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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

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder of Lifehack

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    Published on April 16, 2019

    How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life

    How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life

    When was the last time you did something for yourself?

    Whether it was deciding to treat yourself with a little something or travel for some R&R, how often do you practice self-care?

    Well, as good as above sounds, there’s a common misconception that many of us have about self-care: that it’s only about indulgence and enjoyment.

    However, self-care goes far beyond indulgence. It’s actually about respecting your mind and body, understanding its limits, and being able to take care of every part of yourself, in a holistic way.

    And, you really don’t have to go to extreme measures or do anything specific–like meditating or following a plant based diet–in order to practice self-care. You just have to make sure that what you’re doing is in your best interests.

    So how can you make that happen?

    Below are a few proven methods that will help you become a better version of you. Follow through with these regularly and you’ll be well on your way to living your very best life.

    Listen to Yourself

    The bulk of self-care is knowing yourself.

    This means knowing your body’s limitations, and being in tune with your feelings, emotions and thoughts. So it’s important, then, to know who you are and what you want to do in life, in order to truly say that you know yourself. 

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    What is your purpose?

    Have you ever thought about this question?

    Your purpose doesn’t have to remain the same throughout your life. What you found a purpose in at age 19 would likely be different at age 49.

    In your current situation, think about the different roles that you have – as a working professional, a spouse, a partner, a parent, etc.

    Do you feel like you are fulfilling your purpose through any of these roles?

    All you have to do is ensure that what you’re chasing is meaningful to you; this will bring focus and motivation as you strive to achieve your goals.

    If you have your purpose defined, then that’s awesome! You know what drives you and why.

    But, if you don’t feel like you have a purpose nailed down, it’s good to start by asking why.

    For example, why are you working in your particular job or industry? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivational energy will be the same. In which case, you may find yourself not having a direction for where you’re headed in life.

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    If you’d like to learn more about finding your purpose, then I recommend you check out this article:

    How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    Seek Out Continuous Education

    Now, this may seem less common when you think of self-care, but lifelong learning is incredibly useful and an important component of taking care of yourself.

    It’s Super Practical

    Lifelong learning is extremely practical these days and does not require as much effort as it may have in the past. Long gone are the days when you could only find information on something by visiting a library. In this day of the internet, anything you can imagine is at your fingertips.

    You don’t need to physically go to a learning institution to learn. You can watch Youtube videos to learn new skills, take online courses to earn a degree, and scroll through an endless amount of articles, books and journals from reputable news and informative sites.

    When you’re constantly pushing yourself to learn and take up new things, your mental health also improves. Research shows that an active and engaged mind is responsible for diminishing age-related memory loss and improves overall cognitive abilities.

    Your Confidence Will Skyrocket

    You’ll also have improved self worth as it teaches you to step outside of your comfort zone, which will undoubtedly improve your confidence.

    You’ll also connect better with others by expanding your knowledge base. Learning exposes you to a multitude of new ideas and perspectives that you may have otherwise never considered. This also increases your adaptability. Whether it’s at work or just wanting to adapt to society, your peers, and loved ones, life long learning prepares you to take on new challenges.

    You’ll Be More Desired in the Job Market

    Another obvious reason for continuous education, is that your employability will also increase.

    With the ever changing economy, and huge influences from technology, social media, science etc., job descriptions today are moving targets. Assignments and roles change so quickly in response to changing business demands, it becomes a Herculean task to keep a job description database current.

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    In years past, stability was a characteristic of the world of work. Procedures, information, jobs, and organizations were established and provided continuity. Education was completed in the first 14 to 22 years of one’s life, followed by a long career occasionally punctuated by short-term job training.

    Today, however, jobs, companies, and technology are disappearing and being created simultaneously. To remain current and maintain a competitive advantage in the human capital marketplace, an individual is challenged to continually learn.

    People return to school at every age to enrich their skills and knowledge for their current positions. Some even prepare themselves for new jobs or career changes, moving them forward into new opportunities and technology.

    We can be assured that we will be challenged to continue to learn new tasks and information throughout our lives. Successful careers belong to flexible, curious learners who are prepared for opportunities because they know themselves and where they make their best contribution. As Peter Drucker, the father of modern management stated,

    “Knowledge is choice.”

    Lifelong learning also increases social awareness and perspective. To genuinely understand and empathize with others, increase social awareness, and foster strong interpersonal relationships, it’s important to seek out new perspectives. Enhancing the skills that positively impact emotional intelligence can bring even greater happiness and success, both personally and at work; and, this is all part of self-care.

    Improve Your Habits (Both at Work and at Home)

    Now, the last piece of advice I want to introduce to your self-care regimen, is to improve your habits.

    Habits define who you are, and are built up over time. You are what you eat is a great example of this. If you make it a habit to eat foods that nourish your body, rather than make your body feel bad, then you will be much healthier overall.

    Good Habits Allow You to Reach Your Goals

    Since habits dictate your days and nights, such as waking up every morning to get to work before a certain time, or brushing your teeth before bedtime every night, they play a major role in whether we do or do not reach our goals.

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    When you form habits that allow you to progress towards your goals, you’re automatically living a purposeful day, everyday.

    Habits Make Your Time a Priority

    How do you spend your free time? Do you opt to lounge on the couch watching Netflix passively, or do you engage in activities that support your purpose in life?

    It’s natural to waste a lot of time during the day, but fostering good habits will make you set a pattern for how you spend your time and give you the choice of what you choose to spend your time on. By improving your habits, you’ll find that you can be a LOT more productive. When you create good habits, you become more efficient with your time and a lot less is wasted.

    This in essence creates an overall positive influence on your life, allowing you to treat your mind and body well, which is why improving your habits are so important to self-care.

    Your Well Being Comes First

    We live in such a fast-paced society, where we are often so caught up in our work, families, maintaining our social lives, our studies and everything in between. It’s an understatement to say that life can get a little overwhelming at times.

    If you’ve ever watched the safety video onboard a plane, you’ll know that they always ask for a parent or adult to put on the safety mask first, before tending to the child. This may sound selfish, but the fact is that if you truly want to ensure the child’s safety, then your safety needs to come first so that you can protect and care for the child without complications from your end.

    The same goes for self-care. We need to ensure that our well being is priority, so that we can be the best for the people around us.

    Listening to yourself, practicing lifelong learning and improving your habits are steps that you can take to ensure you’re constantly in the best state of mind, alongside the indulgence and rest that you reward yourself with.

    Featured photo credit: Photo by Raychan on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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