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Square dancing at the Riverview Leave Area, Brisbane, November 1943 (Flickr)

A mental model that keeps coming up for me is the unscripted dance. This captures the idea of going into a situation knowing you can rely on your skills to adapt to the other party. Even without knowing ahead. Even without preparing for each move, each step, or each word you’ll use.

In a work setting, this could be a 1–1 chat with a direct report or a quarterly check-in with your boss.

When you’re dancing with an accomplished partner, you may allow the moment to unfold because you trust that a script is not necessary. If you’re dancing with an unaccomplished partner, you may use a script to start with because it helps guide the dance until once again, it becomes unnecessary. …


Public speaking lesson: the more practice I put in, weaving in personal anecdotes with the data—the more natural the delivery and more impactful the message.

City parks are an investment in our community.

My best memories as a kid are enjoying Tucson’s many parks: swimming lessons in first grade, youth soccer where we all scored 20 goals and everyone got a trophy. Family BBQs, softball games, golf and tennis, picnics and bike rides on the Loop. Isn’t it wonderful to be outside?

What if I told you, though, that not everyone in our city has equal access to the green grass, the playgrounds, the swimming pools. A sad truth of our current state of affairs. Many people, and I’m especially thinking about kids — with all their energy and enthusiasm for playing outside — don’t have easy access to a park or playground. Tucson is so spread out that if you don’t have a car your options are limited. Not to mention the many parks that have closed or are in need of major repairs. …


To find joy and passion in our work across countries and cultures at Automattic we’re creating a space where genuine connections occur. Whether via Slack, Zoom, or P2s—we build our culture through our daily work activities. And yet there’s an opportunity to go beyond. To find creative ways to relate each other via quick interactions.

Creating a culture of connection
The indispensable element is in the connection… The hard part is in earning trust, in making a difference, in being human. Only a human being can nurture relationships. It has to be done with flair and transparency, and it can’t be done according to a script. The memories and connections and experiences of the person in the center of this culture are difficult to scale and hard to replace. …


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When I come to a conversation without technique and provide the space to listen, I do so because I’ve failed at this a thousand times. I’ve planned and schemed and got lost in my own mind — missing the conversation, missing the moment, missing the person on the other side.

This time I’m going to do it differently.

I’m going to pause, give enough time and space to see other person first. Listen deeply so I can adjust my effort to the situation. If it’s the right moment, share what has worked for me. …


A thought experiment. No right or wrong answers.

What grounds you?

As you ride the currents of your day-to-day work — entering in and out of conversations with your team and with customers — or with your family and friends as your navigate your way through the world?

What’s the “surfboard” made of that you ride from wave to wave? The ups and downs.

What drives you?

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For me, the surfboard is a perfect metaphor for describing the core value or the key ability that grounds me. …


An exercise to dig into the worldview, market fit, and promises of a software project I’m passionate about: WordPress.

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The WordPress mission is to democratize publishing.

Quotes are brand statements taken from wordpress.org, wordpress.com, and automattic.com.

We don’t make software for free, we make it for freedom.

Worldview: start with why

WordPress has always been about websites, but it’s not just about websites. It’s about freedom, about possibility, and about carving out your own livelihood, whether it’s by making a living through your site or by working in the WordPress ecosystem itself. Our mission is to democratize publishing for everyone, regardless of language, ability, or economic wherewithal. —ma.tt

Why does this worldview resonate with me? I want to help people make beautiful websites. I believe the purpose of software and all technology is to help people. Therefore I want to work for a company that makes software that delights people and is meaningful to their lives. …


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I’m afraid I don’t know how you work;
I thought I knew; the résumé, the code
We talked about. You shipped many lines
And yet you didn’t do it the old way
The hand-coded craftsmanship way
Where we count the 80 characters until
Hitting Enter for the next line so that
Your code comments fit the style guide.

Linting, debugging, Consolas, solarized
Are my daily companions while you are
Building Beavers with WordPress visual
Drag-and-drop. A gooey mess is all I see.
Does it compile? Does it white screen?
You build menus within menus, screens
Of pages and templates and metaboxes
With no regard for template, load order,
Stylesheet and script. …


Date: April 29, 2018
To: Lance Willett <lance@dotcominc.com>

Hello Lance,
Thanks for lunch at Presta-Siesta last Tuesday! Didn’t even need a nap afterward with that strong coffee. Next time in PDX it’s my treat.

I was thrilled to hear about your possible GitLab migration at Dotcom Inc. Please allow me to take off my technical hat and put on my decision coaching one.

You stated your goal and decision clearly, “Should we commit to moving all our product teams to a new, unified project management tool? GitLab is a likely choice to replace GitHub, Trac, Trello, P2, Phabricator, and other tools we use now. …


In a recent brainstorming exercise with my team, I expected to dive deep into the work, tuning our understanding of business models while working under pressure to create as many ideas as possible in a short time. We did just that, relishing our creativity and ingenuity.

Yet the most satisfying outcome wasn’t how deep or wide we ranged as much as the practice of creating the right space for it to happen. Allowing discovery, allowing the best work to shine through. The moment created by the creative space was the true prize.

In our session there grew a playfulness and a natural building up of ideas as serendipitous intersections occurred where a concept, channel, or stream could be cloned to adapt to a new business idea. Growing, it created momentum and provided a sense of space — room to roam. …


Why do I avoid the backlog and overflowing todo list? Why do I shove one more tool into a drawer already full of bits and bobs? Why do I squeeze yet another outfit into an overflowing closet? Because confronting this mess is hard work. It means making tough choices. Most of the time, I’d rather not decide.

To make sense of my environment, my work, my life — I need to confront the mess. Once the clutter is gone I know I’m left with just the essentials. Once the dust is clear, I can get to work.

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Cover image of the book. One of “keepers” after the book purge inspired by her methods.

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo explains that while the process of decluttering and cleaning your home is important to your physical wellbeing, the true outcome is happiness and clarity in your mind. The habit gives you the freedom to take responsibility for important decisions. …

About

Lance Willett

I’m a business executive, product manager, and software developer focused on creating high-quality and engaging experiences for people online.

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