Monthly Archives: November 2013

A few of my past journals

Keeping Track of What Matters: Why I Use a Journal at Work

The other day, as I was meeting with a colleague, he expressed surprise at how I was taking notes. “You keep all your business notes in a Moleskine?” It must have seemed a bit unusual – most people around here take notes on letter-size notepads, scratch paper, or, in a few cases, business planners. I’m the only one using a “fancy” journal.

It seemed strange to me, too, for a while. These notes aren’t anything really important, certainly nothing personal, so shouldn’t I just use regular old paper? I tried that for a couple of months and ran into a few problems. Sure, most of my notes weren’t that important and I would never look at them again, but what about those that were important? Where would I keep those? Further, I wound up with stacks of project and meeting notes that I needed to save for reference, but once I tore them out of the pad, they would curl up, rip, and become very annoying to file away.

I tried all sorts of things to keep these notes under control – copying the important ones into OneNote, taking pictures and importing them to Evernote, using Outlook to store important information – but I could never find a solution that met all my needs. It had to be:

  • Mindless: I wouldn’t have to think about where I was going to record something.
  • Mobile: It needed to be with me all or most of the time.
  • Reliable: It had to be there when I needed to record something AND when I needed to retrieve something.

Then I realized that I already had a great solution: my journal. I’ve used journals off-and-on since college, starting with ring-bound sketchbooks and trying several other varieties and sizes before settling on black, 5″x8″ soft-covers. I’m currently using a Moleskine, but my preferred brand is ecosystem. (Thanks, Michael Hyatt!)

Daily Work Matters

Using a journal at my current job, though, required a subtle mental shift for me. Continue reading Keeping Track of What Matters: Why I Use a Journal at Work

Vintage eyeglasses

Seeing the Person, Not Just the Money

In my first job after college, I wrote grant applications for a major orchestra. This work required me to stay knowledgeable about local philanthropy, so I once attended a panel discussion featuring several of the city’s leading donors, discussing their priorities for giving and their preferences for how to be approached for a gift. The room was filled with other grant writers, major gift officers, development directors, and others, waiting to discover how to tap into all that wealth.

Most of the panelists were in their fifties or sixties; their giving came after a successful career provided them with the means to give. One donor, however, was only a few years older than I was. The scion of an old and wealthy family, she had inherited millions in her early twenties, upon the unexpected death of her parents. While she spoke strongly about causes she supported, what jumped out most to me was her frustration with fundraisers who hadn’t done their homework, approaching her for gifts to organizations she would never support, ignoring the clear guidelines of her family’s foundation, and, worst of all, confusing her family with another local dynasty with a similar name:

“They don’t even know who I am!”

At the time, her comments struck me as incredibly arrogant. I couldn’t relate to her at all. I was on the opposite end of the ask, trying to get her to write a large check so that I could justify my low-paying, barely-making-ends-meet job, while she (I imagined) lived a carefree Scrooge McDuck-style life. She was right. I couldn’t care less who she was: I just wanted her money. Continue reading Seeing the Person, Not Just the Money

Red Vineyards Near Arles by Vincent Van Gogh

Should We Consider Our Work a Form of Personal Expression?

With the release of the movie Ender’s Game, many people have been asking whether the political and religious views of the book’s author, Orson Scott Card, should affect their opinion of the movie. Though I have not been following the debate closely, I understand that some people even called for a boycott of the film (which, evidently, was not successful). On the geek culture podcast The Incomparable, host Jason Snell used the occasion to speak more broadly about authors whose views, personality, or later writing caused him and his fellow panelists to reject their earlier, classic work. The podcast – entitled “I Assume Everyone Is Awful” – is quite good, and I recommend listening to it. They cover many of the same authors that I’ve given up on or struggled with myself.[1]

Throughout the podcast, though, I kept wondering about an assumption at the heart of the conversation. Would it have made sense for them to be discussing, say, accountants and plumbers in the same way? Even staying within the work of writing, should we care about the political or religious views of technology writers? Since the Romantics, art[2] has been regarded differently than other kind of work. Art has been considered to be a form of personal expression different in quality than other forms of work, and the artist has been considered the kind of person whose expressions matter more than other persons.

I’m not convinced that art should be considered as a different category of work, which led me to wonder:

Should our work be considered a form of personal expression?

There are at least three valid answers to this question. Continue reading Should We Consider Our Work a Form of Personal Expression?