Monday, August 17, 2015


There has been a lot of buzz this weekend from an article in the New York Times examining the work environment at Amazon. I have been lucky enough to spend the last 12 years of my career at an organization that excels without having to treat is people like a commodity, nor playing against their desire to experience life outside of the work that they do. The culture of an organization is directed from the top. The article portrays Jeff Bezos as a man driven to succeed, using analytics ruthlessly in his pursuit of excellence. Managers at Amazon, taking the lead from that example, are said to be ruthless in their drive, brutal with their feedback and uncaring about the personal lives of those who work for them. (As an aside, Forbes columnist George Anders posted a more nuanced interpretation of Mr. Bezos' history.)

For the last 6 years, I have been responsible for leading a team of people at my company. It is very tempting to employ a win at all costs attitude, especially as a new manager who was very successful as an individual on the team you are now managing. Early in my career as a manager I had very little empathy for the work life balance of my team, or even of my own for that matter. We all want to be leading the world into new frontiers, however it is just as important to be leading our family and enjoying the time we have here on earth.

As I've matured as a manager, I've found that by allowing people the freedom to experience the moments they want to experience with their family I've inspired them to put in the extra effort to cover those times. By allowing a young father to attend his daughters Kindergarten holiday concert or to rush home and help his son with a sprained ankle, they will then repay that with loyalty and effort beyond what could have been accomplished in that little time used for personal time.

Our company has a saying, "Work is not a place you go, it is a thing that you do." I think that's an interesting distinction, but I prefer a slightly altered version.  Your work is not who you are, it is a thing that you do. I've come to realize that life is about experiences, not things.  Whether those things be what you earn or what you create on the job, they are not our purpose for being here. We are meant to love, to experience beauty, to share our lives with those who are important to us. So when I read this story about Amazon, I appreciate their ability to provide me with a ball pump delivered to my house in 48 hours because that ball pump allowed me to play volleyball in the driveway with my daughter.  I feel badly for the person who missed out on those experiences to build that very platform.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Everything is Everything

Like many people, I like to ponder the meaning of life. Why are we here?  What is it all about? This post is certainly not going to answer those questions, but I want to get down some of my thoughts on approaching that question.

Today I was listening to Marc Maron's podcast and his guest was Jason Segel. Their discussion was very interesting as Mr. Segel proved himself to be a bit deeper than what you'd expect from a comedic actor. In fact, he made it a point to mention that he had never aspired to be a comedic actor at all, but just found that he was good at it and went with it. He struggled with the concept that he wasn't doing any "worthwhile" work, until he was approached by people who told him stories about his TV show helping them through difficult periods of their life.

This discussion led to him talking about difficult periods in his life and the thought that even when things are going really well, there are times when a man isn't satisfied. Interestingly enough, Mr. Segel's most recent movie addresses that very topic. He plays David Foster Wallace during a time in his life where everything is seemingly going as well as he could imagine, but sitting in that moment Wallace was not satisfied.

We all go through these moments where we wonder why we are where we are. You set goals for yourself to achieve, to succeed. But if the meaning behind those goals isn't solid, then the achievement is hollow.  You work hard to build a career, to get a promotion, to move up the ladder. What happens when you are up the ladder? The essence of a person is not their achievement, but the kind of person that they create while achieving. 

Unfortunately, many of us don't make that connection until we've already spent a lot of effort towards the hollow goal. That doesn't mean the time has been wasted, but it forces us to put a perspective on how that formed our self. Self is more than achievement. Self is the sum of the parts that include that achievement.  Self is how you define what is worthwhile.

I think often about who I am and who I'd like to be. I don't know if that picture is fully formed just yet, but its certainly a lot more clear than it was twenty years ago when I was making critical decisions that started me on the path I am on today. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Windows 10 First Impressions

I have been a Mac user for the last three years.  I should probably say that I've been a very happy Mac user for the last three years. Before that time I'd always been a Windows user.  Of course, I had Windows machines at home and at work during that time as well.  Like many people, I was very disappointed with the changes in Windows 8, so most of my secondary machines were running Windows 7. I'm certainly not one of those to say "Oh how I missed the start menu, please bring it back!" but I found the Metro screens difficult to work with and counter intuitive.

During the last couple of weeks I've reached the end of the 3 year warranty on my MacBook, so I brought it into Apple to get a few little issues fixed before it expired. While I've had a few issues with the MacBook, Apple has always done an excellent job of fixing them quickly.  This time the laptop needed to be sent out for service so I was without it for a couple of days.  I took advantage of that time to install Windows 10 on a spare laptop and test it out. My initial impressions are very positive. The interface feels much more intuitive than the previous instances. The graphics are beautiful, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on things because I'm not using a touch screen.

Now, I am going to wait a few weeks before I order my next laptop. Some of my Apple guru buddies are hearing rumors of a MacBook Pro refresh next month, so I'll wait to see if that happens. I most likely will not be switching back to Windows, but I'll be much happier if I'm forced to use Windows 10 in certain situations.

I'm going to go through an update install tonight and use it sporadically for the next couple of days, then I'll share my thoughts.

Monday, August 10, 2015

New beginnings

Its been a while, but here I am.  Life goes on but I haven't been writing about it. This will be a new beginning. The plan is to write everyday, though it may not be posted here everyday. My wife and I also have a blog at which I'll be using too. Here and there and maybe another place or two, but writing every day.

Consistency and the creation of habits have always worked for me. Unfortunately most of the time they have worked in a negative direction. Though if you read this blog back, you'll see that it can work positively as well. I'm working on developing that consistency and create a habit out of writing. Once that habit is formed, I'll work to focus that on something productive. Hopefully along the way I'll learn a few things and share them with anyone who happens to read this blog.

So here is the beginning of the new beginning.