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Ian O'Byrne

The key to success is action, and the essential in action is perseverance. - Sun Yat-Sen In issue of my weekly newsletter. Subscribe at #drive


Ian O'Byrne

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. - Viktor E. Frankl In issue of my newsletter. Subscribe at #life


Ian O'Byrne

Oppositional Conversational Style

3 min read

As we engage in discussion or debate with others, we often come across the person that wants to argue just for the sake of arguing.

Gretchen Rubin identifies this as oppositional conversational style

Oppositional conversational style is a person, who in a discussion or debate disagrees with and corrects everything that you say. They may do this in a friendly or perhaps a belligerent manner. This may be face-to-face, or in online settings.

What does this look like?

This person will provide facts, alternative facts, beliefs, & suppositions all to suspend or carry on the debate. There is no desire to engage in a real debate. There is also no desire to come to a common ground through dialogue.

The individual may not listen in the debate. They frequently interrupt, monopolize, and/or hijack the conversation to present their own agenda. 

This may include attempts to force a dynamic in the discussion, or not moving on from a topic when both parties are not receptive. Alternatively, this may also include randomly and abruptly changing topics without transition or apparent reason.

There may be several reasons individuals engage in oppositional conversational style. It could be that emotions are causing them to act irrationally. They may be trying to cover up an incomplete understanding of the facts. They may simply not have the knowledge or intellectual fortitude to engage in discussion or debate.

What to do

In these instances, we often want to continue to debate and understand the individual...or make them understand our point of view. This is often a fruitless endeavor.

Keep in mind that it's not always necessary to change someone's mind. Do not get emotionally overwhelmed in the interaction. 

Realize that some issues are objective and some are subjective. Objective issues deal with concrete, or observable facts. If the other individual does not want to discuss facts, you may be arguing in vain.

Move on

When you find yourself in a discussion or debate with someone that utilizes an oppositional conversational style, the best course of action may be to end the discussion before it starts.

If you see any of the patterns identified above, it may be best for you to end the debate before it continues. 

I believe that it is much easier to be direct and honest with the individual. Ask them the following question:

Is there anything that I can say to change, or make you reconsider, your perspective? 

If they indicate that there is nothing you can say or do to make them change their mind, it is time to remove yourself from the conversation. 

Your relationship with the person should dictate your response. If it is a family member you may decide to ask them about their conversational style to better understand their logic. If it is a boss or co-worker, it might be better to accept their position and move on. If this is an acquaintance or someone that you don't really know, you should change the subject, or walk away. 


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Ian O'Byrne

Two Factor Authentication

3 min read

Many services, including (e.g., Facebook, Google, Twitter, Tumblr) let you enable two-step or two factor authentication (2FA).

This means that in addition to a password, you'll need to prove that you have access to a second trusted device. Two factor authentication prevents a third party from logging in to your accounts even if they've stolen your passwords.

In action this means that you would log in to Google. You would then be asked to enter a six digit code that is on your mobile device.

Turn on 2FA now

First, install Authy on all of your devices.

There are many apps available that will store your verifications codes. You'll need to have access to these each time you log in to a service.

I've been using Authy for several years and it (IMHO) is the easiest of the 2FA to manage. Install it on your Android, or iOS (iPad/iPhone) devices.

Follow this guide to start up a Google Authentication account with Authy.

I do not use the Chrome app and Chrome extension. This is sometimes an annoyance as I'll have to dig my phone out in class when logging in to the classroom. I also use this as a teaching moment to show my students what the process looks like.

Second, turn on 2FA for all of your accounts.

Not all of your accounts will offer 2FA. You should also note that even if a service offers 2FA, there is no standard, so their set up procedure might look a bit different across services. Some of the services will have you use Authy while others will send an SMS message to your phone with your verification code.

Follow this series of guides to turn on 2FA for all of your accounts.

Third, stay vigilant.

You should keep an eye out for other services that you use to see if they include 2FA. 2FA will also be used in concert with other systems that you have in place. This means that you'll need to integrate this into your password management system.

Keep in mind that as you add layers of privacy and security, you may also be adding some extra work for yourself. You decide what level of comfort/discomfort is appropriate for you.

It is your responsibility to pay attention to your privacy and security using these tools. No one is looking out for your best interests in using them. This includes the companies that are providing the services. 

If you bought a house, you wouldn't think twice about checking for doors and windows that lock. You might also think about curtains for the windows to give some privacy. You don't expect the builder to come make sure that it was safe and secure. That is your responsibility.

As you use these new digital spaces and tools...this is your responsibility as well.



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Ian O'Byrne

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast

2 min read

This statement comes from military and police parlance and usually indicates a focus on mobility and dexterity in operations.

Combat and conflict often center on mobility. If you move too fast, you can be outflanked. If you move too slow, you can be pinned down. The best course may be a cautious, thoughtful understanding of planned moves.

From a learning context, this statement provides insight into our focus on work process as opposed to product.

"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" indicates a focus on technique, and speed in learning new things.


As we learn new skills, we need to focus on the small, discrete skills slowly. This allows us to focus on technique and building expertise in our subconscious and long term memory. There is also a need to ensure that we do not focus on improper strategies as we learn these new skills and content.


To make this happen focus on the following stages:

CRAWL - Identify a new skill, practice, or area of content that you would like to study. Identify the theory and basic skills. What are the (3 - 5) major elements, or steps involved in this action or area? Be as granular as possible. 

WALK - Practice these 3 to 5 elements or steps in the process while considering the larger picture. Continue to practice these steps while you continue to learn, and practice the granular steps.

RUN - Work toward mastery of the skill, practice, or area of content. Continue to practice while focusing on the small, discrete skills you identified in the CRAWL stage. Expand toward automaticity with a constant focus on awareness and confidence.


An awareness of these stages can be applied at any level and for any aspect of learning. This builds a strong awareness of strategies, tactics, tools, and motivation in the practice. 


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Ian O'Byrne

Resilience and preparation for adversity

4 min read

On the sixth day of Stoic Week 2016, we are asked to consider our relationships with others and society in general. The handbook and daily prompts for the week are available here.

The reflection for this day is from Meditations, 4.49 from Marcus Aurelius:

Be like the headland, on which the waves break constantly, which still stands firm, while the foaming waters are put to rest around it. ‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ On the contrary, say, ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without getting upset, neither crushed by the present nor afraid of the future.’ 

In this piece, I believe that Marcus Aurelius is reminding us that we can be prepared for the future, while not remaining consumed by what "might" happen. 

To achieve this, I think it is helpful to focus on two things. First, I strive to keep an objective accounting of events and goals in life. Second, I work to make a decision not to suffer in dealing with these events.

An objective focus on life

First, developing an objective, as opposed to subjective description of events in our lives. This means that we strive to describe and understand events in our lives in a "neutral" fashion without adding an emotional charges to circumstances.

In Meditations, Book 6, Marcus Aurelius explains the need to examine and simplify events in our lives without injecting emotion into the anaylsis: 

When we have meat before us and such eatables we receive the impression, that this is the dead body of a fish, and this is the dead body of a bird or of a pig; and again, that this Falernian (wine) is only a little grape juice, and this purple robe some sheep's wool dyed with the blood of a shell-fish: such then are these impressions, and they reach the things themselves and penetrate them, and so we see what kind of things they are. Just in the same way ought we to act all through life, and where there are things which appear most worthy of our approbation, we ought to lay them bare and look at their worthlessness and strip them of all the words by which they are exalted. 

Epictetus explains how this over-analysis and subjective description of daily events usually leads to troubles (Enchiridion 5):

Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.

Suffering is a choice

The second thing that I focus on when thinking about the future and preparing for adversity is that the world is full of positive and negative emotions and energy. We can choose whether or not we add these values and judgements to our lives. We can also decide whether we want to suffer.

The external circumstances of the world present us with opportunities to think about, and in most cases worry about things in the past and future. These thoughts about events which may have happened, or are yet to be cause us to suffer. As always, our thoughts are up to us to control.

Marcus Aurelius indicates in Meditations, Book 11:

Anger and frustration hurt us more than the things we are annoyed about hurt us.

Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, Book 11) furthers this thinking by indicating that it is often times our viewpointor perspecitve about an issue that causes us to feel pain and suffer when we think about it. Just by believing that an event or action is "insulting" we add value judgements to the event and decide to suffer.

Make a decision to quit thinking of things as unsluting, and your anger immediately disappears.

In this we can decide whether or not to add value judgements to events in the past or future. We often cannot choose what the world throws at us, but we can make decisions about how to respond to it.


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Ian O'Byrne

Marcus Aurelius on what we can control in our own lives

2 min read

On the second day of Stoic Week 2016, we were asked to identify what is in our control. The handbook and daily prompts is available here

In my previous post, I discussed guidance from Epictetus on what we can effectively "control" in our own lives and actions.

I find it relatively easy, and a bit simplistic, to follow the gudiance from Epictetus in our daily actions. It's a good reminder that we can only control your own controllables throughout the day. 

The challenge in this is sometimes life gets in the way, and we hope to extend this locus of control. For these situations, Marcus Aurelius provides a bit of guidance, that I believe acts as a corollary to the guidance from Epictetus. 

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius presents the following:

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

In this, Marcus is indicating that in every action and situation, there is an opporunity to practice a virtue. When we have a problem, we know exactly what to work on. When we are stuck and have no idea where to start, we begin working on the obstacle in our path. 

Paired with the earlier gudiance from Epictetus, this indicates an opportunity to focus on elements that are solely within your control.

Specifically, you might ask yourself these two questions when you encounter problems, choices, or obstacles:

  • Is this solely up to me?
  • Does this keep me from being virtuous?

If the answer is no, then this is outside of your locus of control. It is nothing to you.


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Ian O'Byrne

Stoic reflections on life as a project and role models

3 min read

Thank you to friends Doug Belshaw and Eylan Ezekiel for pointing me to the events for Stoic Week 2016. This year's theme is on "stoicism and love." You can review the handbook for the week's materials here. 

The website is full of materials if you're interested in exporing stoicism and possible impacts on your life. I was most intrigued by the self-assessment they provide as you begin this journey. I'll share more on this later.

I start my day with a period of meditation, exercise, and then some reading and journaling. The events of stoic week 2016 will consist of a daily meditation and some written reflections throughout the day.

The iniitial prompt for today is the following:

From Maximus [I have learnt the importance of these things]: to be master of oneself and not carried this way and that; to be cheerful under all circumstances, including illness; a character with a harmonious blend of gentleness and dignity; readiness to tackle the task in hand without complaint; the confidence everyone had that whatever he said he meant and whatever he did was not done with bad intent; never to be astonished or panic-stricken, and never to be hurried or to hang back or be at a loss or downcast or cringing or on the other hand angry or suspicious; to be ready to help or forgive, and to be truthful; to give the impression of someone whose character is naturally upright rather than having undergone correction; the fact that no-one could have thought that Maximus looked down on him, or could have presumed to suppose that he was better than Maximus; and to have great personal charm. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.14

The intent of this prompt from the organizers of Stoic Week is to have us consider our life as an ongoing project, and the journey of ethical self-development. 

For me this is an important element of my life as I try to understand, or at least make room for the thoughts and habits that make me who I am. Meditation has helped me to quiet (at times) much of the noise of self-doubt and anxiety. By resetting each morning through meditation and reflection, I try to learn more about myself and who I would like to be.

Learning is a fundamental part of my philosophy and action. Through the aquistion of new knowledge I believe that we can understand and hopefully "change" most anything in our lives. 


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Ian O'Byrne

Goals, Strategies, Objectives, and Tactics

2 min read

Whether you're working on a grant proposal, lesson plans, or planning for a project, it is important to write a clear account of your plan of action.

This plan may break down into component parts of goals, strategies, objectives, and tactics. 

GOAL - A broad primary outcome.

STRATEGY - The approach you take to achieve a goal.

OBJECTIVE - A measurable step you take to achieve a strategy.

TACTIC - A tool you use in pursuing an objective aligned with your strategy.


Most times we will include goals and objectives in written reports or proposals...but keep the strategies and tactics for our own information. Let's look a bit more at goals and objectives.

A goal is a brief, clear statement of an outcome to be reached within a specific timeframe. A goal is a broad, general, tangible, and descriptive statement. It does not say how to do something, but rather what the results will look like. It is measurable in terms of quality and quantity. 

goal is an outcome statement that defines what you are trying to accomplish at a large scale both programmatically and organizationally. 

In comparison, an objective is specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. It is a series of objectives that must be attained to accomplish specific goals. Objectives define the actions that must be taken to reach the goal.


The SMART chart below may help you consider elements of your objectives.

S - Specific - What EXACTLY do you want to achieve?

- Measurable - How will you know when you have achieved it?

A - Attainable - Is it something that you have control over?

R - Relevant - Is it applicable to the place you are in your life right now?

T - Time-Bound - What is your deadline?


A goal is where you want to be and objectives are the steps taken to reach the goal.   


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Ian O'Byrne

Ideas without action are worthless. - Helen Keller

2 min read

In the development of new ideas, innovation and other acts of entreprenuership, our days are often filled with a glut of ideas. This includes interacting and mingling with others that bring ideas to our attention. 

In many spaces, these ideas are incredible and lead to new ideas and opportunties. Most times these ideas lead to a time suck that takes us away from our true goals and aspirations.

In my own work, I'm typically an ideas person. I come up with (possibly) too many ideas. My brain is always churning and trying to find new ways to hack the system and make it operate better.

I also try to execute on these ideas. Without execution, I think there is no value in identifying and thinking up ideas. It's all talk and blather.

My challenge is that I like to follow through on ideas as well. My reputation is important to me, and I want to be viewed as someone that thinks up ideas, innovate, executes, and follows through. I don't want to drop the ball on anything.

The challenge in this desire to follow through is that you need to identify objectives and goals on a granular scale. You also need to focus on being an ideas leader and not tied in to being a manager. Finally, there is a need to know when and how to kill things off and move on.

The first step is making sure that you allow your ideas to gel, and execute on these when they become actionable.