So I’ve celebrated another birthday, which for some strange reason happens every July. One nice thing about having a birthday this time of year is it lends itself to long weekends. The bad thing about having a birthday this time of year is that it’s a lousy weekend to go travel unless you like crowds of amateurs taking advantage of the long weekend.

So my weekend is pretty simple. Sat with the neighbors and watched the fireworks from Santa Clara Central Park on their front lawn. I’ve been spending the last couple of days working on some personal projects and trying to finish up some ongoing work, especially some long-planned restructuring and housekeeping in Lightroom.

It’s also been one of those weeks. A long-time friend was diagnosed with cancer. Another was declared cancer-free. Someone I’ve known here in the Silicon Valley geek world seemingly forever died on my birthday, and he was six or seven years younger than me. None of these are rare occurrences any more, not at this age.

I tend not to make a big deal of birthdays. This one has repeating numbers, which along with things ending in zero, make some people believe they have some special significance. Me, to be honest, I’m just happy I’ve been able to stick around and annoy my friends for another circle of the sun. Not everyone’s been so lucky. I also try not to dwell on that, either; down that road lies a dark place we don’t want to visit.

I haven’t been around the blog much; combination of things, starting with a new project at work that’s keeping me busy. I also founded the Bird Photography community on Google+ when they released communities, and it’s taken off a bit and is growing nicely. We’re at close to 2,500 members and now looking to bring on some more moderators to help manage it as the growth continues, and to help us launch some new features. It’s got some great photographers in it and some incredible imagery, and I suggest you check it out. It (and G+ in general) are taking up more of my free time these days, in a good way.

Doesn’t mean the blog is abandoned, but I’ve been trying to figure out how it fits into life. I’m less interested right now in blogging for blogging sake, but more interested in writing. What this means (I think) is a lower frequency of postings, but longer, hopefully more thoughtful pieces. More detail, better content. I’ll blog about that soon.

Another reason I’m not blogging as often: I made a decision that downtime wasn’t a crime, and I’ve made a commitment to myself that it’s okay to do — nothing. Sit on the couch and NOT try to write a blog post. Or watch a hockey game and NOT try to keyword photos at the same time. I’m turning off e-mail. I’m not being anal that I have to respond to things in real-time.

I think many of us in Silicon Valley have bought into the “always on, always going, always working” mentality. You know what? it’s over-rated. Downtime matters, too. Taking breaks matters. Enjoying going out and not worrying about doing three other things… Maybe I’m doing fewer things, but as far as I can tell, the things I’m doing are being done better. I’m re-learning the fine art of focusing on something until it’s done and done well, rather than worrying so much about how quickly I can get those four things done.

My suggestion: you should try it. It rocks.

At the start of the year I did what I normally do, which is try to map out my broad plans for the next year, and think through longer term goals so I can put my energies in the proper places to move closer to them. A funny thing happened. My five year goal wasn’t “Be a full-time professional photographer” or “have three novels on the market” or even “Be lead community manager for flickr”…

it was “sitting on a beach watching the sunset”.

It’s that point in your life where you realize your long-term goal is to stop having long-term goals.

That actually changes a lot of things, starting with assumptions. I’ve always had a project or two on the back burner, planning to launch them when I felt it was time to drop out of Silicon Valley and move out on my own. As it turns out, I really like the work I do (and it pays pretty well), and the projects I’ve wanted to do have usually scoped out at requiring a larger time commitment than “after work and on weekends” would cooperate with. I’ve come close to launching a couple of times — but always pulled back. Correctly, I think. Better not launch than crash and burn.

What this means is that I’ve shuttered plans on projects that have long-term trajectories. “Relaunching my fiction writing” is a long-term project. you don’t write a novel, you really need multiple books over time to build an audience and launch a business around the books. Does this mean I won’t write a novel? I dunno. If I do, I’ll serialize it here on the site, package it as an ebook, and if it makes some money, great. But am I going to build a business around that book? No.

Ditto photography; it’s really a business for the long run. It makes more sense to invest in making images, and not in building a business around them. (and that’s a lot more fun, too).


This is about understanding where to put time and energy; it’s understanding what NOT to do, because it doesn’t fit your strategies. I currently really like what I do, and I don’t expect to exit Silicon Valley any time soon — I can see myself working another decade, god and creaky knees willing. I can also see myself ending that sooner if the right situations occur.

All of this, by the way, leaves me way more things on the “to do someday” list than I’ll ever get to. And room for new things. Deciding about things you’re not going to do doesn’t close opportunities  it merely allows you to shift those opportunities in new directions…

I hesitate to use the word “retire”, because I always see it as shifting my activity to other things, not stopping. I’d love at some point to find a way to mash together my geek side and my photo side, but I’m also not particularly worried about making it happen.

So much to do. I mean, seriously: my “blog about this” folder in Evernote just broke seventy topics… I have no problem keeping as busy as I want to be. The trick is to not let myself get scheduled into being too busy, and not putting the time into low-priority things that I ought to put on other projects that matter more.

And that’s why it’s sometimes nice to step back and think these things through….