Author Archives: Michael Schechter

Betting on the Future

When I was a child, one of my favorite neighbors was a man named Lynn. Lynn was well-to-do and loved to splurge on new toys. Despite Lynn’s high standards, he often bought something just because it was new and no one else had seen it before.

Lynn’s house is where I went to get a peek at the future. One such day that continues to stick in my mind is was when he brought home one of the first CD players. Lynn went out of his way to have me come over to watch him unbox it because, even then, it was obvious that I got a disproportionate amount of joy from new gadgets compared to other kids on our block. Seconds after he set it up, the benefits of this new innovation were obvious. But so were the problems. Sure it was great to be able to fast forward and rewind with ease. Sure it won’t unspool. But there just weren’t many CDs available, and Lynn had a hell of a lot of cassettes.

When—as snot nosed neighbor kids are wont to do—I asked about these two glaring issues, Lynn just shrugged and said, “You’re right, but I think it’s going to be the future, and I want to see if I’m right.” He had the means, and he chose to use them to bet on what he thought was the future.

In hindsight it’s obvious that a CD player was a great bet. But at that moment, it was just as likely to become another 8 track, Betamax or LaserDisc player: another innovation with immense potential that the world decided to ignore. And even though the age of CDs and optical drives is starting to come to an end, they were a massive part of the world I grew up in, whose influence spanned far greater than just music.

One of the great pleasures of my life has been to watch new technologies and mediums arrive and witness as the world decides if it will embrace them or, as it often does, ignore them entirely. An even greater pleasure is getting to bet on, and advocate for, those that I believe will be the future.

While I’m sure Lynn did not mean for his off-handed rationalization to influence me, it continues to play a role in my life. Like Lynn, I’m selective but often spend money to flirt with the future. I not only bet on what I think will be important, but when my expectations are met, I go out of my way to try and get other people excited about the innovations I believe will indeed be a part of the future.

Today, my Apple Watch arrives. I expect, like I did with Lynn’s CD player, that I will see equal parts potential and problem once it’s around my wrist. I do however think it’s a step towards the future, and that’s why I bet on it.

Only time will tell if the device, and the wearables category in general for that matter, will go on to be a relevant part of the world we live in or become yet another innovation that the world ultimately choses to ignore. But I have high hopes based on my early experiences with the Pebble, from what I’ve seen from Apple and from what I’ve heard from others regarding the watch.

The geeky kid in me is excited to play with it. The quasi-adult is excited to become bored enough with it to clearly see if it’s a useful tool in my life or not. But thanks to Lynn, what excites me most is betting on a device that I believe is the future and getting to see if I’m right.

Note: This piece was inspired by a recent post from John Gruber of Daring Fireball.

Questioning What The Apple Watch Means For Jewelers

Today, Apple officially enters the world of fine jewelry with the introduction of the Apple Watch, and with today’s announcement the industry I grew up in and the company I admire most will collide. Sure, Apple’s been a competitor for the jewelry industry for some time now—at least in the sense that the desire for a new iPhone, iPad or MacBook has shifted market share away from fine jewelry over the past few years—but with today’s detailed unveiling of the Apple Watch, they are now a part of my beloved industry.

As someone who loves and believes in the jewelry industry, it’s going to be fascinating, and more than a little terrifying, to see what happens when a massive company like Apple enters into our world. There has been concern ever since our new competitor first previewed the Apple Watch back in September. What comes next is far from certain.

What Will The Product Be And Will People Care?

We need to see the finished product, understand the pricing and see the positioning. It’s unclear if Apple intends to disrupt pricing within the luxury watch industry (where gold watches can run well into the tens of thousands) with a lower price point, or if they’re looking to embrace a higher-tiered price point and customer.

It’s safe to say based on the previously announced $350 entry-level price point that the low-to-mid tier watch makers have some serious new competition, as will both fashionable and non-fashionable wearables brands. Even so, we’re yet to know if there is a broad customer base for a connected device on the wrist, especially when you consider that younger generations are shying away from watches in general.

There are also challenges for those who do own and desire a watch. From what we’ve heard, the relationship we are meant to have with the Apple Watch aims to be as intimate as the one we have with our phones (which is often far more intimate than we care to admit). This flies in the face of the traditional watch world where you can change your watches to match your mood. Sure you can change out straps and change your watch face, but it will be a far more limiting fashion statement than many are used to having. It will be interesting to see if the functionality gained is impactful enough to replace the emotional connection that many get from their existing watch collection. As much as Apple needs to get one audience to put on a watch, they may have a bigger challenge getting another to take theirs off.

And what about Apple themselves? How will they handle upgrades, especially on the top-tier Edition watch? People aren’t going to be okay with having an obsolete device in a few years, but a trade-in program is a significant shift away from the long-term financial and emotional investment that many consider a watch to be.

How Will This Watch Be Sold, Both Today And Tomorrow?

All of this is speculation that just about every Apple Geek is currently doing, but what I can’t help but wonder about is how this will play out in the jewelry industry. We now have a very strong competitor in Apple. But will it be purely competition?

Casey Liss wrote an excellent piece questioning if Apple will ultimately be sold in well-known jewelry stores like Zales. It raises some interesting questions and possibilities.

I think it’s safe to say that for year one, the full selection of Apple Watches will exclusively be sold at Apple Stores. We may see some of the more entry-level models sold through authorized partners like Best Buy, but I have a feeling Apple will want to keep their arms around the higher end of this new business until they understand it better.

A year from now, I bet this changes. As Casey suggested, we would very likely see a key partner like Zales or Jared step in. Or perhaps it will be a watch-centric retailer, like Tourneu (although they are not in all states). They may decide to go with regional partners like Helzberg or Ben Bridge. But my guess is that these partnerships (at least in all doors) would be for the Apple Watch Sport or Apple Watch, and not the Apple Watch Edition.

I’d speculate, because that’s all you can ever do with Apple, that the Apple Watch Edition ultimately ends up in top-tier independent and regional jewelers alongside brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Panerai, Jaeger LeCoultre. I believe Apple wants the Edition to be sold next to these brands and that they will want it sold by sales experts capable of helping maintain an aspirational price point and experience (if they decide to go the aspirational route).

Another possibility, which was suggested by Steven Hackett, is that Apple could turn “part of their square footage into some sort of Watch-only, pop-up store-within-a-store.” Over time, Apple might partner with the “Rolex Jeweler” in each key market to enhance this experience. Ultimately Apple may just end up poaching sales people, but there’s room for collaboration. Many of the perfect jewelers for Apple already have experience with this type of collaboration from their partnerships on Pandora boutiques. Even though they may be able to get this by poaching staff, these jewelers already have something Apple don’t: relationships with those willing to spend serious money on a watch.

It’s a distinct possibility that, as of today, jewelers have some very real competition in Apple. This is bound to concern or upset a few in my world, as we don’t often take to change well. However, there’s a chance (however small) that instead we may have a new partner for collaboration. And while it’s likely just one Apple-loving, jewelry-working geek’s fantasy, I hold out naive hope that Apple manages to help grow the whole of our industry rather than just trying to squash a piece of its legacy like a bug.

Early Thoughts on The Week Dominator from NeuYear

Yours truly on The Cramped:

Paper and I have always had a complicated relationship and even when I use the stuff, I count on a combination of my scanner and Evernote to help me live as close to a paperless existence as possible.

That said, there is one major exception to my paper-free existence; despite being an OmniFocus-using, plain-text-file-wielding junky, every day of my life is lovingly planned on a piece of paper.

Patrick Rhone was kind enough to let me share some preliminary thoughts on my new paper planner of choice.

Three Words for 2015

Since 2010, I have selected three words to guide my actions in the year to come. This practice continues to pay far better dividends than any specific goal I’ve ever set this early in the year. Eventually the words mature into clear goals, plans and actions, but starting with this process forces me to slow down and to set my intentions rather than just forging ahead. It helps me to consider the entire year rather than trying to shove everything I can into January (which usually just leads to burning myself out by February).

Before looking forward, I need to look back. To be honest, I’m torn. I think I did well, I’m just not sure I did well by the words I chose. Reading last year’s post, I see my initial intent when I selected Choices, Options and Harmony. I feel like I owned my choices. I feel like I created options at my existing job, taking advantage and dedicating myself to some opportunities that opened up in January. However, I had to let go of a lot of the personal projects I enjoy, like writing and podcasting. As for harmony . . . I was pleasantly surprised to discover how complete my family felt with the addition of our third child, but a newborn and a desire for harmony isn’t always a realistic desire.

Having these intentions helped, but much like the year before (and most before it), I had my set of intentions and my realities had their own. We went to battle and we ended up meeting somewhere in the middle.

So what about this year? I want to focus on closing the gaps between desire and reality. Yet more than any other year in my life, I’m struggling to clearly figure out what it is I want. Rather than trying to force myself to answer before I can even define the question, I’d rather focus on a few key areas that will help—regardless of what I want.

Healthier – I have a terrible relationship with my personal health. I have a terrible relationship with food. I have a terrible (yet delightful) relationship with beer. I have a terrible relationship with exercise. I’m getting fatter every year, and even though I will jump on one bandwagon or another to address this reality, I’ve never found a lasting way to get and stay healthy. Most of my attempts involve some rigid process that works well in the short run but never lasts. A big part of this, I believe, is the fact that while I want to be healthier, it’s not a core value for me. It’s just a reality that needs to be addressed. That or I’m going to die a lot younger than I, my wife or my children would prefer.

I also know myself and need to find a way to weave this into a life that doesn’t sacrifice every beer and burger . . . hence the word healthier, but not necessarily healthy. Basically, over the next year I need to figure out what good enough looks like for me when it comes to my health, and then I need to get there.

Re-situated – I’m currently happy in my position at work, but I’m miserable with our living situation. There’s now five of us living in a two bedroom, one bathroom. We love our neighborhood, but the kind of space we want is just not a financial reality here. However the more we talk about it, the less my wife and I are able to find a suitable next step. We need decent schools, we need it to be reasonably commutable for both of us (as well as our caretaker), we need it to be somewhere we actually enjoy living, and we need it to be financially viable. Something is going to have to give, but neither of us is any closer to having any concept of what that should be or where we’d like to end up. As much as “moving” shouldn’t be a year long goal, it’s not proving to be easy. But I’m tired of feeling like our space is temporary and would like to move towards a more permanent place to continue to raise my family.

Expression – When I look back year after year, this intent is where I struggle the most. I have a demanding work and family life. This makes it challenging to have anything left when it comes to side projects, like this site. I don’t always have the energy for it, but the desire to put a piece of me out there beyond my work or family life continues to persist. I have no earthly idea how I’m going to do it, but I need to make time to regularly create and share.

This is going to be especially challenging considering the aforementioned need to spend a fair amount of what little free time I have getting healthier, but the mental health and happiness that comes along with writing or podcasting is something that I can’t let go of either. As per usual, this will probably lead me to desire more than reality will allow, but as much as this can occasionally lead me to fall short, it just as often helps me push past what I initially would have thought was possible.

Words aside, I see my life going one of two ways this year. Either I will redouble my dedication to my life and career here in New York, or I will blow it all up and start anew. At the moment I have no idea which way it is going to go, or even which way I want it to go. But either way, I’m ready to get there already, as there’s just been far too much uncertainty over the past few years. More than anything, I’d like to see that come to an end or to a head this year.

Thanks to Chris Brogan for the inspiration. And in case you’re curious here are links to my three words from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Capacity is Not a Myth

Andrew Carroll recently shared an old post on capacity in which he wrote the following:

Capacity. You hear the term in business a lot:

“We are making mistakes because we are above capacity”
“We are having cash flow issues because we are below capacity"
“We are investing in building out our capacity so we can grow”

The secret is capacity is a myth. The only really limit to your business’ capacity is the limit of your ability to think, dream, and work.

Capacity is far from a myth. Individuals, teams and businesses alike have limits. We all do, even you. Regardless of the context, not acknowledging and not respecting these limits will be just as harmful to your effectiveness as succumbing to them.

Ignoring capacity leads us to take on more than we can manage. It leads us to burn ourselves out. And when working with a team, it often leads us to push others beyond what is reasonable.

Capacity is a Friend

Not only is capacity a reality, it can be a tool. Sure, we can push through and “expand capacity” by working ourselves to death in the service of achieving a potentially unreasonable goal—it might even work out once or twice—but continually ignoring capacity will negatively impact relationships, health and, more than likely, sanity.

Capacity, when used correctly, can be a guide. It can force us to consider all of our various goals against available time and resources. When used as a filter, it helps us to make better choices. We just have to make sure we see things clearly.

A Clear Sense Of Capacity

The true myth isn’t that capacity doesn’t exist. It’s that there are two versions: what we believe our capacity to be and what capacity actually is. What we refer to as our capacity is often a combination of realities and challenges. It balances the (likely) excessive number of goals we’ve taken on with a (typically) flawed approach to accomplishing these goals. It traditionally only factors in some of our ambitions, rather than forcing us to consider a holistic view of our goals.

You have to discover where you currently stand in order to move past the myth. Don’t ignore it, consider it. Pretending capacity doesn’t exist will only lead you astray. Learn your limits, then consider ways to improve in order to push against them.

So how do you know? How can you tell perceived capacity from true capacity? Start by understanding your current capacity, regardless of its truth. Then begin to push against what you believe to be possible. Unless you’ve consciously tested the limits of your capacity, unless you’ve taken the time to learn how you go about doing your best work, and unless your team has a process that allows for effective collaboration, it’s unlikely you’re there.

You also have to be careful as the desire to push can be a double-edged sword. There’s pushing beyond what you believe to be possible and then there’s pushing beyond what’s reasonable.

Working vs. Wanting To Expand Capacity

As Andrew points out:

Capacity is a myth. If you think you can’t or won’t, it is not because you don’t have the capacity. It’s because you don’t want it bad enough to stretch beyond your current capacity.

In case it isn’t clear, the point of this piece isn’t to say you can’t push beyond what you believe to be possible in service of achieving your goals. In fact–regardless if it is personal or professional–if what you are doing is even remotely ambitious, you’ll likely have to push against your current limitations.

When it comes to stretching, Andrew has a point: What we believe to be our capacity, almost always isn’t. But ignoring the fact that capacity itself is indeed a reality . . . well . . . it might help you push through some barriers in the short run, but ultimately it will cause you to break.

Understand your current capacity. Then continually question it to see just how far you can push your boundries. Just be sure to understand that, at some point, even the best of us have our limits. And respecting those limits can do just as much to help you to push past them.

The 21st Thing To Remember If You Are or If You Love a Person with ADD

From June Silny’s 20 Things to Remember If You Love a Person with ADD article on Lifehack:

True love is unconditional, but ADD presents situations that test your limits of love. Whether it’s your child, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or soon-to-be spouse, ADD tests every relationship. The best way to bring peace into both your lives is to learn a new mindset to deal with the emotional roller-coaster that ADD brings all-day-every-day.

Understanding what a person with ADD feels like will help you become more patient, tolerant, compassionate, and loving. Your relationships will become more enjoyable and peaceful.

Despite its wild popularity, having racked up over 1.7 million likes on Facebook, that article is probably the single most frustrating summary that I’ve come across in more than 25 years of reading about ADD and ADHD.

It’s not that the piece doesn’t make valid points about what those of us with ADD and ADHD often deal with on a daily basis. It’s not like there isn’t a benefit to a loved one better understanding the range of possible challenges we face. It’s that, ultimately, the article (and it’s companion on why we should love having ADD) encourages us to embrace these facts and then stops. Chances are, if you’re reading articles on why you should love having ADD or ADHD or how your loved ones can cope, you need to start taking concrete steps to deal with it.

Like the quoted article says, I have an active mind; I’m not a great listener; I struggle to stay on task; I have more than my fair share of anxiety; I find it difficult to concentrate when I’m emotional (or when I’m not); I get hyper-focused (often by complete nonsense); I’m highly impulsive; I’m emotionally and physically sensitive; I can be unexpectedly intuitive; I have foot-in-mouth disease, I’m known to think outside of the box; I’m impatient, disorganized, forgetful, overly ambitious, wildly passionate and prone to more than my fair share of procrastination. Throughout my life, the upsides of many of these traits have helped me to stand out and achieve, but unmanaged, the downsides have continually held me back. They have challenged every personal and professional relationship I’ve cultivated, every ambition and endeavor I’ve attempted.

Embracing Isn’t Enough For Us

While these Lifehack articles don’t explicitly tell us to stop improving once we’ve embraced these facets of ourselves or our loved one, I struggle with the fact that they don’t actually encourage us to do anything about it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: Understanding and embracing your nature is an important step toward self-improvement, but eventually you have to build up the courage to deal with your challenges. For yourselves, but more importantly for your loved ones.

When I was finally able to make peace with the fact that I’m not quite neurologically “normal,” I became a far happier human. What I didn’t become was a more effective one. When my wife decided to embrace the challenges of daily life with an ADHD-addled man-child, it became easier for her to forgive my related shortcomings. What it didn’t become was easy.

ADD and ADHD, or any similar neurological disorders for that matter, are valid reasons for our challenges, but they aren’t valid excuses. And as anyone who carries their ADD or ADHD into adulthood can attest, understanding employers and significant others are in short supply. In fact, the understanding and exceptions we receive in our youth often fail to prepare us for this all-too-common reality. For most who carry these challenges into later life, no amount of desire and no amount of loving is enough to overcome those challenges. Left unchecked, our nature will get in the way.

You Need To Take The Next Steps

If you really want to excel, if you really want to honor those who love you, then own your challenges and begin to take steps to mitigate your nature. Feel free to read all the articles that tell you how special you are. Feel free to share resources that help loved ones grasp what you’re up against with your ADD or ADHD. Then take everything you’ve learned, take advantage of your loved one’s newfound understanding, and use it as a tool to attack your challenges.

Do you have ADD or ADHD? Is it getting in your way? Understand what you can about your nature. Embrace who you are and likely always will be. Then start seeking the help or identifying the steps needed to deal with your challenges.

Do you love someone who has ADD or ADHD? Is it affecting your relationship? Understand what you can about what your loved one is dealing with. Embrace that you’re not always going to understand the way they work. Then encourage them to do the work needed to improve, and be there when they fall short along the way.

Need more specifics on what to do next? Stay tuned.

Update: June Silny, the author that inspired this rant, posted a follow up on the same day that this piece went live. It’s titled If You Love Someone Who Has ADHD, Don’t Do These 20 Things and takes a far more proactive approach. I recommend it for those looking for a starting point on what to do next, and hope it gains anywhere near the traction of the initial post.

My favorite bit:

ADHD isn’t an excuse for an irresponsible lifestyle. It just means that what comes easy to you, may be difficult for them. It doesn’t mean that they can’t do something, it means that it’s harder for them. Simple tasks that you take for granted; such as opening mail, trashing junk mail, and placing your bills in a “to be paid” folder, feel like a climb up Mt. Everest to a person with ADHD.


Goodbye Workflowing

As part of my desire to get back to getting better, I decided to end Workflowing (formally Mikes on Mics), my weekly podcast on 5by5 with Mike Vardy.

Despite all of the truly horrible things I say to Vardy on a weekly basis, I’ve loved recording this show with him and look forward to the occasional guest spot on his new Productivityist podcast. It was also an honor to be a small part of both the 70Decibels and 5by5 podcast networks.

I’m extremely proud of the final episode and hope you decide to give it a listen. We talk a lot about why we decided to wrap up the show and why I wanted to get back to writing here on the site.

In addition to wrapping up the Workflowing podcast, I’ve also shut down the Workflowing website (essentially, I’ve rid myself of anything I ever did with Vardy). All of the Workflowing posts have been moved over to this very site. For those who were unaware of the project, you can find all of my Workflowing posts here.

For those of you who will miss my regular ramblings on productivity and self-improvement, keep an eye on this site. While I plan to focus on writing for the time being, I have a few audio experiements in mind for the future.

As friend of the site, Patrick Rhone has said that saying no is actually saying yes to other things. I’ll miss catching up with Vardy, I’ll miss all of the feedback from listeners, but it feeels right let Workflowing go in order to say hell yes to writing here once more.