The road most traveled

Every year Automattic brings everyone in the company to a single location for what we call the ‘Grand Meetup’. One of the most interesting activities we do are flash talks, brief presentations that each person gives allowing us a way to know each other better. Here’s a transcript of mine:

I was going to talk to you about my run from the Airport, but something happened to me this time and I think makes a more interesting story.

As it happens, this story begins about 6 years ago when I started running to WordCamps. The reason I run is that it’s my thinking time. I like to go over my talk, make changes and even rehearse it out loud. I do this because I don’t want to give the same talk twice, it should evolve and grow as I do.

The name crazy running guy came about when I ran from Chicago to Milwaukee. I had stopped at a rural farm house 20 miles outside of town, to avail myself of water from the garden hose. Which happened to be next to their mailbox on the street. I didn’t think anyone was home, and folks are usually really nice about this sort of thing anyway. While I was drinking, I heard the lady of the house speak to her husband, who was apparently sitting on the front porch the whole time.

“Honey, there’s a crazy running guy in the front, drinking from our hose. And he’s talking to himself too, something about freedom…” You gotta love a story like that right, so the name stuck.

So I run, to think. And as you can probably imagine I did plenty of thinking on the way to Whistler.

What happened to me is a real life version of Frost’s poem: The road not taken. I didn’t bring you any pictures because I know that your imagination is more beautiful than anything I can produce with a camera. So use your mind’s eye and follow along with me for a moment:

… I’d already traveled a great distance and found myself on a wooded path. Scattered sunlight filtered down through the tree canopy from high above. The trees were a redwood variety the species of which I don’t recall, and large vines twisted up their trunks toward the sky. Fallen logs and rocks lines the path, most covered in thick green moss. The trail itself followed a shallow creek, crossing the it and back again in several places over wooden footbridges built long ago. As I turned the corner around a large redwood, sure enough: two paths diverged in a wood.

Robert was a clever guy. He told us a story that establishes a shared understanding about the consequence of decision. But I don’t think he wanted us to lament on the choices we have made; but rather appreciate the choice itself.

I’m not talking about reflection on the past, the life circumstances that led us to where we are. And I’m not talking about the future, gazing down each  path trying to discern it’s greater value. But that brief moment. They fractional second when every human spirit, their soul, their heart expresses the one true freedom of personal choice. Absent of future, without past, in the moment presence. The presence of choice.

WordPress users make these choices too. How many of you have ever hesitated before pressing the publish button on a blog? Did i remember to spell check? Did i link everything? Again, this is not about the pause, as your mouse pointer hovers over the blue publish button. But the briefest sliver of time when your heart really lives. When your mind expresses the ultimate freedom with a presence of choice.

It just so happens that every minute of every day, thousands of other people all around the world also experience this presence of choice. And that big blue button is why I work at Automattic.

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am I crazy?

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