Agassi, the ego-less story teller

I was reading this article in The Age a few days ago, which discusses the pros and cons of Victoria Azarenka’s controversial time outs in the Australia Open. It quoted Andre Agassi in it, and his words and approach have been resonating with me since.

With regards to the discussion about the time out, he has this to say:

”You’re asking me if the crowd should believe her or not. We’ve all seen our share of disappointments from people we believe or [don’t] believe. I can’t judge somebody I don’t know,” he said.

”We’d only be speculating, and everyone has that right to speculate, but I can’t speak for sure. Take it for face value is how I would do it.”

I thought that was a fantastic comment. We all get so absorbed by the emotion of the event sometimes that we forget to step back and realise that we’re most often not in a position to really comment, or judge, the people involved. I thought it was an inspiring piece of ego-less commentary.

Then, Agassi followed on by sharing a story of how important it was that the timeout remain in the game of tennis, by retelling a time when his opponent could have died.

”I was playing David Prinosil here one time [in 2001] and he took a medical timeout on one of the hottest days that I’d played here at 7-6 after the first set,” he said. ”They [trainers] walked out on the court when it was 3-0 and they checked his heart rate and it was 180 beats a minute and he wasn’t even breathing that hard.

They took him into the locker room and stuck him on bags of ice and got an IV in him and quite possibly saved his life. I’m on the other side of the court, I wasn’t trying to kill him, but I’m thankful that somebody else was monitoring it. So medical timeouts are important.”

In about four paragraphs, and probably nothing more than five minutes worth of interview time, Agassi ceased the witch hunt against Azarenka and then followed up by providing guidance as to why the rule allowing time outs should remain, with a very visual and engaging story.

I thought this was a fantastic demonstration of leadership, without the bias of ego.

When speaking publicly, use the microphone

I was at an event a few months ago, which was being hosted in the office of a large company. It was the kind of event where multiple people would get up, come to the front, and educate the audience about what it was they were doing. It was a good event. It had all the tech required working well, including a great PA system and microphone for the presenter. There were about 100 people in the room.

One presenter got up after a break, and so wasn’t handed the microphone by be the previous person that spoke – as had happened throughout the sessions. The speaker looked at the microphone, before booming across to audience. “I’m not going to use the microphone – you can all hear me.”

I was at the front of the room, and close to the presenter. I stuck my hand up, and simply told them that I’d rather they did, so we could all easily hear. The speaker was a little taken aback, but dutifully picked up the microphone and proceeded to deliver a really good talk.

Ever since I worked at Ai-Media, I’ve learned to acknowledge that accessibility is something a lot of us take for granted. My old boss at Ai, Alex Jones, use to talk about when he was at school and how he would struggle in class when the teacher turned around and wrote on the blackboard. Alex is deaf, and so would lose his ability to lip read when the teacher stopped facing him. Since working with Alex, I’m much more aware of the different ways we can be unaccessible to others without realising – whether on stage or not.

1 in 6 Australians are hard of hearing, and in a large room with multiple people and at an event that can run for a couple of hours, people can’t hear you if you don’t use a microphone.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to use one. I’ve organised my fair share of events, and most of the time securing a microphone is expensive and adds an extra level of complexity. But when offered the choice, I now always use it.

Remembering to declutter

I read this great post from Zen Habits a couple of weeks ago and it’s continued to resonate strongly for me since. It’s about how to have zero clutter in your life. In it, Leo walks you through how to declutter things simply. It’s all obvious stuff, but has served as a constant reminder for me these past couple of weeks as I’ve gotten back into work.

My favourite thing I’ve done so far to declutter is to clear the desktop of my laptop of all the random files that find their way there over time, and change the wallpaper. Funny how simply doing that has really made a difference.

Enjoy the article.

New Blog Design And Direction

It’s been a (long) while since I have posted. Certainly the times of blogging once a day are a blip on the horizon in the rearview mirror. But, I’m feeling quite freshened in the new year and so you’ll probably hear from me a little bit more again in the coming weeks and months. To help with that, I’ve made a rather more significant change to the blog recently, with the help of the guys from Tweaky. Here’s what I’ve done.

I’ve Changed to

I work at Yammer, where we almost religiously believe in the value of a multi-tenant cloud service. You can read a little more about our product development methods here. I’ve come to realise that I’m never going to keep up with the pace of change and improvement that’s happening here on, even with also solves the mobile issue. This blog is now very easy to read on any device. Magic!

The platform here is going to continue getting better and better, and all I have to do now is make sure I pay my bill, and write content. It’s already gone through a significant improvement since I moved my old blog over about a month ago. It’s very freeing to now be able to just write, and not worry subconsciously that it’s up to me to install an update or something like that.

I used Tweaky to help me move the blog

My old blog was actually still sitting on an old server of Ross’s, which he was deprecating. With the decision to move to made, I now needed someone to help me move the old blog over to I got in touch with Tweaky and went through their process, which was awesome.

I set up the new site, and bought the appropriate bundles. I selected this theme and then posted them a couple of tweaks to move the domain over and apply a couple of my own custom trimmings to the look of the new blog. You can see a screenshot of the service here. It really is fantastic, I recommend you use them if you need to do any design or tech related stuff to your digital places.

Tweaky Screenshot

The new theme

I selected this theme with a couple of things in mind. I wanted something that was going to be very simple to navigate, which I think this is. Everything you need is in the footer and even though that can take some scrolling, it’s great on each individual post – which is really how most people navigate to this blog.

I also wanted something with an obvious archive, as that was one thing people told me needed including after the last redesign.

Finally, I wanted the ability for people to subscribe by email to remain prominent. This is where one of the tweaks came in – I asked the guys to create a hot pink call out around the subscribe box, to make that a little bit more obvious.

I really liked the simple structure of the new set up, and am already really enjoying getting back into thinking about just writing more here. Thanks for reading along! See you throughout 2013.