Navigating the Unknown

Difficulties often come alongside making important decisions pertaining to business, profession, and life. While some choices can be made with ease and peace of mind due to their simplistic nature, others demand more time and attention, and rightly so. Every person has twenty four hours to spend each day, which is one of the most fascinating and terrifying aspects of constantly receiving new meaningful opportunities. We can say yes to good opportunities, even great ones… until we can’t.

These more complex decisions commonly occur when people exceed their presumed capacity to put more on their plate, because the resulting consequences inevitably alter day to day life. This is one of the reasons why I place such a high value on flexibility. In our humanity, we cannot fully know, understand, or control everything that will happen over the course of any given day, week, month, or year. As such, we need to readily make room for the unknown, carefully evaluating and reevaluating how we spend our time, energy, and resources.

If you find yourself in this position in life, don’t worry; you’re doing something right! Do everything in your power to hold on to the amazing things you have managed to accomplish, while remaining open to new opportunities that will help you continue to develop and grow.

On the other hand, if you still have plenty of room on your plate, don’t be afraid to pursue new endeavors. There are people out there who NEED your gifts. We can always accomplish more today than yesterday, and we can manage more tomorrow than we managed today… until we can’t.

Competent Investing

Regardless of social or economic status, as human beings we have the ability to invest our time, energy, and resources into a wide range of opportunities. Whether we invest in people, projects, or something else, there exists a responsibility and an importance in exercising reason and assessing our own competence beforehand. Using a bit of common sense, this should go without saying, though emotions can often cause people to overlook sound logic in many circumstances.

While this may seem obvious, people should address and assess competence when investing so that they can be prepared for various outcomes in light of uncertainty. Take cryptocurrency as an example. About a year ago, cryptocurrency news stories were finally flooding the mass media. Everyday people heard stories of investors who gloated a twenty fold (or more) return on their initial investment. Without understanding much of the history of cryptocurrency or its benefits and flaws, people started investing their life savings, mortgaging homes, and other unthinkable decisions based simply on their fear of missing out. Absolute mania.

In all honesty, a case could be made that these same people backed out on their investments when the market took a rough turn. In most instances, our investments fluctuate, growing sometimes and shrinking others. The difference between investing in stocks versus cryptocurrency, however, is that cryptocurrency investing is much more volatile. An increase or decrease of ten percent in a matter of hours is fairly common, whereas with stocks, it generally would take months, even years to see a price change that significant.

The reason I write about this topic today is not to influence anyone to invest or pull their investments from cryptocurrency. Rather, I simply hope to help people sincerely think about why they choose to invest or not invest. What do we value most in life? Do our investments align with these values? If not, it begs the question of whether we are acting as good stewards our influence. On this Thanksgiving Day, we should consider what we’re truly grateful for. After we’ve done that, there’s only one thing left to do. Appreciate it.

Progress, Reflection, and Refocus

Over a year has passed since I started working with Talixa. When I look at how far the company has come, I feel a need to take a step back and reflect on the progress and positive change taking place. From the outset, I have maintained a bold confidence in Tom’s ability, both as owner and chief engineer, to consistently deliver top-notch service and capitalize on key relationships. These have helped to build a foundation upon which the company will develop and grow, though we only continue to grow after helping our clients do the same.

At the beginning of this year, I transitioned to take on a new role as business strategist for the company. While I won’t get into the specifics regarding our goals and ambitions, we quickly realized that Talixa was growing much faster than anticipated. I can’t stress enough how Tom’s hard work and dedication to the Talixa team contributed to the company’s continued success. With work pouring in, the company went from part-time to full-time, and “Team Talixa” has since tripled.

With that being said, we did suspect that businesses in our community had an unmet demand for quality software (and other tech-related) services. One of the challenges, however, has been keeping up with all of the opportunities that arise. I am personally blown away by how often I hear about good news and new projects when getting company updates from Tom. With exciting week after exciting week, the need to refocus and set the bar higher became apparent much earlier than expected. This resulted in redefining roles and goals, since along with meeting goals come new challenges for new endeavors.

A year has come and gone along with its challenges, and a new year is approaching with a new set of mountains to climb. For those of you who read these articles through the end, thanks for being a part of our journey. As you look back, refocus, and look forward, please don’t forget to think of us. After all, we’ll be thinking of you.

What’s My Why?

A few weeks ago, I read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. As I was reading, I was forced to ponder what my company’s purpose is. The simple answer is that my company exists to make money so that I can pay my bills. But that’s hardly very motivational – for me or for customers. No, I want my company to have a bigger purpose – I want my company to be transformational! What is my why? My company’s why is pretty simple – to make the world a better place. That’s a pretty lofty goal for a small software company. How can I possibly accomplish that? I can make the world a better place by accomplishing three things. First, Talixa will empower and enable customers to solve their business problems. This will enable them to better capitalize on their market which will, in turn, generate revenue and jobs. This improves the lives of people not only directly (through jobs) but also indirectly (through taxes generated for local government). Second, Talixa will work to improve the local community through creating jobs and developing tech leaders. Talixa is committed to hiring local resources and striving to develop the pool of local technology experts. We will work to support, grow, and train the next generation of technology leaders in the area. Third, Talixa is committed to improving the world through philanthropy. Talixa will work to support charitable organizations not only through financial donations, but also through serving and volunteering both locally and throughout the globe. We will encourage all those working with us to do the same.

So there you have it – the why for Talixa. Empower businesses, hire local, serve globally. If we can achieve these three things, we can have a small part in making the world a better place!

Business Ownership

I started my own business about 5 years ago just to make Android apps for the play store. It was never really intended to become a full-time thing, just a hobby. Then, over the next few years, I started being asked to develop Android software for local businesses. Working full-time while running a growing business on the side was a challenge. Then, as my business continued to grow, I realized that I could no longer do both. I had to quit my day job if I wanted my business to continue growing. Of all the things I’ve ever done, that may have been one of the scariest and most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.

Now, after running my business full-time for the past three months, I wonder what took me so long. Every single day I wake up excited for the day. I get to choose what I’m working on today, when I go to work, where I will work from, and how long my lunch break is. I have the freedom to take complete control of my life. Sure, it’s scary at times, but it’s absolutely worth it. My friends look to me with awe – as though I’ve done something special. The truth is, I haven’t – I just did what millions of other Americans have done and said goodbye to the traditional job.

Have you ever considered starting your own business? If not, what’s holding you back? In another decade, will you look back and wonder ‘what if’? For me, I know that even if my business were to ultimately fail, I will never regret the choice I made to give it a try!

The Cryptocurrency Elephant

For the last 6+ months, cryptocurrencies have been the news over and over again. Ranging from the highs of Bitcoin at the end of last year through hacking of cryptocurrencies during the last week; cryptocurrency news has been everywhere. But with all the buzz about cryptocurrencies, the elephant in the room seems to be completely ignored: the huge waste of energy.

During the last several decades, there have been growing concerns about climate change, global warming, green technologies, etc. Al Gore insisted that we lower our green house gasses (ironically while traveling around the world in a private jet creating more green house gasses in a year than many of us will in our lifetime). Car companies want us to use electric cars to lesson our usage of fossil fuels. Wind and solar farms are showing up all over the place to decrease the nation’s carbon footprint. We’re asked to heat our houses to 66 at night and cool them to 75 or 80 in the summer. Turn lights off when not in use, ride a bike to work, shut off your computer when not in use, don’t idle your car in the winter to warm it up, on and on the list goes. But that’s not enough – the environmentalists say – we need to stop using all the earth’s natural resources on cell phone components, batteries, etc. Use rechargeable batteries, recycle your cell phones, don’t throw computers in the trash because they contain hazardous parts.

Then, cryptocurrency hits the market. No longer do we care about energy consumption. Cryptocurrency is intentionally designed to use as much power as possible – increase the difficulty of a block and the power consumption goes up. Mining generates huge amounts of heat, and then air handling systems need to be installed to keep machines cool. Cryptocurrency is both directly and indirectly causing global warming! To make matters worse, miners spend huge sums of money buying special chips (whether video chips or specialized ASIC chips) which require more mining to retrieve the necessary minerals. From an environmental perspective, cryptocurrency may be one of the biggest disasters of the 21st century. Yet, nobody wants to talk about it. A few years ago, it was suggested that I get rid of my Dodge Ram truck because it used too much gas. Now, the world is on fire for crypto mining.

Let me be clear, I think blockchain is an amazing technology. The potential is mind boggling. However, if it continues to grow like it currently is, how will we handle the energy requirements? How will we reduce green house gasses? How will we achieve any goals that involve using less energy when cryptocurrency is based on wasting energy? I think this is a problem the cryptocurrency community needs to resolve. The technology is great, but I doubt the global community is willing to sell out the entire planet for a few bitcoin.

I’d really love to hear thoughts from the blockchain community on how this can be resolved!

Technology from the Arab World

As Americans, we tend to learn history from a very Eurocentric perspective. We study the ancient world, the middle ages, and then move through the history of Europe. We may briefly learn about Asia or Russia, but rarely do we dig deeper into non-European history, which is truly a shame. While our European ancestors were trudging through the Middle Ages, the Arab world was a flourishing haven of technology and science. In fact, some of their technology is still alive and well today. Three technologies in particular from the Arab world have greatly impacted modern society. While some may argue that these technologies were initiated earlier by the Greeks, they were certainly mastered by Arab scholars.

One of the most well-known technologies of the Arab world is algebra. While it may be hated by many students, algebra is without question the basis for all complex math. Without algebra, none of the technologies that exist today would have ever been created – it is truly among the most influential branches of mathematics in history.

A second technology, the astrolabe, also holds great significance. While most modern Americans are likely unfamiliar with the astrolabe, it is one of the most amazing computers of the ancient world. An astrolabe is a tool allowing the user to see a chart of the night sky. But it’s utility goes beyond that – you can use it to determine the angle to any star, the sunrise and sunset times, the current time based on star position, or for navigational purposes – among other uses. In fact, some scholars have indicated that you can use an astrolabe to solve over a thousand different problems. Today, astrolabes are usually only found in museums. But for hundreds of years, they were used for navigation, to better understand the night sky, and so much more. Without tools like the astrolabe, the age of exploration would have been far more difficult.

Cryptography serves as a third influential Arab technology. Indeed, basic cryptography has been known far back into the ancient world. The Muslims, however, took it to the next level. While Muslim scholars were copying the Koran, they were also paying attention to how many times each letter was used. This counting of letters ultimately led to cryptanalysis and even changed the course of European history.  Ever hear of Mary, Queen of the Scots? She was executed because of Arab codebreakers who were centuries ahead of European cryptographers.

While I could undoubtedly find countless other technologies from the Arab Golden Age, these technologies stand out above the rest. During a time of immense trial and despair for Europeans, Arabs were pulling world history into the next chapter through the efforts of their brightest minds! Though many will look in awe at the technology of today, I would urge others to take the time to look into the rich history of technology around the world. The technological innovations of the past often hold just as much excitement!

The Shoulders of Giants

This week saw the passing of a giant in the world of astronomy with the death of Stephen Hawking. His work has forever changed the landscape of the science realm. Throughout history, men and women of every era have driven our collective future to where it is today. As a computer programmer, who do I look to as the giant in my realm? Many people might point to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Indeed, both have made an impact – but their skill was in their ability to merge technology with their astute business sense. No, for me there is a much more important man who has had an impact on virtually everything in the technology world today. I am referring to Dennis Ritchie. For most Americans, the name couldn’t be more foreign. Yet, his impact could not possibly be more profound. Dennis Ritchie was responsible for the C programming language as well as the Unix operating system. Much like his name, his projects are unknown to most outside of technology. But just about everything in computer programming owes much to C. The C programming language is considered to have impacted C++, Java, ObjectiveC, C#, Go, JavaScript, PHP, and countless others. These languages run most computers, cell phones, and websites in existence today. His Unix operating system was the inspiration for Linux and numerous operating system variants. Today, Apple uses BSD (a Linux variant) as the core for both OS  X and iOS. Android is a Linux variant too. If I could meet any person – living or dead – Dennis Ritchie would be high on my list. As a programmer, he is an demonstration of the power one man can have to impact the world with technology. It is humbling to consider how much further I can see simply because I have the benefit of standing on the shoulders of giants like Dennis Ritchie.

 

 

 

Passion

Recently, I read an article on LinkedIn questioning the notion that good developers are those who write code outside of business hours – not for their job, but for their own interests. The article suggested that you could be a great developer and go home and pursue other endeavors – that it was unfair to expect that your best developers are writing code at home. I could not disagree more. Sure, a person can be a competent developer and only write code during business hours. But I assure you that such a developer will never be considered a “rock star” programmer. Those who are the best in their field are always those with passion – and passion is not a 9-5 job. The article tried to compare programming to carpentry. It asked if we would expect a carpenter to be engaged in woodworking at home to to be considered competent. That seems silly to me. If I’m looking for someone to create a complex piece of wooden cabinetry with hand carvings, I can assure you I’m looking for an artisan with a passion for his work – one who has honed that skill through years of hard work outside his 9-5 job. I have a good friend who is a musician – a highly skilled performer who makes everyone he plays with sound better because of the mastery of his art. Music is his passion. He didn’t get that skill working 9-5 – it’s what he loves and it shows when you hear him perform. Listen to any business leader talk and what do they all talk about? Passion. It’s passion that brings forth the best in humanity. It’s a deep love of what we do that allows us to become a rock star in our field. In every corner of life, those with passion are the ones we remember – Steve Jobs, Mother Theresa, Grandi, Tom Brady – people passionate about their work. Want to be remembered by history and admired by your peers? Be passionate about what you do and remember that passion is not a 9-5 job.

Scamming the Scammer

Day after day, I receive calls from thieves in India. For several months, they said they were with Microsoft and that my computer had a virus that they wanted to help me fix. Now, they claim to be with a credit card company wanting to lower my interest rate. What’s sad is that people fall for these tricks all the time. Often, the elderly are the most  vulnerable – not only because they tend to have a fixed income, but because they are also more easily confused and duped. Because of this, I have made it my civic duty to waste as much time as possible on the phone with the scammers. After all, the more time they waste talking to me, the less time they have to scam an elderly grandmother.

Just a few days ago, I received two calls in a single afternoon from hackers –  and I took them both for a ride. When they asked for a credit card number, I gave them one of the test credit numbers typically used by developers for application testing – just google ‘test credit card numbers’ for a list. They asked for a bank name, I said Wells Fargo. They asked for birthday, last four of SSN, and other information. I provided false – but believable – answers. Then, after providing the information, they asked me to stay on hold while they verified my data. After another minute or so, the scammer got back on the phone: “We contacted your bank and found out that you are an *********” and hung up on me. Few things are quite as fun as having a scammer call you names or swear at you because you wasted their time!