Saturday, August 29, 2009

Unemployment, Interrupted

Well, there go all of my semi-retirement plans: I got a job! Now I have to put on pants and go back to the office, which really throws a wrench in my previous plans to ride my bike, walk around in shorts and sandals, and spend every morning smiling serenely over my newspaper at everyone as they rushed in and out of Starbucks. I even considered taking my laptop down there so I could pretend to be working on another book!

[Sigh], I suppose I shouldn't complain too much. After all, the job came to me before I even got around to looking for one, while other people can do nothing but look. I guess God has his first assignment ready for me already. Exploring Boulder County by bike will have to wait.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My New KPIs

Working as a financial services consultant for the last six years, I learned to love metrics. We measured everything: the site's performance, response times, down time, up time, wait times, peak times. We measured return on investment, return on capital, expenses, revenues, client satisfaction, and call volumes. If you could assign a number to it, we tracked it, and if you couldn't, we made one up (they call those "composite metrics"). But the most important numbers were the KPIs, Key Performance Indicators. If you wanted to call yourself a project manager, then you had to get yourself a set of those.

KPIs measure the success of a project. They tell you whether the last six months of meetings, late nights, arguments, and design debates were worth it. They also tell your boss (or in my case, your client) whether you're worth the money they're paying to keep you around. You watch those numbers pretty closely.

Now that I'm voluntarily unemployed and living in Greenland -- er, Boulder -- I find that the old metrics no longer apply. I need a new set of numbers to measure my job satisfaction. Allow me to present my new KPIs:

  • Miles biked: 183
  • Books read: 2 1/2
  • Pounds lost: 4 (need to work on this one)
  • # of days where I walked my kids to/from school: 9
  • Mornings spent at Starbucks reading the paper while other people rushed in to get their coffee to go: 7
  • Hours spent writing: 1 (definitely need to work on this one)
  • Days since I saw a Dilbert cartoon that directly applied to my day: 35 (this one makes me excessively happy)

So far, I'm pleased with my performance, though I can see some room for improvement. We'll see what I can do over the coming weeks.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Into Thin Air

So this is it. We're really leaving Boston after 12 years to move to Boulder, Colorado, a place we've visited exactly once, for a long weekend. This would seem stupid if it didn't almost exactly mirror the move to Boston 12 years ago. Of course, last time it was just me and my wife, moving from a small rental house in Tacoma to an even smaller hotel room in Harvard Square. That time, we had only visited Boston once, overnight. But it felt right, and other than the bitter cold (-40 wind chill the night we arrived) and a mild case of pneumonia for the first couple of weeks we were here, it all worked out amazingly well. Who needs planning, or lists of pros and cons, or… housing?

Yeah, we're moving to Boulder without a place to live -- though I'll settle that before the family arrives -- without a job, and without really knowing anyone in the area. We're going because it feels right, like our time in Boston has come to an end and God has a new assignment for us in Boulder. We don't know what exactly that is yet, but I suspect that mine has something to do with helping young software companies grow, with making work a fun place to be, and with sharing the experience I've gained in the last 12 years with a bunch of new people who need it. I suspect that my wife's job, as usual, will be to bless the heck out of a new group of friends, to remind them that they are special, unique, and loved, and to organize some parties that make people say, "Wow, you really didn't need to do all of this for us!" Because that's what we do. It also happens to be something that we seem to be uniquely gifted to do, so we'd better do it to the best of our ability, no matter where we are.

I expect this to be an adventure. I expect to see God do amazing things for us. I suspect that it will scare the heck out of me whenever I stop to think about what we're doing over the next few weeks. But it will be the good kind of scared, the kind you feel when you look down from the top of a mountain after climbing up a narrow trail, where you see the whole world laid out before you and a voice in the back of your mind says, "Hoo, boy, if you slipped now, you wouldn't stop falling for days!" But that voice is drowned out by the sound of creation singing before you, the trees waving their arms in joy, the rocks shining with light, and the clouds dancing across the sky. It's thrilling. It's terrifying. It's life, and we're embracing it to the fullest.