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What Shape are You?

My post before this was a kind of therapy / Buddhism / personal growth kind of deal, but I also spend a lot of time thinking about how to run effective teams and to be a responsible, thoughtful manager of people. It is my work: I am a lead engineer at Bungie, an independent video game developer of about 300 employees (though not for long, we're growing.) There are some unique aspects to making videogames, and I'll use game development terminology here as I refer to, say, texture artists or sound designers or programmers, but when I talk to friends in different creative industries - film, industrial design, other software development - I find these themes are pretty universal.

If you're going to manage people, you're going to have a lot of conversations about employee performance. It's just bound to happen. Sometimes, like during reviews, it might seem excessive. You might wonder if's worth all the time it takes. It is. It's OK that you spend a bunch of time on this. As a manager, that is your job. It's your job to have well-formed opinions about how you evaluate people and how you work with them to help them grow. If you aren't spending time on that, then you may be succeeding as a leader, but probably not as a manager. Apples and oranges.

It is, however, important to spend this time well. During conversations about performance, everything you talk about should boil down to one thing: the value they contribute to the team. What is their value, and how can they become more valuable?

I find a lot of review conversations tend to focus on strengths, weaknesses, and specific work results. These seem like reasonable topics, and there's value there, but I also find this often leads to a review that looks like this:

The Anxious Mouse

On The Anxious Mouse

I could point out how ironic the name of this blog is. I could change it somewhere I suppose. But the random name creation irony brings a smile to my face, one of those effed up things that's really wrong, and you just can't help but laugh about it.

Anxiety is what keeps me up at night. It's what keeps me spinning my wheels, looking for a way out, and what ultimately leaves me flailing about in all directions, with no idea how to get out of the trap.

The trap of course isn't something simple as a spring loaded wire bail that crushes my spine when I go for the cheese... (peanut butter works better, but the smell of dead mouse and peanut butter... don't think about it during lunch.) But, back to the trap. The trap is a collection of synapses and chemicals, inside a hard shell. It's a slightly disconcerting way to describe my brain.

So far the only thing I really have going for me is that I'm still alive. I wish it was simpler to explain the context of the previous sentence. I'm not depressed, at least not in a clinical requiring medication way, I would describe it as discouraged. So far the one thing I can succeed at doing is being unsuccessful.

Today, I'm just a little over 2 weeks shy of being 2 years shy of 40. I am living with my parents. I have no job, I have no car, I have not a lot of anything. I have a trap in my skull that I fight wars with, and have little hope of coming out of any time soon.

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