Conquering Tsundoku, Acquiring Discipline & Finding Passion, Together!

Hello again fellow geeks, nerds, misfits & everyone in-between!

For those who don’t know me well, I generally self identify with the INTP personality type. At times, I go so far as calling myself xNTP, because in some social situations, I thrive off of the energy & am looking for more social interactions. This can be observed when I am at a hacker conference, running the TOOOL meetup, organizing the Central NJ Infosec meetup or talking about my interests & passions in general. (Hint: Psychology, Personality & what makes Hackers who they are fascinate me to no end — more on this in the future)

As a ”consequence” of being an INTP, there are some key attributes that we are typecast with having. For a very very rough abstract of the profile of an INTP individual, you can read this forum post, but I’ll be going in quite enough detail in separate blog posts, as there’s so much to get into.

A few key paragraphs from the above forum post are worth nothing when interacting with INTP personality types:

* …abstract in communication and utilitarian in how they implement their goals. They choose to study science, are preoccupied with technology, and work well with systems.

* They would if possible be calm, they trust reason, are hungry for achievement, seek knowledge, prize deference, and aspire to be wizards of science and technology. Intellectually, they are prone to practice strategy far more than diplomacy, tactics, and especially logistics.

* the world exists primarily to be analyzed, understood, and explained. External reality in itself is unimportant, a mere arena for checking out the usefulness of ideas.

* If knowledge can be gathered from observing someone or taking some action, then such is worthwhile

* Architects prize intelligence in themselves and in others, and seem constantly on the lookout for the technological principles … Architects limit their search to only what is relevant to the issue at hand, and thus they seem able to concentrate better than any other type.

*  If left to their own devices, INTPs will retreat into the world of books and emerge only when physical needs become imperative. Architects are, however, eventempered, compliant, and easy to live with—that is, until one of their principles is violated, in which case their adaptability ceases altogether.

The last point is key. If you have never seen this photo before, allow me to show you my book collection:

Pretty crazy, huh? Most of those books can best be described as “in progress”.  Unsurprisingly, there is a Japanese term for this called Tsundoku — although I don’t speak or know much about Japanese language or culture, I can appreciate the wisdom there is in their word choice & some of the concepts they are able to describe, that, otherwise are left as broad sweeping generalizations of a personality type.

One of the motivations I had while starting this blog was, to help people. I think, by proxy, you individuals that choose to read these posts, help me to help you 😉 — one of the goals I’m looking to do, is to review the books that I have thus far in my collection –one at a time. Clearly, this will take a lot of time, which I have plenty of.

Obviously, I won’t be able to properly read each book, but I will do my best to. Some books (such as The Practice of System & Network Administration) are not really meant to be read from cover to cover, although, you could do that. A reference book is just that, a reference. There are more books (several stacks, actually) that aren’t even pictured.

As I review these books, I’ll do my best to post some excepts that I found very useful — I’m hoping to be careful as to avoid any issues with copyright or publishers getting angry — we’ll see. This, is all to overcome this issue of having books left unread, half read, or partially read.

How does this help you, as a technology professional, you might ask? Well, if you’re certified in anything that requires you to maintain the certification (e.g. CISSP, Security+, other things) you may be required to read reviews, training & other articles that quality as credits toward your CPE — continuing professional education. This is a tally point system you have to maintain & show proof of study at the end of a certain period of time.

While doing some searches on tsundoku, I came across this fascinating post — that shares expressions & some of their meanings from different cultures out in the world. There are some interesting ones there & I can come up with descriptions to fit most of them. What about you?

One of my personal struggles has always been a lack of discipline. At least, that’s what a family member told me when I was growing up. I’ve always been conflicted about this: I’m one of the few IT people you will meet that does not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or do any sort of recreational drugs. I prefer having sharp wits about me & do not enjoy the feeling of being sluggish mentally in any capacity.

On the other hand, I have a weakness for eating food, even if I’m not hungry. I do not currently* work out (I have plans to change this). I may not always take care of several tasks & go to stops in the most efficient manner as possible when getting errands done. I may drop hobbies if I get bored, or, do not feel like I am progressing well.

Do these mean that, I lack discipline? I don’t know. But I do know I have passion. I do know, that, Americans in general suck with discipline. Perhaps there is bias with influence from many movies, but a common perception (misconception?) I have is that Asian cultures, by their upbringing have much better discipline than we do in the United States as Americans.

Obviously, this varies widely if someone is born in that country, or born in the United States. There’s also bias when you consider how things were done in the old times. I’m always curious & fascinated by Asian cultures, especially in relation to linguistics, philosophy, discipline & martial arts.

Why these things? Well, as an example, the above word (can I use logograph here? glyph?) is the Chinese word for Chi, as in Tai Chi. The meaning in a literal sense is ‘Gas’, ‘Air’ or ‘Breath’ (jokester people may misinterpret it as ‘fart’ for lulz). Figuratively, it is generally accepted to mean ‘life force’, ‘energy’ — for you nerds, midichlorians, yo. This is why you see brands out there like QiWireless — they are using their language as part of branding for a company that ”literally” defines the products they make.

Why do I care about this? Well, because I enjoy learning about the culture. I enjoy learning about the origin of a lot of martial arts, as well. A lot of them have a strong belief in Chi, or some form of it, especially in China. A related concept that comes up in this culture is the idea of balance, ala the famous yin yang symbol.
It’s a symbol that is sometimes misinterpreted or not taken as seriously as it should be. Many people get tattoos of it because it looks cool, or they like it without respecting the deep meaning behind it. There is a vibrant, rich history behind this symbol, what it stands for & what the concept of balance can be applied to.

The idea of ‘balance in all things’ can be applied to just about anything. Firearms for example: grip the weapon too strong, you may visibly shake & struggle to get precise shots — grip too weak & you will not control the weapon when you fire it, having shots go everywhere. Parenting: Too stern & you may not get the intended result, hurting a child’s feelings — too soft & you run the risk of not teaching the appropriate lesson. There are many more examples.

One of movies that ties together some of these concepts, directly & indirectly is the film The One starring Jet Li, Jason Statham & Delray Lindo. The film has some great fighting scenes featuring Baguazhang  — of which, one of the key aspects is turns & walking in circles in contrast to Xingyiquan — which is a very direct fighting style. (If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you should totally watch The Ip Man series of films. They are totally great martial art flicks)

Despite having a strong passion for martial arts, I do not study one current despite attempts from some awesome people (@SecureSamurai , @hacks4pancakes, @alfiedotwtf ) trying to help me find locations near me in styles that I would be interested in studying.  Studying a martial art, requires many things that, I partially lack, or are weak in.

To come full circle (see what I did there?), I hope that by having discipline & passion in blogging about these subjects, books & other things that I’m interested, I can help myself grow as an individual. I hope that through my writings, I can motivate you, the reader to grow personally as well 🙂

The Training Landscape – Airborne, MOOC, Self & Virtual

In this post, I’ll attempt to demystify the various training options there are out there for individuals looking to get up to speed on a given subject or material. The predominate focus will be on System Administration, Information Security & Physical Security. The organizations you acquire training from may differ as will their subject matter but the general delivery method & how you receive the information will be the same for the type of training listed.

Back in the day before the Internet was popular, if you struggled with a given product, you would need to call the people who designed or created it for training, documentation & support. If that wasn’t available, you would be limited to what resources were provided by your re-seller or, lastly, local consultants.

This form of education was usually costly as you, along with some of your organization or team would either be given training at a remote site where you’d have to be physically present (gasp!). Or, alternatively, the organization would fly specialists out to your site to provide training for your team. This is generally deemed a very dated education approach, but it is still utilized today.

Given* my limited professional experience, one of the largest companies I know that still provides services like these for IT Professionals is Global Knowledge (shorthand, GK). There are other companies that do this, but they teach to their brand (see: Microsoft, Cisco, IBM)

Personal aside on being an Instructor

This type of instruction was very similar to the teaching I used to do. I used to teach people how to use technology (learning Microsoft Office, Windows, Linux) and how to get certified in a particular technology (CompTIA, Microsoft, Linux) along with understanding how to best meet their needs.

Teaching in person is very difficult unless you’ve done it before. You have to be extremely comfortable with the material, confident in your natural speaking ability, have high analytical skills to process information, questions & responses in a quick manner & need to have a thorough understanding of psychology.

I worked toward becoming a trained technical instructor (yes, there’s a certification for this) — the certification is in two parts: a sit down exam along with a video portion. At some point in time, the video portion of exam was waived, but I missed that opportunity.

If this interests you, the certification I sat for was the Certified Technical Trainer exam (CTT+) by CompTIA. The book I used to study for the exam & help me become a better instructor is “How to Become A Successful Technical Trainer: Core Skills for Instructor Certification”

One of the key things I learned is about adult learner theory. The particular concept that I read about boiled down the fact that, if adults aren’t interested in something, they won’t want to pay attention and/or will not retain what is learned (sounds dumb, but it seems logical…) If you want to read about adult learner theories that have some backing to them, you can check out this PDF.

End Personal Aside…

With the explosion of the Internet & storage, bandwidth & network connectivity getting cheaper with time, people have realized that they do not need a physical presence to educate someone. This is where virtual learning — typically eLearning & to a larger extent, MOOC comes in.

Typically you’ll see some of these terms mixed together, although they are fairly distinct:

  • Virtual Classroom – The instructor, from the comfort of their own home or office, utilizes a camera, a headset, microphone, a slide deck they know very well & tons of motivation to teach students in a virtual setting. You may not see the students if they do not have a camera. Teaching like this can be very tough if you are not comfortable with the material. Learning this way isn’t for everyone. You may also see webinars done in this style. A popular software suite for this type of collaboration is e-lecta LIVE – very cool software. Joe McCray (@j0emccray) uses this effectively for webinars where he teaches InfoSec concepts.
  • Massive Open Online CourseYou’ve probably heard of this term by now. Popularized by Khan Academy, MOOCs are essentially courses you can sign up for at any given point in time & complete them at your own pace. There’s so much content out there in terms of MOOCs that it would take some people an entire lifetime to learn all that is out there. Absolutely fascinating things can be found if you look. Some additional resources for these: mooc.org | khan academy | EdX MOOC

    Many IT professionals find that they do not necessary have the time for traditional classroom / course materials, so they go with one of the following routes:
  • Computer Based TrainingGet your mind out of the gutter! Essentially, this type of training is a virtual version of classroom training, combined with no live instructor (e.g., the courses are recorded in advance). These courses have no real exam toward the end & are geared toward getting someone up to speed with a particular subject or concept; or to get them prepared for a certification exam. One of the most popular companies to corner the market with this type of training is CBTNuggets – I cannot say enough good things about this company. They have extremely high quality material of consistent quality, great instructors & an easy to understand format.

CBTNuggets videos are pre-recorded, typically in a WMV/MPG format, with a virtual whiteboard (essentially, a white background in PhotoShop, PaintShop or some art program) where the person draws on the board with their mouse. They will then explain a basic concept, for example, deploying a sample Group Policy. After explaining important gotchas if you will be taking a specific Microsoft exams — a demo of deploying a Group Policy is done on screen, step by step.

Another highly recommend resource that has shown up recently is PluralSight. They have high quality material, comparable to, if not better than CBTNuggets. Their material is slightly different, along with including different instructors & subject matter experts. Their site is here: PluralSight.

  • Self Learning This is by far the most popular way that IT professionals train & learn. Within reason, self learning is the best option. Utilizing servers at home, VMs, virtual private servers & doing things by hand is one of the best ways to learn. This concept is “Learning by Doing“. A future blog post will cover self learning examples, with many, many lists of things that will keep you busy covering the entire scope of Information  Technology.

Most technology professionals use a mixture of all of the above training methods. In addition, many people later in their career go back to get trained or get their degree so they can get paid more, or get promoted. A variation of much of the in-person training are bootcamps which are week-long training courses that cram your brain full of as much information that will fit, to get you to pass a certification exam.

If you enjoyed this particular post, or have suggestions for future blog posts, please don’t hesitate to let me know – I can be reached @DarkSim905 . This post is a work in progress, you may want to check back for changes over the next few days — generally after I post, I make changes over a few days until I am happy with the outcome.