Sydney: My guide of things to see and do

As I write this, I’m perched happily in my arm chair in my home in Noe Valley, San Francisco. However, many people I know and love have been heading out to my previous home, Sydney, in the past month or two and it seems that more people I meet are heading there shortly, too. So I wanted to try and capture the things I want to recommend to people that head to Sydney. I won’t include the obvious things here, like the Opera House/Harbour Bridge because, well, that’s fairly obvious. Instead, I’ll share some of the things I used to love doing whilst I lived there. The walks and places to see and most importantly, the places you can get great coffee – at least, the places you used to be able to get great coffee – it’s been more than a year since I was last in Sydney! So here goes.

1) Bronte Beach.

I got married here and that about sums it all up. Bronte is a beautiful beach that is a short 1.5-2km walk from the more well known Bondi Beach. It’s got a small ocean pool that you can swim in and a terrific beach to sun yourself on should you feel so inclined. Here’s my tip. Take a bus or Uber out to the cafe/restaurant Three Blue Ducks. There, you will find one of Sydney’s best coffee’s. Place and order ‘to go’ and then, once your coffee has arrived, head down the hill towards the ocean. At some point, you’ll find a little street that offers a beautiful panarama of the Pacific Ocean and a park bench. Either take a seat and enjoy the rest of your coffee, or keep wandering on, following your nose to the beach. Once there, head to the far end of the beach towards the swimming pool. Jump in and enjoy. Once you’re done, catch the bus back into town.

Rose and Steve in Love - Beach Time Low Resolution - www.bellazanesco.com-66
Photo by Bella Zanesco

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2) Manly-Spit Bridge Walk.

This one will take most of your day, but it’s well worth it. Bring with you a light backpack, comfortable walking shoes and a water bottle. Dress in whatever is comfortable, but make sure you’re wearing something you can swim in. Start by heading to Circular Quay (where the Opera House is) and buy yourself a bus pass and a ferry pass. You’ll need the bus pass to be a Zone 1&2 ticket, I believe. You’ll use that later. For the ferry ticket, buy yourself a one-way pass to Manly. Walk through to the ferry terminal and jump aboard the next Ferry to Manly from Wharf 3.

This ferry trip is one of the jewels of Sydney. It’s public transport, but the views are spectacular. Make sure you get a seat or a space on the ferry outside. Take lots of photos. The ferry ride lasts about 30 minutes. Consider that, for many people living in Manly, this is their daily commute.

Once you arrive in Manly, walk from the ferry into to town and buy something for your lunch. Don’t eat it yet! I used to like going to the Manly Deli and getting a Mediterranean sandwich. Ask them to wrap it in glad wrap/cling film and then pack it in your bag. Buy anything else you fancy for the journey and then head off.

You’ll want to then walk back to the ferry wharf and turn to walk ‘right’ – or in the direction of Sydney city. Check out this site for a better map/directions. You follow a footpath for most of the first 2-3km, weaving in and out of suburban Manly. At some point, you get onto a bush trail. Keep walking until you hit a point where there are a lot of stairs that lead you down to the beach. It’s about 6/7km into the walk, so slightly more than half way.

This is my favourite bit. Strip down to your swimmers and dive into the ocean. It’s amazing. If you’re lucky, there’s a chap that makes smoothies on a boat that drives up and down the coastline. If he’s there, buy one. Once you’re done cooling off, eat your lunch on the beach.

To finish, you walk back up the stairs and then come out onto a beach. The beach takes you around to the Spit Bridge. Cross the bridge and then head over to the bus stop, just outside the small cafe and buildings there. The bus that arrives will take you back into town. All told, it’ll take you 5-6 hours from leaving your hotel to arriving back home.

3. Darlinghurst coffee day.

Original Image: http://singleoriginroasters.com.au/cafe/
Original Image: http://singleoriginroasters.com.au/cafe/
Original: http://www.3-lil-pigs.com/2012/09/sydney-reuben-hills.html
Original: http://www.3-lil-pigs.com/2012/09/sydney-reuben-hills.html
Original: http://www.sydneycool.com.au/2011/10/room-10-%E2%80%93-cool-coffee-hip-crowd/l
Original: http://www.sydneycool.com.au/2011/10/room-10-%E2%80%93-cool-coffee-hip-crowd/l

Depending on your love of coffee, you can spend the entire day wandering around Darlinghurst/Surry Hills/Paddington. Here are a few of my favorite cafe’s that I frequented when I lived in the area. There are bound to be new ones since I left, so follow your nose. Room 10, Single Origin and Reuben Hills are probably the highest quality of this list, but each option as it’s charm.

Finally, although not in the Darlinghurst area, I reckon Sydney’s best coffee can be found at Coffee Alchemy. It’s worth the pilgrimage to get out there to try it. It’s a religious experience. I used to take the train and walk but you could equally just Uber or drive.

4. Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair – good for runners.

If you’re a runner, you can’t miss the chance to job around the botanic gardens and around the headland known as Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. It’s hard to talk about this without a map, so you’re best bet is to search for Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair when you arrive in town and plot a run from your hotel to there, ensuring you wind your way through the botanic gardens as you do. It’s one of the most picturesque places in Sydney and gives you an awesome vantage point of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge. If you don’t normally run with your phone, you may want to so you can snap some photos.

Blogging in 2015: Mindfulness, Technology and Org Culture

Steve Hopkins:

It’s amazing to look back at the things I’d written at the start of the year and to reflect on what I have and haven’t done. I remember that, at that time, I had a flurry of passion and desire to get back into blogging and renew the act of noting and sharing my thinking. It helps me enormously to do this and to gain clarity and insight into my own thoughts and those of others.

As it happens, 2015 has not been the year that I continued blogging! I dropped off the wagon in mid-January, not having posted since. I think a mixture of work kicking up a notch and me realizing that I would prefer to prioritize spending quality time with my family were the reasons that it suffered. I remember it being quite a conscious decision back then.

I can often be bold in suggesting the things I’ll do but often not as diligent in following through. I guess that’s just me. I’m pleased to say that two of my other goals/resolutions for the year are things I’ve managed to incorporate into my life. I wake early every day now, shaken from sleep by Edith waking up and wanting to get on with her day. I also journal often. Whilst not every day, it’s been a really great practice for me in a lot of ways and one I’m proud to have made progress on.

There’s also something else here about the difference between a practice and a goal. Earlier this year, I also set a goal to run a 10km trail run each quarter of the year. At the time, I had managed to consistently go for a couple of runs a week. Importantly, I was enjoying running. I found it freeing and liberating. So, I set myself the goal of running a 10km trail run, expecting it to continue liberating me.

No sooner had I signed up, than my joy for running disappeared. For some reason, the idea of running the 10km organized run shifted my focus. Whereas previously I would run without any digital devices, I now started using Strava to track the details of my runs, to ensure I was training well. I put pressure on myself to run more; at least 3 times a week, and longer.

All told, my seemingly exciting and harmless goal crippled my nascent practice of running for freedom and enjoyment. That was a big lesson for me and something I wouldn’t have picked up on without the astute feedback and compassion shared by Melina Chan after discussing it with her. Now, when I think about the things I’m doing, I try to think about the joy of the practice and how I can enhance that rather than a goal I can try and foist my desires into.

So, onwards into the second half of 2015.

Originally posted on The Squiggly Line:

It’s 2015! This year, I’m going to look to post again regularly here on the blog. If you’re keen to do the same, or perhaps have made a resolution to ‘blog more’ in 2015, then this great Blogging 101 class being run by The Daily Post may be right up your alley. I’m going to do it and am already looking forward to it. It starts on Monday the 5th.

However, this time I’m going to do something a little different. I’d like to share today that I’m going to focus more of my writing on particular areas. I’ve even Skitch’ed up a little Venn Diagram to outline my thoughts so far.

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Last year, I thought a lot about the idea of the craftsman – a person so deeply engaged in what they’re passionate about that their work product just flows. It caused me to reflect on my ‘craft.’ Needless…

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GTD: It’s not about the technology

I was about to write a post walking through the new app that I’m using for my GTD (Getting Things Done) this year, but I paused. I paused because over the past year, as I’ve really tried to implement GTD into my life, one of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that the technology you use isn’t that important.

When we think about GTD, there are lots of shiny apps out there which are always promising to make you a more productive person. It’s obvious that it’s not the app that makes someone productive, but the person using the app! However, we often lose sight of that when thinking about becoming more productive, because it’s easy to think that a new shiny app or system will make it different to last time. Will make it better. “This time,” we say. “This time I will be more productive and stick to GTD! This time will be different.”

Last year, my biggest realisation was that GTD is just a number of lists you keep to remind youself of what you’re trying to do. That’s it. It’s that simple.

You make a commitment to yourself to check those lists often enough that your mind trusts them, enough to not remember what’s on all of them all of the time. It’s a slow process, building trust in a framework like GTD because it often feels like you take one step forward before taking two back. I found that being honest with myself and just refocusing on GTD, the framework, much more relieving than searching for yet another app to try and use. For most of last year, I used Outlook for my tasks and it’s worked terrifically well, mostly because I worked at using it terrifically well.

So, I’m trying a new app. I will probably post about it, because I like it so far. It served as yet another reminder to me that the technology we use doesn’t matter. You could equally implement GTD with a paper notebook and get the same peace of mind possible without any of the more modern technologies out there. It’s just a bunch of lists.

Diversity at events

There’s a great post that my colleague, Cindy Alvarez, shared with me earlier today which I wanted to share here. It’s written by the team at Spotify and walks through how they approached running a hackathon that was truly diverse, focusing on gender mostly in their first event. Reading the post, I’d say it’s been a terrific success.

The post reminded me a lot of the themes we would discuss and debate when running Trampoline in Melbourne in the early days. I thought I’d share a few things we picked up on when running these Unconferences, to keep the conversation going. A big hat-tip to Melina Chan and Pat Allan, who constantly had their eye on the diversity of the group we’d be forming through these actions.

The invite process matters. The Spotify article highlights this, but we used to focus on this so much it’s worth highlighting here again.

The channels where you spread the event decide the crowd that will apply. We wanted to expand outside our Facebook hacker groups. So we talked to university teachers, local communities, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends from other cities to push the event outside the usual “tech bubble”.

For us, when we ran the first and second Trampoline events back in 2009, Twitter was the main channel we used to market the event. But we also put a lot of effort into curating a list of all the people we could think of that we would LOVE to be at the event. This list ended up being a mix of friends and acquaintances that we knew had an interesting and unusual story to share and so ended up being quite diverse. We then emailed and personally reached out to many on the list to encourage them to come along.

After the first Trampoline, which we felt was a success, we had to think even more about this the second time around. We increased the number of tickets we made available to 150 and also planned staged releases to help ensure different groups got several chances to book – rather than just the folks that saw the invites go out on Twitter in the first instance. When we released the tickets, we had the first release (around 100 tickets, I think, but I’m most likely wrong here) go in about 10 minutes. After that, we kept the releases going over the next week or so to fill it all up.

I’ll be the first to say that this did add extra friction to the mix. And confusion. I’m not sure we’d approach it in the same way again if we had our chance, but generally it helped make sure that a diverse group ended up coming along, because tickets weren’t being snapped up by people who were generally able to be online, ready to register, at 9am on a weekday morning.

At the next event, Trampoline 3, we implemented a ‘gift ticket’ with registration to help combat this even more. Once you registered, you had an extra ticket that you could forward to someone else, which we encouraged people to use for someone that had never been to a Trampoline. Whilst this was a good idea and worked in some cases, we didn’t see most of the gift tickets get used – so they were eventually returned to the pool closer to the event.

For Trampoline, diversity meant more than the categories we use to define that now. Whilst gender, race, religion etc were all important form of diversity we were hoping to attract was in people’s careers and interests. By that, I mean we wanted to attract people who chose to use the productive hours of their weeks in a variety of ways. That led to some amazing sessions, from how to swim the English Channel, to juggling lessons, to 3D printer displays and barefoot running lectures. We also had a mix of technology talks, career development talks and family/parenting talks. At one event, we had an 8 year old run a session and an 80 year old! It was this diverse group of topics that led to the most interesting event. I think, in hindsight, it led to the attendees also being diverse, too.

I’d finally add that, even with all of this, the group became more homogeneous over time. As people connected at the events and got to know each other they would come back time and time again, which meant the ‘interestingness’ slowed down a little bit. Even so, the events today remain some of the more fascinating and interesting ways to learn about a whole host of topics. It’s been far too long since I managed to attend one!

Run Better Meetings: The Engagement Continuum

A little while ago, I was keen to improve a number of the meetings I was running at work and I happened upon this great video by Col Duthie. Col’s excellent at this stuff and someone I have a learnt a lot from, especially in the art of running engaging (as he would say) generative meetings. It’s a short video but it’s really informed a lot of my recent thinking about ensuring I’m in the right ‘mode’ depending on the kinds of feedback and consultation I’m looking to lead.

Being clear and deliberate about the mode you’re in helps both yourself and the people around you interact with more honesty and clarity. It can really help you to clarify what you’re looking for from the meetings you either run or the meetings you participate in. And we all need a little more clarity in our lives. Thanks again for this video, Col.

**If you’re looking for help in leading a meeting or a workshop, Col has some terrific services in this area. See http://colduthie.com/services-new/

Revisting Xiaomi’s strategy and culture

Last week, I posted about a great example of cultural effecting strategy by linking to the latest Stratechery post by Ben Thompson. Late last week, Ben and James sat down and recorded the latest Exponent podcast where they discussed the ideas in the post in much more detail, including many cultural observations that Ben shares.

It’s a great listen and worth your hour. You can find it here: http://exponent.fm/episode-030-xiaomi/ 

Washing dishes

My first job was as a dish washer, affectionately known as a dish pig, where I would spend my hours tucked away out the back of a grimy Pizza Hut restaurant through my teenage years. It was great fun. Today’s post occurred to me when I was finishing up the night, cleaning up the dishes from our earlier meal. It’s hardly revolutionary.

It occurred to me that I still tackle doing the dishes in the same way I learnt to back then, when I would need to wash hundreds of plates an hour. Washing dishes at pace required that you sort and separate them into like piles. Plates were always the easiest, so they go together. Then cups. Then ‘others.’ Finally, the cutlery. It’s funny I still do this now.

It’s always curious when you catch yourself playing out the habits of days long past and can trace their roots back to inception. What skills do you still unconsciously carry out from long ago?

As for me…back to the dishes.

Blisters lead to purpose

Simon Terry and I shared a conversation on CoTap recently about my last post (Bliss vs Blisters) and shared his own post that he’d written about a year ago. Like everything Simon writes, it’s terrific. Here’s my favorite bit. Enjoy your weekend, wherever you are in the world.

More than ten years ago I was doodling on a pad trying to find a focus to my diverse career history. I decided to draw a network diagram of my personal and work interests, the work that I enjoyed most and always chose to repeat. I drew lines where there were connections between these activities and interests. I began to build a map of my past life experience.

Bliss vs Blisters

How do you follow your passion in your life? Through your career, your activities or something else? I’ve been thinking a lot about that these last six months or so and I think I have a few interesting ideas to share which were not things I’d originally considered. Before I get going, though, credit for the title of this post must go to Julian Waters-Lynch, who I shared a few conversations with on this topic when I was thinking through it a lot.

In Wrzesniewski’s research, the happiest, most passionate employees are not those who followed their passion into a position, but instead those who have been around long enough to become good at what they do.

This book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You:Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, really uncovered a particular bias I had adopted. It’s commonplace for someone of my generation to have this deeply held belief that we need to find out true calling in life – our passion – to be truly happy. Working, or doing anything for that matter, that isn’t in alignment with this ideal causes us to induce stress on ourselves that leads us to thinking we would be happier if only we were following our passion. This book looks and that and suggests that, in fact, those that are happiest in their careers are those that have worked at something for a great deal of their life. What they started in may not have been their passion in the beginning, but it has become something they’re passionate about over time.

In other words, working right trumps finding the right work

This really resonates with me, and I’ll tell you why. Because it primarly gave me permission to stop worrying about what my passion was. The corollary to believing that you should be following your passion is that you have to KNOW what your passion is. And that, at best, is a myth. Figuring that out is pretty close to impossible. The world is just too dynamic to really come to this easily. I tweeted this recently, from Nick Crocker’s great post about his system for better living.

It served as something quite empowering to me that what I should really be focused on was not figuring out my core passion in life; but instead focusing on the skills and things I’m doing right now and understanding how I can be doing them much better. Because within that I will probably find something I’m truly passionate about.

In the end, I still believe understanding what you’re passionate about is very important to continue attempting to understand. But more important is to continue developing the skills you have and the networks within which you practice them. You get the opportunity to do that, for the most part, every day when you begin spending time working. When you pair this with the approach outlined in the other book I wrote about recently, The Alliance, you’re left with a related number of powerful ideas which I’ve really been thankful for so far these last few months.

Message me and let me know what you think.