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Jonathan's Blog

Mindful Leadership and Technology


Leadership Software Development Work

Three Types of Fun, Applied to Work

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This came up in a meeting I attended. I described something a development team was working on as fun, and I was informed that it (creating peer-to-peer connections between Android devices) was Type 2 Fun, at best.

I had never seen this before.

A lot of our work (hopefully) falls squarely into the Type 2 Fun category. Not that fun at the time, but fun to remember later, usually because I learned a lot and became better because of the work.

This is worth aspiring for in a career. If you find yourself having a lot of Type 1 Fun (regular, fun-while-it-is-happening fun) you probably either work at a skating rink and really enjoy the YMCA, are a little delusional, or a very self-actualized person.

Should you have some Type 1 Fun on a regular basis? Yes, you should. Can some of it be at work? Absolutely.

But a better achievement for our society is if a lot of us can sit around and say, "You know I learned a lot from that and it helped me excel in my career." If we can say that a lot of the time about a lot of the work we did, we've come a long way from where we were even 100 years ago.

Type 1 Fun is helpful and helps make people more productive. Type 2 Fun is necessary for the success of our companies and careers. And I do mean necessary - things that are a slog (Type 3 Fun) are unsustainable, in the long run.

I've certainly come acrosss some Type 3 Fun, also called, "Let's never do that again." But then, they are still jobs, even when it is your career.

Here's a quick reference, updated for the workplace:

Type 1 Fun: Remember that project where you learned a lot, everything was on time and on budget, and no one got frustrated ever? Me either. Remember that time you won the Fantasy Football League or had a great time at the Christmas party? Type 1 Fun all the way, and work related.

Type 2 Fun: Remember the difficult project where you started behind the 8 ball, worked long hours, but pushed yourself and came out the other side with a ton of knowledge? And you shipped a great product? Remember that time when you got fired and worked hard in your time between jobs so that once you landed a new job you were a changed person with different goals and a new outlook on life? That's Type 2 Fun.

Type 3 Fun: Remember having to do arbitrary work that didn't matter because it fit into someone else's system? Remember the client who used personal attacks on people because they were very unprofessional? That's Type 3 Fun, and it isn't migrating to Type 2 any time soon.


Mindfulness Leadership Resiliency Work Accoutability Proactive Make Sandals

What It Means to Get Fired - Mindful Firing Part 1

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I was fired from a job in 2002. I deserved it.

This isn't what the HR team or my boss at the time would have said. They would have said, "We let him go."

In fact, through the rest of these posts, I will use the same euphemisms because that's the world we live in.

But, since this one is about me specifically, I can tell it like it is or was.

I was not "let go." I was fired. And I'm not saying that about how it happened, or what someone else did to me.

I'm saying it because I deserved it. I had skill deficits. My attitude was not great. I wasn't making the company money. I didn't want to help with sales.

The company needed to make money, and they needed more adaptable employees with a better outlook. So they fired me. It's as simple as that.

I didn't see it that way right away of course. I was mad. Things had changed and it wasn't my fault. The new office didn't understand my value, blah, blah, blah.

All of it true up to a certain point, and all of it - all of it - ultimately beside the point.

Fortunately for me, I realized I had changes to make and I started to make those changes.

I started quickly, but I'm still not done. I never will be.

The world keeps going all the time. You can decide that you're done learning or pushing yourself if you want to, but that isn't going to help you stay competitive.

So we push ourselves, we learn new things, and we work to stay competitive. That was my choice in that moment and I'm glad I made it.

I wish that I could say that this was a mindful choice for me. I wish that I could say that I recognized the need to be proactive, stop blaming others, and move myself forward. That did come with time, and today I try to handle things that way. But the truth is that initially this was all driven by fear.

My skills weren't competitive, my attitude was problematic, and the labor market, even for developers, wasn't that great in 2002. I had to change and I had to change fast to stay competitive, so that's what I did.

Today I recognize this as a significant turning point that led me on to a lot of great opportunity I wouldn't have had without it. But it's hard to see it that way right away. Right away I was just fearful about my job prospects and started making changes that I felt would make me more competitive. And I took contract jobs at a significantly reduced rate to get some experience.

Today I can see it their way. But it took a long time. I understand that the best path to change and to managing these type of stressful, life-altering situations is with mindfulness and distance, though of course urgency remains important.

Fear can be a good source of urgency, but if you use fear to generate urgency you get all the stress and distrust that come along with it. Even if that stress and distrust are only pointed at yourself.

Looking back on it, I was fortunate to have had the upbringing I had. I think that is what made me react with a mostly 'can-do' attitude toward the challenges I had as a young person in my career. It wasn't mindfulness back then. It was Mom and Dad. Thanks Mom and Dad.

What does this tell us about letting someone go, if you are the person in the position of having to do that?

It tells you that it can be for the best. But almost no one will see it that way in the short-term.

It tells you that it isn't your place to tell anyone that. You absolutely are not in a position to tell someone "It's all for the best," because only they will be able to come to those realizations, and only on their own or with the help of good friends or family. And only in their own time. You can't rush that and you certainly aren't in a position to try.

And it tells you to be as kind as you can because inevitably this will be hard and scary for anyone impacted by your decision.


Employee Recognition Work Leadership

The Positive Voice

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What stops you from offering a word of praise to those you think did a good job?

I think that it is important to recognize those you work with - those below, along-side, and above you in the org. chart. That means everyone.

I occasionally have conversations with people because they feel like the thing I am recognizing is too small to warrant recognition. I disagree that wins and recognition should only be called out on big items, for the following reasons:

  1. You need to exercise your recognition muscles and get in the habit of recognizing people. If you wait for the one big thing then you are likely to be out of the habit and practice, and you may not follow through on recognizing the win.

  2. Recognizing individuals for small things that you value is important because there are plenty of things that need to get done this world that aren't glamorous. Recognizing people for these things is not wrong, when it matters. Very often this is about how it was done, not what the thing was. Did someone do it cheerfully? Easily? Did it make your day better? Did it make the whole machine work a little better? If the answer to one of those is 'Yes', then it mattered and is deserving of recognition.

  3. Praising small things that are important isn't lowering your standards. Well, it isn't lowering my high standards anyway. I know what my standards are. I just outlined them above. What are yours? Is anything going to meet your standards?

The last item might sound a bit harsh. It probably is. The most important question I think you should ask yourself if you are out of the habit of recognizing others: Is it your standards or something else that is getting in the way?


Writing Work Inspiration


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What if the thing you once called inspiration was simply your mind distracting you from your real work and purpose?

What if real inspiration turns out to be something else entirely?

Well, perhaps not entirely. Consider, how a stream that flows into a river is now only part of the river. Similarly, the old inspiration is part of, but much smaller than, the new inspiration.

The two things can be so different as to not seem much alike at all.

Be glad, in the end, that you came to the river. Know that the river will lead you to other rivers, lakes, eventually the ocean. There are depths there, things which today you don't know, but may yet be revealed to you.

(Many thanks to Paddle-to-the-Sea and also Headspace).


Work Technology Time Time Savings

Tracking Saved Time

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We're great at tracking costs, money, time spent.

But where do we keep track of time saved? What bank can you put it in?

Of course you can't. You can really only spend time - so you save time in the same sense that you save $2,000 when you buy a car. You save it by spending $30,000 or $40,000 or $50,000 instead of slightly more than that. Which is really just a smaller outflow than it is a true saving.

It would be great to have a system that told us how much time all our previous efforts have saved us on a current task. With money there can be a net accumulation of 'savings' (like the car example) into actual savings in a bank.

Time affords us no such option. The only way to keep track of such savings would be to create a record of such transactions and do the bookkeeping necessary to maintain that. Something like this:

By planning ahead and due to all my previous experience, I saved an 5 hours today.

It would be great if you could show how much time your efforts saved yourself and others. Would it be worth it to keep track of those things?

A quick Google search indicates that no such record keeping system exists.


Writing Work Communication Email Text Messages

Pressing Send - A Modest Checklist

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Reread the message. Correct your spelling and grammar. Now use software to fix the problems you didn't see.

Does this message help?

Did you ask a question? Should you ask a question?

Is it time to send it now? Or would later be better?

How much emotion is in it?

How late at night is it?

Did you get right to the point?

Should it be shorter?

Ask someone else to read it. Go for a walk.

Send it if you think that is the right thing to do.