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Interview with Scott Berkun

Interview with Scott Berkun

Scott Berkun is one of the writers on the web who known by many people – articles such as Why smart people defend bad ideas, How to learn from your mistakes, Work vs. Progress are linked by many blogs and discussed by many people.

Scott Berkun Photo

    He was a program manager at Microsoft, leading some major projects on design and development. Through his experience on the previous job, he is able to venture his own project management and product design consulting business, wrote a book on project management, and continue to write articles for his web site. Knowing him will be quite interesting for me and also for lifehack.org’s readers, with a bold heart I asked him to spare a time for interview.

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    Lifehack.org: Would you tell me more about yourself? You were a program manager at Microsoft Corporation for quite a long time, and you have been successful on leading your team. Does it set an expectation for you on how you pursuit your life?
    SB: I’m the kind of guy that wants to do great things. I try to never do anything by half – either do it, and do it well, or don’t. I think many of the skills I learned as a program manager apply well to anything: being clear on goals, being honest and open, and working hard to get what you’re going for. My success so far with writing and consulting have definitely come about with help from those skills.

    … I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.

    Lifehack.org: What makes you set a life goal on writing books?
    SB: I love books. They represent many of the best things about our species: sharing knowledge, expression, creativity and commitment. Books have changed my life many times and I wanted to find out if I could do the same for someone else. Or at least write my thoughts down so I don’t have to remember quite as many things.

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    Lifehack.org: This year you have passed a very big milestone for your life – the release of your book The Art of Project Management. Why would you choose this topic for your first book?
    SB: I wanted to capture what I thought I’d learned from being at the right place at the right time during the dawn of the Internet age. If I’d waited 5 years to write a book like this I doubt it would have been as straightforward, practical and useful – it was all still fresh in my mind enough to tell it all honestly and give advice pulled from experience.

    Lifehack.org: Are they exact challenges and experience you had faced during your work at Microsoft?
    SB: Many of them are in the book – all the stories in the book are true (though some names have been changed here and there). I certainly made lots of mistakes: but what’s funny is that as you get older it’s the mistakes that have the most value and make for the best stories. Making mistakes is good for you!

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    Lifehack.org: What is the most important thing to be a leader in your work or personal life?
    SB: I think leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.

    Lifehack.org: On top of writing books, you also have written some short articles which are freely available for online readers. Articles such as “Why smart people defend bad ideas” and “How to learn from your mistakes” are some of the most popular articles around blogs and web sites. Would you tell me your thinking process on how to come up with a topic to write?
    SB: I think about things i wish someone else would write, but that doesn’t exist. Or I’ll find it and see another way to attack the same question. Then I get going. Essays take lots of time to write and many of them don’t work out well enough to publish, but that’s the basic process. I’m a curious person and I try to follow that curiosity when I sit down to write. If I’m being open, I never know where the essay is going to go.

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    Lifehack.org: How do you manage your time with many responsibilities from days to nights?
    SB: Everyone gets 24 hours a day. I try to make each day represent my priorities. So I write every day (even weekends), work on my consulting business every day, and exercise and do silly things every day. I figure if I can manage each day well, the weeks, months and years will take care of themselves.

    Lifehack.org: Do you have other projects coming up?
    SB: I write an essay a month on the site – the blog that’s been up there has been mostly supporting the book, and that ‘s changing now. I expect to write shorter pieces up there. I’m planning an east coast book tour for October (if anyone wants me to come speak, contact me). The next book is a novel (fiction) and it should be wrapped up by late September. After than it’s back to non-fiction. The next book will likely be about managing ideas and creative thinking.

    Lifehack.org: Scott, it is my pleasure to talk to you. Looking forward to read your book very soon. I am sure the book will help me a lot on my daily job. All the best on your consultant work and book writings!

    Essays by Scott Berkun
    Project Management, Web design and product usability services
    The book: The Art of Project Management by Scott

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    Leon Ho

    Founder of Lifehack

    Book summary: A Technique for Producing Ideas 10 Ways to Extend Laptop Battery Life Bob Parsons on His 16 Rules for Survival Free note taking templates and techniques Fifty Essential Topics on Economics

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

    Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

    How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

    • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
    • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
    • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
    • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
    • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
    • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

    When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

    Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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    1. Realize You’re Not Alone

    Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

    Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

    2. Find What Inspires You

    Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

    What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

    On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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    If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

    3. Give Yourself a Break

    When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

    Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

    Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

    These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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    4. Shake up Your Routines

    Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

    Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

    When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

    5. Start with a Small Step

    Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

    Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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    Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

    On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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    Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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