I didn’t get a lot of writing done this year. We moved, bought a house, changed jobs, traveled the world, traveled the west, got a dog, and celebrated family. A few photos just for the photo, a few photos just for the moment and the people. I’m just a damn lucky dude.
Occasionally, I am lucky enough to have readers say “wow, that was a great post/cool adventure/link/whatever, how can I support your blog?” I’ve never really wanted to raise money from this little writing project, but the adventures don’t happen for free. One thing that has made most of these stories possible are generous friends in far away places. Margaret has hosted me, fed me, and driven me around Alaska countless days and nights. Now, she’s looking for a loan for her business supporting the local food movement in Alaska. Join me in supporting her campaign thru Kiva.org, and consider making a donation to Kiva while you are there.
You can read about some of my time with Margaret here, here, and here. If you haven’t heard of kiva.org, they provide a platform for micro-finance loans all over the world. I’ve been a supporter since 2015 and generally have made a point of supporting small construction entrepreneurs in South America. I’ve also loved supporting a couple more local friends over the years. If voting with your dollars matters, this is the best way I’ve found to do it.
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.
-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This one, now, forever.
On October 21, I asked Abigail to marry me and she said yes.
As an engineer, I like to plan, I like to know how things are going to go. I like to understand and reason out the effort. The theme of this blog has always been about getting the feeling of something that I can’t reason with to stick well enough to do something special.
Abigail was committed before I was- and in these matters, she trusts that feeling more than I do. Her certainty in us made asking the big question much easier. A quick review of a feeling worth trusting:
From a more recent note to a friend, discussing the corollary of climbing commitment:
“Marriage remains a leap, truly of faith… …That climbing helps me realize this is an obvious corollary- the difference between testing the crux moves, and the moment of full bore irreversible action, while may only appear to involve a slight change in physical position- is dramatically different in mental position. That is the leap. That is the commitment.”
That real love though, the stuff that scares you with it’s durability and it’s repose, that love isn’t going to wait. It isn’t going to let you “slide into it” because it’s convenient. That real love, demands a leap. A lot like climbing, it is worth getting out of your comfort zone for, and you can’t just hang out under the crux forever. I popped the question when I accepted the joyful inevitability of her partnership with me. When I accepted that I was never going to be perfect for this relationship, and that perfection wasn’t necessary for it to be right for us.
Every crux that has demanded my full commitment, has been scary and hard. Every crux has required humility and the right partner. And every single one, has been worth it. I’ve been climbing with the right partner for a while now, and it is nothing short of glorious to pull through this crux together.