Why Chicago Needs Dedicated Festival Grounds

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, April 04, 2016 at 06:40 PM with 2 comments

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The motto of the city of Chicago, Illinois is “urbs in hortu” which is Latin for “city in a garden.” The motto for Chicago is not “festum in urbs” or “festival in a city,” yet festivals large and small draw people to the city – to visit as well as to live – and contribute tremendously to the unique place it is.

It is the large festival concerts that of course draw the largest crowds, including myself. For me personally, there is nothing else like watching live music with tens of thousands of strangers, to say the least! As great and memorable as these festival concerts are – the likes of Lollapalooza, Pitchfork and Riot Fest – they also have an impact long after the last note is played and people leave, namely in the physical damage done to where the concerts are held, which is in public parks across Chicago.

The damage to parks is eventually fixed, and the cost is mostly covered by the concert promoter. However in 2014, the concert and amusement festival Riot Fest, which called the city’s northwest side park Humboldt Park its home for the past several years, was denied a permit to return there after neighbors complained about damage not completely repaired and other issues related to crowds. The 2015 concert was held on the other side of the city in Douglas Park.

I can understand the issue of park damage. Lollapalooza, the annual concert that consumes Chicago’s Grant Park along Lake Michigan, takes most of the park out of commission – including use for locals – for many weeks to repair the damage, which in their case and for Riot Fest is usually due to rain and millions of footsteps wrecking grassy areas which need to be replanted or resodded. It’s not only an inconvenience, but people are denied access to a park they pay for with their tax dollars.

While existing spaces and places make a great setting for concerts, namely in aerial photos of the crowds, a solution that could make everybody happy – from concertgoers to neighbors – would be a permanent festival location for such events.

Dedicated festival grounds

What you say, Mike, build out an open space for multi-stage concerts or other large festival activities and events? Yes, I am, and allow me to make the case for such a venue.

There’s plenty of space in Chicago. If you’ve ever traveled across this fair city, whether by train, car or even over it by airplane, there is all kinds of “vacant” land across the city. I use “vacant” in quotes as clearly someone owns it. But it is there, and not being used.

This is not an original idea. The concept of space for events is nothing new. The Midwest is dotted with fairgrounds, with indoor and outdoor facilities. Growing up in Massachusetts, the Eastern States Exposition grounds hosted not only the Big E, the annual 6-New England state fair, but events large and small throughout the year. Also, about 90 minutes north of Chicago is the Summerfest grounds along lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is designed and used for varying sized events.

Can be designed for its use. By building out a space for such events, it can be designed for multiple stages and the crowds that will stand and watch them and walk around, ideally not on grass but asphalt. Not to mention having some “permanent” fixtures like real bathrooms! Perhaps the event organizers, including Lollapalooza’s Perry Farrell, could have a say in its design too?

Can be designed to scale. Not all concerts and festivals draw the same size crowds, and the venue can be designed and built to accommodate different sized crowds.

Better accommodations for inclement weather. It’s rare than a little rain (or a lot) doesn’t fall on an outdoor festival event. This can be factored into the design of the venue with shelters and indoor facilities.

Better offering of VIP services. In addition to general admission tickets to such events, VIP tickets are more and more commonplace. Designing this into venues can provide a greater experience, at a greater cost, for VIPs, which can contribute more to the cost of the venue itself.

Better transportation planning. Or maybe simply “transportation planning” as such a venue would have planned transportation options – not to mention working in public transportation, paths and parking to accommodate it?

For all of these great reasons, it doesn’t mean that it will just happen. Especially in a city like Chicago, with burgeoning deficits, its politics and everything else making headlines, it could take years for something like this to ever happen. Plus, the city has a long history of hosting great events with little physical traces of them years later, such as 2 World’s Fairs in 1893 and 1933.

But nothing is ever easy, and because of it, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about it. “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized.” was a quote from Daniel Burnham, the famous Chicago architect and author of the Chicago Plan, a design for the city that was implemented in part, just like there would be some compromise on such a venue.

Could this happen in Chicago? Should it happen? Does the city have more pressing priorities? I welcome your thoughts and opinions on my idea in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Takeaways From The Book Manage Your Day-To-Day

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 08:22 AM with 0 comments

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So, how is your day going?

Whenever asked that question, or just now as you read it, you may have begun it with a sigh or groan, or some insincere sense of enthusiasm. As much as we can plan days and focus on whatever we need to do, there are plenty of factors working against us and disrupting our momentum. These disruptors will never go away, and our only choice is to try to bring elements in to manage or counter them.

When I heard about the book Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Creative Mind I said to myself, “self, how can I pass on reading this?” The book is a collection of writings and interviews with 20 “creative minds.” Where some I have heard of, like Seth Godin and Tony Schwartz, most of the rest I had not. Yet each of the contributors were very intriguing, yet practical. Manage Your Day-To-Day is a good read that gets you thinking about your own routines and practices and how to get the “most” from them, whatever “most” means to you.

As I read the book, my takeaways from it were not from the specifics of the book, rather from its big picture, and are as follows.

Misery loves company, but only if you want to be miserable together – As I read the dozen pieces from the 20 authors, nobody was saying that they have overcome chaos and their lives are exactly as they want them. Yet they did admit to challenges and offered both general and specific advice on how they are conquering what challenges them.

You deserve a break today – How many times have you been working on something and someone asks you about lunch, and you are thinking, “gee, I just had breakfast!” (Ok, you can put your hands down now.) I have written man times here at The Hot Iron about the creative process – or if you are so inclined, simply thinking – and the need to get away to change the scenery, recharge the brain and come back with a fresh focus.

In my current role, in the employee handbook for my firm it actually mentions taking breaks during the day just for that reason. As a matter of fact, I am writing this very blog post on one of those breaks. And on the way to the Starbucks where I am writing this, I was able to easily think through something for work that my brain kept tripping on. Where I thought I dropped the ball on something, I actually did not, and completely followed through. A nice thought to have in my head as I return to the office.

Where was Scrum? – As I read this book after reading Jeff Sutherland's book on Scrum, using Scrum would be a perfect way to help you manage the creativity. As a matter of fact, I recently setup my own scrum board for myself, with tasks such as writing this blog post and fixing the closet doors in my kid's bedroom.

I recommend Manage Your Day-To-Day for anyone who is looking for ideas and encouragement on improvement of their productivity or just to add some calm into their lives. This book is one I bought myself after reading about it somewhere – sorry, I forgot, as I have had the book for a while. As I always pass along books, for this one I placed it on a shelf in the kitchen of my office with other books people have left there as a mini-library. It will be interesting if anyone takes it, and even more so if they took it after reading this blog post!

Have you read Manage Your Day-To-Day? I welcome your thoughts on the book in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Takeaways From The Book 52 Motivational Quotations For Salespeople By Tom Cruz

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, January 04, 2016 at 10:27 PM with 0 comments

photo of back cover of 52 Motivational Quotations for Salespeople by Tom Cruz

We all sell. Whether the word “sales” is in our job title or not, we all “sell” in some regards. From persuading a solution at work to convincing someone to date us to everything in between and all around, there is some element of selling in our lives.

Where we can succeed in selling, many times we do not. And when we do not, we can react to it in any number of ways. Whether we like it or not, we have to try to sell again. For some, getting back into the proverbial saddle is easy, and for others or just other times, we may need help. One way to get that help is from words of encouragement.

My good friend Tom Cruz has had the word “sales” on his business cards over his entire career (and when I say good friend, I stood up in his wedding and once flew live lobsters out to his house in LA from Boston, but I digress). When I heard he wrote a book titled 52 Motivational Quotations for Salespeople, I knew I had to read it. Of course it is always to support a friend, bit I knew it would be a great collection and motivator as well.

Friend bias aside, I enjoyed this short book. Each quote is on a separate page, allowing you to tear them out and hang them up. As with any book, I had a few takeaways from it:

We need to find what works for us – Reading through a book of motivational quotes in itself won’t necessarily make it a better day. Or maybe it will. We have to find what works for us, though trial and error, and it may be a third-party sharing something with you.

Explore beyond words – We often hear names of people and quotes that have been attributed to them. But who are these people? Were they business or religious leaders? Were they ax murderers or musicians? Does the quote define them or just confuse you? As I went thru this book I ended up searching several names I did not know.

Write your story – Where these quotes are just that, individual sets of words from others, combined they are part of my friend Tom Cruz’s life journey, and thus tell part of his story. We all have a story to tell or at least record for curious others – now or in the future – whether our child or a stranger. No matter who, our story may be of interest to someone someday.

Note Tom did not ask me to write this, nor did he give me a copy of it. I will make sure to give him a signed copy of my future book someday! As I pass along book I read to others, I am sending this one to a common friend of both of ours, who also works in sales, and should publish his own book too.

Were you intrigued or inspired to get 52 Motivational Quotations for Salespeople? Have you thought of publishing your own quotes? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Most People Spend Most Of Their Time Around Their Job

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, December 07, 2015 at 10:12 PM with 0 comments

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It came to me a while back, something I guess I always knew subconsciously but only then came to the forefront of my mind – most people spend most of their time around their job. I then decided to put fingers to technology to see if I was right, and here’s my analysis and further thoughts on it.

Jobs and all their trappings

When thinking about how we spend our time, our jobs tend to be at the top of our list. This is of course assuming we don’t sleep most of our lives, but I digress. The job itself is the major time hoarder, assuming the typical 8-hour day. But if your day is anything but typical, it in itself is probably more than 8 hours, give or take a few minutes to a few hours.

As the TV infomercials say, “But wait, there’s more!” There’s the commute to work, both to and from it. You then need to prepare to go to work – wake up, shower (hopefully), eat and of course thinking about work. After work, there is probably some decompression, which involves more thought. If you work for the bare-minimum tech-savvy company, you can probably check your work email on your mobile device, and that adds up quickly, whether it is during the day or off-hours, including weekend. Then there's time devoted to things like doctor's appointments if things aren't so great on the job, but I don't have to go down that path here, do I?

Speaking of those off-hours and weekends, you are also thinking about work in addition to being connected to it. You may also be shopping for work, whether it is clothes, food or other supplies to get you through the day. And let’s face it, you may even take time after (or before) hours and on the weekends to actually do work, taking those time-consuming thoughts into even more time consuming actions.

So what’s your point Mike?

Now that I have set a somewhat somber point, you may be asking why? Why even bring this up?

Where I have thought about this very topic for a while, I wanted to write it out to make it real, tangible, and in my own face, and as a result in yours as well. By doing so, it is a realization that this will play into my upcoming goals for the new year. Where this time allotment towards my job may not be a direct or the primary input to my goals and decisions, but acknowledging it, I am realizing it will have some impact on it. From what I buy to where I live to what I do outside of work to whatever I may not have even thought of, the amount of time that my job currently occupies my time will come into consideration.

This time consumption perhaps consumes you as well – hopefully less, but perhaps even more. And let’s face it, it consumes most everyone. I say most everyone as I realize there are those who may not have to or want to work as much, and have the ability to disconnect from it. It may be because they are wealthy, live a simpler life, have a business or job that does not require as much of their time, work part-time but make enough to make them happy, or something else I couldn’t possibly fathom, but would love to.

Even if your job takes up most of your time, that may be ok, providing you love it, or maybe just a strong like. Or it’s convenient to where you live so your commute time is shorter. Or whatever it is or are, when you look at it written out, I hope you are at a minimum content with it.

The lay of the land

Now that I have painted the picture, do I (or you) want to hang it on the wall, or change it? I am not trying to draw any conclusions here – just simply putting it out as I said earlier, but reserving the right to refer to this in future writings.

I welcome your thoughts on this in the comments to this post… and please leave out any specifics about your job in those comments!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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”Giving

With the holiday season upon us, and the accompanying shopping season long under way, it's time to take a break, be thankful and support the spirit of the season and participate in Giving Tuesday.

On December 1, 2015, you are encouraged to close the tabs in your Web browser showing the latest deals and open up a Web page for a worthy charity, and allow me to suggest Barrel of Monkeys.

For over 17 years, Barrel of Monkeys has been teaching creative writing curriculum in Chicago public schools and in after-school programs. These programs are offered to elementary school kids and help them not only in their writing but to learn a little more about their creative side. The teachers in the program are also professional actors and improvisors, and they take what the kids write – from a single sentence to a short story – and adapt it into sketch comedy. This comedy is first debuted to the kids in their schools, and throughout the year Barrel of Monkeys puts on performances to the public showcasing some of the best of this inspired comedy.

As a member of the Board of Directors of Barrel of Monkeys, one may say I am biased as to how amazing this organization is, its people and the work it does. But don't believe me – see it for yourself; whether its in one of our performances or hear it from the kids and teachers themselves.

For Giving Tuesday 2015, our goal is to raise $3,000 towards our annual appeal. Can you help? Click the giant red button below and you can make a tax deductible donation online in any amount.

”Donate

If you're still not convinced, watch this trailer for our Giving Tuesday campaign – the actors are our artistic and education directors – showing some of the depth of talent and dedication to the organization.

If you have any questions on Barrel of Monkeys, check out our Web site or share them in the comments to this post, and thank you in advance for your support!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Jackery Battery Chargers Big And Small Do The Job

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 04:32 PM with 0 comments

photo of Jackery Mini and Giant +

Once upon a time you could easily remove the battery from a mobile device. This made it easy to keep a charge as you could simply swap out a dead battery for a fresh one. Of course you would have to charge the removed battery, and you could either charge it in the device or in a special battery charger.

Where the above scenario sounds like ancient history, it was less than a decade ago that you could do this. Today most mobile devices have non-removable batteries. Granted “non-removable” is a relative term as you can remove anything, it’s just that the device isn’t designed for it to be easily removed, and in doing so may void its warranty. As a result, spare batteries have been replaced by external battery chargers, and have spawned a whole new industry, especially as having 1 or 2 seems to never be enough power.

Recently I was offered the chance to evaluate external battery chargers made by Jackery. Where I have seen this brand before, namely on Amazon.com, I had never used one. In this eval I was also offered to choose which battery charger I would like to try. As I couldn’t choose between their largest and smallest models, the Giant + and the Mini, I asked if I could try both, and they said I could.

In my review I didn’t plan out anything specific, as I simply wanted to use them as I would any battery charger. I also had my wife use them as well, not specifically saying why I had them. Also note I am not an electrician, and I can’t speak to power ratings or usage, only from a lay person’s point of view. Judging from most people who read The Hot Iron, I am not disappointing anyone with that last statement.

Giant + – Multiple devices, multiple charges

The Giant + is a battery charger you most likely won’t carry in your pocket, this is unless you’re going to a festival concert, which I did this past fall when I took it to Riot Fest. I also have used it to charge multiple device at home, such as my iPhone and iPad. It was also the power source for my modern-day attempt at a boom-box, charging both my iPhone and a Bluetooth speaker which played at our neighborhood block party.

The main features of the Giant + are that you can charge 2 devices at once, and that you can charge devices multiple times. In my charging, I was far from scientific, but many times I had multiple devices charging to 100% at once. There is a 3-bar light indicator which tells you the battery level, and the accompanying charge cable would replenish the battery pretty quickly – at least overnight, which is what I most often did.

Another feature of the Giant + is an LED flashlight. By pressing a side button twice, the flashlight turns on and off. I’ll admit I didn’t really use this in a real-world situation, as I always had enough light, typically from device screens, to plug in to it. But I did try the light in the dark and it is plenty bright. As it’s not a battery you may typically carry around with you, I am not sure if the light often used, but I would love to hear from someone who has.

Mini – Topping off the fuel tank

As I said before, I have several battery chargers, namely as all of my devices have weak batteries and constantly need recharging. Where I have used the Giant + to bring a device back from the dead, sometimes it’s nice just to top off a charge or have a spare battery just in case. The Jackery Mini came in handy for both situations.

The Mini is just that – small, compact and can easily fit in the same pocket as your device… that is, if your device can fit in your pocket itself, but I digress. This battery is one my wife would take with her to charge her phone. It has a push button where up to 4 LEDs illuminate in extremely bright blue to indicate the strength. I have also kept the Mini in my backpack with a spare charging cable if I ever needed a top-off.

Solid and stylish

Both the Jackery Giant + and Mini are solid. They have an aluminum outer shell with a shine to them – the Giant + I had is bright orange (a color I love!) and the Mini was close to what Apple calls “rose gold” but they call it just gold. I of course have dropped both batteries, and they have held up well, though they mostly just fell off my desk.

As for the price, I have seen a variety of ranges, and as I am posting this close to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I am sure there will be deals on it. In all cases, the Giant + is more than the Mini.

For portable power, these backup batteries from Jackery performed well for me. They also offer many other styles, as well as cases. And after having them hands-on, I am glad I couldn’t decide which one to review, as they each have their own uses. If you have used Jackery backup batteries before, or have any questions on these, I would like to hear from you in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Takeaways From The Book Evolutionary Eating By Dr. Theresa Nesbitt

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, November 05, 2015 at 10:59 PM with 0 comments

photo of Snacking sign with a question mark

Over the summer I was seriously considering weight and diet counseling. As, well, let's just say I need to lose a few pounds, and with the increasing demand of little kids – plus the fact I am not getting any younger – it was more than time to take action.

When I talked with a colleague who is also a doctor about this, he asked me if, before I committed time and money to a program, I could commit US $15 on a book. As you cant even get a mediocre mixed drink in some Chicago bars for that, I said, “why not?” It was then that he recommended I read a book written by a friend of his, Dr. Theresa Nesbitt, titled Evolutionary Eating: How We Got Fat and 7 Simple Fixes.

As the book was recommended by someone I trust, I bought it. But I have to admit – by the title alone, which I thought was cliché for a health book, I probably wouldn't have otherwise bought it. But I did, and I am glad I did. And it has worked for me too, but I will save that for the end of this post.

So it is probably needless to say that I had several take-aways from this book, and here's some of the top ones I'd like to share:

We Never Really Learned Everything About Eating – Looking back on growing up, plus raising my own little angels, most of what we teach our kids about eating is more logistical – use utensils, don't put food in your hair, chew with your mouth closed – but we don't have as much focus on when to eat, what to eat and why.

Eat 3 Meals A Day At Routine Times – By eating consistently, or as consistently as possible, your body “knows” when to process food coming in and when to process stored fat, and by doing so you will use that excess stored energy and lose weight. I had an uncle who did this, eating 3 meals a day of the food he grew and raised and he lived to his mid 90's.

Keep It Real By Eating Real Food – Stick to basic and real foods and less or no processed or manufactured foods, or as Dr. Nesbitt calls “food forgeries” as our bodies are built for processing natural foods and not artificial or manufactured ingredients, flavors and additives. The original TV chef, Julia Child, always cooked with real butter, lard and wine and she lived to her 90's as well.

No Snacking – If you eat 3 meals a day only, you are thereby not snacking. Of course this goes beyond everything out there in society, at least modern American society. This for me has been personally tough, especially with earlier said angels who are ever growing and snacking. But by me snacking I too am ever growing, but in a bad way, and by not snacking, that has subsided.

How Vegetable Oil Is Made – Vegetable oil is supposed to be better than other oils, but they don't necessarily squeeze veggies to get the oil, unlike with olive oil. A chemical process is used to get it, and where the book introduces this I have done my own research as well. I'll stick with olive oil, or as I have been doing, I will forego oil altogether and use a variety of natural foods to add flavor.

Any Change Requires Willpower – This is probably the only thing I disagree with the author on. She states that by learning how to eat better, no willpower is involved. For someone like myself who has been eating the same way for almost half a century, willpower isn't only involved, it is direly needed! In the past I have lost weight, but always ate the same, and then it was more involved with a high level of exercise. When I stopped exercising, the weight came right back.

Some of these are of the 7 “simple fixes” that Dr. Nesbitt offers, and if you are intrigued as to what they all are, I recommend getting a copy of this book. As for the book as a whole, it is a very good and easy read – not intense, educational and supportive with a touch of humor, all the while not being too preachy. I recommend Evolutionary Eating not only for someone looking to lose weight, but for anyone looking to eat better or to support someone losing weight.

As for myself, I read the book over summer and it really resonated with me. I have changed my diet quite a bit, eating more salads without dressing, and cutting out most all breads. I still eat pizza and pasta, but I try to eat less of it. It has been far from perfect, and sometimes a struggle, but when I am hungry a coffee or seltzer will do the trick. Since simmer, I have lost about 25 pounds. I have a lot more to lose, but I am pleased with the results so far!

I have shared this book with my immediate family, and have given my copy to a friend. If you read Evolutionary Eating, I welcome your thoughts on it in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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If You Love Your Children Get A Domain Name For Their Name

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, October 08, 2015 at 08:48 PM with 3 comments

photo of one of my bundle of joys

They are little bundles of joy. They are the future. They will probably decide what nursing home we will go into someday. And the odds are good they could become a household name or brand. If not, who is to say what they will need a couple of decades or less after they are born and (hopefully) on their own?

There are a few investments you can make now when the kids are young that will pay off in the future. One is whole life insurance, another is a college savings fund. And another? Registering a domain name or names for their birth name.

I Did and So Should You

Shortly after each of my wonderful little ones were born, and shortly before I contacted relatives and emailed the world, I registered domain names for their birth names. Right in the delivery room.

The decision to get domain names for your kids is smart. It is a low cost (about US$10/year and up, depending on the domain extension) investment in their future. Plus you will never have regrets down the line as nobody else will be able to register their names in the event they suddenly get famous, or decide to focus on their personal brand. The way things are going these days, that may be sooner than later.

I Can Do It and So Can You

Speaking of domain name extensions (a.k.a. what’s after the dot), I recommend starting with the “big 3” of .com, .net and .org, and in that order. If any of those are not available, you may want to try another extension, such as .uno, .co or another short one. You may want to keep away from ones which may not be relevant to them down the road, such as .marketing.

If you’re looking for a great place to register and hold a domain name, go to name.com. I did not make any money by recommending them, but I have had domain names with them for years, and they are the best in my mind – from support to their easy to use, stylish Web site. Plus they offer two-factor authentication, so your domain names are safe.

Have you registered a domain name for your kid? If so, I’d like to hear from you. Or are you against the idea? I’d like to hear from you especially! Please share your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Retreat Reflect Return

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, August 24, 2015 at 08:41 PM with 0 comments

photo of The Freedom Principle mural at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

You have certainly heard the expression, “if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Where the idea behind it is that when things are going (or cooking) it can get intense. However I don't think the phrase was to infer you have to spend every waking moment in the thick of it. At least I don't think that.

Early in my career this was something I learned – you need to sometimes get a break from it all – even for a little bit – to be able to keep sharp and focused on the task at hand. Not to forget if you are stuck on something, staring at it all day in itself will not solve it.

Early Lesson Learned

Years ago I was told a story by a manager at the time that really hit home with me, and changed my work habits to include stepping away from it all.

In the story, he was in a distribution center, standing among the racks of palleted merchandise with senior executives of the client. There was a problem and everyone was talking but nobody was really contributing to the situation. In the middle of this, he hopped on a hydraulic scissor lift and went up about 3 levels of the racks. Several minutes later, he lowered the lift and descended, and had the solution to the problem.

Where all of the clients thought he went up on the lift to physically solve the problem, he actually did so to get away! He couldn't think among the bloviating of everybody so he went up the lift, and away from them, to clear his head and logically solve the problem, which he was able to do once free of the clutter. The client was impressed, and in the end had no idea they could have been an impediment to solving the issue at hand.

In short, what he did was retreat, reflect and return.

This is something I have done and continue to do. I touched on this when I wrote how I came up with the name of my Web site assessment checklist. Among some of the ways I have and still do retreat, reflect and return to the workplace include:

  • Penguins – When I worked in downtown Boston I would go to the New England Aquarium and lean over the railing of the penguin pool at the base of the giant tank. I would stand there and watch the penguins for a while. They have such a simple life, and watching their interactions with each other made for a great way to clear my head.
  • Plymouth Rock – When I worked in the town where the Pilgrims from England landed in the New World in 1620, I would occasionally go to a sub shop in the center of Plymouth, Massachusetts, across the street from the infamous rock on which the Pilgrims reportedly were first to step on when descending from their ship. I would take my lunch from said sub shop and eat it while leaning over the railing of the shelter which covers the Rock. Staring at the Rock and Plymouth Bay behind it was a great stress reliever.
  • Modern art – My latest venue is the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, located across the street from my newly-joined workplace. Though said workplace is a great environment to work in and in no way stressful than, say, my last job, it is still nice to recharge my brain a bit on Tuesdays when the museum is free to Illinois residents. I do plan on getting a membership there as I may find the need to think a little differently on another day of the week other than Tuesday.

I am eager to hear if you have any techniques – or destinations – of your own, when you retreat, reflect and return. Please share then in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Takeaways From The Book Scrum by Jeff Sutherland

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 12:21 PM with 2 comments

Imagine a workplace where not only you can work without impediments to your progress, but one where you have a say in what and how you do it? And to top of it you’re much more productive and successful and so is your ultimate business customer.

So what’s the catch? You simply have to drop the current way you work and adopt something called Scrum.

What is Scrum? The origins of the word come from the sport rugby, where a tight formation of players move and work together to get the ball forward. The term Scrum here has its origins on software development, where a small team of people work closely together to build software. The difference is in how they build it – using an iterative cycle of a few usable features at a time rather than defining everything upfront, then months (or years) later receiving software with all of the features.

The later process I described above is commonly referred to as “waterfall.” As one giant cycle produces all software (or the falling water) and the remaining project time is used to fix bugs and make changes in the business process (or the water flowing from the waterfall). It is far from a perfect system, especially as it doesn’t take into consideration business changes, let alone end users not always knowing what they want, both upfront or a year from now!

The former process I described above is Scrum, and was created in the 1990’s by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. This book, Scrum: Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, is written by Sutherland, and presented in a format to introduce Scrum to the wider world outside of software.

As someone who has built software all of my professional career and then some and has used scrum formally in some of my past roles, I was interested to read this book, not only because it is written by one of the co-founders of Scrum, but to learn more how it can be used in other aspects of business and life.

Among my many thoughts from reading Scrum, I have the following takeaways:

  • Building software – or anything really – is a journey – It’s hard to be perfect and know upfront everything you will possibly need in software you will use. Rather, admit it is a journey, build it over time, and get it closer to your needs while getting functioning features along the way.
  • You have to be committed to Scrum to reap its true potential – Dipping your toes in the Scrum swimming pool will not give you the benefits of it. You have to fully commit to it. If you are hesitant to commit, read the book.
  • If you don’t do it someone else will – Scrum as a framework is always gaining in popularity, and the number of people becoming certified in Scrum as well. If you or your organization is resistant to it, realize more organizations are always adopting it.
  • I want to be Scrum Certified more now than before – after reading the book and hearing Sutherland’s stories of Scrum’s successes in business and beyond, I really want to take formal Scrum training and become certified more than I did before reading the book.

Scrum: Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time is a great read, for those who work in business or any organization. I wish I had this book years ago when I was starting my Web consulting business – not just for building the Web software but for the overall running of my business. It is packed with stories of its successful use in various industries. Though it is very supportive of Scrum, it is not a “fluffy” and rah-rah story – it gets straight to the point and reinforces all that is stated. The book concludes with a step-by-step plan for deploying Scrum.

This is the part of my book takeaways where I disclose why I read a book. As I said, when I heard of it, I needed to get it and bought it myself, and for 2 reasons. The first and most important is that I wanted to read the story. The second and anecdotal reason is that I once worked at the same company as Jeff Sutherland, and we once had a brief work-related phone call. As I read Scrum, I could hear his no-nonsense style, which added to the reading.

As I conclude this post, I have not decided whom to give the book to, as it is something I do after I read one. If you are interested let me know. If you have read the book, or based on this are interested to, I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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