DaedTech

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DaedTech Digest: So Are You, Like, Vagabonding Right Now

Hello all, and happy Friday.  As always on a Friday, it’s time for a DaedTech digest.

Last week, I answered a question lots of people ask me: how do you go for months with almost none of your stuff?   This week, though, I’ll answer a simpler question.

So, You’re in Michigan…. Do You Like, Live There, or, Is that Another Place You Travel, or, What?

In the open kimono spirit of these posts, let me talk a little bit about our living arrangements, pre-vagabonding.  In 2007, I bought a townhouse in the Chicago suburbs, which immediately proceeded to become almost worthless.  At the time of purchase, I intended to live there for maybe 3-4 years, but due to the vagaries of the real estate market, we still own that place.

While waiting for it to come back, we bought a lake house in Michigan in 2013.  We reasoned that 2013 was a great time to be a buyer and a bad time to be a seller so we, well, bought.  It was actually around this same time that I left the wage world and become a management consulting doing 100% travel.  So I stopped living in Illinois or, really, much of anywhere permanent.

My wife and I love the lake house and bought it with the intent to own it forever.  The Illinois townhouse is a thing we would prefer to sell (and have on the market, currently).  In that spirit, about a year ago, we actually changed residence and mostly vacated our possessions from Illinois.  So, in the end, we view ourselves as having a lake house and no primary residence.

And we like to spend summers at the lake house.

So, to answer the question, “are we vagabonding or do we live here or what,” it’s kind of complicated.  We’re choosing to reside somewhere because it’s fun, and it just so happens that we own the place.  But we don’t really look at it as a primary residence.

Clear as mud?  If you know us well, you now understand why it’s hard to explain our summer arrangement.  But you’d also know that this is why we love the place:

Picks

  • I’ve got to do it again this week.  Come write for us at Hit Subscribe.  We’ve just signed a bunch of new clients, including some that I’ll make public soon that are .NET TDD fan favorites.  So, if you want to write for some awesome dev tools companies, fill out the form.  No blogging experience necessary — we’ll teach you.
  • Speaking of Hit Subscribe, we’ve got a Facebook page, on which we’re kind of video-recording our vagabonding and Hit Subscribe-ing adventures.
  • I’ve got a new tax prep/consulting firm, and they’re great.  They’re based in Michigan, but can help you anywhere in the US, as evidenced by them helping me with tax obligations in Illinois and Michigan in 2017.  Franskoviak Tax Solutions, they’re called, and they can help with tax prep for individuals and businesses as well as offering tax planning and consulting services.
  • I’ve honestly been buried in work this week, doing 16 hour days.  So anything that I’ve enjoyed is a bit of a blur up until right this moment, when I’m relaxing with this tasty Lagunitas beer.

The Digest

And, as always, have a good weekend.

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How to Write Emails People Won’t Respond To: Give Them Homework

From time to time in your life, you probably need to reach out to someone.  This might be someone you barely know or used to know.  It might be a complete stranger.

But if you’re reaching out to them, it’s probably because you want something or need something.  And if they don’t know you very well, you’re on thin ice from the get-go with this outreach.  This is easy to get wrong.

Today I’d like to address one of the biggest thematic ways that we all tend to get this wrong.  We mess this up by giving people homework assignments.

No Finger Pointing Here.  We All Do This, Me Included.

Before I go any further, let me confess to sending long emails.  I mean, to be fair, I go overboard with everything in text.  I tend to epitomize Blaine Pascal’s sentiment, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

In blog posts (or books), that can be a virtue when properly harnessed.  In emails, usually not.  How often do you receive a wall of text in an email and think, “oh, sweet, let’s dig into this?”

And yet, that’s what I tend to do, unless I fight myself.  So understand that nothing I’m saying here is intended as drive-by judgment of others.  Rather, it’s an examination of how we can fight the impulse to send self-serving communications — ones that inadvertently create homework for the recipient.

Empathize with Your Email Recipient

I own, as a partner or sole owner, 3 businesses.  One of those has close to 30 people doing work for us, and another has me partnered with 2 folks in close proximity.  With these two business, I have something like 20 regular client companies with different people working for them, and I don’t know how many prospects.

This puts the number of people I need to be responsive to at something like 100, whether responding directly or delegating.  If all of them needed a lot of things in a week, I would work well over 40 hours just responding to them.

On top of this, I also have public-facing concerns.  I have social media (though these increasingly broadcast only), a blog, blog comments, books, and more Slacks than I can keep track of.  I’m a panelist on a podcast.  Oh, and I also have friends and family.

I say none of this to ask for sympathy or to humble brag (complain brag).  I love the businesses, the friends, the family, and the venues for public outreach.  And I also really do make a concerted effort to respond to everyone that reaches out to me.  (Ask my wife, who often asks “why are you still up” when I’m interfacing in these venues.)

I say this because, as someone with products, influence, and jobs to offer, I’m representative of who you might request a favor.  And I’m going to frame the rest of this from my perspective, which is also likely the perspective of someone that you’re emailing.

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DaedTech Digest: How Do You Manage without a House Full of Stuff?

On last week’s digest post, I walked it back to first principles.  What even is slow travel?  This week, I’ll continue with this theme, answering a basic and sort of existential question that people often ask us.

How do you live without your stuff?

The normal human condition involves a somewhat linear procession.  At some point you leave the nest, getting your own place.  You then fill that place with stuff, but you also prosper, eventually earning enough money to rent or buy a bigger place.  At this point, you take all of your stuff, put it into your bigger and now-seemingly-empty place, and kind of repeat the process.  Buy a bigger place, fill it with stuff.  Once you have too much stuff, buy a bigger place.  Rinse, repeat.

The human condition.

I understand this condition because I have lived it.  I started adult life living in a tiny studio apartment in Chicago with my girlfriend at the time.  Outgrowing it as I prospered, I found myself in a 2 bedroom apartment.  Then a 3 bedroom townhouse.  I won’t bore you any further — you get the idea.

But now, I live without all of that accumulated stuff.  That is, I don’t just live without it when we slow travel — I just live without it, period.

Spartan Zen

I didn’t just happen by this outlook like some kind of monk.  Circa 2013, I was doing what most people do — buying bigger properties to house my burgeoning stuff so that I could acquire more stuff and need more property.  But then, work sent me on the road. A lot.

I lived for weeks in a hotel, and it was a novelty.  I lived for months in a hotel, and it became a weird new lifestyle.  And then I lived for years in a hotel, and came to learn that I didn’t need too much more than some computers and a couple of weeks of clothes.

As my stuff languished for years, unused and not-missed, I came to realize I didn’t really need it.  And I eventually came not to miss it, even abstractly.  I donated literal Jeep-load after Jeep-load to charity, and that was that.

So when you ask me how I deal without my stuff while vagabonding, I don’t have the most satisfying of answers.  I don’t, exactly.  I got used to a certain way of living through years of travel, and didn’t think much more of it.

When we hit the road now, I take my work computers/equipment, a couple of weeks worth of clothing, and a few odds and ends.  And that applies whether we’re traveling for 6 days or 6 months.

So, how do I mange without a house full of stuff?  The same way any of us did at age 19 — by understanding that I don’t need it.

Picks

  • I’ve been reading another fantasy series, entitled Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow) series.  I’m a book and a half in and can’t recommend it enough.
  • Finally tiring of the calendar dance, I’ve enlisted a service.  If you work a corporate job, you can’t relate, but if you’re a free agent and nobody can see your calendar, just as you can’t see theirs, you understand the calendar dance.  “I’m open Wednesday from 2 – 5 Central time and Thursday from 9 to 11:30 and then from 3:30 to 4:30…” only to hear back a similar, confusing list.  Calendly lets you just send out a link that wraps your schedule and say, “here, pick a time.”  And it’s glorious.
  • Going to give Siteground, who now hosts 4 websites of mine, another nod.  I purchased the site makemeaprogrammer (stay tuned for more info), and the time between picking the domain name, purchasing, and having a fully resolving, nice-looking default WordPress installation was seriously about 15 minutes.  Wow.  And that includes making it an SSL site and forcing non-SSL requests to redirect.  Seriously.  All that in 15 minutes.

The Digest

Hats off to the Hit Subscribe authors crew.  They’ve taken on so many posts that I’m no longer writing several per week.  (If you’d like to join them, apply to be an author.)

However, if you’d like to hear from me beyond this blog, there’s still recourse.  I’ve been doing a lot of podcasts over the last 6 months.

As always, have a good weekend!

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Being Good at Your Job is Overrated

Let me be clear about something.  This title isn’t clickbait.  I mean it.  But I mean it literally.  Being good at your job is overrated.  We value it too highly.

If you’re a long-time follower of this blog, you might think this is a curious sentiment against a backdrop of advocating for practices like test driven development.  And if you’ve wandered here from somewhere else, you might think this vacuously contrarian.

In either case, relax.

Being good at your job has value.  It’s certainly better than being terrible at it.  But it’s not nearly as important as we think it is, in the grand scheme of things.  The world weaponizes our love of mastery against us at times, causing us to lose sight of other considerations.

I’ll back this claim up with more explicit reasoning a little later.  But first, because I’m back to amusing myself with the blog, indulge me.  I’m going to tell some stories.

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DaedTech Digest: What is Slow Travel?

Last time on the digest, I answered a question about whether or not I viewed myself as a tourist.  While answering that question, I used the shorthand term, “slow travel.”  This week, I figure I owe a definition to anyone that hasn’t heard that turn of phrase.

What is Slow Travel?

If you Google this term, you’ll get… interesting… results.  You’ll probably see a lot of quasi-spiritual takes and wishy-washy definitions.  Let’s put those aside, and define it sort of simply.

When I talk about slow travel, what do I mean?  I frequently describe our travels using this term.  To define it, let’s first think about it in the negative.  What would “fast travel” mean?

Fast travel is what you do on your vacations.  You fly to Paris and then you… (deep breath) go to the Louvre, see the Eiffel Tower, check out the Arc de Triomphe, and Notre-Dame Cathedral.  And that’s just day one.  You say, “I’m going to hit everything or die trying!”

That’s fast travel.

It’s what you’re used to as a tourist.  It’s the default.

What is Meaningful (Slow) Travel?

Slow travel is something else, entirely.  To me, it’s the idea of visiting a place not as a vacationer, but as a temporary resident.  You move there for a short period of time.

I reject a lot of the other definitions I see because they dump on tourism.  It’s as though being a tourist were some kind of culturally inferior experience and that you should aspire to be far to cool to do it.

As I said, I view myself as a perpetual tourist.  But I also view myself as a slow traveler.

How do I reconcile this?

Well, by moving to places and spending months there, while also taking in touristic sites.  I reconcile the apparent contradiction by existing somewhere as a quasi-local while also enjoying the sites.  If I were in Paris, sure, I’d see all the places I mentioned.

But I’d also gain an appreciation for the subtleties of being a resident.  What’s it like to go work in a coffee shop for an afternoon?  When is the best time of day to head to the gym?  What’s an extremely uncrowded place with great breakfast?  You get the idea.  Slow travel means getting to know a spot the way you get to know your own neighborhood.

In that vein, here we are conducting a meeting over beers at a place called Sip, in Phoenix.

Picks

  • Last week was a vacation-y kind of week, so picks aren’t as easy.  But here’s a vacation-y kind of pick: Steamworks Brewing in Durango.
  • I just finished the The Fifth Season this week.  Wow, what a great fantasy series.
  • I’m going to throw a nod to Hertz as well.  They aren’t the cheapest, but they are the best, in my opinion.  Always upgrading me, treating me well, and making life on the road easier.

Digest

And, as always, have a good weekend!