Thursday, July 31, 2014

Work-life

Fishing and writing practically go hand in hand.

Learning to freely blend the two


I hear a lot of people talk about a work-life balance as though the two are separate entities on opposite ends of a teeter totter. Books, blogs, and employee manuals have written recipes for “workers” to follow should they seek to achieve the correct balance. In fact some people have made entire careers considering almost nothing other than how others should compartmentalize their lives.

Of course, there are different approaches and focuses. Forbes guest writer Ron Ashkenas writes about work-life integration in his book "Simply Effective: How to Cut Through Complexity in Your Organization and Get Things Done." In the book he makes observations on how businesses can become more efficient by allowing for more flexibility in employee schedules. Or one of my favorites, Chris Guillebeau, NYT bestselling author of "The $100 Startup” and a series called “Unconventional Guides," which focus on a holistic change in thinking in regards to status-quo roadblocks in how work and life interact.

All of those are good resources, but most of that thinking can be summed up by a John F. Kennedy quote that says “The best road to progress is freedom’s road.”

Now you know I am no expert in these matters, just a man with enough opinion to share it in hopes someone has something to say about it. This topic being one that is often at the forefront of my consciousness, I thought perhaps here I would share my story as it has so far unraveled...

Towards the end of my college career, I, like so many other graphic designers, did an awful lot of research online to find a job that looked like it had the right attitude for me. That is to say, I wanted someplace that had an open working policy which would be conducive to creativity, and where I could be turned loose on projects to showcase what I was capable of (or at least what I imagined myself capable of). I knew having that sort of free reign would mean more responsibility, but I didn’t care. I was hungry, trained, and willing to occasionally fail if it meant bigger wins in the long run.

Another important aspect I considered while job hunting was location and lifestyle. I envisioned somewhere close to nature, something saturated in it. I wanted to be close to the outdoors at all times and at a company that was staked on that fact. Really what I was looking for was a place where it was acceptable to call in because the fishing was going really well and I didn’t want to leave the spot. Or perhaps a fresh snowfall in the mountains meant the entire office was out on the slopes. I needed a place that was so in touch with what was happening outside that it could turn on a dime when the weather was right.

In this setup I had (unbeknownst to me then) defined my ideal work environment. The first aspect is how I defined my most productive work patterns, and the second was how I saw work tie to my life. I have the same values today, and, as it turns out, a career path that reflects them fairly well.

Last weekend my editor invited me fishing. We planned to go out to the Turtle Flambeau Flowage and see what we could do about filling a livewell with enough fillets to supply dinner at his upcoming family reunion. Initially, we were hoping to be on the water most of Sunday, but the weather turned wet, cold, and windy with little sign of a shift to sunnier skies.

Eventually we called off the excursion, but not before new plans were made to try again on Monday. Yes, dreaded Monday was suddenly the highlight of the coming week. My editor, who is no slouch when it comes to work, recommended we each get our work done Sunday afternoon, during the poor weather, so that we might earn ourselves a few hours staking out cribs on 12,942 acres of water under a warm afternoon sun…on Monday.

Now that’s what I call a work-life blend.

Situations don’t always work out this way in work, sure, but I try to leave room for them to crop up, and it’s important to me that I’m not the only one who feels that way in the office. I can’t imagine being chained to a desk or performing some such work that leaves no room for innovative attitude. What would be the point of that? Who would want that?

Truthfully, I am happy with where I am at and where I am headed. I may have at one time imagined myself as a webmaster or doing product design at a Utah based backpacking retailer, where I took up mountain biking with some of the other employees, with whom I could skip out of the office for an afternoon or weekend because the weather was just right, but I’m finding myself rather satisfied as a staff writer who goes fishing on Mondays with his editor.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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