The Personal Professional Mission

When I work as a direct manager, my primary concern for anyone reporting to me is their professional and career development. I’ve learned that there are many ways for people to grow, and I want to be sensitive to the particulars of each individual on my team.

To get at that, there is what I call the Personal Professional Mission. I ask each team member just what is it that motivates them; why, in a universe of opportunities, have they made the choices that land them in the role they have. It’s a big idea that most folks have never been asked about, and haven’t considered deeply, and require some time to develop an answer. However, I find it to be the key to understanding how the person will want to grow, and the guidance and mentorship I can provide them on that path.

To help them understand what I mean, I share my personal professional mission: to make the world safe for great user experiences. This has pretty much been my animating principle since I first started blogging in 1998, and was perhaps most fully realized in the creation and development of Adaptive Path. It also spurred my departure from Adaptive Path, when I felt that I could best tackle this mission from inside the enterprise, as user experience no longer needed a laboratory for development, but instead required operationalizing in-house in order to deliver on the promise.

I was sharing the idea of the Personal Professional Mission to a design director looking for guidance in her career. And as I was explaining it to her, I had an uncomfortable realization: I don’t know if my mission still holds true for me, and I haven’t figured out what would replace it. This isn’t something I had thought about recently, and it caught me by surprise. But it also helps explain why I’m a bit adrift right now. I’m in the process of figuring out my next professional move, and the universe of options is a bit overwhelming (I know, it’s a good problem to have). I’m thankful I’ve uncovered what is at the root of this uncertainty, as it should help me address it. We’ll see where it takes me!

In a Quaker State of Mind, or Why I Had Stopped Blogging

By and large, I don’t take truck with religion. Born and raised an avowed atheist, I had trouble understanding how it could be valuable — my knee-jerk reaction was that it does little more than narcotize.

Maturation is a wonderful thing — understanding the colors, shading, textures of what’s out there. Part of that maturation was to try to impose less of my notions on other things — to let them be. In the course of this, I became more aware of the Quakers (also known as the Society of Friends) and their approach.

The Quakers are Christians, but don’t hold that against them. From what I can tell, most Quakers can’t stand Christians, either. Quakers have no clergy. Quakers think that, yes, Jesus was a child of God, but hey, we are all children of God. He had some great ideas, but wasn’t particularly special. Quakers are pacifists. In American history, Quakers are often the first to do that which later on becomes understood as “right” — they were the first fiercest abolitionists.

A key element of Quaker practice is the weekly Quaker meeting. Apart from occurring on Sunday, it’s similarity to other Christian practice ends there. In Quaker meeting, the group sits, silent. Again, no clergy, so no sermon. The only time a Quaker speaks is when the spirit moves her. A Quaker is asked to speak only if it will improve upon the silence. This is a substantial threshold. Entire meetings may go by without a sound. A kind of group meditation. Encouraging real reflection.

In the chattering world that is media, internet, urbanism, that notion of silence becomes even more powerful, meaningful, useful. It’s made me wish that everyone took to heart that request — speak only when it will improve upon the silence.

(This is not to suggest that I follow such an axiom. I’m one of the worst silence-fillers I know.)

When I stopped writing on my website a couple of months ago, I was surprised at how… concerned some people were. “Why did you stop writing?” I realized that, at the time, I really hadn’t anything to say. I was posting out of obligation to an audience, not because the spirit moved me.

I was also growing increasingly frustrated with the echo chamber effect of weblogs. A meme drifts out there, and then 38 different people post their take on that meme, and they all link to each other, and, as a reader, you bounce from post to post, the semantic feedback growing until it’s deafening. I needed to remove myself from that for a while. To prune a tree. To look on as my g/f and another friend weeded my garden. To get licked in the face by a dog. To prepare my taxes. To watch work out while watching TeeVee.

I’m back. I probably won’t post as much as I once did. (Though today is an exception! Suffice to say that when you stop writing, the ideas well up.) I’ll try to make sure that, when I do, I improve upon the silence. And if you return to this site, and there’s nothing new, I ask you to reflect upon that, appreciate that silence, before you continue through your bookmarks.

The Blog Is Back

Peterme.com is back on line. And while I had all sorts of high-falutin’ thoughts about how I wouldn’t blog again, I kept not getting around to the essay writing and other stuff I thought would take its place. I’m lazy, I guess.

I did, however, accomplish one thing I wanted to do before returning to write peterme. I launched the Beast Blog, a multi-author East Bay regional weblog. I believe that there’s a shining future in regional weblogs. They can be an amazing community resource. Particularly for communities too small to warrant a daily newspaper, but too large to be satisfied by a weekly 4-page newsletter.

And, so’s you know, I’ll be fiddling with peterme.com for a while, evolving the design, etc. So it might look different every time you return.