Change today, benefit tomorrow

How a new model creates success in the long-term

Introduction

By the early 1980s, the chaos and incompatibility that was rife in the early microcomputer market had given way to a smaller number of de facto industry standards, including the S-100 bus, CP/M, the Apple II, Microsoft BASIC in read-only memory (ROM), and the 5+1⁄4 inch floppy drive. No single firm controlled the industry, and fierce competition ensured that innovation in both hardware and software was the rule rather than the exception. Microsoft Windows and Intel processors gained ascendance and their ongoing alliance gave them market dominance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wintel

It was in the late 1980s when I was first introduced to computers and networking. First through a family computer, then through an opportunity with a semiconductor company in Silicon Valley.

That home computer… we really had no idea what we were doing. It came with very thick manuals and a very intimidating screen.

As our first personal computer for the home, we were dumbfounded. Wait, we’re supposed to give up playing outside in exchange for playing inside?

(We were already spending too much time indoors at school!)

A few years later, I was visiting my mom at her office. She pulled me aside and showed me how email worked.

Type. Send. A response magically appeared.

I was hooked.

After high school, I joined a semiconductor company in Silicon Valley while finishing my undergrad studies. Those two choices, working as a database administrator and studying telecommunications, began a wild journey with lots of learning opportunities and many challenges.

As I worked my way up at work, I become a computer systems administrator, tearing apart beige boxes to upgrade or replace parts:

  • New Pentium CPUs
  • More DRAM memory
  • SCSI hard drives

After my Certified Novell Engineer studies, I moved from computer systems to network systems, building a directory-based Novell server with an incredible 1GB of memory.

I was turning into the ‘computer guy’ for family, friends and work.

And I hated it.

I don’t want to be a computer guy

Don’t get me wrong.

I loved learning all about the technology driving the news, our business and our partnerships.

Yet, I hated the idea that my role would soon be a commodity with limited growth.

This was Silicon Valley before the dot-com bubble and bust. I remember sitting in one of my telecommunications courses, with the professor discussing stuff I was doing two or three years ago.

The ‘computer guy’ label was annoying and I felt very restricted.

I wanted more.

And I felt my computer and networking hands-on knowledge, coupled with my telecommunications education, would set me apart from others.

That change at that moment wasn’t scary.

It was the uncertainty of what came next that made for some sleepless nights.

It was the right change for what was coming.

An aside: The notion of Silicon Valley folks always thinking about the next thing is absolutely true. At least, it was back then.

However, the thinking of most native Californians was that there was nothing off-limits when it came to change. Couple that with moving around a lot and it was a recipe for making change without hesitancy–not always the greatest recipe!

Welcome to the Mac

In the late 1990s, I transitioned from being the “computer guy” to a research associate/analyst with an equities research firm, then to an investment bank. It was great; I made the change from being a “computer guy” to leveraging my computer knowledge into something more.

Yet, I was still using a PC daily for work and at home. And that urge to tweak one more thing became too difficult to ignore (especially given my ‘computer guy’ background).

Then, out of nowhere, I decided to switch to a Mac. A 2006 Macbook Pro to be exact.

It was the first Mac in a professional setting I ever encountered. (I was using an Apple device at home for a bit. However, I was convinced Macs weren’t good for the workplace.)

The change was painful.

  • How do I ‘run’ applications via the terminal?
  • Where are all the keyboard shortcuts?
  • Where’s the Start button?

Yet, 16-ish years later, I haven’t touched a PC for home or work.

And I am finally freed from thinking about tweaking the platform before focusing on any actual work.

Until my focus turned to the web.

Welcome to the web

I’ve been publishing on the web since 2007. My first domain was andersonjr.com, which I still manage. That domain, according to WHOIS, was created on 2007-03-06 and is 5,600+ days old.

Yikes.

During that time, I hosted my site on any number of platforms. Most recently, I was using the Ghost and Substack platforms for my articles and podcast.

That Ghost platform is really terrific. Easily adjustable features. New and simple-to-install themes. An active Discord community. And regular (although sometimes seemingly sporadic) platform updates.

As a publisher, this is everything you can ask for.

One day, I realized my own history was repeating itself. Moving from the PC to the web, I was spending too much time tweaking features instead of focusing on the actual output.

This created a sputtering of goal-reaching activities. A frustrating experience for me and certainly for those who have subscribed to receive updates.

Not good.

While this tweaking helps me understand today’s media, marketing and publishing worlds, I was reflecting back to my ‘computer guy’ days.

It’s important I understand these platforms to better understand my job (and to scratch a personal educational itch).

Yet, at what sacrifice?

Earlier this year, I moved over to Substack

Before making that decision, I made a list of pros and cons, with a big con being my inability to tweak settings.

(Like spacing. I’d like more vertical and horizontal spacing options. Seems this would provide a tiny bit of uniqueness between Substack publications without losing the entire “Substack” look and feel.)

(See what I mean? I’m even focused on tweaking things within an article about tweaking things!)

Yet, thinking about the near-term sacrifices to achieve longer-term goals, I felt like I would easily adjust to this.

While still early in the transition, I’ve focused more on writing, podcasting and distribution. All outputs. And

And that distribution is important. Especially with the recommendations feature, Substack and Substackers are tapping into a larger network to recommend other Substacks.

However great Substack is, I felt as if I was stuck. Whether it was design constraints or payment options or brand control, I wasn’t able to take complete control of my platform.

A few months after moving to Substack, I decided the following…

  • Move my articles to a new WordPress instance: wiljr.org
  • Keep my podcast on Substack, leveraging it’s recommendation and discovery features

The change I made 16 years ago paid off handsomely.

As the global environment continues to change, I’m confident this transition will do something similar.

The next change

Naturally, the next question is: What’s the next change?

There’s this throwaway line in a recent Another Podcast episode, Figma, unbundling and $20bn of antitrust:

You have to use the person who is not compliant with everything else that is set up for safety and security to be able to access the documents. Oh, dear.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that line in context to everything we have to get done at work. Across different departments. Different dependencies. Different expectations. Changing outcomes.

Yet, back to that idea of Californians and folks in Silicon Valley: Change is built into the culture that we build. If we see change as something “bad” in nature, we’ll end up in a very boring environment before we’re even able to recognize the stasis we’ve entered into.

If change–not just for change’s sake–is acknowledged as a positive trait, then we’re able to move forward to create lasting change.

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