Thursday, February 3, 2011

Light Yourself on Fire

I'm not a pyromaniac, just so we're clear. Starting a new blog, where the first post connects to an old video blog I wrote while working as a "Nooglerista" at Google last summer is probably in the standard list of Blogging-101-No-No's. Nevertheless, the last post in my old blog was inspired by one of my favorite quotes of all time:

"Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire." 
~Arnold H. Glasgow

It was a rosy video tying off my summer adventures, full of cheesy puns related to fire, like "kindling" and even "gasoline." While I still use the quote as a guiding mantra, there's a bit of risk; it may inspire you to dive off the deep end, leave the known, and ... be in a little over your head.

This blog will capture me being a bit in over my head. It's sure to be full of cool designs I stumble upon, insights gleamed from the tech start-up world, and delectable food and wine I devour. A melting pot, I guess (just can't get away from those cheesy fire puns!). The newest adventure is leaving my Computer Science grad program in Colorado early, to move out to San Francisco and join a start-up. And as many great adventure stories begin, this one starts with a walk.

"Go for a walk." It may be the single greatest piece of advice on the planet, and is likely the top response I give to people who seek my advice. If life gets sticky, a co-worker is ticking you off, you can't decide what project to work on next ... vacate the building. Find fresh air. And walk. If you're up for it, snag a friend. You might be tempted to think that walks are a waste of time -- after all, if you're in over your head, surely dropping everything for 30 minutes is counter productive?

I take a different stance. Walks are a strategic part of my routine. It's amazing what a little adrenaline can do to your thought process. Here are couple of concrete ideas I regularly subscribe to. 1) If possible, schedule 1:1s as "walking meetings." My old manager at Google would often do this with me, and it allowed us to bond more as mentor-mentees and hash through difficult topics away from everyone in the office. 2) Jot distracting ideas on a "walking Post-it" as they come up during the day. Don't let unrelated items interrupt your work flow; simply collect them on a Post-it, and promise a walk later to churn though them. 3) Practice giving your speeches while walking. Ok, calm down all you debate experts! The "mirror" practice has value too. Walking will simulate some of the live speech effects better: a hint of adrenaline, slightly out of breath, etc. The best part? You can use people passing by your path as practice viewers (more realistic eye contact than the rubber ducks reflected in your bathroom mirror!). Not to mention, you'll weird-out a few onlookers by talking to yourself in public, which is always delightful.

Today, I took a swig of my own advice, after waking up to the realization that my new job begins Monday. I decided to tour the area near my office on foot. Just me, the sea air, and the farmers market by the Ferry Building, where I promptly annihilated a hot, wood-fired Pizza Politana. Divine. These next months will be me living out a life I've set aflame. Probably about time I invest in fire extinguishers. 


  1. Katie, you inspire me! Having known you in person (not just via the "cloud"), I already knew you were vibrant, full of life, and always ready for the next adventure. However, in reading of your decision to drop school, move to SF, join a start up, and generally swim upstream, I am more in awe than ever. Your fire metaphor is absolutely perfect, don't think otherwise. In a world of dull, bland people, you have chosen to burn brightly as a torch! Best of luck to you! If I'm ever in SF (likely) I'd love to meet up and get a "local's" perspective :)


    P.S. While I say you inspire me, unfortunately at this point in my life it feels like more of a, I like the idea of what you're doing. Just like white people like the idea of soccer, or TED talks:)

  2. Definitely keep me posted on when you will (likely) be in SF, as I would be delighted to attempt a "locals" tour with you. haha. Keep in touch -- I always love hearing your updates Landon!