Microsoft Surface Announced

Microsoft Surface Announced

Yesterday Microsoft unveiled their upcoming Surface tablet. Prices were not announced but they will be in the iPad price range. The devices will be offered in both a 32GB and 64GB model running an ARM processor and a version of the Windows 8 operating system called Windows RT. A few months later there will be a 64BG and 128GB full Windows 8 model. They said prices will be comparable to the iPad so I expect prices to start at $499 and go up to $1000.

It has the standard tablet appearance that you expect. It also sports front and rear cameras. The cool new feature is the tablet cover that is also a thin keyboard with trackpad. That along with the built in kickstand to prop it up gives you the full laptop experience.

So now what? Is this a game changer or will it be a flop? I think it is a big deal. The timing of the press conference seemed to be in response to what I consider a really weak WWDC by Apple. So Apple gave the mac book pro a new screen and showed off a few features of the upcoming iOS 6. That was basically it. Microsoft comes right back and shows off a tablet that could conceivably be better than the iPad. I think Microsoft announced it a little earlier than planned since they couldn’t give price points or specific dates yet.

Will the Surface tablet be better than the iPad? I think it could be. First Windows 7 is the best operating system I have used period. Send your hate mail if you want. I have two mac books and two Windows 7 machines at home, also two iPads and a crap load of iPhones. I hate doing things on the macs. Macs are slow and the OS is cumbersome. The iPad is cool, and when I first got it I used to do a lot of my internet browsing on there. But I went back to the PC. Safari is slow and it just isn’t as good an internet experience as when I am on my PC. So in my opinion Windows 7 offers the best user experience. Now as phones go I like iOS.

If Windows 8 lives up to the promises I think it will easily offer a better user experience than Mountain Lion. So if we are talking Surface or Windows 8 machine vs Mac OS then I think we have an obvious winner. Surface vs iOS on the iPad is what it will come down to. Internet Explorer is better than Safari by a long shot so I expect a better internet experience with Surface. Now what about Apps and most importantly Games? The windows mobile development environment got a big overhaul a few years ago with the new Windows phones. It is easy to develop for and there are already thousands of .NET developers out there. Microsoft is also the top dog in the gaming market right now with the Xbox 360. Apple keeps dancing around the gaming arena, but never fully embraces it. Microsoft could do something like put out the next version of Halo to run on the Surface. They have the ability to really bring it all together and take on Apple in a big way. We can conceivably have “real” full blown software that runs on a tablet just like it will run on Windows 8 on your desktop. Also the Surface has a real USB port while Apple is still making you buy an extra cable for everything.

So what about Android? They are the ones who are really screwed. There is always room for two big guys in the market, but never three. Android tablets will be the new losers in this fight. Their OS sucks. Let’s just be honest. It does suck in comparison. Is it pretty good? Yeah it is good, but not great. There are also too many Android devices and too many versions of hardware specs and OS versions. Does it run ice cream sandwich? Who the hell knows? And the average consumer doesn’t want to figure all the mess out. Android will work great for the budget tablets out there that mostly play movies and let you surf the net. Apple and Microsoft will be battling it out for the top tier of tablets.

So I applaud Microsoft for jumping back into the game. Apple has kicked their ass for a while now. Apple has had all the sexy hardware and all the tech hipsters have sung their praises. But almost every company out there uses Windows computers. Everybody uses Exchange and Outlook for email. Xbox 360 is the top gaming console. The windows phone got a major revamp that didn’t make a big impact, but it set up the stage for what is now coming. The Surface baby! I am going to pre-order the hell out of one and my life will be enriched in ways I can’t even comprehend! In the words of Steve Balmer “Wahooo, Yeahhhhhh”.

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SOPA/PIPA Two: Electric Boogaloo

SOPA/PIPA Two: Electric Boogaloo

I love the discussions that are coming up from SOPA/PIPA. It has my writing juices flowing again so I am happy about that. If you haven’t read my first post about SOPA you can find it here. My first post was about the argument that the whole SOPA/PIPA effort destroys free speech on the internet. In this post I will discuss what I believe is at the core of the issue and where we are headed from here.

I actually don’t support the issues as they stand so let me get that out of the way, but I don’t think they are far off from where they need to be. But I also take issue with all of the video’s and reasons I see posted for shutting the bill down. The majority of those statements are very shallow and simply say “I stand for a free internet”. Other videos paint a picture of worst case scenarios where everybody is getting sued and big evil corporations are pulling the plug on competing legitimate web sites even going so far as to squash the little guys who are trying to start new businesses. I don’t think that is the intent of the bill or is that at the core of why big companies want something like this bill in place. At least it shouldn’t be.

I see the need for action in protecting digital media. I also realize under the current bill you could just type the ip address for sites that are “blocked” but actually still online. But the battle against piracy isn’t about stopping it completely. That is impossible. Just like fighting other “crime” like drug trafficking can’t be completely stopped. It is about making it very inconvenient to do so. That keeps the majority of people that are in the grey area about stealing digital content from actually doing so. If the effort is high and the price to just buy it legally is reasonable that is the ideal scenario. When pirate sites are right in your face the company loses control in how its content is being offered. That is the landscape right now on the internet. Pirate sites are in your face. A lot of them even look legit. It creates a lot of confusion for your average consumer.

Hollywood and the music biz are the big guns behind this effort. They are scared because they know their physical product is going away and their traditional revenue models don’t hold up in the digital only world. They don’t always have the best ideas to solve the problem, but the problem is real to them, and it actually affects the little guys just as much. It also affects the consumer. It affects everybody. You have to look down the road and see what will happen to the actual content and decide if we are happy with that direction we are going.

Current revenue models are based largely on sales of physical media. In the music biz certain people are paid based on sales of physical cd’s, some are paid based on radio air play, some are paid from live gigs, some are paid from all of it. There is a complex system of who gets paid for what. The same holds true for Hollywood, the book world, the video game world, and the art world. Most of these revenue models break down in the digital only world. And we will be in a digital only world soon. The big companies are already feeling the sting of the shift in consumer preferences from physical media to digital only. People are not buying cd’s, books, dvd’s, game on disc like they were a few years ago. The book industry is going through the biggest shift right now with the rise of the e-books. People don’t want to buy printed material anymore. Book stores are disappearing. I understand. I have a big bookcase full of heavy books I won’t be reading again anytime soon. Having all of this content in physical form takes up a lot of space and just isn’t as convenient anymore when the majority of people are carrying around smart devices. So all of this content is going digital only, I think we can all agree on that.

Here is the problem. Once a company loses control of its content by removing the physical aspect from it they also lose control of their ability to monetize it. The old revenue models are completely broken. What most companies want to do is just offer the same content in digital only form from their stores or some other site they have authorized. The problem is the content is now very easy to pirate. It becomes hosted everywhere. That is the reason for these bills. They are quickly losing control of where the content is and losing the ability to collect any money from sales. It is out there in the free, open internet and you can’t get it back.

A lot of people argue that giving stuff away for free actually increases your business. It gives people a taste for what you are offering. If they like it they will buy your other products. That works for some companies right now, but it may not work in the next five years. Right now you still have a mix of digital only and physical media being produced and sold. If I like your e-book that you put out for free I can buy a physical book or buy another e-book. I can also limit my content by keeping certain products on physical media only. If I like your free song I can buy your cd. But once it is all online and all available by some means for free consumers will buy less and less. And I actually believe consumers will become conditioned to not feel the need to pay for content at all. Piracy also compounds the problem because you may not realize you are downloading something for free that was not intended to be free by its creator. People will be satisfied enjoying the free song only, the first level of the free game, etc. There is already so much content that you can spend all of your time enjoying the free stuff and your time is full. I can play the first level of a game while I am waiting somewhere for 5-10 minutes, enjoy it, delete it, and download something else next. I think a lot of consumers already fall in this category. Now you may think this is a different issue, but I say they are related. The lines become blurry when you are getting that free content from somewhere the company has no control over. Getting it for free from the company’s website where they have the chance to sell you an additional product or show you some online ad is different from getting it from a site where they can’t monetize it like a pirated site or some other non authorized location.

We are already seeing what this shift in consumer behavior and lack of control is doing to our digital content. A lot of mobile games are now going free with either in app purchases or (gasp) in game advertising. In game advertising is the worst offender to me because it ruins the game experience by putting random ads in your face while you are playing. The sad thing is people are becoming conditioned to ignore the ads and be ok with it. So the game experience goes down and the ads don’t work anyway. This is a direct reaction to both piracy and the “I only download free stuff” mentality of the new consumer.

We are also seeing a similar trend at opening new revenue streams in tv and movies. TV shows are now just putting more and more ads and product placement in the shows thus diminishing the artist component of the content in an attempt to have a way to generate money. The same is going on in movies. We are even getting pop up ads in YouTube videos now. The classic scene in Wayne’s World where they have the product placement may become a standard practice in movies in a few years.

Now the music industry is just screwed. You really can’t put an ad in the middle of a song can you? They will have to come up with something or those big publishers may just go under. Of course there are a lot of people who will argue those old dinosaur publishers are not needed in this day anyway, but that is a topic for another day. Even if you take the publishers out of the mix the artist and songwriters can still lose in a big way.

I don’t like ads in tv shows and movies. It all seems underhanded. I don’t mind watching them before the movie, but keep them out of the actual content. Book publishers may be forced to do the same thing putting ads in the actual text of the book. A novel like Moby Dick will end up looking like an issue of Cosmopolitan. This won’t really work anyway and a lot of companies that create content will go under.

So what does any of this have to do with SOPA/PIPA? Did I just get way off topic? Well I think it has everything to do with those bills. The bottom line is companies want to maintain control of their digital media. They want to be able to market, set prices, have sales, offer things for free on their terms when it comes to content they created. They have to be able to maintain some control in order to stay in business. Piracy does hurt those companies. The actual affect of piracy is difficult to measure, but the bottom line is real. Companies are losing money in a big way and entertainment as we know it is going to change drastically. When a company can’t control where the content is offered to the consumer they lose money.

I will give another example. I was at a users’ group meeting for recording engineers last night and there was an interesting topic that came up. For those that don’t know I live in Nashville and there is a lot of music industry here. It is called Music City after all. A side topic came up discussing how music publishers are not valuing their craft of mastering songs like they used to. They are no longer willing to pay the prices to get a song mixed well. They just want something mixed cheaply and loud. And these guys I meet are amazing at what they do. The before and after on some of those tracks are night and day. But the quality even on the mixing is quickly going down the toilet due to money constraints and consumer trends. They also had many stories of sending a mix to a publisher for approval and they listen to it on their phone and say things like it needs to be louder or it needs more bass. You can’t really mix a song by listening to it through an iPhone speaker, but that is effectively what is going on now. It is all about doing it cheap. These companies are losing money and it trickles down into every aspect of the creation process. We end up with inferior products all around.

While SOPA and PIPA are effectively beaten for now I believe we will see it again under a different name and backed by a big dollar campaign. Anti-piracy measures have been in place by these companies to protect their content on physical media for a long time. This is just a logical extension to give them protection as they prepare to go to all digital formats. These companies need protection and so far the “internet” community has failed to offer any help. In fact as a whole the internet community is condemning them for wanting to control the content they spent time and money creating. The companies probably didn’t expect this kind of reaction from the public, but they will push it again, and I bet you will see celebrities and the like endorse it this time. It actually affects everybody from the content creators to the consumers. I for one am ok with companies retaining control of their property so they can get paid for their works. Then I can continue to enjoy music, movies, books, and games of high quality instead of the witnessing the decline of our entertainment industry.

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Are SOPA and PIPA bad for the Internet?

Are SOPA and PIPA bad for the Internet?

The “in” topics for the day are SOPA and PIPA. They have been around awhile. Not long ago there was the famous mass exodus from GoDaddy due to their public support of the bills. But for some reason today Google and Wikipedia chose to have fake blackouts in order to rally troops against those bills, and it seemed to work for now. On facebook the majority of my peers have shared links and updates rallying against the bills. So it seems like I am one of the few individuals that finds merit in those bills. Maybe it is because I can now identify with the intellectual property owners that feel like victims of the internet. I can identify with those companies and individuals that have found their cherished works being shared without permission.

I am an iPhone game developer. I have a couple of apps on iTunes. Nothing big right now, but I still put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and money into creating those apps. I also have more in the works. I am trying to build a business. And when you invest a lot to create something you want to protect it. You want to be able to sell it for something, even if it is only $0.99. So when I search on Google for my iPhone game named “Tiny Grave” and I find on the first page of results a link to a website hosted in the Soviet Union with a cracked .ipa download of my game for free I feel like I have been wronged. How dare some website not only host an illegal version of software that took me months to create but how come it shows up on the first page of Google search results. Can it get any easier for iPhone users to find it? And what action can I take against that site? I can do absolutely nothing. I believe this problem is at the core of those bills. While the bills may not be perfect in their current form they are addressing a major problem facing the digital content creators of our day.

In the past most digital content was still distributed on physical media. You were purchasing an object, a cd, dvd, game cartridge, etc. To copy and share that content took a little more effort, but things have moved to online only formats quickly. A lot of new content never makes it on physical form. My iPhone games for example are digital downloads only. When the physical limitation is removed it gets very difficult to police the illegal use of your intellectual property. It is almost impossible. The day my first iPhone game got approved and listed on the app store I could find the cracked .ipa for download by searching for my game name on Google. It was basically instantly pirated and available for free. It wasn’t even hidden away in some dark corner of the internet. It was right there on the front pages of Google for anybody that happen to search for it.

Now the most common argument against these bills that I have come across sites it as destroying free speech on the internet. An individual will no longer be able to share some content he finds worthy with his friends, that funny YouTube video, some image of Spider Man that you drew, a great cat picture. People are saying the federal government will be suing everybody and taking sites down. It will be the end of free speech on the internet. Well, I don’t think so.

We have copyright laws now. It is just harder to enforce them, and new measures need to be taken. We have lived in society where vhs tapes have a copy warning at the beginning of the movie, dvd’s have copy protection on them, game manufacturers create proprietary formats to try to circumvent pirating. Somehow society didn’t collapse under those harsh conditions.

So you want to share content with your friends and you are scared that the government will stifle you in some way. What exactly do you want to share? Do you want to share something that you created? Do you want to share a thought that is your own? Nobody is stopping you from doing that. That is free speech.

Or do you want to share a movie that somebody else created? A song that somebody else wrote and some band lent their talent recording? Maybe you want to share a game that some company spent a lot of money and time creating. That is the essence of where our online society is headed, and that is the part that needs protecting. Sharing other people’s content for free not only robs the creator of money, but it devalues the industry as a whole and propagates this idea of entitlement. If I can get all of my content for free online why would I buy anything? Why buy that game when I can just click a link and download it for free. The reason is the company that created it needs those sales to stay in business. Without those sales the content goes away. Those companies want to offer the content through their official channels, their websites, and their online stores. That way they can monetize it and stay in business. If you get the content from some site in Russia or Hong Kong the content owner gets nothing.

So it seems I am the lone voice in the crowd that is saying “wait a minute. Why are we against these bills? I know Google told us they were bad, but are they really bad?” The truth is they are bad for Google, but they are not bad for me. Google would have more responsibility as a search engine. They also own YouTube and we all know that is a full of intellectual property infringement. They would also potentially lose a lot of advertisement money from sites that would be taken offline. So yeah it is bad for Google. But would my internet experience be diminished by it? What would it really do for me?

Actually, I think it would be better. When I search for a band’s video on YouTube I want to be able to find the “official” thing hosted by the band/publishing company. What I find now is a sea of garbage. Keyword spamming on the song title is rampant. I don’t know if I am loading up the official video or getting Rick Rolled. It is getting harder to find the official channles because of all the unofficial ones that are out there. The unofficial websites a lot of times rank higher in search results than the official ones. Even if you wanted to view the content in a way that benefits the orginal creator or company you may have a hard time doing it. So if a lot of the unofficial and/or pirate sites that just take other people’s content and spit it back out go away, does that infringe on free speech? Not in my book. Those people that are crying free speech that want to put out content can still do so. It just has to be original content. If you want to share a link then share a link to the official site. Don’t host a copy of it and use that to draw people to your site.

I am more concerned with giving credit where credit is due. For those people that spent time and money creating music, movies, games, and artwork I am on your side. Why should people be able to trample all over your creative works in the name of free speech? That is not free speech. It is piracy, and there is no good reason to defend it.

Ready for more? Read part two here.

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Can a Code Monkey get anything out of BarCamp Nashville?

Can a Code Monkey get anything out of BarCamp Nashville?

BarCamp Nashville 2011This is the next stop on this year’s BarCamp Blog Tour. Check out yesterday’s post from Kenny Silva here.

This year the underlying discussion surrounding BarCamp Nashville seems to stem from this confusion as to what the event is, who it is for, and if it has lost its way. I can tell you I have always enjoyed BarCamp and its sister event PodCamp, and once again I am looking forward to attending BarCamp 2011.

But I’ll be honest my first time around I thought there was a lot of hot air at these events. Social Media and Marketing, yawn. In previous years I would see the session line up and be like “really, this is what Nashville has to offer?” It all looked like fluff to me with no meat. When I heard it was a tech event I was expecting to see code. See I am a programmer, a “Code Monkey.” I am one of those long time Microsoft guys who write big applications. I use .NET. I do database design. I parse binary files. And I actually write software for iPhone (Don’t tell Microsoft). To me WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter are not my idea of tech. I enjoy seeing code on a screen and hearing people talk about different design patters for writing software.

That being said, I have a great time at these events and I’ll tell you why. Beer!! No actually I have found that what I initially saw as fluff is usually informative and enjoyable, even sometimes inspiring! The people of BarCamp (organizers and attendees) are generally smart, tech savvy, creative, and entrepreneurial so you pick up a good vibe being around this group. I generally find a couple of sessions I really get something out of that make it worthwhile. Then the rest of the time I just enjoy meeting people. I can’t think of a better place to meet the tech people of Nashville. At a previous BarCamp is where I found out about the Nashville Game Developers group and met some smart guys who share my passion for creating games and are interested in developing a gaming scene in Nashville. I have since gotten really involved in that group. It is that kind of opportunity that makes
BarCamp so great. Even if you look at the session lineup as being a little weak or full of fluff, you should not dismiss this event. The tech savvy of Nashville will be in attendance and you never know what kind of interesting people you will meet when you grab a beer and strike up a conversation.

I have even gone so far as to get involved by signing up to speak at the event. My first attempt at speaking was to do a session related to iPhone development at PodCamp earlier this year. I have always feared public speaking. I don’t think I have the right personality for it. And when it was time to do my session I was pretty nervous. But I got through it, and that beer afterwards tasted so good. :-) I wanted to do my part to try to add a little more tech to the events. I subscribe to the belief that if you are not happy with something like the session lineup of the events then get off your butt and do something to make it better. This is a free event, and anyone can sign up to speak. If you think you have something to offer the tech community of Nashville then go for it.

I am giving it another go at BarCamp 2011 and leading a panel discussion on how development trends have changed in Nashville over the past 15 years. If the topic sound interesting to you follow the link and sign up. I have recruited some former co-workers who have different experiences and views on these topics to join me in an honest discussion about things like SCRUM, agile development, test driven development, off shore development, etc. It is an interesting topic to me. Hopefully others agree and choose my session. The guys joining me are sharp and it should be interesting. I think these changes in IT are a great source of tension between management and developers. I have my own opinions on these topics. For those interested in my session here is a preview:  <rant>I don’t think Developers are the revered creative force they were during the .com days. I think SCRUM is basically a crutch to fix the problem of poor development management and inexperienced developers that runs rampant in the industry. The majority of dev managers are about as useless as a dollar store flashlight. The title of “SCRUM Master” that ladder climbers now strive for is better titled as “Developer Secretary” because that’s what it is. You are now just a note taker. It’s a
good way to take a giant step back in your tech career. Good developers don’t need a bunch of processes getting in their way and a bunch of people constantly looking over their shoulder. Only the crappy developers need that. If your team is full of people that suck get rid of them. Don’t be afraid to get rid of people that bring nothing to the table. But don’t lump the good developers in with these no talent ass clowns that require constant supervision. Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol? </rant> Others disagree with me and that is fine. :-) Bring on the discussion!

Regardless of whether you find my session interesting I am sure you will get something out of the other topics. This is probably the best looking lineup I have seen at BarCamp and I am really looking forward to it. Hope to see you there!

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Following Through

Following Through

The ability to follow-through has to be one of the most important human traits to master. People never have trouble deciding what it is they want to do. It is the follow through part of the equation that is difficult. When I saw this book I was immediately drawn in because like everybody else I have a long list of things I want to accomplish that I keep failing to do. I am pretty skeptical of “self-help” books, but I felt like I needed to give this one a try. The book is titled Following Through: A Revolutionary New Model For Finishing Whatever You Start by Levinson & Greider, and I highly recommend you give it a read. It is around 200 pages, some of it repetitive, but it really opened my eyes to the process of following through on actions you intend to do. For me the methods described in this book work, and I want to share a few details here.

The main points the book makes are the following:

  • Poor follow-through is more of a species problem than it is an individual problem. The main reason we so often do a lousy job of following through is because we humans are just not hard-wired for follow-through.
  • What it takes to adopt an intention and what it takes to follow through on that intention are entirely separate matters. Failing to understand the difference is at the root of many follow-through failures.
  • We can improve our ability to follow through by understanding the faulty wiring and learning how to use it to our advantage.
  • The key to following through despite the faulty wiring is to deliberately and creatively make whatever we intend to do feel necessary.

The first half of the book is about preparing you for the solution. It goes over examples of how people fail to follow through on their good intentions. While reading the book I was thinking that they used too many examples. Maybe they were just trying to pad the book and make their simple concept seem bigger and thus justify you spending money to buy the book. I am sure their intention is to repeat enough examples to make sure you really “get it”. Some examples will speak directly to you and others will kind of bore you. So if you start to get a little bored with it about half way just keep on reading. They are making their point, and they do eventually give you solutions to the problem. They talk about good intentions like spending more time with your kids, cleaning your messy office, keeping on your diet, quitting smoking, watching less TV, and different examples in business. Out of all of the examples something will get your attention and make you realize that you are in the same boat as everybody else.

They point out the fact that there is no guarantee that hard work and persistence will pay off and no guarantee that the absence of hard work and persistence will hurt. This makes it hard for intentions alone to be enough to make you successful. Smoking a cigarette today doesn’t mean you will get cancer, and quitting smoking doesn’t mean you will have a long and healthy life.

At the root of the problem is what they call the follow through fairy tale. “If it’s really important I will do it for sure”. It makes perfect sense. The problem is that our minds don’t work that way. Even being enthusiastic about an idea doesn’t mean you will follow through. The answer is perplexing and disappointing, but really quite simple: Our good intentions don’t work the way we think they should. Not even enthusiasm will guarantee good results.

In trying to make sense of poor follow through most people accept a theory that seems to explain what is happening. This is called the “It Must Be Me theory”. This theory assumes it is you who determines whether or not you will follow through. It is a straight forward expression of your character. The truth is that follow through is more a matter of circumstances than a matter of character. The book then talks about how most people have a mixed follow through record. Certain sports fans always follow through to catch the game on tv, check the scores in the paper, arrive at the stadium on time for the game. Yet in other areas of the person’s life they fail to follow through all the time. That same person may always fail to do that new exercise plan or every year fail to do their taxes early and have to do them at the last minute yet again. There is no one follow through trait that you can count on in a person.

The book then compares the human guidance system to the primitive guidance system of a squirrel. Squirrels automatically store up food for the winter. It isn’t a matter of follow through. It is instinct for them. They describe humans as having an Intelligence based guidance system and yet still having part of the primitive guidance system. The Intelligence based system says you should follow through on your good intentions, but the primitive guidance system tells you to “listen for squeaks, and grease the squeakiest wheel”.

Now that you realize what different systems are at work in the mind you can see that the primitive guidance system is to blame. The book then talks about using this to your advantage and gives the example of a lady who always has the good intention of getting her taxes done early. Her good intentions keep telling here it is a good idea to do them early. Then her primitive guidance system would get in the way by saying you are hungry you should go to the kitchen, you are bored so you should go do something else like watch TV. But there becomes a point where the primitive and intelligence based guidance systems work together. The day before taxes are due she is frantically working on them and both systems are saying it is the top priority. Every year this happens and she is successful at getting her taxes done on time even though she fails at getting them done early. It is this realization that we need both systems saying the same thing to be successful at follow through.

They give another example of a man named Joe who had a heart attack and knew he had to change his lifestyle and start walking to avoid having another one. It was life or death. After awhile he would start slipping in his routine and beat himself up over how stupid it was that he couldn’t follow through. Then he met a guy named Tom who was going through a similar rehabilitation program and suggested they walk together. Once the situation changed Joe had no problem following through. Whenever it was time to go walking Joe’s intention would whisper that it was “essential to his health”, but his primitive guidance system would shout “Walk, because I can’t let Tom down”. Joe learned the lesson that what squeaks, squeaks, and what doesn’t, doesn’t. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make sense. The important thing is that the change in situation put his intention in the driver’s seat.

We have finally gotten to step two of this process, shaping your situation. You have to ask the question: how can I shape the situation, or the way I experience it, to make my intention the squeakiest wheel?

There are different strategies discussed in the book for making sure you follow through:

  • Spotlighting
  • Willpower Leveraging
  • Creating Compelling Reasons
  • Leading the Horse to Water
  • Going Too Far
  • Right Before Wrong
  • Strike While the Iron Is Hot

The book describes Spotlighting as involving the following three steps:

  • First identify the right voices – the needs or wants or motives that urge you to do the same thing your intention is telling you to do.
  • Next you need to identify or create the right cues – the things out there that will stimulate those voices.
  • Third, you need to find a way to make sure you’ll be exposed to enough of the right cues.

One tool they describe to aid in spotlighting is what they call the “MotivAider”. This is useful for a task you want to follow through on where there is no opposing voice to overcome. It is just a lack of remembering. It is a beeper looking device that will send a vibration that acts as a constant reminder. This device will expose you to a constant stream of personal reminders that will expose you to enough of the right cues regardless of what is going on around you. You don’t necessarily need to have the device they describe. You can setup similar reminders on computers, cell phones, or even come up with visual or audio cues that accomplish the same thing. The key is that is needs to happen often so that you can get your mind back on track.

The second follow-through strategy they talk about is “Willpower Leveraging”. This means taking one easy action today that makes it much more likely that you will do the right thing tomorrow. It is all about putting the right obstacle in your way. One example they gave was for a man who wanted to stop snacking on cookies at night. He asked his wife to stop buying them at the store making it less likely he would fail to follow-through. When that late night craving hits next time the thought of getting in the car and driving to the store to buy them himself is a larger obstacle to overcome instead of just trying to stay away from the kitchen.

Another follow-through strategy is to “Create Compelling Reasons”. The idea behind this is when the “right” reason to do something isn’t compelling enough then you can deliberately create a reason that is. This lets you take a common cause of poor follow-through – the powerful hardwired tendency to be unduly influenced by what feels most real at the moment – and turn it into a cure for poor follow-through. There is no exact formula for making this work, but they do list three guidelines:

  • Make It Matter Now
  • Eliminate Wiggle Room
  • Make Sure It Fits You

The key to making this strategy work is to forget about what “they” say should be important: forget about what you only “think” should be important; and forget about logic. Reasons that make the most sense might not move you at all. And reasons that do the best job of getting you up and running might not make much sense.

With “Creating Compelling Reasons” you come to ask yourself, “how far can you go”? Once you understand that you can create a truly compelling reason to follow through on any intention, you may get a little nervous. The book uses the example of offering your car to the stranger at the table next to you if you eat the brownie that you’ve promised yourself you won’t eat. While it may be extreme and almost silly it is also very likely you wouldn’t eat that brownie either.

The “Leading the Horse to Water” strategy is a new spin on the old saying. While you may not be able to make a horse drink water, if you want him to drink it makes sense to lead him to water. If the horse is there where the water is he is certainly more likely to drink when he does become thirsty. So you are putting him in a better position to drink. This strategy is all about separating the easy part from the hard part. If you want to follow through on a new exercise plan and the idea of riding your exercise bike for 20 minutes is a huge deterrent, then separate the getting on the bike part from the 20 minutes of peddling part. Getting on the bike is the easy part, but once you are there you are more likely to follow through with the second part. Make an agreement to get on the bike and pedal for one minute then give yourself the right to stop. Unless you separate the two parts, you make the whole thing worth avoiding. This strategy is summed up in four parts:

  • Separate the easy, “Get Started” part of what you intend to do from the hard, “Yuck, I don’t want to do that” part.
  • Tell yourself that all you have to do is the easy part – that you can stop any time you want.
  • Go ahead and do the easy part.
  • Prepare yourself to be pleasantly surprised.

The next strategy is an interesting one “Going Too Far”. For this to work you have to make a deal with yourself. The authors sum is up like this: “If you are going to do the wrong thing, then you must do it even wronger than usual”. They give an example of a girl who wanted to stop eating donuts in her office where they kept them in constant supply. The deal she made with herself was if she was going to eat a donut then it had to be three donuts at a time. It turned out that when she would reach for that donut the thought of having to eat three when she only wanted one right now was enough to turn her away. For this strategy to work you have to keep up the deal you make with yourself. If you can’t do that then this strategy is not for you.

A similar strategy is what they describe as “Right Before Wrong”. It is similar in that you are making a deal with yourself, but instead of promising to do more of the right thing, you promise to do the right thing before you do the wrong thing. So if you are trying to avoid junk food you can agree to eat something healthy before eating the junk food. After eating some carrots for a snack if you still want a piece of cake then it is ok. Go ahead and do it. What you will find is that most of the time you will not want the cake.

The “Strike While the Iron Is Hot” strategy is the perfect strategy to use whenever you have an intention that was born while your emotions were being “stirred”. The strategy acknowledges that inspiration doesn’t last long; that when the stirring stops, the window of opportunity to follow through begins to shut. If you don’t take some kind of action to at least get the ball rolling you’ll likely lose the opportunity to follow through. They use the perfect example of sending a thank you note. You either do it while it is relevant or it is a missed opportunity. Using this example when you remember about the thank you note you have to stop what you are doing and take some immediate action on it. You may not be able to write the note right now, but maybe you can address the envelope and leave it sitting on your desk. You need to take some immediate step towards accomplishing this goal.

There is one last cautionary tale in this book. That is about agreeing to do too many things, promising to complete more tasks than you feasibly have time to do. If you are way over extending your time then no amount of cues and methods for following through will enable you to accomplish everything. The book talks about taking the tasks you agree to accomplish more seriously, and even having a way out of a task that you no longer want or need to accomplish. They recommend officially “divorcing” yourself from a task that isn’t feasible anymore instead of letting it just linger around and die. Get rid of it and move on.

While I hope you got some information from my brief summary of this book, I really hope you pick up a copy and read it for yourself. I even recommend keeping the book around to re-read later down the road for a refresher course. The examples given really speak to things in everybody’s life, and I didn’t spend time retelling all of those stories. That is what the real book is for. Following through on some of these good intentions you have are life changing and you will no longer keep beating yourself up over failing to accomplish these goals. You will stop thinking you are just built weak, and if only you had more willpower then you could finally do the things you want. After reading this book you realize that the human mind just doesn’t work that way. But knowing how it does work equips you with the tools you need to follow through on any goal that is important enough.

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