Being vulnerable and terrified

It’s been a few days since WDS finished and one thing that keeps coming back is how awesome it was and how much I learned about fear and about how to slap the bitch in the face and make her go away.

Tess Vigeland’s presentation at WDS is still making me think and question my assumptions and certainties.

What if you were to leave your dream job after 10+ years to start all over? What if you had to leave at any point on any job and then had to spend years putting the pieces back together?

Certainties: I was absolutely sure about what I wanted to do

I look back at things now and I can’t help but laugh. Where I thought I would be when I started high school and where I’m at now cannot be any different.

Ok, let's start from the beginning.

Ever since I was in 8th grade I knew I was going to live in theater. I was going to sweat undergrad and then work in my MFA in directing before working in experimental theater which was just getting started again in Chile

I guess my first warning flag should have been waved when I didn’t make it into the theater program at ARCIS. But I was a man on a mission; I was going to do something else and then take the SATs again so I could apply for the theater program at Universidad Catòlica.

Then mom happened.

I was given the choice and the chance to start again and resume the pursuit of my dreams.

So I went back to pursue my dreams.

I was happy for the most parts. I kept working on theater but I discovered anthropology and rekindled my affinity with technology when I took an educational technology as an undergraduate.

The more I explored the more I discovered that theater was not my only passion. I loved technology, I did my school’s first web site as an internship, I loved anthropology (who can take a class with Ybarrola and not fall in love with the subject?!)

Late into fall semester of my junior year I had a major fallout with my advisor who also happened to be the technical director for the theater program. I decided I was not going to be pigeonholed into one thing, so I switched majors to general studies, also known as the “I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do in 4 years” or “I must go to grad school” major.

Well, it wasn’t that so now what?

When I did the switch I was ambivalent. I’ve committed all my time in school over almost 10 years and now that driver is no longer in my life.

If I had stayed an extra semester I would have graduated with 3 degrees: general studies, anthropology and Spanish.

That wasn’t in the cards either. We couldn’t afford the extra semester so I packed everything and moved out to California (not Vermont where I had originally moved to when I got to the US)

That’s how I became involved with SJSU. I took my last 2 classes for the degree in California as I got used to a whole new way of looking at things.

I continued my love of technology and sharing with other people who worked there. It turned into a career, the people who I worked with referred me to the manager of the instructional design / technology manager who hired me with little or no interviews and technicalities.

I remember that time being one of the happiest in my life. It may be that I didn’t know any better to be stressed and the responsibilities were just what I needed at the time. It wasn’t all rose colored. After the supervisor who hired me left I had to work from the lady from hell (and I do use the term ’lady’ loosely). I quit shortly thereafter.

I stayed with technology for the next 12 years or so. I can’t tell you why I did that or where would I be if it hadn’t been for technology.

Switching gears mid stride

When I was in college I picked web design as a hobby. I will never forget how we hid stuff that we had installed in the lab computers from the computer center’s staff.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve always had an affinity for technology. I loved working in the computer lab in high school and I always took to technology with ease.

I didn’t capitalize my facility with technology until much later.

My graduate degree was almost a forgone conclusion. I was working in instructional technology with a degree in “I have no clue what I want to do” so it was a no-brainer that I would go back to school (another thing I said I would never do) and beat myself up for the equivalent of 3 years (spread over 6 years) to get a MA in education with emphasis in Instructional Technology.

I continued to grow in the education field. I made great friend and I got laid off more than once (get your mind off the gutter people), had my ups and downs and was happy for the most part.

Looking at Act 3.5

I didn’t become really unhappy in higher Ed until I moved to Georgia. I went in with the wrong attitude and the wrong disposition, that’s true, that said it still sucked the way I feel I was taken for granted and the way in which they let me go.

But the more important realization of my year I Georgia was that I didn’t want the politics associated with higher education. At least where I’ve been in higher education, the pettiness has be unbelievable. Victoria, Janet, and many more. Te need to address things about you behind your back rather than to you directly.

I’ve learned over the years that talking behind people’s back is not the solution to a problem and not the way I want to communicate. I tend to err in the other direction. I tend to avoid confrontation but not shy away from it when it’s needed.

I was torn. I know it caught a lot of my Georgia friends by surprise and they asked me what was I going to do and offered a lot of very useful and tempting suggestions and possibilities. I was torn and almost stayed but in the end I decided I could do better that working in a field where people are treated like shit. I came back to California about a month after I broke my leg.

I’ve always loved having time to play and time to grow and I did a lot of both in the time I was out of commission. When the doctor finally released me from the knee stroller the first think I did was sign up for PG with Team in Training… it’s been a humbling and learning experience.

Act IV is still being written

October of last year (2012) I reconnected with a friend who offered me a job that I can say I’m happy with.

When I first got FireEye’s offer I was flabbergasted. In my Higher Education world only managers and tenured full professors make the amount I was offered. And the written offer was even better than the verbal offer I was first given… crap.

As with everything else it hasn’t been all rose colored. I’ve almost quit several times but what has kept me there is that, despite the big periods of stress there is a lot of fun to be had and a lot to learn.

As nice as money is; it’s a means to an end. I can travel and stay in a place for a couple weeks while working remotely. I can save a few weeks and make a big purchase without stressing about where miserable I was but then, as I am now, I’m too comfortable for change, even when I know that change is inevitable.

But WDS also taught me that change is not always negative and that some uncertainty is good for the soul. It taught me that if you give your best effort to what you plan then it’s ok to fail.

I’ve planned very carefully what the next 24 months are going to be like and, for the first time, I’m actually sticking to the plan. I’ve planned where and how I’ll spend money and how much I expect to save in the next 2 years.

Plus I have a fallback I’ve never had before: I have stock options in my company. Assuming it ever goes public 🙂

So the question is really where do I want to be… As Tess put it: Act IV is still being written

Once again in search of sunrise

At the World Domination Summit

At the World Domination Summit

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” — John H. Schaar

Life sure has a way of flipping on you when you least expect it. I’m still in the happy place but the happy place continues to evolve and change and, once again, I continue finding myself in a crossroads.

This time it is slightly different. It started when I posted this to my Facebook wall:

Would you rather be a generalist who is good at a lot of things but not the best or dedicate yourself to one or two things and become the best there is at those few things you’ve committed to?

Everyone told me to be a generalist and not to put myself in a niche that would be hard to get out of.

The reason why I ask this is that in the past 6 weeks or so is that i’ve been spread out too thin and in too many directions that I’ve been exhausted… After 14 hours of sleep last night I’m still exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be (and feel) useful again but, and I didn’t realize this until a couple days ago, I’m dying to get into my own projects and because of FireEye’s no contracting clause, I can’t take any projects I’d be interested in working on if they are going to involve remuneration, and even pro bono projects would fall under this category.

I love my company and I love the team I’m working with. I can’t deny that money is good and that I’m professionally happy. But there’s more than I want to do than just being professionally happy. I want to explore options and push the boundary of whatever it is that I choose to work on… and even if I push and decide to go down to a part time position I’m still disallowed to contract outside of my current employer.

I’m in a happy place… I don’t think that I’ve been there work-wise since my time at SJSU working for Morning that I’ve been at the stage where I’m at right now. I was happy, I was learning, I was pushing boundaries and I was more than willing to put my job on the line when we weren’t getting the support we needed.

So this is a different kind of sunrise. For the first time I’m not choosing between a bad and a good situation; I’m choosing between different good outcomes, outcomes with different positive results.

If I were to specialize I would follow my mentors, Liz Castro and Craig Mod in developing the philosophy and the tools to make publishing easier for everyone and Chip Kidd as someone who can communicate the passion for doing this.

But there is something to be said about being a generalist. The breadth of skills needed to be a good ebook or Front End designer is just insane…wonder if it’s not just another way to be a specialist…

I spent this past weekend (July 5th through the 9th) at the World Domination Summit. It was awesome!

I wrote this in my reflections about WDS:

I came in with one question in mind: Stability versus life. Whether it’d be better to stay where I’m at (and where I’m professionally happy) or where should I head from here… Book publishing beckons and it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the opportunities that are coming across.

Once again, that is the question, do I settle for the certainty of a steady income and a nice set of challenges or would you rather be able to chart your own path and craft your own challenges?.

Jonanthan Fields presented it as a different pair of options when I posed him the question at WDS; perhaps it’s not a requirement to quit my job but to find a job where I can leverage ebook production as part of my job and also as a side job to build it to where I’m happy with it whether it turns into a full time job or not.

What if you voluntarily put yourself in a position to be rejected not once or twice but 100 times!

Jia Jing did and what he learned surprised me. Not just because of the people’s reaction to his request but also at the ever increasingly silly risks he took in seeking rejection.

Can you really think about that?! I've always been afraid of rejection. I realize now that I've become risk averse because I don't want to fail and I don't want to be ridiculed because of my failures.

Stability is another way to be mediocre. Even if you try hard enough and work your ass off you are still being mediocre, you're limiting yourself by your fear of rejection... and that has to stop and today sounds like a good day to start as any. Usually when you seek and crave stability you are really afraid... deep down you know that there is no such thing as certainty or a completely stable situation but that level of certainty would be nice, right?

Who I met

Jody Ettenberg from Legal Nomads and an awesome person

Jody Ettenberg from Legal Nomads and an awesome person

Jenny Blake, list mistress extraordinaire

Jenny Blake, list mistress extraordinaire

It’s kinda funny to be part of communities, to “know” people for years before you meet them in person: Jody Ettenberg, Sean Ogle, Jenny Blake, Danielle LaPorte, Jonathan Fields and all the other people who have influenced me over the years and who now I know are “real” although I have to admit that walking towards Pam Sims and just out of the blue saying “sorry I missed your session but I really wanted to thank you for your book” or to Danielle LaPorte and saying “I’m in love with the FireStarter Sessions” wasn’t something that I would have done before Friday.

Danielle LaPorte, author of the Firestarter Sessions

Danielle LaPorte, author of the FireStarter Sessions

It’s eye opening and humbling to see all these people doing all these amazing things. In a way it’s humbling, it makes you realize how long you have yet to go but it’s also a challenge, proof that you haven’t reached the end of your journey yet (if ever), not even the beginning of your journey

What I’ve learned


If you don’t dream then nothing will ever happen. Dreaming has been what’s kept me alive and sane, even when the dreams seemed farfetched or impossible

This bit of a song (lifehouse’s who we are) got stuck in my head Saturday.

And we break and we burn
And we turn it inside out
To take it back to the start
And through the rise and falling apart
We discover who we are

I’ve learned so, so much from so many different people at WDS. Some of the people that particuarly impressed me.

Amy Clover.

Amy Clover, what an amazing woman

Amy Clover, what an amazing woman

It was kinda funny… I was having coffee saturday morning and I see this stunning girl with a t-shirt that says strong inside out and a smile that lit the room with its warmth and brightness.

When attendees did presentations about their lives I see her on stage talking about her life, how she almost comitted suicide and how fitness brought her back and made her commit to work her life around fitness as a way to live a meaningful life. She traveled to 30 cities spreading her message around the country to celebrate her 30th birthday. Isn’t that a wonderful way to celebrate life; not just yours but that of the people around you?

There is no goal beyond your reach if you’re willing to work hard for it
Change the world!

Don Miller

Don Miller

Yes, I have read Blue Like Jazz as part of our bible study group at church (yes, you can laugh if you so wish) but hearing speak about storyline and about stripping yourself to the core to tell your story is completely different.

That level of openness is as alien to me as being naked in public. Yet it is also part f being honest (more below) and building trust with people around you. It’s critical that you are who you are, not who you’d like others to see you as.

Be who you really are, not who you’d like others to see you as.

Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse

This was the first keynote for WDS and it was pretty much the whole answer to
why I had come in to the conference and why I have been looking at the changes I need to make to achieve those dreams.

If you don’t dream nothing will happen. It may take years but they will happen. You just have to pursue them.

Look for sparks

  • All big things start small
  • The next big thing might be the small thing in front of you
  • how to spot sparks
    • what is giving you energy?
    • follow what gives you energy
    • what is giving others energy?


The value of honesty

Be true to yourself… if you carry one message be consitent about it and, if you need to change it, be open about the change and the reason for it.

Build trust with your community… let them know you’re one of them rather than the master looking from the top.

Build a story with your community, where their voices are just as important (if not more so) than yours.

The Plan

When I first joined Locations Rebels I did so because I wanted change, I wanted adventure and I wanted to be like Jody, Sean and other people who inspired me to even consider travel and adventure as a profession. Then came FireEye and that feeling of “I’m not settling but I’m having better options to pursue my dreams” phase; it has worked… I’ve been able to fund my triathlon hobby/addiction at least through 2013; a new bike + 2 Triathlons (Pacific Grove fundraising for LLS/Team In Training and the San Diego Triathlon Challenge fundraising for the Challenged Athletes Foundation

Now I’m getting restless again… the difference is that now I want to be methodic about going after my dreams and getting resuls instead of just promising things and then never acting up on them.

The idea is to get two projects to at least the initial release stage one within 18 months and the within 6 to 12 months afterwards.

Additionally, I want to finish my ebook on digital publishing (Working title: Digital Publishing Theory and Practice) by the end of the year and then submit it for publishing at Amazon before the end of January 2014

  • The first is a digital publishing blog (tentative title: eProduction books)
  • Have the content of the book ready by 12/31/13 and submitted to Amazon by 1/31/14
  • The second is to enable people to tell stories with both ideas and tools

So what now?

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to make things into actionable and concrete steps to take to get from here to there (remember the SMART objectives that they taught you in Grad School 🙂 )

  • I’d really like to know why the company has the policy it does regarding consulting/ctracting. I’m curious what
    prompted it and whether it’s possible to make exceptions.
  • I have to decide if pursuing my passion and my dream is worth not having insurance or a steady income (and if so for how long)
  • define the minimum expenses to live. Nothing fancy but make sure that you have the minimum necessary to live and work
  • Sit down and take a look at what it would take to keep your expenses paid for a year and how long it would take to make a sum large enough that you’d be able to live frugally and pay your bills every month.
  • give yourself a period of time (6 months to a year) to make it work. Be realistic and accept it may not, but while you’re working on it give it your best.
  • start brainstorming the “tell your story” project as a long term idea (18 to 24 months)
  • Continue to participate in #eprdctn and become known in the community as part of the blog building process. Measured by tweets and (subjective) solutions worked on

I'm leaving the WDS world with this video as I get ready for what comes next

My WDS 2013 in pictures

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All pictures realeased under Creative Commons Non Commerical Share Alike License by WDS and Armosa Studios