I’m working on the part 6 of the hyperbrain series, but it’s not finished yet. It takes time, of course, and in the meantime I’m working on many things, including my business, and the future blog that will replace inter-sections.
Perhaps it’s worth finally mentioning that business here! Fancy that, I hadn’t actually done it before. Incredible.
This is part 5 of my series on the hyperbrain. If you’re just joining us, please have a look at parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 before continuing. If you’re wondering why there was such a gap between parts 1-4 and part 5, try this.
When it comes to immediate distraction, you should do your best to block it by shutting down unnecessary browsers and chat, letting people know that you’re busy, and making an effort to keep focused on the current task. This standard advice applies to everyone, hyperbrain or not. At the same time, you should keep tasks closed so that when you inevitably do get distracted, it won’t cause too much damage.
However, there is a different kind of distraction that works on a much slower cycle. Sometimes it can be mistaken for a general low of energy (and sometimes that’s what it is), but very often, if you’re a hyperbrain, you’ll get progressively bored of a previously enthusing piece of work and basically not feel like working on it anymore for a while.
Confusingly, immediate distractibility will hit hardest at that time too - you’re bored of your main task, so almost anything (even perhaps examining some strange defect on the wall to your right), seems more interesting than what you’re supposed to be doing. Not only that, but because you’re supposed to do that big task and you don’t find the energy to do it, you end up not doing any other useful tasks either (after all, those other tasks are lower priority).
I have a technique to deal with that too, though it’s not so easy to apply consistently. Yet even when applied only part of the time, it is still useful, in my experience.
I’ve always had a tendency to get addicted to computer games. Not all kinds of games (I never really got into driving games, for example), but mostly games where you accumulate points - strategy games, role playing games, etc. My first “big” addiction was MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons… a kind of text-based equivalent of the recent crop of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft). I broke it off the first time, with a super-human effort, when I visited Oxford University and decided that I wanted to go there - and that I would clearly not get there while I was playing MUDs 6 hours a day (outside of school time!). It took all my will-power, back then, to quit cold-turkey.
Later on, my next big addiction was Diablo 2. I spent insane amounts of time playing that game, levelling up a variety of characters to level 80 or thereabouts, playing through the game countless times to accumulate precious items, experience, skill points, etc. One summer, after finishing my degree, I went through a phase where I burned myself out of Diablo 2 - by playing it so much, from dusk till dawn, that even I grew tired of it. That was another way of breaking off the addiction… it was easier, but costlier in wasted time.
So, when World of Warcraft came out, I knew that it was very important that I avoid playing it, because it clearly was a game that I would get instantly addicted to. Blizzard have a bad habit of making excellent games that got better with each version, and clearly WoW was the pinnacle of that progression.
Some jobs are “process jobs”. They consist mostly of taking some sort of input (phone calls, support tickets, orders, sales leads), performing some work on them, and providing some form of output (a satisfied customer, a filled order, a new sale). These jobs exist at all levels and in all kinds of businesses - from a small business support technician to a large business sales director). A lot of people (in fact, most people) have jobs that fit this description, are happy with that work, and do it brilliantly.
If you’re a hyperbrain, however, this kind of job is your worst nightmare. Why? Because it is a job you will always screw up.
Imagine you’re a manager in charge of a process. What do you care most about when hiring people to put in the roles you’ve identified? Predictability. You don’t care if the person handling the support tickets is capable of churning through 200 tickets on a really good day. You want to be sure that, on any given day, they’ll handle the 20 or so tickets that come in on average. Unfortunately, the hyperbrain does not work like that. It can produce exceptional results, but it is lousy at being consistent.
This is a weakness that, once again, can be worked around. Read on for this technique.
If you define a “scam” as a system designed to trick people into purchasing something they didn’t really want to purchase, the internet - and the real world - are rife with scams. Almost every business, no matter its size, uses every trick it can think of to convince people to purchase its products.
Scams are not created equal, though.
Subjectively, I think the greatest challenge about having a hyperbrain is distractibility. If not handled effectively, it can make you feel really useless. I’ve often sat in front of my computer, knowing that I’m supposed to be getting on with some piece of work that’s half done, and not been able to focus on it (whilst remaining quite capable of focusing on dozens of blogs and other wastes of time). Learning to work with your distractibility can make an order of magnitude of difference in your productivity.
So, you have an idea for a startup, but need a tech guy to build it… how should you find him?
Last week I ripped into a job advert with, I hope, some good comical results. Some people asked, more specifically, what I would do in Redline’s place (Redline was the company that produced the advert). How do you make that first technical hire?
Of course, you want the company to sound personable and friendly, and that was probably the noble impulse that drove the poor anonymous job ad writer to write that awful ad. A formal, stiff job ad is indeed not going to attract good early employees - let alone a start-up CTO, which I believe is what they were trying to hire in this case.
First of all, let’s define our terms a little. Everyone has different terms for these things, but there’s two general stages to recruitment of technical guys in a really early start-up (one with fewer than 10 techs). Please note that when a company grows beyond that size, things shift and evolve. This applies to very small technology start-ups only and, as ever in the start-up world, there are and will always be exceptions.
This article follows a previous article. It’s part of a series of yet undefined length. If you haven’t read the first instalment yet, it might be worth going back and reading it.
This is addressed mainly to people who recognise themselves in the description of the hyperbrain, although it may be of interest to others. When you count up all the different ways in which your hyperbrain differs from the average, you might be tempted to think you’re not normal. Well, it’s true, you’re not. You’re different from the norm, but that can be a good thing. After all, you can’t be normal and expect abnormal results. The focus of these articles is to make you more aware of how you can deal with those differences, counteract your limitations, and build on your strengths, to achieve what you’re capable of.
So what are you capable of? Well, you can do anything you want (that’s the good news). But in order to do those things, you need to learn to work with your hyperbrain, otherwise you will constantly fail in public and humiliating ways at the worst moments (usually, on the cusp of victory, at least in my experience). And that will hurt you more than the average person, because you are far more sensitive to negative feedback than you’d care to admit. Let’s look at the first practical step to take to improve your chances of success.
The first step to success with a hyperbrain is to both accept your limitations and reject them.
Recently, I found a Craigslist job advert that made me chuckle. It seems to manage to do almost everything wrong, from the point of view of recruiting the kind of person it appears to be targeting.
So, in the spirit of improving the web, here’s my blow-by-blow description of all (or most of) what’s wrong with this job ad.
Recent news has pointed out that gold farming in China has become a $500m industry.
Blizzard should be ashamed.
We have many challenges in the world today. Entertaining people (as Blizzard does with their main products) is a worthwhile activity for a business. Hard-working people do need it, and even though there are some extreme cases of “entertainment abuse” (similar, in many ways, to drugs abuse), the abuses of the few should not limit the many from enjoying a perfectly healthy, if somewhat fruitless, activity.
However, gold farming is not entertainment. Gold farming is an entirely sterile activity. It produces nothing other than a transfer of wealth from one part of the world to another. The “gold” that is being farmed is purely artificial. It represents no value creation whatsoever. It is merely a symbol of time that has been wasted on a pursuit that is designed to be entertaining. Each piece of gold farmed represents a small amount of wasted productivity for the human race. In aggregate, the $500m gold farming industry represents $500m of wasted human productivity.
Moreover, Blizzard could very easily stop this trade, by creating an official gold market where people can exchange dollars for gold. There would still remain some market for rare items, but those are necessarily less fungible than gold coins, and so would at least greatly decrease the $500m black hole.
If anything, Blizzard should see its own self-interest here: if it can get even a 10% slice of this $500m market (and there’s little reason to think that it couldn’t get 100%), that would represent $50m - not an amount to be sneered at. From a business sense, Blizzard should be ashamed not to have opened up a gold market yet.