Category: Read and Re-read

Paternity Leave and Reading

As you may have noticed via my recent mini tweetstorm, I’m on paternity leave, and feeling thoughtful about it.

(Sidebar, is there an agreed upon definition of tweetstorm? We can all agree that 25 tweets a tweetstorm make, but what about 9? 3?)

Especially having spoken with many of my friends, who work locally, who have nothing like this type of paternity leave – it really is a landscape of gratitude, on my end. This time is special, and important, and I’m so grateful and (frankly) lucky to have it.

When our daughter was born, I didn’t take the three months – I took it in fits and spurts here and there, since the policy is three paid months within the first year of a child’s life.

Rather than take three months at the outset, I took two weeks when she was born, then some time over the holidays, Spring Break to coincide with my wife’s time off, etc. I didn’t end up using the whole three months, and the time I did take off, I could have just as easily taken off with our open vacation policy rather than the “saved pat days.”

With our second child, I was reflective on our daughter Mango’s birth and my reaction, work-wise. Why didn’t I take the time I was afforded?

It was out of fear. Even a few weeks off at a place as fast paced as Automattic meant having to recalibrate, scramble to catch up, and try to figure out how to navigate what seemed like an all-new sea. I was worried that extended leave would jeopardize my chances for advancement and recognition.

Which brings us here – though I’m a Team Lead, responsible for the careers and success of  eleven of my peers, I have chosen to take my full three months of paternity leave. Before he was born, I spent a great deal of time working with my stand-in lead, training and shadowing one on ones and (I’m not proud) linking her to lots of posts on this very blog.

She’s going to do great. I also think that, on a bigger level, it’s important  for the folks on my team to see me take this time – that even in a leadership role it’s safe, and encouraged, to take the time we’re given. Having this time with my kiddos and my wife is important, for me personally but also for me as a long-term contributor to Automattic’s success.

(Our CEO Matt Mullenweg talks a little about hiring folks using a 30-year mindset in the latest Tim Ferris podcast – knowing he sees his employees this way makes me more comfortable taking this kind of time off)

Since I am a terrible A-type monster, three months away from work is a horrifying prospect. I am bad at leisure – especially superfluous leisure.

So, I’m reading. I’m reading a lot. I asked some folks I respect for their recommendations, as well as the world wide Twitterverse. Here’s what I have ahead of me:

Orginals, by Adam Grant, recommended by @mremy
Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, recommended independently by @andrewspittle and @ctdotlive
Anarchist’s Tool Chest, by Chris Schwarz, recommended by @blowery
Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda, recommended by @photomatt
Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, recommended by Bill Bounds
The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holliday, recommended by @mikeykrapf
The Score Takes Care of Itself, by Bill Walsh, recommended by @JeremeyD
Deep Work, by Cal Newport, recommended by @thebriankerr

I’ve already finished a few – with 59 days left in my pat leave I’m looking at about 24.3 pages per day to finish them all in time. Which means, of course, I could probably sneak in one more book if you have an excellent recommendation!

Two Book Power Pack

I recently had the experience where two books I read resonated with one another in a surprising way. Right after finishing A More Beautiful Question my friend and colleague Daryl recommended I read Work Rules. 

These two books, read together or in quick succession, results in a gain much greater than the sum of their parts. There are common threads between the two, regarding inquiry and innovation at work, with A More Beautiful Question approaching it theoretically and on a high level, and Work Rules sitting in as a detailed case study.

If you are interested in innovation and organization in businesses today, reading these two together will bear serious fruit.

Worth Reading: The Busy Trap

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In the first post in this series, I recommended David Foster Wallace – the man who introduced David Foster Wallace’s work to me is Tim Kreider, who I know through his cutting and brilliant comic career. Of late he has turned his attention to cultural and political commentary and he is, naturally, killing it.

One of my favorites of his work is a piece called The Busy Trap, which if you are a person who works in the United States today, you should read. And, once in a while, read again.

Worth Reading: This Is Water

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In chatting tonight with The Doctor, we both remarked on a number of essays or articles or other pieces of wordsmithery that we found rewarding to go back and read again, in a different time, for a different sort of reward. I’m going to go ahead and share those works here, when they arise, and when they seem especially important to my life or to events that involve us all.

Or, maybe, for no reason whatsoever.

The first is an essay that I first read thanks to Tim Kreider, about the way we think. I’ve since given it to anyone who will have it, including over one hundred philosophy students at CCRI (who I guess technically I was forcing to read it). What can I say about David Foster Wallace that hasn’t been said?

Whether you know him or not, you should read This Is Water, especially in times where it feels like negativity is starting to outpace positivity in your brainpan. It’s a graduation speech, and it’s worth reading, and re-reading.