The last three days, I’ve been unable to do any of the things that keep me grounded and centred. Judgement can get clouded, and things that really add nothing to the quality of my life seem to creep into the time I don’t have.
“Work from the office for the benefits of collaboration”, the powers that be plead. At the same time, as much as half the office space remains under lock and key because few people heed the ‘request’. The hour-long commute for most people is a dampener. Meeting people face to face after two years is great – for a few minutes. The struggle of finding enough time to get through work while trying to keep up with all the socials gets pretty daunting pretty quickly. The late nights started to eat into my energy levels, and consequently my mood and behaviour.
I met some amazing people for the first time. I had deep meaningful conversations. I discovered new perspectives and postures, and shared some of mine. I pushed up against the boundaries of my own thinking and choices, and felt comfortable with the guardrails I have for myself. I coordinated a jam session that truly brought people together – and even a couple of execs joined in. I caught up with friends for dinner. My finances project was sorted (mostly).
There were choices I made that I’m not comfortable with. There were some situations I did not feel included in, and will precipitate other life decisions.
If you work hard on your job, you’ll make a living. If you work hard on yourself, you’ll make a fortune.
While I’ve not made a fortune, a reasonably comfortable life for my family is certainly an accomplishment I’m happy with in the last dozen years.
None of us know when our time is up, and the end is near. I feel that isn’t isn’t a morbid thought, it’s a wonderful anchoring reminder that not a single person will make it out of this alive. What we do with my life is a matter of choice, if survival and basic necessities are guaranteed.
What would I do if I had seven more years to live? That is 2555 days from today. What difference would I have made to this world by then? What would the people whose lives I helped say at my funeral? Does it matter what they say? Or does it matter that I’ve lived my life by own measure?
Clay Christenson asked a simple question: “How will you measure your life?” I don’t know the answer yet.
I procrastinated on an important project for a few days, unable to write a short script for an animation. There were several good reasons that served as wonderful excuses, and I kept pushing the one task away as long as I could.
Until today. I got the benefit of having a grad look over my shoulder to see how I did the animation. I pretended that she asked for my help to do the animation, and it was no longer my task to do. I whipped out a text editor to write out the thrust of the topic. In less than an hour, we had the whole story carved out, voiced-over. Another hour of calibrating voice and the scenes, and we now have a short video to show and get feedback on.
Given my natural inclination to help someone else, even at my own cost, this mind trick is a useful hack to get my own projects done. Pretend I’m helping someone – future me.
More evidence of chasms between leadership speech and action today. I’m not surprised at this game of corporate politics of course, and yet every now and then, I discover a new way in which these ‘leaders’ create largesse for themselves. Large egos and large identities apparently. With elections right around the corner, the corporate PR machinery seems to wind down, and the public narratives are weaker. Three more weeks to go.
Kevin Kelly’s wrote 103 Bits Of Advice I Wish I Had Known for his 70th birthday, a generous gift to his readers. Some of them reminded me of JP Barlow’s “Principles of Adult Behaviour“. Both worthy reads.
I spent a few hours compiling the “lens of the week” ideas that the FluxCollective publishes into a presentation. Somehow the presentation has vanished. It’s a chance to redo them, and make them better than my last attempt. And a chance to practice acceptance 🙂
Four months of 2022 gone by. That’s eight fortnights. Sixteen weeks.
It’s easy to count days. Have those days counted?
It’s a thought I’m always wrestling with. Impostor syndrome kicks on the doors. Sometimes it kicks the door in.
Today, I came across a talk by Brandy Foster “The Rise of the Generalist”. Her personal story of becoming a Comp Science lecturer with a specialisation in English literature is unusual. She makes the claim that
“professional generalists find themselves in the position of convincing others that their varied experience is as valuable as that of the narrow specialist. In fact, as our economy moves towards even more automation of specialized tasks, the value of a generalist’s perspective is growing. Further, in a world of growing complexity, the advantage goes to the generalist, who may lose to a specialist’s expertise in a single domain, but wins every time when the game continues to span across many domains.”
Leadership skills are primarily about breadth, not necessarily only depth. Some technical expertise helps, I suppose, but more important than that is the ability to “join the dots” across mutliple areas and disciplines. My experiences with true “general” managers has been awe-inspiring yet rare. Like Ms Foster, I hope to see more true generalists blossom in our super-specialised world.
Anyway, I’m rambling.
The reason Ms. Foster’s talk resonated with me is because my impostor syndrome kicks in most often when someone asks me why I, a non-technologist, am in a team of smart technologists/developers. I contribute 9% of the team’s headcount. A measurable thing. What’s fascinating is nearly everyone has the same impostor syndrome about themselves: what value do I bring to this team? won’t I be found out that I’m a fraud?
What would it look like if work was not the only driving force in my life? in all our lives? What would my world look like?
For as long as I remember, taking notes – or making notes – has never been my strong point.
I distinctly recollect a trip I made when I was 8 or so with my grandparents, the first time ever I flew on an airplane. My uncle, who we were visiting, gave me a notebook and said I was to keep a record of my visit. I made a few scribbles, and the only memorable notes I made in that book was puns and poems and quotes that another relative shared with me.
I think I make slightly better notes now. But I do love writing out quotes more.
Sharing what little I know with people who reach out to me is satisfying – when I do have the time to invest with them. Today was one such day and I hope I paid forward a fraction of what I was so generously given when I started my career.
It was also a really long day. I do no like the commute, and the exhaustion made it really difficult to do anything productive on the trip home. I’ve learnt how to do basic whiteboard animation this evening so not all is lost. Writing is hard with a migraine in tow.
There are so many wonderful people I’ve gotten to meet, learn from, build a relationship with over the last few years at work. We shared a common goal in building a nation’s infrastructure, and despite the various strengths and perspectives we each came with, it has been an astounding opportunity to work with some of the best minds that I have known in my life.
There has been a steady march of people leaving, and of late the trickle has been a flood of people I respect deeply. Various reasons of course, but one common thread has been the lack of stimulating work, replaced by the politics and the bureaucracy, and a deep sense of feeling unworthy and disrespected.
What do leaders (new or old) do when they find themselves in a situation like this? Individual decisions to leave are obviously not within their control. What is? And how can they take responsibility for the things within their control and act on them? I will continue to observe and learn at close quarters.
The opportunity to learn from this situation is itself something I’m grateful for.