Mahmoud Abdelkader

A New Year -- a New Beginning

02 January 2013

As we say goodbye to 2012 and welcome 2013, I'd like to reflect on the opportunities ahead, but first, I want to say a few words about last year. Last year has been a tremendous blessing for me, as I've seen personal growth in both leadership and overall as a person.

On 2012

I've had to step back from my coding duties at Balanced several times during the year and it has been kind of hard to grapple with. I've empirically proven that the trade-off between running a successful company and a mediocore one is how much effort I have to put in managing my developing team and setting expectation with my co-founders versus programming. This might seem like common wisdom to many, but, to me, having lived through it -- it's actually much harder in practice.

There's always that lingering fear of not staying up-to-date with the latest practices in your field as well as recognizing that your programming contribution to something you've built from scratch starts to dwindle. It's a terrifying feeling, but, I've started to realize that most of today's software is just catching up from decades old computational theory.

What they don't teach is management. Motivating your employees, showing them that they can execute a grander vision, while fulfilling their own personal goals is a very difficult thing to do. I don't think I can recall having a good manager my entire career. In fact, when I was working at Wachovia Securities, my manager at the time pulled me aside and told me that:

Python will be bad for your career.

—Old Manager

Now that the tables have turned, I'm relying more on executive coaches, process literature, and the unsung heroes that make the magic happen behind the scenes.

I once asked Jack Dorsey about managing personal relationships with such a rigid schedule. His response wasn't anything spectacular at first:

You have to make time for what's most important. It's hard, but you have to have the discipline to do this.

—Jack Dorsey

However, reflecting subconsciously on this for a bit, I realized that personal relationships weren't really the topic here. He just meant that I have to do the hard work, or "shovel the shit" -- as we like to call it in the startup world. My mentor, Yishan Wong, has told me that if you read any "how to be successful" book, you'll just realize that there's maybe a couple of insightful pointers, but 80% of the rest of the book can be boiled down to: "shoveling the shit."

90% of life is just showing up

—Woody Allen

I'm going to try to apply it to my daily life. After an awesome health transformation in 2012, I'm in fantastic shape and all I did was show up and do the hardwork. Slowly, but steadly. I'm now less than 10% body fat and can eat half-marathons for breakfast.

Onwards to 2013

Now as to 2013, I want to start applying more rigidness to my schedule. I felt inspired by Nathan Barry's public commitment of writing 1000 words per day. I can only imagine the intense discipline required to follow through, but, I find that is something I need to work on as I juggle making and managing. I need to write and express my thoughts in an articulate manner.

Reflecting on the tough times of 2012, most issues encountered spawned from weak communication. I can't stress how important communication is for both your workplace and your personal relationships.

That's the highlight of this year -- I will want to focus more on communication and communication mediums.

Some achievable goals in the short term are:

  • Write 100 -- not 1,000, words a day
  • Learn at least 2 new vocabulary words a week

So it's the same way as going to the gym. Just publish consistently and eventually it'll become second nature. Point taken.

I'm also going to try to focus on sharing my mistakes - I find that I can open up more when I talk about getting things wrong, and it's a personal touch that many writing journals lack.

Writing

As a writing medium, I'm a die-hard emacs user and I hated using Wordpress for my writing due to its subpar editor. I've migrated my blog to use pelican and now use Emacs to write my blog posts. I'll discuss more of this migration at a later time.

On a Final Note

To conclude, I want to share my sincere note of thanks to every one of you who takes time to read what I have to say.

If you have any tips or advice to share, please do.

This entry was tagged as reflections

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