The Imposter

I have teenagers. I hear about how much I suck on a regular basis.

But when my teenagers tell me I suck, it’s usually for something I’m pretty proud of: making them eat vegetables, do homework, save up their own money to buy something rather than buying it for them, ad parental nauseum.

The problem is, it isn’t usually the teenagers that have my ear.

Imposter syndrome is a helluva thing.


Imposter syndrome is what they call the feeling that you don’t belong or deserve the things you have. That your social status, your job, and anything else you have is completely and unequivocally unearned.

The feeling that you don’t deserve it.

That if the rest of the world only knew, they’d call you out as a fraud.

What if they knew that I pass off feelings and intuition for facts, like constantly. (You now know this, so read on with a critical eye.)

What if they knew I was a hick from nowhere. (Palouse region nowhere, thank you!)

That my “knowledge” was all off-hand bullshit I got from having not enough to do, and mostly came from being too lazy to get up from the computer.

Some say the best way to deal with imposter syndrome is to remember your empathy. That ALL people have similar self-doubts.

Frankly, it has never been a comfort for me to know that.


That only way I know how to combat imposter syndrome is to admit what I don’t do well, and hold myself to task on it. To shit, or get off the pot. Decide the priority on fixing it, and then get busy fixing it, or let it be.

Fundamentally, it comes down to giving myself permission. It’s perfectly acceptable to suck at some things. But the things I don’t want to suck at, I’ll work to improve.

A peach is a terrible apple, but both make wonderful pie.


In that vein of holding myself accountable, here’s a list of things I suck at.

I have a degree in English, with a concentration in creative writing from Western Washington University. With said degree, I have published nearly nothing. I don’t even blog all that often.

I still have pages I wrote twenty years ago. I recently read some, and it all sucked. It was preachy and self-important and one time, rather than using the world “mental” to describe a process happening in the mind, I made up a word.

“Mindic”.

In my word processor, there’s a red squiggly line that shows me that even my personal dictionary doesn’t include “Mindic” quite yet.


In tech, I suck at just about everything. Nearly all networking stuff. Kubernetes. Go and Ruby. Most programming languages that aren’t in my standard wheelhouse. Certificates. A lot of security stuff. Game development.

I do CrossFit five times a week, and after three years of doing it, I still suck at the following: double-unders, a pull up without a band, running faster than a 10 minute mile, Turkish Getups, Snatches, and pistols.

I am not a great boss. I’ve had many people report to me, and only a scant few of them are happy for it. Most simply tolerated it. Some had marked contempt for it.

I have 2 guitars that my uncle custom-made. I still can’t play anything beyond Mother from Danzig, or a slow version of Blind Melon’s No Rain.

I suck at cars, beyond checking the oil.

My wife rechecks the dishes after I wash them, to make sure they’re clean.

I’ve been told I need better aim in the bathroom.


See, the thing is, even after writing all that stuff out, it really isn’t all that bad. It ain’t my best work, but it’s honest.

If my boss (Hi Brian!) reads this blog and notices I’m not great at Kubernetes, well, I can work on that.

If my wife reads this and notices how the bathroom and dishes stuff was relegated to the bottom of the list, I’m sorry, and I’m working on it.

If my teenagers read this: Get back to your freaking homework! Eat more vegetables! And for the love of god stop begging for things and save up your allowance if you need it so damned much!

Photo Credit: Bobby McKay from Flickr
Used with permissions from the Creative Commons License 2.0

Coaching Moment – The Ivory Tower Slash Dungeon or You Are Not Your Product

I had a recent conversation with an engineer. He initially asked for feedback on a presentation he’d done during our SDETs meeting. He presented the data loading tool he and his teammate had created, and he did a great job in that demo.

I do love a demo.

I asked him about next steps though, trying to lean into some higher level discussions I’d had with others about his team. This particular engineer is part of a two man crew dedicated to load testing system at the Credit Union, and has been for a long time.

The system is written using a load testing framework that the vendor is deprecating. His partner and him are considered ‘the experts’ at using that framework at our organization, and are entirely siloed from everyone else.

Even if they could convince management to cough up to add heads to the team, that added body wouldn’t add value until a year or more of working in the framework they’ve created.

I described his silo as an “Ivory Tower.”

He responded “It doesn’t feel like a tower… more like a dungeon”


Engineers design systems to do a job within the constraints provided.

Give engineers a tough technical requirement and add the expectation they’ll run it with no help, and you end up with a monster.

A monster that’s scary as hell to everyone else, but entices you to stick around with:

  1. Job security in a volatile field.
  2. A sense of expertise in a tech environment that’s constantly changing.
  3. A sense of ownership in what you’re doing and building.

The monster might say: “It’s not really a dungeon. It’s a gated community.”

I’d say it’s an abusive relationship.


I recall my time at {Redacted} here. One of the developers there has been working on the same product there for well over 8 years.

He’s good at his job. A highly capable developer. He likes the company, and likes the people there.

They can’t risk having him do anything new at all though. He’s stuck.

When I left, he was leading two teams (mostly by example), both working on the same product, doing the same thing he was doing 8 years ago.

Worst still, the product is largely a commodity nowadays.

There are major platforms written here that will do what his product does, and do it faster, and with an actual support model if something goes sideways.

He forgot that his value was in the expertise, rather than the product.

{Redacted} is a good company, but it’s damned hard to see where he’ll go from there.


“Just try to keep an idea that load testing should be a product… rather than a person.”

That was the message I gave my Credit Union engineer, and I find it true about all engineers. It’s a message that engineers specifically need to know.

You are not your product.

Your value is not connected to your product’s value.

You’re more important than that.

Make sure you treat yourself accordingly, and more specifically, make sure you design systems to treat you accordingly.

Things That Require Zero Talent and Other Garbage

Have you ever seen a meme like this?

10 Things That Require Zero Talent
‘It’s YOUR fault you aren’t good enough!’

It’s absolutely a lie.

Every one of those things requires a great deal of talent.

However, it is not that magical ‘talent’ that makes you say “I just will never be as good at <<something>> as <<someone famous>>.”

The truth is: talent is not natural aptitude or skill. Talent is the result of a great deal of work that appears natural to the outside world.

That’s the trick. Talent LOOKS natural, but it isn’t.

Everyone of those listed “no talent required” items relies on a great deal of work with a massive support structure. They require preparation, support, and unseen (and often underappreciated) work.

Example: Being on time

  • Someone had to get your kids out of bed, and logged onto school.
  • Your commute needs to be reliable.
  • Your home needs to be stable.

Did all that happen by itself? Magically?

Example: Making an effort or being high energy and having a positive attitude?

Someone had to give you direction, so you know what you’re trying to do. Someone had to make you feel like your efforts would matter.

Where’s all this work accounted for in the ‘no talent required’ posters?

The being coachable one enrages me because it absolutely requires a great deal of effort. I posted specifically about how to do it. It ain’t easy!


Consider some of the most talented folks you know, whether or not you’re talking about music, athletics, or software development. How many of them sit around and not actively practice their “talent”?

Stephen King is one of the most talented and prolific writers on the planet. He told us how he does it in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It’s a wonderful and inspiring book.

Wanna know the secret about how he stayed so prolific? He wrote a lot. He needed a support structure for his writing: a teaching job early in his life, a very patient spouse, and in the end he wrote a lot. That’s all it was.

From a distance though, he’s looks talented.


Talent is the result of a great deal of work, combined with a great support structure. Remember to nurture both.

Goals Check-in, and a Streak broken.

Well, it’s been about a week, and some major items have happened on the goals front. From my one year goals, I have added a new column: Where I’m At. You don’t know how long it takes to get somewhere, unless you know where you’re starting.

1 Year / January 2022

CategoryGoalWhere I’m At
CareerCredit Union.
Principal Software Dev. Knowing what I’m trying to do, and who I’m helping.
XXK a year? *
96%.
Blog, 200 Followers21
HomeCondo: Owe $236K on it. Kitchen remodel completed.Refi complete.
HealthWeight 230-235, 20% body fat? Maybe down to 2 blood pressure pills?
Check if this is possible?
253lbs. (I wear it well? Ugh.)
5x a week Xfit
occasional weightlifting, running for 4-5 miles weekly
biking for 15+ miles biweekly.
5x Xfit.
Weightlifting on Sundays.
Biking for 10 miles
< Redacted > *Dr. Scheduled
TravelWalla Walla for a wine visit
Long Beach a few times.
FinanceRetirement accounts funded to legal maximum401K 85%.
IRA, 75%
Investing $250 per month$75
Full 2 months ahead in YNAB.1.25
FamilyHappy + Healthy.
Zoe should be driving (Sasha, most of the time.)
Generally.
PersonalGuitar LessonsUdemy courses purchased.
StuffNew PC, Downstairs wine fridgeNew PC achieved!
New TraegerSpec’d out!
KayaksSpec’d out!
* I redacted as none-of-ya-bizness.

The big thing so far is the new PC. That had been on my list for quite a while, and I was 90% of the way there when I had made the list up, but I wanted a quick win.

Built it up myself. I’ll wait for the 3070 to come out to upgrade the video card.

Funnily enough, one of the best features of adding this column is finding out the stuff I DON’T know. I don’t know my current percent body fat. Last I had it checked (near the beginning of the year), it was 23.9%. I’ll have to get another test on the books.

The weight will be the biggest test. Trying to drop 20 lbs while maintaining and upgrading the muscle mass is going to be a big challenge. Fortunately, I have about 15 months to do it.


Unfortunately, I did break the streak. On 9/7, I took the dogs to the park first thing in the morning, and completely forgot about my hand release push ups. Streak ended up at 48 days.

Oh well. I’ve got the streak back to 6 days, and I’m doing 3×18 now, so very much passing the 50 push ups a day milestone!

Checking In : Don’t Break the Streak

Well, since the don’t break the streak post, I have continued on my streak of hand release push ups. I’m currently on 40 days.

In order to move the chain up a bit, I’ve been adding one rep every 8 days or so. Today I did 3 x 16, and tomorrow should be a level up day.

It still takes about 5 minutes. The first two sets go fairly quickly.


One thing that keeps this one up is it’s time scale. 5 minutes, maybe a few more if I pad the rest session. Knowing ‘alright, it’s only 5 minutes’ makes it easy to quickly get through.

It’s certainly had some positive benefits as well. Push ups in WODs in CrossFit classes are SO MUCH EASIER right now.

The kids make a bit of a show out of it too. Nothing like being in the middle of a push up, and have a 120lb 12-year-old boy sit on your back and say “Keep going Dad!”

What Life Looks Like

I was listening to the Mapped Out Money podcast, and they mentioned a method for listing out goals, in sort of a road map. Personal goals broken out in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years. That method was about deciding what “life looks like”.

The idea within the podcast was to take what “life looks like”, and work back from there. E.g. Wanting to save $15K for a (I think it was a car down payment?) in 3 years, works to $5K a year, and $1250 every 3 months, etc.

So I thought I’d try it, and put it here to help hold myself accountable. I went ahead and padded my start by 4 months, to make everything start on January. Writing that down makes me realize how it was solely decorative to do that. Oh well, here goes:

1 Year / January 2022

CategoryGoal
CareerCredit Union. Principal Software Dev.
Knowing what I’m trying to do, and
who I’m helping.
XXK a year? *
Blog, 200 Followers
HomeCondo: Owe $236K on it.
Kitchen remodel completed.
HealthWeight 230-235, 20% body fat?
Maybe down to 2 blood pressure pills?
Check if this is possible?
5x a week Xfit
occasional weightlifting
running for 4-5 miles weekly
biking for 15+ miles biweekly.
< Redacted > *
TravelWalla Walla for a wine visit
Long Beach a few times.
FinanceRetirement accounts funded to legal maximum
Investing $250 per month
Full 2 months ahead in YNAB.
FamilyHappy + Healthy.
Zoe should be driving
(Sasha, most of the time.)
PersonalGuitar Lessons
StuffNew PC, Downstairs wine fridge
New Traeger
Kayaks

* I redacted as none-of-ya-bizness.

Career. I’ve only recently started at the Credit Union since February, 2020 and the slogging through COVID times makes me feel like it’ll be a bit before we get a ton moved along. I am hoping the blog picks up to 200 followers, mainly to increase the habit of writing.

Home: This one was easy. I just looked at my mortgage amortization table to see what I’d owe by then, figuring I’d make normal payments. We’ve saved for a remodel of the kitchen as well, and the plan is to have the remodel all the way done by then.

Health was the one I spent the most time specifically looking at defining specifically. I already check a lot of the boxes. I do CrossFit 5x a week. I’m close to 20% body fat (I think, I should get that rechecked.)

Travel: I don’t really have a lot of desire to travel too far right now. By January 2022, Walla Walla for a winery visit seems like a great idea, and I’ll go to Long Beach as often as I can, but big trips seem unwise.

Finance: I’m a personal finance nerd, so the first one is a no-brainer, and I’m absolutely loving YNAB so pushing myself to get to a 2nd full month completely budgeted will be a real stretch, but the investment account has never been the highest priority for me. Time to change that.

If you’ve never heard of YNAB, check it out here. If you want to subscribe to YNAB, use my referral link and they’ll give me a free month. It is really a game changer in terms of the way you think about budgeting though. It’s already paid for itself 4 times over by the way I use my cash-back credit card now.

Family: I didn’t have a lot of goals here. I just want everyone happy and healthy. I kinda think they should set their own goals here. I’ll probably tell them to do so.

Personal: I have never been very serious about my guitars. I think this next year I can get around to setting up some lessons.

Stuff: I’m not really a “stuff” guy. I like having less stuff, but there are a few things I’ve been genuinely thinking about. A new PC because my current desktop is 8+ years old (I build BIG PCs, so they tend to last.) A wine fridge downstairs, because I hate not having one down there (we have 2 upstairs, and keep ~80 bottles, but having table wine available in the dining room would be nice. The Traeger I have is 12 years old, rusting through, and the wife would like to be able to grill more. They have a combo smoker-grill I’ve been looking at. Finally, I think it’d just be too fun to get some inflatable kayaks so I can walk across the road and paddle over into Lake Washington.

3 Years / January 2024

CategoryGoal
CareerCredit Union.
Happy in my job.
Knowing what I’m trying to do,
and who I’m helping.
XXK * a year?
Blog, 2500 followers
1 Book Written (Published?)
HomeCondo. Owe <$200K on it.
HealthWeight 215-220,
17% body fat?
Maybe 1 blood pressure pill
5x a week Xfit
occasional weightlifting
running for 10-15 miles weekly
biking for 25+ miles biweekly.
TravelWine trips to Chelan
Walla Walla
maybe Oregon?
FinanceRetirement accounts funded to legal maximum.
Investing account $600 per month
5 months ahead in YNAB
FamilyHappy + Healthy.
Zoe should be in College.
Lydia driving?

* I redacted as none-of-ya-bizness

Not much changed in 3 years. I’m still planning on working at the Credit Union. I may be in my same Principal role, but maybe I take over a business unit? Or move into Architecture? Or take my bosses’ job… who knows.

I know I want my blog following to get bigger, and ideally, my writing to get to a point where I have put a book together. I don’t know how to do that yet, but I’ve read a lot of crummy books, so it can’t be that hard.

I really only bumped up some of the numbers on Home, Health and Finance figuring that was just a longer trail to the same thing. I’m hoping to have put more cash against my mortgage, so that I chip that down a bit more, and move more money into the investing account. Getting 5 months ahead in YNAB would be pretty darned incredible, but in 3 years, it seems doable.

Stuff seemed needless to think about (it’s just stuff, ya know?) I did want to do some more wine trips though, specifically through Oregon and Lake Chelan.

5 Years / January 2026

CategoryGoal
CareerBECU. Happy in my job.
Knowing what I’m trying to do,
and who I’m helping.
XXK * a year?
Blog, 15000 followers
1 Book Written and Published
Speaking at conferences?
HomeCondo. Owe <$160K on it.
HealthWeight 210 +- 1%, 16% body fat.
Generally quite active.
TravelNew Zealand
FinanceRetirement accounts funded to legal maximum.
Investing $1000 per month
FamilyHappy + Healthy.
Zoe and Lydia in College as students.
Emerson Driving.

* I redacted as none-of-ya-bizness

Big changes in 5 years. I’m hoping to have a book written and finished, and with 15K followers on a blog, maybe have enough folks who may actually buy the thing. Regularly speaking at conferences too. I do so irregularly now, so in 5 years, becoming someone who is requested to talk would be great.

Health goals were simplified a bit. I’m not really thinking about specifics anymore. Just being someone you’d describe as ‘quite active.’ Investing is still moving forward at a solid clip.

I would like to visit New Zealand in 5 years to wine taste through their Sauvignon Blancs. That was about all I could think to add.

10 Years / January 2031

CategoryGoal
CareerXX* K / year. Loving what I do.
2 Books Written and Published
HomeCondo – Paid for and renting out. Living in Seaview?
HealthWeight 190 +- 1%, 14-16% body fat.
Generally quite active.
FinanceInvesting bulk of income.
FamilyHappy + Healthy. Emerson in College.

* I redacted as none-of-ya-bizness

The 10 year goals are pretty high level. 2 books written and published. Probably working at the Credit Union, but regardless, loving what I do. Condo is paid off and maybe being rented out, while Heather and I live somewhere else (I mentioned Seaview, because that seems the most likely destination right now.)

It’s a pretty big jump on the weight side, but 20 pounds in 5 years isn’t THAT big of a drop, and I’ll be over 50 by then, so being smaller will definitely have its benefits. Financially, hopefully I’ll be investing most of my income.

Those are my goals. The nearer ones are more specific, and more easily actionable, and SMART folks will notice each of them generally has a number associated with it so I can figure out whether or not I’ve achieved it. The 10 year goals are pretty non-specific. Even something like ‘investing bulk of income’ could just mean 51%.

I hope this post inspires you to think about your own goals. I know I’m thinking about ’em.

The Power of a Great Demo

I went to school at Western Washington University and got a degree in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. In damn near every writing class, you’d hear the same 3 words. Show, don’t tell.

Independent of writing style, a scene inspires and communicates more. A quick example:

Version 1:
Bob was hurt and furious after Marie’s “I miss you.” text. “2 months and this shit?” he thought.
vs
Version 2:
The phone buzzed. A text. Marie: “I miss you.” Bob’s eyes watered a bit as he tapped the 3 dots, and hit ‘Block.’


I bring “Show, don’t Tell” up because, although it’s been embedded in my brain for the past ~20 years, a recent beer-night conversation with a friend (Hi Branden!) reminded me of those words. He was talking about the power of a good demo. Having tech to show off is simply more compelling than a simple conversation.

If you want to try something new, or convince someone of your idea, remember Branden and his idea. Show, don’t tell.


A developer I’ve been coaching finally executed a great demo on Angular for our weekly developer meeting. She spent nearly 3 months learning Angular. Her demo contained a soup to nuts implementation of a site, including tests, test coverage, a CI / CD pipeline deploying the site all the way to an azure site. She did this demo over the course of 45 minutes.

I was thinking about what sort of conversation it would be if she didn’t have the full demo. Maybe 5 minutes? Maybe she’d have been overruled, or even redirected to another technology.

But a full demo? She had the whole group listening.

Power Through, Part 2

As I left you in part one, I was in a pretty poor state. I was 34, 320 pounds, and I had been diagnosed with an extreme blood pressure event and congestive heart failure. Since I was still up and mobile, the doctor decided to start with drug treatments to clear out my lungs and get my blood pressure to a reasonable state.

I remember him saying that if the fluid didn’t clear on the drugs, I’d have to go in to the hospital. The fluid cleared.

I don’t remember taking a day off of work.


Early December of 2017. I was picking up Heather from her CrossFit gym. While she finished up the last of her workout, the owner of the gym approached me about a “new years new goal” thing.

For $100 bucks, I’d get daily access to the gym and a meal plan to follow for 3 months.

That gym owner had sponsored my daughters’ softball team for 3 straight years. I knew I wasn’t in the greatest shape, but I figured I owed him. So what the hell.

First thing was a meal plan date. I sat in a room with about a dozen and a half other folks talking about meal planning. Some folks were hardcore athletes, basically looking to bulk up and grow muscles. The rest were normal ‘trying to get fit’ folks. Folks that weren’t out of shape at all, but wouldn’t mind looking for a bit more than your standard “New Years Resolution.”

Then there was me and two others. We were the Bigguns. I was still over 300lbs but the other guy made me look small. He was 6’8″, and probably 360lbs. His wife made up the last of our group. Topping out at 5’4″, she was near 225lbs at least.

We had a long road.


To be continued…

Awesome Sauvignon Blancs

I’m a fan of Sauv Blancs. I drink a lot of wine from Washington, but I’ve been recently opening up my palette to New Zealand Sauv Blancs. I love a bright acidic push. I love the cool mid palette rush of New Zealand, but the dull fruit of Washington has a wonderful place.

Here are the Sauv Blanc’s I’ve been happiest with this past year.

I haven’t found a California one worth the hype yet.

Heather sitting under the Pergola, last year at Tildio.

Fidelitas Tasting Notes – 7/31

I got an email the other day advertising Fidelitas’ Canyons Malbec. I had to head in for a tasting!

2019 Red Mountain Semillon – Honeysuckle and creamy. Just a hint of acidic fruit on the finish.

2019 Optu White Blend – Gourgous and perfect for a hot day. I would have opened the tasting with it if I could have. Light floral nose. Beautifully fruity mid palate, with a hint of strawberry and peaches. Delicate finish. Outstanding stuff.

2017 Red Mountain Merlot – A standard Big Red Merlot from Washington. Lovely, but not what I was looking for that day.

2017 Optu Red Mountain Red Blend – Dark. Minerals and chocolate. A hint of plum on the finish. I felt a bit silly sitting outside on an 85 degree day in Woodinville drinking it. This felt like a good November evening wine.

2017 The Canyons Malbec – This was what I came to try. Nose was all dark fruit and baking spices. Palate was blackberries and honey. Just enough tannins to take notice. Long long long finish.