It’s been 2 months since my last day at Mozilla. Hard to believe that much time has past and yet it feels like it’s gone by so quickly. Rainy, gloomy weather has arrived here in Portland, for which I’m very grateful after such a long, hot summer. My plan for my first weeks away from Mozilla, most of September, was to spend as little time on the computer as possible and to intentionally not think about my next career steps. I give myself a B at following this plan. At first I did great. I did a lot of work around our house, mostly in the form of tidying and organizing. I made a bookshelf from scratch and am very happy with how it turned out. I played a lot of Civilization. I read. I slept in. I played with the dogs and took photos.
And then I started reading & responding to my email.
More that a few of you were interested in how I was doing, what I was planning to do next and maybe I might be interested in this or that. It’s been amazing to hear from you, to know you value my skills and experience and want to be a part of helping me find what’s next. Not only amazing, but unexpected. Often I struggle with recognizing my own value and how I contribute to others and so explicit feedback is really helpful. Thank you everyone who’s reached out. (And know I’m still working on replying to you all.)
As good as it was to hear from everyone, it also meant that I started thinking about “what next” much sooner and in greater detail than I was ready for. I started having some conversations about projects that were exciting, but also left me agitated and unsettled.
Earlier this month I had a follow-up with my doctor that left me feeling down and depleted. It wasn’t a bad visit and was actually rather uneventful except that I left with an even longer list of asthma-related tasks to do. Pull up the carpet in our daylight basement (where my office is), have the air ducts cleaned, make the bedroom as sparse as possible, do this breathing training program, etc. And my blood pressure is a tad on the high side (in the right arm, but not the left?).
As my lack of accomplishment and I left the doctor’s I decided to stop by Powell’s as a way to cheer myself up. (I almost always want to browse books and it nearly always cheers me up.) I did a quick scan of the ‘careers’ section — which is a bit of gamble because there is so much there that’s either irrelevant (“You’ve just graduated, now what?”) or cheesy (literally, “Who Moved my Cheese?”) or just not applicable (there’s no “The Tech Industry Burned Me Out but Then I Found This Awesome, Life-Fullfilling Vocation and Here’s How You Can Too!”).
I did notice a copy of The Joy of Not Working. Huh, I thought, that sounds nice and bought it after scanning through the first couple of pages. I continued reading at home and finished that day.
Reading this and getting ideas. #uncareerplanning pic.twitter.com/kqKciWsj1o
— Christie Koehler (@christi3k) October 14, 2015
What I got from the book was less factual information and more inspiration and permission to pursue the kind of work that would allow me the time to do lots of other things that I’m interested in and care about. The book’s primary audience are retirees and others who suddenly have time on their hands due to lack of employment (voluntary or otherwise). Zelinsky emphasizes the importance of cultivating many interests and community connections, not just ones associated with work. He explores just how much there is to experience in life and how much of that experience we sacrifice when we prioritize the 40+ hour workweek and how unnecessary it is to do so. Reading The Joy of Not Working made me realize a couple of things:
- I definitely don’t want to work for someone else. Working for myself will give me the greatest freedom and agility.
- I need to focus on fewer work-related things so that I can do them really well.
- I need to give myself the time and the space (even if it’s scary) so that I can identity the work I truly want to be doing and how to make that possible.
- I want to get to the point where my average work day is 4 hours so that I have plenty of do other activities that nourish my mind, body and soul.
Sounds nice, how to put this into practice? First, I identified the work projects that I would stay committed to: Stumptown Syndicate, Recompiler podcast, and whatever “working for myself” turns out to be. I’m either in the process of wrapping up or have already wrapped up my commitments to other projects. I’m not going to continue as a volunteer in any capacity for Mozilla (many feels about that, all for another blog post). Second, I’ve been making the space and doing the work to figure out what shape “working for myself” will take. I’ve thought a lot about what I’m good at and what I love doing and here’s what I’ve figured out:
- I want to utilize and expand my experience facilitating teams, communities and organizations.
- I want to apply and hone my aptitude for systems thinking, for motivating people to do awesome things, and for improving processes.
- I want to apply my knowledge and love of business (nonprofit and for-profit) as well as tech.
- I want to help businesses and organizations do better work with happier, healthier and more productive teams.
At some point I realized, “this is what consultants do!” And so I’ve been reading every book about consulting I can get my hands on. And things are clicking. I find myself saying, “I can do this. I should do this. I will do this.”
I have a name picked out. I have a marketing plan and continue to improve it as I learn more and more about marketing. I have a launch plan. I’m figuring out how to make the finances work while I drum up business. It might involve some crowdfunding. I’ll be reaching out to a lot of you for support, in whatever capacity you can provide it (hugs, referrals, a loan/gift/investment of equipment or cash, etc.). If you know someone doing this kind of work and think they would be willing to chat with me about their experience, please introduce us.
If we’ve worked together, or you know of my work so far, I hope you’re excited. I am certainly am. I’m excited about bringing the same kind of energy, vision and integrity to this new practice as I have to other projects. I’m excited at the opportunity to partner with all kinds of organizations do their work better, more prosperously.
If you want to know for sure when I launch, subscribe to my TinyLetter.
Meanwhile, I’ll be sure to keep making time for rest and for taking awesome photos of Bertie, Dora and the rest of the critter cadre.