Mental Pictures

Wedding Photo

It’s been just over a month since my wife and I stepped onto the altar in Chicago, Illinois for a day that we’ll remember forever. Well, at least I hope we can remember all of the amazing details forever.

I proposed to Charlotte on February 17, 2013 amidst a slew of cacti on the top of a mountain in Golden, CO. We wanted to wait until fall so we could celebrate the cool weather, changing leaves, and great seasonal beer. Since we didn’t want to throw together a wedding in just a few months, we decided to push the event until the fall of 2014.

At that point in time, it seemed like the date would never come, but as with all eagerly anticipated events, it did indeed come. And, then it flew by.

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Yes, I Work in Customer Support

call-box-phone-box-phones-2693

I often have a hard time communicating exactly what I do on a daily basis when someone inevitably asks. It might be that they’re not familiar with WordPress.com (although that’s becoming rarer!), or they’re just not very interested in tech at all. In the beginning, there was also a bigger issue that I hated to admit. The role of customer support also just felt, oh I don’t know, a little embarrassing.

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A Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer

2014-company-animated

This week, many of us at Automattic are documenting our day to give everyone an idea of what it’s like to work for an entirely distributed company. If you’re interested in reading more you can follow the tag #a8cday at WordPress.com and on Twitter. Here’s my day as a Happiness Engineer.

Whenever I tell someone I’m a Happiness Engineer, I normally get a blank stare followed by one of two reactions:

  1. The person pretends like they know what that means and no further questions are asked.
  2. A short chuckle ensues with the follow-up question, “So, what does that mean?”

I definitely understand. Before working at Automattic, I had no real idea what a Happiness Engineer might do.

So, what does a Happiness Engineer actually do on a daily basis? The short answer: we do whatever it takes to make the user experience as great as possible at WordPress.com. For those that want more, here’s my complete schedule from October 6th, 2014 to give you an idea of what it’s like to work for a company that is 100% distributed.

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Never Lose That Feeling

Perfect Canvas

When I was interviewing for the Happiness Engineer job at Automattic (almost a year ago!), the trial lead (the full-timer conducting my interview) asked why I wanted to work in the Happiness Engineer role. With my background in personal training and a short stint in online advertising, it wasn’t the most natural fit.

In response, I kept touching on a particular “feeling” that I had had when all the pieces of my original website fell into place. At that point, I had setup my own self-hosted WordPress install and learned just enough of CSS to be dangerous. While I frequently brought down my own site and had to call in reinforcements to help bring it back up, there was this moment where it was perfect. I had the right widgets, the perfect design, and the ideal canvas for my thoughts and ideas. Best of all, I had built it.

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Majoring in the Minor

If you’ve stumbled across the blog over the past few days, you’ve seen an absolute nightmare. I’ve changed the site design more than five times over the course of the past week. I just couldn’t make up my mind on how I wanted to present myself online.

Meanwhile, I haven’t actually created a piece of original content in over a week. I’ve completely missed the point.

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Reading List – Summer 2014

bookshelf

Awhile back, I made a commitment to read more books throughout the year. Many of the books I’ve read since making that commitment have formed the basis of articles that I’ve written. They are the prime source of inspiration for many ideas that I have on my list to write about right now.

I’ve always found reading lists helpful. I gather the majority of my book suggestions from podcasts or a collection of Farnam Street, Brain Pickings, or Ryan Holiday’s email blast. I thought it would be helpful to catalog what I read over this past summer in case I’ve read anything you want to pick up. If you’ve read something that was absolutely fantastic, please also let me know on Twitter.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

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How to Make Better Decisions Based on Science

83H

This post was originally written for the Crew blog.

2+2=

Unless you’re a cyborg, you couldn’t help but think of the number “4″ when you saw the above expression. In the same way, the partial phrase “bread and” leaves you with the word “butter” on the tip of your tongue. That’s no accident.

Our brains make thousands of decisions every day. Many of them (like whether you want cream and sugar in your coffee) seem to be automatic. Others (like where you want to go for dinner) can be a bit more taxing and require mental effort.

Research has identified two seemingly separate “systems” of the brain responsible for decision-making. In order to make better decisions, we need to understand what each of these systems is responsible for and how we can shift from one to the other.

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How to Become More Creative

SONY DSC

This post was previously published on the Crew blog.

How many uses can you think of for a paperclip in three minutes?

If you’re average, you’ll probably be able to drum up 10 or perhaps 20 different uses. I came up with 11. The somewhat famous paperclip test was created in 1967 by J.P. Guilford as a measure of divergent thinking. It’s part of a group of assessments known as ‘alternative use tests’ which measure creativity.

Incomplete Figure Start

 

The above example shows a common incomplete figure exercise. This test asks users to complete the picture in each window. This is another test of divergent thinking, the more creative you are the more interesting the results tend to be (see below).

Incomplete Figure exercise

 

Creativity is often viewed as something you either have or you don’t. But that’s not entirely true, according to a study completed by Harvard, creativity is 85% a learned skill. That means we can improve. The question is how?

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