#4: The Problem of Finding Focus

Alison_NameMy family adopted a dog when I was 10. Her name was Sandy. She was okay. A beagle I think. She came and went out of my room every so often without much of a fuss. I would read, she would come in for a few minutes–not all that long–and then she would leave. Sandy was quiet, calm, cleaver, and ultimately distracting. Too distracting.

After about a year and a half of Sandy coming into my room while I was reading I decided to calculate how much time she took from me. Between her entry into my room, the aimless walking, and the time for me to refocus, Sandy took 9 days of my life away from me in only 18 months. I convinced my parents Sandy should find a new home on month 19.

I was a hair’s breadth away from sending the pain-in-the-ass intern out to pasture this week too. I’m all for helping the less fortunate and that my marathon watching of Dallas doesn’t quite help the world, but her insistence that we should be doing more to help the world was starting to cost me more time than poor Sandy.

“What do you mean you don’t know what’s going on in sub-Saharan Africa?” she asked me at the beginning of the week. “There are thousands of families fleeing from horrible violence and their kids can’t even go to school!”

This conversation originally started after I asked how her weekend was and it spiraled out of control after that.

I need to stop asking people how they’re doing.

I really don’t care how her weekend was. 99% of people who ask that question does so out of social convention and politeness. They don’t really care. They want to hear “It was good” and then walk away.

When I seem to ask it, 25 minutes of my day disappears that I’ll never get back. I could have thrown my vintage Ghostbusters lunch box at her, but I can’t say that would have helped too much. It would have been pretty fun though!

Her type of idealism is costing Merge its focus right now. It can often cost a business dearly with a startup as young and fragile as we are. It can detract from our goals down the road. I can’t see this idealism coming from Ryan. He’s too focused on ego most of the time.

Something tells me Jasper’s been helping along the kid’s view of the world. He’s got the time to talk from what I can see. His job is virtually done for now. The design for our sample devices is getting closer to being completed after a huge rapid prototyping campaign his team took on. Now he just keeps 3D printing crap.

The deadline Ryan set to have our devices out the door so we can bag new investors always seems to be ticking closer. Jon is coming up on finishing the patch work on OpenOffice (it won’t be perfect, but it will be done) and Heather is doing solid work on the app front for the mobile platform. I’m still working on further iterations of the cloud backup system and a more secure backbone for the data transfer.

Everything’s really coming to a head in the next few days as we start to pair software and hardware together. The problem is the hardware guys keep making small alterations that my software wasn’t anticipating so rather than tell me before they make their changes they alter their designs and bugs start popping up everywhere!

Between that and the “save the world campaign” of the intern, I am starting to despise my time in the office as much as I despise Full House. Bob Saget is more than Danny Tanner dammit! Those twins just dragged him down year after year.

I find myself walking out of the office and through the downtown core in the bitter cold trying to find a little peace to work through things in my head.

There aren’t as many homeless guys downtown as I remember from when I was a student. I tend to walk with my head down and what Ryan calls my “fuck off” face.

Focus Starts with Isolation in a Crowd of People

It’s insanely important for me to get my ass out of the office and take time to think. I don’t do that by sitting at a desk and staring at a Moleskine notebook like our fearless leader. That’s not how I roll. Focus starts with feeling isolated in a crowd of people.

The last walk I took brought me to the skating rink in front of city hall towards the end of the day. There weren’t a ton of people out front skating, but those who were looked so damn happy. I sat down for a few minutes on a bench and watched the people that passed by. I looked at how people interact and how they interact with their phones. Most ignore the people next to them for a few seconds at a time, distracted by their phones for one reason or another.

I guess they think their physical lives aren’t as interesting as their ongoing text conversation, the score of the game, their never ending session of Angry Birds, or just checking a piece of information. They aren’t completely living with those around them.

I’ll have to get Jon to start working on an app alerting the user to stop what they’re doing on their phone and get back to living. We’ll call it LifeFocus.

There are too many distractions in life and in business. Sometimes you go on a digital vacation to leave behind your devices and focus on those you care about. And sometimes you come into the office early or late at night so you’re not bothered by co-workers in order to get shit done. You do it to escape something.

Now I’m going to have to find the time to get my work done. I’ll have to work on getting rid of the intern. She’s not as cute as Sandy was so I’ll have an easier time shoving her out the door. Ryan saddled us with her so maybe I’ll key his car too.

It should be a productive week!


Next Post – #5: The Argument and Settlers

Previous Post – #3: Finding Progress and Money

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