Personal Development Roadblocks – “The Situation”


“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are.
I don’t believe in circumstances.
The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.
George Bernard Shaw

We are all capable of so much more than we accomplish, and often fall short of our potential.  

One excuse I often hear (and sometimes make) is how we did the best we could, and then blame our failure on “the situation.” For example:

“It might have looked like I dropped the ball on that one, but I did the best I could – given the situation.”

Sometimes that is a real reason – but more often than not, it is a temporary obstacle that you need to get through. And today, I will show you how.

Speaking in Public: A Step-By-Step Guide to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

I had an interesting discussion with a friend recently about how even people with great interpersonal skills may struggle with speaking in public.  As someone who was once relatively shy, and now speaks on panels and to large groups, I felt it would be useful to share some of the strategies I personally used.

In this article I discuss five steps I took to increase my own public speaking abilities, and also discuss how I overcame my stage fright.

A Software Engineer’s Guide To Speaking With Non-Technical Managers

The news wasn’t good, but bad news doesn’t get any better with age.  I presented our project manager with the facts:

“We can’t complete our development in time based on these ridiculous estimates” I said bluntly.  “Everyone has been behind schedule, just like we said last week.  There is no way that our team is going to make their deliverables based on the current deadline.  Our development and productivity is only going to get worse the more we are rushed.”

After the meeting, the best manager I’ve ever had, Moe Nwankwo, told me he appreciated that I had been frank – and then gave me some constructive criticism and advice I’ll never forget:

“Sid, you can’t talk to project managers like that.  You can talk to me and developers that way – but you need to speak to our PM in terms she can understand and act on.

I did not fully absorb what he meant at the time, but as I grew as a software engineer I am amazed at how poorly I communicated my concerns in the past.  I have since learned the secret of communicating effectively with my non-technical managers.

The Problem with The Pareto Principle

“The Pareto principle … states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” (Pareto principle, Wikipedia)

If you’re trying to streamline your work-day and boost your income, you might have come across authors telling you “facts” like these:

  • 20% of your clients pay 80% of your income.
  • 20% of your output produces 80% of your income.
  • 20% of your time produces 80% of your income.

Whenever you see the Pareto principle cited, ask yourself “Is this true?” I’d argue that, in many cases, it just isn’t. In my freelance work, I’ve often not seen the Pareto principle upheld: I’ll give you the figures for each of these three claims in turn, so you can see how the clients/output/time to income ratio works for me.

Can Virtual Assistants Make You More Productive? An Experiment, and a TimeSvr Review

In a previous post I discuss how I outsourced my cooking for $60 a week.   I decided to try an experiment with a virtual assistant, to see if I could effectively outsource parts of my digital life. I also compared my solo virtual assistant to a professionally managed, concierge style virtual assistant team.

I imagined I would be able to save some time with a virtual assistant. Further, I hypothesized that the team would do a better job than my solo assistant – but would be more expensive, and it would end up being a decision based on value provided.

Was I right? Read on to find out the results.

The Curse of the Worst Acceptable Solution

In life we are constantly faced with challenges and opportunities that demand our attention. So often, we are given the chance to solve a problem or scratch an itch permanently with a single superior solution – and yet, we instead choose to limp along with subpar solutions.

What causes us to succumb to the worst acceptable solution? In this article I examine one particular instance where I constantly chose less idea solutions due to laziness, and the tendency to implement the least difficult, acceptable solution – which, very generally speaking, is also the worst.