Torres del Paine

Internet is a bit limited down here, which is great because we just spent 8 days completing the O circuit in the iconic Torres del Paine National Park and not staring at our phones. More narrative later, but mostly we are thankful for amazingly good weather and very accommodating park staff. Photos and video:

Our best views of the Torres, right from the start on day 1

Our view from camp at Lago Dickson

Heading higher in the range looking down to Dickson Glacier

Morning on Paso John Gardner

Grey Glacier and “deeper” Chilean Patagonia

Our “rustic backcountry” campsites unfailingly has beverages and proper stemware. Bring your own stove.

The wind grew stronger each successive day. Watch how it lifts the water straight off Lago Nordskogg.

There was a bit off a flood on our way out. The local rangers are *very* confident in their pickup trucks.

We are super lucky to have seen almost all the good stuff before things closed down

Back in Puerto Natales, with spectacular sunsets at 930pm

Penguins

The very first thing we did in Patagonia had been on my bucket list for a long long time. Penguins in the wild.

Isla de Magadelena hosts the birthing grounds for a huge flock of Magallenic penguins, they burrow their nests into the hills to raise their chicks.

Cold, barren, windy- it’s relatively free from predators and allows the chicks to get strong enough to make a 2000mile migration up the Atlantic coast. Only downside, they are clearly quite accustomed to humans, but pretty dang cool regardless.

Winter Break

Tomorrow, we are getting on a big jet plane to Patagonia. Stayed tuned for photos and details. Me being me though, if I’m taking 5 weeks off in the winter, it’s best to start this party with a little *powder*:

‘Sweet with Hunger’

“But as he descended the hill, a sadness came upon him, and he thought in his heart: How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city. Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret? Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache. Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.”

“The Prophet”, Kahlil Gibran
Ready for Montana, but not quite ready to leave.

Sunday night we said goodbye to about 25 friends that have made Seattle feel so welcoming to us. Optimism Brewing was light and open, and large enough to avoid the national sporting event we accidentally scheduled over. In 2015, moving to Seattle felt like a sea-change in my life, in my career. Suddenly, I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else. My professional and social circles have reached a comfortable singularity. Driving around feels familiar. I came to the city to take and to learn, but instead found more ways to give than I expected.

I’m luckier still that McKinstry is willing to give me a long enough leash to keep my job. To work without the comfortable physical proximity of my team, and rely on my discipline to ensure my contributions retain their value. I refuse to disappoint.

Will miss this view, but not the commute.

It would have been easier if the friends we have made weren’t so wonderful, if the work weren’t so fulfilling, but we didn’t come here because it was easy. The time has moved too fast to fully appreciate the moments and people that have made it special. My sporadic additions to this journal indicate the unrelenting hurry that urban living has foisted upon us.

The city never felt like the place to invest, which feels painful to say in light on the friendships we’ve built. For a while I searched desperately for a sign I should stay, but it felt obviously disingenuous. Reading some Simon Sinek, he points out that it takes a lot more energy to live in a place that you don’t belong, even if you can manage to make it happen there.

Going back to Missoula wasn’t a forgone conclusion, but leaving Seattle was. The moment is more bitter than I expected, but I’m hungry for whatever sweetness is left in it.

Last look at the local legend on our way to Patagonia.

2019: Intention

My lovely step-dad once showed me a little of his spine. “If you want to change your life, just change it. If you know you need to change, don’t wait for some date or time. Just do it.” One day, I’ll get there. Grateful to have just had a really nice Christmas with him in Chicago. Somehow it’s still useful to have a blank slate to reset my intentions. 01/01 is a day worth paying attention to. Change is hard- it takes persistence and encouragement. Regular re-commitment to the goal. Regular practice, and a willingness to fail- often repeatedly.

Resolutions:

-Communicate conflict without aggression. Same passion, same rigor, same intention. Less tension, less aggression.
-Write more than I did in 2018. 12 blog posts minimum.
-Learn to knit.

Some other gentle reminders:

-More Headspace. Less Instagram.
-More climbing, less “training.”
-Less judgement, more observation.
-Less hesitation, more taking things all the way through.
-More working at my very limit. Not just “hard enough”

2018 you were amazing. Welcome 2019, I’m ready for more.


Welcome to the Workplace

Stop thinking you are going to be a “leader” when you walk in the door.

I’ve enjoyed serving as a mentor for the Washington State Opportunity Scholars program over the past few years. I drafted this post a while back, but sitting on some recent interviews and recruiting events prompted me to finish some reflections on what I’ve learned from the really awesome team of young employees I work with.

The typical narrative for emerging professionals is “be a leader!” Every university magazine touts the institution’s ability to train leaders. LinkedIn articles and business magazines buzz with advice about “entrepreneurship” and “innovation.

It makes me want to gag.

The most impressive and effective young professionals I work with encompass a description I learned on a NOLS course: “active followership”. They have found a leader whom they trust, and figured out how to support them really well. Their job hasn’t been leadership.  My department head is the leader- leading is their job, and the best way to support them is being a person that will reliably get stuff done. Sometimes it means leading other employees, but most of the time, it means getting stuff done.  This is active followership.  Here is what I see them doing (and what I enjoy learning to do better):

  • Ask great questions, and don’t be shy about it.
  • Clarify the commitments and expectations being asked of you. Be certain of what you are trying to do, before you go try to do it.
  • Be as knowledgable and focused about the outcome of your assignment as your boss is.
  • Figure out how to run tasks to ground- so that you leave nothing un-done.
  • Make your work as concise, thorough, and on message as it can possibly be.
  • Solicit the opinions of other people in your office (and outside your project team) to provide feedback and input (something your boss might not have time to do).
  • They pay attention to their peers, and actively look to learn from them. They also share what they know without hesitation.
  • They have engineering “moxie”- a willingness, and interest in doing a great job.

This is not traditional leadership. As an entry level employee- or anyone working as an individual contributor, the job is only mildly about delegation, or brainstorming, or innovating. It’s about making things happen.  As I slowly move into a position of delegating more, these lessons remain just as important to set others up for success.

 

Postscript:

A note on “moxie”- it’s the thing that really sets people apart, and deserves more explanation.
>Find something you are passionate about and think that you want to become an expert in. Realize that your time in entry level positions is the bread and butter of your experience- the foundation of your expertise. Get as gritty about it as you can- learn every part. For me in HVAC, that was drafting and installing, not just ideation and calculation. The earliest investments pay the biggest dividends- but they only pay if you stick with it for a long time. If you are trying out different things, do them as fully and deeply as you can- if they aren’t for you, the process will still benefit you when you finally find the thing you are supposed to do. I started my career in this field, but it took me the first 8 years to really feel passionate and invested in it. Had I been more intentional in thinking about the field as a craft and trade, and then more intentional about investing deeply, I would have done much better,  much more quickly.

The City

Fall has burst onto the city like a trap, summer is suddenly overshadowed by color in the trees and the crisp air of an early sunset. After an amazing wedding and lovely honeymoon, the professional responsibilities we happily shirked have surged out of the closet with fervor.

training, gym, weight lifting, burpies

Tuesday nights, trading one set of work for another.

I met Michael during my interview in 2015 and I hoped we would become friends regardless of what job I worked. I am grateful to be right, and our early friendship has since been nourished by miles of trail and late nights at the office. No surprise either that he also loves to suffer in the gym, and has been a reliable motivator to work on our weaknesses together.  A few weeks ago, both of us were headed for a late night at the office but managed to shift towards a different plan, well honed over the past years. We dropped into the company gym around 630pm and got dinner at a local joint around 8pm.  There is nothing like an old school ass-kicking to shed the weight of an overly full workday.  Conversation, when possible, ranges from business to art to the delicate balance of living in the city.

I haven’t written as much as he deserves, but our friendship has been one of the distinct highlights of my experience in the city. Seriously intelligent, both deeply passionate and empathetic, and always a pleasure to spend time with. Michael has supported me (and Abigail) in many great ways since we arrived here. Tonight I stopped by his desk around 6pm and encouraged him to get out of the office- and to ride together for the short common section of our commute home. He obliged and insisted on riding far out of his way, just for the joy of picking our way through Seattle traffic and catching up on life a bit. For a commute that I have regularly begrudged, I appreciated every moment.

Thanks for jumping at the chance, buddy. To many more.