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The Joy of Exploding Kittens

The chance to praise an enjoyable family card game also gives me an excuse to test the Medium and Amazon Associates plugins I’ve just set up. And what could be a better test than the joy of Exploding Kittens?

For those of you not familiar with famed  web comic The Oatmeal, and creator Matthew Inman, I should probably explain what I’m talking about before you suspect me of animal cruelty. As my son did when I first queued to buy the game at Christmas.

I should point out that after a substantial pre-teen level sulk, he not only enjoyed playing the game but proclaimed it one of the best ever.

Exploding Kittens

As you can tell, Exploding Kittens is a card game for people into kittens, explosions and a certain sense of humour. In that they possess one, in my personal opinion.

I’d say it took a little longer than two minutes to learn how to play. Mainly because I was the only one of three generations in my family to actually read the instructions and attempt to understand them. But no matter how much older relatives try to ignore the actual rules, preferring whatever they’ve made up in their head, you’ll have it pretty much nailed by the time you’ve played a game.

Like all the best games, Exploding Kittens is simple. You have a hand of cards. You play whatever cards you want. And then you take a card at the end of your turn, which may result in an exploding kitten taking you out of the game.

There’s also the chance to irritate other players by using cards to stop them doing what they intend, or by simply using the game to target them again and again.

Obviously I enjoyed both the irritation and being able to constantly target my father in every game we played.

The joy of Exploding Kittens was that it was incredibly simple to get started, the humour worked across a 60-year age gap, and it proved that children will enjoy ‘traditional’ entertainment as much as ‘digital’ fun as long as it’s good.

Compared the price, complexity and frustration of Star Wars Risk, which we also tried playing,  I don’t think I’m overselling it as a joy to play.

Before you rush to buy a copy, I should make clear there’s a child-friendly standard version, and an adult sweary NSFW version, so make sure you get the right one. There’s also an expansion pack out now (Imploding Kittens), which I’m eager to try as it includes a wearable ‘cone of shame’ which is part of the game.

If all goes to plan, there should be a handy Amazon link below for the standard version.

It’s an affiliate link, which means you don’t pay more, but I potentially earn a small commission if you buy something. Which I can then put towards buying the expansion pack.

And it also means that the official Amazon Associates WordPress plugin is working properly, which is good news as it makes linking and managing that content much easier. I definitely recommend it so far, alongside Skimlinks.

It’ll also be interesting to see whether it works when the post is auto-cross posted to Medium.

Here goes, and let’s hope no kittens explode in the process…

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Changing My Habits and Finding Which Methods Worked

Looking for a list of quick and simple ways to adopt good habits in life which is guaranteed to work?

Sorry, me too.

But there are some methods for improving your habits and lifestyle which have been well researched. For instance, the famous Marshmallow test which is one example of how being able to delay gratification for a bigger reward tends to pay off.

Or how about tackling the biggest, hardest tasks at the start of the day, when you’ve got the biggest reserves of willpower. And doing what you can to avoid using your brain power on things which don’t matter? Examples include wearing similar outfits everyday to avoid expending though on choosing an outfit (e.g. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama etc).

I’ve certainly found some success in adopting a simple rule for cutting down on junk food and snacks. I don’t buy them.

If it’s in the house, then it takes conscious effort to not eat it when I’m tempted. If it involves a trip to the shop, then the times I either allow myself to inhale a tub of Ben and Jerrys in one sitting, or I’m tired and fed up enough to drive to a KFC are a lot less often. And it also means that for most things, I can force myself to walk to the shop and at least get some exercise on the way.

But I wanted to introduce some more good habits, and had the opportunity to test three methods to see which were personally more effective. Obviously your results may differ depending on your personality, lifestyle and experiences.

 

Changing My Habits: Willpower Alone:

When I was younger, I’d read books voraciously. It’s a good habit I inherited from my parents and my maternal grandmother, and led to my love of language, writing, and career.

But it’s slipped a lot over the years. Spending all day reading on a variety of screens for work and pleasure, and having limited spare time would mean I’d find it hard to be enthusiastic about opening a printed book at the end of the day.

I don’t agree that the internet and social media have destroyed the ability to concentrate. I’m as likely to be distracted from work by a good 60 minute video or a lengthy article as a short one. But the odds are that it’s followed by sharing the article and jumping right back into another work task. Not taking any time to digest what I’ve watched or ridden.

So I wanted to reintroduce nightly reading, ordered some books, and tried to introduce 30 minutes or more of time spent enjoying the printed word.

Play Money by Julian Dibbell

So I recently ordered a few books from Amazon that I’d always meant to read. The advantage of older books is that most are pretty cheap now. I also rediscovered my copy of Cryptonomicon, and a cheap copy of The Dogs of Riga in a charity shop.

Results?
Mixed, to be honest. I’ve finished 2 of the books from the unread pile in around a month. And restarted Cryptonomicon this week.

But I haven’t seen any noticeable improvement in my ability to concentrate or my sleeping habits. Partly because my commitment has been patchy at best. Some nights I’m skipping reading because I finish work late, or I have other things to do. And when I do read, I occasionally get engrossed and go way over time, which then means I’m tired the next day.

But overall, I’m reasonably happy with progress. I’ve got almost 50% through my target list in a month, and I’m becoming more committed as time goes by. Plus I might not necessarily be able to concentrate harder (difficult to prove without testing), but I do feel like I’m starting to come up with more ideas and links between topics than I have for a while.

The caveat is that I’m someone who has always loved reading, so it’s not necessarily going to be as successful with something tougher. I think my willpower only attempts would struggle a lot more with cutting down on caffeine, or grouting the tiles in the bathroom. As the next example proves…

So I’d give this a 5 or 6 out of 10.

 

Changing My Habits: Public Validation:

I rarely join in viral Facebook memes. But when #22pushups was going around earlier this year and someone nominated me, I decided to give it a go. Partly because raising awareness of the struggles people face with PTSD and mental illness was a good cause. And also to see what happened when I not only made a public pledge to exercise every day, but had to also video myself and share it.

22PushupsFacebookGrab

The video element was a big part. It’s too easy to fake data logging or a few photos. And it also meant I had to involve a 3rd party cameraman most of the time. And my son provided a particularly enthusiastic bit of encouragement, as well as turning every video into some kind of dating advert.

Results?

Well, I’m still single.

The actual challenge went well. I think I missed  1 or 2 days, which I made up for straight away the next day. And even kept the run going when I was traveling for work conferences. Including when slightly hung over the next day.

And I could feel the difference from barely managing 22 pushups, to being able to do more than double that. At the local park, I even started doing chin ups on the play equipment for probably the first time in my life. For fun.

But…

I thought 22 days would be long enough to establish a good habit I could build on. But since the impetus to video my exercise ended and I don’t have family and friends prompting me, it pretty much went out the window. It’s too easy to blame work, or having other things to do.

The simple fact is that I wasn’t motivated enough to keep going without some kind of external impetus, and I reverted to being lazy.

So the end result is probably a 2/10 if I’m honest.

(But I do have a plan to counter this, as I’m registering a private Instagram account to start posting daily live videos of my fitness efforts. It’s private because I’m not intending to be a fitness guru, and my only having friends and family watch, I should be comfortable enough to look like an idiot on a regular basis without too much shame).

 

Changing My Habits: App Notifications:

The last habit I wanted to introduce was learning a language. Having some history of Alzheimer’s in my family and also seeing various research on the benefits of foreign languages, I had a quick look around for quick, free apps to try out.

Having downloaded Duolingo, I had to pick a language. Rather than refreshing my schoolboy French or German, I went with Swedish. Seeing as I spent 13 years in a relationship with a Swede, it seemed silly that I’d picked up random phrases and words over the years but never buckled down and acquired enough Svenska to have a proper conversation.

Duolingo Mobile App Swedish Screen

Jag måste lära mer svenska, I thought. So the mobile app takes you through some word matching with images and translations. You also have to transcribe audio clips or translate them yourself, or use a drag-and-drop approach with a selection of words.

There’s a desktop version as well, but the advantage of the mobile app is that my phone is always on and with me. So I can’t escape by powering down my laptop before I remember my daily lesson.

And I also get an email and notification reminder as a preset time. I’d originally set it for the end of the day, but now having it mid-evening so I still have some motivation reserves left.

Best of all, hitting my standard level target takes 5-10 minutes. So it’s something I can do quickly and easily without fearing a massive commitment.

Results?

I’ve missed a couple of days, but made it up in the next 24 hours. The rest of the time I’ve managed daily progress for about a month.

It’s a fairly low commitment, so I haven’t exactly mastered Swedish yet. But I’ve accumulated more than 220 words, passed the first checkpoint, and gone back and kept up my previous lesson strength (Each lesson prompts you with a reminder after a set amount of time to go back and refresh your weakest words/phrases).

But I’m definitely picking up and remembering more words and phrases (I still get Hon and Han confused occasionally), and I’ll be interested the next time I watch a subtitled Swedish film or crime drama to see whether it’s helped.

So I think the combo of easy use and notifications (plus a very tiny amount of gamification with scores etc), has definitely proved successful. So I’ll give it an 8/10 so far.

Changing Habits: My Conclusion:

So if you’re a person with strong willpower or have enough motivation, it’s easy to change a habit. Just do it.

In the case of reading, I do log my progress on Goodreads, but it involves an effort to visit the site etc, so I don’t really count it as motivation at the moment.

When it comes to public validation, it definitely works. Until you stop sharing.

The problem is that some of my friends were certainly uninterested in seeing me do pushups. But I think a private distribution list may work OK – will see how it goes.

And something which includes a bit of gamification with regular prompts and notifications definitely works for me.

Exercise takes more physical effort than the other two habits, but I tend to be mentally tired rather than physically due to my work and lifestyle. And having an encouraging/nagging email and prompt has stopped me skipping days I might have dodged.

The next step will be finding if there’s a solution for reading and fitness which will combine the things which worked best so far, and then seeing what else I can…

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Inspiration to Keep Pushing

Tony Hawk is a skateboarding legend. He started skating professionally at the age of 14, and has since become probably the most famous skater of all-time, particularly after featuring in a series of video games.

In 1999, he made history by landing the first ever ‘900’ at the X Games in San Francisco, which involves spinning around two-and-a-half times before landing successfully.

And having repeated it in 2011 at the age of 43, he’s now released a video of what may be the final time he ever completes the trick at the age of 48.

And this weekend, I’m going to show my son the video to share the most important lesson from it.

The video has obviously been edited down, but even so, I counted 7 falls before Tony Hawk successfully completes the trick.

That’s a 48-year-old, wealthy, legend throwing himself down a vert ramp. And doing it again, and again.

He’s not doing it as part of a promotion, or for a competition. And the seven failed attempts aren’t hidden from public view.

He’s overcoming the challenge despite failing several times because he wants to achieve something. And that’s the lesson. Sometimes we all need inspiration to keep pushing. Despite previous failures. Because we need to achieve something for ourselves.

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Are Vloggers Growing Up and Facing the Creative Economy?

A lot of people in my online networks have been sharing a popular article on Fusion, ‘Get Rich or Die Vlogging‘ by Gaby Dunn – one half of Youtube comedy duo Just Between Us who have amassed more than 500,000 subscribers. It’s worth taking a look at the full article, but the summary is that it turns out you can have potentially millions of followers on Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat or any other social network, and still be struggling financially.

Vloggers_Gowing_Up_In_Creative_Economy

This is apparently a shocking revelation – ‘Why would someone with 90,000 Instagram followers be serving brunch?’

Without being patronising, it’s a familiar tale to anyone familiar with creativity beyond the last handful of years. Ask the likes of Hugh McLeod, Austin Kleon, or Mason Curry.

Probably the most ignored fact about any creative or artistic endeavour is that even many of the famous names we’re familiar with either struggled financially or died penniless. The most famous composers were either poor, such as Elgar, or managed to live beyond their means and get into huge debts. Or take painters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gaugin and Van Gogh. Penniless writers include the likes of Herman Melville and Oscar Wilde.

In some cases, it was due to talent being discovered only after the artist had passed away. But it was as often due to the instability of earning a living from creativity and terrible business acumen and decisions. Unfortunately Gaby dismisses the ‘starving artist vs sell-out’ paradigm as ‘thankfully, Van Gogh didn’t have to shill for Audible.com to pissed-off fans of his art‘. Luckily he only had poverty, mental illness, self-mutilation and suicide.

Vloggers_Gowing_Up_In_Creative_Economy_Money

Then came the broadcast media of the 20th Century. And yet creative people known around the globe could still be financially destitute. Actors and actresses, musicians, sports stars – they were all capable of fame without fortune.

And then came the internet. Many bloggers started with hopes of full-time self-employment at their laptop only to realise that actually it’s as tough to be successful as ever – increased accessibility not only means more competition, but more advertising inventory and lower payments.

 

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you will:

The open ability for anyone to publish articles, videos, music or art doesn’t mean that everyone is suddenly about to earn millions, or even a reasonable middle class income, by being internet famous. The power law curve and Pareto distribution written about a decade ago by Chris Anderson as ‘The Long Tail’ benefits the aggregators of digital content which can be supplied to niche audiences with miniscule costs. Amazon can hold an infinite stock of digital books that may sell one copy a year and make a big profit on the aggregate sales, while Youtube can offer videos on every subject and combine a big enough audience for advertisers.

It doesn’t mean that because you can publish to the internet that it’s any easier to make a creative living than it ever was.

You can plugin advertising services and affiliate links, but you need an ever-increasing scale for ad revenue, despite all the talk about how advertisers would target relevant niches. And you need scale or a very devoted following to make money from affiliates unless it’s an extremely high commission, in which case competition is fierce.

And whatever your medium or platform, you need to be in the top few percent to make it viable as a decent standalone income. There’s only room for a handful of videogame Youtubers, fashion vloggers or Instagram models to make it rich, and the next tier of a livable income is not that much bigger.

 

So what to do?

There’s no simple answer for how creative people can live a prosperous life. But some soul searching and looking at the motivation for being creative in the first place will help.

If you want to enjoy making things without any pressure at all, get a day job and treat your creative passion purely as a hobby you can enjoy regardless of whether anyone else is involved. Write, paint, draw, sculpt, weld, dance, or whatever takes your fancy and don’t put it on social media to build up followers or define your personal brand. Share it with friends and family if you like, and just enjoy yourself.

It’s possible that you may build your hobby into a side business that makes a little extra cash and that’s cool. Use the money to treat yourself or stick into a savings account for the future. Keep the day job, spend some spare time on your side business and remember to also go out and have fun. There are lots of ways to minimise the time running a side business can take, and registering as a sole trader is quick and painless. Budget for some basic accountancy software and an accountant to check your returns and life can be fairly simple.

But then there’s the desire to earn your full potential wages as a creative artist hunched over an easel, potters wheel or laptop in a loft apartment located in a bohemian part of a swinging city.

Vloggers_Gowing_Up_In_Creative_Economy_Artist

There are lots of things you may have to think about should this become your career plan

  • You need to fully engage in the business side of things. How to sell products and services directly to customers or other businesses? How to find potential advertisers to deal with? How to meet other business owners (because that’s what you are now) and find out how they get the most profit, or what you should be charging?
  • Realise that you’re going to spend 50% per cent of your time not being able to sit and be creative because you’re doing admin and business work. And that’s if you’re lucky. And you’ll need to do that for a while before you can start looking at virtual assistants or help to get some of the time back.
  • Accept that you may need to focus on work besides your long awaited ‘Great American Novel’ or ‘Cinematic Epic for Millenials’. But you should also realise that everyone with a laptop now considers themselves a social media marketer, commercial copywriter, and logo designer (if they’ve bought Photoshop). So that side of your income can be as much of a struggle, and take as much of your time.
  • And finally you need to be open and honest with yourself and realise that it’s OK if you don’t make it rich. It’s possible that you may not find success in your lifetime, and that’s not the end of the world. As a business owner you can pivot and try different revenue streams, hone your product and tailor it to what people want. And that’s what most people try to do without losing their passion or vision.

 

WTF does he know?

I’m not a world famous blogger, Youtuber, musician or actor. I’m one of the majority of people who operate somewhere between obscurity and being on the cusp of a good living. And I’ve maintained that for several years since I was last employed full-time.

I run a marketing business and consultancy which earns me most of my income. I run a handful of websites with some very talented people which are starting to deliver small financial returns after a lot of hard work. And I write articles like this which will probably earn me absolutely nothing, but hopefully help to build my business and reputation.

I may never see my company make millions, and I used to get depressed about the fact I hadn’t made a fortune by 25, 30, *ahem* 35. But given that I’ve lasted longer than the lifespan of most companies, I’ve been able to earn a reasonable living by largely doing things I enjoy, and I’ve made progress in building my own brands and websites which I can be proud of (And which give a platform to a whole load of talented new people), then I’m OK with that.

As I wrote earlier, I can identify with the problems Gaby is experiencing. I’m lucky enough to have great clients, but I still need to improve my financial situation for myself and to hopefully support more people in the future. Which means if I do miss out or turn down work, it can lead to worry and guilt for a bit.

And I appreciate the challenge of authenticity and maintaining an audience whilst posting branded content to pay the bills – I never felt comfortable blogging about how to make millions from writing a blog like many did during the boom time.

Just remember, fame does not equal money. And creativity and happiness doesn’t depend on either of them.

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Supporting new British film ‘Meet Pursuit Delange’

Back when I was employed at Motorcycle News, I happened to have a conversation with a nice chap who had produced some kind of amazing mix of live action and graphic novel. The fact that it also had bikes in it basically combined three of the biggest loves of my life – comics, movies and motorcycles. It’s no wonder I was interested in finding out more.

The man behind the project, Howard Webster, is one of those people who seems to go from one fascinating project to the next, so I’m glad we kept in touch.

And his latest work is a new British film starring the likes of Jason Flemyng, Stephanie Leonidas, Colin Salmon and Right Said Fred.

If that doesn’t sound intriguing enough, there’s more…

After putting a call out for anyone interested in being an extra, and assuming that I didn’t end up on the editing room floor, it may be possible to catch a glimpse of me in the film. It’s a non-speaking, and indeed, non-acting role, as Howard wisely decline the chance to cast me as a leading man, and instead offered me the role of a media company executive. Fortunately it’s not featured in the trailer and therefore my ineptitude can’t affect the pre-release promotion.

What I can say is:

  1. The fact that I’ve kept in touch with people, and the fact that social media has made it easier, continues to lead to amazing opportunities years after we first connected.
  2. Making films is incredibly difficult and extremely hard work. So to get something made to a high standard, and with such a quality cast, is ruddy impressive. Especially when even the lowliest extra (me) was made to feel welcome and given as much help as was required on set.
  3. There really are an amazing amount of people on a film set. And despite having been filmed for various projects in the past, it’s incredibly hard not to stare at the expensive movie camera on rails a few feet away.
  4. I don’t know how much of the scene I was in made it to the final film. But I do know the script I heard was bloody funny. And the professional thespian required for the shoot, Ben Starr, was extremely talented, funny and very understanding about working with a group of people with varied and somewhat limited experience in many cases.
  5. Thanks to Howard, I’ve managed to tick something off my bucket list. Although I still need to finish writing my own scripts soon.
  6. I’ve never had as many admiring glances (I assume they were admiring) from ladies when walking through London as I did with the required makeup for filming.

 

If you can make it, the premiere of the film is on Thursday, October 1st, 2015 at the VUE Picadilly with a Q&A afterwards, and a second screening takes place on Friday, October 2nd in the afternoon. Both are part of the Raindance Film Festival and are very reasonably priced…

 

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Robots under threat from child bullies

Despite the legitimate fears of the combination of artificial intelligence, algorithms and robotics potentially bringing us closer to the Technological Singularity, robots will face some substantial risks themselves. Particularly from a breed of young and curious potential John Connors. Turns out Edward Furlong might have been a bit older than the real risk to our robotic overlords – children.

The robot had to be programmed to evade smaller humans and head towards those over 4 feet 6 inches. Lets hope the tiny robot tormentors don’t discover stilts.

But there’s some interesting and possibly disturbing research in a paper “Why Do Children Abuse Robots?” (PDF).

some children frequently obstructed the robot’s path regardless of the robot’s utterance requesting for the children to stop the obstruction, covered up the robot’s eyes with their hands, and beat the robot’s head … we found that the majority of [the children] did not regard the robot as just a machine, but a human-like entity.

Aside from the recognition from my own childhood that kids can often be evil little beings seemingly for the sake of it, and that the same cruelty has been inflicted on insects, animals and other kids, it does have implications for the future. If nothing else, at least the next generation will be well-prepared for careers on Youtube in gadget teardowns and destruction.

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Made some changes…

I recently realised how I’d let myself drift along without being particularly happy for a while. My business life wasn’t progressing as quickly as I’d like, and despite making various plans when I resettled in Medway for a while, I hadn’t made much progress with them either.

Instead, I’d settled into some of the same old ways and routines, and somehow expected things to magically change.

 

Badgerfit

Trying to get fitter and healthier does have some perks…

A combination of recent illness and spending time with my son provided some wake up calls that nothing is going to change unless I actually make it happen…

And at the same time, I need to record the small improvements to keep myself motivated to keep going. That’s easier with logging work in the business apps we use, but my phone is too old to handle a bunch of additional fitness apps on it…

So to remind myself that I’m heading in the right direction…

  • Getting up earlier (7am or earlier is the target), and as a result, getting to sleep between 11am-midnight.
  • Making sure I have a list of important tasks written out before sleeping, and getting in a little bit of stress-free non-work reading (There’s some research somewhere about reading before bed helping to reduce overall stress).
  • So far I’ve cut cigarettes down from 10-15 a day recently to not smoking most days (Even with a couple of weekend slip ups, I’ve gone from 140+ in the last 2 weeks down to 20, saving around £60, and meaning that I sleep better without my snoring waking up everyone in a one-mile radius even when not coughing).
  • Focusing on 1-2 big tasks each day which make a difference
  • Eating a decent, healthy breakfast, rather than skipping it for a cigarette, and then trying to eat fairly healthy throughout the day. More protein and vegetables – less snacks.
  • Exercise – either a 20-30 minute walk minimum late morning/early lunchtime, or a bigger bike ride. The plan is to start adding some gym visits shortly.
  • Less time chatting about stuff on social media during the day, especially if it’s non-work related, and more time on actually getting work done. The using social media in the evenings to actually sort meeting up with people away from screens again…
  • Actually throwing out old things I don’t use, need, or have emotional attachment to. And any clothes which don’t pass the ‘it’s OK to be seen in public’ test.

None of it has been massive. The biggest initial challenge has been ignoring the cigarette cravings in favour of a tasty nicotine lozenge, and forcing myself to get out of the house rather than kidding myself I’m being productive aimlessly clicking around Facebook and Twitter.

Hopefully I’ll have the impetus to update more improvements by the end of April, but if nothing else, the fact that my son was impressed with my non-smoking is enough to keep going when he’s not here…

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Planning to escape…

EscapingAnxiety

Used to be on a card above my desk as a reminder which was too often ignored, until I finally sat down and started to replace old, bad habits with good new ones.

The trick is to know that the good new habits aren’t an end in themselves, and to be OK with the continual journey.

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Technology underpins and connects everything

Judging by the amount of social media shares, plenty of people were wondered ‘How Floyd Mayweather and Justin Bieber bonded over an app‘. TL:DR – they’re both investors in an app called Shots.

Celebrities from Ashton Kutcher to Will.i.am has invested in tech companies or developed tech products. It seems like years since Alica Keyes was signed up by BlackBerry as their Global Creative Director, which ended in January 2014 after just 12 months.

It’s no longer worth remarking on journalists leaving esteemed publications to become bloggers. Or the massive prices paid for startups which may not have produced significant profits.

Whatever the questions being asked, it seems like the answer is simple – technology.

Bridge Cables Photo by Vita Vilcina http://www.vivivi.co.uk/ (CC Licence)

Photo by Vita Vilcina http://www.vivivi.co.uk/ (CC Licence)

The population of the UK is mostly connected via PCs, tablets and smartphones, and the majority of people are connected via social networks, apps and casual games. It’s increasingly rare to find anyone not on Facebook or Clash of Clans – or to find a child who isn’t familiar with Minecraft or Youtube.

The mainstream media now carries news about the latest technology and can see big enough audiences to schedule full programmes on topics like 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

  • In some ways that’s amazingly great – I’ve loved technology as long as I can remember.
  • But in some ways it’s worrying – when all you have is technology, every problem looks like an application.

For all the transformational power of the internet, we’re still governed by politicians who we can’t trust, and a small group of mega-corporations who can’t effectively be controlled.

We’ve yet to see print publications finally become marginalised. Most big media companies have now had time to adapt and evolve rather than become extinct. And the biggest contributors to open source projects like Linux now come from developers employed by large corporations.

Meanwhile we still have war, famine and greater financial inequality than ever. Statistically we’re safer in the developed Western world than ever in human history, but we’re bombarded with reports of potential threats to us in greater volumes than could have been imagined.

The myth that ‘anyone can be a success’ has spread from America to envelope the whole internet, despite the fact that only a percentage of businesses will ever be successful until enough virtual currencies and bots are developed to create infinite consumption.

Meanwhile we seem to have many of the same problems which have faced society for hundreds of years, and as Gamergate has shown so well, we’ve made little progress. Because rather than asking questions about politics, society and business which mean challenging assumptions and investing huge amounts of time and resource into making a significant change, it’s easier to announce a new software platform or app. And most of us (me included) are too busy trying to scrape a living in between liking updates and checking into games to do more than sign the occasional e-petition.

 

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Some inspiration for the mid-30s and late bloomers

I’ve been clearing out old bookmarks from my browser as part of an attempt to improve my IT habits (More on that tomorrow), and stumbled across an article I saved back in 2012.

It’s by Dave McClure, who founded the 500 Startups seed accelerator and investment fund and has become a pretty well known and respected VC.

Reading it again, it’s not surprising I saved it. I experienced a similar trajectory, where I seemed to be fairly smart and destined to do well until a lack of motivation and hard work combined with distractions meant that I ended up with qualifications below what I could have achieved.

I was lucky to achieve a dream job with Bauer Media (then Emap) working on the world’s biggest motorcycle website, and followed that up with roles introducing social media across the business, and a move to follow another passion of mine, music, at Absolute Radio.

Forest Pic by Dustin Scarpitti, used under Creative Commons license.

Forest Pic by Dustin Scarpitti, used under Creative Commons license.

But as I get closer to 40, I can identify with the idea that you can still feel like an unfocused underachiever, especially when the media is full of the teen and 20-something bright young things creating multi-million startups, apps and Youtube channels.

It’s a strange feeling considering I’ve managed to build a business by bootstrapping it from nothing to survive 4 years, including some tough economic times, and work with some great, and sometimes massive companies. And at the same time, the websites I’ve started reach hundreds of thousands of people each year.

I suspect I’m not the only person who’ll identify with ‘late bloomer, not a lose.(I hope)‘.

It’s something to remember, along with the belief that you don’t have to end every day with a massive success – just do a bit better every day and suck a little less and things will happen. At the same time, I also saved this post by James Altucher on simple things to do every day to be luckier. Exercise, Prioritise, Mental exercise, Meditation. Time to make sure I improve on each one every day…