Agile Moderation

I read a lot of advice – on any social media platform it’s hard not to. Everyone spouts endlessly about hustle, self care, the grind, being the best you, on and on forever. There are memes and videos and heartfelt shout outs to gurus and coaches.

All of that advice is fine, but it always leaves me cold. It all feels so extreme and if you fall down one rabbit hole of advice or another, it will probably lead to a lot of unhealthy behavior.

I’m a developer. I’m incredibly hard on myself. I work with people who are also incredibly hard on themselves. They all seem to feel worse about themselves than I do, and I’ve been trying to figure out why – and what I do or what experience I have that tells me when to let up on the self-criticism.

It’s taken a while but I think I’ve figured it out.

I’ve been doing some form of agile development for a very long time. More than a decade but less than two. It’s fine and I’m not going to go into details about it because it doesn’t matter.

My favorite part of that process, though, is the retrospective. It’s where the entire team gets together every two weeks and answers three questions:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go well?
  • What are we going to do differently next time?

It’s a chance for the team to refine their process, learn how to work better with each other and improve personally. The best part is that my teams always write everything down so we have a record of our retrospectives over time so we can see our growth over time.

It’s so effective that I now use it on myself. And this is where the moderation from the title comes in. Every time something goes wrong or I’m under stress, I go through those three questions. It’s calming, and a chance to reflect and commit to doing better.

But, it’s not open ended. I can’t spent forever on how badly I messed up or on how great I did, and I always have to finish with how I’m going to improve.

That process allows me to continue to be self critical, continue to hustle and not just love through the grind of startup life, but to love it, take care of myself and be aware of what I still need to work on.

The goal of agile isn’t perfection; it’s constant, sustainable, incremental improvement. That’s a goal I can get behind for myself too.

This one’s for you Simon

One of my sister’s friends that we met at the ArsDigita Prize weekend last summer asked me yesterday to think about marriage and post something here. I’ve thought about marriage pretty much every day since I got married, over four years ago. That’s a relatively short amount of time, but in that time, I’ve learned a lot. Here’s what I know, or at least what I think I know. You may want to check with my wife to see if I really know this stuff (I’m so gonna get it when I get home):

  1. Marriage is a bigger adjustment than I thought it would be. I came into marriage with preconceived notions of what it meant to be a husband and what I thought my wife would do that I gained over the years by watching my mom and dad. My wife watched her parents and had her own ideas about roles and responsibilities. It took us quite a while to realize that we’re not the same as our parents and we have our own roles and responsibilities. For example, I assumed Jen would handle the money because my mom did (and Jen worked in an accounting office when we got married). Jen figured I would. Jen thought that, because her dad was handy and fixed stuff, that I could. Nope! I’m pretty un-handy, and that took some adjusting to. Some of this stuff we’re still figuring out.
  2. Marriage is a lot more fun than I thought it would be. Jen and I talked about this last night and she put it better than I ever could. She thought that we’d be like the Brady’s and read in bed and then peck each other on the cheek and go to sleep. That’s totally not what happened. We used to stay up late just talking, laughing, having pillow fights, etc. We talked for hours, just getting to know each other. We still talk when we should be going to sleep. I hope that never stops. I hope we’re in our nineties and just as I’m about to go to sleep, Jen rolls over and says something funny through her gums and I laugh until my one working kidney pops out and lands on the floor.
  3. I’m glad I married who I did. I don’t think I’ve talked about this on the site before, but I was engaged once before I met Jen. The girl was nice, but she came with a lot of baggage that, at 21, I wasn’t ready to deal with. Thankfully, I got out while I still could, before vows had been taken and any papers had been signed. When Jen came along, things were totally different, and this time, they were right. It was night and day, and I’m thankful every day for that painful decision over five years ago to call off my first engagement. So, the moral of this story? If it’s not right, don’t wait till you’ve got a ring and certificate to admit it to yourself. It will be harder to get out once you’re married than while you’re engaged or dating.
  4. I’m not sure exactly how to say this, but here goes. Dude, you’re young. You’re not so young that thinking about marriage isn’t crazy, but I wouldn’t rush into anything. Twitterpated is a great place to be. But, what I realized in my first engagement was that all these problems we had weren’t just going to magically disappear because we were married. In fact, they would be worse. Marriage isn’t a way to get someone to stay, or to fix problems in a relationship. It’s hard sometimes. At moments, you’re not real sure you want to be married. Thankfully for me, those times are usually split-seconds and don’t happen very often. But, we all have our days when we don’t want to be around anyone.
  5. Marriage is about a lot more than physical attraction. I like hanging out with my wife. We talk about things that have nothing to do with the fact that I have the hots for her. Sex is an important part of marriage, but it’s not the most important part. Mutual respect, support and friendship are much higher on the must-have list than nookie.
  6. I’m running out of things to say for the moment. Simon, if this doesn’t answer all your questions, please let me know. I wish I had had a married friend other than my parents to bounce this stuff off of when I was your age, and well, I live to solve other peoples’ problems.