Overextending leads to self discovery


Seth wrote a really good blog post about Underextending, which got me thinking.

Last year I took some very big financial, personal, emotional and reputational risks, in two countries. I completely overextended myself. It hurt like hell. There were times when I thought I’d never get through it all. There were many times when I thought I was going to lose everything. And I mean everything. I got to the end of last year, and I was broken from overextending myself. I won’t go into the tactical stuff and what I did to get through it just yet, mainly ‘cos it’s still too close.

What I think is important in the context of Seth’s blog post, is that the overextending from last year has led to so many great things that are happening now, and it’s just the beginning.

I didn’t see or predict it last year, I just knew they had to be done. If I had have known then what I’ve seen now, I would definitely have spent less time worrying.

Too often we back away from apparent pain, in fear of the risks involved, not looking at the benefits that may come afterwards. If anything, the last 18 months has taught me that well timed, well executed overextension is actually what creates the lifechanging progress we all crave.

Where are the meetups?


Last evening we had an informal meetup for BigData people in London, where we got to listen to some interesting talks from people working in BigData, and meet some cool people. Held at WhiteBearYard, where PassionCapital is based.

That in itself is not the interesting for most people ;-)

But what is, is that a bunch of people got together to share what they’re doing, and talk about some interesting problems and solutions they’re dealing with. This is how you learn new stuff, meet new people like yourself, find new hires, and broaden your horizons. It’s essential.

Where are the meetups ?
Where are people gathering to learn, interact, and take over the world?
What elegant solutions are people working on to difficult problems?

An open letter to African technologists



Dear African technologist, hacker, developer, geek, product guy, dreamer, thinker, tinkerer, manager, CEO, multi-national-organisation-in-Africa,

We’re at the beginning of a shift in technology usage, where mobile adoption and usage is quickly going to become more prevalent and ubiquitous than the PC. Bandwidth is getting faster and cheaper for both PC and mobile, despite the monopolies that have held everyone back for years. Infrastructure is now massively cheap and easy to scale. There are toolkits, API’s, platforms, frameworks, services and stacks for almost every technology need you may have. It’s easier now to create something, and innovate, than it ever has been. Not moving forward means you’re being left behind.

The traditional approaches we’ve been using for years are dying. People are looking for authenticity, value, engagement, real’ness for want of a better word.

Dream. Find something that provides value. Help people to get some of that value. Make it great. Remove the crappy stuff.

Stop banging the same drums. Stop thinking you’ve got it all figured out. Approach problems differently. Give your people space to think and tinker. Innovate.

Get massively hyped about your product or service. Tell everyone you know. Let go of any conservativeness you may have, because if you can’t get excited about what you do, then no-one else will. If you’re working for a crap company, leave it. There are better things to do with your precious time.

We can learn a lot from places like Silicon Valley, New York, Berlin, Israel, London, Austin, Chile, Singapore, Ireland and India. We can learn even more from the people who live in those places, how they work, what they do with their time, and ultimately the success they create. We can also learn from the people we live among, by asking them about the problems they face.

There is no shortage of investors or money, only shortages of good people, scalable and executable opportunities. Be the person who can execute and scale, and do it with a product that people will use, and the money won’t be a problem. But don’t use a perceived lack of investors, internal or external, as an excuse.

There are no accidents, only trying, failure, and then ultimately succeeding. As a technologist, today, your greatest asset is the time and technical gifts you have. Use them wisely.

There are many problems people face in emerging markets, and they all need elegant solutions. Find the value. Supply the demand for that value, by doing something that makes you get up in the morning with a spring in your step and a whistle in your tune.

In short, there are no excuses or reasons not to do something awesome, other than the ones we limit ourselves with. Africa has the potential to be one of the largest mobile markets on the planet.

What are you doing about it?

What are your values?


This week we sat down as a company to talk about what we valued the most, what we’d like to get across in each and every customer interactions, and what we wanted to live by. This is what we came up with, after 3 or 4 sessions:

  1. Love what you do.
  2. Be interesting, not perfect.
  3. Focus on simplicity.
  4. Be the ‘go-to’ people.
  5. Make yourself at home.

The idea is that in every decision, interaction, argument, direction, we take, the above values are our guide. We think the above take all of the little things we want to live by, and wraps them up into something which is easy to understand and talk about.

The proof it works for us, was that this week we had an experience which tested the above values, and we felt good about the outcome. We talked about how our values applied in this situation, what our conduct should look like to make us feel congruent with them, and then we acted. What’s funny is that my own default response was somewhat cynical (this happens after being in the trenches for so long – you get jaded and less and less patient), and much more sarcastic. But it was the team which brought us back to our values and what was the right thing to do.

No discussions, no debate, no arguments. Just alignment. And then happiness knowing we’d tried, and done the right thing.

We’re going to put the values on the wall, and we’re going to use them for all the important decisions. Feels good.

How about you? What’s your guide?

Functional workout: “Still Alive”


Today I wanted to see where I was and whether I’ve still got the strength to go back to using weights in workouts to get more out of the time spent.

So in honour of the song by Pearl Jam, “Alive”, I decided to call this functional workout “Still alive”.

So, splits were:
5 min warmup row

4 sets of following exercises:
10 x kettlebell squat to shoulder press
10 x kettlebell bent over row
10 x kettlebell deadlift to lateral raise (so bells endup just below chin)
10 x kettlebell pushup (pushups using big ass kettlebell, aiming for chest to dip below handles)
2 min rest between reps

Aim was to do weights light enough to complete the 4 sets, which worked.
Completed this in 26 mins (33 min total – 5 min row – 2 mins warmup / finding bells, setting up space); with 395 Kcal (which wasn’t enough). The last pushups rep took at least 4 mins as well (last few were agony), so when stronger there, should complete the workout quicker.

My aim is to burn 500Kcal in each workout session, so decided to do a short cardio on top of this to push out the burn, so did:
20 x lateral box jumps (1 step)
20 x lateral box jumps (2 steps)
10 x kettlebell swings
10 x lateral box jumps (2 steps)
10 x kettlebell swings
20 x lateral box jumps (2 steps)
Lateral jumps were jumps side to side over Reebok step thingy, then HR back to 130.
Last 10 of last 20 jumps was hardest.

According to my HRM:
Ended with 506 Kcal, with total time of 41min, including the row.
32m in the zone (between 120 odd, and 157 odd).
Avg HR of 131.
Max HR of 161.

Notes to self:
Last pushup set was hardest of them all. Ended up doing alternating pushups on the step moving left to right to see how far I could go. In general, it worked – I was totally pooped by the time I got into the shower, and when shaving getting my arms up was sore.

To get this to 800 Kcal, will add a good HIIT run on top. But we’re not there yet ;-)