Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Passing and Being Passed

Buckley. A dog I get to pet, but do not have to walk!
Co-Working Change My Life
I got some feedback from my wife and kids last week that I seem generally happier and more "tuned in" when I am at home than I have in the past few years. Additionally  I have been feeling much more productive at work. I chalk these changes up almost totally to adopting a co-working lifestyle.

I'm sure you are all away that Canonical is mostly a distributed company. We work from all over the world in online spaces. This is great. It has meant that I have gotten to know people from all the world. I've learned a little French. I make my own schedule. Working for a distributed company has been so enriching in so many ways, I don't see how I could ever go back to a real office environment.

Working for a distributed company has also meant that I have been working at home the last 4+ years. In many ways, this has been great. I've spent zero hours commuting, as one small example. 
Office Nomads
The friendly and helpful proprietors of Office Nomads
For various reasons, I decided to give co-working a try, and I am surprised how well I have taken to it. Co-working means that I "go to work" in a large shared office space. Practically, it means that I share resources such as networking, printers, desks, dogs, etc... 
Some nomads doing their thing
The area where I work. I usually take the standing desk to the left.

On the impractical side, it means that I share in the positivity of other people also doing what they love. Hearing people work, chatting with folks when I get in, having lunch with other people, etc... This has all been great for me, personally. I think there is a certain element of just getting out of the house and not being isolated. But the atmosphere at Office Nomads is high productivity, and I can't help but to feed off the buzz. I think the community building aspects of their mission is harmonious with my values, as well.
If you work in a distributed environment, I highly recommend giving co-working a try. If you are working independently in Seattle, I strongly recommend you join Office Nomads. 
Getting There

It's been a very unreal sprint in Seattle. Reliably nice weather most days. So, since I am traveling to Office Nomads, I take my bicycle almost every day. This builds  in free exercise for me, and is slightly faster than the bus. As a result, I have been biking more and more.

I flatter myself to think that I am relatively fit these days. None the less, I get passed by other bicyclists most days. When I get passed, I notice. I noticed that I have about three responses when this happens.

  • Nice Bike! Often I am passed by much more serious bicyclists, and I notice their bikes costs many times what mine costs. However, this thought is really a small cop out. The fact is, they are all probably more fit and better at bicycling than I am, and generally invest more effort it in, that's why they are passing me. If we switched bikes, they'd still be faster than me.
  • Good for you! This is more typical. I can admire that the passer is more engaged, fitter, and just generally cares more about going fast at this point in time than I do. Someone going faster than me takes absolutely nothing away from my experience, and it's cool that they an do it.
  • Oops. Sometimes when I get passed I realize that my mind has wandered. I forgot to keep going fast. This is helpful. Realizing that I am daydreaming instead of focused on going fast, I can decide, to go fast, or maybe I decide I am happy day dreaming. In this way, someone passing me not only doesn't take anything from me, but it grants me something positive.

I pass more people than pass me, by a wide margin. Sometimes on longer, lonelier, rides, I observer other bicyclists as I pass them. The overwhelming majority of people I pass show essentially no response. They couldn't care less that I am passing them. Some folks even take advantage of the situation and draft behind me. They can go a little faster "for free" by letting my cut through the air for them.

However, sometimes, I sense a certain amount of rage from people I pass. I can see it in their faces and body language. The fact that I am fitter and working harder takes nothing from these people, but it seems to bother them that someone can go faster than them. For this set of people, a common response is for them to work really hard to pass my back. This means that my presence was helpful for them if they want to go faster, but often, it's not sustainable for them, and I end up soon passing them again, and leaving them far behind. These folks end up with a self-inflicted net loss. They have a loss of pleasure, and they end up being driven by being passed, rather than being driven by what they want to do. A shame, really.

As an aside, one time I was coming back from a very long ride, and took a break, going slowly for a few miles before my final push home. During this time, I heard someone pumping behind me. Finally, I was passed by someone clearly working to get back in shape. I was going the perfect speed for them, just fast enough that it was a challenge to pass me. As he passed, and I saw the look of pride mixed with exhaustion on his face, my heart went out to him. When it was time for me to go fast again, I quickly caught up with him, but then I fell behind. I just didn't have the heart to show him what going really fast looks like.


  1. I was also considering a lot this option recently, also to be more disciplined about work times... Unfortunately in my city there are only few options offering a such service with too high prices. I'll stay tuned waiting for new opportunities, however, as the office live can probably help a lot to improve the productivity.

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