Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Can't afford a standing desk? Build your own for under $22

Lately, I hear about standing desks all the time - from podcasts, random conversations, and so forth. Recently, I started using one at work (we have a bunch of the ones from Varidesk at our office), and I love having the ability to stand up while working, particularly on conference calls.

If a standing desk sounds interesting to you, but you don't want to break the bank, here is a great option: build it yourself!

I got a tip about this from another person located in Portland, who kindly sent me a link to this infographic. Enjoy! If you decide to do this, let us know how you like the results.

Tips When Volunteering Abroad

The adventure of a lifetime might be closer than you think. With volunteer opportunities available across the globe you can volunteer on orchards in New Zealand, guest houses in Iceland and farms in Patagonia. 

I've done several short-term volunteer projects, such as helping out at schools and non-profits in developing countries, and they are very rewarding. Lately, though, I've been taking to a number of people who are looking at longer-term projects - that sounds pretty intriguing.

If you're considering volunteering abroad, here are some tips on how you can make sure you are prepared for whatever may come your way while helping others in a distant land.

Tip 1: Be Aware of All the Costs of Your Program

There are many “free” volunteer opportunities, but what this typically means is that it doesn't cost you an enrollment fee in order to volunteer. While some “free” opportunities will provide room, and some go as far as board, don't be surprised if you are required to pay for your own accommodations, food, and even transportation.

Work exchanges are similar to volunteer work, but you typically work for a company and are rewarded room and board for your work. This is the model of the popular WWOOF program which operates all over the globe. Remember, the amount you work in exchange for room and board depends on the host you set yourself up with.

Tip 2: Use Trusted Resources to Find Opportunities

Sites like,, and are all wonderful resources for you to find your international volunteer opportunity. lets you brows the globe for all the wwoofing opportunities in the world. have free webinars which you can watch on a variety of subjects which concern the process of volunteering abroad, as well as live sessions. has volunteer grants and scholarships you can apply for, as well as tips on crowd funding campaign. Help Exchange has many work exchange opportunities in places where WWOOF hasn't taken hold.

Tip 3: Invest in the Right Tech to Stay Connected to Loved Ones

When you volunteer abroad you might find yourself in a city, small town, or extremely remote area. Even if you get a cellphone in the country you visit, you might not have service in the town or village you find yourself in. You might consider a satellite phone. Satellite phones work anywhere in the world so you can always call for help, or get in touch with loved ones back home.

A laptop or tablet can make communications easier with loved ones as well. Even if you're in a remote area without internet, a computer or tablet can be helpful in your work with spread sheets, design tools, educational uses, and even for personal use when you're not working.

Tip 4: Make an Effort to Be a Good Ambassador

Remember, as a volunteer, you're still a representative of an organization or company. That's why you should take nice clothes. If you want the respect of the people you work for, work with, and represent, nice clothes can make you look official and in control of your situation.

If you plan to volunteer in a country you don't speak the language in, a phrasebook might come in handy. A smartphone can serve as such, but at times you may be in situations you rather not flash such an expensive item around. A phrasebook can help you get around and isn't a great loss if it gets damaged.

How Tracking Your Health and Fitness Improves Your Life

Over the years, I've gotten into the 'quantified self' world through fitness trackers. I used to go overboard with this stuff, but have settled into a zone where I use it to help motivate me, but don't obsess over it. I find that wearables and tracking help me to stay in better shape, but also help when it comes to focus at work. Seems like I'm not alone.

Over 75 percent of wearable technology users have seen improved business performance, according to a study by Salesforce. Additionally, a survey by the weight loss app Lose It! found that 60 percent of people on a weight loss program lose more weight if they pair their efforts with activity trackers.

Tracking what you do can boost your happiness and productivity by monitoring your actions. Becoming aware of your daily habits and how you do things gives you the opportunity to come up with new solutions to streamline and improve your life. Fortunately, wearable technology and monitoring apps can help the process. Here are some ways you can get started:

Hold Yourself Accountable

Regular physical activity helps release endorphins that interact with receptors in your brain to reduce pain. Endorphins are also responsible for flooding your brain with a positive feeling that's similar to morphine. However, the Center for Disease Control reports that only 49.2 percent of adults meet the physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity.

Hold yourself accountable by keeping track of your daily weight loss, health regimen and exercise routine with wearable technology and apps. Choose an option like the Moto 360 Black, so you can sync it to your smartphone and monitor your heart rate and how many steps you take each day. In addition to keeping track of your health stats, the Moto 360 offers coaching advice with spontaneous notifications throughout the day to keep you motivated to reach your fitness goals.

If you’re surprised by how little you move on a daily basis, work in a long walk on your lunch break or get up a half hour earlier for a morning jog. Next, turn your digital monitoring into an active goal to complete 10,000 steps a day and 30-minutes of active, heart-pumping exercise.

Stay Connected

Connect with your friends and family by creating a friendly competition that keeps you all on track for your health, happiness and productivity goals. Create weekly challenges to get moving with a prize in mind. PBS reports that belonging to a community gives people a sense of identity and connection to others. For your competition, set a goal to walk 12,000 steps or complete four hours of physical activity over the weekend. Use a fitness tracker like a Fitbit to see who reaches the goal first. Then, take the winner out for a healthy lunch.

Improve Performance

Wearable technology has already proven to increase productivity in the workforce. For example, Tesco grocery stores found the number of full-time employees needed to run a 40,000 square foot store dropped by 18 percent after introducing wearables. Workers could unload products and fulfill orders that were tracked and documented with a wearable device instead of relying on papers and clipboards. Wearables can help you be more productive both at work and at home. By getting your work done more efficiently, the need for you to work overtime decreases, giving you more time to be at home or to do the things you love.

Lately, my gadget habit has crept into cycling - I've got a couple of posts coming on some gear I've found to be very useful for cyclists. Stay tuned.

Book Review: Grit In Your Craw


Robert Luckadoo's book, "Grit In Your Craw" talks about "Eight Strengths You Can't Succeed Without" and it is a pretty good list:

  1. Diligence
  2. Tenacity
  3. Optimism
  4. Flexibility
  5. Discipline
  6. Resilience
  7. Confidence
  8. Purpose

Luckadoo makes the 8 topics "real" by sharing personal stories about what he's learned in each of these areas. His style is very readable, and he talks about things like his father's death when he was 12 years old and what he learned from his mother through the struggle to keep the family on track.

If you read a lot, like I do, many of the themes will sound familiar (the same is true of a lot of business-oriented books - different ways of articulating common subjects). In Luckadoo's case, I was surprised at how much his content resonated with me - his life has been filled with experiences very different from my own. For example, he was a NASCAR driver, a sports coach, and runs his own insurance agency - definitely not a stranger to trying different paths to success.

Each of the chapters does a nice job of explaining the concept through one or more entertaining stories, generally about things that Luckadoo's experienced. That makes a different to me, since it takes things out of the theoretical and gets the ideas into your head in a very visual way.

Luckadoo gives some practical advice along the way, which was very thought provoking. However, this isn't really a "how to" book - it is more of a set of stories to get you think about the things that contribute to (or detract from) your success.

This book is very well-suited for business leaders, entrepreneurs, or people who want to move to the next level with regard to their impact in business. It will help you think about - and be more deliberate about - how you lead, how you follow, and why you do what you do every day.

I'd love to see Luckadoo come out with a second edition with exercises to take readers through some deeper thinking about these 8 areas, as I think that kind of approach would be very helpful - especially for people who feel stuck in their current situation.

In any case, I enjoyed "Grit In Your Craw," and found it well worth the read.

Understand Jargon to Be a Smarter Consumer


Every community has its jargon, but when you are entering into a new world of products and services, it is important that you understand the lingo so that you don't end up purchasing something you don't want or need. Many consumers are prone to making impulse purchases without thinking. In fact, 75 percent of Americans have made impulse purchases and 16 percent said these purchases were over $500, according to a survey by Being knowledgeable about what you are dealing with makes you a smarter consumer. Here's a look at some jargon you need to know:

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing and data storage isn't just for businesses — it helps you preserve and save precious photos, videos, and other data from being lost. However, much of the terminology is new and confusing. For example, you probably want to look for a “consumer cloud” service, which includes popular services like Dropbox. If you want to save as much money as possible, advertising-based pricing models tend to be cheaper. But if the idea of having to look at ads to run your apps turns you off, don't use this type of discounted plan. Consumption-based pricing models refer to services that charge you based on the amount of data you use, rather than a subscription that has set limits and prices per month. Now that you understand some of the technical terms, decide which type of service is best for you.

Surround Sound

If you've ever been wowed by the dynamics of surround-sound systems in movie theaters or home theater stereo systems, you may want to have a system of your own installed. Understanding how surround-sound systems are labeled is essential if you want to get the right one for your home. For example, what does 5.1 surround sound refer to? Well, the five refers to the number of channels: two in the front, two in the back and one in the center. The one refers to whether or not the system has a subwoofer; a one means it does, a zero means it does not. The Dig points out that surround sound comes in a variety of set ups, such as 7.1 and 5.1.2 (which means there are two height variable stereos that add depth to the front soundfield). There are countless variations on this formula, but when you understand what the decimals stand for, you have a better chance of getting what you want and not spending more than you need to.


Biking is a popular way for people to get around in urban areas or add some exercise to the daily routine. Some biking terms can be counter intuitive, though, so make sure you understand them before you buy one. For example, clipless pedals refer to a style of pedal that actually has clips that attach to your shoes to hold your feet in place. The type of pedal with a strap is referred to as a “toe-clip,” so clipless is a reference to them not being this style of pedal. This is the sort of thing that confuses many new bikers (I know that first-hand, since I started cycling a couple of months ago), so it helps to know the jargon before you go into the store. For more of this sort of jargon, Road Bike Rider has an extensive glossary.

One other comment on jargon - don't be shy about asking what these things mean. Sure, you run the risk of some body trying to make you feel dumb, but most of the time I've found that people are willing to help you understand their jargon. For example, bike shop employees should be willing to explain the differences between a Schrader valve and a Presta valve - if they give you a hard time, find another bike shop.