work

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Who do you want to be?

When I was 14 at the end of junior high school, I was asked to decide what job I wanted to do after school. Like that: enter a class room, sit down, take a pen and a piece of paper and write down who you want to become.

I remember I asked the teacher if I would be able to change my mind after. She said “maybe”.

I was so fucking stressed. I haven’t thought about that this seriously. So since I liked watching stars I wrote astrophysicist. The teacher took my paper, filed it and the next year I studied more science. That’s it.

A couple of years after before getting to university, same question: Who do you want to be? What? again? Can’t I just figure this one out later? I had several friends who wanted to study electronics so I said electronics. And I went studying for two years in the electronic department of the university.

At the end of that again, same question: what do you want to do? work or study more? I got an appointment with one teacher there. He told me: ” you’re not ready to work but you don’t have the mentality for engineering school”. It was a nice way to say “you’re fucked buddy“. Anyway I applied for an engineering school in my hometown. They told me I had no chance to be selected because I sent my file too late. It was basically that or nothing. I was a little desperate… But in the end they took me. Seriously engineering school was hard but not that hard. Basically sometimes, I couldn’t party for 3-4 days because I had to study. This kind of hard. I got my engineering degree, I honestly think I did a good job and also I  went to all the college parties and concerts I could during these three years.

And after that, nothing. I went out of school and nobody asked what I wanted to do. Hey guys, where are you? Are you kidding me?

I looked for jobs in high-tech companies, the kind of companies who judge you on the way you tied your tie, not your qualifications, I did some interviews… I couldn’t stand it. I had no desire to work for people who wanted to make me a robot. I wanted to create stuff, not being told what to do.

So I worked in a hardware store. I was being told what to do from 5 am to 1pm and after that I was free. I’ve always been a morning kind of guy anyway.

One day I met a friend in this hardware store. When I was in engineering school I did an internship in the company he worked for. He told me the company decided to hire an engineer. The next week I was working for them.

And the same thing happened every year: What do you want to do? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I want a raise. I want more responsibilities. I want to go to Canada.

So they sent me to Canada (in case you don’t know, I’m French). I worked for them for three years in Montreal. But, hey… I was still not free. I was still doing what I was being told to do. I was not creating stuff at all. It was not the company’s fault, it was mine. I was not doing what I wanted. I was a robot. And in some ways it was comfortable because I just had to follow, tell some people what to do, tell other people what I had done. And it was ok but not really.

The worst was that I could see myself doing the same job in 20 years. And I got scared. So I quit.

And now I’m on my own.

It’s hard to know what you want to do. When you have no clue, people decide for you. You think you had a choice because people asked you but in fact no, choices are really limited… What if you want to be a fisherman in Alaska or a shaman? There is no school for that.

Now I know who I want to become. I know that I want to be on the edge. I don’t want to be comfortable.

And I’m the only one who can make it happen. It’s liberating.

I’m working on this right now.

Do you?

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This app business project

Hello, and happy Labour Day weekend if you’re in US or Canada (or any country that celebrates Labour Day now)!

Since it’s a time to reflect about work, I thought I had a little word on where my business is going and mainly my app business project… It’s kind of a long post so grab a cup of green smoothie. Actually I was writing to a friend and I thought it would be a good post (excuse me if there is any typo).

I was on vacation for 2 weeks in August and honestly I did not do as much as I expected this summer. Actually I really focused on my yoga teacher training this past year and it was one of the best decision I ever made. I really did it for my own personal development. Seriously, if you are still wondering why all these self-help development books and blogs haven’t work, try a yoga teacher training (really!). I won’t teach though, but in a way I believe that if you are a better person you end up showing a good example to others which is a good teaching.

So, now that I’m not studying and writing yoga reports (I think I was too much of a perfectionist on these sometimes), I have more time to invest in my business. I opened SPARQ Studio a little more than a year ago. It was really more a way to do all kind of freelance work, mainly websites and consulting behind a business name ( I could have name it Manuel Loigeret Consulting Company but SPARQ sounded better…). Now I want to step up my game a little because website and consulting can be great but it’s definitely not my dream job.

This App Developer thingy

For a long time I said I was an app developer. It’s true and false. It’s true because I’m a computer engineer, I programmed quite a lot of desktop applications (mainly image analysis / artificial intelligence softwares). I also did a lot a php/mysql programming and also other network, linux and web stuff. And yeah, I also worked on a lot of stuff not at all related to computer science. And it was great but not in term of “apps”… So when I say I’m an app developer it’s not completely true because, people automatically think iphone apps (and this is what I wish I meant too). I worked on many “test” iphone apps but I didn’t publish any yet. And I feel bad about it. I always had a “good reason” to do something else – because website design and consulting pay the bills faster than trying to understand the App Store business. So in the past year I spent a lot of time on some short-term projects that didn’t bring me much instead on focusing on the app programming. Now my goal is to make this app thing work. That being said, I’ll still dedicate some time to work on some side web and consulting projects on the way because it’s not too difficult and it pays the bills.

What I’m working on now

Right now I’m working (almost) like a maniac on a meditation app I started a while ago. It’s a project I had for a year and along the way I came up with all sorts off ideas to make it really satisfying and yet simple. So what was supposed to be done in a couple of weeks took me a bit longer and I’m really happy with what it became…

I’ll write more about it and make a small promotional site when I’ll have a beta version, hopefully in September. The app should be on the store in October if everything’s ok. Since it’s the first app I will publish on the App Store, I have no idea how it will go with Apple review. I think I did everything right but perhaps they will come up with some coding norm that I wasn’t aware of. Surprise, surprise…

After that, I have a couple of other apps on paper. These should not take as long as a year to come. The more I code apps the more I feel comfortable to make them quickly. I also have some kick-ass designer friends who give me great insights. It helps… I can easily convince myself that what I do is awesome when in fact it’s total bullshit. Dear designer friends, you piss me off sometimes but I’m glad you do.

App marketing

I made some research and a lot of reading on app marketing. There’s a lot of ‘get rich quickly’ formulas around that sound more like big scams when you start to make research in this area. But I also found some stuff on how to make apps that make a difference and how to optimize your keywords, title, screenshots, etc…I’m really excited about that actually. The App Store is a close system so it seems a little more feasible to follow a couple of rules to get into the game. (oh yeah… when I say “App Store, I mean, the Apple App Store… I want to focus exclusively on iphone/ipad apps. The Android platform is kind of mess for developers from what I’ve seen and I don’t want to waste my time figuring it out)

Also, even if a revolutionary idea will make you rich, it’s really really (really!) hard to come up with one. And it’s funny actually because when you talk about app ideas with people, many of them think that it’s easy to have a really unique idea and get rich. But believe me, try to have an awesome app idea and then make some research and see how millions of developers already executed your idea. My plan is to make a good amount of apps during this coming year (what “good amount” means? We’ll see…) and test different kind of apps and marketing strategies to see what really works.

Getting better

Finally this App entrepreneur ambition might seem like a big dream, but I see a lot of guys who are not smarter than anybody and manage to make a decent income from the App Store. So I’m asking myself “Why not me?”. I believe it really is artificial limitation. I’m not really surrounded by truly awesome entrepreneurs who did it and it keeps my reference system pretty low (see this post by Niall Doherty who expressed it better that I can). Actually if I didn’t focus on this project it’s surely because the task seems kind of too difficult. But in the past I surpassed really difficult challenges and now that I think about them they were not that bad. I definitely need to put a little more energy into this.

So yeah… Will this App thing work? Will I be able to make some money from my apps? Will this project evolve into something else?

Keeping reading the blog if you want to know 🙂

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Small victories

I don’t really like weekends. I mean, yes I do like weekends and I like to just relax and enjoy life but I generally don’t feel good about myself at the end of Sunday if I just kicked back and did nothing for two days – whereas I feel really great after a Tuesday of good work. That’s my thing, I need to get stuff done.

I started my company more than a year ago and working for myself is probably one of the hardest thing I did in my life (but it’s also one of the most enjoyable!). I can’t count the number of times I failed. Actually I noticed that it’s quite easy to think of all these failures and just spiral down an endless state of pessimistic laziness. My brain is wired like that: if I don’t make an effort it focusses on all the crap that I get into instead of moving forward. I hate being in that state… It’s worst than just failing, it feels like another layer of failure bullshit on top of what I’m already dealing with… You know what I mean?

There is only one way to go around that: focus on your successes. “Oh really, that’s it? Well, since you’re so smart Manuel, why don’t you tell us how to do this? Because it’s easy to say to focus on your successes but you don’t know my life and everything went wrong today…“. Ok… First, let’s redefine the term “success”. Success is not a goal, it’s not a state you will attain at some point, it’s a process. Let’s say you want to become one of the best iphone app programmers around (which is one thing I’m working on), well, it won’t happen in one day. But perhaps you can read 30 minutes about app development and practice for an hour today. If you consistently do that, you’ll make progress. But you can’t expect to become one of the best and just kick back. The more you progress, the more you have to work on how to continuously evolve. See what I mean? There is no big success but just an accumulation of little successes. So when I say “success” I mean the process or the little steps of this process.

Even if you work on your big life project every day, some days will just be plain shitty. It’s normal to fail and deal with crap, that’s how we learn, right? The simplest way to increase your chances of keeping a successful state of mind is to multiply your activities (the multipotentialites can help you with that). This is why I’m working on becoming one of the greatest app developer but also on growing my company, working on my client projects, writing on this blog, studying to become a yoga teacher and generally hacking/improving my everyday life. With more activities, I just can’t expect to fail at everything everyday (or that would be a very shitty day, but even in that case I’m pretty sure there would be something positive aspects in all that mess). So every night, when I go to bed, I have at least one (if not many) small victory(ies) to focus on.

I use these pieces of software (Things, Re.Minder and Lift) to remind me to do things… Because I can’t rely on my brain to remind me what I have to do and also I don’t want to clog my thoughts with stuff that can be automated. For example: if I don’t practice my handstand every day I tend to forget how to do it well and I go backward. That’s why I have a reminder to practice handstands at least once a day… It doesn’t have to be long, it just takes me 30 seconds in the morning, then I check it on Lift and I already told my brain “See, one victory!”. Here are examples of other activities I told myself to do every day… (some are work related, some concern more my personal development, other are just habits I’m trying to build…)

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(alternatively, you can also play this song every time you succeed at one of your everyday task)

It’s really that simple: make a list of small steps you have to work on every day and get as much small victories you can. Pretend it’s a game, just focus on that. If you just get one done, that’s already great… It will keep your success momentum going.

Do you already have a list of small steps you work on? Are you planning to make one? Share some of these steps in the comment section… It might inspire others.

Always be ready

Hello there! It’s 4am in Montreal as I am starting to write this post. This is what insomnia feels like. It almost never happens to me. Watching Breaking Bad before going to bed and dreaming about it did not really help. So I made some coffee and I’m just going to start my day a little earlier. And since it is early and I have nothing planned until later today, I thought that I could bother you with a new post.

It’s about why I actually love doing dishes. Not really that I enjoy the fact of washing dishes but I like it when everything is done.

We had a dishwasher before. Actually we got it almost for free when we moved in this apartment.  After a year or so it started to make weird noises. I tried to repair it but completely failed. So one night I put it on the sidewalk and some scrappers took it after 15 minutes ; that’s good efficiency on the part of these scrappers  considering there was a snow storm that night. (Note: I’m not really the kind of guy who just put a broken dishwasher on the sidewalk, I would normally take it somewhere to be recycled but I called the city recycling department and they told me: “put it on the sidewalk, some scrappers will take it” and that’s what happened).

Since then, we have washed our dishes manually like normal people (and I mean ‘normal people’ in terms of “Humanity spent more time doing dishes by hand rather than using a robot”) and I’ve started to find an interest and even enjoyed it. I think it started with something that my Grand-Father taught me when I was a kid. He was a cook and one of his “secrets” was to “always do the dishes as soon as you can, this way everything is always ready to use”. You need that pan? baaam, here it is! So that’s why I do the dishes as soon as I can now. The good side of this is that I usually get a really small amount of dishes to do at a time which is always better than a sink overflowed by dirty plates. I still don’t really like the act of doing the dishes so just a little amount is fine with me.

Everything always ready? Of course I can do this with other stuff:

  • Why not trying to answer this email right now instead of waiting for emails to pile up? (I don’t understand how people manage to have several thousand unread emails in their inbox by the way).
  • Why not fixing up this little bug in a software instead of waiting the end of the project?
  • Write a blog post as soon as I have an idea (or an insomnia)?
  • Why not put this dishwasher on the sidewalk right now instead of waiting for another recycling option?
  • And why am I waiting to give this phone call when I am playing Angry Birds?…

It’s really incredible the number of little things we can do quickly. After all, every (EVERY!) project is just a sum of small tasks that can be done really fast as they come up. Would we be able to work in “real time” with tasks done as soon as a problem emerge and always be ready for the next thing? That would feel great.

Let’s work on this… but first I have to wash this coffee cup.

(Final note: I am not perfect and  I am not that good with other domestic tasks but I am working on it… I’ve experimented with the laundry but I ended up with the famous red sock that got lost with white laundry and coloured everything in pink)

When work happens

I have a hard time dedicating some time to actually get some work done. I can type stuff or classify files or whatever but creative work or real work  does not get done when I want. It just happens.

First the concept of work is a little strange to me. What we call “work” is not really work… It’s usually just an amount of tasks. Work is not a task, work is bigger than that. For example printing is not work. It’s just printing. It’s just a work related task but not actually work (except if you work for xerox). How much time is spent printing worldwide during ‘work’ time? It’s easy to consider this part of a job but, come on, wouldn’t you prefer to actually create instead of print?

Now, what percentage of tasks like printing is considered as work? Update your OS, going up in the elevator, recharging your laptop, etc.. And when do we really solve problems that matter?

I have been struggling with my yoga practice during the whole month of June (I know it’s not really “paid work” but yoga is still some kind of work even if the benefits are not money-related). In May I was on vacation and I must admit I ate and drank more than usual. I almost did not do any kind of physical or intellectual activities. So I suppose it’s not surprising that I felt like I came back 6 months in past when I started yoga again. I was still “understanding” what was going on but my body was simply just not following. I kept up practicing, I made some progress and came back to my before-vacation “level”. Since then the progress have continued (… bonus!) like if was still on the same learning curve. What is strange though is that I was feeling comfortable before my holidays but making progress at a relatively slow rate… After this month of struggles, I have never felt so good practicing yoga than during the past 2 weeks.

I also have the same kind of feelings with my creative work (read programming). Some days are filled with problems with no answer. During these days, I want to give up everything, I question myself, I believe I will fail. And during some other days everything falls in place almost magically, everything seems obvious.

So when does work happen? Is it when you are struggling with problems or when you actually get stuff done with ease?

For me work happens when I accept to deal with issues and not expect anything in return ; just deal with it. Most of the time the task is not difficult. What is difficult though is to accept to dedicate time to get it done. Most of my work ideas happen when I take a shower or when I eat breakfast for example – I just need some time in the morning… and I literally wait for it to happen. It’s at this time that I think of the day/week ahead of me and accept what will happen. That’s when creativity is really at work. I usually have the idea of what needs to be done to attain a goal. Real work is just about accepting the straight line, the one we know is the best and continue following it even during dark times. Yes in the end, it is just a matter of deciding to continue.

When does work happen for you?