Homeowner, Husband

Yard Work

I admit, I was once a fan of yard work, but it’s fallen by the wayside.  With so many other interesting distractions — you know, things like being with family and friends, or tackling the zillion other household chores that claw at one’s leisure time — work around the outside of the house has been low on the priority list.

Once upon a time, I derived a strong sense of satisfaction in getting out and mowing the lawn. In fact, I used to quietly mock the neighbors who paid for a lawn service, and missed out on the joy of knowing that hey, those trimmed hedges and that carefully spread mulch was your accomplishment.  I think growing up in Indiana, going to U-Pick blueberry farms and helping my dad around the yard, inspired a certain love of working with the land.

But as my body aged, suddenly outsourcing it all felt wiser.  Not to mention that the math favored it, too.  (“I’m paying hundreds of dollars to have mechanics fix my mowers each year?  And I could just pony up $40 every two weeks, AND get a few hours of my weekend back?  Shut up and take my money!”)

This weekend, however, was a little different.  Saturday, with the help of my father-in-law, we rebuilt the warping wooden steps on the side of the house and remounted the ceiling hooks for the front porch swing.  Sunday, my wife and I spent hours pole-sawing our way around the perimeter of our shed, cutting down and dragging away wayward branches that were scraping holes into its roof.  There were other minor tasks too, and a bazillion other things that we “probably should do.”  But it doesn’t matter.  The sense of accomplishment was there.

Mind you, I’m not about to come over to YOUR house and volunteer to rake YOUR leaves for a few hours this fall.  But I liked the reminder of how satisfying it is to take care of your house and your land, when they involve small tasks that you can get done in a morning.



My version of heaven

If I ever make it to a heavenly afterlife, it will be a corridor full of rooms, and each room will be filled with my friends, and we’ll talk and laugh and play board games and celebrate being in each others’ presence, not even noticing as time goes by.

Oh, and maybe someone will bring us food, too, if we need that there.

I’ve woken up from that dream a few times, and I love it every time.

But until then, I get immense satisfaction from being a part of every little heavenly gathering of friends here on Earth. Oh sure, it’s an extrovert’s heaven, and probably an introvert’s hell, but as long as I’m dreaming, I’d like to think we each get our own version of paradise.


Hiring Faith Rewarded

Pegasus-tokensToday I’m writing about the opposite of seeing thestrals. Maybe that makes it seeing… a Pegasus?  You know, the kind of deus ex machina that swoops in to help you when you didn’t realize how badly you needed it?

There’s a unique satisfaction derived from searching for a good hire, finding one, and having that person go on to reward you with great work. It’s easy to take such employees for granted. But every once in a while you ask that team member to do a task — one that you  could probably do yourself if you had the time, or perhaps that you’re not even sure how you would accomplish it without some serious thought — and then they turn around the assignment faster than you would have ever been able to. Even better, they did a great job. And then they do it again and again. And you say, Wow, this person is really making this team shine.

Keep reminding yourself that it’s worth the extra effort to hire the right person, and not to “settle.” Look for people who can soar, and help carry you to fight the work monsters  that lurk beyond your time bottlenecks.  Or if you’re on the other end, remember how much it’s worth searching until you find the right fit, with a manager that values you.

Human, Marketer, Musician

“Flipping the Bit”

A few more chorus members have left the chorus I sing in, casualties of trust from the transition. They’ve decided that for them, singing for that conductor in that chorus under these circumstances is just causing them angst. There are enough other musical outlets in the Boston area that they’ll certainly find another chorus to join.

It’s a cause for further grieving, as many of them are friends whom I enjoyed hanging out with during Tanglewood residencies. But at the same time, it might be a reason to congratulate them.

If you’re like me, you’ve been in situations where you look around yourself and say, “What am I doing here?” For me, that’s most often happened in my trailing months at a job. I realized that the work I was doing wasn’t satisfying, or that I was unlikely to advance my career path, or that the people I trusted and built a culture with had drifted away to other parts of the organization.

When that happens, you say to yourself, NOW what? It takes courage to make that assessment. To realize that something you’ve ALWAYS done is no longer giving you joy, and to change it.

Friend and fellow chorister Will Koffel called it “flipping the bit” (as in, moving a two-position switch from OFF to ON).  It’s an expression he picked up at a previous startup company to indicate when someone has irrevocably made the decision to leave. As in, “Foley’s been talking for months about quitting to go to another company, but you can tell he’s ‘flipped the bit’ because he’s stopped pushing for changes.  I think he’s serious this time.” At a certain point, you know you’re done. It’s a bit terrifying, but also liberating. And once you’ve done it, cognitive bias sets in, and no one can convince you it’s worth sticking around. Every smile by your boss is sinister; every good will gesture is viewed cynically; every mistake is further evidence why you should have left a long time ago. But I’ve seen people reach that stage and then quietly suffer, becoming more bitter with each passing day.

You may know the old joke – “Doctor, it hurts when I do that.”  “Don’t do that, then.” Why spend any part of your no-dress-rehearsal life trapped by inertia, doing something you don’t like? There’s joy in taking control of your reality and shaping it the way you want, rather than be a victim to the decisions and work of others. What can you “KonMari” out of your life that doesn’t bring joy?


Proud Citizen

There are times where I am troubled to be an American citizen. When I worry about the direction of the country. When I get into debates with others and wonder how they could possibly believe in the policies they believe in.

Today is not one of those times. Today is a day to be a proud citizen. To know that we’ve still got it better than so many other countries, struggling with war or overwhelming poverty or oppressive governments. To know that, despite our faults and checkered history, we are doing a pretty damn good job being a nation, and that the average citizen’s level of kindness is something to be proud of.