I’ve been flicking through ‘Tribe of Mentors’ from Tim Ferris — it is a book where Ferris has got 100+ people to answer some version of the same basic 11 questions (some pick a couple, some answer them all, some do neither). So far I have just read the responses from people I had already heard of and there is some good, odd and indifferent stuff in there — but its a fun, light read and I thought I’d try and answer some of the questions so here we go →
What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
As a gift it is probably either Watchmen or Fables as I try to convert people to comics — they are my two go to collections.
Books that have influenced me?
Professionally I think these two books influenced me hugely at a time when the internet and the web seemed like such potential powers for good and real change in the world. I miss those optimistic days it has to be said but despite the creeping cynicism my work DNA is still very much defined by the ideas these books articulated.
- Here Comes Everybody (I bought this 10 years ago March!)
- The Cluetrain Manifesto (I first read this in 2001!)
From a personal point of view I guess these two books really are only connected by the location they share — they are essentially tales of New York one way or another. F.Scott Fitzgerald is the writer I admire most and I firmly believe this is the greatest (doomed) romance ever written and Subway Art introduced me to the culture that would define my aesthetic taste for my entire life.
- The Great Gatsby
- Subway Art
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.
I hadn’t weighed myself since my teens before my diabetes diagnosis so these Nokia scales — https://health.nokia.com/uk/en/body — were something new to me. I like the fact that I get the data on my app alongside my daily steps and sleep data from my Nokia Steel watch as well (which I prefer to the Fitbit stuff as it doesn’t need charging — just a new battery every year or so.) I love all the data vis it provides so I can see trends etc.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
Failing to be taken on permanently at Jisc the second time after I had done a year as a fixed-term was a little bit heart-breaking at the time but it was the best thing possible for me. I didn’t really like the job just the people and it would have been too easy to slip into complacency if I had stayed and to not explore the things that were happening elsewhere I was really interested in. Moving to the Medical Research Council meant I was able to get closer to the rumblings of AlphaGov etc (before GDS) and it allowed me to regain my confidence before joining ONS which really was amazing.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
“Bitch Better Have My Money” on a poster with Boris Johnson in front of that effing bus!
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
My best investment of time was to limit my ‘junk’ reading — especially things like the Metro on my commute and instead spend whatever time I have reading books. It is early days but the investment in an Audible subscription is starting to pay off as well. My goal every year is to read 52 books.
What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
My most noticeable unusual habit is probably that I tend to ‘scat sing’ to myself pretty much all the time unless I catch myself.
The absurd thing I love? I’m not sure — but my love of Adidas Superstar trainers and the fact I have so many pairs probably looks pretty absurd to other people.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Giving up sugar and generally looking after my health more. I admit I had little choice given the diabetes diagnosis but it really is making a massive difference to my life.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
Travel, really travel, before you commit to anything and if you get the chance work abroad. These are my two biggest regrets from when I was younger (and they have a lot of competition.)
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I hate most of the recommendations or advice I hear when it comes to ‘scaling agile’. It so often seems to be a reaction and retrograde step that sacrifices all the gains agile has brought to an organisation in order to make it something that fits with an existing model and way of working. The problem is it just doesn’t and while I know that is hard it is also why it works.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
I walk. I put on my headphones, listen to some J Dilla or Pete Rock instrumentals and walk and walk.