Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

Currently Consuming
  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
  • The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    by Daniel Coyle
  • Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow

Paul Tevis


Writing, But Not What I Expected

If you follow me on Google+ or are friends with me on Facebook, you might be wondering, “What’s up with all the poetry?”

About a year ago, Gwen and I got involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a medieval and Renaissance history group that recreates most aspects of pre-1600 European life (except the Black Death). And by “got involved,” I mean that it’s now our primary leisure-time activity. We’re having a fantastic time with it, and given the breadth and depth of our activities, it’s hard to believe that we’ve only been doing it for a little more than a year. Case in point: Two weeks ago we attended a Yule celebration co-hosted by two groups in the Los Angeles area, the Barony of Altavia and the Barony of the Angels. During the feast, they held a competition to determine their respective bardic champions, i.e. the singer, musician, poet, or storyteller that each of these groups wished to represent and serve them for the coming year. At the encouragement of a friend of mine, I decided to enter, with a performance that I’d describe as storytelling interspersed with song. The result, to my utter surprise, was that I was named the next Bard of the Angels.

Now, I’d been curious about medieval poetry already, particularly because so much of it is tied to the music of the period, but this increased the urgency of learning more. So, since I learn best by doing, I’ve decided to write a poem in a period form for each day that I serve as Seraph Bard (as the bardic champion of the Barony of the Angels is sometimes styled). Each month I’m going to pick a different poetic form to experiment with. (December’s form is the rondeau simple, also called a triolet.) The genesis for each poem comes from something that day. At the end of the year, I plan to collect all of them and present them in book form to my patrons, the Baron and Baroness of the Angels.

So that should clear that up.


Listening To Myself

Living authenticity. Admitting vulnerability. Following your fear.

I’ve been circling these ideas for months now. They’ve got a certain power over me, and they’ve been a through-line in the tangled constellation of thoughts I’ve been been having in the waning half of this year. I don’t have a Grand Unified Theory of “Being Your Real Self By Embracing Those Things You’re Afraid Of” but I think its little brother is following me around.

In the last twenty-four hours I’ve read half a dozen blog posts from people whom I admire in which they talk honestly about problems they’re facing, doubts they’re confronting, fears they’re acknowledging. In those words, I see a courage that I admire and that I aspire to. I see people being who they really are, honestly admitting their fears, honestly assessing the difficulties they are facing (and not whining about them). About eighteen months ago my brain stumbled across what I believe to be my personal motto: “With intensity and integrity.” That is how I see these people living. They inspire me to do the same.

This blog is supposed to be a place where I’m reflective in exactly that kind of way, and I’m conscious of how little I’ve been doing that. I keep telling myself that I’m busy Doing Stuff, which is a Good Thing, and so I don’t really need to let people know what I’m thinking. That misses the point, really, which is that writing here is really for myself. Yes, if I’m willing to honestly assess where I’m at and write truthfully about that, other people will find something in those words that they can take for themselves. But the person I’m really shortchanging by not writing here is me.

I want to tell myself that I’m going to stop doing that, and yet I know that I can’t say that with certainty. It’s a thing that I feel destined to struggle with. It will do what it has always done; it will come and go in cycles. I’ll ride a wave of writing a lot for a while, feeling good about what I’m doing. Something will happen, a routine will change, a rhythm will change, and the momentum will go the other way for a while. But there is one thing that I now realize will be constant: When I’m not writing and I feel like I should be, I’m right.

Time to listen.


Owning Failure

Last night, I discovered I’d made a rookie brewing mistake and ruined the five batches of beer I brewed in July. This post is me taking my failure bow.

Short version: When sanitizing my bottles, I didn’t give them enough time to dry, leading to a significant flavor of sanitizer in my beer. Oops.

This mistake came at a particularly opportune time, as I’ve been reading The Gifts of Imperfection, which talks about the importance of acknowledging that we make mistakes. In that process, we have to keep in mind that:

  • “I want to be better. != “I can’t make a mistake.”
  • “I made a mistake.” != “I am a mistake.”
  • “I am not perfect.” != “I am not worthy of love and belonging.”

Do I like that ruined five gallons of beer? No. But there’s nothing I can do about that now. What I can do is surrender the feeling that “I am wrong” by acknowledging that “I did something wrong.” I can decide to do something to move forward, rather than dwell on something I can’t change. I can choose to own my failure, to be vulnerable in such a way that it no longer has power over me.

So: [arms up] [dumb-ass grin] Thank you! I have failed! [bow]

Now to make some more beer.


Unpacking In Progress

I’m back from Agile2013 in Nashville, which did all sorts of fun things to my head.

The last time I attended, in 2010, I was very new to Agile, so attending the conference was like drinking from the firehose. Almost everything I encountered then was new, so I had to work hard to catch it all. This time was a little different. I had a much stronger background coming in, which meant that most of the learning I did involved integration. I didn’t encounter many ideas that were radically new to me, but I did see connections between things that I hadn’t noticed before. It helped me build a much stronger, more cohesive and coherent framework of thought. And that was fantastic.

I’ll likely be writing more about specific sessions I attended and conversations I had as I process them.


Ears Open, Mouth Closed

This has been my most silent week of work ever.

On Monday, I started my job as an Agile Coach at AppFolio. The first thing I have had to get used to is that I’m not writing code. This job is an opportunity to step fully into the coaching and facilitative role that I’ve said that I want, which is vaguely terrifying in and of itself. It’s also led to the second thing I’ve had to get used to: It’s far more useful for me to listen than it is for me to speak. I’m in a staff position, rather than in the line of production. My job is to be of service to the team, to help them get more of what they want. So I need to listen, to observe, to soak up what’s going on and how things work. I need to see what normal is and what that implies. I need to not start by assuming I know what changes should be made and simply speak from my own perspective. In time, I will start asking powerful questions and offering suggestions for improvement, but for now I mostly need to keep quiet, to watch and to listen.

For those of you who know me, you can understand how hard this is.