Recovering My Passion for Work

 

DavidLeeRoth

Back in May of 2014, in what I had not yet realized was another futile attempt to triumph over workplace adversity, I wrote these paragraphs:

Today’s buzzword, and I hope it’s yesterday’s buzzword soon, is passion.  Management wants us to be passionate about our work.  Sure.  Passion is a powerful motivator.  While it lasts.

Sorry boss, I lost my passion for build 12.  I’ve got a thing for ham radios, now.

I’ll leave passion for the bedroom or perhaps the garage, and take old-fashioned reliability to the office.  Which means that plenty of the time work is going to feel like anything but passion.  That’s why they called it work in the first place, in case some of you young punks were wondering.

Ride to the Sun Reunion: Tropic, Utah

I was a boy whistling in the dark.  A year later I quit.  I feared that after 35 years I was done with high tech.

Not long after, I started doing some contract work for Ericsson.  At first it was just a few hours a week.  But I started to feel better.  I increased the hours to 20.  Then to 30.  In December I agreed to 40 hours per week and during January and February I worked quite a bit more than that.

How could I go from being so discouraged I could barely glance at my computer to being so motivated I didn’t want to stop working?  Eric Berridge has something to say about that:

In today’s customer-driven market, it’s easy to overlook the employee experience. But if companies allow customer focus to override their care for their employees, they will lose the very force that enables customer success.

We’re not alone in recognizing the importance of prioritizing the employee experience. This year, nearly one-third of companies cited employee-facing initiatives as one of their top objectives. They know that employee experience is just as important as customer experience in achieving business results.

Innovation is essential to improving employee experience, but innovation is not just about ideas. You have to combine it with data, design, and an employee culture willing to adopt it. Low adoption of new tools and processes causes repercussions that are felt across the entire organization. Talk to employees to find out what information they need and the best way to see it—they will be more productive and will spend more time giving customers what they want. Don’t just invest in new technology; take the time to understand your culture and give your employees a better experience.

Eric Berridge, CEO of Bluewolf, The State of Salesforce, via CIO Cloud Alert

This is not a blog about Salesforce.  I just happened to be reading the report, and found the introduction by Eric encouraging.  Perhaps companies will realize that caring for their employees is not only the decent thing to do, but a competitive advantage.  Perhaps technologies such as those recommended by Eric will put back some of the humanity that earlier technologies took out of business processes and, as a result, the corporate office.

Ericsson doesn’t need any such technology.  They never forgot how important employees are to the success of both their customers and the corporation.  Everyone I met at Ericsson in Kista, their Sweden HQ, was not only competent, but warm, helpful, and welcoming.  Even to a contractor from another country.

They weren’t just being polite.  Ericsson has a corporate culture that nurtures trust instead of fear.  Enthusiasm instead of apathy.  With trust, you get collaboration.  With enthusiasm, you get innovation.  You get people’s best work, and you don’t even have to ask for it.  Two people in particular made that possible for me: Geoff Hollingsworth (@geoffworth) for inspiring leadership and Deirdre Straughan (@DeirdreS) for gifted management.  They don’t have to use buzzwords, employ best practices, or create team bonding events.  They are the real deal.  I know it.  The people who work for them know it.  And the team they built from vendors, employees, and contractors was dedicated, agile, and eager to help each other out.

If you’re curious, here’s the website a few of us on the team launched, and the new blog:

We’ll be doing a lot more during the rest of the year, and I’m going to be … ah … jumping in with unbridled passion.

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Rick

Oracle Names Guillermo Ochoa Chief Security Officer

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According to my cousin Pedro, an inmate at the El Paso County Assylum for the Criminally Insane, Oracle has acquired Mexico’s goal keeper, Guillermo Ochoa, who will be joining the executive team as Chief Security Officer reporting to Larry Ellison.

“Oracle? Are they Division One?”

Guillermo asked, apparently unaware of the trade.

“We have to give him a crash course in the Oracle stack,” explained an Oracle executive who asked to remain anonymous, “but his commitment to the goal is unmatched. Or rather, to impede the goal. Rejection, if you will. Well, you know what I mean. You just can’t teach that.”ochoa superman

Oracle’s Senior Principal Directing Global Executive Vice President of International Human Resources felt the time was right. “We fast-tracked him from our usual 6-18 months hiring timeframes to only a few days because

he’s a game changer.

China, the NSA, that kid in his Mom’s basement, they now have to get through Guillermo.”

The reaction of Oracle employees was unanimous.

Ochoa!  Ochoa!  Ochoa!

Here is a compilation of Guillermo’s saves against Brazil in the 2014 World Cup.

And here is a longer compilation of his best saves.  

GiG

 

Running Los Gatos

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Rocking chairs in Tropic, Utah

The morning crowd outside the Los Gatos Roasting Company gasped.  The team of bicyclists in their red and white spandex suits set down their coffees and pulled out their iphones.  While they recorded the scene, two joggers wearing headphones stopped and tried to help me up.  “He seems OK,” someone was saying to the 911 operator on their phone,

but he’s acting very strange.

I wasn’t acting strange at all.  In a sudden burst of gratitude, I had fallen down on the sidewalk and started rolling back and forth, moaning “Oh My God.  Oh My God.”  What’s strange is that other people don’t do that, the weather in Los Gatos is that beautiful.  Only a week before we’d been hit by 18 inches of snow at my place in Colorado.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the bright blue sky and the leafy trees, but the joggers hauled me up onto my feet.

“Where’s a good place to run around here,” I asked them as they slapped the dust off my back.

“Across the bridge and down the path,” the thinner one said.

Before the police, ambulance, and fire trucks that were no doubt on their way could check my vitals and haul me off to the psyche ward, I thanked the joggers and took off across the bridge.

The Chasquis were the Pony Express of the Inca Empire.  When I was young and living in Peru, some American runners theorized that training at altitude would give them an advantage because it would increase their lung capacity.  So they flew to Cuzco.  The Peruvians asked

“Peruvians, have we ever won a marathon?”

But nobody listened.

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Buster on running trail in Colorado

At home I run the mountain trails behind my house.  They go either up or down, and don’t do much in between.  Since our place is at 6800 feet, I’ve developed what a kind-hearted person might refer to as a measured pace.

Soon after leaving the coffee shop in Los Gatos I found myself jogging between a cemented-in river, the aqueduct, and Highway 17, a wide dirt trail with a slight incline heading up the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Runners wearing earbuds playing music collections from their iTunes libraries designed to help them surpass their potential went by me so fast their windblast made me feel like I was riding the Harley again through Route 160 in Northern Arizona.

A little old lady using a walker with knobbies caught up with me.

“Slowpoke!”

She said, and we both laughed.  She reminded me of my Mom.  So we got to talking.  My Mom considered conversation an art form, and loved indulging in long, meandering talks.  She told me she learned that from her father, Ricardo.  It’s how people passed the time in Lima, and no one ever asked “What’s  your point?”

My daughter Grace calls me if a week goes by without a conversation.  She likes to talk, too.  And like her grandmother, she’s irresistibly engaging.

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accoustic coupler modem

I suppose that for most of America and certainly Silicon Valley, the art of conversation is sitting in a broom closet, bubble wrapped into the box with the acoustic coupler modem.  I sometimes wonder if my blogging is an attempt to keep the door from slamming shut.

Rich Schwerin and Bjoern Rost  told me some of my blogs reminded them of Hunter S. Thompson’s writing. They probably want to borrow my Harley.  Forget about it, guys.  Hunter S. Thomson was a ground-breaking writer.  And far more committed to experiencing the limits of madness than I ever want to be.  I don’t know much about Hunter S. Thompson, but I wonder if he wasn’t searching for an identity.

Jack, Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club certainly was.  Tyler Durden gave Jack an identity that working in a soul-sucking job within a materialistic society had stolen from him.  That identify was born of a clear purpose: destruction.  Which Tyler, a born marketeer, preferred to call mayhem.  Tyler Durden also gave Jack a presence: fearlessness.  American men, we like to come across as fearless.  Much of the dumbassery in the otherwise friendly Harley culture springs from that desire.  We live under the delusion that having nothing to lose is terrifying to would-be assailants.  So we act like we have nothing to lose.

It’s a silly notion.  Reading the accounts of men who survived the Normandy landings, they were all terrified.  And none of them had to pretend they weren’t.  Is the fact that a squad car, ambulance, and fire truck can appear within minutes to protect us from the slightest risk making American men unsure of our courage?

Truth is, a man who has nothing to lose may be intimidating, but the most dangerous thing in the world is a mother defending her children. A father protecting his family. A Marine willing to give  his life for a fellow marine.  It’s always something outside of ourselves, isn’t it?  But our culture  tells us to have it our way.  To pursue our passions.  To listen to the music that makes us perform better than ourselves.  Could having nothing to live for but our own gratification, self-expression, or self-realization be another cause of our posing?

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The boys paying The Donster a visit after his surgery

When we first bought our Harleys, my friends and I were determined not to be posers.  We’d seen them at Sturgis.  Couples who trailered their Harleys on the back of air-conditioned pick-ups, then stopped one town away to unload the bike and change into their biker outfits, the rider having already grown a 5 day stubble, his passenger having already applied her temporary tattoos.

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Dear old Dad and his Harley

We refused to be posers.  So we bought the service manuals and worked on our own bikes.  Joined the forums. Called each other with questions.  Some of us tore the engine down and rebuilt it better.  We lived inside the aftermarket catalogs.  And we rode.

We rode across the country and back. Some of us rode to Alaska.  We rode through some hellish storms.  We made sure our trips included rain and a healthy dose of misery.  We were ecstatic if we got snowed on, or the temps climbed over 100 degrees.  We rode early in the Spring, and late into Fall, and rode in Winter when the roads were clear.  We bought expensive chrome to customize our bikes and embrace our freedom, just like the Motor Company told us to.  We thought we were these guys. And maybe we were.  During our 1-week vacations and on weekends.

01 Ducati 748S

But I’m not one of those guys, not really.  I can’t ride where the road leads me because I have to be back at work in the morning.  I have a desk job.  Bills.  I spent 20 years raising a family, mowing my lawn, and being polite to the neighbors.  I wear a real helmet, ear plugs, and protective motorcycle gear.  And I suffer from a distinct lack of brand loyalty.

I can’t even pretend that I don’t have anything to lose.

Which leaves me wondering what gave birth to my particular Tyler Durden.  Just like Jack, NemoLester Burnham, and a lot of men earning a living in Corporate America, I am disoriented.  But I’m not searching for an identity.  I’m reluctant to accept the one I’ve got.

GiG

Cruising the Pacific Coast Highway

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Riding the PCH would be a sportbiker’s dream if you weren’t afraid of flying off the edge of the road and plummeting to your death against the rocks a thousand feet below.  That’s a lot of time to think.  And wonder, as you spin around the bike and the bike around you, whether you still have a chance to make it, and whether that tiny chance could be increased by landing with the bike beneath you or, since it’s likely to explode in a yellow ball of skin-searing flame, whether you should push it away from you now, while you still have a chance to land a prudent distance from it.  In the end you don’t push it away from you, because holding on to anything, even a motorcycle tumbling through the air, is more comforting than facing a horrifying death alone.  Which makes you wonder, the last instant before you hit the rocks, whether there is indeed a God, and whether he is kind enough to forgive you for not having believed in him.  Or Her.  It had better not be a Her on account of that Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned thing.

No, the PCH is best taken at a measured pace.  So you can stop and enjoy its hidden treasures, like the cove in the picture above.  And take the time to thank God for making Her world such a pretty place.  Just in case.

GiG

Ride to the Sun Reunion – Death Valley

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I left Stovepipe Wells at 5:50 am.  I had to cover 500 miles, so I promised myself I wouldn’t stop for pictures.

I had taken a bunch on the way in, anyway, including the one of the Devil’s Cornfield, above.  The cornfield lies at 150 feet below sea level, and the road keeps going downhill from there.

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The road from Stovepipe Wells heads more or less West, and straight up.  Stovepipe Wells is at sea level.  If you get there from the East, like I did, you’ll get to almost 300 feet below sea level.  I couldn’t stop imagining whales and schools of yellow fin swimming in the air over my head.

tollroad_smAnyway, once you leave Stovepipe Wells and head West just after the toll road in the pic, it’s straight up.  No curves.  Just up.  Until you hit 4500 feet above sea level.  At which point, if it’s 6:00 am, you realize how cold it is.  I stopped and put on some warm gear.

Turns out, Death Valley is actually two valleys.  Once you get up to the top of the West valley, you get to go down it.  It is blessed with a 9% grade.

You’re probably not that interested in the algorithm for calculating the amount of fuel left in a Harley’s gas tank, but to give you a rough idea, when I hit the top of the ridge between the valleys, my gauge indicated 72 miles left in the tank.  Five miles later, when I hit the bottom of the second valley, I magically had 113 miles worth of fuel.

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The road leading out of the second valley is a sportbiker’s dream.  Beautiful curves.  But I was distracted by the vistas.  The sun was peeking over the East ridge, lighting up just pieces of the landscape around me, leaving others dark.  To make it even more interesting for somebody who hadn’t sworn off photography for the day, the sky to the West was dark grey.  So the sun lit up the desert in front of me, making the Joshua trees pop.  It was gorgeous.

I wasn’t able to post last night because here, in Silicon Valley, the wifi is slower than in the middle of Nowhere, Utah.  The farmers in Wenatchee ship their best apples to other states, where they’re more precious.  I suppose Silicon Valley exports most of the broadband it grows, too.

Total distance 524 miles, including about 30 extra because somebody missed a turn.  Elapsed time: 11 hours.  Will post more about Zion and other parts of the trip when I can find some bandwidth.

GiG

Ride to the Sun Reunion – Red Canyon

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Dirt bike?

I don’t need no stinking dirt bike.

Cabin Hollow, near the West entrance to Red Canyon on Route 12.

Day 3 had some spectacular scenery, so I may have to post a few blogs about this portion of the ride.

I left Tropic at a leisurely 10:30 after doing a little email for work.  You can’t go dark at work nowadays.  Things move too fast and it’s just too painful to catch up when you get back.

This detour to Cabin Hollow was cool.  I took lots of detours today.

Total mileage, about 150, though I’m not sure because I forgot to set my odo.  Elapsed time from Tropic to Zion: 7 hours, mostly because I stopped to take so many pictures. Will post more pics in the morning.

GiG

Ride to the Sun Reunion: Tropic, Utah

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Day Two.

380 miles.

300 of it into some of the strongest headwinds I’ve faced yet.

After 6 hours my neck, shoulders, and forearms were burning.  Tough riding conditions have a way of making me reflect …

It was late afternoon and hot in Nebraska. I was baked, parched, burned, annoyed, and worn out.  I pulled off the road at an intersection of two country roads, mine going North-South, the other one East-West.  I took off my helmet and gloves, and shed my jacket.  I had one bottle of water left, and I was going to slowly pour it over my head and let it run down my chest and back, down my pants, and into my boots.  Biker air conditioning.

vulture2_smWhile I was unscrewing the bottle cap, a black chopper with a long haired biker wearing black leathers and carrying only a round day pack on the rear fender roared past me, heading West into the sun.  He cast a perfect silhouette, stretched forks, long hair trailing behind, and a slouch that would make a vulture proud.

It was a memorable motorcycle moment.

To have one, everything has to be right.  The bike, the weather, the road, you.  Mostly you.  If you’re not right, the moment goes right past you.  And you won’t even know you missed it.

It only happens to me on a Harley.

I still remember where I was sitting when they brought in the smooth talking new management guy to tell us that, henceforth, there would be no more problems at Sun.  Only opportunities.  I had to bite my lip so I wouldn’t squeak from the back of the room …

Houston, we have an opportunity.

Today’s buzzword, and I hope it’s yesterday’s buzzword soon, is passion.  Management wants us to be passionate about our work.  Sure.  Passion is a powerful motivator.  While it lasts.

Sorry boss, I lost my passion for build 12.  I’ve got a thing for ham radios, now.

I’ll leave passion for the bedroom or perhaps the garage, and take old-fashioned reliability to the office.  Which means that plenty of the time work is going to feel like anything but passion.  That’s why they called it work in the first place, in case some of you young punks were wondering.

And so it comes to pass that in a work environment, sooner or later the boss will ask me something dumb like why my performance evaluation isn’t done and all I’ll want to do deep in my soul is lift him by his lapels and growl straight into his face, “Because I don’t give a shit!”

Instead, I’ll tell him I’ll get right on it.  Like I always do.  Because I have a family.  I’ll do it day in and day out.  Week after week.  Month after month. Over the years, all that restraint?  It shrivels my soul.  After enough years, I want to scream.

Harley_fishtailsBMW’s, Hondas, Triumphs, and the others, they are fine motorcycles. But Harleys are the proverbial Middle Finger to the Man.  They are some of the slowest motorcycles made, the heaviest, the poorest handling.  Yet  with a defiance that gives me solace, they claim to be Number One.  When the industry demands performance, they deliver blinding chrome.  When the pundits vilify their 19th century engineering, they equip their bikes with hand-stitched leather seats.  And when sportbikers mock them for going too slow around corners, Harlistas drop the suspension even lower, add apes, and install fishtails.

Harleys are my scream.  That long-haired black rider on the blacked-out chopper, he’s my Tyler Durden.

Top photo: Linda Lu at Red Canyon
Middle photo: sculpture from roof of scrap metal junkyard in Cortez
Bottom photo: custom Softail Heritage Classic courtesy of hotbikeweb.

GiG