You know the scene in the sci-fi horror film where we recoil at the sight of the abandoned lab? Bottles filled with mutated embryos suspended in formaldehyde, fluid dripping from the ceiling, and steel cages ripped open from the inside let us know that whatever was supposed to have gone down in here. . . it went decidedly sideways.
That was the last two and a half weeks of my grand experiment here. Now, when I look back at my last post, it also reminds me of the scene in that same movie where we watch a recorded video of the not-yet-mad scientist, clearly filled with optimism after having just put the monkey hybrid back in its cage, assuring the camera that “everything is going to be OK.”
But we all know everything is not OK.
I really thought I had a handle on this. Talking to myself every morning, intentionally addressing what I needed to work on for the day, and building towards a single goal really made sense. It does make sense, on paper. Life, alas, laughs at what was “on paper.” I’m not making excuses. I’m willing to bet that if my life depended on this experiment, I would have given it a great deal more attention. I didn’t.
Instead, I would half-heartedly hold my standup while shaving or brushing my teeth, chastising myself about the things I said I was going to do the day before but hadn’t. I would head to the office with my eyebrows screwed down tight in worry–anxious that I was failing. Then as soon as I would get to work, I would get busy doing my actual job. The next thing I would know, it would be the end of the day, and I would be headed home having no thought of what I was supposed to have accomplished. Rinse and repeat– except the ball of dread would keep growing.
And it grew until I was overwhelmed. The monkey had mutated and was tearing out cage bars like they were matchsticks.
If I had set out on this adventure saying- “Hey everybody, let me demonstrate how great this works.” I would feel a whole lot worse. I mean, It WAS an experiment, and not all experiments have positive results. So, I thought I would share or recap with you, in the form of a bit of a mad-scientisty rant, the painful lessons I learned from this failed experiment.
- Facebook can eat up hours of valuable time
- It helps to have a group to confer with
- Attempt only one “life improvement” per week.
- Break your tasks down small enough to accomplish in a day
- Planning is essential–it creates a vision of the finished product
- Thinking in terms of what you will “demonstrate” provides good context
- Tackling something like this requires intentional time set aside
- If you think you can just “work it in,” life events will do the same
- Snowballing tasks is a mind killer
- Have a visual board out in front of you
- Don’t share your visual board for personal improvement with your visual board for work
- Think twice about sharing your personal improvements with the world
- Telling people you are going to do something feels good, failing at what you told people you were going to do, makes you grind your teeth at night.
- One personal improvement per week may be too ambitious
- Give yourself some credit for improving “off list”
- Your personal life is not a “product” nor is it an application.
- Think long and hard about who your customer is
- There isn’t a “Test environment” for living; everything goes straight to Production
When I work with teams who are struggling with Agile, the first two questions I ask them are “what is your product, and who is your customer?”
Then, just as suddenly as this experiment went sideways, those last three bullet points slow my heartbeat down and ease the wrinkle in my brows; “warm-fuzzy” is a term some might use. While this experiment didn’t provide results for the query “What does 8 weeks of improving a little bit each week look like?” it did yield some life lessons.
Metaphorically speaking, let’s look at DevOps, the extension of Agile that focuses on how to deliver software early, rapidly and regularly. At all times, we should be continuously integrating what we are developing with what we already have in production. We should also be continuously testing so that we can immediately know if we have “broken the build” with some recently added “improvement.” Life itself is one continuous deployment to production. As we develop, we constantly should be considering how it will be deployed to production. Finally, whatever it is we have been developing, it shouldn’t be for sale. It’s not our product. It’s just us.
Those are the questions, in one form or another, we are all asking ourselves throughout the course of our lives–or at least we should be. In our own lives, what product are we building? Is it what we post on facebook? Is it the actions that we take when no one is watching? Is it what we think? And what about our “customer?” Is it ourselves? Is it our family? Our friends? Our Instagram followers?
Are our product and our customer both something more? For all of our sake, I certainly hope so.