If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
I don’t recall if that was formally part of my upbringing, but for the most part, I take it to heart. I’ve been pretty quiet lately.
In part, it seems to be the norm for social media too. It’s OK to be momentarily frustrated by something, or to need help with a task, but if it’s not funny, engaging, or a bit of over-sharing, it doesn’t belong in your tweet or your facebook update. So I’m blogging this instead — an environment I expect to be more real, and more conversational.
I’ve come to a bit in life where I’m lost. I don’t know what to do from here. I’m not even sure how to figure out what to do from here.
Linden Lab is ceasing UK operations, and we’ve come to mutually agreeable terms about my separation from service.
In a sense, that’s all I can say about that. But it’s thrown a bunch of other life stuff into upheaval. I don’t know where to live now. I don’t know what to do for income. I don’t know what’s next, and it’s frustrating. When I was laid off from EA back in 2001, I went though a period of “self discovery.” Maybe it was good for me. It’s kind of hard to tell. It was freeing, but also difficult. Further, back then Carolyn had an income and it was just the two of us. I don’t feel like I have the luxury of transition time this time. But I don’t know where to go from here.
Working with the lab has taught me a few new things and re-enforced some earlier understanding. In arbitrary order (and quite incomplete):
I like making a difference. ((There’s an excellent TED talk by Dan Pink on Motivation: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html In short, he claims that after fundamental needs are met, we’re driven by Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. I think this isn’t quite one of those, but similar.))
I’m good – maybe even very good. There are some people who are great. ((I get some pretty good feedback in a variety of contexts. But I’m still in awe of some people who seem to have both depths and breadths I cannot probe or sometimes even follow.))
I like a short commute. ((A simple train journey is not too bad. The time can be used for something, but I haven’t found a commute that’s actually a simple train journey. And even so, I’d rather have the time either at home or at work.))
I’m pretty climate neutral ((When we lived in Virginia, I said that having four seasons was important to me. Living in California, I discovered that not to be true! Moving to England from California was a change, but I’m still not fussed about the weather.))
I like working with people. But a small-ish number of people. ((There’s a concept referred to as Dunbar’s Number which is the limit of how many people can be in your “clan” – EA was too big. We all worked for a renowned company, and so there was a baseline respect, but we weren’t related. For a while, at least, at Linden Lab, we were family))
I like working with geeks. ((In other words, I like working with not just people, but deeply technical people. I’m never going to be on the crest of the geek social wave, but I like the in-jokes of memes, LOLcats, /b/, threadless, foursquare, think geek, religious wars (vi -vs- emacs, brace style), in addition to thorny problems elegantly solved whether it’s the latest in NoSQL, or applications of Map/Reduce, or fascination with new/upcoming languages like erlang or haskell. It’s how I like to connect to the world))
I like not working. ((It can be hard to do, to leave “work head” but there’s so much else out there. I want to:
There’s just _so_ much out there!))
I like leadership roles. ((I get a lot of self-satisfaction from being “the boss”. Which is good because it’s also a lot of work and a pain in the ass some times.))
I like individual contributor roles. ((I went back to being an individual contributor at Linden Lab, and it was great. I got to actually make stuff instead of just helping coordinate information flow.))
I like work. ((I get into what I’m doing – whatever it is.))
I like money. ((There was a time where Carolyn was the primary breadwinner. We did fine. Our needs were met, but there wasn’t much left over for “toys.” I like “toys”!))
My comfort zone is in my comfort zone, with just a little bit outside. ((I like to have a sense of control over what I’m doing. I like to feel like I have relevant experience or knowledge to build from. I like to be stretched, a bit.))
I like to learn/grow. ((This relates directly of course to stepping outside the comfort zone, so it’s a bit of a balance.))
I like variety. ((My very first job was one of the best in that way. From day to day, I didn’t know if I was going to be applying fiberglass patches to canoes, breaking concrete with a sledge hammer or selling a tent. This can even be seen in my career that has spanned a range of tech and roles))
I like having an office. ((I was completely open / warm to the “open office environment” – and when Linden Lab was a small organization, and when I was new in that organization, it worked pretty well. As it got bigger, it worked MUCH less well and became a constant distraction and irritation.))
I don’t mind following. ((If you can convince me you’re smart, and have some idea/passion, and are a good ideological fit with me, I can take direction. I can follow you, and help you succeed.))
I don’t have an agenda. ((A friend of mine has been shaping his career around a vision of something he’s wanted to build since he was like ten years old. I … haven’t been. I like being flexible, adaptable, curious.
To bend like the reed in the wind, that is the real strength.
So how do I apply those learnings to what’s next?
I want to go back to the Bay area because of the wealth of opportunity (and geeks) there. But it’s expensive (I like money) and there’s almost no way to have a little commute.
I want to stay in Brighton – I’ve helped pull together a good team of folks – and we’ve found a way to stay together and help perpetuate what we’ve built (Go http://singinghorsestudio.com/ ! )
I want to try something completely new. In my job for the lab, I got to travel to Israel for work. It was a stretch for my comfort zone, but a good one. I keep hearing about jobs in Dubai. I’m curious. (variety)
I’m not immune to the siren’s call of friends and family. We could go back to Charlottesville. We could live pretty cheaply there and (possibly) provide a good, stable environment for Sam’s formative years. There was a potentially interesting opportunity with UVa but how flexible is it? How creative is it? Is there anything there outside my comfort zone (in a good way!)?
Everything feels like a compromise. Every single one of those. One thing I learned in mediation training in college: A compromise is a lose-lose situation. Everyone gives up something they wanted to get to an agreement and it’s hard not to focus on the loss. Seek a win-win instead.
What’s my win-win? Where do I go from here? I don’t know yet. I have enough experience in life to believe it will be good. There’s value and joy even in this transition as frustrating as it is. Currently each option excludes something from the others I’m not yet willing to give up. Yet I detest “analysis paralysis”. The time for action approaches, but I don’t even know what the action will be yet.