Funemployment [fuhn-em–ploi–mənt] –noun :
The art of making unemployment fun.
Funemployment took me from my return from Nepal and Tibet through the holiday season & new year. I can’t recommend it enough. Up until this break, I haven’t ever not worked since I was about 16.
You know those projects that build up? Sometimes they’re silly things like organize my desk, get rid of books I don’t read anymore, de-clutter the cupboards, redesign my blog.
Everyone has these.
For me, they’re more often than not along the lines of, “What if my Lego Mindstorms robot could place a beer on my Roomba, and the Roomba could drive it over to me?” or “What if my refrigerator were smart about its inventory and could let me know what I needed to buy and when?” or “What if I could correlate eating certain things to feeling a certain way?” They’re not lifelong quests, usually just short projects. But they are things that a) pile up over time and b) I never have had time for due to having a time-consuming job.
Funemployment, as it turns out, is a great time to take care of those things.
I travelled to Nepal and Tibet, which I’ve already written about, but also to Spain, Paris, New York and home to St. Louis to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I worked on three mobile applications I have wanted to build for a long time. I starting creating my own company for contract and consulting work. I streamlined my home office and picked up some new tech and gadgets. I began learning new styles of cooking including Mexican, Southern American, Japanese and slow-cooking. I reorganized closets, recipes, books, CDs, the whole kitchen, and basically the entire house. I went out a lot. I stayed home a lot, too. I spent lots of quality time with family and friends. I became obsessed with my Xbox Kinect and the opportunities it presents. I tried new restaurants and new cafes. I stitched up all my socks with holes in them (I’m very proud of this one).
And I read. A lot. I constantly tear through magazines, and I found some new ones to fall in love with. During Funemployment I read mostly technology books, but also non-fiction and some good fiction as well. I have a few books I will review on the blog later, but I want to call out one specifically here: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. Having led technology teams before, I was already well aware that money is a poor motivator and that autonomy, trust and respect are much more useful in helping someone develop and produce great work. However, this book goes beyond that, with fascinating real-life examples and insightful ideas to consider in terms of motivating both yourself and your team. A great summary video of the book was done by RSA Animate and can be found here.
But my favourite takeaway from Drive is a concept called “The Sagmeister.” Pink named the concept after designer Stefan Sagmeister who closes his shop every seven years and takes a 365-day sabbatical. The idea is that since retirement is very far away, wouldn’t it be great to intersperse it with our normal life? Pink writes about Sagmeisters and Stefan’s TED talk here on his blog. I read this book during a day-long bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara, where we were going to start our trek. At the time, Sagmeisters seemed like a luxurious and frivolous idea. Definitely something that would be impossible to do if you had a career in a fast-paced field like technology. After several long days of hiking and loads of time to think, I concluded it was completely reasonable and probably highly useful. I even calculated how much I’d need to save per month to make this happen five years from now.
Mostly, it made me realize that I, not Stefan Sagmeister, was the crazy one for waiting until now to take some time off. I really treasured those couple of months and highly recommend it to anyone.