Recovery Con

I think all of us are worn down at this point.

Inspired somehow this morning by this tweet from Quinn, and this article from Laurie, I realized I wanted to start thinking about how we can make the world better as we move from pandemic and quarantine into whatever comes next.

We’ll have talks.

We’ll have a joy gallery.

We can even have karaoke, even tho it’ll go poorly over video chat.

We’ll have spaces to talk to each other about how hard this is, yes of course, but also what we can dream of coming after.

A lot of it is yet to be figured out. You can help me in doing so by signing up here. It also includes indicating you’re interested in helping to organize, facilitate, give a talk, etc. Charging $5 to be sure people are actually committed, all proceeds will go to groups in need as selected by attendees. Obviously and as always, ping me to have the fee waived.

May 23rd (because let’s be honest, we’re going to be in this for awhile) 9a-1p PT / 12p-4p ET / 5p-9p BT / 7p-11p EAT.

On aborting a pregnancy

People keep treating me as if it’s a bigger deal than I think it actually is. “Like” (my therapist said) “when a toddler falls and you rush to their side and they start crying because you’re scared.” (This is when I asked them if I was heartless for not being devastated about the whole thing. Was I not feeling much because I was protecting myself or because it actually wasn’t that big of a deal? Therapy is great. More people should do it.)

Many people rightfully take it hard when pregnancy doesn’t work out for them. Whether because of religion, or because they’ve been trying so hard, or because of whatever… and I respect that. But this isn’t that story. If hearing that perspective will be harmful to you in some way, please stop reading now.

When Reed and I first started rolling around together, we talked about kids. (As anyone having sex should.) It was off the table between us, but we kept enjoying each other while I sought a person to procreate and raise children with (ah, the bonuses of polyamory). As our relationship deepened, it was put back on the table. We decided to be primaries, to cohabitate, to get hitched, to try to procreate. Like many things we do together, we set a timeline and a budget. If it didn’t work out within those constraints, we’d both get sterilized and pick up hang gliding.

Our plan worked out surprisingly quickly for us. Reed found a great OB, and as things developed on track we carefully told our families and made plans at our workplaces. All the tests were in the clear for the first trimester. We heard a heartbeat and saw tiny raised fists on an organism that was bizarrely growing inside me. Side note: AS A NONBINARY PERSON HOLY SHIT THE GENDER DYSPHORIA. I opted to know All The Things All At Once via a microarray CVS at the beginning of the second trimester. Why keep honing in on probability when relative certainly is an abdomen-puncture away?

The results came back, and we talked about them, and the micro deletion that showed fell outside our acceptable risk profile. In short, we should try again on our own or via IVF (still figuring this out). EG, having a second trimester abortion.

The dilation was the worst part. The actual procedure is fine, although I’ll end up with bruises from an IV as usual. And the thought that so many other people don’t have access to harassment free clean care and caring nurses is fucking horrific. As I’ve said in other places, if this story moves you to any action, please let it be supporting Planned Parenthood.

So we’re going to try again. Maybe it’ll work, or maybe I’ll get to learn hang gliding. I now know I can survive the first trimester and still be gender queer while I do so. I know I’ve got loving, supportive people around me and a Reed who is amazingly present.

I know this is a big part of many people’s stories, but it’s not for me. It’s just another thing that happened. And that’s fine.

Redistributing Wealth

Thanks to Ride Free Fearless Money and to Reed for helping me to not shrink away from conversations about money and my responsibility in its orbit.

So I grew up with some money. I think my parents did a pretty good job of navigating it – we were spoiled with things like good health care, good mattresses, healthy food, and comfortable shoes. I didn’t have a lot in the way of clothing or toys or other “frivolous” things, but we did have our basic needs well met. They helped with my school until I got a scholarship that paid for the bulk of it. At both times I worked part time to cover the rest. I graduated without debt. When I was in an abusive relationship, they covered my costs leading up to and after I left him. I am privileged.

I also have had the luxury of being principled about what jobs I do (and don’t) take. I’ve asked for (and gotten) loans from my parents (as well as gifts from an aunt) in the long stints between jobs at places I could work at in good conscious. I’ve since paid them back for the support, but I want to acknowledge the impact their support had on my career path.

And so now I can take jobs that I enjoy and feel are net positive impact and which pay well. To get here without the level of support I’ve had takes a bigger badass than me.

Now that I make dirty tech money (that, while less dirty than most, is still a part of the narrative of over valuing some skills and under valuing others) I’ve found this stupid thing to be absolutely true: having money makes it easier to get more money. In fact, people tend to just give you more money once you’ve gotten to a certain point.

It’s broken and I hate it.

Back in 2015 when I got my first steady-income job making a bit more than I needed to live off of, I started thinking about how to responsibly invest that money. In addition to that starting point, I also give to nonprofits and GoFundMes and Patreons. But there’s this thing that is still really awful to me, and it’s this: I am now wealthier than some of my dearest friends and some of my family, and to have a microcosm of society’s larger ills so close to our faces fucking sucks. I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to just give people money (also one of the most effective humanitarian interventions!) in addition to the organizations I support.

Can I just give people money?

Enter the Protestant Work Ethic, AKA “the American Dream.” What it says in brief is that your moral goodness is evident in how well you do in the world. EG, you don’t have to wait for your rewards in heaven, you get signals that you’ll go to heaven based on how successful you are while alive. It’s some bollocks and it’s what I think of as a core illness in American Society.

So I can’t just give people money because it’s indicative that they didn’t earn it and therefore to have it is an evil (even tho money is just being given to me without being based in merit or need). While to me at this point it’s just another resource I’d really rather share, I can’t because of Protestantism. Or maybe they have other reasons of their own.

I’m pretty new to all this, so I expect to be immature in my approach, and I’m eager for feedback in the comments.

After consulting many great humans I respect, here’s where I think we’re at:

If they’re noticeably younger than you

It seems to be ok to give them money without a lot of explanation. Can just be marked with “for a rainy day” without further explanation. This may also come under the expectation of middle- and upper-class environments based on “if money goes from your parents to you, you’re middle- to upper-class. If it flows from kids to parents, you’re lower class.”

If they already have an endeavor

A Patreon, an artistic practice, etc: commission something from them. Pay them as good or better than market rate so they also value their work more and can point at the sale in future negotiations to uplift their entire business. If you’re already supporting their monthly Patreon (or whatever), increase your amount.

This is also a great chance to give gifts. If someone is into a new hobby or embarking on a new adventure, giving gifts to get them set up well can launch them and not feel invasive.

If they have a specific goal in mind

Offer an interest-free loan you’re potentially willing to forget about. If not willing to forget about it, work on clear, flexible ways to do the repayment.

Another great point for gifts.

If it’s not any of these and you’re still set on it

Include a note about how wealth disparity in general sucks, how a windfall was just come into (inheritance, signing bonus, etc), and that you’d like to redistribute it. Make it clear there are no strings and what they chose to do with it is up to them. Don’t be offended or mention it if they don’t cash a check.

Any of these might change your relationship with each other.

Money is a point of deeply personal stress and pain for many folk. It is not easy to talk about, to need, to offer. And you know your friends and family better than I will, so your mileage may vary. I anticipate that if you’re kind and loving and up to make mistakes you’re willing to own up to and you’ll be fine.

Do you have other thoughts or ways you approach this (or would be comfortable with it being done)?

Stick ’em in the comments!

Wish me luck as I embark on enacting these even more in life.

Onboarding documentation the most important documentation

Originally posted on the Truss blog

Most of us rely on documentation in one way or another. In this blog post, we attempt to make the following points:

  1. Most documentation should be treated as if it is onboarding someone to an organization, project, process, etc.
  2. Involving multiple people of different practice areas increases the quality and context of the documentation.
  3. Documentation can help a growing/large organization stay in sync with itself.
  4. Truss’s onboarding documentation is great and you should check it out.

Onboarding documentation is the most important documentation

“Documentation” is the media object (text, video, images, etc) which explains how to do something. Docs can take the form of descriptive policy, READMEs, How-Tos, welcoming, etc. 

Documentation is nearly always worth having, but if you only have time to get one piece of documentation in place, it should be made on the assumption it’s being used to onboard someone to the project, organization, process, etc to which it relates. A person rarely looks at the whole project, organization, process, etc as a whole as that is overwhelming. They instead look for signposts that provide context and support in understanding the system they’re about to interact with. 

When I got started at Truss long long ago in 2017, we had an onboarding manager checklist but no real guidance for the new Trussel outside of that human contact. Ari, who at the time was doing onboarding (and is now an engineer), is an incredibly high-touch, welcoming human. However, if she or another person helping with the process had a more pressing thing to be doing (which was often the case at a suddenly and rapidly growing consultancy), a new Trussel would stall out and be left in a sea of tasks, new tools, and new people, with a sense of “what even do I do?” And when one doesn’t have a clear path forward, one can feel useless, which is not a good feeling when you’re just getting started somewhere and want to prove your worth.

This was because we had documentation about how things worked, but not from the perspective of the person being onboarded to the organization. If we were to get this in place, a new Trussel would feel more welcomed and solid in their footing.

Luckily(?) I compulsively document things. So as I learned about bits and pieces of the organization, I wrote down in one place what others should also expect as they came in. Oh, we do have a document about PTO? Link it up and give a quick summary. We don’t have one on role definition? Could I help make one? I tried to set it up so when something was unclear or incorrect in the docs, a new person would feel safe enough to ask questions and empowered enough to edit the docs when they learned the answer. This generated a surprisingly long document which was complete enough, but also incredibly overwhelming.

Pouring the firehose into drinkable cups

Documentation takes a bunch of different people of different practices to make it good. Sharing the load also makes creating and maintaining the docs a lighter lift and a shared source of truth and object worth maintaining together.

Our document was way too burdensome, so we called on our design content strategists James and Kaleigh, who suggested it be reformatted into phases of onboarding time. Delivery Manager Amy tried this format out first on her project, and then I expanded it into the MilMove project. When it stuck well enough, we did a card sorting exercise for who wanted to know about which parts of our operations, and when it made sense to learn about them. We also started linking out to external documents when a section got too long or convoluted. This allows people to focus on the big picture, and dive in deeper when something is relevant to them. Then we took our honking document and rearranged it and edited it down to a mere 28 pages.

Just as people had started asking to have new policy or reference docs put into the emerging guide, everyone also helped edit for clarity. It became a thing for more folk to reference and make use of. And just as Nelz, Jeri, Andrew (all engineers), and Mallory (designer) have held my hand in multiple ways to migrate the Guide from a Google Doc to GitHub Pages, many other folk have also refined the Guide to make it what it is. Including our general counsel Burstein writing the best damn disclaimer you ever did see and otherwise making sure we’re not just witty but also reasonable legally.

We have all done this in the spirit of being a warm, welcoming place for new Trussels. All those folk named here (and those I have forgotten 💔) have demonstrated our values in order to make it an easier transition for others to also represent those values.

If you are working on onboarding documents, call in help! Ask tenured folk to verify knowledge is represented, newer folk that it’s clear, content specialists to review structure, etc. 

Being able to document something requires understanding it

Growing and large organizations are often accused of “the left hand not knowing what the right is doing.” This has to do with the functions of the different hands not being clear to the other. Enter (you guessed it): onboarding documentation! By describing how different components of a system work, the system itself has opportunities to become more aligned.

One thing that came up time and time again as we worked on the Trussels’ Guide were points of inconsistency or lack of clarity around internal workings. As we grew from 14 to 90 Trussels during the development of the Guide, our processes were also scaling. We became more robust and more formal. But importantly, we always did so with an eye to being comprehensible to an incoming Trussel. Docs shouldn’t only be intelligible in the context of the whole — each should stand on its own in a meaningful way. While most Trussels can’t (and shouldn’t have to) know about every tiny detail of how the business operates, they should be able to look up the details and/or who to ask if they start to care.

As an aside, there’s also this great piece about how you can’t fix a product (or a process) by having good words. The thing you’re describing has to be good, too.

Documenting can surface where things are out of alignment and provide a route to bringing them back into sync with each other. This is important for your organization, project, or process to be functional within the context of itself and the larger systems of which it is part.

A quick how-to

What’s worth documenting? I start documenting when roughly three people ask me the same sort of question. Rather than respond to each separately, I 

  1. try to write it down with the first’s help, 
  2. talk through it with the second, and 
  3. ask the third to try to self-serve with the document created. 

This allows emergent areas of interest, guided by our new Trussels, to determine some of the aspects of the business we next define more clearly. 

We’re proud of how we do things at Truss and want to share them

So now we are ready, dear reader, to show you how we work at Truss and, as importantly, how we talk about how we work. And so I introduce to you the Trussels’ Guide to Truss. In it are the ways we are kind to each other, how the business functions, some of the decisions we’ve made, and how we embed assumptions into our work.

We hope you’ll have a look, take what works for you, leave what doesn’t, and continue to engage in the conversation of how to build great businesses together. Also, if this seems like the place for you, we’re hiring!

2019 in Review

This will be my fifth year in a row doing these, so you can also read about 201520162017, or 2018 if so desired. They are inspired by Tilde, who has taught me that it can be a Good Thing to remember what the last year has been like. Many of the headers in this post are based on my 2019 goals.

The phrase for this year was building the foundations, as I had just made space for them. I feel like I solidly did this.

Stated Goals

Maintain a healthy routine for myself.

So I didn’t really talk about physical fitness last year, but I’ve kept up a solid routine of climbing, yoga, bicycling, strength training, and (for awhile there) boxing. I don’t work evenings, weekends, or holidays. I took most of the PTO available to me this year. With growing regularity I read books and drink tea instead of drinking. I went to PT and massage therapy when I injured myself. I take my meds and my vitamins regularly. I go to bed around 9p and wake up around 5:30 every day. My baseline is hecka solid.

Figure out more future things with Reed & something that brings hope.

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So uh. We got married. One of the best choices I’ve yet made in my life. Having Reed in my corner makes life more joyful, interested, and stable. He also challenges me to be better, and brings a perspective that brings hope to my brain (and by proxy, the people around me).

Set a metric and improve that metric at work.

Set metrics around time to onboard new Trussels, how many internal projects I was managing (work in progress), and how many new leaders I could uplift with those internal projects. Also implemented surveys around D&I and sense of belonging. Saw major gains in onboarding and developing leadership, small gains in WIP and belonging, and it’s still too soon to tell for D&I.

Try out sparring.

Because I sometimes do security at protests, I wanted to know how I reacted to getting punched. So I took up boxing. There was a point this year where I was training for boxing 5 days a week – in class, at home, and in private lessons. I love Four Elements Fitness and the science of boxing. Highly recommend. But when it came time to spar, I found that I have a really hard time hitting people (even consenting friends) in the face. I’m still not sure if boxing has a role in my life, but my body was at its happiest when I was in this groove this year.

Continue to meet my savings goals and investing in my communities.

I’ve been doing well at this, especially with the guidance of Ride Free Fearless Money, a fantastic person who does consulting and education around finances for anticapitalists.

Contribute to events as support, not as main organizer.

I’ve gone on a lot of bicycle rides that I didn’t organize, from friend rides in the Bay to organized rides with over 100 people to bicycling in the wooded mountains near Susanville. I also participated in a leadership program put on by Rise Together Bay Area without running any part of it (and it was a joy, they really have their shit together)!  And for Priceless, I contributed on tickets and on-site setup, but wasn’t a core organizer! I’m very proud of myself.

Something that brings joy.

I officiated Matt and Jenn’s wedding in Bloomington, Indiana. This was such a joy. They’re excellent humans with other excellent humans in their lives, and to be able to commemorate that through ritual was just dandy.


Reed and I also got a cat. After 7ish years without a pet, this has been baller. He’s sleeping on my lap right now.

Something that feels selfish.

Got my eyes lasered. This was an experience. I did PRK rather than any other form because I might get hit in the eye repeatedly at some point at a protest or something, and I don’t want my cornea to slide off my face. But that also meant a week of pain and blindness, followed by a month of blurry vision and dry eyes, and now perfect vision. It’s hard to describe what a great present perfect vision is. I don’t have to be constantly worried about being stranded somewhere if something happens to my glasses. They’re not always coming down my nose during physical activity. I wouldn’t be blind in an earthquake. I feel grateful every day that I did this for myself.

Previous years’ unmet goals that were met this year

Continue reducing my intoxicant consumption

2019 has been a good year. I’ve found healthier habits for coping with things, plus I have a solid enough baseline that I have available self control even when I’m still having a rough time. I’d proud of myself for treating myself better.

Bicycle further than I walk (without any drastic reduction in walking)

This is bananas, y’all. Something just clicked for me this year with bicycles. Going on long rides while listening to audiobooks on bone-conduction headphones is now my absolute favorite thing. To the point that I rode 2,500 miles this year, including a few populaires (100k), a century (100 miles), and a 200k Brevet. I walked 1,350 miles.

Unmet stated goal

Complete 4 cross-stitch projects.

I finished two, and then I started on that was too big and that I didn’t have the right equipment for. Instead of course correcting I plowed ahead and burned myself out on it.

Other things

Got another tattoo


After last year’s “first last tattoo,” I kept struggling with some personal things. This one a tribute to liminal space. Reed and I are going to try to gestate, and there’s no way to know if it’ll work or not, so this is a time of liminality, of between-ness. I love working with Santa Perpetua so much — as always, I waxed poetic to her about my existential angst and she put it as art on my body so I can carry it with me.

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Once more, this nice spartan lady came from The Estates, put up with two days in a row of my unfriendly needle and crazy rambling, to have in the end my artwork on her skin. I feel blessed to have such awesome people as clients. So, for this one, “Burn your ship” or “Swim out of the fish bowl”… Whichever you like! ;D WWW.SANTAPERPETUATATTOO.COM #santaperpetua #watercolortattoo #brighton #london #uk #avantgardetattoo #graphicarttattoo #eclectictattoo #contemporarytattooing #conceptualtattoo #thebesttattooartists #radtattoos #tattoo #art #ink #skin #abstracttattoo #organizedchaostattoo #toptattooartist #tattoolifegallery #freehandtattoo #swimoutofthefishbowl #onlywatercolor #burnyourship #detailstattoo

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Was intentional about my relationships

Have continued to invest more in a smaller set of friendships and romantic relationships. Have also decided (with the other person) that some just weren’t working out. One of the things about poly is that it allows relationships to draaaaaagggg on for a long time without closing things up that should be closed. I’m proud of us for not following that pattern, as hard as it can be in the moment.

Travel & Culture

  • Went to Indonesia for our honeymoon. Got over my fish phobia, tried out snorkeling, scuba, and free diving for the first times. Pet lots of cats, read lots of books, and just chilled the fuck out for two weeks. Also went on a mad dash for Dim Sum in Hong Kong on a layover that was just long enough on the way back.
  • We also went to France. Bicycled the Burgandy canal, ate at a 3-star Michelin restaurant, and found out that Paris truly is closed in the month of August.
  • Took a class on Neo Futurism. When I was doing crisis response, I stopped telling stories because everything I said seemed like one-upmanship. So I took a class on non-illusory theater from the SF Neo-Futurists to learn to tell stories again.
  • Reed and I have maintained a membership at a local theater and see shows there about once a month. Sometimes they’re exceptional and sometimes they’re terrible, but it feels nice to support Teh Arts.
  • Went to Desert X with friends. The art wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but it sure was a blast to go on a roadtrip with this crew.
  • Took other people to see The Jungle. I was so impacted by seeing The Jungle in NYC in 2018 that I made a point to bring some friends to see it when it came to SF. We then all sat together, mostly in silence, in a sushi place nearby while we processed our Feelings.
  • We went to Chicago to see one of Reed’s favorite musicals, Next to Normal. It was a fantastic piece of theater, put on humbly but well.

All this while still managing to decrease my overall speed – 6mph constant (the lowest it’s ever been since starting to track!), with 4 months with no flights at all.

2020

So now we’re on the cusp of 2020, and I should think about what that means for me.

  • Devise new ways to connect with my crew (and do so).
  • I dunno, maybe gestate? O_o
  • Take care of myself as best I can in light of potential gestation.
  • Bring passion back to my work.
  • Pick up ONE side project.

My phrase for 2020 will be welcoming others.

A playbook for distributed teams

Originally posted on the Truss blog

There are a lot of articles coming out these days about how to be an effective distributed employee. But there is much less around on how to be a good distributed team. Truss hired our first distributed employees back in January of 2018, and we’re now at 55% outside our “home state” of California (and many of us are spread across CA). We’re now 75 folk, and there are usually 5 of us in “the office.” As Isaac recently said, “it’s like a coworking space that only Trussels have access to.”

We’ve had to learn a few things in order to keep the organization functioning and aligned with our values. We’ve now codified the steadiest of these lessons in a distributed playbook on GitHub.

A quick note on language, and why we chose “distributed” over “remote.”

“Remote” suggests that there is a central place to which a node is remote. Because we wanted to emphasize that we are all on equal footing, we instead chose “distributed” – there is no “center.” We have collections of Trussels in NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, Sacramento, LA, and SF; as well as individual Trussels in many other locations.

What the playbook holds

We think healthy distributed team interaction falls into four buckets: facilitating interaction, properly resourcing people, bonding with each other, and seeing each other in person on occasion. This includes other things like taking stack, having a place for banter, having offsites, and having ways to connect about not-work. Things we’ve talked about in previous blog posts and will continue to post about (and now will collect into this playbook as we do).

A quick note on internal references in the playbook

We talk in the playbook about TDRs – Truss Decision Records. We pulled these from ADRs (Architectural Decision Records) which we use in our code repos to document why we made certain choices. We do the same for our organization now, and anyone can propose a new decision. We should probably do another blog post on that at some point.

We want your help!

We’re still learning about distributed team interactions—we all are—and we’d love your feedback and contributions to the playbook so we can all learn with each other.

Facilitating distributed All Hands meetings

Originally posted on the Truss blog

All hands meetings are important – they are a way to spread a message, a way for a team to get to know each other, and a way to move a decision making process forward. They are easy to do wrong—to hear something everyone already knows a thousand times over, to be unclear, or to be a jumbled mess without enough time to accomplish a goal. I’ve run the numbers of how much we pay for an all hands meeting (something I can do with internal salary transparency), and the cost is nothing to laugh at. So why do we have these meetings so often (at Truss, once a week), and how can we make sure we’re getting the most of them?

We see facilitation as the way to get the most out of a meeting like this. I’ll arbitrarily define “meeting facilitation” here as the act of deciding what you want to get out of a gathering, planning for, and then constructing and maintaining a space and flow to optimize for achieving that goal with a group of people. This is different from presentations—which are also useful—as a presentation is about the clear delivering of a message by one or a small group of people to another set of people. It is possible to facilitate a set of presentations, especially if there is Q&A at the end.

Facilitating distributed meetings

As we’ve talked about before, facilitation changes when you have a distributed group. And so as Truss noses up past 70 (and still growing) we’re hitting new facilitation challenges. As our client base grows, and our internal operations change, and fewer Trussels know each other well, what do we want out of our all hands meetings (that we call “Practitioners’,” or “Prac” for short), and how can we be sure we’re achieving those goals?

Skill share

We know we don’t have all the answers at Truss, and so we wanted to have the conversation about how to further improve our practices with a broader group of people. Four Trussels (Sara, MacRae, Isaac, and Willow) were joined by Emily of honeycomb.io, Pam of One Medical, Aaron of CivicActions, Liz of Public Lab, and Mike of an undisclosed media company to skill share. The all hands we facilitate run from groups of a handful to in the 70s. Some of us rotate facilitators, some of us hold that honor for a prolonged period. Some of us are fully remote, some of us are clumped into rooms in different locations.

While you can get into the details by watching the video or reading the notes, our main categories of interest fell into engagement & participation, meeting purpose, and who is remote versus who is in person. We had a few main takeaways that we’ll be cross-pollinating across our organizations.

Facilitation Guild

Having a group of similarly dedicated folk within your organization can help up everyone’s game. Try out experiments together, lean on each other for support, and perform course corrections by having allies to check in with. We try out new things on our project teams and then share them back to the guild, helping the whole organization benefit from gains (and avoid and/or reproduce discovered failures!)

Collaborative decision making

While some of us (including Truss) still use all hands primarily as a way to disseminate information, Aaron of CivicActions and Liz of Public Lab told stories of making decisions as organizations during all hands meetings. This makes my robot heart sing with joy, and the Truss facilitation guild will be looking for ways to start doing this in our projects.

“Hand” in chat

As a group grows larger, it becomes more difficult to track who wants to say something, and in what order. We use the video conferencing software’s chat to raise a hand through text—literally typing “hand”—in order to signal we want to say something. Not only does it help the facilitator keep stack, it also gives time to folks who want to consider what they want to say before they say it

Banter / Side channel

Banter is a great way to keep everyone engaged—I may not want to take up everyone’s attention with the perfect gif in reaction to something that’s just been said, but if I have somewhere to post it, I’m more likely to stay engaged as are the folk looking at and responding to the gif. Using a side channel (so not distracting from the “hand” channel above) means everyone wins.

What’s next?

Huge shout out to all the folk who joined for this facilitation skill share—I’m excited about a lot I get to do, and this was still the highlight of my month thus far. To be able to share skills across organizations is rarer than I’d like in the private sector, and that’s just silly. We all do better when we all do better. I hope we have more reason to collaborate with each other to grow and uplift the spaces we’re in. Is there something you want to learn or share about?

There is a growing body of work around working from home and working from anywhere… as well as the practices individuals take to stay sane and healthy while doing so. But we’re lacking a supporting body of work in how to help groups work together well in this new distributed environment. Truss is beginning to codify our learnings into a distributed playbook, which we’ll share when it’s good enough to face the tumult of the internet. When it’s out, we hope you’ll join us in making it better.

Burn your ships

Liminal space has long been my favorite, yet most exhausting, place to be. It is where new things are being tried, where curiosity lives, where people are stepping out of their comfort zones to acknowledge the vastness of the world.

I’ve been slowly making my way through a book about liminal space, called The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. It speaks of people who harvest the Matsutake mushroom, a highly sought after delicacy which thrives in human disturbed forests. It tells a tale of how to survive in, and move beyond capitalism.

Liminal space is also queer space, where there aren’t (yet) norms to follow. Every movement is a question, and therefore full of oxytocin and peril. It is exhausting. Nothing is assumed.

And I do love me some infrastructure. I thrive on predictability. So what is the step after entering (and lingering) in liminal space? It is to fully commit to the new course of action. And while nearly all the phrases associated with committing have to do with military conquest and colonialism (including “burn your ships”), this won’t be the first time the nuanced meaning of such a phrase will continue to be a reminder to me in my life.

I transitioned in December 2017 to a job doing govtech work. I don’t focus on community-led crisis response any longer. While I still get to nerd out about it sometimes with excellent people, there are only so many hours in each day and I have chosen a new path to be on. It has come at a cost to my ego, and possibly to the domain (although they’ll be fine without me). I am continually reminded of this excellent comic from SMBC about living lives across one lifetime. To be a beginner at something, after being at the top of a field I helped create, is humbling and scary. But it is also necessary for me to grow, and for the things of which I have been a part to grow without me.

I spend a year and a half between when Aspiration and I decided to part ways, and settling into a delivery manager role at Truss. It took another 9 months for me to feel certain in the value I had to contribute at Truss. We’re now working on our delivery management playbook which I expect to be shared externally.

I’m also learning about how organizations grow and change. We were about 14 when I joined. We’re now 70. The team I was delivery manager for has grown from 12 to 37. Everything breaks from 15 to 50, and now we’re gearing up for the transition to 150. Being intentional about what should be centralized and what should be distributed hails back to what I learned in crisis response, although it’s in a completely new environment. I wouldn’t be able to be in the liminal spaces of learning these new skills if I hadn’t fully committed to the life in which I now live.

So three cheers for liminal space. But burn your ships for sanity and growth.

Identity Work

As anyone who has ever spent more than 5 seconds with me probably could have predicted, I hang a lot of my sense of self-worth on my work. And while I don’t always mean what I get paid to do, I certainly do mean that as well. As I once said at a hacker conference panel on taking money from tainted places: “no one could ever pay me enough to not do what needs doing.” As in, while other folk can be happy doing net-neutral (or even net-negative) work as their day jobs, I cannot. I have a complete mental block on it and cannot do it, regardless of how I spend my non-work hours. To each their own – others are able to balance the impact they have in the world in various ways, and I’m honestly a bit envious of them.

That means the jobs I have, I believe in. Whether it was Jigsaw or Geeks Without Bounds or Aspiration or now Truss, I see my “job” as being part of a collective effort to change the world for the better. I don’t leave my work at work, and I don’t like taking vacations. The world is a mess and the only way it changes is through our active effort. No, I will not put my laptop down. (I am actually working on this, to my benefit.)

This also means I can be a mess sometimes, because of work. Because of financial needs, and political systems, and growing pains, my ability to act within or through an organization can be disrupted. Which would be fine, except I have rough time with it. It is, as I like to joke, a direct reflection on my moral character.

So I brought this challenge to my amazing therapist. They asked me great questions about how I interact and perceive needs, and my identity in regards to (and beyond) work. But it still didn’t land.

In thinking about who I would be without connection to others or beyond the actions I take, I realized how much I ascribe to the Buddhist idea of just being a collection of molecules brought together in this moment. That life is meaningless but that we give it meaning. And that meaning is created through action and connections. So to try to describe an identity outside of connection and action is impossible for me to do.

What does this mean about my relationship to work?

A great conversation came up in the #kids channel at Truss a bit ago, about how people explain to their kids why they go away all day. And folk fell pretty squarely into two camps: “everyone has a job (including you),” and “capitalism is a system we exist in.” And I realized in this conversation about managing 4 year olds that I have grown up in an environment which says “everyone has a job,” but that the “we have to survive in capitalism” narrative far better aligns with how I actually view the world. There is a difference between responsibility to a system (the former), and responsibility to the people within that system (the latter).

How do y’all think about responsibility and creating meaning, and how it does or doesn’t overlap with your work?

PS, aside on how the American Dream / Work Ethic is actually protestantism and a plug for this great piece from back in the day from Quinn.

Magical Thinking

This blog post is heavily influenced by a conversation I had with one Ethan Zuckerman months ago on magical thinking.

I feel like something major has been taken away from the way I’ve liked to approach the world.

For years, I’ve placed my hope and my strategies into imagining the world as if it could be something other than what it is right now. A world where there aren’t borders, where the binary is opt-in, where people are equitable, where there is hope.

To do this takes imagination. It takes magical thinking. It takes imagining and acting as if the world was other than what it is.

And of all the things this administration has taken from me, it is that. Magical thinking has been sullied. To say the world might be, or is other than what it actually is, is no longer a tool to fight the status quo, it has instead become a way to undermine a shared reality, to fight back against science through the psyche. I never saw this coming.

And I have started to feel that just to acknowledge the world in the state it is actually is, is as much of a fight as I’ve got in me most days. To imagine it better is something I don’t have energy for. Fascism is creeping, it is not all at once.

My amazing therapist has been trying to remind me that just to survive in the world right now is an accomplishment. Go team. We’re surviving.

So I’ve been watching this a lot, and trying to imagine a future I’d like to be in, grounded in the realities of today.

What is inspiring you right now?