Time in the Digital Desert

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“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving

Terry Pratchett, “A Hatful of Sky”

It’s been over a year since my last post. in which I talked about digital dieting.

I decided it wasn’t enough, so I took it one step further, and decided to not just diet, but Fast.

I came off all social media. All of it.

I restricted myself to email, and that in only limited amounts.

I wanted to see what would happen.

At first, it was weird. I found it hard to use the time freed up time productively. It was as though I knew I should be doing something, but not sure what.

Then, it changed.

I have aways been an avid reader and researcher, as well as a connector. I was able to do more, and not only more, but different and challenging. Meeting people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, who introduced me to topics and ideas I otherwise would not have come across.

The end result has been both joyous and cleansing. Leaving some things behind, makes room for new things, and new things stimulate new ideas and ways of seeing.

In times of rapid change, we like to hold on to the familiar, even when we know, really, it no longer serves us, or those we serve.

For my own part, it has moved me from being surrounded by others ideas of “retirement” (I am that sort of age) to the energy of “Re-attirement” (Thanks Michael B!), a commitment to wearing a new attitude and mindset that defines the next stage of my adventure.

I think for all of us, particularly at those points when we may feel “stuck” or heavy under the weight of the expectation of others, time away is invaluable.

It’s good to be back, although it’s a different me, with a different plan, ready to go in 2019.



Digital dieting

fire hose - MediumRecent and upcoming elections have revealed an interesting, and disturbing trend. The creation not just of “fake news”, but highly targeted fake news. Using data scraped from social media, and elsewhere, what arrives in out inbox or social media accounts is more and more tailored and targeted. A form in many ways of virtual reality.

Of course, it’s not just elections. It is happening in all realms. On the benign side, curated, filtered information is a boon when it comes from those we trust, and have given permission to do this for us. On the dark side, it gives those with the capabilities of shaping our perception of the world to suit their agenda.

We are hosed down with information, of varying quality and as our attention is increasingly consumed, we have become “solution junkies” looking for fast, easy, proven, safe answers to the challenges consuming our attention. We end up chasing our tails, reacting to assertions and views that have sometimes been designed to achieve that.

Let’s consider a few of them:

Business is more competitive than ever

This has become accepted wisdom, and the rationale for many a consultative offering. The problem is, it’s a questionable assumption. The years since the financial crisis have seen record levels of consolidation. For many businesses, it’s not competition that’s the problem, it’s the lack of it, as successful companies are gobbled up by their larger, slower, competitors.

We are all entrepreneurs now

Although we have seen a rise in the number of start ups, and independent operators, they are not all entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who create high growth businesses are few and far between. There are more of us who operate independently out of choice and a desire to have more control of our lives, and there are those who work independently out of necessity.  These three groups have very different needs. Lots of “solutions” as to how we can increase sales dramatically, scale our business, and the like force many into costs and models that are just not appropriate.

Business is getting faster

Only partially true, certainly the internet had exponentially increased the amount of information we receive, and the number of people we are in contact with, but speed? Business is a function of relationships, and those don’t get faster. Transactions do, but transactions are soulless, and do not of themselves build businesses.

Globalisation and robots will overwhelm us.

 This is the current “fear du jour”, and like business getting faster is only partially true. Certainly, if your current job involves routine processing, whether on the assembly line, or in an accountants office, then there is a threat – both from low cost outsource labour, or an even lower cost algorithm. Again though, this affects transactions far more than relationships. 

What matters

We can easily get distracted by the volume of “noise” being directed at us, and spend so much time processing it that we lose the ability to identify the “signal”-the stuff that matters.


Dealing with the issues is a simple as it is difficult. It’s like dieting. Consume less, be selective about what you consume, and track your progress. Even better, find a group trying to do the same thing. 

If we can free up even an hour a week to be able to think and reflect, rather than react, what is important will become clearer. We have everything we need to find our way forward.

There are lots of self help books with “recipes”- all have something to offer, but like the diet, it’s really about intent.

Here.s my diet:

  • I’ve limited my social media contacts to only those I really want to be connected with. In my case, it’s around 50. Signal generators, not noise machines.
  • I use my tablet for emails, social media, calendar and any other communication.  My laptop is a place of quiet- where I do my work. There are no inbound channels to distract me. It is based on “pull”, not giving others permission to “push”
  • I do original research, and carefully select the media I use. I avoid, like the plague, articles pushed at me by those who I don’t know. They are on their agenda, not mine, and I can do without the interuption.
  • I spend at least 10 mins every day getting rid of the noise (I’m a fan of mindfulness – other approaches are available) and one afternoon a week entirely off line. 

What I’ve come to understand is that most of what we spend our time coping with uses very little,of our ability, and that most of it can be done by someone else, or something else, cheaper and probably just as well. Our futures are at heart really simple. It involves no more than 150 people who you want to work with, doing something that matters, that brings you joy.

Making time for that is worth the short term pain of a diet.


Image: Medium.com

New Game, different rules

Webb-Ellis-at-Rugby,In 1823, legend has it that at Rugby School,  William Webb Ellis decided to pick up the football and run with it. The rest, as they say, is history.

If he did that today, he’d be sent off. We have rules, and people in charge of making them,

Games are easy – clearly defined rules that change only rarely. There have only ever been three changes in the rules of Lawn Tennis since it’s inception. The court is the same size, the sequence of play is clear, the scoring rules clear.

Nobody comes on to play with a golf club, or serves a rugby ball. Players can develop their skills within very tight boundaries, and can develop incremental improvements to extraordinary levels, confident that they have the time to do so.

There are very few other areas where the same applies. Even the law is subject to judgement and opinion, and the other professions have seen ingenious, often brilliant ways of circumventing rules (Tax law springs to mind.

Business is another case altogether. When AirBnB picked up Hilton’s ball and ran with it, nobody sent them off. When Elon Musk developed Tesla, nobody gave him a yellow card. We just watch, and wonder, and go back to what we were doing.

Often, we create our own rules – processes, protocols, authority levels – all designed to keep the game we think we are playing under control and convince ourselves that efficiency and control is king. Except, nobody else is listening.

If a champions league footballer wandered into an NFL game, believing his skills and training will prepare him, he’s in for an unpleasant, and probably painful shock. It’s football Jim, but not as we know it.

The point is this, the business you are working in this morning is different to the one you turned up at yesterday, and you’re a different person to the one who turned up yesterday. As Heraclitus said, “no man treads in the same river twice. Different river, different person”

Whilst this constant change has always been the case, it is now far faster, more connected, and more complex. It means the time we have to play the game we’re in is getting ever shorter, that we have to be able to recognise the changes taking place, and that we have to train for the new game whilst still playing the old one. That’s some order, and unsurprisingly, very few of us do it.

Maybe we need to think in terms of having a TMO, and independent person with an overview, to support, or question the referee we answer to. All the people playing  in the game, including the referee, are so absorbed in the here and now, they become blind to what else is going on outside the game they’re in.

Meanwhile, someone, somewhere, is picking up the ball and changing the game.