Tag: reading

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 Notes from ‘Quiet’

In reading Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet,’ recommended by my colleagues Paul and Gus (and others), there have been two notable takeaways for me. I’m only about eighty pages in, and I’ve learned a lot about introversion and how society works (or fails to work) for folks who think that way.

Like anyone, though, when I have a hammer, all I see are nails. Two neat things I’ve picked up:

The Bus to Abilene:

…a family sitting on a porch in Texas on a hot summer day, and somebody says, ‘I’m bored. Why don’t we go to Abilene?’ When they get to Abilene, somebody says, ‘You know, I didn’t really want to go.’ And the next person says, ‘I didn’t want to go–I thought you wanted to go,’ and so on. Whenever you’re in an army group and somebody says, ‘I think we’re getting on the bus to Abilene here,’ that is a red flag. You can stop a conversation with it. It is a very powerful artifact of our [the army’s] culture.

I’m guilty of this, both as the suggestion-giver and the go-along-with participant. Having a name for it will be helpful in the future.

Solitude and Creativity:

If solitude is an important key to creativity – then we might all want to develop a taste for it. We’d want to teach our kids to work independently. We’d want to give employees plenty of privacy and autonomy. Yet increasingly we do just the opposite.

This resonates with me as coming from the same place that inspired Solitude in Leadership, a piece I’ve written about in the past. Even as someone who waffles between introversion and extroversion, I appreciate and value time spent alone, sometimes in quiet reflection, sometimes daydreaming.

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.

November Reading Roundup

Another month, another missed Reading Goal – here’s the rundown:

– I finished Drive, thanks entirely to the rare foresight I executed in buying the audiobook. November was a pretty crazy month for travel (we drove almost 1000 miles in November), so being able to listen to Drive in the car really saved me. I’m still counting it toward my reading goal!

– I only finished about a third of Antifragile, but I have discussed it with more people than any other book I’ve read in 2014. I’m excited to finish it – it’s the kind of book that I think about a lot, even when I haven’t picked it up in a while.

– These are both great recommendations, and my hat’s off to Jeremey and Ian – thank you both for such outstanding reads.

– Another factor in missing my reading goals is that I received the first four collected volumes of Hellblazer for my birthday, and like any lifelong comic wonk, I couldn’t simply let them sit there. I finished the first two, representing 604 pages of non-reading-goals reading.

– In all, in November I read 456 (.42 Infinite Jests) reading goal pages and 604 (.55 Infinite Jests) outside pages. That’s almost an Infinite Jest, so even though I missed my specific goals, I’m happy with the overall page count.

What a Way to Start a Book!

“The antifragile loves randomness and uncertainty, which also means – crucially – a love of errors, a certain class of errors. Anti fragility has a singular property of allowing us to deal with the unknown, to do things without understanding them – and do them well. let me be more aggressive; we are largely better at doing than we are at thinking, thanks to antifragility. I’d rather be dumb and antifragile than extremely smart and fragile, any time.”

From Antifragile