CIO: Why happiness beats money when choosing a tech career

Some of the best career advice I’ve ever gotten was to sit down and really think about what things you’ve done or experienced in your career that really made you happy. Things you enjoyed doing and were proud of. Write them down. Formulate a plan to pursue more things like those.

So often you start a career listening to the “should’s” of parents or aiming at what pays well. You may even be fortunate enough to know what you want to do and get to pursue your passion from the beginning. But invariably, I think most intelligent and self-aware people reach a few different points during a career where they look around and have to consider, “Wow, I’ve arrived, but is this really like what I thought it was going to be like?”.

In this piece at, the author provides some great questions to ask early in your career, and when you find yourself at one of the question points later:

Figure out what you like doing and what you hate doing early on
Figure out what size and kind of company you want to work for
Do you want to be a CEO?

After gaining some experience, thinking about what you hate (or conversely love doing), how the size of the company you work for impacts that, and what your life will be like when you reach the job you strive for (the CEO question), can really illuminate your path forward.


Adm. William H. McRaven: Life Lessons From Navy SEAL Training


When it comes to leadership, the US Special Operations Command is probably about as good as it gets. I had the privilege to see Gen. Stanley McChrystal speak once and was impressed not only by what he had to say, but also in how both practical and nuanced his points were.

This WSJ piece includes Adm. William McRaven’s recent commencement address at the University of Texas. Now as an Aggie, I won’t comment on the UT elements of his remarks but the lessons from SEAL training are worth hearing—summarized in his conclusion below (Source):

It will not be easy. But start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here will indeed have changed the world, for the better.

Now I’m off to go make my bed.

Theodore Roosevelt sets a high bar for slacker America

I enjoyed this article about how productive (one of my personal heroes) Theodore Roosevelt was in a time before modern technology. (Source)

We live in an age of great distraction. Everything from Facebook and email to video games and binge TV watching can give us the sense we have done something useful with our time when, in fact, we have merely wasted a lot of days we will never get back. Many young American men, the slacker generation, would benefit from adopting Roosevelt’s “strenuous life” as a model of manhood, but it is not just a boy problem. Most of us have a slacker inside. We could do worse than to strive for the energy, disciplined time management and moral core that made Roosevelt a man worthy of a place on Mount Rushmore.

What better inspiration than that to get this blog moving again.

Tim Cook, Apple CEO, Auburn University Commencement Speech 2010

From this Fast Company article… (Source)

But even if you can’t plan, you can prepare. A great batter doesn’t know when the high-hanging curve ball is going to come, but he knows it will. And he can prepare for what he will do when he gets it. Too often people think about intuition as the same as relying on luck or faith. At least as I see it, nothing could be further from the truth. Intuition can tell you that of the doors that are open to you, which one you should walk through. But intuition cannot prepare you for what’s on the other side of that door. Along these lines a quote that has always resonated with me is one by Abraham Lincoln. He said “I will prepare, and some day my chance will come.” I have always believed this.

InformationWeek: How To Interview For VP: Expert Advice

From this InformationWeek article… (Source)

Candidates must sell themselves. I look for energy, structure in the answers, subtle efforts to influence, and the ability to lead. If a candidate can’t sell me, then how could he or she ever sell a new program to the business or a change in technical direction to the technical staff? Convincing people, often with incomplete information or unknown motives, is a fundamental role of an IT VP.

Having a plan for what you will do during the first six months is a critical differentiator. Don’t talk about goals without an accompanying plan. Don’t be concerned that the plan isn’t perfect.

HBR: The Only Way to Get Important Things Done

Great Harvard Business Review article—I love the rituals he highlights… (Source)

Abiding by a specific bedtime to ensure that I get 8 hours of sleep. Nothing is more critical to the way I feel every day. If I’m flying somewhere and know I’ll arrive too late to get my 8 hours, I make it a priority to make up the hours I need on the plane.

Work out as soon as I wake up. I’ve long since learned it has a huge impact all day long on how I feel, even if I don’t initially feel like doing it.

Launching my work day by focusing first on whatever I’ve decided the night before is the most important activity I can do that day. Then taking a break after 90 minutes to refuel. Today — which happens to be a Sunday — this blog was my priority. My break was playing tennis for an hour. During the week it might be just to breathe for five minutes, or get something to eat.

Immediately writing down on a list any idea or task that occurs to me over the course of the day. Once it’s on paper, it means I don’t walk around feeling preoccupied by it — or risk forgetting it.

Asking myself the following question any time I feel triggered by someone or something,: “What’s the story I’m telling myself here and how could I tell a more hopeful and empowering story about this same set of facts?”