Untethered

I just read REMOTE by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson to get myself in the mindset of working remotely. I feel like I just read a cult manifesto from the best cult in the world.

Too extreme. Try again, Taylor.

REMOTE is the words for my ill-formed and nebulous philosophy about what career should look like. 

I disagree with the notion that in-person, off-the-cuff conversations are how great ideas become great products. 

I find off-the-cuff conversations distracting and confusing. Am I supposed to unplug to listen to this? Do I look like an apathetic employee if I don't? Will I not be contributing to our growth if I decide that I can't have this conversation right now, and need to wait to think about that for an hour when I'm done with this revenue model?

I disagree that the best work happens at work. 

I'm sitting at my quiet apartment right now, alone, with no distractions and minimal noise. That's how I write. Try writing something great (hell, even mediocre) when you're trying to tune out the conversation happening six feet away or glancing up at the people walking past your desk every ten minutes. Try making anything, anything at all, with the constant tickle of office distraction.

I disagree that collaboration should happen in-person most of the time. 

I like to work hard. I like to work passionately. I am no slacker. I can be those things from Prague just as well as Durham and still contribute the same amount of benefit to a company. Technology has made the in-person working world seem almost silly. In-person is best for communication, sure, but Skype is good enough for business a lot of the time. I've worked with clients who I've never met, communicating entirely via the internet, and we've built great things together.

I tend to be oblivious to in-person cues, anyway. So maybe I'm biased.

I disagree with the American concept of work-life balance, where things happen in that order.

I work hard, and I love the feeling of purpose that comes from career. But I refuse to accept a life of resigned ennui wherein I'm chained to a desk in order to pay for my car and my apartment and my tapas (the necessities, really). I refuse to wait for a precious week-long vacation to adventure and play and explore. It seems so backwards.

In moments of self-consciousness, I feel like a bad American or a slacker of a career woman for thinking it seems backwards. I feel like a privileged, entitled Millennial.

But I don't think my rejection of the typical life and typical company makes me so. I want to take advantage of the opportunities unique to this era of the world. Ten years ago, my philosophy would have been a mere pipe dream. But today I can travel the world while maintaining a full-time job - even thrive in a full-time job. I can take a three-hour midday break on a Tuesday to hike up a mountain or play with elephants or snorkel a reef or whatever. All while working. And it's all fine. I just had to find the right people who agree with me and are building great things that I want to be a part of. I just had to find the right company.

I'm really lucky.

I also worked really hard to get where I am. But man, am I lucky. Apart from the obvious points - born in the right place at the right time to the right people who raised me to think that 80-hour weeks are shameful because what the hell are your priorities and money isn't everything - I am lucky. 

I met a mentor who is one of the best marketers in the area when I was 19. She taught me everything I know. Working for her has honed my skills and given me a shiny gold Ricci star on my resume, just because I'm associated with her and she's one of the best. The privilege of being Ricci's protégé is huge.

I worked at a place that let me learn everything I possibly wanted to learn. My new boss said a pet peeve of his is when interviewees want a job because they want to learn. "Learn on someone else's dime," he says. I did that. I worked at a place that rewarded tenacity and curiosity. That's not true for some of my friends. I got experience that makes me stand out, just because of how things happened at the place where I landed. 

I am experienced enough to be a "get" of an employee and junior enough that a lot of companies can afford me. That's a lucky situation to be in. Senior level people would have a hard time making the switch to remote. Entry level people would have a very hard time finding a remote job.

Not everyone can do this. I can do this. That's incredibly lucky.

As of tomorrow, I'm untethered.

I don't think I can ever go back. It's as though this philosophy has suddenly occurred to me, and everything previous in my life was just building up to this and a giant something of an epiphany has clunked into place.

Freedom to work - not freedom from work. I don't want the latter. I like work. But I also like to wander.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email, or else read more from the blog.