This is another post in the series about MyYearinIT.

Not too long ago I found myself in a “Strategic IT” meeting we were discussing where we each sit on the curve of change.  The discussion leader drew something a bit like this on his whiteboard and asked us each to come up and put a mark where we would be in the curve of adopting to technological changes.

He then asked: Were we on the leading edge?  Or did we follow the crowd?

graph of change

Various colleagues got up and put a mark somewhere on the curve, most of them right around the big bump (those who tended to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else) and a few afterwards (those folks said that they usually waited to whether a technology was likely to last before they adopted it).  I was one of the last people to go up to the sign and leave my mark.

This is where I put myself (note: I was the only person to draw a picture, but I’m dorky like that):

my boat, in front of the wave of changeI then told the group a story that’s become a touchstone for me…

When I first began canoeing on the ocean, it was pretty scary to be surrounded by wide open water.  The swell could be a low rolling bump that gave a gentle nudge to the boat or the entire ocean could be flat as a pancake, where you had to dig in your paddle to do all the work.  But of course there was also the possibility of really big swell.  And the first time I encountered that, it was unforgettable. Continue reading

I, maverick

This is another post in the series about MyYearinIT.

Because of my IT management role, I recently had the opportunity to complete a leadership profile, and this was my result:

maverick leader descriptionThis “Maverick Leader” description seemed fairly spot-on for me, especially the part that says “You’re always full of new ideas, and almost a little restless” and “If something starts to feel familiar, you’ll probably start experimenting to see whether higher goals can be achieved.”

Yep, that’s pretty much me in a nutshell.

Somewhat related, on a friend’s recommendation I just picked up a copy of Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which is not a book that I would have selected for myself.  It’s a bit too “business-y” for my usual taste, but I actually found it a fairly satisfying read.  One thing he mentions that particularly resonates with me, is this:

If you just show up and work hard, you’ll soon hit a performance plateau beyond which you fail to get any better.

That’s one reason why I am constantly stretching myself with new goals.  I dislike that space of mastery where there’s nothing new or different on the horizon, where there’s no stretch and pull.  I don’t even mind trying something new and failing at it, because for me there’s so much pleasure in the attempt.

One other point that Newport makes that I’m somewhat convinced about now, is that telling someone to “follow their passion” is likely to lead to failure, and it’s far better to gain skills than to chase a dream.

This NGram analysis traces the rise of “passion” literature, to show how the idea has percolated into popular culture since the publication of “What Color is Your Parachute” and other similar self-help books (certainly this message has become a popular one in the last decade!):
Reading this book has caused me to reflect on my professional journey.  A lot of those steps have been ones born of passion.  But even more have been pragmatic choices that led to job security and financial health, and I have learned to love those steps while I’ve pursued them with the same vigor as the very “passionate” ones.

close as two pages…

Because I do like me some book-ish poetry…

by Elizabeth Bishop

Close close all night
the lovers keep.
They turn together
in their sleep,

close as two pages
in a book
that read each other
in the dark.

Each knows all
the other knows,
learned by heart
from head to toes.


books on my desk

A few of the books that are regularly stacked on my desk at home…

bargains with myself

I sometimes make small bargains with myself to keep focused on the things that are important to me (and to reign in my time-wasters).  One such bargain is that I often set is that I won’t peer into Facebook until I’ve finished reading my current book.  So I’m up to that again, and have promised myself to finish Christina Lamb’s Farewell Kabul, which I picked up in the airport last week.  It’s a pretty dense read, but is fascinating.  I am learning so much.

photo of my little free library, with several books inside(photo is of my new Little Free Library, where I can pass along all of the awesome books that I read, to others!)

a hungry heart

field of red poppies in ItalyFrom Mary Oliver:

“We all have a hungry heart, and one of the things we hunger for is happiness.  So as much as I possibly could, I stayed where I was happy.”

This reminds me of something that my ex said to me as we were splitting up.  He said that he wasn’t too worried about me, because I was happy no matter what happened.  While there’s some truth to that, and I think it comes from having a lot of really awful things that have happened over the years (so awful, so out of my control), that I generally choose not to wallow in misery but to make the best of my circumstances.  But that’s somewhat different than being happy–that’s just survival.

Being happy, in my mind, is a daily act of choosing joy:

It’s the parking-lot-Chewbacca-mask Mom who can laugh at herself and at the simple joys of her life (without worrying about how she looks to millions of strangers).

It’s jumping into Walden Pond and taking a long swim even though that’ll mean that your hair is a mess for the rest of the day.

It’s pulling over to take a photo of a field of poppies even when you’re running late for your train.

It’s drinking straight out of the milk bottle because every other cup in the kitchen is dirty.

It’s getting sand in your shoes because of a spontaneous ramble at the beach.

It’s getting up at 2am to stare at the full moon.

It’s building wooden things with simple tools.

It’s a cozy chair and a novel.

It’s supporting the people you love as they embark on their own journeys.

It’s a text message with silly emojis.

It’s starting the day with a walk in the garden, noting how things have changed since yesterday and imagining how they will be different tomorrow.

It strikes me, as I read this list, that many of the ‘happinesses’ that come to my mind right now are solitary ones.  In years past there were so many more that came from caregiving for my children and from time with my community.  While those are still important to me, I spend most of my work-work time with people everyday, that the small acts of happy-solitude feel like a necessary counterweight to teaching/leading/collaborating.

(poppies, taken by me in Italy five years ago)

short shameful confession #29

library shelves with booksWhen I was a kid (around the time that I was reading The Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), it was my dream to someday hide out in a library after hours, perhaps snoozing among the stacks and reading reading reading to my heart’s content.

I happen to be, at this very moment, nearly alone in a closed library.  And musing about all of the possibilities…(so if you don’t hear from me for awhile, you’ll know why)

View previous short shameful confessions