I started writing this on the flight back from OSCON 2016 in Austin, Texas.
The highlight of the conference was a lovely rambling evening catching up with Brian Dorsey. During one part of that ramble, we talked about our past jobs and the challenges they brought us. We both shared some anecdotes about a few particularly harrowing and or challenging situations. After reminscing through a few of those war stories, I mentioned that Karen and I had made a pact early in our relationship: either of us could tell the other to quit their job and we would – no arguments. Questions maybe, but it would be done and done immediately. I have shared this story with folks periodically, being grateful that we had the insight to set this up, but not making much of it beyond that. Brian insisted that this was sufficiently insightful that I should share it much more broadly, hence this post.
On the surface it may not sound like much, but under it is a deep trust and partnership agreement. There are times when we all loose some perspective, sometimes without even realizing that we lost it or that we are heading down some strange road. As Brian said, “sometimes we’re the frogs, just not clear that the water is continuing to heat up.”
Karen invoked it once (although I think she came close to invoking it a couple of times in the past) on me, and I’ve invoked it once on her. In fact, I think I called her on it first, when we were just starting out in Columbia, MO. When I didn’t see the water steaming around me, she often did – and vice versa. That’s a precious thing in a partnership – a bit of redundancy to perspective, but I think most importantly that there was a committment that our partnership was far, far more important than any given job.
At a quick glance, it could be a very sabotaging thing – where one partner might make it impossible to make a run at a career, but in practice it is just the opposite. I know I’ve got someone backing me up and I can make a truly headlong (sometimes crazed) run into new ideas, jobs, efforts, etc. It is a sort of freedom: knowing she always has my back, including telling me when I screw up. The result is our careers, her and mine, have both been joint efforts, and I think all the greater for it on both sides.