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Riding compounding waves of inspiration

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Blog

4 Things you Win (and 1 you Lose) when Adopting a Dog

Max Zografos

Blessings

The first thing I used to reach for, upon waking up, was my tablet. I knew it was unhealthy but I kept doing it.

Since Satya arrived, the lure of the tablet is not that strong. I instead spend five minutes giving her the best possible wake-up experience I possibly can. Win.

The mornings are more regimented and organised. They have to be. I have to fit everything in: exercise, walk in Hyde Park, feeding Satya and starting work on time. Who has time for Facebook? Not me. Win.

I take her with me to the Google Campus, Starbucks, buses, and everywhere else. Strangers appear out of the woods and talk to me. People I'd have never met otherwise. The quality and quantity of networking we've done is priceless. Win.

Carrying a dog around serves as an anthropological study. The reactions I observe in people are out of the ordinary. The affection Satya (and I) receive is as unexpected as it is unpredictable.

Blessings. Out of the blue. Souls dispatched from a part of the Universe I had no access to before. Win.

I also get rejection

The number of times we got kicked out of shopping malls and coffee joints is greater than I'd have liked. Some folks are allergic to the idea of furry things, and don't want them “anywhere near me” (sic).

I also get complaints from neighbours when she is home alone. Being a rescue, she howls a lot.

Learn. Grow.

Satya and I are navigating uncertain times with curiosity and wonder.

It's been almost a month with her and (overall) things are beginning to clear and settle. She is more mellow now; her coat is softer; her pet peeves on a slow but steady decline.

What more could I ask for?

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Are you getting any?

Max Zografos

I just typed up my notes from "The Quantum Doctor" by Amit Goswami (you can read them here). It was during this second pass of his magnum opus (no exaggeration, you should read it now) that I discovered this little tidbit:

For the throat chakra imbalance of vital energy, to deal with frustration of expression, the psychological task is to find avenues for creativity.

Writing is brain hygiene

Writing sweeps away all the mind-stuff that loiters around in my brain. What it leaves behind is clean reality; what is.

And if I keep writing, if I keep flushing things out, then there is no dark stuffy space for the fungus of frustration to thrive.

One of the greatest ailments of humankind (too grandiose a statement I know) is frustrated and ultimately misdirected "energy". There are several avenues for that energy to manifest. The grossest and most obvious one is carnal. Sex and violence for example.

Now, I'm 35 and I've not had any mind-bogglingly great sex yet. My sex life was never marked by high levels of quantity or quality. Back in my twenties I was frustrated aplenty. I was boiling in my stew.

An interesting symptom which I couldn't explain (or bothered to explain) back then was this recurring throat pain. It wasn't your typical sore throat. The pain was not superficial; it was deep-rooted.

What my body experienced was a physical representation of something lacking. That something was creativity.

Fast forward a few years

Writing came to my (ultimate) rescue and, thank God, I've never been in that ugly place again. This doesn't mean I don't need to "release" myself. Of course I do. But my approach to such gentlemanly activities is more planned and deliberate. I've assigned a specific day of the week for it.

TMI, I know, but what I'm trying to convey is that sex has ceased to control me. It gets done, yes, but only when it's convenient. It fits in my calendar in the same way I schedule, dunno, my weekly cooking sessions.

Does my sex life sound boring?

That's because it is. I think about sex in the same way I do about food. Of course I can appreciate a good meal, but it is more of a bodily need than a pleasure or obsession.

When I feel frustrated, all I have to do is pull my iPad out, launch Editorial and unleash myself. Type anything I want and need. And if I feel misunderstood then I post it online too.

There is no better medicine than this. Try it for yourself.

Haven't watched any news this year. I'm still alive.

Max Zografos

I've been hearing folks bemoan the fear-mongering and stupidity-inducing agenda of mainstream news programs ever since I can remember.

I never quite took their message on board. Such issues were beyond my sphere of influence or concern. Besides, I couldn't think of anything else to tune-in while doing the dishes. One needs to stay informed, right?

Then I got lucky

Several seeds were planted over the years. One was by Nassim Taleb. In Black Swan he writes about the uselessness of daily news. How they are consumed with minutiae and miss the bigger picture. He advised on weekly publications instead, the Economist for example.

His approach seemed sensible but didn't quite address my need, namely for something to listen while I attend to mindless errands around the house.

Then podcasts arrived. I could now curate my producers and expose my ears to healthier stimuli, at a time of my choosing.

Which brings us to now

My favourite podcasts these days are from James Alhucher and Tim Ferriss. These guys are not exactly mainstream. There is nothing en-mass about their product. It cannot be.

"Men differ in their virtues but they are alike in their vices." ~Ayn Rand

James and Tim appeal to somewhat niche audiences. They cater to nobler and kinder aspirations. Their style is informal and generous. They don't hold back. They are prepared but not staged, successful but approachable.

And then

It came as a surprise to see James interview Tim this morning. I don't know why, but I had this feeling they didn't like each other. It turned out to be a great episode and one of James' best.

Tim for example talked about how he's always tried to surround himself with five / six people that are already successful in what he aspires to be, until he becomes them.

That is the beauty of said podcasts. Listening in to hand-on-heart discussions—which as I said, are not staged—is like hanging out with them, taking long walks and chatting about work and things.

I get a glimpse into their lives and perhaps even borrow some of their courage and conviction to do something with mine.

As opposed to, you know, listen to what Rihanna* wore (or didn't).

*Was it Rihanna or Beyoncé? Oh well . . .

Meaninglessness almost killed me

Max Zografos

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When I launched this site several years ago, I pledged to myself (and you) that my posts will be honest and true. So true that they won't be easy. I promised to risk enough to make it worthwhile.

Over the years however it all changed. I fluctuated and wavered. I focused on technology, social media and productivity, as if everything else was somehow fixed.

Don't get me wrong. I still dwell in a digital cornucopia of geekdom. I still live, breathe and sleep with my iPad. I do believe technology is our next evolutionary step. Talking about tech is very natural for me.

Alas, it's also very safe.

The true reason my posts changed over the years is because I had things to lose. Career opportunities for example. What if a potential employer were to visit? Would they dismiss me out of hand? Would my career get penalised?

As with most things, blogs are not self-contained. Fear held this blog back, and kept its author from taking some much needed leaps of faith.

I didn't call it fear of course. I preferred elegant names like. . . simplicity, minimalism. I drank the kool aid, voraciously so. I unchained myself from everything. I owned nothing. No computer, no smartphone or data plan. I sold all cameras, gizmos, yoga mats, clothes. I donated the rest.

I was left with space and time.

There is tremendous upside associated with space and time. At its basest level, the benefits arise from reduced expenditures and commitments. But as I've been discovering lately, there are significant risks too, and they should not be taken lightly.

Space turns into an abyss, in the absence of meaning.

My intention was to get.RID of everything. To dematerialize myself so I can channel my energy onto the nobler realms (I know . . . whatever. I even wrote a book about it).

What I didn't factor in was the hard part. Practice. Disciplined practice. I.e. what am I choosing to fill this extra space / time with? I can't choose to avoid it. I can't fool human nature and essence.

Here is the truth. I've been too lazy to choose. Too lazy to appreciate that there is no such thing as perfect action. Too lazy to kick myself in the rear end and commit to some honest-to-God hustle. Too lazy to appreciate that grace follows sustained and prolonged effort.

Grace is fought for. Grace is earned.

All this laziness came with frustration. Viktor E. Frankl called it Existential Vacuum. Lack of meaning, he wrote, is the reason why addiction is so prevalent in industrialized societies. Devoid of urgent things to strive for, we lose meaning. The main conclusion of his book is that meaning is a matter of life or death. I now understand why.

iPad as my sole computer - 2 weeks in

Max Zografos

It's no news to anyone that the overwhelming majority of iPad owners use their devices for content consumption, i.e. in lean-back mode, after work.

Apple is serving the “consumption” market so well, in fact, that the perception of iPad as a consumption-only device has all but crystallised in people’s minds.

But Apple's burning ambition lies elsewhere. They didn't invest so much effort on this device only to produce a trivial toy. No, Apple is not about trivial, they've never been.

What they truly aim the iPad to become, is no less than a productivity workhorse.

Are there people out there using the iPad for creation? You bet. Bentley’s newest ad was filmed on an iPhone and edited on an iPad. There are numerous prominent examples out there.

The question is not whether people are doing it (even if social proof is important too). The true question is how accessible is heavy duty computing on the iPad. How conducive is it for serious productivity? How much friction does the iPad remove (or create) for the average worker?

That is a crucial question to answer. Traditionally what prevented people from the Apple experience was the Mac’s steep price tag. The iPhone and iPad was Apple’s response here. The only remaining barrier now is professional usability. That's the only thing between Apple and billions of workers out there.

Getting productivity right on an iPad requires the unlearning of habits that've been with us since the inception of desktop computing (file systems for example).

Changing such conditioning is hard, if not impossible, for most people. Apple knows that. Steve jobs famously said that "death would eventually take care of that”. How prescient. A new generation of users is growing up on nothing but tablets. It is for this generation that the iPad’s long term vision was designed around.

I've been using an iPad mini as a sole computer for several weeks now. I have no laptop to fall back on. While it was frustrating to begin with—and still often is—this challenge pushed me to discover what it takes to use an iPad as a dedicated work machine.

Take email for example. The native iPad app offers only rudimentary formatting options and doesn't support multiple file attachments. To deal with that, when authoring long emails I now use markdown. Once I finish typing and formatting my email in a text editor iA Writer I then switch to Box, select the files I need to attach, and paste my text in the email body. It's much easier than it sounds and—what's more—you can do it on an iPhone too.

The one remaining frustration with using the iPad as my only computer is with uploading files - for example adding my CV on LinkedIn. It's next to impossible, unless the site has designed around this limitation by offering a way to upload from Box or Dropbox. LinkedIn sadly doesn't.

I have a feeling that the folks at Cupertino are working hard to plug this hole in time for iOS 8. My hope is founded on the widespread expectation that Apple will launch an iPad Pro later this year. I don't see them offering a Pro device that is unable to handle something as basic as file uploads.

Anyhow. What about you? How do you use your iDevice to get work done?