Category Archives: Learning

My experience – Certified Architecting MS Azure Solutions

What a journey! Finally, passed the Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect certification. I had to drop pretty much everything for last 2 months…almost 150 hours of study time – I logged my study time :). Here is the summary of my experience.

AzureSolutionArchitectIn December last year, with 3 other colleagues, we went down to Redmond, WA to attend 4 days MS Azure Architect Workshop. There was a prerequisite to start with (mostly watching VirtualAcademy videos, 10 hours) and 4 days of fully packed back to back (literally 8am – 6pm with 45 min lunch break) sessions. After the first day, I was exhausted. I haven’t set one spot for so long time in recent years (may be getting old???) :). So much information was fed and we had to digest without gulping.

After 2015 holidays, I started to study for the exam. There are many reasons why I wanted to get certified. One of the reasons were to demonstrate commitment and dedication to my own children. “Daddy always tells us to do something good, but haven’t really proved himself”, so I talked about the exam and my goal with my kids. They told me many good advice 🙂 “Skip if you don’t know and come back later in your exam. Just keep thinking that you can do this!”. These are very good advice matter of fact!

I started with the exam Reference book (official guide book). The book was well written, but certain topics are not explained clearly for a guy coming from Java background.

Finally, I wrote the exam on March 24, a day before Good Friday. The exam wasn’t that difficult, but there are several questions that I really had to guess. Because of number of questions (41 questions with 70% passing line), I was little bit nervous. Over 12 questions wrong, you are out! Most of the case studies are the same from either the practice exam or mock exam samples, but related exam questions were different. I found the practice exam from measureup.com was quite useful. The practice exam questions covered all the details and the answers were presented with very good explanation, so I didn’t have to search for the book or internet. However, I made a big mistake not looking at the practice exam until one day before the exam. I thought it will be a short mock exam with 50 questions, but I could select maximum 150 questions in the practice exam.  After I realized the benefits of practice exam and I can take up to 150 questions, I studied like a college student cramming for exams. It was a terrible experience – feeling exhausted, rushed, and worried.

Finally, I passed the exam and enjoyed a good long weekend.  From this journey, I’ve learned few things:

  • Find a study buddy. Fortunately, one of my colleague wrote the same exam on the same day. We’ve discussed various topics from time to time and encouraged each other to stay focused.
  • Start with the basics. I skipped the fundamental book and jumped on the exam reference book directly. I could’ve saved my time if I started with the fundamental book by solidifying my mental model. Always start with the basic and complete your mental model before jumping into harder one. I knew this already, but didn’t apply in this case. Because the exam voucher expires at the end of March 2016, I must felt time pressure.
  • Good feeling after the challenge. Personally, it wasn’t an easy challenge – I am from non-MS background. When I saw “Congratulations!” in the computer screen, I was so happy, thrilled, excited, and relieved, which I haven’t felt in many many years.

I had to write this for me to look back and remember how wonderful it is to be able to challenge and accomplish something in my life and being a good example for my kids.

 

Presentation Technique Workshop

Have you ever seen your own presentation in a video? Unless you are a professional presenter, probably you haven’t seen your own presentation video. Yesterday, I had a presentation technique workshop and witnessed two of my presentations. First session was done in the morning without any feedback. After a feedback, another session in the afternoon.

What a difference! In the morning session, I ran out of my time almost toward end. I’ve noticed few things in my presentation.

  • Too many “and”. It is okay for most of times, but several occasions, it was too much.
  • Hand gestures. Some occasions, it was okay because of context, but some situation, I looked like a fly. Especially, in the beginning, I know I have a habit of rubbing my hands, but it was little too much.
  • Eye contact. It was generally okay, but I noticed that about 3 seconds in one direction looks better.

Overall, second presentation looks much better without having too much above. It was a great experience to watch my own 10 minutes presentations.

Book logging technique – BTMS

It has been almost half a year since I post something meaningful. My interest has been expanded to many different topics: robotics, arduino project, K12 STEM education since my trip to Peru & Bolivia. In my near future posting, I will write what I have been thinking and doing so far.

I love reading books. After reading a book, I usually put it back to the shelf. Sometimes, I make my mental note by folding a corner of a page that has a key concept (mostly I read during my commute). However, I just don’t put enough effort into making a book log after complete the book. Last year, I read a book about reading technique. The author of that book quits his job and read 3000 books in 3 years every single day (9-5) at the library. He expanded his knowledge into various subjects. From a normal business man to consultant, writer, and speaker, the author changed his life by reading books! From the book, he shares his book logging technique and I’d like to share the technique in this posting.

I have used the technique right after I read. Initially I wrote it on a paper journal, but I found it hard to reference back because it is not in a digital format. One benefit I recognized was that I remember the message from the book clearly after a year. The theory is simple. When people read a book, people usually don’t spend enough time to think and write about the book that they have read. Of course, I don’t see point of writing a book log for a fiction and a novel. Probably, technical books will not gain too much value from book logging. I think MMOST technique will be more useful for technical books because the objective is to understand and apply exact knowledge right away with your own requirements.

Here is the book log template. It consists of 4 sections: Book, Think, Mind, Summary (BTMS)

First, “Book”

  • Describe my thought on the book or subject before reading.
  • Describe core concept, sentences, messages that I captured from the book after reading.

Second, “Think”

  • My opinion about the author before reading.
  • New things I have learned or realized after reading.

Third, “Mind”

  • Describe state of consciousness and reflect against my current situation or life.
  • Describe change and expansion of consciousness in my life.

Fourth, “Summary”

  • Write one sentence summary about the book.
  • Describe any action that you’d do to reflect your thoughts & changes from the book.
  • Describe how to do?

I tend to put off book logging because of procrastination. Bad… However, as I wrote more book logs thesedays, I begin to realize how important it is to write a book log. It is better to be done within a week of finish. Hope this technique helps.

 

 

On Strategy : What Managers Can Learn from Philosophy part 2 – Coursera course experience

Again, with a great charm and wit, Professor Luc de Brabandere offered part 2 of the course. I was looking forward to having the part 2 because I enjoyed the part 1 of the course so much. Not like other MOOC video, his lecture is very unique and intellectually stimulating – I had several moments during the course that I had to pause the video and think about the topic. In this part 2, the lecture was focused on how to think in the fast moving world. Here are my learning points.

Learning pointsSS-20150216223214

Traditionally people tend to focus more on Matter (e.g. tangible material) rather than Information. A story about a bottle water company. Professor asked them what they are selling – Matter (water) or Information (brand & marketing)? When the matter is more focused, below 4 questions can help to determine what’s going on. However, information does not fit into these questions….this means we need a new way of thinking.

  • Where are things?  – Matter is easy to answer, but information is not easy to answer to this question.
  • When do things happen? – Time used to measure lots of things.
  • What is true? What is false? Café in Casablanca built after the movie. Which one is the real? We need critical thinking.
  • Why do things happen? Most important. Not easy to answer. When there are more than 5 answers, answering ‘why’ doesn’t have any value. Especially, it is difficult to find ‘why’ in Information because the world is changing.

SS-20150224214518

With the Big Data technology, three outter areas can be defined (conicidence, correlation, conjunction). However, Big data can help in a certain level of degree in all areas, but it is up to us to define the final cause & effect. This means the technology can find the missing links and help us to get close to the reason, but not the actual cause & effect. We are the one who need to draw the relationship between cause & effect with a new mind set.

SS-20150306231046Finally, techniques to survive in the fast moving world.

  1. Choose select define words
  2. Criteria
  3. Beware of questions
    1. Agenda should be put on as a question.
    2. Question should be open, visible. To run a discussion, brain storm, keep it under the image line rather than abstract word.
  4. Use creative technique
    1. Use analogy. e.g. Imagine you are…
  5. Think visual
    1. Left brain for text and right brain for diagram which makes it very powerful.
  6. Don’t stop thinking. Never stop thinking.
  7. Use humor
    1. Humor and Irony is different. Irony is a weapon. Don’t use it.

Avoid hypothesis in the future

Q: When there is a crossroad, what to do to prevent a collision?

A: Two options.

1. Light signal – this needs to predict future traffic and need to add hypothesis in the future.

2. Roundabout – no need to have hypothesis for the future.

Conclusion: remove traffic lights and add more roundabouts in the fast moving world.

Summary

In recent months, I haven’t had an opportunity to think deep about the subject. In my daily life, I made so many decisions. Sometimes difficult decisions, sometimes easy decisions. I really feel great philosophy can help me in many ways, especially making decisions. In order to make a decision, it needs to be based my value and the value comes from direct/indirect experience. In my opinion, philosophy helps me to enhance my indirect experience and gives me an ability to perform Meta-thinking. I really enjoyed this course and hope to get something out of it for my daily life at work and life. Thanks to Professor Luc de Brabandere and Coursera!

Technical Book Reviewer Experience

In May, I had a contact from Packt Publishing. They told me they found me from Github and proposed a technical book reviewer role in the new WildFly book(WildFly Configuration, Deployment and Administration). In return, they will send me a free copy and add my name in the reviewer (acknowledgement) section. Without thinking about it twice, I accepted the offer. One of the reasons was the topic was directly related to one of my current project – migrating Weblogic to JBoss (EAP). The reviewing requirement was below.

  • Have to follow their schedule – 1 chapter in every 4 days.
  • Fill out the chapter questionnaire – about 10 questions related to improvement, expect to see materials, missing materials, recommendations, etc.

When I reviewed each chapter, I had to check the flow WildFly Configuration, Deployment and Administrationand technical accuracy. It was much different than reading to understand the concept. Some questions to consider during the review:

  • What do you want to see more of in the chapter?
  • Have the author left out any important topics?
  • Is the flow of the content logical?
  • Are the code examples correct?
  • What could the author do to make the book more interesting?
  • Have the author explained the concepts clearly enough?
  • Does the chapter provide necessary reference information?

On average, I spent 2-7 hours reviewing total 11 chapters from June – September. In total, about 45 hours. In November, the book was finally published and I received a hard copy!

20141216_17504420141216_175119

Packt Publishing used to have a link to allow you to register as a potential reviewer, but currently link is not available after their site has been upgraded.

Below is the links to other publishing company’s reviewer program. Even though you don’t get paid, it is a valuable experience.

Model Thinking – Decision Tree problem

I took Model Thinking from Coursera and I’d like to share interesting problem solving technique using a decision tree model.

Concept

Basic is very simple. You use tree like model to support your decision. See more info here. Without knowing the tool/model, we use this technique often in our real life. Really interesting thing about decision tree is you can quantify your decision with numbers.

Example problem

Here is one of the questions from the week 2 quiz.

You want to go to a concert in Detroit, but you have only $80. The cost of driving will be $30. When you get to the concert, there’s a 40% chance you’ll be able to get a ticket for $50, and a 60% chance that tickets will cost more than $50. If it’s worth $130 to you to go to the concert, should you drive to Detroit to attend this concert? To solve, use a decision tree.

Solution

DecisionTree-20140615215602

 

Answer to the question is “Yes” because “Go” decision will give me $2 gain.

In the decision tree, there is no point of exploring “No Go” option because I don’t gain anything from not going. Let’s look at “Go” decision. When I decided to go, I have two possibilities: 40% of getting a ticket at $50, 60% of not getting a ticket. I need to exam each possibilities.

With 60% chance that tickets will be over $50, I can’t buy a ticket due to lack of money. I only have $80, so I ended up loosing the cost of driving which is $30. With 40% chance that ticket will be $50, it requires little bit of calculation. One important statement is that I have to see if it is worth spending $130 for the whole thing. This means my net gain calculation should be based on $130. Starting from $130, subtract driving cost $30 and concert ticket $50, so I have $50 of net gain.

From “Go” decision, I need to calculate overall net gain, so my total net gain from “Go” decision is $2 (see above picture). This means it is worth for me to “Go”.

Conclusion

I found this technique is fascinating. It allows you to think rationally with numbers and possibilities, also allows you to see your reasoning clearly. One of the challenges are understanding the problem from the model thinking. It seems easy when you look at the solution, but actually it is hard to apply the concept to the scenario. Just like every problem solving technique, you will get better as you spend more and think more about the problem.

 

Holistic Learning

Recently, I came across “Holistic Learning” technique. Brilliant, Scott H Young, developed and promoted the process. Scott is a challenger and he is doing quite interesting projects. E.g. complete MIT degree course in one year, travel and learn 4 different languages in one year. You can see his challenges and detail stuff from Scott’s blog.

In this posting, I’d like to summarize “Holistic Learning”, which is much different process from a conventional learning technique that I am familiar with. Rote memorization.

Different way of thinking

Naturally, when you encounter a new concept/topic, you are trying to reciting lists of facts, rules or formulas. Instead of doing that, you should seek to connect ideas together just like webs of information. If you properly link ideas together to see the bigger picture, studying should only be a brief refresher. A few summary points :

  • Organized Ideas into Webs
  • Interrelates Subjects and Concepts
  • Many Neural Paths to the Same Idea
  • Views Concepts Through Many Unique Perspectives and Senses
  • Aims to Learn by Relating

Approach (Model & Constructs)

Start with a model. A model is a quick representation of the idea that you are trying to relate or understand. It is an incomplete and temporary solution. Model can be abstract, but visual representation is helpful. A model is not a construct. Links form into simple models which form into overall constructs.

Techniques

Scott’s blog posting explains the techniques as below.

  1. Visceralize – Not just visualization, but also use all your senses and connecting it to information.  Studies have shown that people remember more vividly information that comes to us in an emotionally aroused state.
  2. Metaphor – Metaphor is a literary term used when you want to relate two things that aren’t actually related. Metaphors help in building constructs by relating a new construct to a previously established one. Use phrase “That reminds me of…”
  3. Ten Year Old Rule – Explain ideas to yourself as you would to a ten years old. You should be able to “dumb down” an idea, so it is obvious to yourself.
  4. Trace Back – Put away your books and start with a random fact or concept. Then relate that idea to another concept in your subject. Keep doing this tracing pattern until you’ve linked many ideas together.
  5. Refresher Scan – Scan through information in your text book. When you encounter information that you either don’t remember or weren’t 100% sure about. Quickly link that information back to existing ideas through visceralization and metaphor.
  6. Compress Information – Not all information works well for holistic learning. If no clear patterns and constructs, your goal should be to compress. Find ways to group information into smaller chunks (chunking) of memory through pictures or mnemonics.
  7. Write – Take a piece of paper and write out the connections in the information. Reorganize the information into different patterns. Key here is writing, not the final product.

Summary

Holistic Learning focuses on concepts. In my daily life, I have to deal with lots of abstract concepts as an application architect. I believe this technique will enhance my experience as a life long learner.

Model Thinking – Decision Tree problem

Currently I am taking Model Thinking from Coursera and I’d like to share interesting problem solving technique using a decision tree model.

Concept

Basic is very simple. You use tree like model to support your decision. See more info here. Without knowing the tool/model, we use this technique often in our real life. Really interesting thing about decision tree is you can quantify your decision with numbers.

Example problem

Here is one of the questions from the week 2 quiz.

You want to go to a concert in Detroit, but you have only $80. The cost of driving will be $30. When you get to the concert, there’s a 40% chance you’ll be able to get a ticket for $50, and a 60% chance that tickets will cost more than $50. If it’s worth $130 to you to go to the concert, should you drive to Detroit to attend this concert? To solve, use a decision tree.

Solution

DecisionTree-20140615215602

 

Answer to the question is “Yes” because “Go” decision will give me $2 gain.

In the decision tree, there is no point of exploring “No Go” option because I don’t gain anything from not going. Let’s look at “Go” decision. When I decided to go, I have two possibilities: 40% of getting a ticket at $50, 60% of not getting a ticket. I need to exam each possibilities.

With 60% chance that tickets will be over $50, I can’t buy a ticket due to lack of money. I only have $80, so I ended up loosing the cost of driving which is $30. With 40% chance that ticket will be $50, it requires little bit of calculation. One important statement is that I have to see if it is worth spending $130 for the whole thing. This means my net gain calculation should be based on $130. Starting from $130, subtract driving cost $30 and concert ticket $50, so I have $50 of net gain.

From “Go” decision, I need to calculate overall net gain, so my total net gain from “Go” decision is $2 (see above picture). This means it is worth for me to “Go”.

Conclusion

I found this technique is fascinating. It allows you to think rationally with numbers and possibilities, also allows you to see your reasoning clearly. One of the challenges are understanding the problem from the model thinking. It seems easy when you look at the solution, but actually it is hard to apply the concept to the scenario. Just like every problem solving technique, you will get better as you spend more and think more about the problem.

On Strategy : What Managers Can Learn from Great Philosophers – Coursera course experience

What a great course! I became a big fan of Professor Luc de Brabandere. With his unique French accent, throughout the course, he pointed out very important things about thinking.  This course explores the ultimate question – How do we think? By answering this question throughout the course, Professor Brabandere explains Induction and Deduction. Continue from Creativity, Innovation, and Change (CIC) course, I have been thinking about being creative and way of thinking. This course exceed my expectation and inspire me many different ways.

model

 

model2

Learning points

  • Idea always generated in two steps – good old ^ new idea => new good
  • Rule : To have a best idea, you will need to have many many ideas.
  • How do we think?
  • In front of us is “reality(world)”. You simplify everything. Simplification of thought represents as Box/Model.
  • Induction is the other way of thinking – much more complicated process.
  • Deduction example : You have a concept of car in your box/model. Answer to “Car is…” is easy. Simply finding car brand. Like Toyota, Volvo or something.
  • Induction example : You have Reality/World in front of you and you need to bring that into your box/model. Answer to “Car is an example of …” is much harder to answer because it requires your existing or new box/model.
  • You can’t have perfect induction.
  • Algorithm, analysis, number is deduction. Heuristics, synthesism, concept is induction
  • Deduction is a form of thinking involving the application of an existing box, such as a framework, to details observed in the world in front of you, testing the box’s capacity to interpret them.
  • Induction is a form of thinking involving moving from fragmentary details (particulars) observed in the world in front of you to a connected view of a situation, a binding principle, which eventually forms a theory, a working hypothesis, a box.
  • Thinking is about organizing facts, data, and observations from the world in front of you by introducing connecting links and then using this information.
  • Managers with a strategic vision will have scenarios based on the mega trends.
  • Strategic Vision : An ambitious image of a future state that is radically preferable to the current state, according to those who develop it. It is a box that becomes a reference for a company, and thus serves as a guide allowing each employee to approach work more effectively.
  • A megatrend is a sweeping but relatively predictable change that is expected to affect the world in front of you (usually our customers, competition, market, etc). It happens independent of your company and your issues. Megatrends can serve as sources of idea in the search for new boxes.
  • A scenario is a story about a possible future; it is a box consisting of the description of an end state, a related interpretation of current reality, and an account of how the world gets from one state to the other.

model3

 

Summary

I’ve learned how we think. Understanding how we process our thinking helps me in many different ways. In the end, I understood what “thinking outside of box” truly means. This course is highly recommended, especially someone who are interested in “Metathinking”.

 

Creativity, Innovation, and Change (CIC) course experience & summary

Experience

Beginning of September, I took “Creativity, Innovation, and Change” course by Penn State University from Coursera.org. This course covers various topics, especially focused on creativity and innovation in total 8 weeks. According to the professors, there are over 100,000 students enrolled this course from all over the world. We had three professors with different backgrounds and experience. The course, as name suggested, covers various techniques and tools to help me to become better at creativity. One interesting thing was that there are two types of creative style : Innovative, Adaptive (part of week 1 assignment). I found myself a moderate adaptive style. This means I apply my creativity from the situation that I am familiar with. Resource can be found here. Workload was not too heavy. Average 3-4 hours per week was good enough for me. This course offers different path with different goals in their mind. Course Info. Below techniques are posted as exercise from the course and I put the content for my own usage.

Idea Generation Techniques

  • Brainstorming Techniques : Various brainstorming techniques explained.
  • Random Stimuli : Participants use free association in connection with a random word or image to generate new ideas.
  • SCAMPER : SCAMPER = Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to different use, Eliminate, Reverse. Participants use a set of directed questions to help evolve an existing product, service, or solution into one that is more ideal.
  • Morphological Matrix : An existing product or system is broken into parts/functions. Various ways of achieving each part or function are identified and then (re)combined to create new forms of the product or system.
  • Brainwriting 6-3-5 : Brainwriting 6-3-5 is a modified form of classic brainstorming that encourages equal participation from all team members using written rather than verbal idea generation. There are many varieties, but the general process is that all ideas are recorded by the individual who thought of them. They are then passed on to the next person, who uses them as a trigger for their own ideas. Clearly, this is a group technique.
  • Concept Tree : A concept tree or concept fan starts with an idea and uses that idea to identify concepts, or connecting points, from which alternative ideas can be derived. This is more of an individual technique, but a group could develop a concept tree together in stages.
  • Superheroes : Superheroes is a fantasy-based version of Role Storming and is similar to other boundary-stretching techniques such as Exaggeration and Reversals. Participants pretend to be a fictional (or real) super-hero (Superman, the Incredible Hulk, Batman, James Bond, Wonder Woman, Sherlock Holmes, etc.) and use their ‘super’ characteristics to trigger and develop ideas. This technique could be applied individually or in a group.
  • Spare Diamonds : When we start a new Venture, we often find that we are short on resources: money, knowledge, equipment, people contacts, and many other items.  Our first tendency is sometimes to seek as much funding as possible, in order to help our ideas move forward.  And sometimes funding is important.  And yet, there are many other resources right in front of us as well … resources that we miss.  For each of the following categories, try to list 1 to 5 “Spare Diamonds” that might be of great service or use in your Venture:
    • friends. Do any have particular skills that could help you?
    • interns. Is there “excess skill” looking for experience?
    • space. Do you have excess space at home, in the office, or elsewhere?
    • land. Is there park land or side-walk space you might be able to use, just for asking?
    • tools. Have an extra shovel, power saw, portable cement mixer, computer, radio?
    • transportation. Have a mostly-un-used car? Bicycle?
    • internet. Is there an open web site you can access?
    • knowledge. Do you have useful, but un-used, knowledge?
    • other items. Have frequent flyer miles? Coupons? Lumber?

How can you apply these and other “spare diamonds” to a Venture?  Remember, it is often more difficult to find “spare money” lying around.  However, these other diamonds often lie un-unused, until someone sees a need for them – that is often the magic of creativity!  Find value where others do not.

Instructions:

Step 1: First, you need to record some ideas! Choose a particular day and a particular time period in which to record them. It could be 15 minutes on a Tuesday, or an hour on Saturday morning, or the 2-hour train ride to a business meeting, or an entire weekend! If you can, choose several different days and times to record your ideas, so you can see how your ideas vary under different circumstances. For whichever times you’ve chosen, record your ideas in some concrete way – write them down, tweet them, leave a voice mail, send an email, use a voice recorder, or draw a picture … whatever works for you!

Step 2: Now, we’d like you to measure your ideas using the 4+ metrics listed below. It’s important to remember that you are NOT judging your ideas in this exercise. The point is to observe and measure your ideas in different ways, so you can decide for yourself how you want to improve them. So, start here:

Quantity: How many ideas did you generate each time?

Variety: How different are the ideas from each other? (You might use a simple Likert scale for this – e.g., very similar, moderately similar, moderately different, very different).

Novelty: What kind of novelty do your ideas represent? Are they more adaptively creative (i.e., ideas that refine, polish, or tune up something) or more innovatively creative (i.e., ideas that reframe, reconfigure, or dismantle something) – or do you have some of both?

Efficiency: How efficient are your ideas in terms of implementation? Can they be put into practice right away using things that already exist, or will new systems or infrastructure be needed before they can be realized?

Your Choice! What other ways can you measure your ideas? Choose other metrics that you think are meaningful and apply them to your ideas as well.

  • Planning for Action

Introduction:

Once you have something you want to implement, it can be intimidating to figure out where to begin – what to do first, second, third, and so on. In this exercise, we’re going to show you one way to get started. The general idea is to prioritize your action steps using short, medium, and long term thinking – and then to build some structure around your expectations for each action step. Speaking of action … let’s get started!

Instructions:

Step 1: Identify. Identify the specific idea or solution that you want to implement. It could be and idea you generated in this course, or it may be another solution that you have in mind.

Step 2: List. Generate a list of action steps that will be needed to bring your solution to life. Don’t worry about making this list absolutely complete or putting the action steps in precise order. Just do your best to identify key actions that will need to be taken. You can always add more action steps later!

Step 3: Define. Determine what “short”, “medium”, and “long” term mean in the context of your situation. For example, short term to a research scientist might be 1 year, medium term may be a decade, and long term may be 50 years. For a teacher, short term might be at the end of the current instructional unit, medium term might be the end of the semester, and long term might be the end of the school year. For a parent, short term might mean a few hours, medium term might mean the end of the week, and long term might mean the end of the month. Be clear about what you mean by short, medium, and long term before sorting your action steps.

Step 4: Sort. Now, sort your actions using the following phrase: “What I see myself doing in the short term is …” Make this specific by replacing “in the short term” with whatever you have decided is “short term” for you. Identify all the steps from your initial list that fit with this phrase. Now, move to your personal definition of medium term and repeat the process: “What I see myself doing in the medium term is …” Then move to your long term action steps. Add more action steps as needed along the way. To jump-start your efforts, be sure to include at least one short-term action that can take place in the next 24 hours.

IMPORTANT: As you move through this process, WRITE DOWN YOUR ACTION STEPS! Action steps are just like all ideas: if you write them down, you are more likely to do them.

Step 5: Order. Now, take the action steps in each category (short, medium, and long term) and see if you can put them in order from soonest to latest, or from least to most important – whatever makes sense for your solution. Compare across categories to make things consistent.

Step 6: Own. For each action step in each category, write down these details:

a. Who is responsible? – Is this an action you must take yourself, or do you need someone else to do it for you? If you need help with this step, who will help you?

b. Target dates – Begin and End dates for the action step. When will you start and finish it?

c. End product/Measurement – How will you know when the step is complete? How will you measure success?

d. Status – Finally, identify a way to keep track of the status of each action step. Is it completed? Partially done? Just started? Update this information regularly, so you can see your plans moving forward, even if progress is slow.

  • CENTER : CENTER is an acronym that stands for Character, Entrepreneurship, owNership, Tenacity, Excellence, and Relationship. There is not “one big secret” to success. Rather, learn the system that enables “ordinary people” to have extraordinary victories, with self, family, work, and community.

Exercise Introduction

Previously, I mentioned that one of the villains of pursuing your passions and purposes, is busy-ness. My friend Brian Cunningham, a highly accomplished entrepreneur who lives near Washington DC, introduced me to a version of a “Life Ring. This is a document that forces you to focus, by stating “I am _____” on a single sheet of paper.

When I made my first draft of my Life Ring, I had more than 20 ovals on it! I came to realize that I was trying to make everything a priority, like bolding every letter in a book. Trying to do too many items, splintering our time and energy into too many bins, is what I see from most of the students and professionals with whom I interact. Who doesn’t have too many things to do?

In my own case, with time I made the hard decisions to stop doing certain items at work, halt leadership roles in some organizations I was part of, and decline various invitations and offers. I made the decision to say a “big YES” to those few items in which I would invest most heavily. I pruned the vine. My effort in life is higher than it has ever been, and now that the effort is focused on roughly one third the items, my impact has increased, by my own measure.

Having a few bullets under each oval heading can also be helpful. First, by clarifying detail within each category, I can paint a more clear picture of what I am doing. Furthermore, the wisdom in sticking with the 1-page Life Ring is that each morning, I can review it and refocus. Because I am able to fit only 3 or 4 short bullets under each heading in the Life Ring, I must choose what to do, and what to exclude, in clear ways.

Exercise Instruction

Draw your Life Ring. You can use the template above, or create your own template. Focus on roughly 5-9 major life arenas where you will invest your time, with self, family, work, and community (SFWC). Put your “master in the middle”; this is the primary driving force behind all your decisions – and in every life, there can only be one master. If you try to have more than one master, eventually your Life will intersect events so that you have an “identity quake”, and must choose your primary master. Under each arena bubble, list those most important habits that you will commit to each day or each week. This is not simply a “to do list”, but a list of habits. When the Life Ring has a clear “master in the middle”, 5-9 arenas, and a short list of habits under each arena, it is complete.

Purpose: Focus your effort

Drawing and continually asserting a Life Ring is a powerful way to focus. Following Miller’s “magic number 7, plus or minus 2”, having 5 to 9 major arenas, each summarized in a bubble around the center, and then add a few sub-bullets, that still fit on 1 page. This is likely as much as you can focus your mind around.

Summary

I’ve learned various ways of idea generating techniques throughout this course. This course offers fun exercises and definitely I can use techniques at my work and outside of work. Highly recommend to anyone who are interested in generating new ideas and wants to be creative.