Leverage these 7 things to strengthen yourself in 2020

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence,
then, is not an act, but a habit.”


A new decade is upon us and it seems like a good time to gain some clear sight! Ok, I’ll stay way from the 2020 jokes, but this list I found is quite useful. I’ve leverage this list to help guide me in creating both habits and affirmations.

The list contains seven items to ponder. Based on your interpretation, create a list of things you want to focus on this year. Maybe they are tasks, better even habits, and an excellent idea – create your own affirmation that gets read daily.

Be in good humor

Seneca shared that “all things are cause for either laughter or weeping.” and if that is the case “it is more fitting for a man(woman) to laugh at life than to lament over it.”

It is always your choice .

Be Regular at Work

Steven Pressfield says “Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.” in his book “Do the Work.” Far too many people, me included, spend time planning and working to ‘be ready.’

Focus on the habits and workflows to spend more time doing and less time planning. What does this look like for you?

Keep a Journal

Just Write! Get your thoughts and Idea’s out of your head. Morning Pages is a good example or something akin to an evening retrospective.

Remember life is short

Epictetus once said if “I have to die, if it is now, well then I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived – and dying I will tend to later.” A dry sense of humor, yes, but also very correct. Spend your mental and physical energy focused on your current task and not in the future or the past.

Study Plato and Seneca

Have Faith in something. Anything really, it just needs to be something that provides to inner strength and guidance when you need it.

Love your Family & Friends

Enjoy your family and friends. Seneca shared with us that the “joy comes to us from those whom we love even when they are absent.” That we gain real pleasure from the associations and need to enjoy them. He reminds us to “enjoy our friends avidly, for how long this blessing will fall to our lot is uncertain.”

Disregard world opinion

Epictetus said, “the chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own.

Focus on the things you can control and don’t waste your energy and time on things that you cannot.

You can find some stoic reading at https://dailystoic.com/

A 15 min empty mind guided meditation

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Bruce Lee

The “Mind is the key to relaxation. To relax the mind is to simply let go, and letting go of the body is relaxation. While relaxation is performed through the body, the basis for relaxation is the mind itself.” This is posted on the Chan Meditation Center website. It’s simple, we know we need to relax and we need to quiet our mind to do it.

I practice Chan meditation and not those guided meditations. I personally do not find them useful, someone talking in my ear when I am trying to quiet my brain. But I have come across a 15-minute guided meditation that teaches how to do empty mind.

I recommend this until you feel you have the technique and then venture to meditate without it.

Good luck and enjoy.

Stop blaming enterprise frameworks and focus on business alignment

Enterprise Architecture helps an organization
realize its competitive advantage.

“The entire purpose of enterprise architecture frameworks is that they’re supposed to let you accurately and consistently describe architectures. If they can’t do that — if they can’t describe how SharePoint and your ERP suite fit together with everything else you’re running or will want to run — then what value do they provide?” Bob Lewis commented in his CIO magazine article, “The dark secrets of enterprise architecture.”

Bob Lewis continues with what he calls secrets, but they seem to be more opinions. Expressing that “One reason EA frameworks and methodologies fail so often is that they are, in the end, waterfall in nature.” Many of today’s frameworks did begin in the 1980s where software delivery was waterfall and the TOGAF architectural development method (ADM) at first glance may appear waterfall; however, the ADM process is a guide and TOGAF recommends leveraging the steps as they work best
for the organization. ADM is not an immutable process that an organization must follow exactly as documented.

The frameworks are not ‘broken.’ The difficulties that enterprise architecture (EA) is facing are not from the tools and methodologies, but with its alignment with the organization. Still seen as an IT role, enterprise architects are continually left out of key business strategy and planning sessions. The perception of the role needs to change.

Diann Daniel defines EA in her CIO Magazine Article, “The Rising Importance of the Enterprise Architect” as “the process of aligning a business’s strategic vision with its information technology. It connects different business units for synergistic communication and collaboration, creating a more seamless customer (or end-user) experience, “

One tool for this alignment is capability mapping; which provides a view of the enterprise that both business analysts, and IT architects could use to design current and future systems. It defines ‘what’ the business does, it does not try to explain the where, why, or how it is accomplished. It is not focused on architecting the solution as the article is trying to tell us, but aligning the organization and IT.

Retain more from your reading

How to implement a systematic note-taking habit or process that effectively supports knowledge retention when I am reading. This is the question I continue to try and answer, as I imagine so many others do as well. Not a simple problem, but also not impossible, as we learn from Maria Popova (Brain Pickings) and Ryan Holiday

Both Maria and Ryan have processes which allow them to gather and index information that will be available for them once they sit to write. Myself and many writers I know have the opposite experience. We read and retain some of the book, we kind of remember where we read something and spend too much time hunting it down again. Problem, of course, the ideas we had are lost as we search for the content we need. 

Where did I see that story about … every writer has said at one time!

The ideas below work for both paper and digital, but my focus is on digital in this blog post. I think the paper process might be easier due to the one tool – the book – the digital requires more steps and organization. 

Build an alternate Index

Maria Popova spoke with Tim Ferriss during a podcast. One topic was specific to how she read and researched the topics, how was she gathering and organizing all this information? She shared the process for building an alternate index. A new index for the book you are reading that stores not keywords but ideas and themes matches to the pages that store content that can be leveraged. 

“it’s an index based not on keywords, but on ideas.”

Maria Popova

How to do it

We begin by thinking about the themes or ideas that we want to retain information on. I found Maria’s Brain Pickings Bookshelf useful for understanding themes. Navigate the site and you can see an example of how she may breakdown the reading she is doing. For example, Science is top level, then click a book and you can see other themes on the left. 

However, is science a theme or a keyword? If this is a theme then we want to understand the reason we are reading — what are we researching — and then we will see the book in a particular light. Let’s begin by creating the alternate index.

The process seems simple enough:

  1. Pick the page or grab a notebook that you can write in
  2. As you read the book mark anything that matches a theme you are working on, e.g. quotes, statements, tips and techniques. 
  3. To mark, add the Theme/idea to the new index page and the page number. 

Having a Process

From what I’ve read and what I am currently trying, there seems to be two sets of themes. One is global and found in everything I read and the other depends on the book.

I may find a list of common things like

  • Quotes
  • Definitions
  • Statistics or facts
  • Anecdotes
  • Research or Read
  • Content and information (to quote in writing)

It would also be useful to have a tag for each and when you are reading you can mark the text, so you remember why you market it in the future. 

The dynamic list may be the sub-topics in the theme you are researching. For example, I read technology and currently my sub-topics are DevOps and CI/CD practices. 

Action Index and Key Takeaways from the book

Todd Henry in his podcast speaks about creating a page where you can record your ideas, thoughts, and ponderings. I like this idea because I lose my thoughts when reading and then have to go back and reread to trigger the thoughts again, so basically they are continually lost, like a set of car keys!

I currently create index cards with the highlighted passages from the book. It takes hours to do this and I don’t think I get the same return from the process. In writing this post I also realized a quote from Robert Green. 

“I read a book, very carefully, writing on the margins with all kinds of notes. A few weeks later I return to the book, and transfer my scribbles on to note cards, each card representing an important theme in the book.”

Robert Greene

What caught my eye? “transfer my scribbles on to note cards” He is not rewriting the notes from the book, unless its a quote or passage he wants to reference I believe, but he is documenting his own thoughts from digesting the content. 

This is why I believe the Thoughts/Pondering’s page will be some powerful.  

How to do it

  1. On a new page, different than the new alternate index
  2. Title the section with something that matches the thoughts you are having now. 
  3. Reference the page or chapter to reference again
  4. Write out your thoughts, ideas, learnings

Where to store this content?

I travel for work and digital is my first choice, so I can work anywhere. I also like to move between my Mac, phone, and ipad. My tool of choice right now is Evernote. I’ve been testing “bucket’s” from The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. I have a folder for each project in Evernote and I put everything in it. Notes, video’s, pictures, etc.. and when I am ready to work on the project, I have everything I need to begin. 

Writing it Down

Finally we want to transfer the knowledge from the book somewhere we can use it when we start writing. There are two ideas: 

  • Create index cards that can be leveraged when writing
  • Create the cards in Evernote or Scrivener  where you can use them when writing or print them. 

I hope this information has been useful. I will continue to update this page as I progress in my own research. Please add any useful links or ideas in the comments please. 

Additional Reference

You can read more about these processes here:

Useful Technical Magazines & Blogs

As a technical professional we are expected to keep up with the trends in our industry. The internet provides free access to several sources. The question, which resources are best for you? 




Of course this is a short list! I will continue to add as I find things and please share anything useful in the comments. 

Not failing at DevOps!

In a recent ZDNet article,  “DevOps may finally help deliver the software automation we’ve been waiting for,” Joe McKendrick has a conversation with Sacha Labourey from Cloudbees and it caught my attention, Sacha said:

 “within larger organizations, “it’s just harder — size is in itself a factor of inertia,” he says. “Silos are much stronger.. so even if there is a mandate from the top down to change, it just takes a lot of energy and time to fight all of those headwinds.”

Sacha Labourey from Cloudbees

Silo’s, politics, and legacy systems do make the transition difficult, but not impossible. Focus on breaking the habits and start small. Gene Kim, Jez humble, et al.. in “The DevOps Handbook,” asserts that:

an organization needs to create a dedicated transformation team. Make them accountable, provide clear goals, and allow them to work autonomous from the current organization. Demonstrate real value through the new processes. 

Jez humble

The goal is to move away from the ingrained habits and politics. If you cannot — you will fail!

Are you monitoring?

Continuous Monitoring is not an afterthought; however, it is for most. Monitoring through each phase (concept to cash) provides transparency to how the systems is acting and reacting.  

This transparency helps you troubleshoot issues and identify risks in the process and system. Get a baseline and look for bottlenecks or performance issues. 

Work with your customers. the business owners, and understand their questions. Monitor to answer those questions and be a superstar.  

Leverage Automated Delivery to have Frictionless Software Delivery

The goal of CD is to be able to release software frequently,
and reliably, in a frictionless manner.

By Daniel Horton

“By now it should be clear that the only way to create value is to release. Testing your products against the marketplace is crucial for the agility of your organization,“ Don McGreal wrote in his book “The professional product owner.” An organization’s ability to release features to its customer base in a fast and reliable manner is a differentiator that we see in many industries. It is the difference between being the top company or the runner up.

Each client I meet has the same problem. They are inundated with manual processes, procedures, and habits that have built up over years. The statement “it’s just how we do it” is often used. However, these habits are the reason they cannot move forward. The focus is too much on the deliverable and less on the process of delivering. Thoughtworks Studios sums it up well in a white paper on agile release management.

“Many organizations have a release process that takes hours or days. Why is this so? The most common reason is that releasing new versions of software is predominantly a manual process that involves changes to many separate systems. Operating systems, infrastructure, and middleware must be configured, and their state verified.”

Manual processes increase the percentage of errors. Coordination becomes more difficult, and the correct procedures are normally not written down for teams to follow. Everything is done based on experience and memory. Additionally:

“Another major contributory factor to painful releases is poor collaboration between the people involved in delivering software. Developers, testers, DBAs, operations staff, and managers all need to work together from the beginning of every project to ensure its success. Instead, it is typical to see developers throwing work over the wall to testers, testers entering bugs into defect systems rather than working with developers to fix them, and the operations team trying to deploy software that is not production ready, and in many cases, hasn’t even been tested in a production- like environment.”

Many of these issues can be reduced and even eliminated with a clear focus on release management, automation, and communication. Start small and focus on a vertical slice that cuts through everything. Add metrics to show the benefits of your changes and your on the right path for success. 

Gain Clarity with the Feynman Technique

“I learned very early the difference between knowing
the name of something and knowing something.”
Richard Feynman


Do you say “I read it in a book” or do you really know how it works? So many people learn the buzzwords and really don’t understand the underlying concepts. Which comes out when you start having a detailed conversation on the topic. I’ve had this happen and I feel embarrassed that I do not know enough and also frustrated because there is never enough time to learn everything. Then there is the fact that we only retain about 10% of what we read. According to the learning pyramid, from the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science, we retain 10% from reading, 20% from audio/visual, 30% from demonstrations, and 90% from teaching others what we have learned.

The moral of the story – begin teaching others to become smarter! Seriously, you will retain more of what you learned if you prepare and hopefully teach others the techniques you’ve learned. It is called the Feynman Technique and it defines how to quickly learn pretty much anything. The concept breaks a topic down into its core and then explains it a 5 year old.

There are several variations on the web, but the technique may be defined as:

  1. Choose a Concept
  2. Explain it to a 5 year old
  3. Understand your knowledge gap
  4. Simplify as much as possible
    1. Use Analogies, stories, etc..

In the Real-World

The process really is straightforward. We want to write an explanation that is simple, not stupid and unintelligent, but simple, clear, and concise. Here are the steps:

  1. Get out a piece of paper (or word, etc.)
  2. At the top write the topic or subject you want to clarify and teach to another
  3. Begin explaining the topic in your writing on the paper.
    1. Use simple language
    2. Use Diagrams
    3. Use Analogies and stories
  4. Review the draft for lack of clarity or missing content.
    1. Go back and research
    2. Update the document and continue the loop reviewed in #3 above
  5. Final review is looking to see that we’ve obtained clarity.
    1. Look for any technical jargon, etc..
    2. Update the document to provide additional clarity


Record Yourself

Another technique I recommend is recording yourself. With today’s technology you can easily record and review your progress. Check if you are clear and concise when teaching the topic or are you pausing, skipping, or just lost on the details? Do this until you are able to explain the topic clearly. The camera will help you with presentation skills as well.


Good Video