My musings about .NET and what not

The “Back from Summer Vacation” Post

Maybe you’re wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. The again, maybe you’re not. (If you have any sort of life whatsoever, I’m willing to bet it’s the latter.) Doesn’t matter, because I’m going to tell you anyway.

You may have noticed there were no blog posts from me last month. There’s a very good reason for that. It’s because, in true European fashion, August is when I typically indulge in a nice, long summer vacation.

Make no mistake – for me, taking a vacation is a huge sacrifice. There is the two solid weeks of 12-hour days beforehand, preparing and getting ahead on stuff that can’t easily sit for too long while I’m gone.

And of course, the inevitable game of catch-up afterward – stacks of unopened envelopes, dozens of unreturned phone calls, and literally thousands of emails.

Of course, vacations can get pretty expensive, not to mention the fact that when I don’t bill time, I don’t get paid.


Despite all this, I would never, ever consider skipping vacation. I consider vacation time a vital part of staying as productive as possible.

“Productive?” you ask. “How can not working make you more productive?”

Well, as it turns out, I’ve learned something over 25 years or so of being self-employed: only electronic gadgets get recharged from being plugged in. Human beings, on the other hand, recharge from being unplugged.

And boy oh boy, do I unplug.

For the past six years, I’ve spent my vacation pretty much the same way:

Now, I realize taking in 3,500 miles of road from the saddle of a bike is not everyone’s idea of a good time. Does this scare me sometimes? You bet it does. Does it hurt? You bet it does. Does it make me feel proud, brave, and noble? You bet it does.

I don’t think it much matters what you do on vacation, as long as it’s something you enjoy doing, and as long as it’s as totally unrelated from your everyday work life as possible. Shop. Gamble. Visit friends. Plant a garden. Climb a mountain. See some ball games. Take a self-guided tour of your favorite Florida strip clubs. Something. Anything. Just go.

I think everyone has, at one time or another, had the misfortune of knowing or working with someone who doesn’t take vacations – or even worse, someone who brings work on vacation (which is no a vacation at all, but rather what I like to call a fakecation). These people tend to be irritable, edgy, and burned out. They tend to be hard to get along with. They are hard on everyone around them, precisely because they are so damned hard on themselves.

Maybe this person is a family member. Maybe it’s a colleague. Maybe it’s your boss.

Maybe it’s you.

Anyway, it’s now September, and I’m back and rarin’ to go. I’ve got a million ideas for great new blog posts, I’m digging into some cool projects, and I’ve got a freshly-paved “learning roadmap” that should take me well into next year. And hopefully, if things go well, I’ll be starting a full-length book project soon (hush hush, that’s out little secret for now).

I missed you guys. I hope you missed me too.

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    1. Anthony avatar

      Welcome back Lee, keep the posts coming! :-)

      Anthony — September 2, 2009 12:20 AM
    2. abby, the hacker chick blog avatar

      Awww, I'm sorry I missed you while you were up here breaking for moose (did you see any??) but I hope you had an awesome time!

      And sooooo true on the vacation thing. I actually like living up here in the middle of nowhere because I can just step out my door and feel very far from all things technology.

      But, yes, it's totally important to get down time AWAY from what we do. The book The Power of Full Engagement has some good stuff on this - that our brains, like any other muscle in our bodies, only grow during recovery (not while we're pumping iron). Or just read anything about creativity and it says that part of the creative process is "incubation" which is a fancy word for "not thinking about the problem."

      So, glad you got your vacation. Now where the hell am I gonna go? :-)

      abby, the hacker chick blog — September 2, 2009 12:10 PM
    3. Jon Bach avatar

      "Only electronic gadgets get recharged from being plugged in. Human beings, on the other hand, recharge from being unplugged."

      I must be an electronic gadget. I can recharge by plugging in to my work -- I can find analogies between my job as a test manager and life; I can recharge when I solve a problem (or try to solve one); I can recharge when I help one of my staff come up with an idea. I can recharge when everybody says in a meeting "this can't be done" and on and on.

      I usually go home feeling energized, not drained.

      There's a saying: "if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life." And I love what I do. I often bring work home and my wife understands my need to tell stories and sort things out in a different environment. She knows that exploring the fascinating marriage of humanity and technology is a big part of who I am.

      Yes, there are those who bring work on vacation and are surly about it. So what? Help them through it, don't try to talk them out of it. To do so is to deny their nature, especially if they are indeed hard on themselves.

      In my experience, vacations are more necessary for people who drag all day at work, show up late and leave early, who are late on deadlines with poor excuses, and who tend to be non-communicative to others on the team.

      In other words, vacations seem to be more important for people who do not love their job.

      I love when people like that go on vacation. It makes work more enjoyable for the rest of us. :)

      Jon Bach — September 2, 2009 2:00 PM
    4. Lee Dumond avatar

      @jon -- I hear you... I used to be like you. And I had a lot of friends who were like that too.

      I don't know how old of a fella you are, but I'm on the downhill side of my 40s. Getting older changes your attitude about a lot of things. You start to comtemplate your mortality a bit more. You cultivate other interests. Your priorities change.

      I do feel bad for my friends who didn't get a chance to grow old enough to figure that out; but as they say, stress is a killer.

      Lee Dumond — September 2, 2009 2:19 PM
    5. Jon Bach avatar

      Thanks for posting my reply, Lee, and for the quick response. I'm 41, and I've been a software tester for 14 years. Oh, I 've been on some two doozy DeathMarch projects where I longed for vacations I did not take -- but that was because I did not have a healthy relationship with my job (or my managers) at the time.

      But when I look back on the jobs I loved (almost all), I do not remember a stitch of stress despite not taking vacation time.

      My dad has a saying: "the more I want to get something done, the less I call it 'work'." He also told me "if you want to make hard things easy, make them fun." These are two ways I keep the romance between me and my job, almost every day. But believe me, when enough days go by at work where I can't do either or both of these, you will find me longing for time off -- or better yet, looking for a new gig that can refuel me more often than it drains me.

      I guess my point is that reminding people to take time off from work makes no sense to me. Maybe it's just that I don't know what problem you're trying to solve.

      If it's to rescue placators, enablers, or compulsive workaholics (people with unhealthy relationships with their jobs), then I can see your point -- they might need a dose of perspective.

      As for the opposite type (like me), if you're implying that there are hidden dangers of loving our jobs to the point of not wanting time away from it, I'll ask you the favor of elaborating your concerns there.

      Jon Bach — September 3, 2009 12:16 AM
    6. Lee Dumond avatar

      Excuse me for saying so Jon, but you sound a little wound up. Maybe you need to take a... awww, never mind. ;)

      Lee Dumond — September 3, 2009 11:03 AM
    7. Jon Bach avatar

      No offense taken. It's a simple misunderstanding -- what you call "wound up", I call "passionate."

      Good thing you were born too late to tell William Wallace to just take some time off and relax about the whole Longshanks thing...? ;)

      Jon Bach — September 3, 2009 2:08 PM

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