Sunday, April 17, 2016

Attention!

Have you been thinking this blog is about me, riding my bike?

If so, I have news. It's about recovery from brain injury, which involves exercise. And exercise builds attention.

One of the most surprising things about keeping this blog is that with anything brain-related, people don't realize that they can help themselves. They feel powerless and do not know how to go about increasing, for example, their budget of attention. They don't know what role attention plays, in daily life. We are just all so clueless about how our brains get things done.

Attention is the invisible partner. It enables learning, listening, tracking, planning. It brings things into focus. You can't feel it working but anyone who struggles with attention, struggles in almost all every aspect of their life.

If this describes you or someone you love, here are some empowering self-help tips.


Pariah


A few people have asked, what the heck's going on? Or not going on, here at Route 66 a journey? No posts. Did I get a big promotion at work? Was there an overdose of exercise?

All I can say is, my bad.

When Danny and I got back from France, it was great. Post-vacation glow. All the experiences, different places and people I talk to, they invigorate me. Always, always I learn a lot, more than expected. We came back home to our lovey chat noir, convinced that 99.9% of humanity is fundamentally good.






Over the next six months I had to reconsider that idea.

A merger is underway between my organization and a neighboring one at work. Thankfully, someone leaked the news to the outside world, so I can talk about it here. Otherwise looking at me, you would see one stressed-out individual. You would think it was a personal problem.

The trip back to Silicon Valley was a harbinger of things to come. Air France flies the largest planes in the world right now, so new that things can and do go wrong. In this case with one of the engines. You can't help but be relieved, after hours of delays, to not get on that plane. They find another Airbus A380 but the flight crew expires and we are purged back into the terminal at Charles de Gaulle. So many people are displaced it's a circus, essentially, trying to find seats for all the humans on other aircraft.

The trickery of the airline employees, the cannibal gate agents. The fact that it's predictable makes it no less degrading. The 16-euro meal vouchers, good for a candy bar and a bottle of water. 18 hours in a fucking airport, etc. It's all been said before. No doubt you've been there, too.

Eventually I get back and no one in my workgroup asks how it was, working in the Paris office. No one is curious. (The food's better, and at least in August, it's quieter. Got a lot done.) The reward, the reward is a small mountain of email to get through. Lots people who expect me to help them. I'm a group of one. This seemed like a good idea when I was hired, but it also means no back-up for vacations. People who could care less about how to be gluten- and dairy-free in France, people who were not riding PBP, people who were not on vacation at the beginning of September, they wanted their due. They did not feel taken care of.

Most of all my manager. Who promptly loaned me to another project full-time. A new project, on fire. No email to the old project saying I was on hiatus. Lots of multi-tasking. Lots of unhappy stakeholders.

The new project, the one on fire? Failed. The existing project? Way behind, in trouble, people furious. Me? exhausted.

That will teach me, not to care.

Friday, April 15, 2016

It does not suck

It's been almost 5 years since I left a job I was really invested in. And a few months later, started this blog. I'd like to say there was some plan, a notion of what would happen, that I would get better, that I would find people who could help and everything would be all right.

In reality, I remember being overwhelmed with negative feelings: sadness, anger, betrayal, disbelief, fear of running out of money and dying a pauper from early-onset Alzheimer's. What the future held, I did not know.

It feels really good to be here, in this place looking back. And there's a reason that it's today, a reason beyond perspective and gratitude for many gifts.

Today through LinkedIn I learned that the remainder of my team was laid off. By my count, it's at least the fifth layoff at that site in 5 years. A search engine barfed up some official statements that made me glad to be a spectator:

  • "The layoffs were a recalibration in response to changes in the business [...] some of the jobs are moving to locations closer to customers."
  • "the [performance] evaluations led to job loss for the employees ranked in the bottom 10 percent.“It’s painful, but it’s an exercise we go through … to ensure we have a high performance culture”
  • "we're getting out of the cellular modem business"
  • "we are constantly adjusting our workforce to meet the demands of the most competitive market in the world... The pace of change is increasing in the industry, accelerated further by industries converging"
Is your BS meter going off? Mine too. Hopefully the rest of my team is not compromised financially by this, or emotionally, or in any other way. I'm glad to be free of the place, and maybe they'll get there too. 

It still feels like a personal and professional betrayal, a waste of life energy, and a bad investment of my time. I'll never get those years back. I have lost trust in the system of work, in employers and colleagues and maybe that's something that will propel me into a new phase of being on my own. I was lucky to find a lot of help getting through. I will also say this - it's delicious to be on the other side, looking back.

They finally had to pay out. For a former CFO running the company, who counts pennies like they're his own and there will never be any more, it probably caused him physical pain. 

It does not suck.