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Hackernoon logoHow to Act Agile in Every Day Life by@DataGeneralist

How to Act Agile in Every Day Life

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@DataGeneralistSteven Finkelstein

Data analytics generalist. I publish notes, lessons, and tools for data analytics and investing.

Agile can be defined as the ability to move quickly and easily. However, for those in tech they might associate agile with something else entirely. Agile methodology is a popular framework for managing software development projects. More specifically, it is a style of project management where you develop a product in short cycles (or sprints- see above image), providing flexibility for revisions as necessary. It requires constant improvement through these iterations of testing and reflection. A finished product is better than a perfect project.

So how does agile methodology relate to life?

There is a reason that hiring managers use experience as the best barometer for success in a role. While experienced candidates might not be up-to-date on the latest trends or skills for a position, they have been applying theoretical concepts and fine-tuning their soft skills through years of practice. Dr. Albert Einstein has a famous quote:

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”
- Dr. Albert Einstein (Source)

That colleague you admire for crafting the perfect language to simplify a complex topic has been practicing it for years. Each time they participated in a discussion at work, it was essentially a sprint:

  1. Planned what to say
  2. Developed sentences
  3. Tested different responses in their mind
  4. Delivered the best response to the audience
  5. Assessed whether it was effective
  6. Repeat

Why Would You Want to Act Agile?

It sounds crazy to extrapolate a software methodology and apply it as a guiding principle for your life. But is it? Think about all of the people you admire. You probably admire them because they are a master at something. I’ll bet each one of those people planned, tested, and assessed obsessively to become a master. Let’s take a look at a few masters of their discipline.

It sounds crazy to extrapolate a software methodology and apply it as a guiding principle for your life. But is it? Think about all of the people you admire. You probably admire them because they are a master at something. I’ll bet each one of those people planned, tested, and assessed obsessively to become a master. Let’s take a look at a few masters of their discipline.

Steve Jobs is well known for giving amazing presentations about Apple’s latest products. In Becoming Steve Jobs, the authors reveal that “Steve would rehearse endlessly and fastidiously. ” (Source)

Serena Williams is arguably the greatest female athlete of all time. What did a typical Summer day look like for her training? “I think it was from like 9:00 to 11:00 and then 1:00 to 6:00.” That is 7 hours per day of training! (Source)

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians in the world. On one night, he gave some advice to a young comedian starting out on the comedy circuit.

    He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

    He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

    “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”  (Source)

    You could argue that each one of these individuals was living agile. Each one had an environment where they could iterate through the various stages of planning, testing, and assessing their skills. Steve would rehearse obsessively, Serena trained for hours upon hours, and Jerry carefully crafted his observational humor before and during thousands of sets and rehearsals.

    How can you act agile?

    In order to live agile, you need an environment where you can apply these principles to your life. One example is a career. However, the cycle of planning, testing, and getting feedback can be extremely limited at times. You do not have much control over your day-to-day objectives. The primary objective for your employer is for you to increase shareholder value. At the end of the day, that does not necessarily align with living agile and achieving your goals.

    What can you do about it?

    Find a new environment. I’m not saying you should quit your job, but you probably have time for something on the side. Take an online education course where you are given consistent feedback through grades. Find a mentor who wants to give back in their profession. Start a podcast where you can improve your public speaking skills by recording episodes on a frequent basis. The environment that I find the most promising is when you build something, whether it is your own brand, a website, or a business. In today’s world, it has never been easier or cheaper to build something. In these environments, you have more control and the option to develop and display any skills you want to master.

    With a presence online, you can plan your passion, develop it, test it via publishing content, assess via feedback you receive, and repeat. This can apply to people from any background.

    Artists can post their work on Instagram.

    Carpenters can sell their work on Etsy, OfferUp, and Ebay.

    Graphic designers can submit designs for logos on crowd sourced websites. My logo was designed by someone from the Philippines on DesignCrowd.

    Me providing feedback to the person who is designing my logo.

    Musicians can create and publish their latest album on Spotify, Apple, Soundtrack, and Youtube.

    Qualitative minds can write long form essays about topics they are passionate about and post them online. Take a look at David Perell for inspiration. He started his own website, podcast, and writing school.

    Data enthusiasts can download any number of public data sets, apply a statistical or machine learning model, and publish their code on Github.

    Accounting and financial analysts can research companies and form their own business case studies. For inspiration on business analysis, look at Patrick Oshaugnessy who interviews prominent people in investing and publishes fantastic research online.

    Business and economics majors can start investing and building a portfolio with a quick download of an app. There is no quicker feedback than your portfolio’s performance. You’ll get some skin in the game that will motivate you to learn. See my journey here.

    In every scenario, you have the ability to iterate your way to success, however you define it. All it takes is the right environment to master a skill. It’s not just being agile. It is living agile.

    ~ The Data Generalist



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