Alex Stockwell

UX, DevOps, Fatherhood, Miscellany. Not in that order.

The plan? The plan?!

I’d like to think that we always choose our plan, but personally I’m not so sure.

At the Firm, the plan was always a chase. Chase the rating, chase the promotion, chase the partnership. Every day, and thus every year (or decade, to some) was spent in the trenches of the chase. Because that was the plan. You subscribed to that plan when you took the job, although when just starting out, not everyone is wholly aware of just what exactly that would come to mean.

It leads to a disregard–a cognitive dissonance–with the present moment, which is ironically necessary to survive in this environment. Delaying gratification (in keeping with the plan for the chase), and an excuse to just … not notice that the present day quality of life is not where it should be. And that it hasn’t been … for some time. And that it probably won’t be, for days, or years (or decades). Because that’s the plan. Follow the plan and it’ll work out. Follow the plan, and it will be worth it.

Maybe I did it wrong. Maybe that’s not always the case, not always the experience. But I was successful by the metrics in place, so I’m not so sure.

I’ve carried that “plan” with me more so than I’ve realized. But I had a micro-epiphany today, wrapped up in a bitter package of draconian fears about competition and pulling my weight and fear of change. There is a new plan, made possible by the new world I live in professionally. And I almost missed it. The plan is to do great work, every day. The gratification comes from that, daily. Not in ten years. Not in winning at any cost. Great work IS the point. The whole point. And this plan behaves completely differently than the Firm plan. This plan thrives on quality, which is brought about by focus but also by stepping back. It’s catalyzed by adding minds, not stunted. And it’s uncomfortable as hell, but in a different way.

Good work means pushing boundaries, doing new things. Hard things, things that might fail, things that may not have been done that way before. Scary things. And having the mindset that I’ve had thus far has been a tense marriage with that plan. I think there is a middle ground, an opportunity to bring what I know and have learned, and mix it in with quality as the foundation.

Let’s see what can be done with the right state of mind.