Shawn Price

The blog

Calm Consistency

Everyday consistency becomes easy. Periodic consistency remains hard.

Calm Consistency

Last night my streak of mindfulness practice using Calm reached 200 consecutive days of practice. Since February 1st of this year, I have meditated at least once a day, every day. Knocking down that first month felt great as an individual achievement, but it was too early to pause and reflect. Two hundred consecutive days feels as good a time as any.

Doing something with every-day consistency becomes easy. Doing something with periodic consistency remains hard. It certainly was not easy at the beginning. Those first days and weeks were hard. I set reminders and alarms to not miss a day. But now having completed this practice every day for over half a year, it's become a natural part of my routine.

My practice is currently in the evening just before I go to bed. I hope to one day have a morning practice but right now I can't do that every day so I'm not going to try. Today my mindfulness practice is just as much a part of my evening routine as brushing my teeth.

The vast majority of my practice has been with the Calm app, listening to the Daily Calm. Each Daily Calm is about ten minutes, with the narrator beginning by describing the general breathing and thinking to do. The last two minutes of the practice are more relaxed while the narrator discusses a certain theme, and often the relationship that mindfulness has with that theme. Themes stretch from gratitude to anxiety, to stress and much more.

Reflecting on the past 200 days, I think of the tangible benefits I've noticed which I believe I can directly attribute to the practice. The first thing that comes to mind is that I often notice my reaction to things being different than what I'm used to. Where in the past I may react quickly or abrasively to some things, today I am often able to wait for a beat and process the information before reacting with more intention and less instinct.

I've also been growing more aware of my relationship with attachment and beginning to find comfort and a sense of reward with letting go of things. I've found this has helped both personally and professionally.

For example, a proud professional moment of mine was "finishing" a web application side-project a few years ago and finding paying customers for it. Having built something completely myself and successfully charging money for it gave me the confidence to call myself an entrepreneur. It didn't take me long to stop focusing on this project and move my attention elsewhere. The project never reached profitability and I found myself spending in the low double figures each month to keep it running. I kept telling myself I'd find the time to improve the product and find more customers.

Recently I came to terms with the fact that I don't want to find the time to improve the product or find more customers. I want to invest my time elsewhere. And this is okay. The app was in the product space of phone numbers. I reached out to all my customers and helped them transfer their phone numbers to their own personal Twilio account.

I then updated the marketing page to read "Here once lived..." and turned off the API application server and database. Once the phone numbers had been transferred the entire process took about 30 minutes. There was a sense of relief when I had wrapped things up.

I continue to examine other things in my life and inspect whether they are needs and wants. It turns out many of the things I thought were needs are very clearly wants. And more, I am finding many of the wants, after digging into why that want exists, aren't even wants at all.

Beyond reactive patterns and my relationship with attachment, further benefits include much-improved sleep and how I think about gratitude, suffering, joy, and living well.

And while I've found the daily practice of meditation to have many benefits, I've also found there to be a benefit from the act of consistently doing something good, every day. I've learned that if I want to add more things to my list of "things I do every day" I can. I known this bucket can't hold much, and that there are constraints regarding how each item fits. But I know it can happen.

Let's Talk

The traits and abilities unique to neuroatypical individuals make some of them superheroes.

Let's Talk

Today is Bell Let's Talk Day. Over the past decade, this event has become a powerful example of capitalism for good by bringing an incredible amount of awareness to the subject of mental health and mental illness.

The message is simple. 1 in 5 Canadians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime.

Earlier today, I reflected on this statistic while commuting. There were about 250 people on my train. So 50 of them will be affected by mental illness. While everyone looked as if they were more or less peacefully off to work, I can imagine that a non trivial number of the those surrounding me were struggling with mental illness at that moment.

The majority of Canadians will not experience mental illness. It is hard if not impossible for them to imagine the depths of the struggle that is the reality of those living with it.

It’s not easy to remember that any person you interact with during the day may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

Though I couldn’t see it, I believe there were a handful of individuals experiencing crisis on the train this morning. They may have recently been discharged from hospital and are struggling to find some sort of routine again. They may have successfully managed an illness in their youth, but an unexpected trigger may have bubbled symptoms up for the first time in decades. They could be in the midst of paranoia and are confused why they are even on the train.

But as I looked around, I also felt that I was in the presence of superheroes.

Mental illness affects everyone differently. It affects how people think and the way they perceive and feel the world around them. All too often, these ways of thinking, perception, and feeling can be debilitating and sometimes life ending.

But I know that there are those who are able to thrive, even sometimes as a result of their mental illness. They were privileged to have the support necessary that they were safe when they first experienced a mental health episode. They lived in a country of compassion which offered the resources and time for recovery. They were offered opportunities for personal and professional growth. They accepted those offers and grew beyond their own expectations. They were lucky that they weren’t harmed by the side effects of medication. They are grateful to have been able to contain the worst aspects of the illness affecting them. They know many aren’t so lucky.

There are individuals who are able to capture their unique thinking, perception, and feeling and deploy it by offering meaningful and unique impact within themselves, those around them, and their organizations.

Neurodiversity is one of the components of the larger Diversity & Inclusion conversation. It asks that people equip themselves with the tools to empathize with those experiencing distress. But it also creates an opportunity, especially for organizations, to seek and find unique and creative individuals who may create extraordinary impact through novel and creative thinking and action.

I’m thankful the talk is happening, and I’m excited about how the conversation will continue and evolve.

My 2019 Year In Review

An account of the role habits played in my personal and professional growth during 2019.

My 2019 Year In Review

Our New Year's Eve dinner party with friends has wrapped and I'm reflecting on the year that has passed.

Dinner parties we host often make me think of our table leaves stored under our bed when not in use. They are a hassle to pull out and fit into place and a hassle to put away. After our last big dinner a leaf stayed in place for a week or two.

I expect I will look back on 2019 and recall the year my personal and professional flywheel began moving with a quicker and more steady momentum.

Early in the year, I discovered my passion for the career of Engineering Management.

I've long solved problems with bits while practicing software engineering. This year I learned that enabling humans to solve problems is both more rewarding, gratifying, and challenging. This is the first real career transition for me in over a decade.

Not realizing it at the time, this period also included both an introduction to, and farewell from someone I can now recognize as a great mentor. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to share time and ideas together.

There were also challenges. While things were getting rocky at work, greater than 50% of the leadership team let me know that "I was not set up for success". A hard pill to swallow at the time, I am grateful for the lessons learned.

I left that role on my own terms in July. Over the Summer and into the Autumn I enjoyed a mini-sabbatical.

During this time I reflected on the person I am and the person I intend to become. An outcome of this reflection was the choice to stop drinking alcohol.

I have found the compounding effects of living with a clear mind have enabled me to achieve more than I could have otherwise. I enjoyed drinking alcohol and I do miss it. But I've created and strengthened habits that have more meaning to me. Without the absence of alcohol I know I could not have achieved these.

Among these habits are mindfulness, practicing empathy and presence, and nurturing relationships. I get 7 to 8 hours of sleep nearly every night. And I wake between 5:00 am and 6:00 am nearly every morning. I have been writing more, journaling, reading more, and exercising.

One of the first things I noticed was a reduction in both procrastination and of surrendering to temptation. By leveraging this and climbing a habit ladder, I've been able to strengthen the foundation of my habits while slowly increasing the ease of the climb.

I'm now about six weeks into a new role as an Engineering Manager at a startup that excites me. Over the next year, I look forward to having a professional impact unlike any other year. I am taking full responsibility and accountability for setting myself up for success. I am working with a career coach and am seeking a good match in a personal therapist. I am grateful for the privilege I have that I can afford to do so.

I enter 2020 with no goals but rather the intention to create and strengthen more long term habits. Healthy habits will result in achieving any specific goal I can set.

But if I had to set one goal for the New Year it would be more dinner parties with friends and family. As I prepared to clean up from tonight's, I surveyed our dining room and kitchen. I acknowledged the missing sense of procrastination. And before tackling the kitchen, I put away the table leaf.

Here's to a healthy and happy New Year!

The Double Opt-In Introduction

The double opt-in introduction is the compassionate way to make introductions.

The Double Opt-In Introduction

As you build your professional network it won’t be uncommon for someone you know to ask you for an introduction. A decade ago, Fred Wilson asked for the adoption of the double opt-in introduction. Today these are standard as they are compassionate way to connect people. This post describes the emails involved in the introduction dance.

Helping others expand their network contributes to compounding the value of your own. But it’s important to act with compassion toward those involved. Your colleague Bob may ask you to introduce you to your friend Alice. You don’t know if Alice has the interest or personal bandwidth to make the connection unless you ask her.

Never begin an introduction with an email cc’ing both Alice and Bob saying “Hi Alice, I’d like to introduce you to Bob”.

Instead, use a double opt-in introduction. First, send a short note to Alice.

Subject: Introduction Request

Hi Alice. I'd like to introduce you to Bob who is a [personal friend / person I've been mentoring / former colleague].

Bob would like to connect with you so he can learn more about [thing that interests Bob]. It may be valuable for you to connect as he [thing that Bob knows or does that Alice cares about].

May I have your permission to connect the two of you?

Keep the email short and concise. And don’t sell Bob short. Include the reason it would be valuable for Alice to accept the request.

If you don’t receive permission, send a short note back to Bob with regrets.

Subject: Introduction to Alice - Regrets

Hi Bob. Alice sends regrets that she is unable to make the intro.

As with invitations, regrets are the best simple and short. You need not give a reason. Bob is a compassionate and empathetic person so he doesn’t take the notice of regrets personally. He knows that people are busy and he’ll be able to find other means of solving his particular problem.

Having received permission, send an email cc’ing both Alice and Bob. I've used an introduction Trevor O recently made on my behalf to construct this template. It’s the best example of a double opt-in introduction email I’ve seen. I’m using it here with his permission.

Subject: Alice <> Bob

Hi Alice,

As mentioned, I'd like to introduce you to Bob. He and I know each other from [place you and Bob know each other from]. He's recently been [doing thing that interests Alice]. And I mentioned what you have been doing with [thing that interests Bob].


I'd like you to meet Alice. Alice has tons of experience with [thing that interests Bob]. I respect how she [thing that you respect about Alice].

I'll let you two take it from here.

- Shawn

The subject “NAME <> NAME” is the standard double opt-in introduction subject. Some people receive many introductions a week so it goes a long way to keep things consistent.

Begin by addressing the person granting the introduction. Introduce Alice to Bob with some brief info on how you know Bob and why it would be valuable for Alice to connect. Also, make it clear it’s a double opt-in introduction by stating “As mentioned …”. This lets Bob know you have already spoken to Alice.

Next, address the person who requested the introduction. In this case, introduce Bob to Alice and explain what she is doing in terms that will appeal to Bob.

Finally, sign off allowing both Alice and Bob to continue the conversation. Bob will reply to the email to follow up with Alice, removing you from the thread.

The double opt-in introduction is the compassionate way to make introductions. Using this system will grow the value of your network and your reputation.

Time Management For Managers

Take control of your calendar. Take control of your time.

Time Management For Managers

To be productive, makers such as software engineers need to spend much of their workday in a state of flow. It is expensive to get both into and out of flow so the more blocks of uninterrupted time the better. Many managers spend much of their day in meetings, yet still have work that benefits from flow. This post provides calendar management tips for managers who want to get their work done.

The events in a makers calendar are often not much more than a few meetings.

Maker's Calendar
Maker's calendar

Managers often schedule their day into hour or half-hour blocks of time.

Manager's calendar without focus time
Manager's calendar without focus time

Many managers still spend some of their time in making mode. An engineering manager may need to create an API specification along with documentation. Or create a revamped title matrix involving extensive research. Effective calendar use for managers requires inverting how makers use their calendars.

Makers plan breaks from their day-to-day work by the blocks of time in their calendar. At the beginning of a workday, any time not scheduled for a maker is time to be in a flow state.

It’s easy for new managers to use a similar practice. Even with a greater number of scheduled events, there will often be large blocks of open time. When planning their week, it’s intuitive to expect to get work done in the gaps of the calendar. The first thing a manager needs to learn about calendar management is that any open time is a target. Unscheduled and impromptu meetings will begin piling up before they know it.

At the beginning of a managers week, it’s easy to say “I have fifteen hours or making I need to do this week. I can see the gaps when I’ll get it done. No problem.” But Friday afternoon comes and they realize they only got seven solid hours of making work done. They look back at their calendar and see a few of those gaps filled in with meetings. There are other gaps, but the manager remembers they were never used for making. Something else came up that demanded attention.

A solution is to schedule in all the making time. It’s strange for makers turned managers to create a calendar event for “Work on the API”. But without planning your meeting and work time, you won’t get your work done.

Manager's calendar with focus time
Manager's calendar with focus time

Depending on your company culture, some managers may need to take this one step further. If you find your calendar is not respected by others, there’s another tool available. The “Out of office” event.

I remember the first time I started scheduling “Out of office” events for in-office work. Frustrated that I wasn’t getting the work done that both my team and I expected I do, I needed another solution. Each week I would start by having a calendar with a mix of scheduled meeting time and making time. But as the week wore on, my scheduled making time would become double booked with meetings.

The solution I found was booking my making time as an “Out of office” event. Now when someone tried to double book me, they couldn’t.

Note that in Google Calendar, you cannot book repeating “Out of office” events. The habit I created was to create my “Out of office” events first thing in the morning on the first day of the week.

A manager is always too busy, but it’s important to keep your calendar under some level of control. If you know of any useful calendar hacks, please let me know.

You've successfully subscribed to Shawn Price!