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Sketchnote lessons: Stick figures

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

Stick figures are fun to draw. Click on the image to view or download a larger version that you can trace or doodle on, and feel free to share this with others! (Creative Commons Attribution License)

20130904 Sketchnote Lessons - Stick Figures

See http://sach.ac/sketchnote-lessons for the other tips in this series, and check back next Thursday for more!

Series Navigation« Sketchnote Lessons: Drawing EmotionsSketchnote Lesson: Metaphors »

Sketchnote: Managing Oneself (Peter Drucker)

Xiaoxiao asked me to sketchnote Managing Oneself, a classic article by Peter Drucker. Here are my notes. Click on the image for a larger version.

20130822 Managing Oneself - Peter Drucker

Please feel free to share this! (Creative Commons Attribution License)

In addition to sketching a visual summary, I thought I’d reflect on the points discussed in the article.

What are my strengths?

I’m happy, optimistic, appreciative, and resilient. I reflect a lot on what I do, how I do it, and why. I learn quickly, thanks to speed-reading and note-taking skills.  I know how to adapt to many of my characteristics, such as introversion and visual thinking. I’m comfortable with numbers, words, and drawings. I embrace deliberate practice and continuous improvement. I’m good at setting up little experiments, taking calculated risks, and finding ways to improve. I’m frugal and I’m decent at questioning assumptions. I work on being more rational and compensating for my biases, and I’m not intimidated by research.

Feedback analysis: I periodically review my decisions through scheduled decision reviews, blog archives, and other reflections. I’m good at breaking decisions down into smaller ones that I can try out or test. I can get better at involving other people in my decisions. I tend to discount things that are unscientific or that seem dodgy, but that hasn’t really gotten in my way. The main thing that gets in my way is my tendency to flit from interest to interest, although I’m dealing with that by learning how to create value in smaller chunks. I’m planning to improve my feedback analysis process by scheduling more decision reviews.

How do I work?

I learn primarily through reading, writing, and trying things out. I find it difficult to absorb information by listening to lectures or talking to other people. My preference for team or solo work depends on the project: for most development project, I prefer to work with at least one other person whose skill I respect, because I learn a lot more that way. I’m also comfortable working on my own. (I’m learning how to delegate, though.) I’m more comfortable making decisions than giving advice. I prefer some order and predictability in my daily schedule, but I minimize commitments. Routines give me a platform from which I can go wherever my interests take me. I enjoyed working in a large organization, but I’m also fine working on my own.

I know that it’s easier to make things happen if I adapt to my idiosyncrasies rather than wish I were someone else. I’m good at passing opportunities on to other people, and helping people see what might fit me.

What are my values?

I value learning and sharing as much as I can of what I learn with as many people as possible, which is why I prefer to share information for free instead of locking it down in order to earn more. I value equanimity rather than excess.

Where do I belong?

Where I am. (Yay!) This experiment is going well, and I’d like to continue it.

I know I worked well in large corporations too, and I think I’d get along with small ones. I definitely don’t belong outside my comfort zone (that time I had to do some Microsoft SQL Server admin? Yeah…) or in high-stress, high-travel, workaholic environments. (Which, fortunately, consulting wasn’t – at least for me.) I do better in situations where it’s okay to ask forgiveness instead of always asking for permission, and where 80% is okay instead of trying to get to 100% the first time around. I do well with some discretionary time to work on useful projects or help people outside my typical responsibilities.

What should I contribute?

I think people could use more examples of this sort of smaller-scale life, because it’ll help free people from assumptions about what they need or how much they have to sacrifice. I’d love to make it work and to share what I learn along the way.

I also care about helping people learn and think more effectively. Visual thinking is one way to do that, so I want to help people who have the inclination for it discover tools and techniques that they can use.

I care about learning in general, which includes learning about different topics and then creating resources or mapping concepts so that other people can learn them more easily.

Books, blog posts, drawings, presentations, and coaching are some ways I can make progress in these directions.

In addition to those five questions, Peter Drucker also gave these career tips:

Taking responsibility for relationships

One of the things I learned as a kid was that you can take responsibility for the way you interact with people and you can help them get better at interacting with you. (Yes, I was the kid reading Parenting Teenagers for Dummies and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.) At work, it was great explicitly discussing communication styles and motivational preferences with my managers, who helped me tweak things to play to my strengths.

The second half of your life

… why wait until your forties? Winking smile

I’m a big fan of having at least two good things on the go at any given time. I learned this as a software developer. That way, when you run into a setback or delay, you can always work on the other thing in order to keep yourself moving forward.

For me right now, there’s writing, drawing, and software. In the future, who knows?

How about you? What do you think about managing yourself?

How to learn Emacs keyboard shortcuts (a visual tutorial for newbies)

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series A Visual Guide to Emacs

Emacs keyboard shortcuts often mystify beginners because they’re not the same as the shortcuts for other applications (C-w instead of C-x for cutting text, etc.), and they’re long (what do you mean, C-x 5 f?!). I hope this guide will help break down the learning process for you so that you can pick up the keyboard shortcuts step by step. It’s under the Creative Commons Attribution License, so feel free to share!

Click on the image to view or save a larger version. It should print out fine on 8.5×11 paper in landscape mode, and you might even be able to go up to 11×17.

20130830 Emacs Newbie - How to Learn Emacs Keyboard Shortcuts

This is actually my second version of the guide. In the first one, I got a little sidetracked because I wanted to address common frustrations that get in people’s way. Here’s the Grumpy Guide to Learning Emacs Keyboard Shortcuts:

20130830 The Grumpy Guide - How to Learn Emacs Keyboard Shortcuts

The #emacs channel on Freenode was totally awesome in terms of feedback and encouragement. Special thanks go to agumonkey, aidalgol, Fuco, ijp, JordiGH, nicferrier, pkkm, rryoumaa, and webspid0r for suggestions. =)

If you like this, you might also like the similar hand-drawn one-page guide I made on How to Learn Emacs, or my other Emacs-related posts. Enjoy!

For your convenience, you can find this page at http://sach.ac/emacs-keys.

Series Navigation« How to Learn Emacs: A Hand-drawn One-pager for Beginners / A visual tutorialSome tips for learning Org Mode for Emacs »

Sketchnote Lessons: Speech bubbles and thought clouds

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

Here’s an assortment of speech bubbles and thought clouds. They’re great for indicating when someone has said something – and there’s always plenty of talking at presentations, panels, and events.

Click on the image for a larger version. Feel free to print this out (or draw on it on your tablet, if you have one)! =)

20130805 Speech balloons and thought clouds

Have fun drawing! Check out my other sketchnote lessons, and e-mail or comment if you have any suggestions/requests!

Series Navigation« Sketchnote Lessons: Banners and ribbonsSketchnote Lessons: Drawing Emotions »

Learning how to work with stock photos: Can you help me?

The advice these days is to include a large image in your blog post, somewhere “above the fold”, so that it can attract attention, visually break up the page, and make your blog post more interesting. That way, blog themes that use featured images can include that as the thumbnail, and magazine-style feed readers (I use Feedly) can make your posts look cool. The image should be relevant. If you’re using someone else’s image, observe copyright and attribution requirements.

There can never be too many cat pics on the Internet.I like cats, so I’m going to bend the rule about relevance and add a cat picture here.

If I want to learn more about visual language, stock photos and Creative Commons images might be good ways to do that. Less work than taking pictures of things myself, and more realistic than drawing.

One of the reasons I dislike stock photos is that they can feel fake. You know, the bunch of all-white (or, rarely, obviously diverse) business people who are way too excited about a meeting. See Corey Eridon’s post on 13 Hilarious Examples of Truly Awful Stock Photography. I don’t think the examples are awful, but you’ll recognize the clichés.

What does “good” look like? Of the blogs I read, which ones use images consistently, and what do I prefer?

Lifehacker uses images well, and it looks like they customize their photos or make original ones too. Dumb Little Man, Priceonomics, Wise Bread, Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, and Under30CEO include images with every post, although sometimes the images look a bit… stock-y. So I have role models.

What do I want to learn from using stock photos?

I want to be inspired by the way human emotions and situations can be translated into different contexts. I want to expand my collection of visual metaphors. I want to get the hang of matching ideas with comics (or making my own).

What’s getting in my way?

Thinking of the right keywords, and being happy with the search results. For example, let’s say that I want to express the concept, “being frustrated with search results.” Needle in a haystack? Frustrated person?

This is kinda what I mean. Sometimes it’s easier to draw than to search.

image

It’s this odd combination of too many choices, and yet not quite what I’m looking for – but I think that has more to do with skills I need to develop, ways I need to learn how to see and think.

image

 

How do you learn how to use images anyway? Most of the blog posts and web pages I’ve seen just harp on copyright, assuming you’ve got the sense to pick out images on your own. If I want to get better at this, I need to get better at brainstorming concrete images for abstract concepts, coming up with keywords for more efficient searching, piling up sheer exposure – stuffing lots of stock photos into my head until I build my “stock photo vocabulary,” or my visual vocabulary in general.

TIPS

I filtered through more than a hundred pages of Google search results related to how to choose stock photos. Here are the best resources I’ve come across so far:

WAYS I CAN LEARN

A. Write the post first, then look for images.

More topical and closer to my existing workflow, but can be frustrating because of my criteria. I don’t want fake-looking models or situations. I don’t want meaningless fluff or

On the plus side, if I spend half an hour searching for an image and still can’t find it, I probably have a better idea of what I want and how it’s different from what I’ve seen. Then I can draw it.

B. Browse for images first, then follow the inspiration to write posts (maybe with my outline).

Possibly fun, possibly a time-suck. Randomness is my friend. There’s always plenty to write about, so I’m not too worried about finding a topic – although I do want to make sure that each post is fleshed out enough so that it’s not just an excuse to share an image.

Have you taught yourself how to work with stock photos and blog posts? Can you help me figure out how to build my stock photo vocabulary?

Cat image based on this one by vita khorzhevska, Shutterstock
Stream of images based on this one by kangshutters, also Shutterstock

Update 2013-08-16: One of the ways I’m coming to terms with stock photos is to mix them up in some way – add speech bubbles, doodle, and so on. It’s fun. It turns it into a game. If you use stock photos on your blog, what do you do to stop making it look generic?

Turning 30: A review of the last decade

Thirty is an excellent milestone birthday. The twenties involved tons of change—and unlike my teenage years, I can actually remember and reflect on what I learned during my twenties. (This is not entirely true. I can remember bits and pieces of high school and university. I don’t have good notes, though.)

At thirty, I’m at the threshold of even more changes. I don’t know what the next ten years hold. There are at least two excellent but wildly divergent paths I could take. We’ll just have to see.

Hollywood movies tell me that I should be lamenting my happy-go-lucky twenties or trying to squeeze in that last hurrah before I settle down. When was the last time I listened to them, anyway? I’ve long since swapped my New Year’s Eve staying-up for my now-traditional tuck-into-bed-long-before-the-fireworks-go-off. I survived my twenties without going clubbing or getting bitten by the travel bug, so I’m already well outside the Hollywood playbook.

I’m looking forward to turning thirty. And forty. My real goal is to get to ninety and more with an awesome life, so I’m just a third of the way there. Plenty more to go.

A blog is an awesome time machine. It’s a little mind-boggling, but I’ve been blogging for almost twelve years. Last year, I made a compilation of my favourite blog posts: not necessarily the most useful or the most commented, but the ones that I wanted to remember for decades. I rated all my posts on a scale of 1-5, and kept only the ones that I rated 5. I called the compilation Stories From My Twenties (although I cheated and threw in a handful of blog posts from my late teens). As an experiment, I had the cheek to charge for it. (Not much, just the rough equivalent of a cup of hot chocolate. Now it’s pay-what-you-want, so you can treat me to lunch if you feel particularly nice.)

Good thing I did that, because it made reviewing the past decade much easier. Here’s my twenties in one page: (Click the image for a larger version)

20130717 Stories From My Twenties - colored

Things I do better or more often now than when I was 20:

  • Learning and sharing interesting things
  • Planning, taking calculated risks, making decisions
  • Dealing with life, business, paperwork, etc.
  • Drawing and visual thinking
  • Reviewing the past and imagining the future
  • Tracking data and analyzing it, managing finances, and so on
  • Building tools and learning technologies
  • Being more independent

Things I probably do worse or less often:

  • Asking for help
  • Hanging out with friends or family
  • Teaching
  • Travelling

Here’s what I want to do for my thirtieth year:

  • Learn about all sorts of interesting things in life, tech, visual thinking, and more.
  • Share: Get into the habit of creating resources, like these drawing tutorials and blog posts based on my outline. Release the resources with the pay-what-you-want model so that the ideas can go as widely as possible while still allowing people to show their appreciation or vote with their dollars.
  • Scale by organizing my site so that people can find good stuff, even if I’m not awake to help people find things.
  • Oh, and get back to working on those relationships with people outside the house, as tempting as it will be to spend all my time at home. =)