I’ve been podcasting.

One of them is on SoundCloud and one of them is on Anchor.

They’re both on iTunes. (We Cobble HQ / PAM)

We Cobble HQ is almost exclusively about running my new business. I love making it on Anchor and it takes me around five minutes a day to make and publish.

PAM is around 10 minutes a week and it covers a wide range of topics. It’s my personal outlet to decompress from a tough seven days.

Give either a listen or one. They’re fun.

We are nothing more than wind chasers.

It’s getting a lot more comfortable being silent. I used to think that I needed to write often; share every single expensive meal; check in at every single airport that I visited.

And then something happened.

One of the things that you learn in the countryside is that at any moment, with no notice, the electricity may go out from morning until sunset. 

There is no warning. There is no heads up. It just happens and we adapt to it because it’s the new normal for us. I used to hate when this happened, and while I cannot pretend that I enjoy it at all, I’m a lot more comfortable with the fact that it happens now. It’s not something that I can control. It is out of my hands.

Life has been a lot like that lately. I wake up, I care for my wife, feed my cat, bond with my mother-in-law, and I work as hard as I possibly can to provide for my family as both a husband and a son-in-law.

I don’t have much time to pontificate and I don’t have any time for negativity. I only have time to either make stuff or take care of others, including the farm animals next door. I only have time to run my business and take care of my staff or to rest. I have no time for shallow thought. I have no time for idle hands. And it feels good.

I just wrote “my business”.

Around six weeks ago I took over the position of CEO at Professional Themes. I bought my partner out because I felt like there was no longer any traction in the relationship. Partnerships are like marriages. Do not ever believe anyone who says otherwise.

Our focus on WordPress was falling to the wayside and our efficacy with client services was abysmal. A change needed to happen and that meant either leaving or taking over.

I’m too old and too tired to leave again. So there was only one viable option. To take over the company, gain 100% ownership, and press on and push on to build cool things for the Internet. That’s always been my life’s mission. That will never change.

The last six weeks have been among the hardest of my life. And that includes the time that my father died in 2009. 

These last six weeks have been incredibly difficult. I cannot begin to put the level of strain and pressure that they have put on my mind into adequate words. 

But the good news is that it’s almost over and I can slowly and confidently get back into the business of making things that I love instead of dealing with lawyers, accountants, and paperwork. My life during the last seven months was literally lawyers, accountants, and paperwork. It was awful but it is over as all things are if enough time is given to them.

There’s also some other cool news. 

I bought my wife an iPad, an Apple Pencil, and begged her to use her imagination to make things that she would love to see in the iOS native messaging app.

She has already made three sticker packs that I am preparing for submission to the App Store and I could not be more excited about it. 

My wife is the Alpha creative in the family. She’s a wonderful singer and does not give herself enough credit for how creative she can be with nothing more than a tablet and an electronic pencil. She owns a fashion shop. She dreams in color.

I have also started a relationship with an F&B company that makes absolutely stunning photography for restaurants and also in-house jobs. 

We will be selling those as stock photos soon. There are literally thousands of shots that I have been going through and every single one makes me go Wow.

I feel free.

I lost a friend in the process, which is something that they always tell you will happen if you go into partnership with a friend, but I feel free.

I feel like I can breathe. I feel like I can do things at my own pace and at my own sense of urgency and importance. I feel like I can take care of my staff in the way that I need to. My stress levels have dropped precipitously.

And I could not have asked for a better number two on my team. His loyalty is unshakable. I hit the jackpot with him. Had it not been for his email more than a year or two ago, I would have never put my trust in him to take over much of the work that I have been doing for the last 10 years. He is as loyal to me as a family member. My number two is everything.

Not to mention my wife. She is literally working for free, building the most amazing stickers and iOS application ideas that I have seen in a while, and taking direction and advice from me as any other intern or staff would. She is the ideal companion when it comes to work.

I love her so much for that.

Sacrifice. Everyone on my team now is giving a little now to get back a lot later. This is what I have always wanted so badly. And now we have it.

A team of people dedicated to making amazing work no matter the outcome, no matter the risk, and no matter the sacrifice involved. It feels good. We never talk about money, sales, deadlines, or any of that nonsense. All we talk about is making cool stuff. We follow our mission and we ignore the noise.

My wife and I continue to try to have a child and if we are unable to successfully make it happen naturally we will just do it by science, and soon. IUI. Soon. Super-soon.

I got fat again and I am losing weight again or at least trying to. It’s amazing what business stress can do to the body.

My energy levels are low but they are getting better and I feel peace inside of my heart. That is all I can ask for really. Peace. 

My sleep habits are terrible but I made a promise to my wife that I would change them and I made a promise to my confidant and best friend, the one who I lean on whenever I have problems, that I would make a change in how I sleep. That’s two levels of accountability that I cannot ignore.

My cat is cute.

The mountains are fresh.

I love my mother-in-law as a mother. I do not even call her mother-in-law. I call her Mommy. I love my wife. I love my life.

The last six weeks have been so hard and I have never been more satisfied. I don’t know what will happen with our themes, I don’t know what will happen with our sticker packs, I don’t know what will happen with the applications that we are building, and I don’t know how well the stock photos that I am preparing will do, but none of that really matters at this point.

All that matters is that things are going well, I lead a wonderful team, I partner with amazing people across the globe from Poland to Bangladesh to Vietnam to America, and I work on things that I love every single day. And I do mean every single day.

I trust that whatever outcome happens from the work that we do will be exactly the outcomes that we deserve. I will take all of the losses and I will give my team all of the wins. That is what leaders should do.

I take no days off because I don’t deserve that yet. I don’t deserve anything yet. I haven’t won anything. I deserve to shut up and work. That’s it.

A lot has changed in the last four or five years. The one thing that I have realized has stayed the same is my steadfast commitment to staying true to my feelings and my sense of right and wrong. When it feels wrong I turn the light off and when it feels right I stick with it.

Everything feels so right. It’s been a while since I felt this way. I am a very fortunate man who lives a very lucky life and I have absolutely no room or moral authority to complain about a single shred of my day, even on the hard days.

2017: Personal

This is the side I usually share but once a year. 2016 was transitional. That’s another way of saying awfully hard and sometimes outright cruel. Here’s a look back, so that I may enter Twenty Seventeen having closed this year snugly and with no more desire to reflect.

The Professional will come soon. 40 minutes of 1-take me me me is enough for a Monday in the mountains.

(Previously: 20162015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011)

Mid-Year Update, and WordPress Thoughts

As I age my tolerance for sitting for hours and typing is diminishing. So I’ll try something new. All of these were done in 1 take, with the exception of one due to my wife’s giggle-fits, and I haven’t reviewed them.

Unfiltered and honest. That’s all I can promise.

Intro

Life post-Automattic

My diminished role with _s now

What’s my role at Professional Themes?

Thoughts on “commercial” shops and how we communicate licensing to our customers

Advice for anyone applying to or working at a remote company

2016

Every major change in my life has been filled with grey areas that usually fall between opposing feelings of resentment and appreciation, anger and acceptance, bitterness and nostalgia.

I hated Rice University for its lack of diversity, rich kids get drunk to have fun culture, and for how isolated I felt. But without it I would have never met two of my best friends or studied abroad in Vietnam twice, eventually making it home. I needed the bad to get me to the better.

Sometimes I struggle with anger and bitterness over investing so much of my energy into Automattic when I had that kind of energy to give, but without those several years I would have never reached this position in the WordPress community or gained the confidence to build from scratch again. I also know that I would have never met another best friend for life and seen other interesting parts of the world. I needed the company to teach me how to sharpen my craft but also teach me how much I needed to slow down and gain balance. Given the chance, I would never work there again, not even for a second, but I would in a heartbeat tell others to join the company because inside of it are incredible individuals. It’s a remarkable experience.

Examples are endless. I regret my relationship with my father but after his death I have been filled with nostalgia for days in Kilgore, Texas, with him, eating white bread and ham and macaroni and cheese and candied yams and buttermilk pie and collard greens.

And I feel guilt for investing the last twelve years of my life so much into Vietnam when America has moved on without me. Nephews are becoming taller, my grandmother and mother are getting older, and society “back home” is becoming hardly recognizable. But everyone in my family from top to bottom supports me and I need to be here, most of the time anyway, for inner okayness.

Most things are grey and there are mostly no absolutes. I am learning that black and white, 0 and 1, yes and no, hate and love are awfully simple ways of understanding the world around us. Mostly everything is nuanced. Twenty fifteen taught me that.

Almost Goodbye WordPress

WordPress is no longer at the center of my life. Those days are over. I work with it every day and actively contribute to Core, I still run a growing business that heavily uses WordPress in our tech stack, I still ship themes to WordPress.com and love working with Automattic, I still do my best to keep _s stable and maintained, I still organize meetups in Hanoi and am mulling over what a WordCamp Hanoi 2016 might look like, and I still write plugins and educate. I haven’t stopped working with WordPress, but it’s no longer the first thing or the last thing I think about every day before I go to sleep.

I’ve given a lot of myself to the software, still do. Since 2003 I’ve given thousands upon thousands upon thousands of hours to WordPress, so it feels weird that I don’t care about it the way I used to. I used to argue for weeks about why I thought Infinite Scroll was bad. I used to write long essays about why the direction that every theme marketplace, including WordPress.com, is taking is upsetting. I used to fight with colleagues about what saying openness means and what really being open means. I used to care so much that people knew I was one of the best theme makers and theme reviewers in the world. WordPress was so deeply ingrained into my identity. I felt that without Automattic and WordPress I wasn’t really anyone.

And then I quit Automattic, did a very hard reset on my life, stopped traveling so much, met a girl, fell in love with her, got married, and took the blinders off. It’s the best thing that could have ever happened to my life in 2014 and not caring about WordPress or its community, or its drama, the way I used to has made me better at coding it.

I give 8 or so hours a day, probably much less, to thinking about WordPress now. It’s been replaced by arguments with my wife about naming our new cat or mulling over what to cook for dinner, or building out strategy for our new clothing store, or trying to find land to buy. WordPress is just something I do now; last year it stopped being who I am and I’m much better off because of it.

I’m an American expat who speaks Vietnamese. I love music. I have an amazing wife and we own a clothing brand. I’m a full stack developer. I’m not bad at design. I can’t dance but I do anyway. I have bad problems with anxiety and panic but everyone in my life seems to love me even more for it. My stomach is weak so I cancel plans often but friends still love me and understand me. I’m an interesting person who doesn’t really need WordPress to be interesting anymore, and it feels so incredibly liberating. It’s just a thing I do well, it’s not really who I care about being anymore.

Twenty Fifteen was when WordPress stopped being my future and started becoming my past. My life with it won’t stop. I’ll continue working with it. But it’s just not the solution to every single problem I’ll run up against in the next future.

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(Previously: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011)