WDS 2016

Rather than break it up by days I'll try to weave the themes I've discovered throughout a single narrative to go along with discoveries and some other recent thoughts and writing.

Doing things for the right reason

Or: the worst thing you can do is not start

I've always been inspired by Chris's story. It's always been an example of perseverance and the continued wishes for adventure. Every time I heard this or other interviews where Chris talks about his early life and how he came to where he is now I look out and away to where I would want to be and wonder if those things are reachable and attainable.

At WDS I spoke with Sean, the creator of Location Rebels, and he asked one very interesting question: what do you want?

I've always thought that I knew the answer but the older I get the more I realize that it's only you think you know the answer but you really don't: "When we had the answers, they changed the questions."

Accept that what you want will change and accept that you will have a never ending quest and that's ok. Remember that the moment you settle, the moment that you compromise you're lost to yourself. Be positive, always ask what can go right instead of what can go wrong.

Consequences of success and failure

One of the things we don't think about enough are the consequences of success. That has been in my mind a lot lately as I move through the process of finishing this project at Google and decide what's next and what shape it'll take.

For some reason I'm reminded of a portion of Neil Gaiman's 2012 commencement speech where he talks about success and failure:

The problems of failure are problems of discouragement, of hopelessness, of hunger. You want everything to happen and you want it now, and things go wrong. My first book – a piece of journalism I had done for the money, and which had already bought me an electric typewriter from the advance – should have been a bestseller. It should have paid me a lot of money. If the publisher hadn't gone into involuntary liquidation between the first print run selling out and the second printing, and before any royalties could be paid, it would have done.

And I shrugged, and I still had my electric typewriter and enough money to pay the rent for a couple of months, and I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn't get the money, then you didn't have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn't get the money, at least I'd have the work.

Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me. I don't know that it's an issue for anybody but me, but it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn't wind up getting the money, either. The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I've never regretted the time I spent on any of them.

The problems of failure are hard.

The problems of success can be harder, because nobody warns you about them.

The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It's Imposter Syndrome, something my wife Amanda [Palmer] christened the Fraud Police.

In my case, I was convinced that there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard (I don't know why he carried a clipboard, in my head, but he did) would be there, to tell me it was all over, and they had caught up with me, and now I would have to go and get a real job, one that didn't consist of making things up and writing them down, and reading books I wanted to read. And then I would go away quietly and get the kind of job where you don't have to make things up any more.

Neil Gaiman -- commencement speech at Academy of Art, 2012

While it's true that we shouldn't define ourselves by our failures we can't discount the fact that failures, even more that successes make you who you are. You just have to accept failures as part of the process. I'm starting this process in the project I'm working on, the level of stress and the amount of feedback I'm expecting to get from the developers in London is scary and it's hard to stay positive.

The other side of the process is that you can’t really say you want to be good at something if you never do it or if you never put yourself out there for the world to see and critique and say mean shit about...

So what makes you really you? Is it the big successes and failures or is it the little thin that make you smile every day (see Slowing down and living in the present for more on this).

“No matter how you define success, momentary happiness should have some role in it…. happiness has also been thought of as having a larger, almost spiritual quality that goes beyond both momentary feelings and reflective thought.

SO how do you become you so the joy can come out as a result?

before you can be unapologetically joyful. You have to be unapologetically you

Jonathan Fields


I have issues with standing still and listening...

I remember that each and every Naginata practice started with us sitting zazen, bowing to each other and meditated to clear our minds for the practice to come.

When did it become so hard to stay still?

How can you zoom the lens out and come back fully engaged and present. How can the stillness lead to an awareness of the wide world?

Jonathan suggested two ideas of how to cultivate awareness by laying still:

  • Daily practice
  • Zoom out 1 week out of 7 or maybe 1 day a week to evaluate the time


Either you do or you don't... it has taken me years to figure out how deep the Yoda quote from Empire Strikes Back really is. The hard part is that the introverted in me doesn't give a shit about meeting new people and the extroverted in training is too short tempered for some of the idiots I normally have to deal with.

Listening to Chelsea Dinsmore reminded me of Scott. Perhaps the biggest challenge during her presentation was: How you do anything is how you do everything. It's an interesting question and something that continues to challenge me as I process the weekend.

How you do anything is how you do everything. How does your work create a reflection of who and what you are?

How do you combat the fear of interacting with people you don't know while remembering that strangers are friends you haven't met yet? How you do anything is how you do everything.

Self imposed limits (and the other kind)

Widen your world... Shit is about more than just you. It's hard to remember that there are more people around you... that the game is not single player. Live your life intentionally, fully and with passion but also learn to distinguish passion from being an ass or being single minded about something... I know that I'm not required to be social when I'm not feeling like it

Curiosity creates creativity. What are you curious and passionate about? Can you take these passions over again once the current project ends? Will the passion be the same as it was before?

We have no limits, only those we place on ourselves so how much are you willing to make those limitations go away. In working on understanding your limitations it also helps to question why something is important to you... why do you want to (or don't want to do this). And, the most important question to ask is how much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve those goals.

Never make statements, always ask questions

Who do you want to be?

I've already done the hardest thing I will ever do. What are the implications of this? What do I have to loose? I never thought I was going to do a triathlon... and I've done 8. I never in my wildest dreams I thought I was going to do a century ride and not only I did a century but I picked up a very hard one to do (riding around Lake Tahoe is no picnic). I started traveling on my own when I was very young... mom put me on a plane (under crew supervision) when I was 6 months old and I traveled overseas on my own for the first time when I was 14. I've traveled to multiple locations in and out of the country since... and I've survived and I've had a wonderful time doing it. So what's next? What other challenges can be as

Conscious choices: exist or be full alive and present. Dream big, live bigger and create a life of adventure. What you do is less important than enjoying it to the fullest. Don't worry about what people say about your efforts and about goals. You're the only person whose opinion matters.

Live with no regrets. It's not about arriving to the end safely but having enjoyed all you've done and leaving nothing on the road...

Failure versus never trying

Failures and assists should not be excluded from the narratives of success. You shouldn't hide your struggles and your efforts when pursuing your goals. One thing that really pisses me off is that we only hear of successful efforts and good results but we never hear about failures. Be positive in your explanations and learn from your failures.

Doubt your doubts

Joy and sorrow can coexist. There is no such thing as absolute failure or absolute success... they coexists and feed of each other and make you who you really are.

What is a good life?

I've always been torn between what I have and what I don't have and, from time to time, have wallowed in misery and misery loves company, doesn't it? The poster below, along with the Holstee manifesto have taken me out of the funk more than once and have led me to live fuller and, I want to think, more deeply 🙂

The Good Life Project Creed

The Good Life Project Creed

One of the biggest questions is what makes for a good life. Part of it is to live to its fullest but also to be wise about it. Walk a mile on someone else's shoes not just once or to say you did it. Do it because you mean it fully and completely.

A good life is not a place at which you arrive, but a lens trough which you choose to view the world

Jonathan Fields

Jonathan's interview with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is eye opening and revealing. It's a very interesting conversation. We can always aspire to be better and I need to continue reminding myself that it's a never ending process.

Coda: Trust

I saw a really interesting scene in Portland. Two women walking together, one in a full blindfold and being led by a working dog in training.

It reminded me of a trust exercise I did while in theater at Central: close your eyes, hold your partner's hand and let him/her drive you anywhere in the theater building.

It also triggered a question on why trust is so hard for me to give and accept.

WDS snuck by on me

Can't believe it's that time of the year again... thank goodness WDS moved a month later or I'd have been up to my eyeballs in crap if it hadn't.

For the first time since I started attending WDS I find myself in a good and happy place. I'm {happy|tired|weary} but I wouldn't trade it for the world right now. As tired as I am right now I'm also excited as I haven't been in a long, long time. My skills continue to improve and polish under a very good manager, one I wish I could continue working for as a full time employee or in as many projects as I can squeeze out of myself.

But that's the thing. I'm less concerned with converting to full time than actually creating and sponging as much as I can. It's the learning experience and the opportunities that it gives me rather than me staying at Google long enough to retire... we'll see where this takes me.

Right now I'm still learning, writing and coding... and flying to London! If everything works ok I'll fly to London early September for work and then again in October for a conference and then to Barcelona for vacation... would have never been able to say that a few years ago

WDS2015: Derek Sivers

Derek is hilarious. I've read some of his books and several of his blog posts but nothing prepared me for hearing him speak live. He's a riot and is very incisive at the same time. Using hs experiences from creating and then selling CD Baby he wove a very interesting tale of doing what you're passionate about and being unconventional and creative on whatever it is that you choose to do.

Patience is a virtue

Part of knowing what you want is being patient while you define what it is you want and being patient while building what you want to do or be. Realize that this is not an instant process where you say this is what I want and it happens, it may take a long time or not happen at all.

Why are you doing what you’re doing?

Another question worth asking is why are you doing what you're doing. Most people don’t know, they imitate others and go with the flow and forget that they are not doing what they want or, even worse, the thing that they are doing to follow the flow becomes their lives.

You should avoid pursuing something that someone said you should want instead of what you really want

That's why it irks me so much when parents tell their children what they should go to college for and what they should major in and who they should marry. How many of them stay in their majors or do something absolutely different after they graduate from college?

What do you want?

Another deceptive question... Yeah, we all want something and we all fight to accomplish it but we refuse to accept that we all give up something in exchange for what we want. I know I've given up freedom when I chose to stay at a job for the money and, conversely, I gave up the security of a stable paycheck and unconditional insurance when I chose to live a job and be myself.

In addition to knowing what you want you should also prioritize. What are the top 3 things that you can't live without and how will you manage competing priorities. Derek presented the list below as a starting point.

  • Money
    • Others take spotlight
  • Prestige
  • Fame
  • Leave a legacy
    • Trump: spend to put your name on things
  • Freedom
    • If you pick freedom
    • Refuse reponsibility
    • delegate everything
      • DIY (delegate it yourself)

Once you make a decision know what you're going after. Focus and don’t difuse your efforts. If you're lucky you will build a killer product/service and make tons of money but you should always keep in mind what you're original goal is. Why did you set out to make the product/service. WIll money change your mind about that goal (it shouldn't unless money and a nice buyout was your goal to begin with.)

Nobody knows the future

Derek speaks about business and companies and customers but this is also applicable to relationships, to personal projects and anything else that you can think of. The truth remains the same: nobody knows the future and whoever tries to sell you a 'happily ever after' future is full of shit.

You have a lot to learn from people and it does good to be reminded to listen and learn from people. Every so often it's a good idea to just sit down and listen or just read a twitter stream or forum thread instead of preaching and getting into arguments. It's

  • Nobody knows the future
  • Your business plan is moot
  • Commit to a problem not a solution
  • No plan survives contact with the customer
  • "Nobody knows"
  • Ask instead of answer
  • Learn instead of preach

Work your ass off but know when to back off

Hard work is always a necessity. So is knowing when to back off and let things change and evolve on their own without you being there all the time getting your nose in the project.

There is also knowing when to move on.... it's easy to get married to a project and not want to see it fail, you have to be strong enough to realize when it didn't work and when to move on to the next thing. Now I'm understanding better why when you pitch you have to be absolutely ready to kill the idea... sitting on it for years won't work.

  • If it’s not a hit, switch
  • trying everything will yield a hit eventually
  • If people aren’t loving what you’re doing, STOP!
    • Don’t persist
    • Don’t push it
  • When yo’ve got something great, you’ll know
    • People will freak out
    • Anything less that OMFG take all my money means move on
  • Success comes from persistently improving and investing, not from pushing what’s not working

BE SELECTIVE. Either Hell yeah or not at all.

No more half assed projects. If you're going to jump on something then you do so fully committed and 100% dedicated to it. If not then don't do it.

  • Revolution
  • Love is not the same as Romeo and Juliet
  • We don’t need to revolutionize the industry we’re getting into
  • Revolution = uncommon sense

Get your ass in gear

If you're going to work in a project or product your number one priority is to launch it. Launch. Something. Now. Not later but NOW.

It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to be. That's a good starting step

  • Version 0.1
    • Every journey starts with one step
    • The time spent in pitching and ideas could be spent doing things
  • If you’re not launching too soon, you’re launching too late

  • Ideas vs Execution

    • Don’t tell me, show me

WDS2015 Takeaways

  • Your voice is never lost. It’s always waiting to be found. ~ Jon Acuff
  • Instead of asking what’s the worst that can happen, ask what’s the best that can happen? ~ Tess Vigeland
  • Uncertainty is the gateway to possibility. ~ Lissa Rankin
  • People remember you more for the little ways you make them smile, than the tech/biz/marketing stuff you do. ~ Derek Sivers
  • Don’t believe ‘I can’t.’ ~ Jeremy Cowart
  • There is always a reason to complain. There is always a reason to dance. Choose dancing. ~ Kid President (Robby Novak) and Brad Montague
  • You’ve got everything you need right now. ~ Asha Dornfest

WDS2015 Interlude: Tess Vigeland

I remember listening to Tess in 2013 and being amazed. It wasn't just the courage that it took to actually leave but it was how vulnerable that made her and her willingness to share that vulnerability with the audience (us... I was there.)

Can you imagine how hard it is to open yourself like that? Unless I really knew the person I'd never have the courage to do that.... Much less in front of 3000 strangers. I think it was that willingness and the way she told the story that made me really think and question where I was at with life.

A few months later, 1-Nov-2013 I walked in to my director's office and told her I was quitting and that my last day was the 15 of that month. There are a lot of reasons why I chose to leave and I wasn't really ready to tell my coworkers what those reasons where (and Chris and Rob did try to convince me to stay.)

I wanted something different and I wanted change. I had a pot of money I could dip in as needed and I had a plan or what I wanted to do in that year. I don't know how much of the decision was made at the time I heard Tess speak for the first time. I'll never forget the picture below.

Tess Vigeland: What the hell are you doing? You're just being awesome and remarkable

Tess Vigeland: What the hell are you doing? You're just being awesome and remarkable

It was kinda surprising to see Tess back on stage this year. I wondered what was going on and remembered that a few weeks ago I'd seen that her book was finally being published! She had done it! It seemed it was a different Tess who stood before the audience on Sunday... she was relaxed and she was happy (or as happy as you can be when you stand before 3000 people 🙂

Tess Vigeland at WDS2015

Tess Vigeland at WDS2015

It had taken her 2 years of hard work and it paid off... the book is released in August/September (6 weeks) and she had gone out of her comfort zone and had pushed her comfort zone to where it is now.

There is no reason to go when you're ready to do so. I proved that to myself 2 years ago and there is no reason why I can't do it again so what's stopping you other than you stopping yourself?

WDS 2015: John Accuff

Unlike other conferences I didn't feel like live tweeting and I don't feel like writing mega posts about everyone so I'll do shorter more in-depth posts about people, events and situations that caught my attention.

I'll take a detour to something interesting that happened during the welcome shindig last night (7/10) started talking to a stranger... yes, me, talking to a stranger. And, somehow the topic of backgrounds and what we wanted to do when we were younger came up and I spoke about theater and about failed aspirations and certainties that proved to be wrong.

Background: Until Fall semester of my Junior Year in College I was a theater major with all intent of working in sound design and directing. I'll skip the reasons why but shortly before the end of the semester I switched majors to General Studies and did my Master's in Instructional Technology.

I try not to 'should myself to death' but there are times when I wonder if I hadn't switched and graduated as a theater major what would have happened and how different life would have worked out to be.

It wasn't different and my life took the turns that it has. I mention it because the longing for that particular path had not hit me this hard in years, if ever.

John Acuff (@jonacuff)

John was the first speaker of WDS and it really felt that someone had picked up the exact words that I needed to hear and that the rest of my time in Portland was processing and diggesting this first speaker and figuring out what to do with what I had just learned.

Would the 8th grader me clap or cry if he saw me today?

One of the reasons why the theater quote from last night resonated so strongly with me, I think, has to do with that question. The 8th grader me was 100% certain that he was going to work in theater. He was going to sweat a BA in theater and then work his ass off in an MFA in theater directing and then work in experimental theater and, maybe improv.

I wonder what would the younger me (c. 1988) say if he saw me now. Would he understand why I didn't graduate with a theater degree? Would he understand the choices I made and why I made them? Would we come to a neutral understanding and move on?

My inner 8th grader would certainly accuse me of selling out. Of letting comfort and security (such as it has been) dictate my life. I could tell him how much I agonized about the decision of switching majors before, during and after the process. But, as I remember myself back then, I wasn't going to let the older me off the hook that easy.

Bravery is a choice not a feeling. We never feel brave enough to do what we want

Short and sweet: What would it take for you to do what you want today, right now?

I'll come back to this because it's a deceptively simple question and the answer, I think, will take peeling several layers before the real truth comes out.

Why do we loose our voice

We all have a voice but most of the time it's buried by who we become and what we think we should be doing and what we think others people think we should be doing.

This is particularly true for me as I look at my friends growing up and where we are by comparison. I'm the only one to remain single and without kids. Out of a group of 7 of us, all but 2 of us have at least 1 kid, I'm the only one single and there are only two of us who have no kids. The cultural expectation was that we'd go to college (any college, the choice was not whether we were going to college but what school and what major), get married and get in a relationship, kids, family and the picket fence.

When I moved to the US I decided that it was not for me. I've explored and I've switched things up enough to make it a very interesting ride. Some times I wonder if the sacrifices I made to get here are worth it but whatever the answer I'm here and they've shaped me into who I am.

We're to busy to have a voice.

If you stay in motion you don't have to face the things that make you emotional

Someone really has to slap you in the face with the dead fish before you realize the truth that has been staring you in the face all this time. Why do we keep ourselves so busy and let the "work-life balance" go to hell for long periods of time and then moan and complaint about how burned out we are.

Time won't find you, you have to find it

And, as with many other things, it's on my hands to control how I use time. Time waits for no one and it is up to you what you do what but how do you hold ourself accountable to both your job and your passions?

Tools like Dosummer2015 may be a good starting point but you need to find other ways to add more accountability to the process of your life. Whether it's a mentor, whether it's a mastermind

**What would it take for you to do what you want today, right now? **

Set aside an hour a day to do things that are not related with your work. Enforce it religiously... no matter what it is you will set aside an hour, either early morning or when you get home but you will do it.

We get distracted by shinny things

Shiny things that gets us distracted from pursuing your dreams.

I did this in 2013. I had a budget, I had ideas of what I wanted to do and I went ahead and did it. I have (and hate) to admit that what brought me back to working in corporate America was money and financial stability. Sometimes I think I didn't plan for a longer self-employment term... and now I'm wondering if I want to go at it again and whether that would be a good reason to tough it out this project at NTT while I continue to expand my portfolio.

Kids think you need some money. Adults think you need enough money

It's amazing to see how much money begins to change you as you grow up and how much more important money becomes as you get older. Granted we need additional money as we grow up but how much do we really need?

Some versus enough. Some times enough money will kill your voice

How do you define enough money? Is enough the same when you're single than when you have a family?

"Can I pay you not to work on things you don't care about" - yet many "successful" creators end up doing little of the work they set out to do when they started

Sometimes when you get enough money, you abandon your voice (e.g. bloggers chasing traffic)

How many times have you stepped away from what you wanted to do. Even now you're letting money become the driving factor (along with loyalty which is what you're expressing externally is your concern... it may be so but you know it's not the only one.)

And how much does that changes you? I had a chance to answer that question in my mid 20s. I was hired at CVC, in the middle of Silicon Valley in 2000... salaries were inflated to hell and back and they had to pay about 3 or 4 levels above the actual job to be competitive with the dot com bubble at the time.

By the time I left, I was grossing over 100k and taking home about 85 to 90k a year. I don't remember ever been so miserable (well, maybe my time in Georgia, but that's another story) so I promised to myself that never again would money be the driver behind me applying for jobs. The quote below really resonated

You can't monetize joy

If you're not happy doing what you do then why bother doing it? CVC proved that to me. I loved some aspects of it but the bad far outweighed the good. I should have quit a long time before they laid us off. One of the things I learned from our director is that you never take advantage of people.

When you see people as platform, you eventually stand on top of them

We want everyone to like us

Symptoms of this

  • You hate telling people no
  • You keep trying to win over people who will never like your voice
  • If you can find one person to confirm your negatives, you'll find validation not to do it

I got all symptoms. I hate telling people no and I've kept trying to find people who will validate what I'm doing or why I shouldn't be doing it at all. I tend to forget that the only person whose opinion really matter is you. Act accordingly.

If you tell someone no and they react in anger they just confirmed you made the right decision

Trying to make everyone like you is the quickest way to hate yourself

I remember someone telling me that whenever we hated something on others it was a reflection of something within ourselves that we didn't like. So, whenever you're looking at something you don't like on others, what is it that you should change in yourself?

  • You're terrified of the advice "just be yourself"

Being yourself assumes that you know who you are or at least have an approximation of the idea of who you are as a per son and where your values are and how far will you go to see those values through in what you do

Who are you?

I've said it before, who are you is a deceptively simple question.

It implies accepting yourself as you are and making a conscious effort and commitment to change those behaviors that you're not; this is the hardest part of the problem.

Being unconditionally honest to yourself is the hardest part of growing up... or growing up emotionally at least. Being unconditionally honest with others can be more problematic but, in the long run, it's equally necessary.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't like yourself 🙂

One of the things that has bugged me a lot over the years is perfectionism, not that it has changed many things, but it has made me thing about when is too much perfection ruining the work you're trying to accomplish.

When is not releasing a project because it's no 'good enough' or because you need to get it 'just right' harming the project? harming yourself?

Be known, not perfect

I've always been a perfectionist and, I realize now, that has stopped many projects from being released and realized.

I started an experiment in June where I took a long-form essay in typography broke it down into its components and made one post with each section and just scheduled them for publication... they will publish whether they are ready or not and, most important, whether I'm ready or not.

On one hand that is abso-fucking-lutely terrifying. You mean I don't get to edit the posts 20 times before they are published? People will judge me by those posts, they have to be the absolute best they can be.

But, you know what? It's so refreshing not having to worry about that... I ran them through spell checker and I made sure the content was as good as I could make it. If people like it then it's awesome and if they don't then I'm OK too... you can always edit it based on feedback

We used to document moments and we create moments to document

What makes the moments you record worth recording? What about all your WDS tweets and your blog posts?

It seems like an unrelated question but if it comes to being honest with yourself you have to realize and accept that there are times when you blog when you do it because you have to live to other people's expectations and because you feel like 'you have to produce a certain output.' John gives a great example from his personal life in How to look good on the Internet.

How many times has this happened to you?

Your voice is never lost, it's always waiting to be found

Questions to ask

If you plan your finances more carefully and plan for work that meets with your mission there is no reason why you can't support yourself doing more of the work you love. What's stopping you

Is writing about what's popular and the associated money worth your voice?

Detach from the moment and look at yourself and those around you and, particularly, yourself. What do you need to change? what will lead to those changes? What do you need to do? where do you need to be

When is not releasing a project because it's not 'good enough' or 'just not ready' harming the project or even harming yourself?

What would it take for you to do what you want today, right now?

Has it been a year already? (WDS 2015 – Preview)

As I sit at the Starbucks in PDX's Pioneer Court Square there are several conflicting thoughts and feelings in my mind and my heart.

Some of those feelings are accomplishment. Even though it wasn't on time I was still able to finish what I had set out to do when I left my last job at FireEye and decided to embark in an exploration of what would it mean to live life in my own terms.

I'm still not certain I got any more than the beginning of an answer.

I was running out of money and the time period I had chosen to explore these questions was coming to an end so I put myself back in the grind and started searching for a job.... I'm not a consultant for NTT working on a project @ Juniper.

As with many things in life, jury is still out whether it was the right decision or not.

Every year I come to WDS I come with questions and with the strong desire to move further down the path that will lead to happiness.

Even the path that will lead to happiness is kind of a loaded question. What is happiness? Is it personal happiness? Relationship happiness? Have you reached that point and you're just to dense to realize it?

This year the questions are about loyalty and whether I want to stay where I'm at or move on to something else. Whether I want to challenge myself in ways that are more alien to me or whether I want to fall back to the comfort of the familiar?

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