I Don’t Want to Care What You Do

I’m not sure where I heard about Everything That Remains: A memoir by the minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.  I don’t even recall requesting it at the library, but one day they told me my request had come in so I picked it up.

It’s well written and insightful. From page 63,

But let’s think about the question for a moment: What do you do? In reality, it’s such a broad inquiry that any answer would suffice.  What do I do? I do a lot of things: I drink water. I eat food. I write words sloppily onto little yellow legal pads.  Once you scrap away its cheap gold-plating, however, we find a series of noxious inquisitions lurking beneath the surface.  Sadly, what we’re actually asking when we posit this question, albeit unknowingly, is: How do you earn a paycheck? How much money do you make? What is your socioeconomic status? And based on that status, where do I fall on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you? Am I a rung above you? Below you? How should I judge you? Are you even worth my time?

I was just thinking about this.  A few weeks ago we were camping and met another family who had a boy our son’s age.  The boys hit it off immediately and played together from dusk to dawn. At one one point I asked the parents in some round about way what they did when they weren’t camping.  Something about the way I asked the question garnered a non-response and the conversation moved on.

I realized as I spent more time talking to them and even after we parted ways that I had no idea what they “did to earn money.”  I had learned a lot about how they loved the outdoors and the amazing trips they’d been on, but I didn’t really know how they earned money.

As I kept thinking about how strange this was, not to have ever found out what they “did to earn a living” it dawned on me how little it really mattered. In some ways not knowing made it easier to accept and know them as simply who they were.  Interesting now to read this quote which perhaps illuminated why.

I also had a crazy thought of wondering, if our paths were to cross again, how long we could go without discovering what any of us did to earn money.

As Millburn points out, just because someone earns money in a certain way does not mean everything about them, nor does that job that pays money act as a full representation of them.

Deadline to Change

Just listened to a great podcast by Brendon Buchard titled Why to Quit.  It’s about way more than quitting. It’s about making positive changes in our lives and being intentional about making them.

I’ve followed Brendon’s work for a while, but had no idea he had a podcast until Ray Edwards shared his favorite podcasts. The episodes are short, always encouraging and I never miss one.

His encouragement to set a deadline and then live by it is big.  I know I need to make some changes and now I’m going to set some deadlines.

Untangling Christianity Hits a Milestone

50 episodes of the Untangling Christianity

A year ago I would have never predicted we’d have reached episode #50 already. It was about this time last year that I was getting really clear on the idea that I needed to do a podcast. Now the Untangling Christianity Podcast is a full fledged reality and shows no signs of stopping.

Today we published our fiftieth episode in less than a year.  In this episode we take a partial look back and talk about what we’d like to see in the future. Our one year-anniversary is on September 23, 2014.  If you aren’t familiar with the podcast I recommend the introduction from Episode One to get idea of what the show is about.

I’ve kept this site fairly sparse when it comes to talking about spiritual things–partially out of embarrassment (I think I’m mostly over that) and partially because it used to be much more of a focal point for my work in the Fedora Project (open source software community).

I can’t see spirituality becoming the central focus of johnpoelstra.com in the same way it is at Untangling Christianity, however I am thinking of posting more spiritual thoughts and reflections here.  They’ll be in their own category should you wish to focus on or avoid them.

The picture 50 is by chrisinplymouth via flickr used under a Creative Commons license.

Good Meetings Make You Feel Good

beachLast time I defined several ways to have bad meetings. This post was going to explore one of those “bad ways to have meeting” in detail. Then I realized it would be better to start by defining what a “good meeting” is so you know what I’m aiming at and what my definition of “good” is.

Defining Good Meetings

The simplest way I define a good meeting is: a gathering of two or more people where everyone, including the facilitator, has positive feelings and progress was made towards a goal. Another gauge is if people felt the meeting was a good use of their time. I didn’t think about this until I started attending a string of meetings (where I wasn’t the facilitator) that left me feeling off, sometimes frustrated other times annoyed, disconnected or sad.  Also telling was dread I felt as the next meeting approached or joy I felt when I had a conflict and wouldn’t be able to attend. When I think of a good meeting it’s not these feelings.

What Are You Feeling?

What is all this “feelings stuff” about anyway and do they really relate to meetings? I think this they do. They apply to all areas of our lives. The non-violent communication framework developed by Marshall Rosenburg describes feelings as emotions reflecting whether or not our needs are being met. Here is a list of primary feelings we experience when our needs are met.

  • Affectionate
  • Confident
  • Engaged
  • Inspired
  • Excited
  • Exhilarated
  • Grateful
  • Hopeful
  • Joyful
  • Peaceful
  • Refreshed

Feelings when our needs are not met:

  • Afraid
  • Annoyed
  • Angry
  • Aversion
  • Disconnected
  • Disquiet
  • Embarrassed
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Sad
  • Tense
  • Vulnerable
  • Yearning

The reference for this list is here. Think about the last meeting you attended and identify the feelings you felt afterwards. Did you feel engaged, hopeful, or inspired or did you leave feeling annoyed, disconnected or dread?

Are You Being Energized or Drained?

Another way of determining what makes a meeting good is to think about all the meetings you attend and identify which meetings “give you energy” and which ones take it away. I got this idea from a friend attempting to identify helpful and unhelpful work interactions. He started a routine after each meeting where he asked himself whether the meeting he had just finished:

  • Gave energy
  • Took energy away
  • Left him feeling neutral impact

His observation was that a number of the meetings he attends take away energy. The compound affect he observed was this constant energy drain was turning him into a person he didn’t want to be, at work and at home.

Over To You

How would you define a good meeting and what criteria do you use to decide? I look forward to your comments below.

Up Next

Next time I’ll take a deeper look at identifying feelings and using them as a driver for change.

13 Ways to Have a Bad Meeting

http://mrg.bz/YT0ZSI

I’m thinking about writing a book about technical project meetings at software companies and ways I’ve found to make them better. To see if I have enough to work with I’m going to kick off a series of blog posts exploring different aspects of meetings based on my experiences.

If you see something I’ve missed or you think I should address, I’d value your comment.

If you’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of attending any of the meetings I facilitate–tell me the techniques I used that you thought were effective and those that weren’t.

Feel free to use a fake name if revealing your name would put you in a compromising position.

On with thirteen ways to have a bad meeting

1. Invite anyone that wants to come or is remotely connected to the topic or might need to know about the topic.

2. Invite the wrong people.

3. Never tell someone they can’t attend your meeting or need to stop coming.

4. Don’t share or prepare an agenda in advance.

5. Don’t document anything that happens at the meeting. Just assume that everyone has a good memory and will remember the outcome of the discussion and what needs to happen next.

6. Hold a status meeting that could have been done by email . Go around in a circle to learn about what what each person is working on while everyone else does something else or furiously prepares for their turn.

7. Ignore the clock. Don’t set an end time or time-box particular topics. Just talk and talk until you all feel like you are done.

8. Surprise the attendees by dropping a bomb on the meeting with a large or controversial topic nobody has had time to think about or prepare for. Bonus points for dropping it ten minutes before the top of the hour when everone has to run to another meeting.

9. As the faciliator, surrender the meeting to the strongest personalities in the room and let them drive the flow of discussion.

10. Never ask what the next steps are towards solving a complicated problem or who owns resolving it.

11. Meet because “we’ve always met.” It’s more important to maintain tradition.

12. Tell someone “it’s okay” when they’ve repeatedly missed their deliverables or often arrive late, disrupting the meeting.

13. As the faciliator, never ask the attendees for their honest feedback (publicly or privately) about how your meetings could be better or more valuable.

Now it’s your turn. What else should be on this list?