Great by Choice

Great by ChoiceI read this book on a recommendation by one of  my brothers, the book is an analysis of the 10x companies that have consistently preformed better than average over several decades. The authors have attempted to analyse what makes these companies superior and they also supply a comparison company for each of the 10x companies that failed to achieve the same growth.

One of the core findings of the book was that the 10x companies are disciplined focused on growing a consistent amount each year, this is compared to explorers restraining themselves to only 20 km a day on expeditions instead of doing as much (or as little) as the terrain and weather permits. This discipline prevents over stretching during good times and limits under performance in the hard times.

The 10x companies also tended to run test projects before committing large amounts of resources to new ideas. This helped mitigate against unforeseen problems and bad ideas by preventing over investment from occurring to early.  Operational paranoia was also another 10x trait: keeping sufficient resources stock piled to last through any unexpected rough patches.

So the combination of these three traits are the suggested reason for the ten times performance of the 10x companies.

Scottish West Coast

I recently took the opportunity to have a tour of the west coast of Scotland for a week before heading over to the east coast to visit family.  This let me re-visit several areas that are important to me with my cameras and get some recent images of my motherland.

Buachaille Etive Mòr

Bauchaille Etive Mor

The first area I visited after arriving in Glasgow airport was Rannoch Moor, Glen Etive, Glen Coe and Bauchaille Etive Mor.  This is an area I rock climbed in several times during university and even got benighted on the Bauchaille once!  The Bauchaille itself is a relatively famous Scottish mountain, that actually look like a alpine mountain instead of the usual rounded shape of Scottish mountains.  This means it has many rock climbing and mixed ice routes plus the famous Aonach Eagach ridge walk.

Loch Etive

Loch Etive

I stayed in the Kings House hotel in the middle of the moor which was ideally placed for watching the mountains and trying to time the dash to get to a photograph during the breaks in the rain!  The deer in the area around the lodge were very tame and pretty easy to photograph without resorting to long lens, although the hotel car park didn’t make for a great backdrop.

Rannoch Moor

Bauchaille Etive Mor & Rannoch Moor

I spent a day driving down Glen Etive all the way to Loch Etive which was a very scenic drive down a single lane road with lots of interesting places to stop and photograph.  Sadly the skies remained overcast with passing showers which wasn’t the best combination for landscape photography, some blue sky would have been nice!

Stag in Glen Etive

Stag in Glen Etive

On my way from Rannoch Moor I passed through Glen Coe another beautiful glen which I spent some time in photographing and getting buzzed by RAF training flights.  I spent an hour or two huddled in the rental car waiting for the weather to clear enough to try to get some shots of the three sisters too.

Glen Coe

Glen Coe

Next on my trip was two nights up in Dornie, this was where my wife had lived for a time and was also close to Ratagan where she is buried.  This was the more emotional part of the trip as it let me visit her grave and also explore some of the highlands that she loved like Eilean Donan Castle and the isle of Skye.

Eilean Donan castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Sadly my day on Skye was incredibly stormy with heavy rain and strong winds making outdoor photography a very smudged affair!  So I consoled myself with a tour of the Talisker distillery which is the only malt whisky distillery on Skye.

Read this before our next meeting

Read This Before Our Next MeetingHaving worked in Electronic Arts which is a largish enterprise (about 10’000 people) for the last seven years I have had numerous bad meetings inflicted on me.  So I picked up this book in the hopes of gaining some ideas on how to avoid the most common meeting pitfalls.

In the book the author (Al Pittampalli) sets out a manifesto that he calls ‘the modern meeting standard’, this standard states that meetings are only for supporting a decision that’s already been made.  Information gathering, discussion and decision making should be made prior to the meeting and a meeting should only held if either: conflict needs to be resolved over the decision or coordination needs to be organised.

He also states that meetings should start on time (amen!), stick to their allotted schedule and limit the number of people attending the meeting (no bystanders).  The meeting agenda should be distributed prior to the meeting to allow the participants to prepare, unprepared participants should be removed from the meetings.

The goal is to get rid of informational meetings, endless debates and produce useful action instead.

Returning to Instagram

Instagram LondonLast year I found myself quitting Instagram: it was too much of a distraction from my ‘real photography’ project the photo blog ‘See Stockholm’. However recently I have found myself wishing to return to Instagram as I’ve stopped the ‘See Stockholm’ project now and want somewhere to share my images that isn’t as intense as 500px.

Sadly it wasn’t just a case or reactivating my account as I discovered once you deactivate an account there is now way to reactivate it.  So you need to create a new account, this means that YourAwesomeUserName will be gone for good!  This happened to me and caused some delay in rejoining Instagram as I struggled to find a user name that I liked.  Eventually I settled on ‘endlessly_curious‘ as ‘endlesslycurious’ was already taken by another user..

I tend to share photographs that I’ve taken on a camera rather than my iPhone that I’ve then transferred to the iPhone using WiFi and edited on the phone. So I guess I’m not a ‘true’ Instagrammer, I miss manual controls too much to be content with an iPhone.

Abisko Northern Lights

The northern lights are something I’ve always wanted to experience but I’ve always lived too far south in Scotland and Canada to see them there. Even when I visited Antarctica it was summer so there was too much light at night to see the Southern lights.

Northern lights over the pier and lake Torneträsk.

Northern lights over the pier and lake Torneträsk.

Abisko in northern Sweden is inside the arctic circle and Lapland making it ideally suited for catching a glimpse of this natural wonder.  Abisko is also in the mountains and fairly remote from other towns so there is very little light pollution.  I decided relatively last minute to go up for three nights over my birthday weekend to see if I too could catch a glimpse of the lights for myself. For this trip I took my Nikon D700 DSLR and most stable tripod: the Gitzo Explorer.

Spectators watching the northern lights on lake Northern lights over lake Torneträsk.

Spectators watching the northern lights on lake Northern lights over lake Torneträsk.

Abisko is about twenty hours from Stockholm by train or about two hours by airplane, give my time constraints I decided to fly up to Kiruna and get the bus to Abisko which takes about an hour. That extra hour makes all the difference according to the driver who told me that when its cloudy in Kiruna its often still clear skies in Abisko.

Northern lights through the clouds over the ravine next to Abisko Tourist Station.

Northern lights through the clouds over the ravine next to Abisko Tourist Station.

Luck was with me and on the first night the lights came out in force, I got some great images but then made two mistakes. The first mistake was to leave my backup batteries in the lodge and the second was to stay out and shoot the lights for longer. As it turned out a storm rolled in the next day and we never got the same kind of clear sky shots of the lights the rest of my time there!

Woman commuting to work along the lake.

Woman commuting to work along the lake.

During daylight the area was pretty interesting to explore and I saw a local woman commuting to work along the frozen lake Tornetrask to Abisko on skies, towing her toddler in a sled and being assisted (pulled) by her Samoid dog!

Abisko National Park.

Abisko National Park.

I also managed to watch Canada beat Sweden in the Ice Hockey world final on my birthday.  On the last day I rented snow shoes to help me explore the Abisko National park which borders the town.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin has recently had several mentions on some of the creativity and productivity blogs that I frequent. So I thought it was time to see what all the fuss was about and read his biography (which is freely available on Kindle).

I’d heard of him before but I hadn’t quite realised just how focused a man he was on self improvement through journalling. The fact that he managed to contribute to scientific research, run a publishing house, invent lightning rods, bifocal lens, a new type of stove, be an active civic figure and a statesman/diplomat is awe inspiring. It is no wonder that Franklin is often termed ‘the first American’ and clearly he fully deserves the honour of being know as one of the founding fathers of America.

While I found his scheme for self improvement a bit too intensive for my own applications it was interesting and inspiring to see just what he managed to achieve. I wonder what a modern Benjamin Franklin would be like and what they’d achieve with the technologies available today?

I also found this book interesting due to its coverage of early American history which I wasn’t taught at school.