Configuration management refers to how your application handles these operational issues.
Sensitive Data How does your application handle sensitive data? Sensitive data refers to how your application handles any data that must be protected either in memory, over the network, or in persistent stores.
Session Management How does your application handle and protect user sessions? A session refers to a series of related interactions between a user and your Web application.
Cryptography How are you keeping secrets (confidentiality)? How are you tamper-proofing your data or libraries (integrity)? How are you providing seeds for random values that must be cryptographically strong? Cryptography refers to how your application enforces confidentiality and integrity.
Exception Management When a method call in your application fails, what does your application do? How much do you reveal? Do you return friendly error information to end users? Do you pass valuable exception information back to the caller? Does your application fail gracefully?
Auditing and Logging Who did what and when? Auditing and logging refer to how your application records security-related events.
As you can see, just by calling out these different categories, you suddenly have a way to dive much deeper and explore application security in depth.
Let’s use a quick example. Let’s take Input Validation.
Input Validation is a powerful security category, given how many software security flaws and how many vulnerabilities and how many attacks all stem from a lack of input validation, including Buffer Overflows.
But here’s the interesting thing. After quite a bit of research and testing, we found a powerful security pattern that could help more applications stand up to more security attacks. It boiled down to the following principle:
Validate for length, range, format, and type.
That’s a pithy, but powerful piece of insight when it comes to implementing software security.
And, when you can’t validate the input, make it safe by sanitizing the output. And along these lines, keep user input out of the control path, where possible.
All of these insights flow from just focusing on Input Validation as a security category.
Another distinction our team made was to think in terms of threats, attacks, vulnerabilities, and countermeasures. We knew that threats could be intentional and malicious (as in the case of attacks), but they could also be accidental and unintended.
We wanted to identify vulnerabilities as weaknesses that could be addressed in some way.
We wanted to identify countermeasures as the actions to take to help mitigate risks, reduce the attack surface, and address vulnerabilities.
Just by chunking up the application security landscape into threats, attacks, vulnerabilities, and countermeasures, we empowered more people to think more deeply about the application security space.
Using the security categories above, we could easily focus on finding security vulnerabilities and group them by the relevant security category.
Here are some examples:
Auditing and Logging
Again, using our security categories, we could then group threats and attacks by relevant security categories.
Here are some examples of security threats and attacks organized by security categories:
Now here is where the rubber really meets the road. We could group security countermeasures by security categories to make them more actionable.
Here are example security countermeasures organized by security categories:
As you can see, the security countermeasures can easily be reviewed, updated, and moved forward, because the actionable principles are well organized by the security categories.
There are many ways to use creating categories as a way to get smarter and get better results.
In the future, I’ll walk through how we created an Agile Security approach, using categories.
Meanwhile, check out my post on The More Distinctions You Make, the Smarter You Get to gain some additional insights into how to use empathy and creating categories to dive deeper, learn faster, and get smarter on any topic you want to take on.
"Innovation—the heart of the knowledge economy—is fundamentally social." -- Malcolm Gladwell
I’m a big believer in having clarity around what you help your customers do.
I was listening to Satya Nadella’s keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, and I like how he put it so simply, that we help our customers transform.
Here’s what Satya had to say about how we help our customers transform their business:
“These may seem like technical attributes, but they are key to how we drive business success for our customers, business transformation for our customers, because all of what we do, collectively, is centered on this core goal of ours, which is to help our customers transform.
When you think about any customer of ours, they're being transformed through the power of digital technology, and in particular software.
There isn't a company out there that isn't a software company.
And our goal is to help them differentiate using digital technology.
We want to democratize the use of digital technology to drive core differentiation.
It's no longer just about helping them operate their business.
It is about them excelling at their business using software, using digital technology.
It is about our collective ability to drive agility for our customers.
Because if there is one truth that we are all faced with, and our customers are faced with, it's that things are changing rapidly, and they need to be able to adjust to that.
And so everything we do has to support that goal.
How do they move faster, how do they interpret data quicker, how are they taking advantage of that to take intelligent action.
And of course, cost.
But we'll keep coming back to this theme of business transformation throughout this keynote and throughout WPC, because that's where I want us to center in on.
What's the value we are adding to the core of our customer and their ability to compete, their ability to create innovation.
And anchored on that goal is our technical ambition, is our product ambition.”
Transformation is the name of the game.
Satya Nadella is All About Customer Focus
SatyaSatya Nadella on a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World
Satya Nadella on Empower Every Person on the Planet
Satya Nadella on Everyone Has To Be a Leader
Satya Nadella on How the Key To Longevity is To Be a Learning Organization
Satya Nadella on Live and Work a Meaningful Life
Sayta Nadelle on The Future of Software
You hear Mobile-First, Cloud-First all the time.
But do you ever hear it really explained?
I was listening to Satya Nadella’s keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, and I like how he walked through how he thinks about a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.
Here’s what Satya had to say:
“There are a couple of attributes.
When we talk about Mobile-First, we are talking about the mobility of the experience.
What do we mean by that?
As we look out, the computing that we are going to interface with, in our lives, at home and at work, is going to be ubiquitous.
We are going to have sensors that recognize us.
We are going to have computers that we are going to wear on us.
We are going to have computers that we touch, computers that we talk to, the computers that we interact with as holograms.
There is going to be computing everywhere.
But what we need across all of this computing, is our experiences, our applications, our data.
And what enables that is in fact the cloud acting as a control plane that allows us to have that capability to move from device to device, on any given day, at any given meeting.
So that core attribute of thinking of mobility, not by being bound to a particular device, but it's about human mobility, is very core to our vision.
Second, when we think about our cloud, we think distributed computing will remain distributed.
In fact, we think of our servers as the edge of our cloud.
And this is important, because there are going to be many legitimate reasons where people will want digital sovereignty, people will want data residency, there is going to be regulation that we can't anticipate today.
And so we have to think about a distributed cloud infrastructure.
We are definitely going to be one of the key hyper-scale providers.
But we are also going to think about how do we get computing infrastructure, the core compute, storage, network, to be distributed throughout the world.
These may seem like technical attributes, but they are key to how we drive business success for our customers, business transformation for our customers, because all of what we do, collectively, is centered on this core goal of ours, which is to help our customers transform.”
That’s a lot of insight, and very well framed for creating our future and empowering the world.
Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story
It’s great to get back to the basics, and purpose is always a powerful starting point.
I was listening to Satya Nadella’s keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, and I like how he walked through the Microsoft mission in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.
“Our mission: Empowering every person and every business on the planet to achieve more.
(We find that by going back into our history and re-discovering that core sense of purpose, that soul ... a PC in every home, democratizing client/server computing.)
We move forward to a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.
We care about empowerment.
There is no other ecosystem that is primarily, and solely, built to help customers achieve greatness.
We are focused on helping our customers achieve greatness through digital technology.
We care about both individuals and organizations. That intersection of people and organizations is the cornerstone of what we represent as excellence.
We are a global company. We want to make sure that the power of technology reaches every country, every vertical, every organization, irrespective of size.
There will be many goals.
What remains constant is this sense of purpose, the reason why this ecosystem exists.
This is a mission that we go and exercise in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.”
If I think back to why I originally joined Microsoft, it was to empower every person on the planet to achieve more.
And the cloud is one powerful enabler.
A while back, a colleague challenged me to find something simple and sticky for the big idea behind Sources of Insight. After trying several phrases, here’s the one that stuck:
Skilled for Life
He liked it because it had punch. It also had a play on words, and you could read it two different ways.
I like it because it captured the big idea behind Sources of Insight. The whole purpose behind the site is to help as many people improve the quality of their life as possible.
I’ve found that skills can make or break somebody’s chance for success. And, I don’t just mean from a career perspective. To be effective in all areas of our life, we need skills across several domains:
Skilled for Life is meant to be a very simple phrase, with a very intentional outcome:
Equip you with the skills you need to survive and thrive in today’s world.
It’s all about personal empowerment.
Not everybody gets the right mentors, or the right training, or the right breaks. So Sources of Insight is designed from the ground up to be your personal success library that helps you make your own breaks, create your opportunities, and own your destiny.
By sharing the world’s best insight and action for work and life. By providing you with very real skills for mastering emotional intelligence, intellectual horsepower, creative brilliance, interpersonal relationships, career growth, health, and happiness (yeah, happiness is a skill you can learn). And by providing you with principles, patterns, and practices for a smarter, more creative, and more capable you.
To give you one simple example of how happiness is a skill, let me tell you about the three paths of happiness according to Dr. Martin Seligman:
You can think of them like this: The Pleasant Life is all about pleasures, here and now. The Good Life is about spending more time in your values. The Meaningful Life is about fulfillment by helping the greater good, using your unique skills. It’s giving our best where we have our best to give, and moving up Maslow’s stack.
When you know the three paths of happiness, you can more effectively build your happiness muscles. For example, you can Discover Your Values, so that you can spend more time in them, and live life on your terms.
That’s just one example of how you can improve your self-efficacy with skill.
There is a vast success library of everything from inspirational quotes to inspirational heroes, as well as principles, patterns, and practices for skills to pay the bills and lead a better life. Sources of Insight is a dojo of personal development, and your jump start for realizing your potential.
I invite you to check out the following page on Sources of Insight, where I share what Skilled for Life is all about:
Skills empower you.
“If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together” – African Proverb
I blew the dust off some olds posts to rekindle some of the most important information for work and life.
It’s about dealing with people you can’t stand.
Whether you think of them as jerks, bullies, or just difficult people, the better you can deal with difficult people, the better you can get things done and make things happen.
And the more you learn how to bring out the best, in people at their worst, the less you’ll find people you can’t stand.
Everything I needed to learn about dealing with difficult people, I learned from the book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.
It’s one of the most brilliant, thoughtful books I’ve ever read on interpersonal skills and dealing with all sorts of bad behaviors.
The real key to dealing with difficult behavior is more than just recognizing bad behaviors in other people.
It’s recognizing bad behaviors in yourself, the kind that contribute to and amplify other people’s bad behaviors.
The more you know, the more you grow, and this is truly one of those transformational books.
I’ve completely re-written my pot that provides an overview of the big ideas in Dealing with People You Can’t Stand:
Dealing with People You Can’t Stand
Even better, I’ve re-written all of my posts that talk through the 10 Types of Difficult People, and what to do about them.
I have to warn you: Once you learn the 10 Types of Difficult People, you’ll be using the labels to classify bad behaviors that you experience in the halls, in meetings, behind your back, etc.
With that in mind, here they are …
Here are the 10 Types of Difficult People at a glance:
I warned you. Are you already thinking about some Snipers in a few meetings that you have, or is there a Yes Person driving you nuts (or are you that Yes Person?)
Have you talked to a Think-They-Know-It-All lately, or worse, a Know-It—All?
Never fear, I’ve included actionable insights and recommendations for dealing with all the various bad behaviors you’ll encounter.
If all this talk about dealing with difficult people, and having silly labels seems like a gimmick, it’s not. It’s actually deep insight rooted in a powerful, but simple framework that Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner refer to as the Lens of Human Understanding:
The Lens of Human Understanding
Once I learned The Lens of Human Understanding, so many things fell into place.
Not only did I understand myself better, but I could instantly see what was driving other people, and how my behavior would either create more conflict or resolve it.
But when you don’t know what makes people tick, it’s very easy to get ticked off, or to tick them off.
Here’s looking at you … and other people … and their behaviors … in a brand new way.
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The Great Leadership Quotes Collection
I know several people looking for inspiration.
I believe the right words ignite or re-ignite us.
There is no better way to prime your mind for great things to come than filling your head and hear with the greatest inspirational quotes that the world has ever known.
Of course, the challenge is finding the best inspirational quotes to draw from.
Well, here you go …
I revamped a few of my best inspirational quotes collections to really put the gems of insight at your fingertips:
Each of these inspirational quotes collection is hand-crafted with deep words of wisdom, insight, and action.
You'll find inspirational quotes from Charles Dickens, Confucius, Dr. Seuss, George Bernard Shaw, Henry David Thoreau, Horace, Lao Tzu, Lewis Carroll, Mahatma Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, Oscar Wilde, Paulo Coelho, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Stephen King, Tony Robbins, and more.
You'll even find an inspirational quote from The Wizard of Oz (and it’s not “There’s no place like home.”)
Here are a few of my favorites inspirational quotes to get you started:
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”
— Mary Anne Radmacher
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
— Dr. Seuss
“It is not length of life, but depth of life.”
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by every moment that takes your breath away.”
“You live but once; you might as well be amusing.”
— Coco Chanel
“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”
— George Eliot
“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
These inspirational quotes are living breathing collections. I periodically sweep them to reflect new additions, and I re-organize or re-style the quotes if I find a better way.
I invest a lot of time on quotes because I’ve learned the following simple truth:
Quotes change lives.
The right words, at the right time, can be just that little bit you need, to breakthrough or get unstuck, or find your mojo again.
Have you had your dose of inspiration today?
"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." -- John C. Maxwell
How many people do you know that talk a good talk, but don’t walk the walk?
Or, how many people do you know have a bunch of ideas that you know will never see the light of day? They can pontificate all day long, but the idea of turning those ideas into work that could be done, is foreign to them.
Or, how many people do you know can plan all day long, but their plan is nothing more than a list of things that will never happen? Worse, maybe they turn it into a team sport, and everybody participates in the planning process of all the outcomes, ideas and work that will never happen. (And, who exactly wants to be accountable for that?)
It doesn’t need to be this way.
A lot of people have Hidden Strengths they can develop into Learned Strengths. And one of the most important bucket of strengths is Leading Implementation.
Leading Implementation is a set of leadership skills for making things happen.
It includes the following leadership skills:
Let’s say you want to work on these leadership skills. The first thing you need to know is that these are not elusive skills reserved exclusively for the elite.
No, these are commonly Hidden Strengths that you and others around you already have, and they just need to be developed.
If you don’t think you are good at any of these, then before you rule yourself out, and scratch them off your list, you need to ask yourself some key reflective questions:
I’ve seen far too many starving artists and unproductive artists, as well as mad scientists, that had brilliant ideas that they couldn’t turn into reality. While some were lucky to pair with the right partners and bring their ideas to live, I’ve actually seen another pattern of productive artists.
They develop some of the basic leadership skills in themselves to improve their ability to execute.
Not only are they more effective on the job, but they are happier with their ability to express their ideas and turn their ideas into action.
Even better, when they partner with somebody who has strong execution, they amplify their impact even more because they have a better understanding and appreciation of what it takes to execute ideas.
Like talk, ideas are cheap.
The market rewards execution.
“Startups don't win by attacking. They win by transcending. There are exceptions of course, but usually the way to win is to race ahead, not to stop and fight.” -- Paul Graham
A startup is the largest group of people you can convince to build a different future.
Whether you launch a startup inside a big company or launch a startup as a new entity, there are a few things that determine the strength of the startup: a sense of mission, space to think, new thinking, and the ability to do work.
The more clarity you have around Startup Thinking, the more effective you can be whether you are starting startups inside our outside of a big company.
In the book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel shares his thoughts about Startup Thinking.
It’s the mission. A startup has an advantage when there is a sense of mission that everybody lives and breathes. The mission shapes the attitudes and the actions that drive towards meaningful outcomes.
Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:
“New technology tends to come from new ventures--startups. From the Founding Fathers in politics to the Royal Society in science to Fairchild Semiconductor's ‘traitorous eight’ in business, small groups of people bound together by a sense of mission have changed the world for the better. The easiest explanation for this is negative: it's hard to develop new things in big organizations, and it's even harder to do it by yourself. Bureaucratic hierarchies move slowly, and entrenched interests shy away from risk.”
One strength of a startup is the ability to actually do work. With other people. Rather than just talk about it, plan for it, and signal about it, a startup can actually make things happen.
“In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now). At the other extreme, a lone genius might create a classic work of art or literature, but he could never create an entire industry. Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can.”
The strength of a startup is new thinking. New thinking is even more valuable than agility. Startups provide the space to think.
“Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company's most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think. This book is about the questions you must ask and answer to succeed in the business of doing new things: what follows is not a manual or a record of knowledge but an exercise in thinking. Because that is what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch.”
Do you have stinking thinking or do you beautiful mind?
New thinking will take you places.
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“Remember this: Anticipation is the ultimate power. Losers react; leaders anticipate.” – Tony Robbins
Have you ever noticed how some leaders have a knack for "the art of the possible" and for making it relevant to the current landscape?
They are Visionary Leaders and they practice Visionary Leadership.
Visionary Leaders inspire us and show us how we can change the world, at least our slice of it, and create the change we want to be.
Visionary Leaders see things early and they connect the dots.
Visionary Leaders luck their way into the future. They practice looking ahead for what's pertinent and what's probable.
Visionary Leaders also practice telling stories. They tell stories of the future and how all the dots connect in a meaningful way.
And they put those stories of the future into context. They don't tell disjointed stories, or focus on flavor-of-the-month fads. That's what Trend Hoppers do.
Instead, Visionary Leaders focus on meaningful trends and insights that will play a role in shaping the future in a relevant way.
Visionary leaders tell us compelling stories of the future in a way that motivates us to take action and to make the most of what's coming our way.
Historians, on the other hand, tell us compelling stories of the past.
They excite us with stories about how we've "been there, and done that."
By contrast, Visionary Leaders win our hearts and minds with "the art of the possible" and inspire us to co-create the future, and to use future insights to own our destiny.
And Followers, well, they follow.
Not because they don't see some things coming. But because they don't see things early enough, and they don't turn what they see into well-developed stories with coherence.
If you want to build your capacity for vision and develop your skills as a Visionary Leader, start to pay attention to signs of the future and connect the dots in a meaningful way.
With great practice, comes great progress, and progressing even a little in Visionary Leadership can make a world of difference for you and those around you.
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