Walking with Free Ears – What happened when I left my headphones at home

When was the last time you walked with free ears?

I nearly always walk with my headphones in. The introvert in me quite enjoys the feeling of escape that it gives me. Most of the time I’m listening to podcasts so it’s also a great way of keeping up-to-date.

On Saturday I went walking and I forgot my headphones.

I was immediately frustrated that I couldn’t enjoy my normal experience and a long day of walking ahead. There were a couple of podcasts that I was really looking forward to listening to and now a change of plan had been thrust open me by my own foolishness.

As the frustration subsided I started to realise something – the experience of walking with free ears was invigorating.

As I walked up the hill I marvelled at the peace and quiet of that particular day.

Higher up the clouds were down and the visibility was reduced to a few metres, the wind was blowing and my hood was up. The forcefulness of the wind was awesome and I was back in my introverted cocoon.

As a descended later I relished the opportunity to fling off my hood and open my ears to the outside world again.

I think I need to leave my ears free a bit more often.

When Algorithms Trump

The other day I was sent this as an Amazon recommendation:


For those outside the UK I think it’s worth explaining two things:

  1. Ed Miliband is a former leader of a political party, he’s a former leader because he wasn’t very successful and lost to David Cameron (who you may have heard of).
  2. To “trump” has a number of meanings over here, one of which is to break wind usually audibly, I’ve not suddenly taken to politics on this site.

I am pretty sure that Amazon recommendations are created by algorithms without any intervention from a person. They must send millions of these emails every day, so there is no way that people get involved. A set of machines operate a recommendation engine and squirt out the emails.

The aim of recommendation engines is to suggest something that you are likely to buy, they do this via correlation of buying habits, demographics, connections, etc. Thus, somewhere in the middle of that algorithm is a correlation between my buying habits, demographics, etc. and someone who purchased a signed autographed photo of a former leader of the Labour Party. In this case the recommendation engine has produced a trump, is slightly humorous noise. I don’t have anything against Ed, but I don’t want a signed autograph picture of him on my wall, this recommendation is a passing of wind.

We recently purchased some new cooking utensils and the other recommendations in this email are all to do with that purchase, so perhaps Ed Miliband supporters are people who like good quality stainless steel also. I’m not sure that’s enough of a correlation to be of value.

This is a frivolous example of an algorithm trump but as algorithms come to run more of our lives the consequences become more significant.

Do you have a wandering mind? It’s probably making you unhappy.

The other day we revisited the subject of multi-tasking and I talked about a few ways I try to remain focused. Focus isn’t just important for productivity, it’s also a core competency for happiness.

Back in 2010 Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert published a scientific paper titled: A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind.

We developed a smartphone technology to sample people’s ongoing thoughts, feelings, and actions and found (i) that people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is and (ii) found that doing so typically makes them unhappy.

Let me say that a different way: spending your life thinking about things that aren’t happening is making you unhappy. You would be happier if you focused on the here and now.

So much of the multi-tasking that we do is an attempt to switch between multiple things that aren’t happening, it’s a type of active mind-wandering. How many times do we check our social media to see if something is happening only to be reminded that nothing is happening. How many times have you refreshed your social media site only to refresh it again, and then again without even thinking. The research tells us that this is making us unhappy.

Below is Matt Killingworth talking through his work at TEDx:

Matt also talked through his findings on the TED Radio Hour in 2014.

I’m reading…Tom Peters

Tom Peters is a writer on business management practices, I suppose you could call him a motivational speaker but that term has become so clichéd I’m not sure you would understand what I meant by it.

Tom is very active on twitter, he’s written over 60,000 tweets:

But the thing I love about Tom are his PowerPoint presentation decks. They are the most remarkable things. He publishes the slides that he uses at events and has also compiled a master copy called The Works while has over 50,000 words in it. A recent one from December 2016 comes to over 108 slides and obliterate many of the design rules that our modern corporate slides abide by, but the contents are thought proving and challenging:





At the beginning of this post I said that Tom was a motivational speaker, but I also said that you may misinterpret what I meant by that, this is what I mean: I love to read through Tom slide decks because they motivate me. They motivate me to be a better leader. They motivate me to see that things can be better. They motivate me to keep trying new things. They motivate me to keep seeing new things. They motivate me to adjust my priorities.

Every time I sit in a dull, pointless meeting Tom’s words about meetings ring around my head and make me determined that we are going to do better next time:

Prepare for a meeting/every meeting as if your professional life and legacy depended on it. It does.

Most of Tom’s material is highlighted through his blog which I subscribe to via Feedly to make sure I don’t miss out. His most recent post on collected quotes has some gems in it.

I’ll leave the closing thoughts to Tom himself:

My Tools: Evernote for iOS

It’s that time which sometimes happens in our house when we need a few things from the shops. I’m the designated shopper for this trip. We only need a couple so I don’t bother to write down a list. Then a member of the family adds something extra to the list, three things, my brain can cope with that. Oh, but while you are there could you also look for another thing. I’ve now got to four things to remember and I don’t know about you, but four is about my limit. It’s time to make a list.

My daughter’s car is in the garage for some work and she wants me to phone up to see what the progress is. I’m asked to do this because I supposedly know more about what they are about to say, that’s debatable. I know I’ll need the car registration but there’s something about the registration number of this car that means that I can’t remember it consistently.

These are just a couple of examples where I use Evernote for iOS on my iPhone. Back in 2012 I described how I used Evernote as one of my daily productivity tools which it still is (It’s interesting to read how my writing style has changed a bit since then). Evernote has all sorts of information in it having those that information on my iPhone makes them significantly more mobile.

Now is a good time to talk about Evernote for iOS because it’s recently gone through a significant interface overhaul which I must say I approve of. For one thing, making ad-hoc notes like a quick shopping list is much simpler. It’s also much cleaner and easier to read.

This is my All Notes screen from this morning:


Creating a new note is as simple as clicking the plus sign at the bottom.

The integrated scanning has also removed the need for Scannable simplifying the workflow of scanning things into Evernote.

I’m not sure there’s much more to say than that: