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12Dec/090

Posting this from tweetie 2.1 on my iPho

Posting this from tweetie 2.1 on my iPhone - as always, remember to experiment for yourself

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5Jun/090

Quick Update

It's been a long time since I posted an update. The beginning of this year ended up being a whirl-wind of events and it just didn't provide the kind of environment for me to keep on top of the website. Don't worry though, I still have long term goals for this as a placeholder for a lot of new thoughts and ideas. So don't give up on me yet.

In the mean time, keep up with me on twitter by clicking on my feed to right, and stay tuned because I'm going to be opening up some time to put some of my thoughts here soon.

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17Mar/093

Stress as a Motivator

Somewhere along the line, I’ve been labeled as a pretty calm and collective guy buy my friends, and people who are generally close to me. I always chocked it up to the fact that I’m kind of a science guy who likes to take a Spock-like logic and reason based approach to life. But I came across a thought recently while talking with my partner, about relative levels of stress (her baseline ability to be stressed out is a bit higher than mine).

The conversation came to light while talking about focus. She’s at that point where a lot of things are beginning to converge; mainly keeping up with matters of career, health, relationship and just life in general. There are so many things going on in life right now that things can get really overwhelming very quickly.

So the question came up about how am I able stay focused even though I spend the entire week away from home and I spend all day Saturday in school? I hadn’t really thought of it because my life was so busy, I was just going with the flow (so it seemed). But it was at that point where I fully realized how stressed out I was (am). See, it’s not that I’m a too cool fool, it’s that I’m so sensitive to stress that I employ all of my essence to extinguishing whatever in my life is causing me stress.

So what’s the take home message?

I’ve always had this belief that stress should be avoided at all costs and that somehow, if you ever got stressed out, you were less of a person for not being able to “handle your shit.” Maybe we shouldn’t be so averse to stress, maybe that’s the way our bodies and minds let us know what we should be working on and striving for. Let’s embrace our stress, acknowledge its existence, determine its cause, and channel its power to extinguish the root cause. Let’s use it to give us focus and to accomplish our goals.

Stress can be the fire under your ass that pushes you to do great things.

22Jan/092

2008 in Review & Welcome to elliottpayne.com!

2008 was a big year for me, as you might be able to tell by the severe lack of updates to my blog. There's a lot I want to say here but I may have summarize for now.

  • Welcome to elliottpayne.com - First and foremost, I'm switching the blog over to elliottpayne.com. I'm making the move to coincide with some of my earlier thoughts on Web 2.0 and about generating an online presence. In summary, our online persona's and offline persona's need to coalesce as one and we need to move toward a more accurate representation of ourselves regardless of the venue. This move is the beginning of such a transition. I'm not sure how I want to format it, but I want to (either through tags/categories or pages) write posts that represent my various interests, mainly separated by the following categories: personal, professional, and creative.
  • Holy career change batman! – 2008 was punctuated by a massive career move for me. I went from being a manufacturing engineer in a dysfunctional working environment (let alone all the damn metal shavings that would always get stuck in my shoes) to a business consultant for a software company. I posted briefly about this right when it happened, but this is such a huge deal for me. This was always one of my dream jobs, and something that I was hoping to be able to someday do after I finished my MBA and here I am, still a year away from graduating, already at the “promise land.”
  • What economic downturn? – Consultants get paid significantly more than engineers. Just an FYI. So when the news broke that we were basically going back to the stone-age, I was getting on a plane to fly to a client and getting paid much more than I used to in the process. Of course the fantasy of a dream job and the reality of that same job are never in alignment. I’ve been traveling 100% (gone Monday through Friday, home on weekends) since the end of September. The pay bump for consulting isn’t because it’s difficult (it’s challenging no doubt, but in a fun way), it’s because I’ve spent more time with the bartender at a stupid micro-brewery in a dingy suburb of Philadelphia than my charming, lovely, wildly creative, stunningly sexy, scientifically genius, philosophically wonderful, and intellectually stimulating girlfriend in the last few months. There’s no free lunch here. Sacrifices are being made, but I have hopes and dreams beyond making money, so I’m hoping everything pays off in the end. Besides, student loans are no joke, gotta make it up somehow!
  • We got a puppy – Miyagi is the most awesomest laid back Chinese Crested you’ll ever meet. And I’m glad he keeps my lady company while I’m away. He’s also damn adorable (and I’m comfortable admitting it).
Miyagi!

Miyagi!

  • I sold my CRX – Seems like a piece of minutia at first glance, but this car has meant a lot to me. One of the things that motivated me to go to engineering school in the first place was my first passion of car racing. I used to literally close my eyes and imagine myself taking laps around Nürburgring when I would get stuck on a thermodynamics or deformable body mechanics problem and not have an answer after 4+ hours of really intensive work on just one problem (man those classes sucked). I’d close my eyes and remind myself of why I was putting myself through the pain and the hell of it all. A very momentous chapter of my life closes with the sale of this fine automobile. Gladly, it goes to the home of another car enthusiast and hopefully I’ll be able to grace the wheel some day at a future autocross.

I used the proceeds to fund my latest passion of photography and bought myself a new D-SLR, then banked the rest. This was also the first major step of uncluttering my life and putting more focus on what matters to me. I will return another day to racing (the WRX is pretty damn fun to drive too), but I need to focus on priorities right now.

So you can see 2008 was pretty big year for me. And I think it’s also pretty apparent why I haven’t been updating at all. I’m starting to adjust to the travel, so I’m hoping to work the blog into my routine.

I’m a fairly active blog reader, so I’ve installed a widget to the right that shows my shared google reader articles. If I haven’t been updating in while, at least check out some of the things I’ve been following out in the ether. At times, that says more about me than anything I write.

15Aug/081

HOW A New Job Can Make You Happier

I kept my last post brief because it had been so long since I posted, I wanted to at least give a quick update. Now that I'm back on the horse, I want to spend a little time on the How. Some people say that you shouldn't put so much emotional real estate into a job, and that career satisfaction is as much about your state of mind as it is what you actually do: I fully agree with that sentiment, but I think there are some other factors involved as well.

Focus on the context

Sometimes a new job is needed because your current job is so depressing, sometimes a new opportunity presents itself and is such a good fit for you and your goals that you can't pass it up. There are many driving factors that affect your emotional relationship with your job and why you might need a new one.

Your current job sucks!

  • Toxic environment - sometimes the environment you work in is so dysfuctional that you come home stressed out, depressed, and exausted just from having to put up with the people you work with. This is one of those self evident things (hopefully) that should be easy to spot in the wild.
  • No respect - similar to toxic environment, but can exist in its own right. You don't need to be admired by your colleges and adored by your superiors, but you should be able to at least be treated like a human.
  • Dead end - and lastly, a job doesn't have to be a torture chamber of an experience, sometimes the opportunity cost of staying at a job can set you back for years and really put a hamper on your long term goals and happiness.

The new opportunity is so much better than what you do now:

  • An offer you can't refuse - Whether you've been on an agressive job search for months or an aquaintance you met last week offers you an amazing job out of nowhere; sometimes it doesn't matter how good or bad your current job is, an opportunity presents itself that is SO great that it's a no brainer to move on and progress your career to the next level.
  • You know what you want - And what you're doing right now ain't it.  Getting a job in the field you want will, by definition, place you in a happier environment unless...
  • You don't know what you want - You don't like what you're doing now, but have no idea what you'd rather do instead.  This is your opportunity to experiment! You might come across a new line of work that really inspires you.  What's the worst thing that could happen?  You get another crappy job?  Quit and start all over again.

Well there you have it.  A short list of items that I've found true to my job/happiness hunting experience.  I'm still in the honeymoon phase right now though, so check back in a couple months and see how happy I am.  But the fact of the matter is that all jobs have their down points, but the key is to know when those down points have crossed a line and be keen to when that happens.

5Jun/080

Entrepreneurship Social-Media and Skeptics Oh My! (Prt. 3)

In my last post on this subject, I spoke to the benefits I've experienced thus far with social-media, where I think social-media is heading, and how social-media is all in all a good thing. I'm going to try to address some of the concerns present with current day social-media as I see them and also try to cover some of the criticisms skeptics have raised pertaining to social-media and maybe a rebuttal to them.

Time to wrap this thing up.

The Skeptics

The internet, since its inception, has been criticized for its lack of credibility and rightly so; the internet and its predecessor has been a hotbed of piracy, copy write infringement, porn, and all things sinister and evil. Services such as Apple TV, Netflix, and iTunes have only been around for a few years and those services have only recently become widely accepted mediums for utilizing the internet as a legal source of media. The long and skinny of it is that the internet is still a very unrefined place - the wild wild west of our generation.

There is no clear model of how to generate revenue from the internet; although many have profited greatly from the internet thus far, those successes are few and far between and there are no clear answers why some have succeeded and others have failed miserably. Furthermore, there is no sign of what will and won't work in the future of the internet. We're all pulling at straws, hoping that something sticks and this is the very reason there are so many skeptics of web 2.0.

In the past, the most effective way to make money on the web was through banner ads. But banner ads have been just a piss poor attempt at digitizing traditional advertising formats, producing abysmal performance per dollar spend in comparison to their traditional counterparts. Furthermore, it's been argued that people don't want to be marketed to while online - that they want to get in and get out and move on while surfing the web. Others claim social-networking is superficial, too time consuming, dilutes your personal brand, and is no replacement for face to face contact

I can't help but think of Guy Kawasaki when discussing this topic because he seems to have been on the forefront of some of the trends brought on by the internet, if not create some trends, but I asked my business formation professor about what he thought of him (since he referenced him in one of his lecture notes) and my professor had one simple question: What successful ventures has he created or financed?

The question floored me to an extent, mostly because of the sheer simplicity of it. He had a way of cutting straight to the chase in his lecture style and he definitely delivered in this razor sharp questioning. He continued (and I'm paraphrasing here):

He [Guy Kawasaki] seems to have written some books on the subject of business formation and have had some success there, but be careful about what you read and really vet your sources because anyone can write anything they want, especially on the internet. Look into what they have actually accomplished and always take everything with a grain of salt.

Fairly basic advice, but for some reason it really resonated for me: So I asked myself "I like Guy Kawasaki, what ventures of his do I know of that have been wildly successful?" Well, I can't really say for sure. I can only assume his "Alignment of Interests" section on his blog indicates some of the ventures he's involved in and that his venture capital firm Garage Tech has a pretty impressive portfolio of companies listed (at least I'm impressed by the fact that one of my favorite finance sites, Motley Fool, is listed).

Like I said before, I came across an article in the WSJ about Penelope Trunk and through her blog found out about Guy Kawasaki, then alltop, then all kinds of super relevant and informative blogs and people like Zen Habits, Unclutterer, Life Hacker, Chris Brogan, Problogger and on and on. I kind of got so enthralled in all this new and intriguing information, I think I kind of lost a little bit of my analytical and usually skeptical approach to new or untested information. Once you start clicking through a lot of these links, you'll notice that a lot of information will end up getting reused and recycled in a flurry of almost circle jerk proportions - not necessarily a bad thing in its own right when the information is relevant, useful, and legitimate. But very dangerous when one blogger makes baseless claims that get substantiated by multiple bloggers who may find that stance convenient to what ever world view they promote. Copyblogger speaks to the "circle-jerk" nature of bloggrolling I'm referring to here as a barrier to success for social-media as a means of revenue generation.

One of my close friends is very much anti social-networking. The irony here is that he's a programmer who spent a significant amount of time in the bay area during the mid to late nineties who worked with a lot of start ups (even to the level of being the CTO for one). His gripe? He wants to spend less time on the internet not more. He shares the sentiments of social-networking being too much of a time commitment for little personal gain. He also argues that every time he logs onto what little sites he's a member of (a fairly infrequent occurrence), one site falls out of light in favor of another. There's really no keeping up with who uses what site and to what end, leaving you with a disconnected network of friends in different circles spread throughout the internet.

Look, I get it... I get that the "true" utility of social-media has yet to be defined, I get that no one wants to be pitched wares by their "friends" every time they log-in and check their messages, I get that legitimacy is in question every time you open google reader to check out what's happening in the your world, I really do. But look, there is a new landscape out there, and I'm not talking about technology, I'm talking about new attitudes to and expectations of the internet.

Web 1.0 didn't look any different from web 2.0 (well, maybe there were less annoyingly flashy websites in web 1.0), no one really knew what to do with it or what to think of it. We were still used to very limited sources of news and opinion at that time, and for that reason, those sources had to be highly scrutinized, editorialized, and legitimized through a systematic source of checks and balances. That process lead to a centralized monopoly of information providers simply out of the necessity to develop and maintain the resources needed to maintain the infrastructure of information. Web 2.0 isn't about new internet technologies, it's about new ways of generating and processing information, it's about new attitudes towards an open channel of information that democratizes our most precious asset - knowledge.

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20May/080

Entrepreneurship Social-Media and Skeptics Oh My! (Prt. 1)

Before I get ahead of myself, I should say that I just updated my about page. There isn't much there, but you'll notice I'm in school for an MBA (about half way through at this point). You'll also notice that I've got quite a few different interests across a fairly wide spectrum (i.e. engineering and photography & DJing aren't exactly 2 peas in a pod). So as I continue to explore various career paths and try to align my experience (and dare I say, expertise) up to this point with my relatively diverse interests to create a career where I don't feel like shooting myself in the face with a shotgun every time I show up for work, the more I realize I'm pigeonholed into the kind of jobs that my academic background would suggest I take. On paper, I'm a one-dimensional number cruncher, deployed as a specialized cog in a large convoluted and disorganized system of industrial inputs and outputs.

The above lays the groundwork for the following post. I might have to break this up into several sections to keep things organized and on point.

Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development

For the sake of maintaining my beautiful face (what with all the shotgun blasts), I'm finding that I'm most likely going to have to start my own venture, or at least highly consider this option in lieu of the mythical perfect job where everyone has an oversized beanbag of an office chair, lunch is catered daily, and there's a whole arsenal of nurf paraphernalia in the board room. And cold beer on tap in the cafeteria. Oh, and your to-do list has cure world hunger. And... well, you get the point. Basically a place like IDO, not that they have beer on tap, but it's basically the kind of place I'd like to work if I could work anywhere I wanted.
Last semester I had probably the best class that I'll have in the entire program. As much as I like Porter's 5-forces and to use terms such as paradigm shift and functional frameworks in my daily vernacular of BS MBA mumbo jumbo, a lot of the shit thrown at MBA programs and MBA candidates is pretty fair: Great business leaders business school does not make. But last semester, I took a class on business formation and new venture development. My professor was a seasoned venture capital manager and financier as well as an accomplished entrepreneur; this class was almost more about life than it was about business. The key take home message, at least for me, was that you can't be taught entrepreneurship as much as you can learn from other peoples entrepreneurial exploits. Basically, you get to learn about all the myriad of ways a financier/partner/your own mother will screw you when it comes to starting a venture - I'm being dramatic, but you can really get the idea of how wisdom comes with age when you've got old timers telling how many times and ways they've been duped (or even how they did it on sending end).

We had a speaker every week who shared all their war stories. I'm not going to get into too many details about the stereotypes associated with the personalities of entrepreneurs and the details debunking those stereotypes - like everything else, they come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. I'm also not going to cover how they they were all pretty smart, creative, and so on. However, I will note that, in almost every case, these entrepreneurs all made their mints through impeccable timing. One rode the telecom deregulation wave of 70's the, another got great deals on some real estate in the 80's. The point? Timing is everything.

I think I'll continue on this topic sometime in the future, but for now, this is a good segue into the next part of this three part series. Social-media, Web 2.0, whatever you want to call it, the timing is right for this whole thing to make a mint for some people.

Stay tuned and leave a comment with your thoughts.