Tag: work

A Long Six Months

If you had asked me six months ago what I would be doing today, I am pretty sure that I would have been wrong. Wrong on a galatic scale.

GPS has stopped working. Maps tell me that even the Dragons don’t come out this far – I saw a few Dragons in cheap suits selling insurance to travellers on the edge of this territory; should have been a clue. Even the people who have better maps than I do are leading expeditions into uncharted sinkholes and rivers that are “in the wrong place”.

There is no way to fully map what is going to come next. There is a general plan, usually a back-of-the-napkin-map from a dive bar in the last “town” (interestingly enough, drawn by a dragon in a cheap suit). Sometimes there is even a guide (for many expeditions, the guide is a one-eyed, deaf jungle-dweller who communicates via a language of spit and arm movements). In the end, it’s up to your cunning and intelligence to avoid a death so embarrassing, your ancestors will need to changes their names.

So, in order to bring order to this trackless territory, I have begun to lay down some simple rules, ones that will help me keep the jungle madness at bay.

A full calendar does not mean an effective day. The last 10 weeks have seen me in meetings up to six hours a day. Most of the meetings were not for extracting information from customers. Some fell into the Kafka-esque “debrief on the project status meeting so we can update the project plan and prepare for the next project status meeting” family.

And I am not alone.

Customers I work with are often in so many meetings that must be attended personally that the only time to get work done is in meetings. If you’re wandering around the trackless wilds spending all your time updating the map, tracking the menu, and inventorying the clean socks, when you look up from your work, you have missed the point of the trip. Or worse, realize that in the minutiae of the “important” stuff, you have reached a place that you can’t get out of without losing a good chunk of your expedition team.

So, why did you bother coming? Showing up is only 10% of being successful. Paying attention is the real 90%.

Guess what? Other people can help you do it all. Guess what? You’re not the only person who can count socks.

I have become very good at delegating, for reasons that are good, under circumstances that were questionable. You came on this expedition with a team. Use it. There are people who can do the things you think only you can do. This frees you up to do the things that you are good at, like avoiding the impassible canyon (unless your team is big on a diet of bark and spider eggs).

And maybe one or two of the sock counters will show promise by projecting the date of clean sock exhaustion and suggesting that a route to clean water be prioritized for everyone’s foot health. This means that they could help take over some of the map-reading so you can collect those bug samples you’re after.

Delegating work does not mean you are failing. Delegating work means that you are succeeding in maintaining a focus on what’s important.

Every day is a learning experience. I am so far into uncharted territories for myself right now that the map isn’t even helpful at figuring out where I came from. All I know is that new challenges pop up every day, and learning from them helps me get by and press forward.

Why Do I Do This? – Educate, Guide, and Solve

This is the year I turn 40. As a result, I am looking back upon my life, my career, and trying to determine what I do best. If I could make my life into an elevator pitch, what would it be?

I decided to take what I do right now and see how low I could take it. What does my career boil down to?

It came down to three simple words: Educate, Guide, and Solve.
Each of these describes a facet of my career that provides a profound sense of personal satisfaction. Each of these is unique in that they give me the chance to share what I know with others, while still gaining new experiences in the process.

These three things are simultaneously selfish and selfless. I believe that in order to have a successful, productive, and fulfilling career, these three things need to serve as the foundation of everything I do.


I work in a small community of Web performance analysts. I have spent years training myself to see the world through the eyes of a Web site and how it presents to the outside world. As I taught myself to see the world this way, I was asked to share what I knew with others.

At first I did this through technical support and a training course I helped develop. Then I moved into consulting. I began to blog and comment on Web performance.
I needed to share what I knew with others, because it is meaningless to hoard all of your knowledge. While I am paid well as a consultant, it is also important that as many people as possible learn from me; and that doesn’t always need to sold to the highest bidder.


While some may say that there is no difference between Guide and Educate, I see a profound chasm between the two.

We have all been educated at some point. We have sat through classes and lectures and labs that convey information to us, and have provided the foundation for what we know.

But we have also encountered people who have shown us how to step beyond the information. They place the information that they are giving us in a larger context, allow us to see problems as a component of the whole.

That is what I strive to do. Not only do I want to give people the functional tools they need to interpret the data, I want them to then take that data and see the patterns in the data. I work closely with colleagues and customers, helping them see the patterns, understand how they tie to the things I say everyday, and then be able to solve this type of problem on their own the next time.

A guide is only useful when the path is not known. Once I have showed someone the path, I can return to my place, in the knowledge that they are as experienced on the path as I am.


Once you have shown someone what the data can do, how to see the patterns, it is critical that they have an understand how to take that pattern and change it for the better. Seeing a pattern and understanding its cause are only the beginning.
I can share my experiences, share how others have solved problems similar to this one, help them fix the problem.

And then be able to show that the problem is solved. An unmeasured, yet resolved problem, is meaningless.


This is the skeletal description of what I want to achieve in my career. I could expand these topics for a lot longer, but the question I propose is: What three concepts can you boil your career down to?

Seth Godin Quote Week Continues

Seth, who I am quoting way too often this week, has three great posts on finding a job. [here and here and here]

I am one of these people. I have a degree in History. I work in high-tech. I can write code when I want to. I can limp around linux, Windows and pretty much and Unix-like environment. I know a fair amount about HTTP, TCP, SSL, Apache, databases, MySQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL, QA, Customer Service, Marketing, Sales and a few other things I can’t remember now.

Macs don’t scare me.

So, what does the work world do with a polymath generalist? Employers hate people like me, because we don’t fit a mold, a niche. I hate structured job roles. I want to achieve excellence, not mediocrity.

I got my last job by sending an e-mail to all of the executives at the company and saying ‘Look, you need me. You will not get better without me. Hire me now.’ Two months later I was leaving the Bay Area for Massachusetts, much to the chagrin of my former employer, to join a company that created a position for me.

I want to work for companies that do that. Companies that build themselves around key people, amazing talent, a desire for excellence.

The growth trend of more small companies appeals to me. Hey, even a company of one can be huge.

Thanks for the great read.

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