Friday, November 29, 2013

Big Changes

Sometimes we need to make a big change - a complete paradigm shift - to really move forward. Break out out of our routines and processes to explore a completely new direction, gain new skills and insights and challenge ourselves to grow. For me, this is that time.

About ten years ago, I started working on the PIX team at Microsoft. We were responsible for the end-to-end photos experience across the company, creating web services, retail products and building our photos experience into Windows. The team was also filled with passionate photographers and I got bitten by the photography bug.  Over the last decade, my own passion for photography has grown. I have travelled all over the world trying to capture the essence of places and the power and beauty of nature and some of my happiest moments have been in the field, living these remarkable moments and sharing them with people.

I have also learned that the only way to get the truly remarkable shots is to be in the right place at the right time and for me to be able to focus on continuing to improve, I need the flexibility to go where the light is best and stay there as long as needed to get the shot. In order to enable that, I need to make a significant change to my lifestyle.

Starting in January, Leslie and I will be taking off in our Airstream trailer and traveling the country. Visiting the places we've always wanted to go, discovering places we never knew existed, and spending the time necessary to really get to know the people and places that we find. When the light is good, I'll be out shooting and when it's bad, I'll be writing apps which remains another great passion of mine. We are both very excited about this next chapter in our lives and we are both very grateful to Microsoft for making it possible for us to make this change.

We will be writing about our adventures on the road at Tin Can Tardis, our travel blog created specifically for stories about full-time RV’ing, the places and people we see and anything else that seems worth sharing. My photos will, of course, continue to be available at and I’ll be adding a whole new section to cover the shots from across the country and organized geographically.

The toughest part of this change, even more difficult than figuring out how to live in about 200 square feet, will be seeing much less of the people who we have gotten to know and depend on over the past many years. We take some comfort in the knowledge that we will have all sorts of internet connectivity for much of the time so Skype and Facebook will allow us to stay connected. Also, our plan is to be back on Whidbey Island for the summers so we will have opportunities to grab coffee and catch up with everyone -- to share our adventures and learn about yours. And for everyone who doesn't live in Puget Sound, your town is probably on our destination list :-)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dangling Tasks

I was one of those guys back in school who would do an assignment right when it was assigned. If there was still time in class, all the better. I really didn't like having work pile up when I didn't know exactly how I was going to get it done and I really hate having a deadline looming overhead. Once a task is started, it is easier to finish (apparently Newton's first law of motion applies) so I would start as early as possible and in many cases that would be sufficient and the project would get done soon after. That hasn't changed. When I get a new project, I like to get started quickly and let inertia keep it going. Doing the next thing is always easier than doing the first thing and it is pretty easy to build up a big head of steam when I'm doing things like writing an app or out on a photo shoot.
Conversely, I really don't like those little tasks that need to be done, and will take some preparation, but are not part of a larger effort. I call these dangling tasks. A mail-in rebates is a great example of a dangling task. There is usually a deadline for it and I need to do some work (chopping off UPC codes, finding and envelope and the right postage, actually mailing it) and it never really fits in to a project large enough to feel any satisfaction about getting it done. Similarly, returning products bought online, renewing prescriptions and getting an oil change are examples of dangling tasks.
While I love task lists for big projects (“Ooh! Look at all the fun things I get to do!”), the most annoying thing, for me, is needing to create a to-do list full of dangling tasks. Each item has its own friction that needs to be overcome to get it going and starting any dangling item has no impact on any other one. Emptying that list rarely happens because invariably a few of the items never overcome the inertia of me not giving a shit.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Trust the Internet

I'm flying to Newark today. Just as I was arriving at the airport, I received a text from Alaska Airlines saying that my flight was on time and departing from gate D11.  When I check in at the terminal, my boarding pass says gate C9 so I figured I'd confirm it with the guy at the baggage drop.  "C9" he says, "Go to the security check to the left, it's faster". Excellent!

So I go to gate C9, which is at the end of the concourse and I wait for a while, enjoying an awesome Beechers Grilled Cheese sandwich. When the gate display doesn't change to my flight, I start to wonder and I check the departures board.  It says D11.  Now it's even - 2 things say C9 and 2 say D11. Let's ask the Customer Service Desk person.

Me: Hi, I'm trying to figure out where my flight is ACTUALLY leaving from
She: Let me show you a secret.  Do you have a smart phone?
Me: Yes, but I want to know from YOU where my plane is leaving from.
She: Just check Google.  Enter AS 8 in Google and it is always right.
Me: It is more right than your own system and people who are checking your own computer systems?!?
She: Yep. I just tell everyone to check Google. It knows more than we do.
Me: Um... ok.  I guess I have a long walk ahead of me.

Sure enough, Google knows the truth.

For what it's worth, Bing knew it too.

Trust the internet, it knows more than the people.  At least at Alaska Airlines.

On the plus side, awesome grilled cheese sandwich!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Recognizing the Precipice

J.D. Roth wrote a great post yesterday about his recent conversations with Tess Vigeland after her courageous presentation at the World Domination Summit a few weeks ago.

The section on self-respect, about meeting your expectations but not those of others, really resonated with me. Doing what you know is the right thing and being met with barriers to progress and negative reactions slowly chip away at your self-worth. In my case, this shows up as trying to improve a system that refuses to recognize that it needs to be fixed. At some point, it is better to move on and find the next challenge.

But what about making a big life-changing jump without the safety net that we are all taught to prepare? Tess left her dream job at NPR's Marketplace knowing that she didn't know what was next but it was time to go. “It’s time to leave when you have too much self-respect to stay,” Tess said. When your job, or your life situation, no longer provides either the personal growth or satisfaction, it is time to make a change. When just getting up in the morning to go to work becomes a chore or you've just stopped learning new things, it is time to make a change. The amazing thing about Tess' story is that when she recognized this, she made the jump before she had her next big thing lined up. That takes guts, but it is also sometimes exactly what is needed for that next big thing to show itself. When she gave her talk at WDS, she didn't know what that next thing was but when you put that question out to the universe, it will respond and it is great to see Tess on her way with the her next chapter.

Like J.D. and Tess, I find myself at that point. What is next? I too am exploring possible courses of action and I'm both excited and terrified about making a big change. Ready to embrace the uncertainty and take the next steps towards living an unconventional life. The lack of safety net is potentially the most interesting thing about making a change at this point and watching Tess struggle with the ups and downs of her own transition is reassuring. There is life after big change and while it isn't all a "bathtub full of kittens", only by taking that leap do you get to see what's on the other side.

Monday, July 15, 2013

World Domination Summit 2013

It's been just over a week since we got back from the World Domination Summit (aka WDS2013) in Portland. I'll have to admit that I had no idea what we were in for when Leslie signed us up for this last winter but I've learned to trust her when she thinks something like this is going to be helpful and this time was no exception. WDS is tough to describe. Yukari Peerless really nailed it when she described it to an inquisitive TSA agent as "Creative people getting together to inspire each other to have an unconventional life." She captures the essence of what I so loved about the event in three parts. Creative people... One of the things that I continually search for is a creative community. I've had times where my job provided this though that has not been the case in the past few years. My photography and music are an outlet for me personally though I've struggled to find a consistent community around those things. WDS was one giant mass of creative people yearning to share their creativity and connect with other creatives. The energy was astounding (and at times overwhelming). Speakers like Darren Rowse who spoke about dreaming big and taking responsibility for our own future. I loved his thoughts on settings aside time to create.
...Getting together to inspire each other... Donald Miller gave a brilliant talk and asked "What if we spent less time impressing others and more time connecting?" Connection was what this crowd was all about. Time and again we were encouraged to connect with each other and create connections that we could use to hold each other accountable for achieving our dreams.
One of the members of a breakout group I was involved in asked me, "Who is on your personal board of directors?" #mindblown. Of course that is exactly what we want, a set of people who bring specific insights in an area of our lives that we are developing. A good board of directors has a vital blend of members with diverse backgrounds, each passionate about their area and readily available to coach each other and guide the organization in the right direction. Why the hell don't we have these for our own lives - to help us achieve our dreams. Over the next few months, I will be creating my personal board of directors. How awesome will that be? have an unconventional life. This is WDS's founder and fearless leader Chris Guillebeau's real mission. His website The Art of Non Conformity focuses on unconventional strategies for life, work and travel. Perhaps he is just an evil genius, but his vision is what set WDS in motion and from there, dozens of volunteers joined in to make it happen and nearly 3000 attendees made it sing. I was energized by meeting so many people who have abandoned the traditional 9-5 career and are doing their own thing -- nomads, artists, writers -- all creative and all searching for ways to either start or accelerate their own unconventional lives. With our plans taking shape for our own transition to the unconventional I found WDS 2013 to be a timely inspiration. A real kick in the butt to work on the important things and to find the answer to Darren's question, "What kind of future will you create?"
Oh, and with all of the talk from bloggers and about sharing our lives, I recognized that it is time to sweep the dust off of my blog and restart the conversation.