My job at Bungie these days is about one core piece of technology we use to make our games. It's a system that all the artists, designers and sound designers use to get their work into the game. So, like any technology job where you're building a product other people use, there are two kinds of work: the work of building the technology and the work of supporting the people using it.
Things have been busy enough lately that I was trying to focus just on the coding and not do much support work. It wasn't really working out. All around me the artists, designers, and sound designers were struggling with issues while I was trying just to plow ahead on the coding work we need to get done. When the support work boiled over and I had to stop and attend to it, it took a ton of time and effort. Because I'd been burying my head in the sand trying to get code written, I didn't have any context for what was happening with the users. If I had to help someone, first it took me a good half-hour of asking random people questions just to have enough context to even understand what the problem was and what needed to happen.
I couldn't ignore the support work, though. Eventually I had to turn my attention towards it, and so I did, one week, and it consumed basically my entire week. I got just about nothing else done. It was frustrating seeing the coding work pile up, so my response was to keep trying to minimize my involvement in the support work. I'd do as little as I could get away with, try to hand off problems to someone else. Bu it didn't seem to actually help. It still took a ton of time just to figure out enough about a problem to know how to hand it off to someone else, and if anything that ramp-up time was getting longer.
* * *If you've ever watched the Tour de France, or the road biking events in the Olympics, or ever seen any group of people riding road bikes together, you've probably noticed they tend to cluster together in a compact formation. They're not just riding close together because they like the company (and the increased risk of crashes and injuries.) No, they're riding close together because of drafting.
This illustration is what happens when I mix my metaphors.
The alternate title for this post was "Thoughts Become Words", but then the illustration would have made even less sense.
I've been having a lot of conversations about intention lately. I really think it's important to live deliberately - to live on purpose, not by accident, not to just get swept along. To have dreams, and to pursue them.
But there's a balance. You gotta know what you can control and what you can't, and you have to make your peace with what you can't.
I've been thinking a lot about balance lately. I keep catching myself treating it like a state, a way that things can be: "Everything is in balance." It's an alluring fantasy, especially when I'm stressed because I can look forward to some future where I've done all the work and things are in balance and the stress is all gone.
Except in the real, dynamic world, balance doesn't work that way. Balance is not a state of being. Balance is an activity. When you walk on a tightrope, you are never balanced; you are always balancing.
Maybe this seems obvious to you, intellectually, like saying "life's a journey, not a destination." But I always catch myself treating balance like it's a state, and I bet you do, too.
What motivates your actions? When something seems out of balance, and you are working to change it, is your motivation the underlying itch of "Just this last thing..."? I do this all the time. At work I'll see a situation that is on fire and I'll start working to put that fire out. Nothing wrong with that. But if I meditate a little bit to really see my underlying feelings, I see impatience, aggravation, and a sense of reaching, stretching out and grasping at some imaginary future where this fire is out and I can finally rest. Deep down there's a part of me that is looking forward to everything being balanced so I can take a deep breath and exhale and all the tension will leave my body and I'll finally be at peace.
I drew that illustration a few days ago, on Christmas.
In my family, Christmas is about being with people. I have a large family, largely of Roman Catholic Irish ancestry, and I see a lot of them when I fly back to the east coast for Christmas. I find it an interesting challenge to be with them all. I don't mean that they're hard to be with in the sense that they're rude, or have poor hygiene, or run rapidly through the house or hide under tables. I just mean that it takes a lot of attention from me to really make the most of the time I have with each of them.
The ability to be with someone else is the ability to give them your attention - simple as that. I don't think I'm especially great at this, but I am writing about it because I have met people who do this very well, and it's obviously very important to do. I think practicing being with people is one of the most valuable ways that I spend my energy.
I also think that without role models, without having met people who do this well, I wouldn't "get it" even to the extent I do now. I think experiencing this is really important because, as an experience, it loses something in the retelling. If I can inspire you to do one thing in reading this post, I would like for it to be this: seek out people who are very good at being present with others. Experience it for yourself. I dare you to leave unmoved.