the non-linear path

I’ve taken a completely linear career path so far. Six years of increasing experience doing the same projects with increasing responsibilities, expertise, and use of technology. I’m grateful for this progression and I’ve worked very hard at it – trying to accelerate my growth curve any chance I get.

But there’s something that really struck me about this billboard. To what extent is my growth curve not actually a curve? Is it actually a straight line? A boring, predictable line that just keeps floating upward until I retire?

You’re right, Harvard, I don’t want it to be.

how to complain

“The best way to complain is to make things.”

– James Murphy

Last year I spent 6 months of ongoing meetings with a software firm trying to figure out if their product was a good fit and whether they would be a good partner for the future.

Finally, I just gave up. I didn’t have time for their empty promises any longer. Then, my team rolled up our sleeves and built our replacement for what we were trying to outsource. It’s nowhere near as sexy as the venture-backed startup’s web app, but it gets the job done and it’s built exactly to our specifications.

That feeling of telling our client, Here, I made this can’t be beat. And we’ve since used that prototype to sell our new service to 3 more clients. That’s a hell of a lot more fun than complaining.

unique ability and linchpins

Upon familiarizing myself with the Unique Ability mindset, I realized that my past actions have pretty much neglected whatever my unique ability may be.

I’ve also always been a do-whatever-it-takes, handle-everything-myself, put-the-world-on-my-shoulders type of engineer. I attribute this mindset to the book Linchpin by Seth Godin, but I think I was missing Seth’s message.

I always internalized a linchpin as someone who just does whatever is needed to get the job done. I think that’s part of it, but it’s also about using your soul to make great art. And I think that’s where unique ability comes in.

intro to unique ability

I’m grateful to be starting a new business coaching program called Team Tools by Strategic Coach. As part of my preparation, they’ve asked me to familiarize myself with a concept called Unique Ability.

The unique ability philosophy is new to me: strengthen your strengths, not your weaknesses. If you strengthen your weaknesses, they’ll just be stronger weaknesses. 

Real talk: I’ve always been one to work on my weaknesses… I can remember spending hours and hours practicing kicking the soccer ball with my weaker left foot to get better with it. I can also remember how bad some of my college teammates were with their weaker feet – and some of them are still playing professional soccer. Maybe there’s something to this unique ability thing.

Continue reading intro to unique ability

continual struggles

No life worthy of the name consists of anything more than the continual series of struggles to develop one’s character through the medium of whatever one has chosen as a career.

— Juan Belmont, Legendary Bullfighter

We don’t need to be bullfighters to develop our character. We don’t need to be in a job we love. We don’t even need to be in a chosen career. There are opportunities in every job and throughout every day that we can choose to take or not – opportunities to struggle with ourselves to improve.

The source of wisdom is whatever is going to happen to us today. The source of wisdom is whatever is happening to us right at this very instant.

– Pema Chodron

2017 resolution: presence

On past NYEs, I’ve made lists and written down ambitious resolutions to utterly change who I am in the upcoming 12 months. I think the idea of taking time for reflection is great, but the way I have gone about it has me unsettled. So I’m not going to do it this year. Here’s how I’m going about it:

Take change one step at a time

When I reflect, I usually write down the things I want to change and then try and do them all at once. This leads to starting a bunch of initiatives and then inevitably abandoning them unfinished. I’d rather pick a project and focus on it, complete it or at least call it complete, and then move on to the next one.

This is reminiscent of Derek Sivers’ Don’t Be A Donkey:

Buridan’s donkey is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. It keeps looking left and right, trying to decide between hay and water. Unable to decide, it eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst. A donkey can’t think of the future. If he could, he’d clearly realize he could first drink the water, then go eat the hay.

plan stuff out, but only to a point

Things change, so I don’t want to plan things out any longer than I need to. It’s a waste of time. That said, some things need to be planned out. Vacations, plane tickets, family and friend time, reflection time, etc… get that stuff on the calendar and protect it.

Reflect more often

Making resolutions means bringing into focus the things I want to change about my life. It makes no sense to do this just once per year. Reflection should be built into everyday life.


So for my resolution, right now, I want to practice presence. Don’t obsess over what has happened in the past or lose myself in visions of the future. Focus on what is right here, right in front of me. Make the most of it, and enjoy myself. 

adding a narrative

Many of the events in our lives that stress us out are, in reality, neutral. They are neither good nor bad. They just are. It is each of us who add the narrative, the story in our heads, that tells us the many ways each neutral event is not feeling so neutral.

One of the lessons of meditation is that the narrative is extra. It’s not mandatory to associate with it. We can notice as it arises in the mind, watch it pass away, and return to the present reality. Easier said than done, but that’s the practice.