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A person speaking to a coworker: "I don't know that I'd call our work meaningful. But there are definitely days when it's meaning-adjacent."A person speaking to a coworker: "I don't know that I'd call our work meaningful. But there are definitely days when it's meaning-adjacent."


Meaningful published on

There’s something powerful about being part of something larger than yourself, and knowing that the work you do is contributing to some positive change in the world. And not just in the delusional “making the world a better place through constructing elegant hierarchies for maximum code re-use and extensibility” sense.

A lot of us want to feel that this planet is tangibly improved in some small way for our having been in it. The conventional wisdom is that this sentiment is especially strong among many Gen Z folks and millennials, who apparently aren’t content with killing golf, Applebees and diamonds.

But not all of them. Maybe that’s why companies like Purdue Pharma, Philip Morris and Palantir exist: so that people who are comfortable making the world a vastly more awful place can find meaning too.

Sure, you can pick my brain. Provided I can pick your wallet.

Pick my brain

Pick my brain published on No Comments on Pick my brain

I find people vary in how delighted they are to get requests to pick their brains. Some jump at them, possibly because they’re otherwise deprived of social contact, or because they’re highly altruistic, or because they really like free coffee.

But a lot of folks I know bristle at the question. My wife Alexandra calls it the “can-I-have-$500 call.” She points out it’s like asking someone to give up two potentially billable hours. (That’s once you factor in figure-out-a-date time, travel time and so on. And recognizing that different people bill at different rates, and some people drink coffee much more quickly than others.)

She understands that generating business often involves a courtship of coffee meetings and mutual exploration. But…

…there is a big difference between meeting with a consultant to assess whether you want to hire her, and asking her to simply give you a couple of hours to do the work you need. When you are talking to someone whose work includes analyzing problems, offering insight or making recommendations, “picking their brain” is the same as asking them to work for free.

Important cartoon milestone: This marks the first time I’ve created a Noise to Signal cartoon and post end-to-end on an iPad. The 12″ Pro was my birthday present, along with the Pencil and Logitech’s “Create” keyboard/cover. After a little hunting around, I’ve settled on Procreate for drawing and Autodesk Graphic for assembling the cartoon with its caption and logo. And writing this in WordPress with the keyboard was a breeze.

When I talk about the ease and precision of cartooning on the iPad Pro, it’s not so much to sell people on them. (Although, holy Hannah, it’s amazing.) It’s more to say that this is why you’re seeing a lot more cartoons this week from me. I’ll settle down into a more sedate schedule soon, I’m sure… but in the meantime, I’m having a ball.

Work-work balance

Work-work balance published on No Comments on Work-work balance

At some time or another, you’ve probably read  that famous life-work balance quotation, “Nobody ever said on their deathbed, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.'” Or words to that effect.

It’s based on some big assumptions: that work isn’t fulfilling, while spending time with your family is; that any time taken from family and given to work is a mistake; and that it’s a zero-sum game: that time given to work must necessarily come at the expense of family.

But I derive tremendous satisfaction from my work life. I’m often more present, more engaging, more open and more joyous a parent on a day when I’ve felt effective at work, because I believe my work’s important — and that it springs from the same values that I bring to my personal relationships. (For the record, those are love, compassion, justice, kerning and proper spelling.)

So many people yearn to have a larger impact in the world, and that’s not always going to be through family. Yes, by all means, if you see your family life suffering because of long hours at an unfulfilling job, find a new balance. But maybe it’s not just a question of the hours you work. Maybe we should demand more from our work. Maybe meaning should be a bigger part of the compensation package.

That would go a long way to cutting down on a lot of other deathbed regrets.

Friends with benefits

Friends with benefits published on 2 Comments on Friends with benefits

The debate rages on over whether social networks (and Twitter, and YouTube, and, and, and) have any legitimacy in the workplace, fueled in no small part by people who sell tools to block them.

But employers who turn their noses up at Facebook et al. may well discover that their coveted Millennials (a.k.a. Generation Y, a.k.a. those damn kids who won’t get off your lawn) are happy to return the favour when recruiting time rolls around. Blocking access to Facebook looks a lot like those IT departments that wouldn’t install web browsers on your computer a decade ago… or external email access a few years earlier.

And like those tools before them, the social web today is increasingly being used by companies and organizations for productive, collaborative work. So it’s not just a question of denying your HR department a hiring pool of cool kids. Blocking social media from your company can mean cutting yourself off from an important potential source of productivity, innovation and increased efficiency.

Of course, that’s an argument I like to make to people who haven’t just received a dozen Farmville notifications.

Originally published on ReadWriteWeb