212 FS Finding Fulfillment with Jason Mundok
01:44 - Jason Mundok Introduction
- Elusive Moose
- Find Your Moose Conference 03:47 - Enjoying Work; Finding Passion and Fulfillment
- Three Dimensions:
- What it is that you are supposed to be doing? (that actual stuff that you're passionate about)
- Where you do it (in which industries you need to work)
- How you do it (your work culture) 11:03 - Finding Your “Why”
- The Freelancers' Show Episode #202: Live from MicroConf: Managing a Team with Anders Thue Pedersen
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
- Joshua Fields Millburn: 'Follow Your Passion' is Crappy Advice (Minimalist Article)
- So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport 17:42 - Advising People in Consulting
- Implementing Processes
- Confidence and Conflict
- Personality Types and Finding the Right Fit 24:52 - Self-defeating Patterns; Making Changes33:35 - Company Culture42:29 - Passion
- Ruby Rogues Episode #268: Mazes For Programmers with Jamis Buck More from Jason
- Jason Mundok: What Do You Mean By “Enjoy”?
- The Elusive Moose Podcast Episode 13: Enjoy Your Work! Picks
- EngineerWorth (Philip)
- Unplugging from technology (Chuck)
- Hosting a retreat (Chuck)
- Glympse (Chuck)
- The Minimalists Blog (Jason)
- Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula (Jason)
CHUCK: Well, let’s go ahead and get this show on the road.
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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 212 of The Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Philip Morgan.
PHILIP: Hello hello.
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. And this week we have a special guest, and that’s Jason Mundok. Did I say that right?
JASON: Yes, you did.
CHUCK: You want to introduce yourself?
JASON: Yeah, sure. Thanks for having me on the show. My name is Jason Mundok. I’m from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is about 70 miles west of Philadelphia. I have been a custom software consultant for the past 12 years or so. I was an in-house developer before that working for an educational organization here in Pennsylvania. I went out on my own about 5 years ago. So in between those two gigs was working at an IT consulting firm where I was a software developer and a trainer and a project manager.
And then 5 years ago, I decided to go out on my own. I started out doing some sub work for some friends and quickly started picking up out my own clients, develop my own consulting company. Ever since then, I've continued to do consulting, but I've also been coaching project management for small dev shops and for individuals along with publishing some information about that, and speaking at conferences and that sort of thing.
Then about a year ago, my friend Molly Connolly, who also comes from the software development world and had also been doing some coaching, had a similar trajectory, similar path. She and I started a company called Elusive Moose, and the purpose behind Elusive Moose is to help individuals who want to break in to consulting or maybe people who has started their own consulting business in the last couple of years to really help them find some fulfilment in consulting and build a really fulfilling career around consulting.
So we started that last year. We do an annual 2-day conference. The next one is coming up in Chicago, September 7th and 8th. We also offer all kinds of resources on our website, elusivemoose.com, along with the membership that allows you to have access to some premium content. So that’s it in a nutshell; a lot there.
CHUCK: Very cool. Yeah. So you’ve been in business for yourself about as long as I have, because I went into business for myself about almost 6 years ago.
JASON: Yeah. It was 2011 when I was making plans and starting to really transition out of a full-time job. And by the beginning of 2012, I was on my own. So I’m about 4 and half years in.
CHUCK: Yup. Makes sense.
So you sent us a lot of information about how to go freelance or how to get into consulting, and a lot of the material you sent us is talking about how to enjoy your work, which really lines up with what I’m about as well. I’ve been working on some products helping people find better jobs. I've been working on products to help companies line up better with their employees. What is it that you find helps people enjoy their work and why does consulting line up so neatly with that?
JASON: My story came out of one of those experiences where the grass is greener on the other side, and when you get there you realize that it had really nothing to do with chasing the grass. You're chasing the green, I guess, in the grass.
I was working in IT and application development and frankly I was burned out. So I was just – it was the grind, and I was working for another guy who was working for a company that had about 50 employees. And I’m also a musician; I've been a musician my whole life, but I’m very active in my local music scene. I do concert promotion. I was running a blog and a podcast for the local art scene, and I was very much involved with it. And I was making some money doing it, but not nearly as much money of course as I was making in the software world and not nearly enough money to survive.
But as I was entering this late 30’s – I call it the middle age renaissance, more so than – [chuckles] right? I was starting to question what I was going to be doing for the next 20, 25 years, and I was thinking about passion. There's a lot of stuff out there about “follow your passion” and “do what your passion about” and all this, and all I could think of is I got up and went to work everyday was “boy, I’m not doing that at all”. Yet, the music business and the culture and all that sort of thing was what I've been passionate about since I was a kid.
So my perspective was if I could just shift away from technology and into the music and the arts world and figure out a way to make money doing that, all of my problems would be solved. So I quit my job, I started a company, and at the time I developed a 5-year plan so that I could slowly phase out – I knew it would have to continue to do software consulting to put food on the table. Eventually I could taper that off as I figure out ways to make money in the arts world.
So I did that for about 6 months; maybe a year went by. I was going into my second year in business, and I started to realize that I actually was loving what I was doing in the software world and that I've really wasn’t loving what I was doing in the music and the arts world that granted that I had a lot more time to do it now than when I had a full-time job. But it was backwards; it just wasn’t making any sense. I thought “how was this possible that I've opened up this space in my life to do these things I love to do, and yet I finding more fulfilment in the work that I was dreading for a few years?”
Well, it dawned on me that I was looking at it from the wrong perspective. What I was looking at was the actual tasks, like if I’m in the music world, then I’m going to be promoting concerts or playing music or doing these things and that that would make me happy. But in reality, what was going on was I had a passion for something that wasn’t a task; it wasn’t like this specific thing. What I realized was that I actually had a passion for things like solving problems. I had a passion for organizing chaos. I had a passion for taking a very very difficult situation, bringing order to it, and then executing a plan around it, and then achieving some success. Those passions had nothing to do with the software business or the music business. It had to do with a much higher level concept.
And so what I realized was that by launching myself into the arts and the music world and trying to make money doing it, I suddenly was finding myself in a position where I had to do a bunch of things that had nothing to do with those passions. I was setting up chairs; you know what I mean? I was hauling equipment. I was performing, and I was making money performing, but I was performing – I was playing covers in a bar that were the same thing everyday. And so I wasn’t challenging myself and I wasn’t really executing on the passions that I had. Whereas in the software world, now that I was on my own and I was finding my own clients and I was working with the kind of people I love to work with which is coming soon here – I’ll talk about that in a minute – I was executing on those passions.
I’m kind of a reflector. I like to think about things. I like to figure out why I feel the way I feel or why things work the way they work, and so I spent some time doing some self-reflection, and I discovered that the fulfilment that I was actually trying to achieve in my work came from looking at the things I was doing. I was looking at three dimensions of the things that I was doing.
The three dimensions are what it is that I actually want to do or like to do, which is the passion part; where I do it, so in what industries should I be doing these things; and then how I do it, which is the culture around what it is that I want to do. So those three dimensions all played a critical role. And if I wasn’t aligned with any – with all three of them, then I wasn’t happy. And by happy, of course, I mean fulfilled, not necessarily in a state of blissful pleasure. I wasn’t challenged. I wasn’t fulfilled. I didn’t feel a sense of satisfaction.
So I brought those three things out and I started to look at both of those situations I just explained – software business and the music business. And I realized the disparities that when I was working full time for a consulting company, even though I was solving problems, I was taking care of the passion part, even though I was in an industry that I do love, which is custom software and working with small businesses, the problem was the culture. The culture wasn’t aligned. I was working for somebody else who had a very different culture than I did. We had certain clothes we had to wear, we had to look a certain way, we were doing things that didn’t align with me personally, so my culture was out of whack. And when I looked at the music business after I made my shift to run my own business, I realized that wow, the industry was right, that I was actually working in one of the industries that I love, which is music. And the culture was right; I was doing my own thing, I was defining myself, I was building my own brand and my own identity. It was the actual tasks; the passion part that was misaligned.
So in order for me to make money, my perception was I've got to play these kinds of gigs or I have to put on concerts that I’m not necessarily passionate about, and that was misaligned. So the part where it all came together was when I took my software work and I went out on my own with it, and I realized “hey, I can do the things I love to do, I can execute on those passions, I can do it in an industry, which is custom software development, that I’m truly aligned with, and I can do it my own way. I can value the things that I find important. I can work with the clients that I want to work with. I can do it in a style that I feel comfortable [inaudible], and that’s why all of a sudden that was super fulfilled. It was because I was aligned on all three dimensions of the work that I was doing.
CHUCK: There's a lot to dig into there. I think it’s interesting though that what you thought your passion was turned out not to be your passion. And that’s something that I can identify with just from the standpoint of where I came from.
I actually recorded the interview that I did with Anders Pedersen when I was at MicroConf, but we talked a lot about the “why”, and for me, it came down to that difference that you want to make; the “what is” and what's that driving factor, and then just keeping that in focus.
And I saw that you figure that out as you unfolded your story. These are the things that really get me excited. These are the things that I really want to spend my time on. These are the things that are going to be the difference for me. And I think a lot of people just miss out on that. I think it also plays nicely into what Philip talks about a lot with having that focus, that niche, is that you pick a niche that meets those fulfilment, meets your – you're working in that area where you feel like you're making the difference you want to make.
CHUCK: And anyway, I read the book Start with Why probably a month ago, and that’s really where it got me to the point where I was going “ok, so this is why I’m doing this. This is the difference I want to make”. And it’s funny because you're talking about solving problems for clients, and that was ultimately what finally got me to completely give up on the idea of serving clients, is because that doesn’t serve my passion; that doesn’t meet that “why” for me.
And it’s interesting that your reason for doing things, your “why”, got tied up in that. I’m wondering how people really discover that. How do you help people figure out “this is where I want to make the difference and this is the difference I want to make. This is the real reason why I’m doing what I’m doing”?
JASON: Well, I think that discovering that is something that takes time and reflection, and my advice to people is to look at a higher level than the task. I've mentioned earlier that I was confusing the task with the passion.
So I think there are a couple of myths around passion. The first is that – so for example, I might say “well, my passion is playing guitar”. But is it really? Is your passion really about strumming the guitar? Because I can go and strum the guitar – first I can sit around my house and strum the guitar. I can strum the guitar until I’m blue in the face. I could strum the guitar, say, at a church. If I go to a church, I can volunteer to do that. But a lot of musicians when they say “my passion is guitar”, what their passion really is about changing somebody’s life with the song or about performing in front of thousands of people and getting that [inaudible]. It’s not really the task itself; the strumming of the guitar. It’s this higher level thing. And so I think there's a myth about that. “Well, if I only strum the guitar, then I would be satisfied”.
And the second myth is something that has really – it really came to light with me [inaudible] I read an article on The Minimalists blog. It was actually either a guest post or it was referencing another article – the talk about cultivating your passion, and that the idea of following or fighting or chasing your passion is a myth, that what you actually do or need to do is to develop that passion over time. And so I realized that I had actually done that. I didn’t wake up when I was, say, 25 years old, recently out of college and go “boy, I really love to organize chaos”. That’s what I love to do. That’s not what happened. Over time, though, is I look back and I said “what are the 10 things that I've done in my life that have felt really good?” Those 10 things were taking very chaotic situations and organizing them into some system. That was what was fulfilling. And it was across the board.
So in a few cases, it was really big hairy scary software projects where you can’t see the end of it. You know it’s a year or two in and you know that you just got to keep going and keep working and keep iterating and you'll eventually get to that goal. But other ones were things like I co-produced an experimental theatre project with a friend about 5 years ago. It was crazy. It was this 24-hour plays experience where we brought together 40 people, most of whom didn’t know each other, and then 24 hours produced 6 plays on stage without books, in costume, full production from 8:00 Friday night until 8:00 Saturday night was the prep time. So the plays had to be written, the plays had to be memorized, the plays had to be directed, and then ultimately performed for an audience of about 125 people. That was incredible. And it was a massive undertaking in terms of organizing chaos.
So I think finding that “why” or finding that passion is, in my opinion, is about looking back if you have some life experience – [inaudible] might not work for a younger person, but if you have a lot of life experience looking back and saying “what were the common threats of the things that I have found massively fulfilling?” And when I started to see the comparison or the metaphor, the analogy if you will between a software project and an experimental theatre project that started to go well, it was because I was in charge and I was managing that. I was delegating the talents of people in all those cases, but I was coaching process, and that was very fulfilling to me.
CHUCK: It’s interesting; some of these ideas that you're talking about – the one in Start with Why, he talks about basically confusing your “what” with your “why”. And so you're talking about programming; programming is the “what”, and organizing chaos or solving those particular types of problems is your “why”. That’s really what gets you going and gets you excited.
And then the other one, I think it was out of the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You where he talks about the idea of following your passion and why that’s such terrible advice. And really what it came down to is he talks a bit about the idea that you discover your passion as you do the things that you wind up being good at. And so as you develop your talent in those areas and you develop your skills and you learn how those things work, then you start to really understand – you really start to understand those areas, you figure out what you like about those things, and that’s how your passion develops around them. So it’s not “oh well, I’m a music person and so I automatically am passionate about music”. Instead, it’s more along the lines of “I've practiced this a lot and there are certain aspects of what I’m doing with the music that really pay off”.
JASON: Right. I love that. Yeah, absolutely.
CHUCK: So we've talked a lot about the reasons why you might want to go into consulting, but as anyone who’s done that knows there's a whole lot more to it than just wanting to do it and understanding what the payoffs are going to be for you as you serve clients or start your own business or whatever. And so I’m curious, how do you advise people who are then going “ok well, I think I can get that higher level of fulfilment or I can achieve my “why” or purpose better by going into consulting”? How do you help people align those things so that they don’t just wind up creating another job or they have clients instead of a boss?
JASON: Yeah, it’s a great question. One of the things that we’re trying to do in Elusive Moose is to help people decide if consulting is actually the right fit, or what role within a consulting opportunity is the right fit. I’m sure you guys know that you can work in consulting if you're not a solo consultant or a sole proprietor. If you're working for, say, a small firm, there are a variety of roles that you can play within that firm. If you're solo, you're pretty much – you pretty much have to do it all. You can of course emphasize certain roles or pay more attention to certain roles and that will affect your business proportionately, but some of the articles that we’ve written at Elusive Moose are about the attributes of certain roles and what we see as attributes to make you successful.
A good example of that is project management. I've coached a number of small shops. I’m implementing some project management processes, done some training workshops and then done some coaching, and tried to really help these shops – and I’m talking maybe 5 to 10 employees – help them implement these processes. And sometimes I’m brought in because they’ve hired a new project manager, and sometimes I’m brought in because they're the kind of shop where everybody’s doing their own thing and they need to align on a process. And what I've discovered is that not everybody is really cut out to play that role. And so what I’m trying to do through Elusive Moose is help people recognize whether or not it’s a good fit and be frank about what it takes to play some of these roles.
So in the case of project management, there are a few attributes that I find to be super important to be a great project manager. The first one is confidence. So you need to have confidence in your process, you need to have confidence in your ability to communicate, you need to have confidence in your team so that when you walk into a situation with a client, you can dominate that initial conversation and then – and you have the confidence to lead that team both sides; not just your side of the project, but all sides of the project. That’s an attribute that I find to be extremely important. And if I’m talking to somebody who’s new at project management and they're meek or they're timid or they're a little bit unsure of whether or not they are even a good fit for that role, they're kind of afraid, then I have to question whether or not they're a good fit for that job. And so we’re trying to share information about what we think the attributes are of these various roles to see if consulting is really cut out for you.
My partner Molly wrote a good piece not long ago about conflict and how the very nature of consulting involves conflict. We wouldn’t be called in if everything was running smoothly or if there wasn’t some problem to be solved. And so if you're a person who really recoils away from conflict, you're getting into a business that is rooted in conflict; it’s centered around it. But if you're the kind of person that can handle it and embrace it and you don’t get worked up about it and calmly move through a conflict situation, then you're probably a good fit.
PHILIP: Jason, do you find certain personalities more successful in consulting or is it really just a matter of finding the right fit?
JASON: I think it’s a matter of finding the right fit within consulting itself. I've focused a lot on project management over the years, and I definitely see certain personality types be much more successful in that specific role, so I can speak to that. I mentioned confidence. I think that you need to be organized. You need to be the kind of person who enjoys a zero inbox, the kind of person who enjoys keeping their workspace and their life organized.
And I think that for a project manager, there's a sense of detachment that plays a big role in it, and detachment would be this idea of not taking things personally. So if a client is upset with the way things are going or if a team member is upset with the way things are going and they lash out about it in some way that you as a project manager can keep your cool and not take that personally or not think that you're doing a bad job because somebody’s not happy.
So those are the attributes that I work with around deciding whether or not I feel that somebody is a good fit specifically. But I believe that within consulting itself, as long as you can recognize those strengths and weaknesses and play to the strengths, you can still be really successful and not necessarily fall into one specific category or type of person.
CHUCK: What about roles other than project manager? We all do some level of tech support or writing software or building up specifications or just having a vision for the company is going or all kinds of different other hats that you wear DevOps. I feel like you’ve described the person who would make a good consultant in project management, but I also feel like some of these other areas are well suited for other personality types.
And so people can find their niche, people can find that place where they really fit, and I’m curious how do you do that? Do you have this outline for each other position that people may find themselves in as a consultant, or is there a process that people can go through to say “I’m kind of this personality. I’m good at these kinds of things, and therefore I would make a great consultant as a developer or DevOps or CEO or something else”?
JASON: That’s a fantastic idea. I love that. So no, I don’t have anything specifically laid out for all of these various roles. I think that as a manager and as a project manager – I was also in a position where I was managing developers and some other team members, testers, and things of that nature – that I had to make those kinds of decisions and I had to help and coach those various roles or those various people within those various roles. And so I was doing it on the fly during performance reviews or during various exercises in this company.
But I think it would be great – now, project management is something that I've had a lot of experience in so I do have that mapped out to say “here you go. Let’s start with these three things and see how you line up with them”. But I think it would be fantastic idea to break down the various roles and map out attributes in the same way. But I haven’t done it yet. [Inaudible] working on it.
CHUCK: I’m good at creating work for other people.
PHILIP: We’ll give you a list of your homework at the end of the show.
JASON: Thank you.
PHILIP: One of the interesting things about being self-employed, for me, was recognizing these self-defeating patterns in myself that take a long time to show up and manifest. Again, this is not specific to consulting, but just self-employment in general. I feel like you have to have a tolerance for delayed gratification. You have to be able to do things, and then do some again, and keep doing them for quite a while before you see results sometimes. And I’m wondering if, Jason, if you see other patterns that people – in the people you work with that are those self-defeating patterns that they can modify once they became aware of them.
JASON: Well, I’m not sure if this necessarily qualifies as a self-defeating attribute, but I think it’s one of those obvious moments where I’m coaching a team, I spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of understanding process, understanding how it is you do things. Because I think what we do – well, maybe this is one of those self-defeating traits, now that I’m thinking about it. When we go out on our own, we don’t know how to do it all. We only know how to do the things that we've been exposed to and we have to start figuring out all of the other aspects.
For example, when I worked for a larger company, I never sent an invoice because we had an accounting department, so it just wasn’t my responsibility. And so when I sent my first invoice as a solo consultant, it was kind of scary. I was thinking “am I doing this right? What's going to happen now?” Yet I was perfectly fine going out and selling a project – that was perfectly fine; executing a project – all of that stuff. I just did never sent an invoice.
And so going back to my point about process is that I encourage everybody to – even if it’s very – it’s like business playing. When you go and talk to your first small business coach or you go to a workshop, the first thing you say is “you got to have a plan”. It doesn’t matter if it’s one page; you got to have a plan. I say the same thing about process. And if you take nothing else away from one of my training workshops around project management, it is take the elements of a project management and make sure you can articulate in a couple of sentences how you’d do it. And if you’ve got a team, make sure that everybody’s articulating it the same way, with some exceptions of course. But you don’t want this guy selling a project, you're billing a project, time and materials, and this guy over here asking for money upfront or this guy – you know what I mean? You wouldn’t do that when it comes to billing, so why would you do that when it comes to project management? Have a process and figure out what that process is.
And I think that what people do is they jump into this, like you said – the late gratification. They jump into this idea of starting a business and having their company and just fake their way through the big parts of the company and – [crosstalk] – the jobs. And then maybe a couple of years later, if they're successful, they’ve figured it out. But I say that articulate it, even if you're wrong at first. Pick a way and write it down and have a process for it.
An example, I think, of a trait that I think is hard for people to come to terms with when they first go out on their own is taking full responsibility for everything, meaning if somebody is late with an invoice – with payment on an invoice, that you're the one who aactually has to pick up the phone and call them. And if you avoid that, if you run from it because you’ve never had to deal with it and you're a little bit afraid of calling somebody out on that, then you're going to suffer. You have to take ownership of the entire process. And you have to have the confidence and the courage, I guess, to do things that are really uncomfortable.
CHUCK: I've never suffered from that. Ever.
PHILIP: Yeah. What are you talking about, Jason? I have no idea. [Chuckles]
JASON: You know what I’m saying?
PHILIP: A hundred percent, yeah.
CHUCK: Yup. Well, and it’s so easy too. It’s like “well, I don’t want to do that, so I’ll put it off”, or you get to the point where you're just like “well, I don’t want to fight with them”. And it’s like – most people are reasonable. You call them up, “hey we agreed that I’d be paid by now and you haven’t paid me”. Most people are like “oh, yeah”. But it’s just getting over that.
JASON: Yeah. Nine times out of ten, it’s just the invoice got lost or they just forgot to submit it to accounting or whatever.
CHUCK: Yeah, right?
JASON: And it’s just the little nudge, and they actually thank you. That’s what – in my experience. “Oh hey, thanks for the nudge. I totally thought I sent that over, but I [inaudible]”
PHILIP: Alright. I’ll say it’s a little off topic, but sometimes you can just change the rules, basically. You don’t like collecting invoices after the fact, you can insist on being paid up front. Not that it’s just that easy, but getting back to the idea of being a small consultancy or solo consultant, you have a lot of flexibility.
So I guess we can’t talk about personality shortcomings and self-defeating patterns without also mentioning that sometimes you can just route around those problems, right?
JASON: Absolutely. And that’s the trade-off is that you have the flexibility that you didn’t have before.
CHUCK: I have a case on point on that, and this is a recent development with the sponsorships for the shows. So I do collect the sponsorships upfront, but sometimes people are a little bit slow to pay because it’s a lot of money for a quarter and that’s the way that I've been working with the sponsors for the last year or so is I've been encouraging people to sign up for a quarter at a time.
I was talking to somebody else and they mentioned that the way that they do it for their clients is actually have clients who are podcasters and they help the podcasters find their sponsors. And he said “well, what we do is we do it per episode and then we just have a minimum number of episodes they have to purchase. And the episodes don’t go live until we've paid”. And that just made a ton more sense to me. So now it’s not this huge number that they have to pull out of their bank account, but it could be a smaller number that they pull out every few weeks or however they want to do it as they buy a package of 4 or 5 episodes at a time – and so I’m making that switch right now.
The thing that that’s done is it’s brought the price range down into – within the budget of a few other people who couldn’t afford an entire quarter. And so by changing just certain aspects of the business, changing the rules, as Philip put it, it actually solved a number of problems for me. And it’s like “yeah, we’re not going to do any episodes because there's not a hard start to the quarter”. And so if you pay late into the quarter, then you just miss out on those episodes. Instead, it’s “well, you haven’t paid for those spots, so you haven’t reserved them yet”.
JASON: Got you. That’s a great idea.
CHUCK: Right? And so it just changes the conversation. It’s “ok, well you want those spots? Well, I can’t hold them for you until you’ve paid me”. And it doesn’t make the conversation any more awkward. It’s just a different way of doing things and in a different conversation you wind up having.
JASON: Yes. Something that ties together a few things we talked about is the idea that you can shift your business – this has to do a lot with that third dimension of fulfilment I was talking about earlier which is culture, is that you have the power to shift your business to play to your strengths instead of your weaknesses.
So earlier when we were talking about “wow, are there other roles that someone could play who might not carry those characteristics that” – well sure, your business can be a little bit heavier on one particular area of consulting than another even within, say, software development. If you get the right kind of client who’s just a recurring ongoing maintenance client, then you don’t have to worry that much about sales. You stop to worry about sales. You're not out there doing sales all the time. If you like the new project, if you like the new customer and you like to work with people or new challenges, then you're out there selling; you better be good at selling. But if you would rather not do as much selling, then you need to look for the kind of client who wants to bring you on almost as a subcontractor and say “well, we need 10 or 15 hours a week” and that’s long term.
So you have the power to play to the strengths and play to the attributes that you really excel in, and you can make the change [inaudible]. There is a little bit of transition there, but you can make changes as you go. And I think that’s fantastic. I think that’s one of the beauties, the benefits, of going out on your own and doing it on your own way.
PHILIP: Jason, what do you think about changing culture? Maybe that’s easier with the solo outfit, but if you’ve got a small team and you're not really happy with your – [inaudible] the culture is in you're in a leadership position. Do you see people be successful changing that, and if so, how do they pull it off?
JASON: Well, that’s a tough one. I've seen more people who lose staff as a result of it.
PHILIP: Uh huh. I guess that [inaudible] changes the culture, right? This is the new deal and you can leave if you don’t like it.
JASON: Right [chuckles]. I don’t know how much I would advise on that, but it’s certainly a method. The company that I had worked for – the consulting company I’d worked for, our PM processes were a mess about 10 or 12 years ago. I shouldn’t say they were a mess. They just – we’re kind of not there. Everybody was doing their own thing and we were growing. We were moving into that middle ground where we had 10 or 12 people working in app dev rather than 4.
And we brought it a consultant who taught us a methodology and that it was time to implement that methodology. And within 6 months, there were 2 of us left. We had maybe 8 at the time getting ready to grow. There were 2 of us left. Everybody, they just – people just quit. They were like “I don’t like that” and they left.
It took time. And it wasn’t like everybody walked in the next day and said “I quit”, but eventually they weren’t happy with change and we hired as they quit. And the great part about that culture shift was that when we brought them in during the interview process and the ramp up process, it was “this is the process. This is the methodology we use”, and so they didn’t know any better. So yeah, I definitely think that that’s an approach. And it was very successful in that case just – don’t get me wrong; it hurt for a while until we got through – over the hump and through that transition period. But in the end, we had a team that was sold on the new culture. So that’s certainly one way to do it.
I think another way you could do it, and I don’t have a lot of experience in this so I’ll just speak out of what I would project, and that is I just do it slowly over time; slowly over time and loosen things up a little bit or make incremental changes. And I think a critical piece is [inaudible] the team and letting people participate in that process rather than a top down “this is the way we’re going to do it”.
I've had some pretty out-there friends in terms of [inaudible] small companies and did things that weren’t terribly conventional. This one guy worked on a recliner most of the day. It was just – his business was very very casual and his team was very very casual. But he worked mostly with junior talent. And so he had revolving door culture where he brings these young kids in, train them up, they’d stick around for a couple of years and then they would move on and he’d pay them proportionately, but he kept it very casual. And then I've worked with other teams and have known – and had friends who had teams that were very much the opposite. They're very senior level, very focused. And those differences in culture are dramatic and they're – I think they're important that everybody is, at the end of the day, are just aligned with it, or they're going to move on.
CHUCK: It’s funny that you're talking about this because I have people ask me all the time “well, we’re trying to hire senior developers and we’re not just having any luck finding the right people or finding any seniors”, and I find that senior developers [inaudible] meaningful at distinction, to be honest. But it’s like what do you really want? And so you're talking about culture and you're talking about fulfilment and you're talking about all these things that I think are ultimately the right things to be talking about when you're talking about who do I bring in to solve problems.
And so when I talk to companies and they're saying “well, we want to hire senior developers” – in fact, I’m actually putting together a product on this as well – I start talking to them and I’m like “who do you really want to hire? And what kind of impact do you really want them to have?” And once you can articulate those cultural differences to people, that’s when it really starts to make a difference. And I found that with a lot of senior developers, because there are so many options for them as far as places to go, they're looking for those differentiators anyway.
JASON: That’s interesting.
CHUCK: So they're looking for a place that they want to work, that they're happy to work, that they're fulfilled at work.
JASON: What are some of the things that you see as a differentiator? What are some of those specifics around a culture?
CHUCK: So some of the things are, for example, some companies really value the fact that everybody gets together after work and hangs out. And other cultures, it’s more about how we behave at work. And so I've worked with companies where the behavior at work was we work closely together, we have the conversations we have to have in order to get the work done, we all go to lunch together during the lunch break. Sometimes there are company meetings or company lunches or company events during the workday, but after work everybody just goes home and does their own thing. I worked at one company that who your friends were who you liked to play GarageBand with.
And so it’s different for every company. And some people really like that friendly approachable whatever culture where everything is just by the seat of your pants, and others like the really regimented everybody shows up at the same time and leaves at the same time and works on the same stuff at the same time, and everything’s managed in a particular way and everybody knows what their supposed to be doing all the time. And so those are different cultural things. And people, after they’ve worked a few jobs, they get an idea of which ones they fit into.
I even found this as a freelancer where I figured out that augmenting existing teams wasn’t really my deal, and that inevitably there were major problems that they were expecting to hire consultants in as developers that they were hoping that somebody would come in and actually solve, and I didn’t want to solve those problems. I just wanted to get in and write interesting code. But at the same time, I also figured out that people who are building a new product or have an interesting existing product and needs somebody to come in and be the expert and be a CTO or technical advisor were the roles that I really enjoyed.
And so it was a matter of empowerment and the types of problems I was solving that really made the difference for me as a consultant; whereas other people I know, they’ve been a consultant for the same company on the same team for 5, 10 years, and that’s what they do. So they're still a consultant, but they look a whole lot more like an employee on a team that’s writing code. And that’s their shtick. And honestly, I did that a couple of times and I hated it.
JASON: Right. And that’s the difference between playing to the strengths of the person.
CHUCK: Yup. But what that boils down to is that as you go into consulting – it’s funny I have people talk to me and they're like “well, I thought about going into consulting, but I just don’t even know what I would do”. And I’m just like “well, just do what you’ve been doing if you like it, and then you could charge people [laughter]. Never did you write an invoice for your paycheck instead of just collecting it”.
CHUCK: And that is slightly oversimplified, but ultimately not a ton; you have to do a little bit more legwork to go find those contracts. But yeah, it’s just – it’s interesting how much of that really comes through. And I've have also found that freelancers are a lot more sensitive to those kinds of things than people who are out there looking for full-time jobs. But the people who have been in the industry for a long time and know that they are in demand, they’ll totally pick and choose over companies that give them better options that better fit them as opposed to some of the other options that are out there.
So anyway, it’s interesting to have the conversations and see “ok, what do you value? What do you care about? What do you want?” And some people, they don’t want that much autonomy, and so they don’t want to be a consultant. And other people like having the option of saying “ok well, I’m just going to work this contract until I decide I’m done with it, and then I’m going to go work another contract”.
Anyway, it’s really really fascinating just to see how it works out. But yeah, I wind up talking to a lot of people and it’s – you get as many perspectives on this as you [inaudible] people.
JASON: No doubt. No doubt. I think going back to the beginning of this conversation where identifying for yourself what it is that you want to do, identifying for yourself what that passion really is all about – or those passions I should say, because there's certainly more than one – and then finding the industry in which to work, and then doing it in a way that you're aligned with through the culture, you align all three of those up and you got a pretty good shot at being satisfied everyday.
PHILIP: Jason, can we drill into passion a little more?
PHILIP: I feel like HR departments around the globe have done that word a great disservice by using it – [laughter] – as a code word for – I don’t know – “you don’t have good boundaries, you'll overwork”. You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure. And how do you see it, and how can people know if what they're feeling is legitimately something they could call passion?
JASON: I start with the idea of flow. You guys, I’m sure, are familiar with flow. It’s the timelessness. It’s looking up and realizing that hours have gone by, that you completely lost yourself in something. You didn’t have the urge to go check the newsfeed. You didn’t have the urge to get up and go get another cup of coffee. In fact, sometimes when I’m really in it, I've got the full cup of coffee that is now cold sitting next to me on the desk and I say “ugh, I don’t want to put that in the microwave. I guess I have to brew another pot”.
To me, that’s a pointer of something that I’m passionate about the kind of work. As I mentioned earlier, I think looking back over your experiences and deciding when you're in those moments of flow, deciding when do you walked away from a project or a task or some thing that you're involved in, and you say “wow, that was a moment that I’ll never forget” helps identify those things that you should be doing.
And I try to look at them at – I really wish I could articulate this in a way that made it really easy for me to explain it. I always feel like I mumble around when I talk about passion being a higher level concept than something that you do, because a passion to me is it’s not tied to a specific task. It’s – see, here I am. I’m giving you a great example of mumbling around.
PHILIP: I think you're not alone. I think it’s something that a lot of people are like “well” – I see people write in a way that makes me think they get up and go to work and start foaming at the mouth. They're just so jacked up and enthusiastic about it.
PHILIP: And I don’t think that’s really what passion is. I think that’s something else. I don’t know what to call it, but that’s not passion. So I think you're not alone in – I think all of us are like “what is it exactly?”
JASON: Yeah. I know what I’m passionate about. And I’ll reiterate that I’m passionate about bringing order from chaos. I’m passionate about big scary projects that are hard to see the end, and achieving them. I like that. I like to take on something that feels impossible, and then working really hard over a long period of time to make it possible. I like to be organized. I’m that person. I’m not nuts about it; I’m not insane, but I find satisfaction in zeroing out the inbox and putting things where they belong.
So those are three examples of things that I’m passionate about, but I don’t know how to explain the word passion.
PHILIP: Well, I think it’s valuable to point out that it’s maybe not that red-hot intensity that people think it is, and that a lower great experience of just something being interesting over time and compelling in a certain way – it’s like a compelling challenge, and maybe not everyday you're up to it, but most days you are. Maybe that’s more what it’s about.
And the reason I bring this up is I just – I hate it when people dismiss a really viable – something that could be a good fit for them or could be a good niche for them to look into because it doesn’t seem like red-hot exciting. And I just don’t know anybody who can sustain that red hot level of frothy excitement for 3 or 5 years anyway. That just doesn’t seem realistic to me.
JASON: You’ve raised some really good points. I think we have a perception in our Facebook world that hanging off the side of a mountain is a good example of a legitimate passion, or something that’s dangerous, physically or mentally or whatever. But you're right. Mine are not very sexy at all. I like to organize stuff [chuckles]. I feel good about cleaning up the garage and making it – and if you look at my garage right now, you’d say “you're not really passionate about that”, but I’m just waiting for it to get so mad that it’s going to feel even better.
But yeah, I think you're right that dismissing something that is not really sexy and really just “wow” – dismissing that is terrible. It can cause you to pass up some incredible opportunities.
PHILIP: I know. The flipside of course is how long do you investigate something before you call it and say “this just doesn’t have what it takes to hold my interest for the long term” or whatever. And maybe that’s more – bigger question that we can answer in this show, but that’s certainly the flipside.
CHUCK: Yeah. But the other thing is – so the episode that I recorded just before this, we talked to Jamis Buck who’s a Ruby developer about his book about mazes. And he played with mazes for a few years and he was pretty passionate about it, and then eventually he moved on to something else. So I’m not even convinced that your passion has to stay static over 2, 3, 4, 5 years. I was pretty passionate about consulting when I started consulting, but at this point I've figured out that’s not my passion anymore. My passion is making a difference for people through the podcast and encouraging people to go make the difference that they want to make.
JASON: Yeah, that’s great.
CHUCK: And so that’s my big “why”. That’s my big passion at this point. And in another 5 years, maybe I’ll be on to something else, or maybe I’ll have the same “why” but a different “how” or a different “what” that I’m doing. And so your passion – I’m passionate about podcasting, but maybe in another few years I’m going to be passionate about making YouTube videos, or passionate about traveling the world and speaking to people, or passionate about something else while I still have that same core meaning to what I’m doing. So I don’t think it has to stay the same.
JASON: No, no. I agree. And I think maybe the meaning is more aligned with the passion than the platform. I think being interested in a technology is awesome and it’s certainly a channel. I know plenty of developers that have switched technical platforms just because they got bored, but they still – [chuckles] – they still loved to do the projects.
PHILIP: Yeah. I should add that I agree completely that – like the particular configuration of all the pieces of what it is you do can and probably should shift over time to keep it interesting.
CHUCK: Alright. Well, I’m under some time constraints, so I’m going to push this towards picks. But is there any major aspect to this that we haven’t hit yet?
PHILIP: Yeah. I got most of my questions asked.
CHUCK: Alright. Well, let’s go ahead and do some picks then. Philip, do you have some picks for us?
So I think that not for everybody, but at least for subset of the listeners, they're going to find this really interesting because it helps you start to quantify things like salary. So that’s engineerworth.com, and I think that’s my only pick for this week.
CHUCK: Awesome. It’s funny because I've been racking my brain to what I want to pick this week, and so I’m going to pick something that’s a little bit different. Last week, I was out in Oklahoma, and so I have a few picks related to that.
The first one though is just that when we got out to the place that we were going to stay, it was private property – my brother-in-law has some friends who have access to it, so we paid some minimal fee to stay there. And they had a private lake and they had a place where they had basically come in and pulled some [inaudible] out, and so we had a very nice place to shoot guns. I pulled the kids around on a tube behind the Jet Ski for a while; just went hiking, got to sleep in a bit. But I think the thing that was the most important about that place was that there was no cell service and no internet service. And so for 3 or 4 days, I was completely cut off from the online world; completely cut off from the people that help me run things around here for DevChat.tv. And I have to say that it was really nice just to not worry about it. I think I had one or two texts come through while I was at it – while I was out there because it would randomly connect to the really weak signal it could get. And anyway, it was really nice.
We talked a few weeks ago to Sherry Walling about retreats and I think I’m going to try and duplicate that when I go out there. I was also looking at going out to Park City for my retreat. And when we were driving through Colorado, we drove through on I-70 through the big canyon there between Denver and Utah. And so I’m seriously considering going out to Vail or something like that out there where it’s a little more remote and it just feels a little bit more distant from the main concerns that I have going on here, though it is a little bit longer drive.
And finally, the last pick I have is an app on my phone called Glympse. That’s Glympse with a Y – Glympse. And what it does is you can send a Glympse to somebody else. So my dad knew I was on my way back to Utah and was concerned. My wife and I actually wound up coming back different days. She came back with her mom, and her dad actually followed me home. And so I would send Glympses to my wife and my dad. And what that did is it told them where I was and how fast I was going and all that stuff. And so if my wife ever wanted to know how things were going, then she could just look at it. And then she did notice that we stopped a couple of times, so she called. “Oh, we’re having dinner, blah blah blah” and it was really nice. So if you're on your way to someone or to something or you just want to let folks know where you are as you travel, then Glympse is pretty darn cool.
Jason, what are your picks?
JASON: I’m new to this, so hopefully this will serve the purpose. When I was thinking about picks, I tried to think of something that had had a huge impact on me making a decision to become a consultant. And some of that I've kept up over the years, and it’s – one thing that came to mind is The Minimalists blog; so theminimalists.com, run by two guys who quit the corporate world and became minimalists about 5 or 6 years ago. I started reading them the year that I decided to go out on my own and it has nothing to do with consulting, nothing to do with software or any of the work that I was doing. And in fact, I really have zero interest in actually becoming a minimalist, but I just found that the way they wrote and the excitement that they had about what they were doing and just letting you peek behind the curtain of their journey was really big for me. It was very inspiring for me.
And so I've kept up with them a little bit less so over the years. I was really a diehard fan from about 2011 to about 2014. And they really just – I find their writing to be very very compelling, and it talks a lot about the important things in life. Of course they talk about it in terms of material objects and chasing money and what's wrong with that, but I translate a lot of that to just the things I do. So I recommend it; theminimalists.com. They do a podcast now. They’ve written a few books since then, and just some great stuff to check out.
And the other thing that – I also tried to think of something that had a big impact on one of my businesses, and Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula, I think, was the one thing that we've used with Elusive Moose. It really had a big impact. Have you guys have heard of that, the blog or the –?
CHUCK: Yeah, I've heard of it.
JASON: Ok. I think it’s one of those things that I found or someone recommended and I checked it out. [Inaudible] skeptical, like “ahh, this seems it might work”. And so we tried it out when we launched our membership website. We used the Product Launch Formula, and we admittedly were just testing things and experimenting with things, and I knew that I wouldn’t know really how to do it well at first, but it turned out to be very successful. And it turned out to be the one thing that we've done in launching this new company that I look back on now and I go “yup, I’m definitely going to be using that as we start to develop our digital products”.
So if anybody out there hasn’t heard of it, it’s a methodology for launching online products. It’s anything from a book to full-on courses that they offer through the website productlaunchformula.com, and I just – I found it to be super super helpful for our business.
CHUCK: Awesome. If people want to follow up with you and see what you're doing, where do they go for that?
JASON: You can find me at elusivemoose.com. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And we do a podcast that comes out every Wednesday talking about all things around being a consultant. We have a blog there as well. We republish articles.
And most importantly right now, if you're in and around the Chicago – or even if you're not in and around the Chicago area and feel like visiting Chicago in a beautiful time of the year in September, our second Find Your Moose Conference is coming up 2 days. It’s a Wednesday and a Thursday. Somebody you know, Jonathan Stark, is one of our speakers this year. And Jonathan was a speaker last year; had a great session on finding your target [inaudible] yourself so that you can go after the clients you want. And that information about the conference can be found at findyourmoose.com.
CHUCK: Awesome. Alright. Well, we’ll go ahead and wrap up the show. Thank you for coming.
JASON: Oh, thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.
CHUCK: Alright. We’ll catch everyone next week.
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