#10 - Taking a Break

Hey all,

Hope you’re enjoying this fine Monday!

In the US, today is a holiday - Memorial Day - our first National Holiday in 98 days. I think that’s a crazy statistic, especially considering we have a bunch of holidays bundled together during the winter.

Perhaps that holiday drought is why it always feels so restorative once Memorial Day arrives - a sigh of relief, a chance to catch your breath.

Today, I’m not going to write a typical post - instead, I’ll keep it short and remind you to take a break.

You might be interested in…

Summer of Shipping Open Source Project - for those of you who have been following along the Software Mentor journey since week #4, you know that I had plans on starting an open source project to “Build Together”. Well, given the rise of Summer of Shipping, a new need to build an open source project has materialized. If you’re looking for a project to jam on this summer, leave a comment here! https://github.com/phil-ociraptor/sos-landing/issues/4

Pragmatic CS - a newsletter that provides both a high level and low level survey of the industry. Once a week, Zac interviews leaders in the industry to get a sense for where we’re headed. He then provides a technical deep dive into the technologies that will get us there. Zac’s just getting started, but give it a look!

Alright - and onto this week’s short topic.

“Zero Memories”

In my first couple years as a software engineer in SF, I worked a lot. I was obsessed with work. I wanted to become a productive engineer. But probably just as badly, I wanted the company to do well. I cared a lot about improving the culture, the communication (ultimately driving the organization to adopt Confluence), all while delivering engineering value.

I progressed quickly, but I paid steep price.

Courtland Allen, from IndieHackers had this to say about his first two years as a startup founder, a haunting comment that resonates with my first two years in San Francisco:

[T]he first two years after I moved to San Francisco… I started a startup and I basically just coded for sixteen hours a day, every day for two years, and the problem is that if you're in flow for that long and you don't vary your activities... you don't make new memories, everything just blurs together, so I have a two year block of time in my life where there were zero memories, and I swore that I would never do that again.

A two year span with zero memories. Sigh, I can relate.

In those years at Symphony, all of my memories are strictly work related. And the sad thing of having all your memories in the walled garden of corporate email, or in the git log of a private repo, is you no longer have access to them when you leave.

A part of you vanishes when your access is revoked.

“Build Adventure” into Life

My friend Nick and I have spent most of 2020 working on projects. This newsletter is one of them. Another one attempts to address this issue of forming better memories. It’s called SpaceTime - a private location journal (not so useful in an age of quarantine, but a beautiful app nonetheless).

We hope that SpaceTime encourages people to go out and live more adventurous lives. Part of the reason for this, comes from the thinking of Laura Vanderkaam and her book Off The Clock

I believe that even normal days can be made special—can be made memorable—with a mind-set toward adventure. I believe that consciously choosing to create such memories will stretch the experience of time.

If I had one take-away from the book, it would be the idea that “Conscious fun takes effort” and that “People who feel like they have enough time… build adventures into their lives”.

So, on days like these, go “build adventure”, not software. Whether you’re a software engineer who loves to program, someone who does it because it pays the bills, or somewhere in between - make sure your Memorial Day is memorable.


This is a funny topic because it’s not technical, nor is it quite career oriented. But in a strange way - it is. The people I know who seem to be exceptionally happy with their careers all seem to know the importance of making memories outside of work. And those who can sustain high levels of technical achievement, find some way to maintain long term work-life balance.

I’m going to leave you with a last quote from Off The Clock. In this passage, Laura reflects on her experience addressing a group of graduating high school seniors. She had this to say:

At that moment, they had more time than memories. Soon I will have more memories than time—maybe I already do. I told them to make life memorable. Do something memorable daily, because that is the only way to keep time from slipping through our fingers. We fully live our hours; we know how we spent those hours. Then, looking back, as we honor their memory, we can know who we truly are.

On a day like today, the first national holiday in almost 100 days, that’s all I want to talk about - taking a break.

Alright, next week, we’ll be back to regular topics, but go and plan something great for your Monday!