MVP and Anxiety (My Agile Life)

(This column is posted at, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

This is an odd post. In some ways it’s about psychology. In some ways it’s about my use of “Agile” and Scrum  in my life. Either way, I think you’ll find it valuable, even if you’re not reading those posts.

Imagine that you have a problem to solve, but you’re not sure how to solve it. Worse, this situation is complicated by having many options – a common problem in a wired age with so much at our fingertips. You’re paralyzed by choice and fear of the wrong choice – so what do you do and how do you get out of this?

There is a solution – and one that comes from Agile and Lean techniques. Yeah, I know, trust me on this and keep reading.

The solution is something called Minimum Viable Product or MVP. In software and general terms, it means something that delivers the minimum needed to go to market and satisfy customers and get feedback. To get an MVP you carefully look over what you have to do, pick the effective minimum for the audience, and get it done right.

In fact, an MVP may be all you need for a while. Consider how many people or companies use bare-bones web pages with nice graphics and don’t need any more. You can apply this philosophy to your life.

To use MVP in your life, from plumbing to writing, ask yourself what is the minimum you need to do well to get something complete and ready. Sit down, list your concerns or needs or whatever, pick only the ones that must be done, and do them. You’ve solved your problem, and if it’s not perfect, you can tweak it later if you need to.

(And yes, that’s over-simplified, but it’s enough to get you started.  MVPs for products get more complex.)

Here’s a few examples:

  • You want to have premade lunches for a week so you make a big pot of chili and garnish it differently each day. Next week you might cook two different meals at once, but this is done for the week so you can relax.
  • You want to get a chapter of a book to an editor, so you make sure it’s clearly readable without fiddling with it endlessly. The editor can take it the rest of the way so you’re not caught in a writer’s panic.
  • Traffic is crazy due to construction, so you find a path to work that, if not the fastest, is the least likely to be congested. For the rest of the month your commute is longer than usual, but it’s predictable.

These solutions are not perfect but they are good enough and they get you on your way. In some cases they’ll save you time from worrying more than doing.

The other benefit of MVP is that going for the MVP prevents what’s called paralysis through analysis in the business world – overthinking. MVP gets you on your way and moving forward. In turn, the fact you are at least done means you can reflect on what you did, what you need, and improve things later. Sometimes you don’t even know what you need until you’ve done something after all.

In many cases – especially in life – the MVP is all you need for a long time, maybe forever. Sure you repainted the bedroom the exact same color, you didn’t spend hours debating colors like “Thupe” and “Preamble Brown”. Yes, the report at work could look a bit better but no one cares about the cover color. MVP can often bring you back to reality as well as keep you from anxiety.

Next time you have to fix something or do something, think about the MVP. It’ll focus you on value, keep you from over-elaborating, and reduce anxiety.

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve

Creativity And Freedom

(This column is posted at,, and Steve’s Tumblr)

Creativity cannot be separated from Freedom; it is the source of it and the result of it.  Share it, encourage it, understand it.

Creativity allows people to think in new ways that both liberates and maintains liberty. The creative can dream around problems, finding new solutions when none were apparent.  The creative are harder to constrain by despots, as they have the tools to out-think oppressors.  The hopeful tyrants cannot face down dreams they know nothing about.

The despot worries in his throne room, heart racing.  Someone is out there who can find solutions, communicate in new ways, invent new treasons.  The despot fears you and doesn’t even know your name.

Creativity strengthens the people that treasure it.  Society is stronger for the news ideas the creative people bring.  The imaginative see dead ideas and infuse them with new life, resurrecting the lost things of value. Creative people can see the foundations of society and connect them to their innovations, joining past and present, the new and the renewed.

A single shining inspiration in your mind and old ideas come alive, history is connected, and you can see how ancient thoughts and new dreams come together.  Centuries and aeons link together in new strengths and old wisdom.

Creativity strengthens relations among people allowing them to support each other.  The creative are open to new relations among people because they can dream.  The creative find new connections among people, building alliances that resist tyranny.  The creative discover new ways to understand others and cooperate in ways unforeseen.  A web of connections and associations and alliances makes people all the more resilient.

Those that create are your allies, and a single conversation can create a year’s worth of dreams.  A moment’s pause lets you see everyone new.  You reach out to make new friends easy.  What tyrant doesn’t fear a web of collaborators who can out-dream them?

Creativity should be encouraged and shared among people.  To arm people with creativity is to give them tools to find meaning and protect themselves and others.  To share with other people builds connections and camaraderie, creating alliances that maintain the society. The sharing and encouragement of creativity is a measure of the strength of society.

Once someone lifted you up and said you could create.  Now you can reach out to others, teach them to use their creativity.  Each person so encouraged is an ally and a beacon.  Connection spreads from the outstretched hand.

Creativity is the result of freedom.  Because new thoughts can come to mind, the unthinkable becomes possible.  As old ideas can be seen anew, the foundations of society are renewed.  Because new ideas are encouraged, society can change and evolve.  As people encourage creativity, alliances are built.

– Steve

Curb My Enthusiasm: TF2, Overwatch, PokemonGo, and Work

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

I should be really enthused about games right now.

TF2, which I adore, has added ranking and competition along with smooth new interfaces. Games feel they’re taken a bit more seriously now, as opposed to SwagBag420 dancing around his sentry.

Overwatch, which is amazing, is here. It’s got competitive mode and casual mode and great gameplay.  It’s got a new character coming.

PokemonGo realizes many of my ideas of augmented reality and socialized gaming.  Also it’s Pokemon and it’s highly social.

Except . . . I’m not feeling that enthusiastic about any of them. This is probably a phase, but I realized it said something about me, games, and recreation.

All of these games, for lack of a better word, involve resource and people management. TF2 may require teamwork, but Overwatch’s whole rock-paper-scissors type mechanic means teamwork is overwhelmingly important. PokemonGo is social and can involve various rival gyms and factions – and management.

And lately, busy at work, where I’d probably want to game, I find myself less enthused about two beloved games and one interesting take on the franchise. I should be interested and I’m not.  Then, I realized why.

Because these games are about what I do in real life.

I manage people. I direct resources. I’m used to charging forwad, goal-driven, with a team behind me (or me behind them). Work’s been pretty busy lately, and that in turn means the games that I like to escape with . . . seem a bit to much like what I do for a living.

This is weirder to me as I love games that play to my strengths – especially resource management and planning things. I love games with people. But when I have enough of that at work . . . I don’t want it as much in my games.

Moreso, a lot of these games feel “workish” anyway. PokemonGo has things constantly happening in the real world. Game wiht a team of friends in TF2 or Overwatch and people will inevitably want to play competitive – and TF2’s casual mode still has its leveling. The games are a bit too close to my job right now, and then a bit too workish anyway.

It’s a strange thing to feel and I’m curious to what happens to my interests anyway. I feel a bit bad as I haven’t gamed with various friends online from anywhere from a month to a week and there’s a strange sense of guilt about it. But really fun things that happen to be like my job – and like work – in all the wrong ways is a new one on me.

I assume as work calms down my mind will change.  Heck I sort of want to force myself to play. But for now I feel like I peered around a corner into some demographic issues that could be explored more.

When are fun thngs too much like other things to be fun? What does tht mean for the audience?

– Steve