October 15, 2021
Having been a while since I’ve written one of these updates I am hoping to get myself back in to the habit as part of a concerted effort to organize an archive of online work from the past 15 years.
In the past week, I have made more progress in collecting various folders of notes, work, and writing into one place than I have in any of my previous attempts. Beyond simply bringing together this content to be sorted, deleted, and reviewed I have (re-) published more content online in the past week than I have collectively in the past. Much of this success goes to the simplicity of the blot.im platform, specifically when it comes to publishing images online. With a simple iOS shortcut I created, all I need to do is select, name, and export images directly from the Photos app on my iPad and blot.im takes care of the rest.
My goal, by the end of 2021, is to have as much as my back catalog of archived content re-posted online so that it is easily accessible to me. While the entirety of my archives may not get processed I anticipate a good majority of it will. I hope that re-reading old content and having it available online will inspire me to once again publish content on more regular basis.
November 30, 2020
Recently, thoughts about how I spend my time, energy, and expertise; and if I am living up to my full potential day-to-day have been top of mind. I question if I am giving my best efforts to the various communities I am a part of. Part of this contemplation is directly related to completing my Master’s degree at the beginning of the year and not yet feeling like I am applying the knowledge I gained or skills I developed over the course of my studies. More than this, I am thinking about the period I am at in life, what I have to show as the culmination for a life’s worth of work, and I find myself comparing where I am at to what others what to “show” for their comparable position in life. Considerations such like this are never healthy, neither is considering one has completed a life’s worth of work at the age of 37, but here I am.
For the longest time I have held myself back from pursuing roles of management and formal leadership. The main reason for not “advancing” further in terms of traditional bureaucratic structures— I struggle to find alignment between my personal core values and what society says managers and leaders should be. Although I do believe that leadership doesn’t require a title, having written very personally about this:
In considering the leadership roles that I have held throughout my career, I am reminded that the most rewarding and valuable ones were those that I undertook with no formal permission, title, or recognition. Such roles have proven to provide me the opportunity to make significant impact, within a community, without being hindered or directed by politics, organizational mandates, administrative procedures, or bureaucratic processes. I have found that these types of informal leadership roles allow for my work to remain connected to the communities I aim to serve while limiting outside influences from individuals or organizations such as funders, politicians, and private interest groups. - The Importance of Place
I can’t help but to consider the need to play the games which our society demands we play. If we wish to live a life that balances personal needs with monetary demands, while at the same time battling bouts of severe depression rooted in understandings of personal identity tied to a Protestant work ethic engrained in our North American culture, there is a strong but unhealthy argument that is too easily made about giving in to capitalism which is all too invasive in our life’s and simply playing the game we’re born into.
But I digress.
These thoughts have me wondering if I am holding myself back from making the most impact I can make in life. When I consider the things that frustrate me the most with the management structures I work under, and what many organizational structures constitute as leadership, I question if I am not taking the necessary steps to remedy the frustrations I face. Wouldn’t becoming a manger, or formal leader as recognized by institutions, be a solution that would provide some additional opportunity to change the structures that stress me out the most while trying to eliminate the frustrations my colleagues and I face? While this may very well be the case, a fear I have is that if I were to “advance” through corporate and organizational labyrinths I would become the very version of management and leadership which I have come to despise or that the work itself will be so demoralizing that I will lose all interest.
Informing these thoughts is the consideration of what the purpose of a career is, versus a job, and how I wish to invest my energy in life. James Shelley summarizes many of these thoughts succinctly as part of his book-in-progress, Simplicity Praxis. Of particular interest is the section titled, Mediocity, which rethinks the terms of engagement when it comes to achievement and success. Sub-sections include considerations on: being micro-ambitious, the wisdom of doing as little as possible, and perhaps the most relevant of the sections for the considerations I am having—The Careerist vs. The Dilettante. Over the years I have returned to James’ words time and time again as they resonate deeply with my values and beliefs. This period in my life is no different.
As I continue working through these thoughts, wait with the remainder of the world to understand how our global pandemic will shape immediate and long-term futures, and look into the coming year to see what it might have in store for me I can’t help but to think about the uncertainty which (always) lies ahead. Thankfully, James has words to help with this too:
Instead of chronically fearing, dreading, or ignoring the inevitable surprises and shocks to come, what shall we do with them? We could try examination and exploration. In an embrace of uncertainty, we might adopt a genuine inquisitiveness about the strange and zany things that life constantly throws at us. - Uncertainty, as mantra by James Shelley
- I am finished my annual re-read of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
- I am finished reading for 2020. My aim for the remainder of the year is to focus on developing out my reading plan for 2021; an approach that will have me reading fewer works but spending a greater amount of time with each, contributing to a dive deep into a select number of topics that I find particularly interesting.
- After a month away from the Good City Co. community I will return tomorrow to see what has transpired over the past month. I am looking forward to returning recharged and finding ways to engage in the ongoing discussions and work of the group.
- I am freaking out about the potential for the floors to collapse in my home. Spending 24hrs 7-days-a-week in my home had provided ample opportunity for me to experience every nook and cranny of this place, for better or worse.
- I really enjoyed this 20 year old episode of This American Life titled, Americans in Paris. It is definitely worth a listen.
November 23, 2020
As I sit in my recently painted den, with my desk back in its place from a short stint of squatting in the living room, I can’t help but to think about the amount of space I have access to in my home. While my home is not large by modern understandings of what a home should be—built in the 1950’s and having little additional space than was originally allotted to the military family that lived here—it is more space than I have had access to in the past. Ignoring for the moment the large lot that this small house is situated upon, I have a room to dedicate to work and reading which is separate from the space I entertain or eat in. This really is a first for me.
Having lived in rental units the majority of my life, most often in apartments, I am more than content with having access to only a small amount of personal living space. I find that having less space at home offers the opportunity to become more appreciative of what one has; to value what is truly needed. Considering what one owns as a matter of necessity forces a person to live directly within their means. Living small is to live with intention, resulting in an individual coming closer to what really matters in life.
When it comes to outdoor space, I prefer to consider city parks, the streets, and other public places as the my outdoor space to use how I see fit. Why should I bother to have a small amount of private, when I have access to an almost unlimited amount of communal, open space? Perhaps it is the collective mindset that I find myself easily drawn to which is more prevalent in my own views than the individualistic society which I exist within, but I question why I wouldn’t share space with others when I can only use it a fraction of the time as it is.
With that said, whether I am thinking about indoor or outdoor space, I recognize that I am fortunate to have to more space than I require. I can move freely from one location to another, both indoors and outside, without the need to take into consideration the others I may be sharing the space with (aside from my wife). A great many people, perhaps the majority of the world, do not have this privilege. This is not lost on me.
Even in a home with additional space, different rooms for me to occupy, I know that the winter to come will be hard. If I were still living in previous accommodations as the winter of a global pandemic hit I can imagine that the state of my mental health would be in poorer shape. As I settle in to a long and cold winter, one that is likely to be lonelier than the months that have come before, I’ll be thinking a great deal about how having access to space shapes an individual’s mental health, including my own.
- I started to collect and read some graphic novels. While only in digital format, I am not certain why I haven’t taken myself down this rabbit hole before. Given that some of the most compelling stories I love in film format started as graphic novels this seems like an easy entrance point into a different form of reading. As I read primarily works of non-fiction, I hope that graphic novels may provide a way for me to become lost in works of fiction—a feat that I have not had success with in the past.
- As mentioned above, the den/office/lounge/spare room in my home is now painted. They call the colour, Mac & Cheese, and I can confirm that when the can was opened we thought we were painting with cheese sauce. The colour along with a refresh of all of the white in the room is a welcome change from the poorly completed paint job that the previous owners had on the walls.
- I have slowed my reading this month to take in only, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
- Although I have tried to limit my use of new technology and software, holding myself to the very basics that I know I will always have access to, I have found a strong connection to notion.so . Unlink Evernote and other all-in-one tools, something about Notion seems to click with me. I know that I have only scratched the surface of what it is capable of, but I can see myself using this service (and paying for it, if needed) for a long time coming.
November 16, 2020
For the first time in a while I felt like this past weekend I could actually relax. With no major commitments and nothing pressing which needed to be done I was given an opportunity to breathe.
Yet, I didn’t take advantage of it.
I filled my weekend—or at least half of it—with chores and small things to keep me busy and to get ahead.
Why is it that I am not longer satisfied with being bored—always seeking out tasks to keep my idle hands busy and feeling the need to go-go-go? Once, prior to owning a home I imagine, boredom was something I craved. Being bored, or rather having a lack of dictated things to do, allowed me to: think, be creative, read, and read some more. Being bored provided a near-perfect way to find the energy to reflect and recharge.
Now, I feel that I am always working away at something.
With my fresh start I had hoped to take the month of November to rest and reflect. While I have begun to accomplish this in many ways, primarily in terms of social media and online compulsions, I am not certain I am where I need to be. When it comes to my non-digital life I may need to double-down on my focus to review what I’m doing, what needs to be done, and what path I should take forward.
- Finished, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This was a struggle. My mini review is here.
- Started my annual re-read of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
- Framing the basis for a talk on, Yes/No: How To Gift Our Time To What Matters Most for a presentation series on careers and mentoring
- Contemplating a more structured and focused reading plan for 2021 which would have me reading more intentionally, building deeper connections to the topics I am most interested in, getting back to the act of writing, and perhaps even publishing content online to engage with others. I am beginning to amass some thoughts on this reading plan. I am calling this “project,” On Reading.
- Looking forward to painting our den so that I can move my office out of our living room and return some of the work/life balance which once existed.
November 9, 2020
As what is likely to be the last nice weekend of the year 1 I spent a good portion of my time outside. Hiking with friends, and then a solo attempt at making my way around the lake, I’m exhausted even moreso than a typical Monday morning.
I’ve been paying more attention to my body as of late. I’ve come to fully recognize that the days when I complete no physical activity in the mornings 2 are the days when I do not feel well—physically or mentally. This is not necessarily a new revelation on my part but rather one where I am now understanding the full implications of regular physical activity (or lack of).
With no regular walks to/from the office these days, and with the weather getting colder, making a concerted effort to be physically active is becoming increasingly more important.
On that note, my relationship with the gym is mixed. I spend a lot of time at the gym, in comparison to most people, and do not enjoy it one bit. I am not a gym rat. What I am, is someone who recognizes the following three things about myself and going to the gym in the mornings:
- Physical activity is good for me, both physically and mentally (the latter being more important for me, see #3).
- Being active in the morning provides me a greater amount of sustained energy throughout the day.
- If I do nothing else throughout the day, or feel like I’ve accomplished nothing of value, I can at least remind myself—I got up in the morning, went to the gym, and ran. If nothing else, I’ve accomplished that.
That last point has helped me to get through some of the most challenging of days. When day-after-day can feel like I am adding nothing of value to the world, and completing the most mundane work ever has me questioning why I bother to develop skills or expertise, knowing that I woke and contributed to my personal health is often enough to sustain me for the next 24 hours. It’s a temporary fix, one that I know cannot last forever, but I have found success in it.
Reading: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
November 2, 2020
As the northern hemisphere settles into what is certain to be a long and lonesome winter, I have chosen to enjoy an extended period of quiet time. I’ll be taking No-vember to heart and staying away from most things non-essential, including Slack and any of the social media sites I still find myself trolling. I plan on mostly reading (including an annual re-read of this horrible business book with a very good message), reflecting upon the things I value most and planning for the actions I have yet to take. Some thoughts regarding this plan are captured here.
If someone asked me twenty-four months ago, ‘what’s next?’ I couldn’t have predicted where I would be today. Unable to see the future, life has a way of taking you on emotional, exciting and transformational journeys when you least expect it.
For the past year or so, I’ve been considering ‘what’s next’ for me. I’ve been working with an amazing group of people at Libro Credit Union, investing in my local community, and growing prosperity in southwestern Ontario, the later which I was recognized for with a Growing Prosperity Award. And yet, something hasn’t clicked.
I’ve been successful in my role, influencing the way we do business as we shift resources towards the digital landscape, and contributing to initiatives shaping both the organization & region. But the day-to-day of implementing someone else’s design, not being able to fully leverage my curiosity, big picture thinking, and aptitude for innovation & creative design? Not so much.
I’ll save the story of my never-satisfied approach to life, lack of patience for antiquated processes, and general imposter syndrome (of not living up to my potential) for over beers with friends, but suffice it to say I’ve known for a while the design of the organization itself wasn’t made to support the ways I excel at working, and as a result I haven’t been able to make the impact I know I should be making.
What to do then? Create a new role for myself with different responsibilities? Keep my head down, not taking an active role in my future? Wait for a change that’s so desperately need, and slowly build frustration? I talked through these options (and many more) dozens of times with co-workers, coaches, and supportive family & friends, but realistically I always knew what my next step would be.
In the coming weeks I’ll be wrapping up projects at Libro and doing all that I can to set my team up for success both in the short and longer term, all before I move on to my next adventure.
The decision to leave Libro hasn’t been easy to make. It’s a fantastic organization and a group of exceptional people that have values which resonate very closely with my own. What I have come to realize though is that the very best combination of these things doesn’t always add up to contentment. That trying to force things to align when you know they won’t doesn’t help anyone to move forward in a positive direction, it only creates unnecessary friction.
While I’m going to miss many things about working at Libro I’m fortunate in that, as an Owner, there are many other ways to contribute to the organization.
I never have a master plan. I’m putting one foot in front of the other.
From how I got to where I am today, to where I’ll end up tomorrow, there’s no chart or graph that can predict where I’ll be found making an impact in the future. While it’s true that my journey in life has been anything but linear, it has been a very intentional journey, even more so in recent years.
Where I choose to invest my time, talents, and treasures, in both my personal and professional lives, are decisions always carefully made. Often times with too much planning, the opportunities I create for myself and those I let myself be open to, are purposeful ways to feed my curiosity, build an expertise, and grow as a human being.
So what’s next?
I’m curious about the possibilities.
I’m looking to help teams better understand complex problems towards the design of platforms & strategies that create more engaging experiences for individuals, organizations, and communities. I’m looking to be challenged so I can make an impact in the building of things larger than myself.
I’m interested in new and interesting opportunities that start with a conversation over coffee or beer, not with a job positing that someone’s looking fill. I’m not your average employee and me applying for a job like one isn’t going to benefit anyone. I’m not interested in wasting anyone’s time, energy, attention, or resources. I’m not interested in trying to fit into a mould that wasn’t designed for me.
I was fortunate to have been presented with one of the inaugural Growing Prosperity Awards this past weekend at the Libro Credit Union AGM. Along with Stephanie Soulis (Owner Representative) and Rhys Dulisch (Owner), I was recognized for exceptional and significant contributions made to growing prosperity in southwestern Ontario.
From the moment I learned of my nomination I was nothing but surprised, overwhelmed and certain that there were others more deserving to be nominated for (and receive) the award.
You see, everyone who is a part of Libro Credit Union is deserving of this award in one way or another. While I’ve only been with Libro a relatively short period of time, I’ve yet to meet any individual who is a part of this organization, Staff, Owner Representative or Owner, that isn’t growing prosperity in their community in a way which resonates with them.
Whether it be regular volunteering, owning a small business, supporting local cultural events, advocating for causes close to their hearts, providing exceptional financial coaching, or simply lending a hand where one is needed, each and every Libro Owner (which we all are) does something to improve the places they call home and the people & organizations that are a part of their life.
While I shouldn’t be, I’m constantly in awe of how similar and common values can be found amongst everyone at Libro and the myriad of ways these translate into personalized contributions across the region. I’m clearly biased, but Libro as an entire organization is making southwestern Ontario a better place to live and that isn’t something easily said about many organizations its size.
Those who know me best will tell you that I’m happier not being the centre of attention. They will also tell you (and they remind me of it often) that humility can be a detriment to someone’s character as much as a benefit; this is not lost on me. I am greatly appreciative of the recognition and while it’s not necessarily needed, a ‘Thank You’ is often preferred to any type of ‘hoopla’.
Having volunteered with fellow Staff members, seen what Owners are doing in their local communities, and knowing how Owner Representatives are growing our organization, I know this award could have come with 100,000+ names attached to it.
Collectively we, Libro Credit Union, are growing prosperity in southwestern Ontario and I am extremely fortunate to be a part of of that, building something larger than myself with such great people.