Everyone has a paradigm, a perception of reality, and a mental framework that they think within. To them, their perception of reality shapes what they believe to be “normal”.
But what is normal?
Nikola Tesla was an inventor from that past that pioneered some of the most outrageous and extraordinary innovations. His most famous innovations include alternating current, wireless radio, wireless power transfer, and the ubiquitous tesla coil.
Mr. Tesla’s perception of reality and what was possible reached beyond the box that people of his generation thought within.
The box told him that alternating current would never be adopted.
Innovating without Boxes
There are countless stories of individuals who were told that they could never amount to anything, that their invention would never work, or that their ideas were outright ridiculous. But yet, these are the people that have stepped forward and completely revolutionized the world that they lived in.
“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” – Albert Einstein
There are so many things that we’ve been socially conditioned to accept. We accept it because it is a box that has been passed down for generations. However, we don’t always recognize how much the box has changed prior to it being passed down to us, nor do we always recognize how much of a change the box is about to experience.
Maybe you’re sitting there asking yourself the same question right now. Maybe you’re wondering how blogging about your ideas is going to change anything. Maybe you’re concerned about disrupting traditions in your family, maybe you’re afraid of stepping out into the unknown.
Humans make new discoveries all the time, and somewhere down the line, if you aren’t the one to think outside the box and revolutionize what people think, someone else will. Someone else is going to make a new discovery that changes everything, and you’ll be faced with a shift in the way that you see things whether you like it or not.
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage
And when you begin to see things outside of the box that has been widely accepted, “normal” looks different to you.
What are some ridiculous ideas that you have that other people have dismissed as crazy? Just hit reply in your email or submit a comment below! (I read every response)
A good friend and I recently released a web application named Tallymark.
After a long development process into the wee hours of the night with a good friend, we were able to create a product that helps divide living expenses among people who live together, by simply adjusting the amount of the final rent check. You can check it out here.
Since it was such a significant project to me, I wanted to document the creation process a little bit. If you want to look at the code, it’s all on Github.
For me, Tallymark was a project where I had to pick up everything as I went along, because I had no prior knowledge of or Django. Setting up the server and repository took nearly two weeks, as figuring out the server setup was probably the difficult barrier of entry.
I picked up on the model, view, template structure pretty quickly, because it made a lot of intuitive sense to me. I quickly realized how powerful Django is, and how it is a lot more flexible and simple compared to PHP.
The first couple weeks were largely dedicated to figuring out how to navigate Django. I made objects in the models file, and started learning how to integrate them into my application. It took me another week or so to generate a dynamic dashboard.
And after about 2 months of work, with all too many visits to StackOverflow, I uploaded it to my server, turned debug mode off, and let it into the wild. Within the first hour, we had 45 people sign up, and people started logging in their houses and items.
For me, seeing the process from concept to reality was extremely exciting, as this is probably the biggest and most significant project that I have done to date. Despite the fact that this was framed as merely a summer project, it feels much more significant to me than that.
We still have features to implement, bugs to fix, but learning how an application is written from start to finish has been a blast for me.
I started learning Django this summer, with the goal of creating a web based application with a friend.
Having never worked with Python or Django before, the only appropriate response to building this application was “challenge accepted”.
From the git-go (see what I did there), I had issues getting the right versions of Django and Python set up both locally and on the server. After a whole week installing Arch Linux and living in the terminal, I finally got Django setup and running without errors.
We officially unveiled the pre-launch page yesterday, opening the application up for people to stay updated via email.
To me, this project represents the power of autodidactic learning, or learning on your own, not bound by any requirements, grades, or work hours. In fact, everything I know about the web was completely learned on my own, independent of any academic classes.
Being the first time that I worked with Python and Django, there were a lot of things I had to get used to, such as the fact that python uses tabs instead of curly braces, giving me weird indentation errors on occasion.
But I’ve really grown to appreciate the framework, because of the way that it makes so many things so simple, and how intuitive the model-view-template philosophy is. I’m definitely beginning to like Python even more than PHP (gasp).
I’ll spare you the rest of the technical details, because there’s still a lot that I’m learning about Python and Django.
Tallymark is an application designed as a hassle free way to divide costs between people who live together, saving you the trouble of figuring out how to pay each other back. The idea is simple: Have each person log their purchases for the apartment/house/room, and Tallymark will take care of the rest.
If you’re interested, head on over to http://tallymark.us to stay updated!
Someone else will always get more recognition for doing less significant work.
Steve Jobs, the mastermind behind Apple, was heralded as a visionary and creative genius according to the Apple website. The man knew how to position Apple according to their audience, and create value that no one has ever seen before. He was known by millions as the guy who lived a minimalist life and designed flawless products. He knew how to create, how to brand, and how to sell. He deserves the respect for bringing accessible and beautiful technology into the hands of so many everyday consumers.
But arguably, Dennis Ritchie, the creator of the C programming language, and co-creator of the Unix operating system, had a much greater impact on the world of computing. With practically every modern program, kernel, and compilers written in C, Steve Jobs would not have had the impact that he did without the work of Dennis Ritchie. Dennis Ritchie was the genius that empowered every single technology company today to do what they do. The work of Dennis Ritchie laid the foundation that Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc built their companies on top. And not surprisingly, Ritchie had much less recognition than Jobs did.
In the same way, being a teacher usually doesn’t come with a great opportunity to become recognized by millions, but being a teacher presents hundreds of opportunities to empower students with what they need to be recognized by millions.
The difference between success and significance is that success means doing something that impacts millions while significance means doing something that empowers a handful to impact millions. Success is about building yourself a name, while significance is about empowering someone else to build a name. Significant people who empower individuals have no idea how many people those individuals will impact.
The people who have truly changed the world are sometimes largely unrecognized, because they valued empowering specific people over being known by all people. So to all the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, teachers, counselors, mentors, friends, etc out there, thank you for your significant impact on the world.
Do you want to be successful or significant? Neither is less honorable than the other, and the two are not always mutually exclusive.
From January to June, I had the privilege of doing an internship with a relatively small company in Pacific Beach. During my internship, I had the freedom of learning about the ins and outs of WordPress, and how to write a WordPress Plugin from scratch.
Working at a smaller company with somewhat of a startup culture in which everything is not completely organized gave me a lot of freedom to explore and learn about company culture, work mindsets, etc.
At my internship, I worked alone for the most part, with someone that directed and helped me whenever I needed help. The following are things that I realized in my 5 months interning.
Being able to work with and ask questions to a human being is priceless – During my internship, being able to ask questions to my mentor helped clarify things on many occasions. Yes, you can look anything up on Google, but having an actual human to help explain things to you makes things a lot easier. Humans are optimized for human interaction, not digital interaction.
Your work is what you make of it – I had the freedom of going to the office and working on my project whenever I wanted to, but I decided to maintain a regular schedule of twice a week for ten hours each week. Spending a couple months with that routine really exposes your motivation after a while, and that motivation and passion will explain the results that you get. If you just want money, work won’t mean much to you, if you want to learn, money won’t mean much to you.
Read the documentation – During my time there, I found myself Googling many of my questions and browsing sites like StackOverflow. While sites like StackOverflow have a lot of questions and people answering questions, reading the documentation is often much more complete and more conducive to producing quality code. The answers on StackOverflow may be outdated, written for another version, or addressing a different type of problem. Instead of blindly following the answer someone else gives, reading documentation is much better practice for developing your own code and learning.
It’s better to be an expert at one thing than mediocre at everything – I realized that having a reputation for doing one thing really well is infinitely more helpful in leveraging work than simply being mediocre at everything. The jack of all trades is usually the one working tirelessly for small startup companies their whole lives while the focused server-side-database guru has the freedom to leverage careers at many different types of companies.
Writing clean, commented code makes life easier – Toward the end of my internship, having to go back and revise code that I wrote months ago became a painful process when I realized that my code was poorly commented. In school, I never enjoyed writing comments for my code, but after some time in a corporate environment, commenting code helps your project progress smoothly, especially in later stages. Producing clean commented code also helped tremendously when asking for help from a fellow programmer.
Know what you want, and aim higher – Plan for growth and always be learning, because people who are moving forward have an idea of where they are headed, while being flexible enough to change under the right circumstances. Know when to move on, and when to persevere.
Communicate what you can do instead of asking what to do – The mediocre employee is told what to do and monitored in order to ensure productivity. The top performer communicates his abilities and guarantees quality work in his area of expertise, going above and beyond basic requirements. That means that top performers look for good fits instead of trying to fit in everywhere.
Ask questions – Ask questions, and listen to the people who have helpful answers. The people who are willing to take time to answer questions are the people who want to see you succeed and the people that will make a difference in the world.
Write down what you learned – and post it on a blog for everyone to see.
I spend about 25 percent of my day looking at a computer screen. I also spend about 37.4 percent of my day fighting luchadors. One of those statements is false, but illustrates the unique power of the Internet. In the past decade, all different types of media have been finding a digital counterpart to be distributed online, causing changes in the fabric of human interaction that have never been faced before. The Internet gives platform, although a very different kind, to anyone who wishes to speak, regardless of what they have to say.
Take knowledge for instance. Never before have so many people had access to so much free information through a little device in their pocket. Hyperlinking has become the new way of hyperwarping through different thoughts and ideas.
But as a computer science major in the year 2013, I can’t help but wonder what effect technology will have on people’s knowledge and understanding. Some claim that relying on technology to instantly and effortlessly answer questions makes people dumber. In a recent talk by Ken Jennings, the reigning jeopardy champion, he shares about how he feels when IBM’s supercomputer named Watson rendered him obsolete.
However, despite the images of robot apocalypse and other futuristic ideas portrayed by movies and novels, the future doesn’t have look like that. Technology is not something that should be feared, but understood.
Technology is fluid in the sense that it is always changing, and the person who understands how to use it has an advantage over the person who doesn’t. Being tech savvy means knowing how to creatively use technology to build new platforms and present new perspectives. Being tech savvy then, by definition, is a tendency to bend the rules, and even break them under some occasions. It means adding a whole other dimension of thinking and communication to life, one that is virtually limitless.
Of course, that means that people must remain knowledgeable enough about technology so that they can use the technology instead of the technology using them. Google shouldn’t be seen as a life force, but merely a supplement. The moment that people assume that technology is smarter than them is the moment that we resign ourselves to a place of servitude.
The only way that technology will make people dumber is if people use it as a substitute to learning instead of a supplement.
If you are reading this in 2013, I am willing to bet $20 that you haven’t used a floppy disk within the last week.
But even if you haven’t used one in years, the floppy disk is an image that is universally recognized, and will most likely never be forgotten. To kids currently learning to use computers, the floppy disk is no longer a physical data storage device, it’s an icon to click on in order to save a file.
The floppy disk is an obsolete artifact of the past, an illustration of what happens when people become accustomed to something that change becomes nearly impossible. The floppy disk represents tradition, something of the past that is no longer relevant today, but still lingers within culture.
To the entrepreneur, tradition is nothing more than an opportunity for change; a challenge to do things better rather than submit to the way things have always been done. Instead of blindly accepting artifacts of culture, the entrepreneur questions and thinks critically about things that can be changed.
Thus, to the creative, traditions are not seen as guidelines to stay within, but boundaries to advance and explore outside of. Creativity comes when a person thinks differently, creating something that has never existed before.
No matter how new an innovation is, or how many problems a new invention solves, the creative mind always thinks about it one step further, and is not satisfied with the current level of innovation. While this may seem like a never-ending treadmill of hard thinking, the life in being creative is not the end product, but the process it took to get there.
When you hear a past innovator talk about how things were like back in “their day”, they’re reminiscing on the process it took to bringing new innovation in, and how creativity changed their lifestyle.
That is why we aren’t carrying around black squares for data storage anymore.
If you’re anything like me and come across talks on YouTube that are hours long on a regular basis, speeding up playback is a great way to get through them faster and have greater focus.
I like to watch videos at 1.5x speed, which is slow enough so I can still understand (usually), but fast enough so my mind can’t get distracted.
Enabling variable speed control on YouTube requires you to enter their beta HTML5 player trial, which you can find here. Keep in mind that your browser will need to meet certain requirements, and the video player may feel slightly different after you enable it.
After you’ve signed up for the HTML5 trial, clicking the little gear button on basically any video will bring up a selection of choices for playback. You can choose to play videos faster or slower.
Surprisingly, I found that when I started listening to talks at 1.5x speed, I ended up comprehending more of the talk than I did at slower speeds. I’m no cognitive expert, but it seems that playing the video faster causes me to pay much more attention.
Basically, if you are unfamiliar with either service, both provide a way to manage mailing lists by allowing people to subscribe/unsubscribe to email updates whenever you send them. Phplist, while it got the job done, just wasn’t very friendly to the average user.
Phplist is an php application which needs to be installed on a server, because phplist only provides the application, and not the server.
Then I found MailChimp. Finding MailChimp was like finding the perfect match to what I was looking for. It allowed me to create a custom subscribe page and easily manage and email subscribers.
At first, I was skeptical that something like this would be easily integrable with a custom-designed existing website. But after the initial registration process, I found that it was very possible to integrate it with a custom html page with a simple php form action. I also found the page customization feature on MailChimp very easy to use.
I was a bit confused when I saw the term “campaign” used instead of something more clear, like “message” or “update”. But after I figured that a campaign was simply an email update to all the subscribers on a list, I quickly began playing around with the settings. The campaign editor has a huge variety of designs to choose from, which can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t have a particular color scheme in mind. The built-in email WYSIWYG editor is very coherent and easy to use.
This feature of Mailchimp impressed me the most. It gives you realtime, constantly updated statistics as to how many people have opened and read your campaign, as well as the statistics of clicks on links you may have provided in your campaign. This data can be very valuable for determining the reach and popularity of each of your updates.
MailChimp is definitely a very powerful, polished web-application that helps you maintain and stay connected with a group of subscribers. It’s got great features and a smooth interface that is unobtrusive and easy to use.
Since one of my most viewed posts to date has been about finding a laptop for college, I have decided to write a post about my own setup.
I use a Lenovo Thinkpad R400 for traversing the Internet and being productive on a daily basis. The computer is about two years old, but I have been constantly upgrading hardware and software elements to keep it running in top shape. I have upgraded the RAM a couple of times, as well as equipped it with a Solid State Drive.
Hardware Specs: 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 8GB RAM, 256GB Crucial m4 SSD, 500GB Toshiba HDD
Personally, I’m a fan of the Thinkpad series for a variety of reasons, including their durability, “upgrade-ability”, comfortable keyboard and trackpoint, among other things. The ability to have a dock is also notoriously useful. When I’m at home, I generally will dock my laptop into the dock, instantly connecting it to my dual monitor setup, keyboard, mouse, tablet, printer, and other peripherals. That way, it feels almost like a desktop computer when I’m at home.
Being an older thinkpad model, it isn’t the lightest nor thinnest computer out there, but it’s manageable in terms of size and weight. Battery life runs about 4 hours on average off of my 6-cell battery pack, so not terribly impressive there either.
In terms of software, I use a combination of Windows 7 and Ubuntu depending on the task at hand. Windows is used for the more casual emailing / chatting / browsing, while Ubuntu is dedicated to the programming side of things. (Who doesn’t love the linux terminal?)
What are you using? Feel free to comment if you have any questions.