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Tag: choice

Is This Why I Stall? [en]

Is This Why I Stall? [en]

[fr] Peut-être j'ai besoin d'un dé pour être plus active quand j'ai trop de choix.

I am not very good at prioritising. Well, not always good at it. If there is an emergency, if we’re under pressure, if hard decisions need to be made, I can be decent to good at it, depending on the circumstances.

Ciel

I am not good at prioritising my wants and desires, actually. Here is the second edge to my sword of freedom. What do I want to do today? What should I start with? Nobody is tapping their foot waiting for something from me (except my accountant, that is), nobody is forcing me to do anything, I can choose.

And I want to do many things. Too many. It’s already noon, but here is what I’d like to do with my Sunday:

  • go for a walk
  • write blog posts
  • continue sorting/tidying clothes so I can get rid of my chest of drawers and move my third cupboard to its new place
  • cook so I have food ready for the week
  • do some accounting (!)
  • go to the cinema

I can’t do all that. And choosing one means I don’t get to do the others. Cake, having it, eating it. It sounds silly, but it’s an emotionally difficult place for me. So I put off the decision by flipping through Facebook, for example.

And if I’m not careful, it will soon be too late to do any of these things I wanted.

Feuilles 3

So today I did things differently. I figured I probably had time for two of these things. So I numbered them. And I rolled a die. Twice.

I went for a walk by the lake. I took photos there. The weather was splendid, windy and sunny and changing. I didn’t have time for accounting, but I wrote this blog post and roughly sorted my photos (FB) instead.

Octobre 2016 au bord du lac

I’ll do the accounting tomorrow.

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The Danger of Backup Plans. And Choice. [en]

The Danger of Backup Plans. And Choice. [en]

[fr] Avoir un plan B nous rassure, mais nous empêche aussi souvent de mettre autant d'énergie qu'il le faudrait dans notre plan A. Parfois, ne pas avoir le choix est une bonne chose.

Being rather pessimistic by nature and risk-averse, I love my backup plans. I really like knowing what I’ll do “if something goes wrong”.

The only way to go is forward.
No plan B here!
Photo by Anita Bora, taken on one of our hikes a couple of years ago.

These last ten years as a self-employed professional are no exception. In the back of my mind I’ve always “known” that, if things go awry:

  • I have savings I can dip into
  • I can borrow money
  • I can always “find a job”
  • maybe I’ll shack up with somebody who has a stable situation and there won’t be so much pressure on my income anymore.

I have always had the nagging feeling that these backup plans kept me from giving my fullest to the current one, the one I was actually living. Why struggle and work like crazy when it might not be necessary?

Like our modern western world, I like the idea that we are responsible, that the way we lead our life is through choices. We always have a choice. I’ve been brought up to believe that we always choose, even when we think we don’t. I don’t think it was drilled into me on purpose — it just reflects the ambient beliefs of our time. If you say you don’t have a choice, you’re in some ways painting yourself as a hapless victim with less agency than you actually have.

But reality is more complex than that, as all we women of the 60s and 70s who ended up not having children due to the circumstances of life rather than our desire not to have any very well know. (I hope.) Not everything that happens to you is a choice.

Looking at the future (and present) rather than the past, absence of choice can actually be a good thing. Absence of a plan B. A series of recent discussions brought that to light for me: professionally, there isn’t really a plan B for me. In the long run, I need to stay self-employed (more about this in another post at some point). And so I have to make my business more successful than in the past (not just by wishful thinking, there is a lot of work to be done, actually — more about that in another post).

Saying “I have to do this” is, again, something I’ve been taught to avoid. Because it makes one powerless to have to do something, rather than want, choose, decide. But an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain presents research that points to another phenomenon: if we have a fallback plan, our motivation or drive to make our main plan succeed diminishes.

Not having a choice can actually be an advantage!

This might be one reason I like action/thriller movies, in which characters very often have no choice but to do what they are doing. Trying to stay alive or save the world definitely gives one a sense of purpose, something I sometimes feel I am lacking in my life.

There could also be a link to my love of physical activities like skiing, sailing, judo, kitesurfing, and even cycling and driving: when you’re moving or in action, you have to do what you have to do, or you can hurt or even kill yourself. In that moment, there is no backup plan. Come to think of it, that is true of public speaking too, though there is of course no physical danger there.

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I'm Going to Write an eBook [en]

I'm Going to Write an eBook [en]

For some time now, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing an eBook (well, more precisely, of starting to write eBooks in general). Now that my life is un-hectic and a little under control (fingers crossed, let’s make it last) I’ve decided to get to work on this project.

First, obviously, I need something to write about. My general problem rears its ugly head again here: I’m not sure what to choose (too much choice often turns into “no ideas”).

I’ve used the poll below to jot down some ideas that I could imagine writing a short eBook about.

– My survival guide to starting to blog
– Utiliser WordPress.com pour créer son site très simplement
– Freelancing: lessons learned
– Some advice for first-time conference organisers
– De l’usage sage de Facebook
– Adolescents sur internet: des chiffres, quelques principes, pas de panique!
– My life improvement tricks
– …

I’m open to other ideas, of course, but please use the poll below to let me know what you think would be the best pick? What would you want to read? What would you share with your friends? What seems most useful?

Thanks a lot for your participation and help!

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Video Angst [en]

Video Angst [en]

[fr] Quand j'ai des vidéos à mettre en ligne, c'est toujours la même prise de tête. Quel service utiliser? YouTube, Viddler, DailyMotion, Facebook, Google Video...? Tous? Qu'est-ce que vous faites, vous?

Earlier this month at [BlogTalk 2008 in Cork](http://2008.blogtalk.net/), I ended up taking a bunch of videos of the talks there, as there was no official video-taking. [Rob Cawte](http://web2.0japan.com/blog/), who happened to be sitting just behind me on the first day, also took a whole bunch — check out his [WebCamp on Social Network Portability and BlogTalk2008 Cork Video Index](http://web2.0japan.com/blog/index.cfm/2008/3/14/WebCamp-on-Social-Network-Portability-and-BlogTalk2008-Video-Index).

I’ve finally got around to encoding, stitching together, and uploading (not in that order) almost all the videos I made. And as always, aside from the oh-my-god-what-format-do-I-export-in headache I’m starting to get used to, I find myself wondering where to upload. [YouTube](http://youtube.com/user/steph)? [DailyMotion](http://dailymotion.com/steph)? [Viddler](http://viddler.com/steph/videos)? [Google Video](http://video.google.com/), even though I don’t seem to be able to get upload to work? [Facebook](http://vupload.facebook.com/video/?id=503315010)? Serve them myself from my own server?

After going through a DailyMotion phase, I’ve now mainly switched to Viddler, because I like the way it allows you to make notes or place tags on any frame of the video. You can also link to any particular moment in the video. But unfortunately, I’m aware that placing a video on YouTube, for example, would ensure that it’s seen more.

How do you deal with this? While we wait for [the service which will upload your videos everywhere](http://twitter.com/realitygrenade/statuses/774250611), what do we do?

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Conference Experience Evolution and The Paradox of Choice [en]

Conference Experience Evolution and The Paradox of Choice [en]

[fr] Mes réflexions sur l'expérience vécue lors de conférences comme LIFT08, LeWeb3, SXSW, BlogTalk, à la lumière de ma lecture du livre The Paradox of Choice. Surcharge cognitive et sociale, trop de décisions à prendre. Evolution également, entre les premières conférences où je ne connaissais presque personne, et où l'accent était mis sur "faire de nouvelles connaissances", et les dernières conférences, où je me rends compte que je ne peux pas passer du temps (ni même parfois dire bonjour) à toutes les personnes que je connais déjà.

There’s a lot going on in my head these days, and unfortunately I’ve been too [busy/exhausted](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/25/stalling/) (that damn anaemia is still around, fwiw) to blog about it. Since a week or so before LIFT08, actually, I feel like I’ve been desperately running behind the train, and the distance between my hand and the handlebar that will allow me to climb back on is just increasing.

One book I’ve been reading these last weeks (months?) is [The Paradox of Choice](http://www.amazon.com/Paradox-Choice-Why-More-Less/dp/0060005688). If you haven’t read it yet, take a few minutes to order it now. It’s turning out to be a really important book for me, on the one hand for understanding a few things about how the world we live in functions and affects us in the areas of freedom, responsibility, and of course, choice — and on the other hand for understanding myself.

I suffer a lot from having too many options to choose from: I’m really bad at being a “satisficer” in certain areas (somebody who will be satisfied with an option as long as it meets certain criteria) as opposed to being a “maximizer” — wanting the *best* option available. In particular in my professional life and my intellectual pursuits, each choice is agonizing, because my brain wirings keep me very focused on everything I’m possibly missing out upon each time I pick a particular option over others. I do my best to tone this tendency down, of course, but it’s there.

There’s a lot I could comment upon in relation to this book and all it is helping me understand (it delves deep into the mechanisms of choice, and that’s fascinating), but suffice to say right now that it’s colouring a lot of my thinking in general these days.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is conferences. Obviously, as a [conference organizer](http://going-far.com/) ([Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/) early bird price ends soon, by the way!), it’s on my mind, but I’ve also been attending quite a few conferences recently and reflecting of how my experience of these events has evolved (due to [“burn-out”](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/06/too-many-people/), increased [network and public profile](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/11/from-lift06-to-lift08/), and maybe other factors).

For online people like me, conferences are an occasion to see their usually scattered network of relations (friends or business contacts) coalesce in one single geographical location over the space of a few days. It can be very exciting, especially when you get to meet many of these people offline for the first time, but it can also be overwhelming. During my first conferences, I also got to know a lot of new people. People I wasn’t interactive with online. People who “grew” (ew) my network. People I liked and decided I wanted to stay in touch with. People who were interesting business contacts.

As conferences went by, I would find myself in a crowd of more and more people I already knew and appreciated and wanted to spend time with. I think [FOWA](http://futureofwebapps.com/) last November was a breaking point for me — I realized that it was impossible for me to catch up with all “my people” there in the space of two short days. It was quite distressing to realize this, actually.

A few weeks after that, I was in Berlin for [Web2.0Expo](http://climbtothestars.org/tags/web2expo/). A bit burnt, I took things way more lightly. Attended a few sessions. Didn’t even show up on certain mornings. Hung out with people I met there. Didn’t try to blog all the sessions I attended. It went much better.

Conferences are hard. There is a lot of intellectual stimulation (sessions and conversations), and a lot of social stimulation too. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I already feel life is simply too full of interesting things and people. In my everyday life, I struggle with the feeling that there is “too much out there” for me to “deal” or “cope” with — and a conference just concentrates this feeling over 2-3 days. Lots of fascinating (hopefully) sessions to attend. Great corridor conversations. Old friends to catch up with. New friends to make. Business contacts to touch base with. Dinners, lunches and parties. Take photos, blog, video the sessions or interview fellow attendees. To do all that well, you’d need to be superhuman.

I had two “different” conference experiences during these last six months, and they were LeWeb4 and LIFT08. Both times, I attended the conference with a rather clear [business objective](http://going-solo.net). It was tiring, but less overwhelming, because I’d decided in advance what I was in for. LeWeb4 (LeWeb3 actually, 2nd edition — don’t ask me why) actually turned out better than LIFT08 for me, because I simply didn’t attend any sessions (aside from half of [JP](http://confusedofcalcutta.com/)’s). At LIFT08, I had a press pass, so I did feel pressure to live-blog — and also, it’s my “home conference”, and I really like their programme. I was also [giving a speech](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/07/lift08-my-going-solo-open-stage-speech/), so, although this conference experience “went well”, it was [overwhelming](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/11/my-lift08-recap/).

So, what am I learning about conferences? They’re “too much”. So, you have to go to them knowing you’ll miss out (which brings us back to what The Paradox of Choice is about). The more connected you are, the more socially unmanageable it’s going to be. People you won’t see. Not saying goodbye. Not spending as much time as you wanted with certain people, but in exchange spending more time with others. So, I’ve come to accept that. I don’t know who I’m going to be able to catch up with. I know I won’t be able to catch up with everyone. I do my best not to plan — and if there is a small number of people (1, 2, 3) that I really want to see, I make plans with them, and that’s it.

The sessions are also “too much”. You can’t sit in sessions for the whole day, take notes, blog about them (or whatever you do) and then do the same thing the next day. Well, you can, but chances are your brain will fry at some point. I know that I can’t do it for two days in a row. At [SXSW](http://2008.sxsw.com/interactive/), I decided at one point to officially give up on attending sessions. I felt bad, because there were lots of them which sounded interesting, and lots of people I wanted to hear, but I also felt relieved because all of a sudden the pressure of making choices had been removed. If I happened to be hanging out with people who went to a panel, or if I stumbled into one — well, good. But I wasn’t going to make decisions about them other than on the spur of the moment. That worked out pretty well.

I did the same for the parties. Too much choice => I refuse to agonize on decisions before the last moment. All open. Go with the flow.

So, bottom-line: very little planning, lots of improvisation, and setting low expectations about doing precise stuff or hanging out with precise people.

To change the subject a little, I noticed at LIFT08 how at one point, there seems to be a physiological limit to taking in new people (certainly some relation to the [Dunbar number](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar’s_number) department). At LIFT08, I was just so socialed out (or over-socialized), between running around promoting Going Solo and being the object of some attention after my speech ([watch video](http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8270350768335569204)), that I realized at some point that I was doing horrible things like:

– trying to hand out moo cards twice to people I actually already knew (in this case, it was [Robert](http://scobleizer.com/)) in the space of a few minutes
– asking people for their name 3 times in a row
– forgetting I’d talked to people, even when they took the trouble to remind me what we had talked about a few hours before
– and of course, totally not recognizing anybody I’d been introduced to recently or at a previous conference

In this kind of situation, you can do two things. “Fake it”, as in “oh, hi! how’s business, blah blah blah” and hope that the person will drop enough info to help you out, or just fake it till the end. To be honest, I hate the idea of doing that, and I can’t bring myself to do it (plus, I’m sure I’d be quite bad at it). So, I prefer the second option, which is being honest. I apologize for not recognizing people (mention that I’m [hopeless with faces](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/badges-at-conferences/) — people who know me can attest), explain that I’m over-socialized and have simply been meeting and interacting with too many people. In my experience, this approach works out fine.

There’s also a lot to be said about “micro-fame” — the first couple of conferences I went to, the number of people I “didn’t really know” who were interested in talking to me (as in “walked up to me to introduce themselves”) was close to zero. Today, people show up out of nowhere, know me, want to speak to me. Friends want to introduce me to people they know (which is good, by the way!) My first conferences involved a lot of just meeting a nice person or two, and hanging out with them for the whole conference. This is more difficult today (except maybe at small conferences like BlogTalk) because I just know too many people (or too many people know me).

There also seems to be a subculture of highly-travelled, highly-conferenced people I’m suddenly finding myself part of — and I’m sure it would be worth taking a closer look to what’s going on here (hmm… [a conference](http://going-far.com), maybe?)

I’ll stop here, after dumping these thoughts in this not-very-organized post. It felt good to write all this down. If you have comments or thoughts, agree or disagree, experiences to share — my comments and trackbacks are yours to use.

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