How to be a failure

I was at a couple of London Business Forum events today, both featuring Steve Mcdermott. The first session was on Steve’s book, which is written as a series of steps NOT to take if you want to become a complete failure. I’m a sceptic by nature, I think most people with scientific training are. Though I hope I’m not a cynic, I suspect I do tend towards this. I started out by thinking steve was a bit of twat, but I really started to warm to him. He has had decades of presenting and really, really knows how to work a crowd; straight away he got on first name terms with a couple of members of the audience, and a few laughs really breaks the ice.

Steve highlighted a handful of his 44.5 steps to being a failure then expounded on them with copious examples and anecdotes. One of the first things he mentioned, which I took exception to (a little), was claiming that to fail you should never experiment and as an example of experimenting he gave 4 members of the audience various bells, rattles, and whistles with instructions to ring/blow/shake these after a set period of time. He claimed never to have done this before. I immediately thought about IT and that (obviously) you should always, always TEST any change before it is rolled into production. I think in the Oracle world there have been (well I guess probably for most of this decade anyway) a move away from magic bullets and changing/experimenting with parameters that claim to have magical properties in terms of tuning, to a far more scientific way of fixing your problems. Everyone knows Anjo Kolk, right?

His stuff on setting goals and trying to find someone to pay you for doing something you consider a hobby did get me thinking. I currently work for Nominet and I’ve been there 6 years, which in IT is a long time to be in the same place. I guess if you don’t have any goals you really are never going to achieve them.

I thoroughly recommend reading How to be a complete failure. It is very readable, filled with some great quotes and anecdotes, and hey, if you do some things he says don’t do you might not be so much of failure after all.

In the afternoon Steve was talking about “Presentation Mastery”. I must say straight away the guy knows how to communicate with an audience. I think what is not surprising, but is a fabulous technique, is how he does it really without any slides or notes to speak of. It is most definitely NOT death by Powerpoint. I took away a few key points, perhaps fairly obvious ones, but you have to know what you are talking about and have a story to tell. Have a dress rehearsal, oh and don’t just read what is on your slide! His idea of mindmapping your talk seems like a good one to me!

All in all a good day in the big smoke and only 2 hours travelling time Oxford to London door-to-door. I’d recommend checking future LBF events.


4 thoughts on “How to be a failure

  1. Nice post, Jason. I think I’m going to see Gerry Robinson at the LBF next year.

    On the topic of goals, people talk about setting them and aligning what you do with them. I sometimes wonder if often peoples goals are too often aligned with the things that people do because they *think* it will make them happier. So they aspire to have some high status position when in fact if they would be better off having a goal such as “have a day a week to spend on my oil painting” or whatever, because that would make them happier…. Just a thought

  2. hey Chris, thanks for stopping by. You are so right! It really is all about trying to spend as much time as you can on the thing(s) that make you happiest than setting goals based on titles or possessions.

  3. I’d have to concur with Chris in terms of goals and hobbies not always being directional. I’m into console gaming, and that is utterly guilty pleasure, a place for me to relax with no goals. Then again, that was also what blogging was for me in the first place, and that has ended up, partly by accident, partly by design, being an element of my work.

  4. Graeme, thanks for posting!

    What Steve was really emphasising was really the way to being happiest is getting paid for doing something you would be doing anyway. In fact, he even asked everyone to ask themselves would they still be in the same job if your employer asked you to pay to come work? I guess with console gaming the answer for you would be yes!

    So I have a question for you, if a games company came along and said “we will pay you to play our console games” would you still do what you currently do?


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