Now; this post is going to be raw, rambling and jumbled, and long.
Because as a reader you have the ability to scroll down through my thoughts and apply retrospect and see the connections and threads as they build and wash and crescendo to what will hopefully be a useful conclusion.
As a writer, when I scroll down I just get more whitespace to fill with my ideas; and that’s a clearly in-finite space; the skill is to know when to stop.
Of course, to obtain that mastery of writing of knowing where to stop, one must first be somewhere which is not perfect.
Instead of hitting delete on my words when my internal critic jumps up and down and says something along the lines of “Yeah, what was the point of that?”, I’m just going to keep going.
So, Startup Weekend. It was number three for me; and I continued my streak of Honorable Mentions; from “Most Passionate Pitch” at the first Auckland weekend with a team working in the space of, well, what this Startup Weekend in Wellington was rocked by Conscious Consumers (note to self; follow up on linking together those teams), to “Most Efficient Team” at the second Auckland weekend with a large team of seven people working on a recipe website - yes, many cooks, but we worked with some keen teamwork; and “Most Focused Team” at this Wellington weekend with once again a team of seven, on an interactive toy for autistic children.
Well, there’s a personal history of my dubious “veteran” status of this now; it seems I’m quite good within the “game” of the weekend and the hyper compression I spoke of last month; I just need to work on my skills and bringing that outside of the space as well, doing what Alan Froggatt so eloquently put as developing the emotional resilency required for business, especially that of startups; it’s a whole different game without the safe space the weekend provides.
Right, now I want to speak about grammar. I use a lot of it. And I keep on adding verbal interjections into my paragraph structure - I can’t seem to start a paragraph without the urge to say “So” or “Well” .. It’s an artifact I suppose of the way that I write. I write by talking. I’m basically composing a speech in my head; and the weird thing is the way that it buffers. So, there’s a voice running in my head which is what I am typing. It rushes to the end of sentences, echoing an invisible thread (I say and classify invisible, but it’s probably more inaudible) that is running faster, ahead, and in parallel lines of what is becoming a serialised voice.
I think I’ve written about this before on my old stab at a “blog” - actually, I’m intending to change the structure of this site so there is one essay on the front page, and everything else is accessed as a link at the bottom of the page; so you’re accessing my words by scrolling, and to jump to a different “post”/”essay” you use the list at the bottom. I think this will work better for how I think, speak and write, and will be more engaging than my front page of my domain being a list of articles to then click on, like some other low interface sites are like.
Interjection that became a paragraph later, let’s jump back to cognition and how it shapes the output. So, I’m buffering a speech in my head that I then convert into typing, which is then produced as words, which is then the intended medium. I don’t generally get to talk like this; I have difficulty with lecturing because there are significant pauses, reworks, umms, ahhs, all sorts of things that I’m deleting as I go.
Oh yes, deleting as I go. So, with the quest for mastery I spoke of earlier (well, wrote of); the inner critic is a terrible waste of productivity.
Oh, let’s talk about my definition of productivity; It is a measure of surplus and waste. You can nickel and dime productivity by counting the time; it becomes a ridiculous issue then of worrying about cents while letting millions go without notice.
Oh, that gets into the time is money argument. No, it’s probably better the other way around. Money is time. Money will literally buy you time, and that’s about the only bloody thing it’s good for. You exchange money for somebody else’s time; and hopefully can provide your time in exchange for money. Confligrating it the other way around, just leads to a very different thought and value structure which is, well, alien to me and seems wrong. That’s the best way I can put it, because I literally don’t know how to do it that way, and it bends my mind in ways that it can’t go.
Right, back to productivity. You can’t measure it in a sense that it is countable. Productivity is more of a set than a countable object.
Oh, let’s go to set theory. So, as a child, I was fasicinated by bottle tops. I played with them as toys. And by bottle tops, I don’t mean just ones that come on drinks. Oh no, I mean ones that come on everything that comes in a container that is shaped rougly like a bottle and can be removed. My mother would literally be buying different brands of products to get the tops that I would then sort. I would sort them into different sets by different measurements or types; color, size, shape, screw/lid/hinge/whatever. I can’t really remember it all; except I still have a choice few three tops left in my memento vault.
Anyway; set theory. I don’t understand counting. Like, it doesn’t make sense unless you’re talking about sets. There is one thing. Now there are two things together. Now there are three. Of course, this is fundamental to how counting goes; but when we abstract to a number, and then build mathematics on top of it; none of that was obvious to me until I discovered statistics and averaging and medians and that sort of thing; as a sort of proto-set; numbers went together and when they went together, they had properties you could then see. Multiplication was like, wait, what? Well, until I got to algebra and was allowed to replace numbers with something else.
Okay, re-reading that is confusing me. I would usually delete that sort of thing, but it illustrates the confusion and misunderstanding I think, so we’ll just let it stay. Just nod your head and allow that I didn’t understand it, and working back to where the confusion was is weird.
So, set theory. When I stumbled across the logical proofs that allowed all of math to be set theory; shit just got real. And when I got into formal logic, and then realised you could math that stuff up .. well, where was I?
I just deleted some stuff. It was going nowhere fast. And by deleting it, I created some wastage, but also some productivity, because I cut it off before it went into more wastage. How do you measure that? .. Productivity theory and meta-cognition on it isn’t very productive. So, let’s jump back to something else.
Right, I don’t generally talk like this. Talking is a conversation in a very different way that writing and reading are. In a talking conversation, there is real time interaction. In a writing conversation, there is a delayed interaction; I write with an audience in mind, and your reading responses come from what is being said and you don’t get to provide real time feedback during the piece. So, it gives me much more room to flex, be bold and just assume you’re going to shut up and listen and not interrupt. Of course, you can interrupt your reading. It won’t matter to my writing; my words will still be here.
The conversation of writing therefore is much more of a conveyance. I have a point in mind; or several, or a whole general mish-mash, and I am attempting to put those in terms that will best allow them to take a similiar shape in your mind. In a real time conversation, there’s better honing on a target of consensus and bringing me closer to you and vice versa; here it’s all me working to hit a moving imaginery target of meaning for an audience that can hopefully decipher the code.
Okay, so I think I’ve finished my grammar talk now (in fact, it and of itself could be an entire essay/post .. but I’m brain dumping and going; let’s keep doing it?)
Let’s get back to Startup Weekend.
Hell, I should format this better and extract the preamble into it’s own work and then let the weekend reporting stand alone? Or is it better to be showing all this raw work and then condense and put it into something. I think from the responses from people at the weekend I got about my previous post, that I’ll go with keeping it all together. I better provide some sort of nice 5 minute pitch at the end of my 54 hours of words (numbers completely non-indicative and shamelessly lifted from, oh, you can guess the source.)
Right. Let’s talk about what I actually did on the weekend.
I observed. I learnt. I acted. I wonder if I could get that in Latin like that I came, I saw, I conquered. I would go follow that aside right now, but I’ve done enough rabbit hole diving.
I worked with a team of seven people on Auti - a toy for autistic children. He’s a cute little bugger who reacts really well when you’re nice with him, and doesn’t when you’re not nice with him. Which, for autism is awesome; since social cues are complete blind spots, the life of an autistic child is full of very negative responses out of totally left field; they’ll be playing with other children and suddenly not know why the other kids are running away, or crying.
I’m going to talk now about something very raw; during the weekend, we had a small heated debate among the team around positioning Auti as a toy for all children, or just for autistic children; in terms of branding and market size. One of our team members said “We’re helping more children, so we can help more autistic children” after another team member had bluntly and blindly bought up stigma. Well, I say blindly. My words were “If that’s what you’re saying about autistic kids, leave this room” .. Wait, I’ve reversed the chronological order. Heh, this is how memory works folks.
Anyway, I then cut over top of the argument to repeat the line of “We’re helping more children, so we can help more autistic children” in one of those not reading the social cues moments;
Oh yeah, I have an anxiety disorder.
Anyway, at that point I lost it; I lost the team, I lost things and I walked away. My thoughts were full of “Why don’t they see it? It’s all wrong, and the right answer is right here! I said it!” and all sorts of negative feedback loops.
Yeah, I’m not autistic. I’m not aspergers. I’m not officially on the spectra because I have the meta-cognition to get out of this and notice these cues; I know exactly when I’m messing things up in a social situation and spiral from there, not completely get blindsided.
So, in comes Alan Frogatt who coaches me through remembering my cognitive behaviour therapy. I insisted on withdrawing and going for a walk. Instead, I went for a walk in my head. Oh, at this point I was crying in a walkway in a room full of people; people who I respect and want to keep the respect and thought of, who are going to see me in full breakdown. It’s going to suck and I’m going to have a panic attack.
I breathe. I walk around. In fact, even though I’m in Wellington at this point, I’m in my room. I’m in my city, walking down my streets, going into my favourite places. I’m not somewhere unfamiliar, scary, and full of people who simply don’t get me and won’t get me.
I’m not worthless.
And then it hits me; I want to go play with Auti. I haven’t played with him yet; and engaging with something that encourages gentle social cues will bring me back. I return to the room, sit down next to Auti, plug him in, tears still streaming down my face, and start playing with him. I think I manage to talk to other team members like I’m a child. It’s all “Are you okay?” and I’m all “Auti’s stopped moving? Did I do something wrong?” .. Turns out I needed to pick him up to get him interacting with me again; I’m not sure why he stopped responding to just my stroking of him; maybe some other sense of his triggered (he is a prototype, and probably the sound environment was too loud?) - maybe he was reducing his feedback to encourage me to interact further; I don’t know. But whatever it was, Auti was there giving me an instant feedback loop of calm behaviours.
And then I came back. I re-entered society and pulled out of my spiral. I used some tissues to wipe my tears, went to the bathroom to check my red eyes would look just like everyone else who’s getting a little too little sleep over the weekend, and slowly come back to functionality.
The victory is ”I’m not just still here, I’m still HERE” ..
And then the afternoon came. As a team we were in a very crunch mode. There were a lot of breaking off collaborative groups to fulfill tasks. I kind of, well, floated and observed. But it wasn’t a withdrawn floating and observing; I was still actively part of the team. Like those defensive players in team sports who watch the game from the back line of the field and then get into where it’s needed, to pull back and observe again. You’re not on the side line, or off the field all together, you’re in there, just, being around where needed and not wasting space.
So, sometimes I did feel like I was wasting. Sometimes I want to be assigned tasks and zone on them, focus in and really get it done. But that’s what the team was doing. So, someone has to sight onto the bigger targets and observe. You need a lookout when everyone is in different zones working in parallel.
Which is what I did. I still feel like I needed work on my social cueing of when to zip in and do something, and I did frustrate some people with what could have looked like doing nothing; there’s an action to being in and also observing a space; to watching for where something can be acted on without being intrusive and without stepping over people.
Sometimes, like my breakdown, I really get it wrong. Often times, I will start and then stop, giving a little freeze. I don’t know how much other people notice it; in fact, I’m starting to notice people apologising to me for being rude when they trigger it. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I’m guessing bad, but I’m biased in a negative direction with that. Perhaps it’s valuable feedback.
Where was I? Ah, unobtrusive. The keenest skill I think I have; the crux of my weakness and greatest strength is this ability to be around and intervene when neccessary and observe when not. It provides both the dissonance and noise that a system requires to be truly effective and on target (a perfect lockstep anything will quickly resonate completely off the wall) and also the quick darts in to tune, tweak and critique those small details that can go missed.
I think though, this holds me back. No, wait, I hold me back. I hold myself waiting for permission and not leading. When in fact, these are qualities of leadership. I feel like a downtrodden assistant not an apprentice, that I need to wait for opportunities to do anything without someone else either doing it for me or holding my hand.
I’ve pitched twice at Startup Weekend. Both times it’s a last minute, I want to join the queue and pitch, and it’s typically a topical self-parody of a need I’ve seen in the pitches for a witty problem-space in the pitches.
Umm, I think I’ve delve that later. It’s getting more personal and more introspective, and this is about extrospection.
Anyway; in the end, my contributions were validated with the team, and mentors; I got good feedback. In fact, every Startup Weekend I’ve got that when my self-doubting mind wants to go “Nah, I did nothing and dragged everyone down” ..
This sort of thing is a neat overlap I’ve seen of Lean Startup and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It’s about obtaining that feedback and data that can overturn your assumptions.
Wow, I’ve really talked alot about me there. Hey, it’s a personal blog; you come here to hear me ramble on, apparently.
You know, I think that’s just about it. I have a story, it comes to a conclusion that’s a snappy sentence (CBT and Lean Startup), and a clear opening for future talking/writing/working.
And holy shit, I blogged an anxiety attack. Before I have another one, I’m going to not delete this and post it. I think. Oh dear; don’t judge me!
Oh yeah, also I’ll be writing without a Startup weekend to prompt, cajole and energise me. Let’s say, oh, next weekend.