Moving On

[I’m typically not very good at going back to drafts and I don’t have much time to write this. But I can RERO this. It’s an iterative process in any case….]

Been thinking about different things which all relate to the same theme: changing course, seizing opportunities, shifting focus, adapting to new situations, starting over, getting a clean slate… Moving on.

One reason is that I recently decided to end my ethnography podcast. Not that major a decision and rather easy to make. Basically, I had stopped doing it but I had yet to officially end it. I had to make it clear, in my mind, that it’s not part of the things I’m doing, these days. Not that it was a big thing in my life but I had set reminders every month that I had to record a podcast episode. It worked for ten episode (in ten months) but, once I had missed one episode, the reminder was nagging me more than anything else.

In this sense, “moving on” is realistic/pragmatic. Found something similar in Getting Things Done, by David Allen.

It’s also similar to something Larry Lessig called “email bankruptcy,” as a step toward enhanced productivity.

In fact, even financial bankruptcy can relate to this, in some contexts. In Canada, at least, bankruptcy is most adequately described as a solution to a problem, not the problem itself. I’ve known some people who were able to completely rebuild their finances after declaring bankruptcy, sometimes even getting a better credit rating than someone who hadn’t gone bankrupt. I know how strongly some people may react to this concept of bankruptcy (based on principle, resentment, fears, hopes…). It’s an extreme example of what I mean by “moving on.” It goes well with the notion, quite common in North American cultural contexts, that you always deserve a second chance (but that you should do things yourself).

Of course, similar things happen with divorces which, similarly, can often be considered as solutions to a problem rather than the problem itself. No matter how difficult or how bad divorce might be, it’s a way to start over. In some sense, it’s less extreme an example as the bankruptcy one. But it may still generate negative vibes or stir negative emotions.

Because what I’m thinking about has more to do with “turning over a new leaf.” And taking the “leap of faith” which will make you go where you feel more comfortable. I’m especially thinking about all sorts of cases of people who decided to make radical changes in their professional or personal lives, often leaving a lot behind. Whether they were forced to implement such changes or decided to jump because they simply wanted to, all of the cases I remember have had positive outcomes.

It reminds me of a good friend of mine with whom I went through music school, in college. When he finished college, he decided to follow the music path and registered for the conservatory. But, pretty quickly, he realized that it wasn’t for him. Even though he had been intensely “in music” for several years, with days of entering the conservatory, he saw that music wasn’t to remain the central focus of his career. Through a conversation with a high school friend (who later became his wife and the mother of his children), he found out that it wasn’t too late for him to register for university courses. He had been thinking about phys. ed., and thought it might be a nice opportunity to try that path. He’s been a phys. ed. teacher for a number of years. We had lunch together last year and he seems very happy with his career choice. He also sounds like a very dedicated and effective phys. ed. teacher.

In my last podcast episode, I mentioned a few things about my views of this “change of course.” Including what has become something of an expression, for me: “Done with fish.” Comes from the movie Adaptation. The quote is found here (preceded by a bit of profanity). Basically, John Laroche, who was passionately dedicated to fish, decided to completely avoid anything having to do with fish. I can relate to this at some rather deep level.

I’m also thinking about the negative consequences of “sticking with” something which isn’t working, shifting too late or too quickly, implementing changes in inappropriate ways. Plenty of examples there. Most of the ones which come to my mind have to do with business settings. One which would require quite a bit of “explaining” is my perception of Google’s strategy with Wave. Put briefly (with the hope of revisiting this issue), I think Google made bad decisions with Wave, including killing it both too late and too early (no, I don’t see this as a contradiction; but I don’t have time to explain it). They also, I feel, botched a few transitions, in this. And, more importantly, I’d say that they failed to adapt the product to what was needed.

And the trigger for several of my reflections on this “moving on” idea have to do with this kind of adaptation (fun that the movie of that name should be involved, eh?). Twitter could be an inspiration, in this case. Not only did they, like Flickr, start through a switch away from another project, but Twitter was able to transform users’ habits into the basis for some key features. Hashtags and “@replies” are well-known examples. But you could even say that most of the things they’ve been announcing have been related to the way people use their tools.

So, in a way, it’s about the balance between vision and responsiveness. Vision is often discussed and it sounds to some people as a key thing in any “task-based group (from a team to a corporation). But the way a team can switch from one project to the next based on feedback (from users or other stakeholders) seems underrated. Although, there is some talk about the “startup mentality” in many contexts, including Google and Apple. Words which fit this semantic field include: “agile,” “flexible,” “pivot,” “lean,” and “nimble” (the latter word seemed to increase in currency after being used by Barack Obama in a speech).

Anyhoo… Gotta go.

But, just before I go: I am moving on with some things (including my podfade but also a shift away from homebrewing). But the key things in my life are very stable, especially my sentimental life.

4 thoughts on “Moving On”

  1. Thanks for commenting at my blog. Thought I’d see what you’re doing. I found it interesting that you thought bankruptcy less extreme than divorce. It seems that bankruptcy is simply about money and once it’s over, it’s over. But divorce, particularly if kids are involved, is never really over. The relationship is part of one’s experience and with the kids, the connections continue throughout life.

    I had students who had in their minds that to quit something was to fail. So they continued in a class they should have dropped or in a program that wasn’t right for them. I’d have to get them to see that there were other ways of thinking about quitting. Parents can leave lasting marks in their kids’ heads.

    1. Thanks for dropping by! Been following your blog for a while.
      My impression is that there’s more social stigma about bankruptcy than about divorce, in some ways, though both are considered “failures.” At least, people talk rather openly about their divorces, even “airing their dirty laundry in public” while bankruptcy seems to be more of a taboo. In a way, there’s a kind of plausible deniability in divorce, as some people do as if it were the other person’s fault. With bankruptcy, the opprobrium runs deep, given the ideology of self-empowerment. Not to mention that any notion of financial problem can be associated with a serious moral flaw of the “if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich” kind. With divorce, people seem to accept more easily the notion that “it just didn’t work.”
      At least, this has been my impression, in a few parts of this continent.
      Divorce without kids or important assets to split is, really, very easy. And it can be a rather clean break, like a breakup from a long-term relationship without marriage. In that case, it’s a good representation of the idea that “you can move on with your life if things didn’t work out after you gave it your best shot.”
      Divorce with kids is different but so is a breakup between unmarried parents. In Quebec, especially, it’s common to have children without having married. There’s almost a stigma on marriage. And most unmarried relationships with children that I know (and I know several) last longer than several marriages I know (with or without kids). When unmarried parents do break up, the process can be much more difficult than a divorce without kids.
      All this to say that I get what you mean but, in my experience, the most difficult thing is a breakup between parents, not the process of filing for divorce.

      Excellent point about students. Wasn’t thinking about it specifically but I do occasionally advise students to make some rather radical shifts. And there’s a clear notion that, once they started something, they should stick with it even if it’s clearly not giving them what they enrolled for. Part of it may be parental pressure but the society as a whole may also put a very heavy weight on any kind of “dropping out.”
      There’s something to be said about PhD dropouts, though. Some of them, at least in the tech sector, have been able to do very interesting things. And PhD programs have changed a lot since the days of William James’s “octopus” letter.outside of the Ivory Tower, you could perceive the PhD the way people think abiutnthe post-doc: it’s partly to make contacts and if you find a position before you’re through with the program, all the more power to you. But since people assume that the “normal thing to do” is through the PhD on to a tenure-track position, abandoning a dissertation is perceived as a failure, even when it’s quite clear that there are other options.

      Anyhoo…. Thanks a lot for your comment. Truly appreciated

  2. Enk, I thought about putting in the caveat about social acceptance, which you focused on, while I focused on the emotional impacts. But I’ve read that money is also a key reason for divorce. I’ll be back.

    1. Oh, I agree that the emotional dimensions are extremely important. In a way, my post was about going beyond them or about allowing ourselves to do things despite some pressure we feel. As my parents separated when I was six, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to think about the effects of divorce. And, since this is my personal blog, I can mention that I recently went through a relatively painless divorce. In both cases, moving on was the most appropriate thing to do. And I don’t want to overstate the distinction between divorce and bankruptcy. It’s just that I notice a difference. Bankruptcy, for some people, seems to feel even more like a “failure” than divorce. But that may just be a difference in terms of personal experience.

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