What do I care about?

19 May, 2010

First, I need to add a disclaimer that “care” in this context refers specifically to a team-building activity we did at work recently. I say this because I’m talking about personal and professional goals and my sense of duty, purpose in life etc. So my failure to mention my partner and friends in here is not because I don’t care about them but because that’s a different sort of caring. A length explanation but better than simply saying “Partner out of scope”.

So at this team-building activity we had to fill out a wad of paper with a bunch of questions about values, legacy, goals, achievements etc. I don’t care for much of that – I don’t have specific goals and I’m entirely comfortable with that. I have a direction and I believe that’s all that matters.

Funnily enough, in response to the question “What are you good at; what are you known for; what are your greatest natural abilities?” I didn’t mention anything relating to technical expertise but rather fuzzy soft skills like thinking and analysing, figuring things out, problem-solving, coming up with ideas and being creative.

The thing I rated highest in the list of things I would like to accomplish besides the obvious “credibility and reputation” was “flexible working arrangements”. I know it sounds weird, but I’m simply over working 9-5, five days a week. Whilst I enjoy my job there are millions of other things I would also like to be doing, things I don’t always have the time or motivation to do after hours or on weekends. Other projects, social innovation, writing, music, photography. I don’t want to retire at 30 and spend the last 50 years of my life seeing the world. I need to work, I need the challenges and mental stimulation so all I want is to reach a state in my career where I choose the hours and the work. That’s all.

To get to that point I need the credibility and reputation in order to find the work opportunities and also be in a position to bargain for flexibility; I also need to figure out how I can do what I do as a freelancer instead of an employee.

So what do I care about? My first response was “Making the world human-friendly” but I feel that needs some clarification.

What I do in my job and as reflected in various projects I’ve run or been involved with such as Free Australia Wireless, OpenAustralia, Canberra Coworking, Resilient Nation Australia, BarCampCanberra, TEDx Canberra etc … one of the main themes is benefiting people. I get satisfaction from improving other peoples lives; applying my talents and skills to the fullest to benefit my friends, colleagues, community, country and the planet.

So “human-friendly” in this context is simply about doing my bit to make the world less confusing, more useful, more supportive … and that applies right through from the primary user interface and interaction design work I’ve done over the last 10 years through to such projects as I mentioned and even in ways outside the web and software domain I’ve worked within. If my most valued skills are in problem-solving and figuring things out then I can apply that to more than screen wireframes and social media strategies.

Been reading Tim Brown’s Change by Design book the last few weeks. Nothing particularly novel in there, but for some reason I’ve found it inspirational and making me think about how I can broaden my design skills to areas that need innovation and change more than the fields I’ve worked in till now and how I can increase the impact and influence of my thinking and work, because working in a bureaucracy does severely limit my effectiveness. Not much of what I do ever sees the light of day outside the four walls of my office. Low mechanical efficiency. I need less pulleys, less friction, longer levers otherwise I’ll continue spinning my wheels for the next 70 years and at the end of it wonder what I’ve actually accomplished. Not for me, but for you.

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