F5 Expo – Part 1 – Taking Crazy Back
Yesterday, at the Vancouver Convention Centre, a diverse group of social media enthusiasts, business people, and gurus came together for the F5 Expo. A combination of trade show (the “Idea Zoo”), panel discussions, which included such individuals as Brian Wong (@brian_wong), Kris Krug (@kk), and Ryan Holmes (@HootSuite), workshops, and keynote speeches by Tod Maffin and Malcolm Gladwell, the Expo was a great place for people from all levels of social media to learn more about it and how to effectively use it. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be putting up a series of posts covering the various panels, speeches, and interviews that I had with people, culminating with Malcolm Gladwell’s keynote speech.
Tod Maffin (@todmaffin) was a leading CEO of a tech company that was worth millions during Web 1.0. With a personal networth of millions of dollars (on paper, as he stresses), he led the busy and successful life that many people strive to have at some point in their life. But somewhere in his 16 hour days of running his successful publicly traded company and hosting a national radio show on CBC Radio One on technology, it all came crashing down. (Source) Being so successful, one would expect him to talk about his secrets to success in the era of Web 1.0. Guess what, he didn’t. Rather, he talked about something that most of us don’t really think about on a day to day basis: being overworked and overstressed, and just “Taking Crazy Back.”
“Multitasking Doesn’t Exist”
He started by discussing (and dispelling) what we all believe to be an essential skill to have: multitasking. We all pride ourselves on being to do several things, and being able to put 100% of our focus/brainpower towards each of those things. However, if we’re doing 3 different things, we’re actually splitting our focus and mental capacity into thirds. He brought up the example of talking on the phone while driving. He refers to a study that took three groups of drivers and sent them on the same route. The control group was told to drive quietly, while the second group held a phone conversation without a hands free system, and the third group help the same conversation, but with handsfree devices. Now from what we’ve been told and what legislation has seemed to tell us, we would think that the second group would have performed the worst, the third group better, and the control group the best. Wrong. Well partially at least. It turns out the second and third groups performed equally poorly. So it’s not the action of holding the cell phone, but simply having a conversation and holding our brains somewhere else. This is even true when you’re talking with someone who is sitting in your car. According to studies, that when you’re driving and simply having a conversation with someone, you’re operating with a BAC of 0.08. You’re legally intoxicated. He showed this fun video that very simply shows how we’re not all the multitasking masters that we claim to be, and that we really can’t completely focus on more than one thing at a time. (As a side note, I love how this was done as a cyclist awareness campaign. Also, I admit, I’ve been guilty of “multitasking” while writing this post.)
He proceeded to talk about how we’ve all become “technocrazy”, with our multiple phones and email addresses. Many of us have a phone for work, a cell phone, a home phone. Then add on a work email, family email, junk/spam/signup email, a social media email, etc. We multitask in our every day lives, with having multiple methods of contact and we continue to do it to ourselves. But somehow, we never seem to realize that multitasking doesn’t actually work. Now, the definition of insanity used in the AA 12 step program is “Insanity is the process of doing the same thing over and over, but expecting the different results.”
“We stopped being human beings. Nowadays we’re human doings.”
Taking a step back in time, Tod began to look at how working life has drastically changed. Back in the day, working individuals would work 8 hour days, answering their phones, and sending replies to letters and such. Afterwards, they would go home and spend time with their families. So how is that different today, you may be asking. Well, with technology allowing us to complete these tasks in a fraction of the time it used to take, Tod estimates that we could probably complete the same amount of quality work in a 5 and a half hour work day, a shorter 9-2:30 day. Technology really has given us more time in our days. But Tod poses the question, what do we all decide to do with that time? “It’s like the ads say, they do give us more time, these devices. The problem is with us, is what we choose to do with that time. We end up working more.” As Tod put it, where we used to have absenteeism, we now have presenteeism. People will continue to goto work even if they’re ill or simply just need time to recover.
I’ve noticed this everywhere, every one is hustling and bustling about trying to make use of all the time they have in the day. People are afraid to just stop and soak in the world around them. People are afraid that if they stop moving, even for a split second, they’re on the road to failure. People are afraid to just be. “Why do we feel the need to keep ourselves so connected? So busy? Always tweeting?” At this point, Tod asked how many people had tweeted since he started talking (This was about 20 minutes into his talk), and a quarter of the room raised their hands. I’m guilty of always doing as well a lot of the time. I often get restless when I’m not busy and I feel the need to find something to do. My photography has really helped with this though. When I go out on photowalks, I’ll just stop and sit and soak in everything around me. I will make the effort to just stop, put down the camera, and just enjoy the world.
“Something has to give.”
Tod also spoke as to his experience, and his own personal life changing experience that changed him into the man he now. As his success continued to rocket beyond all expectations and his networth grew to just under $10 million, on paper as Tod stresses, he teetered closer to and ultimately resulting in a complete nervous breakdown and alcoholism. This was Tod’s personal tipping point. Maybe one of the biggest things that Tod learned during this time can be embodied in this this simple question “Have you asked anyone for help?” He realized that in business world, asking for help is a sign of weakness and is looked down upon. Perhaps the thing that makes Tod’s talk so powerful is that he isn’t one of those individuals you see on pedestals who have overcome all obstacles with relative ease. Tod is human. Tod is like one of us. The fact that he continues to struggle with his inner demons, makes him someone everyone can connect to.
“Crazy gets things done.”
Tod ended with a piece of wisdom that I have been trying to utilize more myself: use your gut. With a background in biomedical engineering and now going through an accounting program, I’ve trained to rationalize everything through a set of formulas and measurable metrics. I’m trying to break out of that shell, trying to find that balance between doing things on my gut, and thinking things through. I’ve seen it work, even with going to F5. I heard about it, and I just felt like it would be a good thing for me to do. And did it turn out to be a great experience. What did some of my friends think? They thought I was crazy. But as Tod Maffin summed up at the end of his talk, it’s those crazy people and crazy ideas that get things done. It doesn’t necessarily need to be something big. It doesn’t necessarily need to be something that changes the world. It doesn’t need to be something that everyone sees. You just need to be crazy and change things in your own realm, in your own world. Don’t just be another face in the crowd.
I’ll leave you with this old Apple ad that Tod showed at the end of his talk. Remember to check back in over the next couple of days for more posts on the F5 Expo. Follow me on twitter @hjue87 for updates and say hi!
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This blog started off (in its original blogger format) as a collection of disconnected ramblings and thoughts. Almost like a mental dumping place. It was a simple way to keep in touch with friends and give them updates about what's going on. Now it's become something more. It's become a place of sharing ideas, responding to articles, and just talking about the greatest city in the world, Vancouver.
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