“Just throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care!”

In the 80s, we heard this phrase a lot on the radio.  I don’t know why, but it was in a lot of songs.

But now when I think back on it, the people who did throw their hands in the air . . . they did it like they did care.  If you waved them like you just didn’t care, you should have an ambivalent look on your face.  You should wave them half-heartedly like you are thinking “I don’t even know if I should bother doing this.”  Like any second, you are just going to put your hands back down– because who can be bothered?

Anyway, it made sense at the time, I guess.

Now, everybody say “Oh, yeah!”

This weekend I watched a cartoon video of Janice Joplin’s last interview. The gist of the interview (from people all over the web, anyway) is “you are what you settle for.”

But the quote that gets me the most from this video is where she is talking about being a woman in Rock and Roll and the rejection she gets from other women:

“If they don’t have it within them to need more . . .”

This rejection does not only apply to women.  It can apply to anyone who wants to be more than others expect of them.

When you try to do more than others think you should, people tell you to be happy with what you have. I agree with this, you should be happy with what you have. But you should never stop pushing.  You should never expect what you have to be your final resting place.

It is easy to feel selfish for wanting to be more than you are (or should be). The expectations of others should not have as much sway over us as we allow it, but it does. The opinions of others keeps us second guessing.  They keep us stationary.  If I had done what others expected of me, I’d still be in the Army (or teaching, or working as a permanent coder in the IT job I took, or whatever).

It takes small acts of courage to change and it never gets easier.

No matter where you are in life, you will be surrounded by people telling you that this is where you should be.  This is your final resting place. It is always almost impossible to explain (to them or ourselves) that “This is great, but I need more than this.”

Do you ever have enough? I don’t think so. It will never be enough. Who can say, “this is enough”? Who can say “I’m happy to stay like this while I wait for death”?

We have to need more.

TLC said “Don’t go chasing waterfalls.  Just stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to”.  But where is the fun in that?  Chase the waterfalls.

The Story of Overpass

September 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

Yesterday, I spent some time creating a “homepage video” for the Overpass Site. Let me know what you think:

I used the Videoscribe software from Sparkol and recorded the audio with Audacity (the audio recording on Sparkol leaves some to be desired–but the rest is great).

I love this skateboarding video of Bob Burnquist:

The Job Security Myth

September 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

“This is a business, not a charity.”

This is a phrase I hear a lot. It is usually spoken by someone who is secure in their own job (or,so they think) about someone who is losing their job. It’s funny how you keep hearing the same phrases repeated by different people throughout your career.

I believe job security is a myth. Recruiters and managers have tried to lure me into permanent positions with the promise of this myth– but I will never be a victim to it again. Never.

I’ve been burned by employers who took advantage of my belief in the secure job myth. I left my last permanent position in 2003- it has been 10 years now. I will never go back. And, despite what people think, it is not about the money. It is purely about independence and freedom.

When you think your job is secure, you stop preparing yourself for the job market. When you are unprepared, the threat of losing your job is terrifying.

It is easy to manipulate someone with fear. Just hint that their job is at risk and you can get them to do any menial task you want them to.

The best way to scare someone is ask them to tell you their exact plans for the uncertain period ahead. You ask questions like “What will you do with no income?” or “Do you think you can find a job that pays the same?” or (and I love this one) “What will your wife say if you lose this job?” Can you really afford to lose this job? Army recruiters use this technique when trying to get you to re-enlist. Employers do this when you act out or rebel.

The job market is a battle. You can plan your actions to a certain extent, but you cannot know what will happen next. All you can do is be prepared.

Think of Bruce Lee walking into a warehouse full of thugs waiting to attack him. Then, imagine someone asking him what moves he will use to defeat them. It can’t be done. He has a loose plan, but not an exact plan. He is prepared for what’s coming but he doesn’t know what’s coming.

To be prepared, you must always be watching the enemy. You must know what skills the job market is looking for. And, you must spend some of your own time (outside of work) getting ready for it.

If only you knew how bad this sounds . . . “I wanted to use that skill at my last place, but they wouldn’t let me.” I hear it all the time.  Never let someone else be in charge of your own training.

You also must be ready to let go of a skill you’ve invested years in to learn a new one. If no one is paying for it, there is no reason to keep it.

As a contractor, you are a not part of the company you are working for so people confide in you with things. I remember years ago hearing someone talk about one of his subordinates getting a raise. He called the raise “golden handcuffs”. The meaning was that this employee could not leave the company now because they would not be able to find somewhere that would pay the same. Handcuffs. I am not exaggerating.

Most contractors I know would never go back into permanent employment. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve met a few, but they were swayed by the money and usually spend as much as they make. They have the same panicked look on their face after their contract is not renewed as permanent employees do when they lose their job.

Good contractors are always preparing for being out of work. Unlike permanent employees, they know for certain it will happen. Most of the time, they have a date of when they will be out of work. The difference between them and permanent employees is that they don’t believe the job security myth.

Be prepared.

So, for the last 2 months my mind has been on this game.  It has been a long and difficult road, but it is finally done.  I’m very proud of Agent X.

It is an algebra game, so that may put people off from the beginning. So, I don’t mention “algebra” anywhere in the description.  It is not a game for little kids.

But ever since I was a kid myself, I liked to write stories.  I like spy and detective stories mostly.  And I really love the cliche pulp fiction that you find in so many paperbacks.  With Agent X, to a very small degree, I was able to write a story.  I love the comic book sections of the game more than anything else.

frame 2 text

 

I was able to write some cool dialogue and a script of how I wanted it to look.  I gave it to a very talented artist in Spain (his name is Francisco Maldonado and I am now a big fan) and he drew it better than I could have imagined.  My development team in India coded it well for both iPhone and Android.  The only problems I really had was with animated sprites– this went through 3 different designers and ended up costing me too much money (and a lot of lost sleep).  But in the end, I’m happy with the result.

It is live on Google Play and coming soon to iTunes.

One of the things I find difficult with running Overpass is that I get a lot of cold calls from software development firms. Most of the time, they are offshore, but there have been some from the UK. It has gotten to point that every time my phone rings, I know it will be a salesperson.

My email is worse. I get 2-3 emails every day from a software development firm seeking “strategic partnership”. “Strategic Partnership” apparently is the new code work for “hire us”. It is a strategic partnership where you pay for everything.

I get emails telling my website sucks and they can fix it (good way to impress me is to bad mouth my website and then offer to fix it–for a price). Or, my seo sucks and they can fix it.  Or, they can’t find me on Google.

I also get LinkedIn or Skype contact requests from people I have never met. I might accept them (because I have a measly number of friends on LinkedIn and, you know, moments of weakness and all that . . .) but am bombarded with sales messages after that– almost immediately.

What no one seems to say is . . .

Why would I hire them over someone else? What differentiates them? What have they done that is interesting or unique? When I look at their website with stock-photo business-people images and portfolio page of other companies’ work, why would I chose them over the next company that looks exactly the same?

When everything looks the same in terms of features and benefits, you look to price. Then price become the deciding factor. No one wants to decide on price. And there are too many developers out there to try and fail with every one in the hopes that you find a good one.

If you are a developer or a designer, you need a portfolio of your own work. And it needs to be online. If you are an app developer, you need to have a portfolio of apps you released under your own name. If you are a designer, you need a page on Deviant Art. If you are a web designer, you should have your own site.  For it to be truly yours, it has to be done on your own dime (with no decision makers influencing you one way or another).  If you are saving your portfolio work for job interviews, you won’t get many calls.

This weekend I took my family to the beach.  I sometimes forget that you can go to the beach in England.  It is only an hour and a half away.  This is a ridiculous distance when you’ve grown up in San Diego, but I’ve also lived in Missouri– where a drive to the beach would take about two days.

But, on the beach I try to show the kids how cool I am.  I grew up in southern California.  I grew up where surfers surfed every day and the beach culture was everywhere.  Well, I never really was much of a beach person and was an awkward kid.  But, I think that because I’m living in England and grew up in California, I should have some sort of special powers that would make me cool on the beach.

Anyway, I went way out into the water.  The depth was so gradual that you had to walk a quarter mile until it even gets up to your neck.  I was playing around and trying to get my kids to come deeper when I stepped on something sharp.  At first, I thought it was a sharp rock or something.  But the pain didn’t go away.  I could swear I was bleeding underwater (I am prone to exaggeration when it comes to injury) but when I got to shallow water and hopped on one foot to take a look, there was no blood.

I mumbled something to my kids and hopped back to the blanket.  The pain got worse and worse.  Eventually, I went to see the lifeguard (which a manly man like me should not need to do) and told them my foot hurt.  They looked at each other and smirked.  Apparently, they get people with this injury all day long.

I had stepped on a Weever Fish.  This is a nasty little fish which put venom into my foot and caused me to writhe around on our blanket like a big baby.  A very nice life guard named Phillip had me soak my foot in boiling water for about 20 minutes while we chatted about the time he used to live in San Diego too.  Then, my foot was fine except for a dull pain.

Weever Fish

But I did not go back in the water again.

The moral of the story is to watch out for these stupid little fish.   Don’t be too macho to see the lifeguard.  And, if you do get stung, soak in hot water.

 

The App Business

August 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

So, I’ve been selling apps for 11 months now.  It seems so much longer.  While daily revenue is going up every day, it’s still at a slower pace than I would like.  But up is definitely better than down.

Overpass has now put out dozens of apps.  It’s difficult for me to give an exact number because many of them are based on a similar theme.  For example, we have language learning apps to learn multiple languages like Hindi, Mandarin, Arabic, etc.  We come out with a few new languages every few months.  So, I tend to count those as one app.

It has been very exciting to watch the apps grow.  In a few weeks, we should reach a half a million installs all around the globe.  My daily routine is to wake up very early and check app statistics and reviews before the developers start work (around 5:30am for me).  I’m still burning the candle at both ends.  But it is a lot of fun.

Overpass is growing.  It has 4 full time developers and dozens of apps used by hundreds of thousands of users.  These are exciting times.

 

Here is me working at the RibbonFish (www.RibbonFish.co.uk) offices in Barnet.
Here is a picture of me working on some cool projects with RibbonFish.

Here is a picture of me working on some cool projects with RibbonFish.